Travels With Dick and Judy

Follow us in our trials, triumphs and tribulations, while on the road in our motor home "The Liberty Belle". We chose to forsake the conventional lifestyle in our 3,000+ square-foot home to move into a 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom. Travel with us as we take you on the road with us in our new lifestyle.
I may grow older, but I'll never grow up!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Life as a Gate Guard – July 9, 2013 through October 3, 2013

Finally, and very long overdue! I have debated blogging about our experiences as gate guards during the hottest 3 months of 2013. I will warn our friends and family that this blog will be long, and most of this was posted on Facebook. However, as I have mentioned before, our blog is a way for those not on Facebook to follow our travels and, also, our way of memorializing our life. Happy reading and please let us know if you have any questions about this lifestyle.

First, as people who follow us know, we have been full-time RVers since June of 2011, with most of the time spent as volunteers in various parks, with time to visit family and friends and sight-see. We decided to gate guard for a few months of each year in order to build up our emergency RV fund and travel fund. So here is that story!

After loading up and heading out from Brazos Bend State Park (SE of Houston, TX) – in the rain – on Monday, July 8th, Dick and traveled 4+ hours to Whitsett, TX – on I-37 approximately 60 miles south of San Antonio and 90 miles north of Corpus Christi. We checked in, set up and parked overnight at the gate guard company’s yard.  The following morning, we traveled to the company headquarters in Corpus Christi for a meeting, to complete paperwork and for testing.  We then went to the City Police Department to be fingerprinted.  By this time, we knew they were waiting for us in Whitsett for our first assignment so, unfortunately, we only had time to drive along the beach, eat lunch and buy groceries before heading back.  What a whirlwind!  When we arrived at the yard, we unhooked the motor home and, with me following Dick, who was following our sales rep and service reps, we traveled almost 8 miles on a very rough road to our new “home” for the next 3 months – or however long our gate guard assignment was to last.

Being new to gate guarding, we had no idea that the gate we were assigned to was “one of a kind” - with a gate guard for 1 company on 1 side of the gate and Dick and I as gate guards for another company on the other side of the gate.  The other gate guard checked with each vehicle to be sure they had business on our property (consisting of ranches owned by various individuals).  We then signed in and out all vehicles for our company, which included names of all individuals in the vehicle, license plate number, where going and time in and out.  We also had to monitor all vehicles leaving and be sure they followed the landowners’ “rules of the road” (as I called them).  Since all vehicles entered and exited through the same gate, it was critical that the “rules” be followed to avoid accidents and allow landowners to enter and exit their property without any mishaps or slowdowns.

The first 2 weeks of our assignment were spent getting acclimated to the heat and finding ways to deal with the heat.  In a 24-hour day, Dick worked from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.; I worked from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Dick worked from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and I worked from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.  Fortunately, Dick cooks more than I and prepared dinners when not too busy and when we did not have meals offered to us by caterers on our site.  Dick showered and slept on his mornings off, and I slept after 11 p.m. at night following my shower – even though I said I would never set another alarm for 5:30 a.m. after my legal secretary job ended on May 31, 2011!

The gate guard company provided trailers with a generator, water and sewer.  Since our site was so busy and we were so hot, we washed our clothes on board in our washer/dryer combo, which finally gave up and quit toward the end of our stay – plus it was a 20-30 mile trek to the nearest washateria, not to mention how expensive it was.  As a result, we used more water than most gate guards, which did not please our service rep, but was a fact of our life.  Below is a picture of our initial set-up.
Notice the awning on our motor home in the picture above, which lasted less than 2 weeks – until Saturday, July 20, 2013! While at this site, we put our awning in at the slightest hint of wind and weather changes - but we did not have it tied to stakes with straps – although we knew better. Around 1 p.m. on July 20th, I was sitting in the chair on the left side of the awning (facing the motor home). Dick was getting ready to open the door to come out and relieve me. He said it was as though he was watching something in slow motion, and there was nothing he could do. He saw the dirt devil across the street, which then turned and turned again, coming toward our motor home and passing in front of the motor home. I was looking at my iPad Mini when I heard a noise, saw the whirling dirt out of the corner of my eye and saw our awning flying upward. I ran from my chair - very fast I was told - just as the front of the awning crashed against the top of the 2 chairs where my head had just been and yelled for Dick - who was watching from inside. It was a miracle I reacted quickly and was not seriously hurt. Fortunately, the bay next to the door was open, and the arm of the awning slammed into that bay - and not into the side of the motor home. My handy-dandy husband, with the help of our gate guard neighbor Chuck, was able to "fix" the awning, which was then closed for the remainder of our stay. From that point on, we had no awning and “chased” the shade in the 100+ degree heat!

Photo: Some of you have asked what we planned to do for shade in this 100+° heat after the incident with our awning and the dirt devil on Saturday - and not wanting another incident.  This was my answer this morning - our busiest morning yet.  When not letting vehicles out and checking vehicles in and out for our company, I sat in the chair in the shade.  This is me after 7 hours - just before retreating inside until 6.  Unfortunately, Dick Mott is too tall to sit under the bay door, so he is chasing shade this afternoon.  Hopefully this will work for me!

After the incident with our awning and the dirt devil - and not wanting another incident - the picture above was my answer to beating the heat. When not letting vehicles out and checking vehicles in and out for our company, I sat in the chair in the shade. This is me after 7 hours - just before retreating inside until 6 p.m. Unfortunately, Dick was too tall to sit under the bay door, so he had to chase the shade, but this worked for me until we came up with a better “plan”!

And here is Dick chasing the shade!

We had a daddy, mommy and baby Roadrunner family just down the road from us, and we loved when the daddy and mommy would come to “visit”.  One morning, after rain (which we did not have often, but left us with a sloppy mess when we did), I had a visitor – as he was looking for food and came within 3 feet of my chair.

We quickly learned that there was a super bunch of guys and gals working in the oil patch! Contractors and ranch hands stopped and offered bottles (and cases) of water and bottles of Gatorade. Not only did this save us trips to the store,  but also money, both of which were really appreciated. The closest Walmart and HEB were about 30 miles away in Pleasanton - and it was not a pleasant trip to make, since I had to be back on the gate as soon as I returned. We had a contractor for the other oil company bring us barbeque one day and, since she was a Cajun girl, we gave her a link of our LA boudin the next time she came by. Now, we are Facebook friends and keep in touch. 

Look what we saw "hanging out" on the rear light of our motor home one morning – 1 of the tree frogs that rode with us from Brazos Bend State Park. It was a reminder of home to occasionally hear them sing, and at least 1 of the tree frogs survived the heat (getting water from around our AC).

Photo: Look what was "hanging out" on the rear light of our RV this morning - 1 of the tree frogs that rode with us from Texas Parks and Wildlife - Brazos Bend State Park 2 weeks ago.  I hope they continue to find moisture to stay alive until we can bring them "home" in a few months - and it is a reminder of home to occasionally hear them sing!  April Phillips Mott and Michelle Unterzuber, please show this picture to the boys, and tell them Grammy sends it to them with love!

Here is a view from our motor home toward the gate that all vehicles had to enter and exit.  The light shining in the distance is a corral on one of the ranches.  Many nights (since it was so hot during the day), we were able to watch a young teenage girl learn to rope calves.

Finally, after a few weeks of “chasing” shade, Dick figured out how to hang a canopy to have some shade, which helped a bunch.

Photo: Finally, some shade and it does help.  We are realizing what a super bunch of guys and gals work in the oil patch - and I promise not to post everyday - but one of the contractors stopped today and offered Dick a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade.  A bit later, one of the ranch hands stopped and gave him a bottle of water. Not only does this save us trips but also money, both of which are really appreciated.  The contractor who brought barbeque yesterday is a Cajun girl, so we plan to give her a link of our LA boudin the next time she comes by.

In late July, with a storm brewing, Dick tried to get our new tripod (from set up and our DirecTV finally working.. A big thanks to fellow RVer and gate guard Roy for telling us about this tripod, which will hopefully help with set up each time we move.  We eventually stopped a DirecTv service rep, who was kind enough to help (at no charge) and discovered our dish was warped, which means we never would have “fixed” our set-up. 

And here are the nasty looking storm clouds, which brought cooler temps, and that was nice!

The next day, I hung one of the "Emergency Blankets" we purchased (10 for under $10 from Amazon), which blocked the sun behind me and cooled me down – but this only worked when the winds were calm, and immediately shredded when it was windy.  Oh, well, it was worth a try!

Photo: I do not think this is how Dick envisioned using the "Emergency Blanket" (10 for under $10 from, but it is blocking the sun behind me and cooling me down.  This might be useful for not only RVers and gate guards, but others working or playing in the heat.

Here are a couple views of our RV set-up as gate guards – after a few unsuccessful attempts.
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Through “word of mouth” from a fellow gate guard, it was soon known that Dick made cigar box guitars, and he began having orders. A fellow Cajun from South LA, Johnny David, bought this cigar box guitar from Dick and ordered 2 more! Johnny had never heard of them before, and he picked it up and immediately made it sing with the blues.

After reading this recipe on Facebook, I decided to give it a try – a simple dessert to make on an RV without too much to eat and without too many calories (180)!

This is easy as 1-2-3:
You will need two cake mixes
One must be Angel Food and the other your choice
Mix the two together in an airtight container and seal it
When you want a treat, get a coffee mug, add 3 Tablespoons of the Cake Mix and 2 Tablespoons of Water. Microwave 1 minute.

Our gate guard friend Michelle would bring us a meal or some of her canned goodies, and we would reciprocate with meals and a piece of cake for dessert every now and then.  A win-win for all!

I wish I could have existed on 4 hours of sleep, so I could have taken early morning bike rides while it was cool and dry, but that never happened, so here is where our bikes stayed for a month and, then, were parked behind our motor home until October. When we gate guard again, we will store them with our daughter Michelle and, since we will be hosting at 2 different Texas state parks for 6 months of 2014, we hope to get in a lot of bike riding down the road – after having them refurbished at the bike shop!

Thanks to my DIL April for finding me this cap by Columbia on the Amazon site! I have never paid $30+ for a cap but, in this case, it is tax deductible. The flap folded under when I did not need to cover my neck. The fabric is so light that I did not even know I was wearing a cap, plus I could wet it down when I needed to cool off. Unfortunately, this one size cap runs small and did not fit Dick. I was a happy girl, though!

On July 31st, our gate guard cohort Chuck picked us up a watermelon for a hot afternoon snack, and it was as sweet and juicy as it looks.

As we started our 4th week as gate guards, both Dick and I noticed our clothes getting baggy. We had the exercise, steam room and sauna without paying a penny, and we were not eating out nearly as often!

As of August 10th, at least one of our Brazos Bend State Park frogs still lived! Unfortunately, though, it did not make the trip back to the Houston area with us as we had hoped! Maybe we introduced a new species to the area.  Who knows?!

In mid-August, our friends Dave and Sue (former park hosts with us in both West and Waco, TX and now friends, as well) came to visit. Since it was so quiet on our gate that night, we had a great visit. Choke Canyon Barbeque was for dinner, and our gate guard neighbor Michelle brought an iced cold yellow meat watermelon to share. They stayed overnight, Sue fixed breakfast and, then, they headed back to Lake Whitney where they were gate attendants for the Army Corps of Engineers. Getting licensed as gate guards brought them to our “neighborhood”, which they planned to do after finishing up at Lake Whitney on September 30th and are currently now doing.

Thanks to Facebook friends who follow us for posting the following caricatures of our lifestyle! I love them!

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The week before school started in late August, our grandson Logan spent the week with us. Due to insurance at the rig site, he could not go outside the motor home but, as we told him, the weather was 100+, so why would he want to.

On the afternoon of August 19th, Logan and took a road trip to Choke Canyon State Park near Three Rivers. He had hoped to swim, but the pool had long been closed down, and the only place to swim was the river – with the alligators.  NOT! This state park has apparently been forgotten, as it was not nearly what we have come to expect with our Texas state parks. We did have a fun afternoon, though!

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Dick and Logan made a road trip one evening to the closest Lowe's in San Antonio (about 60 miles one way) and purchased a window AC unit, so that our 2 units would not burn out from being overworked. When not needed or traveling, the unit is stored in one of the outside bays, so we are ready if we are ever unfortunately in 100+ degree weather again. Since we live in Texas, that is highly likely!

And here is proof that we had some really hot days!

It rained on the morning of August 21st, but our setup worked - as long as the wind did not blow, and it did settle the dust and cooled us off - 83 degrees at almost 8:30 a.m.

When ranchers Tom and Sue found out that Logan was visiting, they invited him to visit with their 2 grandchildren, who were also visiting. They picked him up in the truck to go feed the deer on the ranch and returned him a couple hours later on the mule. Logan enjoyed his visit and it was very special for them to include him!

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On Logan's last night with us before he and his Mom Michelle returned to Houston, we had pizza for dinner.

We then made homemade ice cream – using this recipe that was posted on an RV site on Facebook, and it was easy and delicious: 

2-liter bottle of pineapple drink (or flavor of your choice)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Chopped strawberries (optional fruit of choice)
Mix together and chill
Follow directions for your ice cream maker; and enjoy.

A picture cannot do justice to the beautiful sunrise on the morning of August 29th with 73 degrees and a slight breeze at almost 7:30!

Photo: A picture cannot do justice to the beautiful sunrise this morning with 73 degrees and a slight breeze at almost 7:30.  Have an awesome Thursday!

On September 2nd, our 46th anniversary consisted of Choke Canyon BBQ brisket with potato salad and beans, with ice cream and mini pies for dessert after Dick too his nap to prepare for another all-nighter. It was a strange anniversary, but at least we were together, making money and planning a celebration after leaving our gate guard site in October.

On September 6th, while working outside, these 2 rabbits were playing with each other about 10' feet from me. I was impressed that I got a picture of them jumping in the air, but never touching each other - after they circled each other a few times. They only stopped and moved on when a truck came down the road.

Another recipe that I must share since it is easy to make on board an RV is Banana Bread with Honey and Applesauce. Thank you to our friend Amy near Fort Worth, TX for sharing this recipe on Facebook, which came from
  • Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar free applesauce
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 mashed overripe bananas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and honey. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

By September 29th, Dick and I were exhausted and way too busy. We had about 5 new projects added on our site and were working almost non-stop. At that point, we decided to leave as gate guards on October 10th - after completing our 3 months - for some much needed R&R and family and friend time through December.

However, by October 2nd, when I signed in and out 200 vehicles (many with 4 people in them) in a 6-hour period, I told Dick I could not do this for another week. Granted, we were getting paid a bit more for being at such a heavy gate. However, at this point, our health and sanity were more important than money! In addition, both our refrigerator and washer/dryer quit working, which we are sure was due to not having the motor home leveled. It kept sinking in the muck and, even though we mentioned it to our service rep, nothing was done to move us to harder ground. Before losing all our food, we called the company and told them we had to leave on October 3rd for all of these reasons. Dick got everything ready for us to roll while I worked another 6 hours – until the service reps arrived with our replacements (who we later found out did not last a full day).

I must add that we met many great people - ranchers, company men for both companies on our site, workers for the companies and contractors, as well as other gate guards. We have been fortunate to keep in touch with some of these people and hope to see them down the road.

After leaving the site behind, we drove about 30 miles to Choke Canyon State Park to stay 2 nights, regroup and sleep before heading back to Houston - and cook what meat we could salvage. Even though this state park does not have much to offer, the RV sites are neat and clean and it was very quiet.

Photo: Look who showed up for dinner at our campsite!

Again, my “goal” is to post at least once a month – and hopefully. more often. It feels strange to have a posting without other family members, but the only family we saw during our 3-month stint were Michelle and Logan.. We made up for that during the next 3 months, so more coming soon.

In the meantime, check out our new friends' (Greg and Jan) blog at Greg and Jan were gate guards near us and are also full-time RVers, and Greg posts almost every day.  We met Greg and Jan upon returning to San Leon, TX and discovering we are parked within 5 minutes of each other.  Small world!

Also, check out another blog by our friends Dave and Janice, who are originally from the same area as us south of Houston, but whom we first met in Estes Park, CO in the summer of 2012 when we all hosted for Larimer County.  They had some awesome travels this past summer, which are detailed with pictures on their blog:  Janice is also great about posting frequently!

Until next time!!