Odd Interlude

Fate isn’t one straight road…there are forks in it, many different routes to different ends. We have the free will to choose the path. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Fate has presented some interesting forks lately. I read Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz during my own odd interlude last week. I don’t have enough internet umph tonight to write about Pleasant (which includes, I hope, a short video clip) so this will be an odd interlude of its own.

Life, or the joy in life, is largely a matter of perspective, don’t you think?

We’ve had an interesting couple of weeks.

  • The rig we’d been following for a year, stacked… that was sad
  • Our Company Man called and said he wanted us at his new rig … that was great
  • There was a week lag time and we spent it at Choke Canyon State Park … that was lovely

It’s was lovely and so very quiet. Although I always say I live a quiet life, I think I may mean something more like a life of very little stress, not very little noise. With the tons of trucks coming and going all day and all night and the gas station hose bell ringing and ringing, and the portable generator continually humming, it isn’t as quiet as I thought. The park was really, really quiet.

I took this picture through the window from my chair with my propped up leg but Heidi lived outside all week

  • Heidi spent almost all of her time outside bird watching
  • I spent almost all of my time inside reading with ice packs on my knee (I had fallen down the steps at the last job. I landed on my well padded seat but really wrenched my knee)
  • I did hobble down to the lake twice to go fishing
  • The glow in the dark night-crawlers the convenience store lady sold me were all mushy
  • I traded the $4 night-crawlers in on a $4.29 bag of chips which I left on the counter
  • The lady was out of minnows so she sold me frozen shrimp
  • I’ve never fished with frozen shrimp and I kept ripping their heads off with the hook
  • I didn’t catch any fish but a very big stick put up quite a fight
  • I also hooked the camp chair once

It was fun to camp for a week. I loved the cooking and you can’t beat the clean up.

Well, the clean up was easy for me. I just stuck the fork in the fire. Heidi, on the other hand, worrying about the wind that had picked up, put the fire out with hands full of sand. Sand that had hitherto been the happy home of hundreds of fire ants.

It took a lot of Epsom salts and Lanacane spray before the swelling went down. We’d been working 24 hours a day for 6 months (which isn’t s big deal – we worked 264 days straight last year) but Heidi’s hands were stinging and it seemed like a great time to visit our favorite local hot spot in Tilden,Texas which was only about 15 miles from the park.

We began our career as TSAs in Tilden so we knew that it’s hard to beat the ambiance or the Nacho’s Supreme at Max’s Cafe and Motel.

After a week of not really fishing, really reading and intense bird watching, we headed for our next gig on a rig at a new TSL.

  • We started to set up
  • The Safety Man said to wait, they were dozing a pad for us by the rig
  • We worked the not busy gate for 4 hours from the dually
  • While waiting, we discovered 2 bad tires on the truck

  • A carpet of cacti and mesquite and tangled weeds were dozed away
  • Sunday evening we moved to our new spot and settled in

  • Monday we had an entire day of Texas dust devils and 55+ mph winds

  • During the peak of the whirling-dervishes, our new pea gravel pad was spread around us
  • The winds also covered the RV and truck with little drops of oil based mud

  • Tuesday SA H made it to town to get 2 new tires for the dually
  • Wednesday was pretty regular
  • Thursday a mobile repair man came out to look at the toilet that runs on its own and the VCR that doesn’t run at all and the convection oven that cooks in 3 time zones all at once and the valves that are becoming resistant to releasing our grey and black water (all under an extended warranty)
  • Friday we moved back to the spot where we had been on Sunday
  • Saturday rig washers dropped by to power wash the oil based mud off the RV

  • The rig washers had never washed an RV and they inadvertently flooded the vent to the frig, frying the mother board.
  • When power washing the truck, that high pressured water hit the windshield and the small poc from a rock picked up on the way to our new TSL cracked a 15 inch line

Nothing is worse than being alone on the evening of the day when one’s cow has exploded. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

See, that’s what I mean about perspective. Two new tires, 3 moves, a cracked windshield and a dead refrigerator are nothing compared to an exploding cow. We did, however, take the fork that led to remedying our new dilemmas. Special ordering the tires was simple, the windshield is temporarily on hold but the frig was the real puzzle.

  • We called our dealership back in Iowa and got instructions
  • SA H set out with a hairdryer to try to dry out the soggy mother board
  • Being very tenacious, she did this for a long, long time

  • We gave it the night to repair itself  – it didn’t
  • Sunday I asked our CM if he would give away our food as we were having some frig issues (I didn’t mention the rig washers)
  • He had an extra refrigerator in his trailer so we hauled our bags and bags of food down there (the double frig and double freezer were pretty well all stocked up)
  • Saturday and Sunday we ate a lot of cereal to use up the remaining warm but not spoiled milk
  • Monday SA H called the manufacturer and got the name of a certified roving repair man
  • This great guy talked SA H through a magic magnet fix
  • Today we will retrieve our food and wait to see what new adventures await

All in all, it was an interesting week. We SA’s are grateful for a multitude of kindnesses and blessing and even for the bell that rings all day and all night. As always, Henry remains cheerful and optimistic.

Loyal companions are an unequaled grace. ~Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

After struggling with the internet for months, it looks like SA H may have found a solution. If so, I’ll get back to Gig on a Rig Tip #4 – Pleasant next time. As Odd would say:

Being polite is not only the right way to respond to people but also the easiest. Life is so filled with unavoidable conflict that I see no reason to promote more confrontations. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Do What You Like – Like What You Do

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The pictures on the front of the Life is Good t-shirts vary but their trademark philosophy is always same: Do what you like. Like what you do. Optimism can take you anywhere.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are actually quite a variety of jobs you could be assigned as gate guards. Some you might like better than others. These are the most common ones:

  • Jobs where you live right on the site and work safety, wear flame retardant clothing. and keep track of where everyone is at all times. I don’t see myself ever doing that but I’m guessing some folks like it.

OK, this is one of our guys, but can you imagine an already hot-flashing 55-year-old woman suiting up in 100+ degree temps? Me, either! I’m pretty sure I’d become the safety issue on the rig! 😉

  • Jobs where you work just FRAC (tons of traffic) and follow a FRAC crew. This involves moving every 6-10 days. The gate guards I’ve talked to that do this, love it. I have no idea why? We have way too much HUAD for that one!

  • Jobs where you start with the drilling rig and stay on site through FRAC and completion.

  • Jobs where you stay at a production site (we have friends who did this for over a year). They had all their meals catered and locked the gate at 10 each night and opened at 6 every morning while making the same pay we all make on a 24 hour gate. I wouldn’t hold my breath hoping to get one of these.

  • Jobs with multiple active holes where you make a little extra for each drilling hole if someone is living at each site.

  • Jobs with unfortunate placement. We worked a gate by the highway where the traffic for 6 sites stopped by us on their way to: our rig, or the FRAC (which had their own gg), or the construction of our second pad, or the production plant, or the pipe line, or the 2nd well (which also had their own gg )… It wasn’t a big deal, but it was really busy. We were sort of like the traffic cops in the middle of the street and blow whistles and point a lot. 😀

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I’m sure there are other industry related gate guard jobs, but the majority work in one of these areas, or like Heidi and I, follow a drilling rig. With the 2 brief exceptions noted in my last post, following a rig is all that we’ve done and we like it quite a lot. The kind of experience you have following a rig depends on a lot of things – chemistry mostly. Sometimes you click and sometimes you clash. We’ve been very fortunate to always click.
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We loved our year with our previous gig, and we’ll never forget those guys! It was quite an introduction to gate guarding! It’s hard to forget people who bring you tarantulas in a crock pot or rattlesnakes slithering around in their truck bed or the snare wild hogs right outside your window at night! We were so sad for us and happy for them when the rig got called back to their home state of Louisiana.
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There are many, many nice people to work for and with in this business and, I’m told, some that aren’t as nice. This isn’t a glamor job (clearly) 😉 and attitudes toward gate guards vary. The Texas Railroad Commission requires gate guards, so to some companies the position is just a necessary evil and to others, it’s a part of their team that they value.
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We’ve been fortunate to make the team for the second time. We’ve struck gold with this company and drilling rig. We’ve enjoyed every day (well almost every day ;)) of the 5 months we’ve been with them. We’ll be taking a few weeks off in a few weeks with the repeated assurance that when we return, they expect us back because we’re “family” now.
That’s really nice. You can see from the photo below, we practically live on the pad.
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You certainly can find something wrong with any job. This one is hot and dusty. It’s a long way from home no matter where you live, even if you live in Texas!
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The pay, before taxes, comes to $5.21 an hour. The only thing that makes this job financially viable is that we work 24 hrs a day(no napping on the job since we always try to be out the door in under 10 seconds). That, of course, means we work every weekend and every holiday. As year-rounders following a rig, we work 100 or 200 or 300 days straight. It helps to take a couple of weeks off about every 6-8 months.
What it comes down to mostly is your outlook. It’s like the Life is Good shirts. Do what you like. Like what you do. We focus on what we like about what we do. Like right now, it’s 2 in the morning and I can do my job well and still blog (when the internet is favorable) and watch the pre-recorded Olympics in between trucks. There’s virtually no stress or conflicts to resolve since no one cares what we think because we don’t know anything about whatever the problem is!
As for the last part of the Life is Good philosophy: Optimism can take you anywhere, be careful with that one. I’ve always been pretty optimistic and look where that took me! 😉
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What is THE RIGHT RV?

I grew up camping. I was born in Elkhart, Indiana and lived in Middlebury until I was 11. If you’re familiar with camping back in the 50’s and 60’s, that was the Camper Capitol of the World.

I’ve camped in a sleeping bag/tent-less, in a pup tent and in a big family tent –  but most of my camping has been off the ground in something.

My Dad’s the one w/o the cowboy hat. Can’t remember him ever wearing one.

The green and yellow Cox fold down was our main summer get away for years and years. Those were the days of big hair and big curlers – even in Indiana. Except for me, my Dad cut mine as you could probably have guessed.

1965 – me, my Cousin, my Sis, Mom, my Aunt & Uncle. I don’t know why the Cox is set up. Surely they didn’t fly from CA to be relegated to the backyard?

A few years later, my folks bought a little 19 foot Phoenix Travel Trailer.

1968 – new trailer, old Chevy

I’ve gotten so many emails asking what THE RIGHT RV is for Full-Timing and for Gate Guarding. This isn’t a topic I probably would have ever addressed but I’m glad you’ve asked because this is one area where I’m strongly opinionated.

Here’s my advice: Buy what you want. 😀

Really folks, telling someone what kind of RV to get is like telling them whether to buy a Cape Cod or a Tudor or Condo – or rent an apartment!  How presumptuous to think we know what’s right for someone else. Doesn’t that just floor you?

We’re not talking about camping anymore. For some, an RV is their home at least half of the year. For many of us, it’s our only home. So I’m completely baffled when people write to me and say that a blogger has told them never buy (all of these have been mentioned): *New, *Used, * 5th wheel, *Motorhome, *Trailer, *White Paint, *Special Paint. *Too Big, *Too Small…

A fool and his advice are easily parted. (OK, that’s not exactly how the saying goes but I think it’s just as true.)

The right RV is the one that you’re comfortable with in all aspects: budget, pulling/towing, amenities etc… I received an email from someone who said a gate guarding blogger wrote: Only an idiot would buy a new RV and bring it to Texas.

Down here they’d say: He’s all broth and no beans.

For me, that would have been the end of that. I’m not likely to seek advice or even just have many conversations (or blog visits) with someone who shares his opinion by insulting others. But it bothered the person who wrote to me quite a lot, so I’ll address it.

As they say in the South: Well, slap my head and call me silly! because I’ve done that twice (bought a new one and brought it to Texas).

Well, technically, only once. Heidi bought a new 2007 32 ft Motorhome in the spring of 2008 (better price because it was last year’s model). Eventually, Henry and I hopped aboard and we headed for Oregon and ended up in Texas.

Last fall, for a variety of reasons, we decided to switch to a 5th wheel and bought a new 2012, 40 foot Brookstone. There she goes again, bless her heart. I’ve been told that, in Texas, you can get away with all insults by adding bless her heart at the end. 😉

If you’re truly in a quandary between a Class A and a 5th Wheel, I’ve written about it a couple of times: Full Timing It in an RV, What Would You Buy which includes a reader’s poll and some really interesting comments. And The Winner Is…which lists some of the pros and cons that other RVers were kind enough to share and more of their comments.

But in the end, there’s no right RV. Get what you like. Get what works for you.

We’re in the middle of a move – 16 miles down the road. By middle, I mean we were suppose to move yesterday morning at 8 and found out yesterday morning at 6:30 that we’re moving tomorrow morning at 9 as far as we know this morning at 4. 😉

Flexibility is key in this job! I’ll write about that in my next post.

Back When I Knew Everything: A Cautionary Tale About Advice

Hey folks!

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I’m going digress from my normal story-telling mode in an attempt to answer some of the questions that I’ve been getting via email re: gate guarding. On RV forums and in a smattering of blogs, you read the words Always and Never quite a lot. Always and Never are two absolutes that beg for contradiction.

The one thing people are the most liberal with, is their advice. ~Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Here’s my advice:

  • 1. If you want to get a feel for the job, read a variety of blogs
  • 2. Don’t pay too much attention to advice  😉

Some people are natural advice givers. You won’t have to travel to very many gates in your reading before you see that many of the most highly opinionated folks contradict each other in the way to do almost every aspect of the job. That’s perfectly fine. They’re just sharing their opinions and they have different ones.

When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. ~ Erma Bombeck

Most of us, although I’m sure there are exceptions, would advise you not to drink the potable water, unfiltered from the tap. That may be about it for universal gate guarding truths. No matter how firmly or strongly stated, we’re just sharing our opinions. As in most of life, the majority of things that come up each day are a matter of taste, opinion, conviction, constitution and circumstance.

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There is no Holy Grail for gate guarding. No one person speaks for all. You may find that you learn as much from someone who’s been gate guarding  for 3 months as you do someone who’s been doing it for 3 years.

I think the thing about being a gate guard is so that it’s so out of the norm for most of us. We’ve  generally had altogether different kinds of careers and have lived in altogether different kinds of environments.

Then, one morning, you find yourself standing at a gate – or just in the middle of the road – with an orange vest and a clip board and usually very little to no instruction.

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We turn to each other for tips and that helps. Just keep in mind that we’re all  just sharing what works for us. It may or may not work for you.

Know when to tune out, if you listen to too much advice you may wind up making other peoples mistakes. ~ Ann Landers

It reminds me of the Montgomery Gentry song, Back When I Knew Everything

Back when the world was flat
And Mom and Daddy didn’t have a clue
That was back
Back when a pitcher of beer
And a couple shots made me bulletproof
Back when “God” was a name I used in vain
To get a point across when I got ticked off
Lord, I’m learning so much more than
Back when I knew it all

When we started in December of 2010, I didn’t know anything about gate guarding or the industry or Texas.

Now I know a few things. 😀

I’ll write a some posts in the days ahead about what I’ve learned and how we handle certain situations. Take what works for you and toss the rest.

I found out credit cards don’t mean you’re rich
And beer and gasoline don’t mix
Yeah, and step side trucks can’t jump a ditch
And those “big house” rooms sure are small
I’ve learned that love is a woman that’ll settle you down
A Sunday sermon can turn life around
And I can’t believe answers I’ve found
Since back when I knew it all

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If you have something specific that you’ve been wondering about that you’d like me to address, feel free to write to me @ branson.debbie@ gmail.com and I’ll gladly share my opinion. I’m hoping other gate guards will hop aboard and share their experiences.

The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all. ~ Harry S Truman

In A Land Far, Far Away

So many people have written, asking what in the world possessed Heidi and I to embark on this wild ride. Since I began writing Fork as a way to up date a few friends and family who already knew the whole story, I guess it never occurred to me to begin at the beginning! I’ll try to move the tale along with photos (that way you can skip the narrative if you wish and still get the general idea).

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It all began in a land far, far away called Iowa. Heidi and I met, I’m guessing, in 1982 in the nursery at our church. Our boys were both born that year, 6 months apart, so we spent quite a bit of time in the nursery.

To be honest, we didn’t hit it off at first. Actually, she didn’t particularly like me and I was afraid of her. 😀

We were just about as opposite in our relational styles as two people could be.

Heidi was a fiery, straight to the point, red-headed Fighter.

I was a classic, non-confrontational, peacemaking Flighter.

We got used to each other after a while. 😉

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The first Fork in the Road really took place in the late 1980’s when we started, what eventually proved to be a fairly successful Speaking/Training business, capitalizing on our opposite-ness. We taught communication skills – primarily to healthcare professionals – for the next 20 years.

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In the spring of 2008, Heidi found a renter for her house, bought a 32 foot Motorhome and packed up to escape Iowa winters, which were becoming miserable for her due to some health issues.

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With one half  hour driving lesson and verbal instructions on how to hook up her Saturn for towing, she was ready to go. Did I mention she’s a Fighter? She was completely undaunted.

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I was recently divorced so Henry and I decided to hitch a ride. We said many, many tearful goodbyes and set out to begin a grand adventure.

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Initially, we’d hoped to take the business on the road, but the logistics of marketing 6-9 months in advance when you didn’t know where you’ll be living stumped us. At this point we came to another Fork in the Road.

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When we’d spoken at the National Health Care Convention in Portland, Oregon several years earlier, we rented a car and took a road trip to Cannon Beach. I’d always loved the ocean, but Heidi, not so much. She fell in love with the ocean in Oregon.

Many of you are familiar with an organization called Workamper which caters to part-time and full-time RVers. Before leaving Iowa, we saw a Workamper ad for a job in a private RV park in Gold Beach, Oregon (on the southern coast, 60 miles north of the CA border). We called and got the job. We work-camped (each working in the office 20 hrs per week) in exchange for free site and utilities, with the promise of pay for hours over the required 20.

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At this point in our newly begun adventure, we ran into two problems. The first is fairly common. There didn’t turn out to be any hours over the required 20. The second was hopefully rare: the owners of the park were unethical and unscrupulous (which is why I’m not mentioning the name here).  There is an English proverb that says:

Every path has its puddle.

Well, yep, we  stepped in that one. No extra hours meant no income. I was a frequent visitor at the Gold Beach Visitors center – coming in for tide tables and trying to learn all I could about the area. One of the part-time employees told me there was a position opening up. I was fortunate enough to be hired. It was an incredible job! I loved promoting the area and I could watch the waves break on the beach from my desk.

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As much as I loved the Visitors Center, it was only 18 hours a week at minimum wage. So when our 6 months of work-camping ended, we came to another Fork in the Road.

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We said goodbye to our new friends, left Oregon and headed to California for another work-camping job.

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For 6 months we worked at Edgewater Resort and RV Park on Clear Lake. This time we got paid for every hour worked and then we repaid the park for our site (at a reduced rate).

I cleaned the pool. That was the easy job. 😀

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We cleaned cabins, campsites and did yard work. We cleaned the restrooms… all the time!

I’m sure we had the cleanest restrooms in the state of California. Not only did we clean them every hour –  each Monday we spent half a day power washing and bleaching every inch from the ceiling to the floor drains and all the fixtures in between.

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We painted fences and built fire-pits and shoveled gravel.

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It was tough, physical labor and it made for one long, hot summer. We worked 5 days a week and cleaned houses for our boss on the 6th.

I don’t think either of us had ever been as tired in our lives as we were that summer. At the end of the day, Henry had to help me hold my book. 😀

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This fishing was good, though! I was rarely too tired to fish (catch and release).:D

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Six months later, the season was over in CA and we’d come to another Fork in the Road. Henry’s traveling companion in these photos is Harvey, the un-invisible Pooka – my homage to my favorite movie, Harvey.

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We longed for the wild Oregon coast.

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My wonderful boss at the Visitors Center did some fast talking and I got my job back. This is a photo of Heidi and I with Sue, who was my boss, and now is a life long friend!

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While I worked at the Visitors Center in Gold beach, we lived 27 mile to the north in Port Orford where we worked as Park Hosts. We worked in two stunningly beautiful State Parks.

This was my commute.

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If you’ve never driven 101 along the Western coast, it would make a great bucket list addition!

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I don’t think anyone’s ever had a more beautiful drive to work.

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At Cape Blanco, Heidi cleaned 5 little cabins while I worked in Gold Beach.

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Two nights a week, we sold firewood. We were frequent visitors to the lighthouse in the park.

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Tseriadun State Park, also in Port Orford, is a day use only park. We were there Oct – Dec, so all we did was keep the path to the ocean and the beach litter free.

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It was a rough gig as you can see. 😉

We were the only ones there. We closed the gate every night at 6 p.m.

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The State Park jobs in Oregon are usually set up on a 3 month rotation. When our time in Port Orford was over, we settled in a little RV park in Gold Beach. It was off-season so most of the time we had the whole park to ourselves.

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We left our chairs in the lighthouse for storm watching. It was also a wonderful place to watch the highway of crab boats that ran from December through March.

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I literally walked out the door and down the beach to work. It was incredible! Then, one day, it dawned on us that we were still really quite broke and were running out of  years to rectify that.

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Through my contacts at the VC, I was offered a job as a live-in night manager at a beautiful resort in town.

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Within weeks, I was also the Guest Services Manager, Heidi was the Assistant General Manager and Henry was the Mascot.

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Which is all the data my computer can handle for tonight.

Next stop, Texas.

To be continued…

Why Frost and Fork?

Last March I tried to answer the burning question Why Fork in the Road?

I’m having a mountain of technical difficulties tonight, so I’m going to try to re-post this for those of you who are new to Fork since then. If the video doesn’t come through, I apologize. We’ve ordered a new internet card, so hope to have better connectivity soon! No longer have the Class A and the Jeep but rest still fits. 😀

Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. ~Robert Frost

That was the concept behind the name of the blog. Did we chose a road less traveled by?  Well, judging from the double takes we get when folks see a woman driving a Motorhome, towing a Jeep,  the answer must be Yes. This is pretty funny since driving a Class A  is so easy. If you want a driving challenge, drive carpool in a mini-van. 😀

If the question is Why a road less traveled?  The answer is I have absolutely no idea.  I’ve always thought of myself as blandly conventional, so I’m possibly the most surprised by a less traveled path.

I think my best answer to either question comes from one of  my favorite philosophers, Elwood P Dowd.

My very favorite movie is Harvey.

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I love Jimmy Stewart who plays Elwood P Dowd.

I love his best friend, a 6 foot 3 1/2 inch Pooka named Harvey.

And I like his life philosophies:

Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.

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Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say “In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart… I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

And I do, often (quote him). I recommend pleasant.

The  often forgotten portion of Frost’s poem is:

Though as for that, the passing there had worn them really about the same.

I especially like that part. We may have more in common than you think: me here in  Texas, writing at 2 in the morning, in an RV, guarding a gate at an oil rig; and you, wherever you are, reading this right now.

At heart, most of us are just looking for ways to love and live and celebrate the joys of the every day. We do it in different places and in different ways, but the path of tenderness and compassion and treating others with kind regard wears well, wherever, whatever your journey.

I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with. ~Elwood P. Dowd.

I Do All My Own Stunts – Part 1

As much as possible, I try to encourage people to use stunt men because that is really their job.  ~Sam Neill

I don’t doubt that those are wise words, but stunt men are hard to find here on the remote ranches of southern Texas, which has left me no choice but to do all my own stunts.

One who knows me too well, sent me a link to this t-shirt (from Think Geek). I ordered one for myself and have made it the official gate guard uniform of this fashionista, shining out under the ever fashionable glow-in-the-dark  bright orange Gate Guard vest! 😀

In spite of recent posts, my awkward stunts didn’t begin with the new 5th wheel. We’re just two weeks short of one whole year of working as gate guards in Texas. I thought I’d do what everyone does this time of year and recap some of the events – with an emphasis on the fact that I do, indeed, do all my own stunts!

Heidi, Henry and I left Oregon December 15th, 2010 to venture into the world of cactus and mesquite and scorpions. We got off to a bit of an odd start. When we first left Iowa, 3 years prior, Heidi had a Saturn – an ideal tow car – but not much of a beach buggy.

When the opportunity came to give the Saturn to my son, who was down one car, and buy a Jeep, it suited life on the beautiful Oregon coast perfectly. Living and working in Gold Beach, we never towed the Jeep. When we got ready to head to Arizona last December to spend Christmas with my sister, before reporting for work here in Texas, we were told we couldn’t tow the Grand Cherokee with the Class A.

This led to the rather awkward rental of a U-Haul trailer and a very expensive trip down the western coast and eventually to Tucson. Of course, as soon as we entered my Sister’s RV park, we saw about 20 Motorhomes that had successfully towed their Jeeps. Yes, Virginia, you can tow a Jeep with a Class A.

After spending a lovely Christmas with my Sis, we headed for Hidden Valley RV Park just south of San Antonio in Von Ormy to wait for an assignment. I don’t know how many RV’ers I’ve sent to Teri this past year – but we never made it.

We dropped the U-Haul as soon as we crossed the Texas border. We pulled over to the side of Interstate 10 to double-check our directions to Von Ormy. Heidi got back in the Mirada and took off. I tried starting the Jeep, but it had changed it’s mind and decided not to finish the trip somewhere north of San Antonio. I called Heidi, who was nearly out of sight in the RV and told her I was no longer in close pursuit.

Next, I called 911 because I couldn’t think of any other road side assistance number (I do have one now with Good Sam). Of course the dispatcher wanted to know where I was?  And, of course, I didn’t have any idea (don’t they have some kind of satellite ping for that kind of thing?). I walked about a quarter of a mile in the cold December drizzle to the nearest mile marker and called her back.

In about 20 minutes, a police car came racing up, lights flashing. The officer got out jumper cables, made the Jeep temporarily hum and said to hop in and follow him before it died again. Henry was still up the road, locked in the Mirada and Heidi was on the phone taking a call from our soon-to-be boss, who said he had a job for us if we could get to Tilden that day. Hmm…

The police officer took off across the grassy median as we followed, breaking the speed limit, back to Kerrville to an auto-parts store for a new battery. I hated to leave Henry, but I didn’t know anything about Texas lawmen so I though I’d better comply. About 2 hours later, we got lost getting back to 10, but eventually found Henry and the Mirada, tilting to the right on the side of the interstate. We took the 171 mile short cut the lady at the gas station shared with us to make the 134 mile trip from Kerrville to Tilden.

On the way, we decided to stop in Pleasanton to pick up some groceries since we didn’t know when we’d get away again. We’d been enjoying my Sister’s hospitality for a week and hadn’t stocked up on anything, thinking we’d have to wait several weeks for a job and would shop in San Antonio.

We left Henry in the RV in a Catholic church parking lot. We found a grocery store and a Walmart. Satisfied we were good to go, we left the store and couldn’t find Henry or the RV.

Thankfully, Heidi was able to use the Navigator program on her phone to find the two Catholic churches in town, and sure enough, one of them was housing Henry and the Mirada!

We finally drove through Tilden and bumped down a 5 1/2 mile dirt road that was really just a series of holes where a road used to be, arriving at our first assignment just before dark on December 28th, 2010.

We made it with a dead battery and a police escort and after only losing Henry and the RV twice! We were ready for new adventures. We had NO idea… (to be continued)