Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How the Weather Affects Us

We were told that Monday would be a busy day.  Fracing was to begin Tuesday morning, so a lot of traffic would be coming in and out.  Sure enough, some unusual equipment came in, and empty trucks came out.

The worst today was thing was the wind.  Sustained at 25 mph with gust (and frequently!) of 45 mph, we couldn't stay outside.  Unfortunately the wind was headed at us and the dust was awful making it necessary to do business from the side window, kinda like a drive-thru.  Gary got the plate number, and I got the names and other info.  The wind was so bad, they had to stop operations until Tuesday.

Fortunately, we had our slide toppers rigged thus to keep them from damage and keep it a little quieter.

Gary was on duty all night, and logged in about 68 trucks.  I tried to sleep, but heard every bell ring and truck enter.  Fell asleep in between though.  So did Gary, but just a little, as he was in the recliner at the door.  He rigged up his hard hat with a flashing bike lite in the back, and his head lite aimed down on the front.  Not planning to get hit by anything if he can help it!

Benefits of night lights - that's my hand!

A sunrise entry
 We are also blessed with a caterer that comes for the crew at lunch and dinner times.  He's been kind enough to save plates for us, too!  We've had BBQ, chicken-fried steak and this is King Ranch cassarole, a new one for us.  It's made with corn tacos, chicken, cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Darn good!  I don't think I'll have to do much cooking if this keeps up, which is fine, as we are quite busy here.  Since Friday we have checked in and out over 1000 people.  The guys (and girls) are very nice and polite, and basically it is being available 24 hours/day and some paperwork.  We managed to clean out our bay drawers today - all three of them. 

King Ranch Cassarole
There are still some problems with the equipment, so fracing has been suspended until fixes are made.  Hopefully this will mean we have to stay longer.  Jobs are a little scarce.  We were waiting at the yard for an assignment for over a week.  So if this job lasts a little bit longer, we're OK with that.
Night time at the drill site
 Yep, it's all really good.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Our New Job!

The call came from the office around 11 am Friday to let us know there was a job available. Donna and Ron and we walked over to find out the details and decide who was going to take it. It was a short job, around 2 1/2 weeks mainly fracking (a process by which liquid is pumped in a cracked pipe forced between rocks to help extract oil.) 

Here's a picture of our parking pad with our 550 gal. water tank, generator and fuel, water pump and black water tank to the left (not shown). The well site is about 1/4 mile down this road to the left. All we do is walk out to the driver and record certain details, then let him drive in or out. It has been quiet so far with the last in at 9:30 last night and first in at 7:15 this morning. But Gary was up at four expecting early arrivals. The "company men" assured us that Monday it will be steady in and out with sand trucks and other huge rigs.

our entrance

truck checking out

Two important signs I printed that could save our lives, or least a nasty surprise!

Some of the rigs today were huge!

Right now we're averaging 15 trucks in and out per hour, so Gary is taking a nap while typing this and checking in and out.  It's another 77 degree, sunny day, with the breeze blowing the right way - away from us - so it's all good!

San Antonio Once More

Thursday we planned to go into San Antonio to see some missions and have lunch on the Riverwalk.  It was a perfectly beautiful day and it was easy to find our first mission:  San Juan Capistrano and it's unique acequias (irrigation ditch 7 miles long from the San Antonio River).  It is still a vibrant community with the Spanish and natives worshipping at this church.

All the San Antonio Missions are part of the National Park Service and are Historical Parks.  Only the churches are not part of the Park and belong to the Diocese today.

It was a short drive to Mission Espada founded in 1690.  Missions depended on their success of farming and ranching, however branding of cattle was very difficult in the Texas brush country, and in 1778 all unbranded cattle becme property of the Crown, so the vast mission herds were reduced to several hundred.  Sheep provided wool for weaving and trading with other settlements.  This church front and back and a small amount of the base is original.  The roof and side walls had been rebuilt.

Inside this church (which is still used today) are statues even older than this church that were moved from the original oldest Mission in East Texas. 

The colorful kneeling pads
After driving back into San Antonio, we needed some lunch.  Casa Rio right on the river was the perfect choice, as you can see.  

 We needed to walk off a few of those calories, so wandered over to La Vallita (little village).  Now it is a collection of artisans and their shops, some with beautiful handmade items.  Lottery items, actually.  But originally it was grounds to the "Little Church of La Villita, established in 1879.  This stained glass window was installed in 1969 in honor of Rev. Paul Soupiset, who earned this honor by taking a tin cup onto the streets and to business establishments to solicit money to prepare Christmas dinners for the poor, hungry or lost.

It would have taken another 1 1/2 hours for the boat tour, so we decided to head home.  A beautiful ending to a beautiful good day.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waiting For It

It's been over a week now since we've arrived at the Gate Guard Services yard in Whitsett, TX.  Last Tuesday evening we parked overnight near the pond, as the five hookup spots were taken.  When a Class A moved out the next morning, we claimed that spot.

 Behind us is a 200 acre ranch.  The owner, Leonard, stopped by on his tractor and invited us over to see his horses and mules.  His wife is a nursing home nurse and was working this weekend, so we drove over the half mile to his place.

He called in his herd and they each had their own little feed pen.  He gave us each buckets and we poured the feed into their food containers.  The horses are mustangs, and dislike sugar, apples and carrots.  There were two young colts, one only 6 months old named Blaze.  She was a little skittish, but was calmed when you gently pet her.
Gary and Ron with DeeDee and Jo


Winnie and me 
His ranch is for sale, if anyone is interested - only $3495. per acre.

That night we decided to play a game: Sequence.  It's a board game requiring a run of cards five in a row. Donna and I were a team, and creamed the boys 3 to one.  It got late fast and we yawned through the last hand.  Hoping to hear about an assignment tomorrow, we said goodnight.

By noon the next day, we supposed that we weren't going to hear anything, so we drove into Pleasanton, the nearest 'big' town with a Walmart.  We were using up our groceries, and needed to replace a few.

Yesterday we decided to check out Peggy.  Peggy is at the intersection of Farm Road 99 and an unnamed paved road twenty-seven miles southeast of Jourdanton in southeastern Atascosa County. It began in the early 1930s, when landowners H. R. Smith and John Mowinkle had several hundred laborers clear mesquite and brush for farm land. To serve the needs of the workers and area residents, C. E. and Clara Nichols built a store called Hollywood. A gin was built across the road. The community was called Hollywood for several years, but in the late 1930s a post office opened with the name Peggy, after a niece of John Mowinkle. In 1939 the town had a population of twenty-five and one business. In 1943 it had two businesses and twenty-five residents. The population rose to fifty by 1961, then decreased to twenty by 1968. In 1990 Peggy had a store with a post office, a farm machine shop, and twenty residents. The population was twenty-two in 2000.  I don't think it's changed much.  But gas sure has:  This tank says 62 cents a gallon, and somone bought 7.50 worth. 

The store and post office (now closed and for rent)
All we saw was one person and a couple of farms.  One had impalas and deer walking along the edge of the fence.  A popular reason to have acreage around here is for hunting.  It's reported that there are black panthers around here, too.  We have seen birds and cows, a few longhorns, and ferral pigs.  Yesterday we saw some bobwhites and caracaras with binoculars in a field.

Today it's drizzling and a cool 66 degrees, so we'll probably do inside stuff today. 

Ho hum. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

More Trouble

We were very excited to leave for San Antonio.  Our planned campground was in Castroville 23 miles west of the city center.  It was a regional park with good reviews, and although we couldn't get in the first time I called, Alice called back a few days later with two empty full hookup sites.  We made our reservation on-line for two nights.  HOWEVER...

We left on Friday morning, and stopped in Raymondville for some lunch at a Walmart parking lot.  Usually we check everything before getting back on the road, and perhaps we would have missed what happened anyway, but about ten miles further on Route 77, a warning buzzer sounded, the engine slowed and we had no oil pressure.  Oh, joy.  Ron and Donna were ahead of us, so I called to ask them to turn around.

Meanwhile, Gary got out to check the oil. Oh, THERE it is, all over the bikes and Jeep and back of Bella. Yuck! By the time Donna and Ron made it back to us, I had a call into CoachNet, our tow service. We had inherited hazard triangles with Bella, so we put those out behind Ron's trailer. It took about an hour to find someone to tow us and determine which place could take us (Friday afternoon, of course). The truck was coming from Alamo, about 100 miles away. By the time I called back to find out why it was taking 2 1/2 hours to get to us, the sun was setting.  Great - driving in the dark with bikes on the front of the Jeep. At least it wasn't raining...

One finally arrives, a young guy who says another guy is coming to help him. Ugh, oh.  At least they brought the right truck for our independent suspension.  They dropped the drive shaft and tossed it into the truck. 

 Just after dusk, we're ready to go.  The trip would take about an hour, and no one knew if they were open or not.  At least he knew where to go. 
At a Border Patrol checkpoint, we breezed through (whew), and soon we turned off onto a small road where we found Rush Peterbilt who worked on CAT engines.  However, it was closed, so they parked us in the field opposite the entrance gate.  They handed us the drive shaft, and we settled in for a rainy night.  The next morning dawned ugly, but at 7 am, the gates opened!  We walked over to say hi and see if they could help us.  So very fortunately, the boss asked someone to take a look, but no promises, as they had two truck deliveries promised for today.

Our lovely parking spots
Here's Yancy, taking a look.  It took 5 hours to determine it was two O-rings in the hardest place to get to EVER.  This guy, Yancy, was a worm.  I don't know how he fit in there.  I should have taken a picture of him scrunched inside the engine.  Literally.  But he fixed it! 

If it wasn't for the location, it would have been a quick fix, but the labor costs alone, well, you can imagine.  For two little tiny O-rings ($2.75).  Ha. 
But we could leave for Castroville, and leave we did.  It was an easy drive, and we checked half way to see if all was well.  Bella was happy again.
It got dark and increasingly foggy, so of course, we missed the turn, but in the nick of time found a turn around, and zipped into the park, where we saw some beautiful deer bound across the field.  Ahhhh, we needed that after the last 24 hours.
Alice was the camp host, and showed us into our spots.  It was a cute park, with sites a little close together for big rigs, but it was all pull-thru with full hookups.  It used to be Passport America, but we got a senior discount. We fell into bed and slept well.
We had only planned to stay two nights, but that was assuming we had arrived early Saturday.  So we made another night's reservation so we could see San Antonio for a day and half, and wash the Jeep and bikes one of those mornings.  But not Sunday morning!  Off we go to San Antonio!
Which way should we go first?

Street signs help us decided as do maps everywhere

The San Antonio Riverwalk
We met Donna's school friend, Toni and her husband, Bob, for lunch at the Republic of Texas restaurant, but we parted right after to see the Alamo.  


Inside there are artifacts and rooms off the main hall with descriptions.  For example, one room with no windows was where the women and children hid during the battle.  Only fourteen women and children and one slave escaped death.  Today, the DRT (Daughters of the Republic of Texas) maintain the care of the Alamo with no other means of support than donations and proceeds from the lovely gift shop.  An interesting piece of history.
It was time for dinner and we chose MiTierra cafe and bakery.  The cheese enchiladas were delicious, but no room for dessert.  When we returned the next day, we had 'tea' with sopapillas. 
 Kathy, our waitress, showed us the Mural Room.
 Various artists in the community had painted the entire room with large murals.  Beautiful artwork and a history lesson in itself.

The next morning, Gary took the bikes off the Jeep, and while I washed dirty rags and the bikes, he took the Jeep to the car wash with a spray bottle of Dawn diluted in a little water. Of course, I gave him instructions: wet the Jeep, spray the entire thing with the Dawn, brush all over, wash with wand, then rinse and dry. Whether he did it that way or not, he did a pretty darned good job.

It was not really warm out with a cold breeze, but I got the bikes cleaned, then washed the back of Bella. Then we were all ready to head back towards San Antonio to see the Mercado and eat at the Central Market. Lunch first: Oooooo, how can we choose?? The sushi won out for us, and Donna and Ron had soup and potato pancakes and chicken fingers.  HUGE store with every conceivable food, wine and beer.

We had seen enough of stores and touristy things, but the Food Network had a story about LuLu's Restaurant and two of their famous dishes:  Country Fried Steak and a 3 pound cinnamon bun.

 Gary shared his steak and beans, and Ron gets to hold a cinnamon bun.  For $10 it was too much of everything, so we passed on that artery clogger.
So, we're getting in the Jeep to go back to the CG, and guess what, the engine light comes on again.  We're pretty much ignoring it.  Either something is loose, or clogged or whatever, but we put some hi-test gas in her, and sometimes that works.
Tuesday it was departure day.  But Ron had a problem with his slide.  The bolt pulled out of the retract mechanism.  He jumps into the truck, drives to True Value for a couple carriage bolts, drives back, jacks up the slide to get it straight, installs the bolt, and voila, once again, the Magic Man fixes it for 80 cents.  We pull out and head towards Pleasanton for a Walmart fill-up as it is finally time to go to work.  Arriving around 5:30 in Whitsett, Diane is still in the office.  The first thing she says is that she has a job for tomorrow morning for one of us.  We can't make a decision tonight, so we say we will sleep on it and talk to the foreman, Jamie, tomorrow. 
Eight am we are back in the office where Jamie says that job was cancelled anyway, and he has nothing right now.  Getting a double gate position is really rare, and they don't know what oil company will call at any time with a job, so we sit tight in our free full hookups until a call comes in.
For all you who are interested in this type of job, stay tuned.  I will post when I am able because being out in God's country we will be lucky to have any reception.  I am actually looking forward to this job, but I know that it will be like nothing I'm used to. 
But it's all good, right? 


Oh, My Goodness...

Our last week at SPI arrived so quickly, we had to stuff a lot of things in before our departure date, Friday the 7th.  First on our list was the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center right up island from us.  It is a fairly new facility with a five story observation tower, an auditorium, and 1600 yards of boardwalks with bird blinds along the way. 
It's setting is on the Laguna Madre bay but has freshwater ponds, brackish and saltwater marshes.  This guy was warming his tail in the sun while enjoying a dip in the freshwater pond. 
Everybody congregated in this pond.

There was some wildlife out, but my only new bird was a marsh wren with a pretty song.  A Common Moorhen sailed by.  We feel kind of related to these guys.
The beautiful Blue Heron.
And a Little Blue Heron. (I love his green legs)
And the blue winged teal, also a first for us.
This is also the site for the Andy Bowie Wastewater Treatment Plant, processing 1.5 million gallons of water a day.  The cleaned water is directed into freshwater wetlands. 
There was a convention of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the tall sea grass, and even though we heard them all talking at once, they were well hidden.  A few flew in and out of the meeting, but we couldn't get a shot that fast.
It was a beautiful day of nature again, and we looked forward to the Sea Turtle Rescue Center on Thursday.
Sea Turtle, Inc. is a nonprofit rescue center founded by Ila Loetscher in 1977.  All species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened, and five of those are found in the Gulf of Mexico, including the rarest, the Kemp's Ridley.  This little guy's left flipper was damaged by a predator.

Here's Fred, the little hawksbill, also under nursing care.

Below is Merry Christmas, found 3 years ago on the beach.  She has a deformed shell and a missing left flipper that makes it impossible for her to navigate.  A retired Air Force pilot took it upon himself to make her a navigational device that will grow with her and allow her to swim in the hospital for the rest of her life.  She is allowed one hour in the big pool with her friends, and then three hours rest in her small pool. 

Lady Bug is not allowed to swim, but scoots around on her shallow pool on blankets.  She was found a couple weeks ago stranded on the beach with a severe skull and eye injury due to a boat.  Her eye has been removed, and she is in critical condition.

Seeing these poor animals makes you so want to pet them, but it is against Federal law to even touch sea turtles, their babies or eggs and nests.
It was very crowded with huge tanks and many unreleasable turtles, or waiting to be released.  Due to the kindnesses of many patrons, a new facility is being built three times larger to help these creatures.
The sea fog can roll in very quickly and on our way back home, the buildings were disappearing fast.
Spooky, huh?

Well, that's enough for this entry.  Tomorrow we leave for San Antonio for a couple of days before heading to our big job at the oil wells.

It's a good life!