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Self Sufficiency

Headgear – M14/M1A for those bowling-ly inquisitive

For a half done February, it is nice here in South Texas.  The mesquites and assorted puckerbrush flora are showing tinges of green.  The routine of late is a morning and evening walk followed by an hour or better of sittin’ out.  Maybe coffee, maybe not.   Vela Von chases the rubber ball incessantly.  Dogs don’t ask for much.

The kitchen is in large disarray from a rush batch of Swamp Chili before we went outside.  Cold front and rain on tap for tomorrow so it seemed like the thing to do.


One thing about this RV life I wanna talk about today — regardless of how hardcore you might try to be,  we are not islands unto ourselves.  Every recreational vehicle I am familiar with needs support umbilicals to provide power, sustenance and waste disposal.  There are degrees of support however and that is what I am going to discuss today.

Vela Von goes everywhere with me – as a real dog should. People just cannot resist walking up to the Big Ass Suburban when her head is sticking out a window rolled down just a skoosh. What is it about a dog all teeth and bark they don’t get???

I don’t get into RV parks much with the NO Princess Palace but I damn sure enjoy it when I do.  What is not to like?  Water I can drink without running it through 7 filters,  clean power and waste disposal just one stinky slinky away makes for a wonderful life.  Then ya got the wonders of fast food, drive through cold beer stores and free wi-fi to suck up.  I can dig it for a week or two but then I start missing the hermitude.   Vela Von too as she has to live on the end of a leash so it don’t take much coaxing for us to flee the city.  There is just so much of living in a hive,  packed to psychosis with other people,  I can tolerate.

Almost 6 years ago, I wrote about industrial boondocking and I still think that is an apt term for what an oilfield gate guard does.  Yep,   I am off grid and yep, I am secluded but roughing it?  – not so much.  All  that support equipment costs upwards of $20k and then you got the people that show up at intervals to pump me some diesel and fresh water or empty my holding tank.  It is a challenge but it is no where near as rough as a night in jail or somethin’ like that.  When you have been gate guarding as long as I have,  industrial boondocking becomes the norm and other RV forays to an RV park or the Secret Hideout become adventure time.

VV practicin’ the Bad Dog routine

My Bro has been very accommodating over the years; letting me come and go as I please up at the Secret Hideout.  I have done what I could to help out with its’  evolution from a hunnert acres of wildness to the current state.  First there was brush clearing and driveway building and then there was a septic tank and a metal building with city water. Taken some years and a whole lotta sweat to carve that out.  I spoke to him just last week and he said they finally got grid power hooked up.  That certainly closes a chapter on the Secret Hideout.

Over the years both of us learned quite a bit about getting by with few amenities.   At first, all the power came from generators and after putting thousands of hours on the machines, we learned out of necessity that a combination of solar and limited generator use was the way to go.  One of the scheduled projects for my recent holiday project was to upgrade his solar system.  With the pending hook up to the grid,  I asked him if he still wanted to lay out the cash for a better solar system and he said “Sure!  I want to be as self sufficient as possible.”  Alrighty then…….

I am going to put all the Amazon product links I am fixin’ to talk about at the end of this piece – easier thataway.  I get a few pesos when y’all click through one of my links and buy somethin’ from Amazon and it won’t cost you a penny more – just so’s you know.  A looooooong time blog reader bought a bunch of high $$ motorcycle stuff last week and I sure appreciated it!  I saw the items show up but I would not have ever known who purchased them ‘cept he dropped me a line and mentioned he was the one who had bought ’em.  It sure was sweet!  Gracias JW!

My Bro and I started out with a pair of Yamaha EF2000IS inverter generators and both proved to be an EPIC FAIL – both of ’em mind ya.  Both of them failed at the same approximate hours with a serious oil leak and both of us experienced the same shit for warranty service from Yamaha Motorsports USA.   I do not know how many damning responses I have written on various forums when people inquire about purchasing one of the POS Yamahas.  I plan on continuing the Yamaha bashing as long as I draw breath.  That is what happens when you have a thoroughly disgruntled customer.  Rat bastards!

At the Secret Hideout ca. 2015

The POS Yamahas were replaced with a pair of  Honda EU2000i inverter generators.  He has put about 800 hours on his and my El Rojo has about a hundred on it.  You can get the Honda for about $50 or $60 more than the Yamaha generally and both of us think it is better built and more powerful than the Yamaha.

Somewhere along the way it became very damned apparent that you could not run a generator each and every time you wanted a little sip of power.  My Bro asked me to do something with a modest solar system for his fifth wheel almost 3 years ago.  I had already purchased a couple of 100w mono panels and 4x250w mono panels from Renogy and I liked their stuff.  He bought one of their kits which was 2x100w mono panels, a PWM solar controller and the associated wiring.   It worked out perfect to keep the single deep cycle marine/rv battery on the RV charged.  He would run the generator a bit in the morning for coffee and then a few hours in the evening for supper and TV; the solar system took up the slack.  It was also nice when he was off working a job for an extended period.  He became confident enough in the solar setup to keep the battery charged that he left his RV fridge running during his absence.  Before he would have to clean it out and turn it off when he left —  a real pain in the ass.  ( Remember that an RV fridge requires 12v to power the control board.  It shuts off if the battery goes flat.)

We had discussed upgrading his solar system for months before I headed up for the 2016 Holidays.  He wanted to be able to run the microwave and watch a little TV without firing up the generator.   He was more than sold on the simplicity of solar power and like me, understood that buying premium components was the best route if you were serious about putting together a good system.  Buy once, cry once right?

Renogy 4x100W on steel frame

A major overhaul was in order to achieve what he wanted so we decided on this:

  • Renogy 4x100w monocrystalline panels on custom steel rack
  • Renogy Tracer 40amp MPPT controller
  • Samlex 1500w pure sine wave inverter
  • 2 Trojan T105 6 volt 225ah batteries

Not a large system by any means but a good solid set up for what he wanted.  All of the items except the Trojan batteries were ordered off Amazon.  I made a trip to the Trojan distributor in Belton,TX to pick those up at about $160 each.  Flooded lead acid batteries are one of the few things you cannot buy economically off the web.  Since I generally do not have the luxury of such road trips when I am stuck on a gate I went ahead and picked up 2 batteries to upgrade the NO Princess Palace as well.  More on that and some other goodies in a future post.

Solar controller and inverter install

It was a fairly easy process.  My Bro welded up an angle iron stand to hold the panels at a 45 degree angle.  The battery compartment was large enough for the 2 T105’s and the solar controller and inverter were installed in the pass through compartment next to the batteries.

Everybody always seems to get all wrapped up discussing wire size and fuse placement when it comes to this kind of install.  Here is what I did:

  • Renogy solar cables with MC4 connectors from the panels to the controller.  Add an inline 30amp fuse for the positive feed line coming off the panels.
  • 4/0 cables between the T105 batteries
  • 10ga wire from the batteries to the solar controller with a 30amp fuse at the batteries.
  • 1/0 cables from batteries to inverter with a 200amp ANL fuse at the batteries
  • 12ga extension cord from the inverter to a power strip inside the RV.

T105’s installed

Easy peasy, right?  From all reports,  he seems pleased with the system and it has definitely cut back on generator run time.  I custom made all the cables with heavy lug ends and added an economical digital battery gauge so they could monitor the batteries from inside the RV.  All  these components were chosen for quality and long lasting value.  You could go cheaper I guess but why would you skimp on something like this??

There is just something very special about generating power from sun light.

Component List

    • Yamaha EF2000IS -NO Link for this POS.  I would never recommend it to anybody!












End Note:  Forever Young by Stoney Larue from the Live at Billy Bob’s cd.

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You're not in Kansas anymore.

Vela Von at one year old

A coupla years back we scheduled a week or so off the gate and on the appointed day the relief gate guards the company had selected showed up so we could be on our way.  The old man that crawled out of that F-250 so slowly concerned me.  He was all hunched over and stove up, walking with a cane.  He had to turn his head sideways to look me in the eye and he must have noticed some concern on my face because he said ‘Don’t fret,  I been to this rodeo before.’

When we got back to the gate and the regulars started to come in and out,  I asked them how the Old Man and his wife did.  To a man, they sang his praises.  It took him forever to come out of the RV with those steps and all; so he didn’t.  They said he sat outside the RV all day long in a chair with an umbrella so he could check them in ricky tick and this was May – and it was hot.  I could hear the respect in their voice when they spoke of him.   He would do to ride the river with in their mind and that level of respect don’t come easy in these parts.

And that is pretty much how it is in the oil patch.  A man walks into a bar in Moscow or Memphis or Mexico City and he overhears a conversation about the oil fields at one of the tables.  He walks over and says ‘Hey fellas, can I buy you a beer and join you?  I done my time in the Barnett, Permian and Eagle Ford.’  Just watch how quick another chair is pulled up and the stranger is welcomed to the group.  It is a brotherhood, a fraternity, and those survivors know exactly what I am talking about.

Back when the bottom dropped out of the shale oil fields and people were crying they were going broke at $75/barrel, I told ’em to just wait and see what happened next.  In  the oil business you adapt, adjust and overcome regardless of the magnitude of the task that faces you.  It has been thataway since Spindletop and it just is.  Regardless of where you go in the world, the technology, equipment and smarts they are using to get that oil and gas out of the ground more ‘n’ likely originated in Texas.  So I knew damn well those smart boys in Houston would adapt and figure out a way to make money on shale oil at $50 or so a barrel  – and they have.  The Eagle Ford is picking back up.

Over the years, I have maintained these three constants when it comes to being an oilfield gate guard in Texas.

  • The job is not for everybody.
  • It ain’t rocket science.  Don’t make it so.
  • There is NO snivelin’ in the oil patch.

So it was with some interest I started reading a blog from gate guard noobs.  It was so predictable…………  problems with water, fuel, work schedule,  just exactly what their  job duties were etc.  I even went so far as to write a long comment to one of their posts:

An observation from someone who has gate guarded for more than a few years………

I volunteered to change the oil and filters on the company generator. I am on a slow gate and have the time to do it.I text my service guy 4 days before I need fuel. I have 10 gallons of emergency diesel on hand just in case.If my water guy misses a delivery, I run off my onboard tank. He usually shows up the next day. No biggie.If my generator craps the bed at 11pm on Saturday night, I drag out my little Honda 2000 and fire it up. If it is cool weather, most likely I will call on MONDAY and tell ’em I need a fix. If it is hot and I need AC, I call Sunday and have the nurse trailer buttoned up and ready to go when they get here with a swapout.

Why??????? My experience has been the fellas that service the needs of the gate guard people work really hard. Erratic hours, weekends, call outs when there is a problem etc – they always seem to have more on their plate than they can get done. They work hard and the job can be pretty thankless.

Most new gate guards think establishing a good work rep enhances their employment opportunities. Maybe not so much if you think about it. Gate guarding is not rocket science MOST of the time. You show up to check them in or out in reasonable time and that is pretty much the crux of it. Easy peasy. That may not be the case if you have an emergency onsite. Perhaps a fatality, serious injury, H2S incursion, distillate tanks blowing up, fires or serious oil leaks can change the game in a matter of moments and you best be ready to bring your best game at that point. Things can get deadly serious in a heartbeat and your role will be important and pivotal. Been there and done all those things listed at some point in the past.

What really counts as far as job security and steady employment in this business is low drag. The less burden you are on the company, the fewer resources they expend on you, the less time they have to spend on your comfort, necessities, well being etc the more valuable an asset you are to the company. When the bottom dropped out of the Eagle Ford in early 2014, you better believe when all the gate shuffling was over that the remaining gate guards were most certainly of the low drag variety. I joke with my supervisor that if I EVER call him, his next call will probably be to 911. He laughs but he KNOWS and I KNOW what I am really saying.

Sorry if this went on for too long and please understand I am not preachifying. I enjoy your blog and it brings back some (good) memories when I was first starting out and trying to understand this oil field business and the odd culture that is so important to its’ success. Keep up the good work y’all. God bless ya, your hearts seem to be in the right place.

February 2011 – Our very first gate that saw up to 1000 vehicles pass per day. We stayed until it closed. Man up or go home.

I was trying my damned best to be helpful and clue them up that complaining and telling  the Company Man or your Service Guy how to do their job doesn’t cut it down here.   I was being diplomatic because I coulda said ‘Nobody gives a damn how you did it up North.’   But I didn’t;  +1 for the curmudgeon.

But the bitch-fest was far from over.  They got a new Company Man. I don’t know if he is new-new or their old Company Man just rotated out for time off.  Anyway,  he laid it down that the gates now had to be closed at all times and the butthurt reached new heights.   Stuff like that wasn’t in the job description and it increased their workload xx seconds per vehicle ( they actually did some sort of spread sheet on that;  Christ on a cracker!) and the wind blows the gates and it is basically hell on earth and the RULE MUST BE CHANGED.  Yeah, right, good luck with that.  Remember that adapt, adjust, overcome thing??

More from 2011

So I made another comment and suggested they only open one panel to admit a 4 wheel vehicle; only open both panels for the big trucks.  They received probably a dozen suggestions about how to cope with opening the gates and replied to each one and said ‘No, that won’t work because……’  Folks were honestly trying to help out and they were dismissed out of hand because these people had been horribly wronged when tasked with closing the gates and that is the thing that must change.  I even mentioned in my comment that it might be more productive to solve the logistics of closing the gate VS. going butthurt ballistic about a change in job duties.  Hellfire, they were keeping hourly statistics and had fallen down the fatal wormhole of trying to equate the workload in relation to an hourly pay rate.  You get paid BY THE DAY, you have no rent or utilities and you decide who is going to work and when.  That is the job  -nada mas.

To give the noobs credit, they did figure out a way to keep the gates closed without chasing them in the wind and they did follow my suggestion about only opening one panel.  At the same time,  the mindset changed from trying to do the best job possible to retaliation.  I.e., if this is the way they are going to treat us (butthurtness showing)  I am going to back off and do just the minimum to get by.  OK,  eighty percenters,  you lost my support right then and there.   Nothing chaps my cheeks worser than an intentional slacker!   You do not complain and whine and bitch and slack your  job behind your employer’s back and still take his money on payday.  Ever.  If it is that bad, leave with dignity.  Now. That is why your house has wheels.

I really hope they clue up quick and they make a showing down here, I really do.  Most of the tribulation they are experiencing is due to the foreign work environment and bein’ in South Texas.    They are 30 days in right now and an enlightenment is overdue in my book.   In case it doesn’t, this is how it will play out…..  Someone from the guard company will call up or show up and tell them they are being replaced.  No reason given.   They will be told to go to a company yard or find a spot at a local RV park to wait for their next assignment.  Except there won’t be a next assignment; not from their current company anyway.  Gate guards are seldom fired out and out;  they are just allowed to sit and rot away.

Why I am bagging so hard on these poor folks you are probably thinkin’………….. after all, it is not my circus, not my monkeys.  I can almost guarantee you somebody who is researching about gate guarding in South Texas is reading this right now.  If I can only impress upon those prospective noobs that you go along to get along at first and that you listen more than you run your yap, the whole process will be more pleasant and decidedly more successful for them.

That’s why. You either get it  – or you never will.  It is what it is.

End Note:  Jump into the Fire by Harry Nilsson from the Nilsson Schmilsson  cd.   This song came up in conversation with BFF Cait.  Seems it is the opener for the new season of a show we watch.

I texted her:

‘ Sad part is I remember when this album hit the streets. (1971)’

She texted me back:

‘That is not sad.  That is legit.’

So, I will take the compliment.  This video is truly odd but well worth the bandwidth.

If you want the full leaded version with a driving bass line and incendiary drum solo, do this one.

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Barbecue Follies - Tres

This is a barbecue joint – never call it a restaurant City Boy!

Just for the hell of it I googled ‘old school pulled pork’.   Why??  Because I just wanted to peek and see if things was as out of kilter as I expected; it was worse than imagined.   About half the page of Google results were recipes for cooking a Boston Butt in a crockpot.  Christ on a cracker!  WTH is up with that?  You think maybe I am a barbecue snob?  I would disagree;  more succinctly I would say I am a barbecue purist ….. and I gotta

Continue reading Barbecue Follies – Tres

Barbecue Follies - Dos

Vela Von really wishes I would get that damned microwave box off her couch!

I reckon there might be some folks with the ill-conceived notion that livin’ in an RV is a free and easy lifestyle.   I mean, how hard can it be, right?

That might be the case if you pull your recreational vehicle out of the storage lot a few times a year for a weekend at the State Park.   From where I am sittin’ in the puckerbrush right now, I just gotta shake my head and say Noooooooo!   Coming up on my third year now in the 2010

Continue reading Barbecue Follies – Dos

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