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!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

2014! New Gate Guarding Adventures!

Our “plan” was to gate guard in either East TX or West LA for the months of January through March. We hoped that winter would be preferable to summer, and that these areas would be more like home for us. However, when we called our company’s rep on January 2nd, there was nothing available. Knowing that this happens with the oil fields, we hoped for an opening in the next few days.

Since I had been suffering with massive headaches for almost a week, I made an appointment with our medical clinic, but not my doctor, who was out of the office. The doctor did agree with my assessment – that this was most likely a sinus infection – so I started a Z-pac and nose drops, which began easing the pressure within 24 hours.

Since we had a few more days before leaving San Leon, TX (SE of Houston), Logan (our 13-year-old grandson) came to spend some more time with us. Thanks to Susie, the Office Manager at Brazos Bend State Park, we had free admission to various exhibits at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, so Dick, Logan and I packed a picnic lunch and made a day trip. Dick wanted to photograph the “Cockrell Butterfly Center” exhibit, so that is where he spent much of his time. If you would like to see more, check out Dick’s album entitled “Butterflies” in his photos on Facebook.

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Logan and I toured the rest of the museum, and he particularly enjoyed the space exhibits and the dinosaur exhibits.

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Our only disappointment was the “Burke Baker Planetarium” show that we chose, which would have been great for someone on drugs, but not so much for us. We left early, but had less time for further touring, and there was not nearly enough time to see everything. Fortunately, we have 3 more sets of free admission coupons, so we hope to return for another visit – possibly after school is out, although it will be much busier during the summer.

On 2 different nights, the 3 of us had movie night, and I learned more about Wolverine (“X Men Origins: Wolverine”) and Superman (“Man of Steel”) than I ever hoped to know. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed both movies! Thanks, Logan!

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Logan stayed overnight on Sunday, January 5th, since his Mom had to be at school on Monday, but he had another holiday. Monday, January 6th, we slept in and were abruptly awakened at 9 a.m. by our gate guard rep Len, who needed us at a site near Vidor, TX that day. We thought we were pretty close to rolling out but, as always, it took longer than expected. Poor Logan! He was caught up in all the craziness of getting the motor home (“MH”) ready to travel. Also, the weather was cold and windy, but we got it done. Dick left in the MH, since we had to meet Len but, fortunately, Len did not arrive before us. I drove Logan home and dropped off our bikes – since gate guarding is not conducive to bike riding. We will get them checked out and have them at the state parks when we volunteer. Thanks to Michelle, I had pizza for dinner to eat on the road.

My drive to Vidor (mid-way between Beaumont and Orange and about 45 minutes from the LA border) was uneventful, but very dark, until I was driving in very heavy traffic through Beaumont. I got a phone call from Dick, who had missed his turn, attempted to turn around and, in the dark, parked the right rear end of our MH in a ditch. Naturally, I was driving and could do nothing. He called Good Sam Roadside Assistance, who told him to call the police. Fortunately, Dick had bought orange triangles, which he put out on the road, or, according to the policeman, he would have been ticketed. The cell phone service was spotty and he was unable to again reach Good Sam. Fortunately, I was able to reach Len, who gave me directions to the site – 10 miles north and west of the Vidor exit – and met me there to drop off the trailers with our sewer, water and generator. Len found Dick and, with his 4-wheel drive truck, was able to pull Dick out of the ditch. By the time they arrived at the site, it was around 10 p.m. and, by the time Len left, it was after midnight. What a day, but it could have been much worse!


The good news was that we had an internet connection with our Verizon jet pack and cell phone service. We had no wind, but the temperature was 25 degrees, which was COLD. The bad news was that we had no water for 2 days, since it was frozen in the tank and, unfortunately, we did not fill up our on-board water tank, which will not happen again. Fortunately, we had bottles of water and were less than 10 miles from Vidor to stock up.

We had a very successful first day! This site was SO much quieter than we experienced on our last gate guard position! Everyone we signed in and out were very nice and helpful, and we actually had more activity than initially at our previous site - if we had not had another oil company in and out of our gate, plus a gate to open and close, neither of which we had here.

We were only left with 200 gallons of water for the next few days. Fortunately, John Leverkuhn with Jet told us his company would top off our tank (500 gallons) at no charge. Thank you, John and Scott! I later made brownies as a “thank you”. Most of the workers were from LA and the Houston, TX area, so we had common topics to discuss when there was time.

The following day (January 8th), Jay Price, a classmate from my Lake Charles High School Class of 1965, came to visit because we were “in the neighborhood”. Jay lives in Beaumont and works in Orange, and we were halfway between the 2 cities. He would not have even known we were in the area without Facebook, and we had a great time catching up!


Here is a picture of our set-up and we actually sat out for awhile when it warmed up a bit!


The remainder of January was fairly quiet with workers and contractors in and out of our site. On January 15th, just after dark, I had an opportunity to get this photo of our view from the front door of the MH.


On Friday, January 17th, I got a message from our niece-in-law Ashley, who asked if she and our nephew Joe and great nephew Dominic could come over for a visit. We had not yet met Dominic, so Great Aunt Judy was thrilled. I had made brownies, plus Ashley had hot tea and Joe and Dick had coffee. It was a great visit and very special that they came to visit.

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The following day, one of the contractors working on the pipeline on our site dropped off a box of donuts – not that we needed them, but they were yummy and we shared them with “others”. Later in the day, I decided that I might not be able to participate in Mardi Gras activities, but I could display my doll (which was given to me many years ago by a paralegal I worked with in Houston).

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On January 19th, my brother David, sister-in-law Tresa and great nephew Brandon came to visit from Beaumont. We had a great visit catching up, but it was not long enough.

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A few days later, John with Jet gave us a red and green hot sauce. As I told him, Dick would really appreciate that gift - and he did! We later made gumbo for John and his family as a huge thank you for our water. Again, thank you, John!


We had more frigid weather during the second and third weeks of January. One morning, while Dick was sleeping, it started snowing and sleeting, and I had to get a picture to prove it really happened – since it was melted as soon as the temps rose a few degrees. 


The worst part is that water in our tank froze every time we had below freezing temperatures. Dick had made a quick store run for bottled water and a few groceries. A few days earlier, one of the contractors at the rig made a trip to Vidor for drinking water – since the water at the rig was also frozen. He asked if we needed anything, and he made a special trip to Walmart for our coffee and 2 gallons of drinking water, which saved us a trip. Naturally, we paid him and gave him some brownies, but it was very nice of him!

January ended with another visit from Joe, Ashley and Dominic!

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That evening, when the company picking up trash came by the site, as they were leaving and picking up our trash, the driver asked if we wanted a goose. Yep, I said a goose! Someone had given him 3 geese, and he offered 1 to us, which Dick dressed out and put in the freezer for gumbo.

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The first week of February brought more rain and cold temperatures and, on February 6th, a bit of sleet and snow – very unusual for our area of Texas. Later in the morning, I had to wake Dick when the generator totally died. Fortunately, we have an on-board generator on the MH, but that costs us approximately 3/4-1 gallon of diesel per hour, which can be pricey if run for too long. After talking to Len, our rep, Dick made a trip to the hardware store in Vidor to purchase a battery charger to get the company generator running until it could be fixed.

That afternoon, I had an appointment with a doctor in Beaumont (thanks to my brother David and sister-in-law Tresa for the recommendation), and determined that I had my second sinus infection of the season - and more drugs!

Dick and I really appreciated the sales reps who had been giving us packages of Community Coffee, which was another reason to gate guard in SE Texas where they drink coffee like we do!

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Since February 12th was my birthday, we had a few unexpected visitors on Saturday. February 8th. My brother Jim, sister-in-law Sharon, nephew-in-law Josh and niece Virginia drove over from Lake Charles, LA and came bearing gifts. Sharon brought me a yummy piece of Italian cream cake, and Jim brought me (or maybe Dick) boudin from Sonnier’s, their favorite at that time. They brought more boudin to snack on and, then, we had dessert and coffee. A great visit!

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The following day, Dick and I had a great visit with Michelle and Logan – to celebrate my birthday on February 12th and Logan’s 13th birthday on February 15th. After an early dinner prepared by Dick of shrimp creole with rice, fried shrimp and creamed corn, we had Michelle's Italian cream cupcakes for dessert. Yummy! 

Michelle also brought us some white chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day. Sad to see them go, but it’s not for long.

I had been trying to get a picture of this visitor - the only wildlife we had seen at this site - for weeks, and I finally captured this image from the window above our couch on the MH!

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Our friend Jay came for another visit on February 11th, and we had a dinner of chicken and sausage gumbo, rice and "MawMaw's potato salad" on a cold, rainy evening!

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It was a strange day for a birthday on February 12th, since Dick and I could not leave at the same time - which made reading messages on Facebook and receiving phone calls from family and friends even more special. One of our contractors brought me a card and these flowers from him and his wife, which totally surprised me! Even with the cold and overcast skies, it was a good day – and Dick still “owes” me his gift of a seafood dinner at a restaurant of my choice and movie of my choice!

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Happy Valentine's Day to us - surf and turf with herbed potatoes prepared by Dick. We needed a veggie for color, but it was already lots of food. Yummy!

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On February 15th, the rig started moving out and, as I told others, I would never look at an oil rig in the same light again. I had no idea what was involved to put a rig up and to, then, take it down and move it to another location. Unfortunately, this meant we would also be moving on in the next few days.

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On the morning of February 17th, Dick and I were released as gate guards by the company man. We knew this day was coming, but had hoped it would not. We began the process of packing up to roll the next morning. Our rep arrived later in the day to pick up the company's equipment and, since there was no place to go with company, we decided to go to COE Sandy Creek Park near Jasper, TX to, hopefully, be “in the area” for the next gate guard position. We could have traveled to the company yard in Buffalo, TX, but the Jasper area was more central and, with our national senior pass, we could stay for only $9 per night. The next morning, we made the move and got set up for what turned out to be almost a week. The hardest part for me was to relax while waiting for our next “gig”.

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On February 21st, our friend Mike and his dog Baby Girl came to visit for a few days and camped next door to us. We had good food and good visits and hope to see each other on the road again soon.

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While at the park, Dick got this great shot of this woodpecker!


Finally, on February 25th, we got the call from Len that we had a gate guard position between Jacksonville and Palestine – farther north and west, but only a 2-hour drive from the park. The following day, we were on the road again.

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The 1/2 mile road to our site was very narrow and rough but, once there, our site was fairly level and we had trees, internet and TV (once our satellite was set up, which Dick did very quickly). Not bad! We quickly learned that the driller on this site was the same company we worked with in Vidor, and we either met a few people that we had met before or who knew people we had worked with before.

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A day or so after getting to this site, one of the company men, Chuck, stopped by to visit when Dick was sleeping. When Chuck found out that Dick collected caps. he gave me 4-5 camaflouged caps from the oil field and a cap rack for Dick to hang them on. I really like the way they look hanging behind Dick’s chair in the MH.

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Meet Lexi – our gate guard dog! She actually belonged to the family whose property the rig was on. Each night, and most of the day, she took her post directly across the entry road from Dick’s window. At night, as a vehicle approached (and before it rolled over our bell cable), she sounded a brief alarm - in case Dick should doze at his post - then settled back down. Each night, she watched Dick at his computer and, when she felt it was time for a snack, she sauntered over and sat a few feet away, looking so forlorn that Dick felt compelled to get up and toss out a treat to her. As Dick said, Lexi is a young lady, on her way to becoming a queen – and, if we could have taken her when we left, Dick might have done it. She was a sweetheart!


The first part of March brought more cold weather and, on March 2nd, it was around 30 degrees with off-and-on snow flurries and sleet - and shrimp and crab gumbo, rice and potato salad for dinner, as we tried to warm up!

The next day, with sub-freezing temperatures, these guys were all over the place. At one point, Dick counted at least 15 pecking through the rocks and sand of the roadway. This guy ventured just a few feet from the MH!


Again, we were without water in our tanks for another couple days due to freezing temps but, finally, on March 4th, the sun came out and it started warming up – for a bit at least. Along with sunshine and warmer temps on the afternoon of March 4th, the water delivery person topped of our water in the tank (for brownies, of course), and the bottled water delivery person called a friend at the rig, who delivered 3 4-gallon bottles of water, which meant that I had more brownies to make. We were also told to pick up bottled water at the rig and bring our bags of trash any time. Being fairly new to gate guarding, Dick and I hesitated asking favors at the rig; however, when offered, we accepted! Of the 3 gate guard sites we were at (near Whitsett, TX from July through September 2013; near Vidor, TX for 5 weeks in January and February 2014; and, finally, near Palestine, TX), this site offered the most amenities and was the most communicative.

The next few weeks were fairly uneventful with some warmer days, some colder days. some rain and some sunshine – all of which played havoc on my allergies. When it rained, we were fortunate that I could sign people in and out from the door with the awning above the steps, and Dick could do the same from the window by his desk. Everyone was very helpful and we rarely had to get out in the inclement weather. On March 18th, we had wind gusts that were strong enough to shake the MH and knock over various items outside, which did not give me “warm fuzzies”.

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March 20th was an interesting day, with Dick making a trip to the emergency room ("ER") in Jacksonville, TX! About 11 a.m., he came to the window while I was outside and told me his blood pressure was very high. A salesman on our site offered to drive him to the hospital (about 15 miles from us). I made the requisite phone calls to our gate guard rep and rig company man, and waited for a replacement to cover our gate while I was gone. Dick's EKG was fine and, after painkillers, the pain subsided, but they did xrays and thought it might be his gallbladder. It turned out that the doctor felt he was having withdrawals due to not taking Prilosec for a few days - because a doctor I told him to watch on TV said it should be stopped periodically. Oops! The ER doctor told him to start taking it again and not stop. The entire episode could have been much worse and, once we were back on the site, Dick caught up on sleep he had missed.

Our friend and former co-host at Fort Parker State Park, Lana, sent me this cartoon (below on the left) the following day, which made me smile! Then, the cartoon below on the right was posted, which is so true!

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Here is a view of the rig, which I am borrowing from our oil field friend Tyler!

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Then, on the morning of March 27th, this rig completed the move on down the road about 20 miles toward Palestine to another site.

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The company requested that we move with them, which we would have been thrilled to do. However, since our last day for this stint of gate guarding was April 1st (due to our commitment as volunteer park hosts at Martin S. Dies, Jr., State Park near Jasper, TX), we stayed at this location and had another first! We were guarding a site with no one on it - after having more traffic on March 27th than in the last 4 weeks combined!

Another storm came through on March 28th, but the upside was a beautiful rainbow to brighten our day!

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A downside of gate guarding was not being able to attend family functions unless we went separately and, at this site, we were about 3 hours from the Houston area. Unfortunately, we had to miss my sister Betti’s birthday celebration on March 30th at Guidry’s Cruisin’ Cajun Crawfish restaurant, but everyone shared their pictures and I was definitely there in spirit. Since we were unable to have family visits at this site due to distance, please humor me while I share my family with y’all.

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Betti, Jim A., Sharon and Jim T.
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Jim T., Michelle and Logan
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Ben, Logan and Colby
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Jim A., Shannon and Elena
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Ben, Colby and Michelle

It was hard to believe that our gate guarding days were ending until late summer or next January! More to come on our next adventure in the next few days! Thanks for stopping by!!