Musings and Info about life on the road

Back to the Polar Region That Is Western Virginia…..

Here’s Andy…


We are back at Dana and Sean’s Lazy Pigg Farm in Virginia after driving back from Kay’s brother Dave’s on Thursday directly into the maw of the latest Vortex crashing in from the west. That night the temperature dropped down to 3 degrees, and as a special bonus it had also snowed. When we heard what the conditions were going to be when we got back to the farm we stopped and got Fiona and Harry winter outfits:



On Friday it was actually sunny in the afternoon so I went looking for a Confederate Memorial. I figured that there had to be one nearby this being Rebel territory and all, and indeed there was one at the local County Courthouse.


It just so happens that Gen. Jubal Early was a lawyer in this county before the War.

I will conclude this post with some more photos of farm life here at Lazy Pigg. Here are (r. to l.) Buster, Fiona, and Piper


Then there is the Llama – Whitney:


Next we have some candid cattle photos of the Dexter breed:




Here is Dana trying to thaw a frozen water line in order to get water for the cattle:


And Kay admiring Dana’s success:


And finally speaking of Kay, she has always had this primordial bovinophobia syndrome about being chased by cows. Dana and I decided to use some “tough love” and badgered poor Kay into feeding the vicious beasts.


Our therapy worked. Now she is out running wild with them!

Come Monday, we will be heading back to Texas.


Off to Penn’s Woods….

Last Monday with a new winter storm heading for Western Virginia we took off for Whitehall, Pa and Kay’s brother Dave’s house. We beat the storm’s arrival and 405 miles later, after traveling through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, into Pennsylvania, we arrived safe and sound but a wee bit tired. We had out run our first Polar Vortex. It caught up with us the following day in Whitehall when it got butt freezing cold………


When we arrived at Dave and his wife Mary Anne’s house (pictured above) not only were Dave and Mary Anne there but Kay’s niece Steph was there too. It was the first time Kay had seen her relatives in 15 years.

Needless to say the time there was spent in reminiscing and catching up on news and traveler’s tales. Later on in the week Kay’s other niece Val, and her husband Len stopped by to see us. It was really nice to see them also, and we went out for Chinese food that evening. Here are Dave and Kay:


Mary Anne, Kay, and Dave:


Dave and Mary Anne’s dog Judah:


Len vs. Harry


On Thursday we left Whitehall to return to Virginia as another Vortex was on the way. After the cold weather in Pennsylvania we hoped to find warmer weather south of the Mason- Dixon Line. Fat chance! More on that later.

Many thanks to Dave and Mary Anne for their hospitality, and Val and Len for being Val and Len!


Road Trip….A Long One!

After we were dismissed from the lovely Briscoe Gate we moved to Spring Branch, Texas which is located to the north of San Antonio taking the dreary and drippy weather with us. We stayed there for about a week and had one or two nice days while we were there along the banks of the Guadeloupe River. We managed to visit the LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson for you youngsters) Ranch that is located north of  Spring Branch:



And, on the very same day, we traveled to the Stonehenge/Easter Island of Texas that is found outside of Ingram, Texas:



Rather strange don’t you think? But then again we are talking about Texas, the state that gave us Rick Perry and many, many other, shall we say rather singularly unique folks. Our other day trip while we were there was to some of the Spanish Missions south of San Antonio, and to the River Walk in downtown San Antionio. Fortunately the sun shone for us at the River Walk:


Whilst we were hanging about in the Texas gloom, victims of the evil Saudi Oil Minister and World Oil Market forces, Kay and I decided to take a road trip to the East Coast to visit her daughter Dana and family in Virginia, and her brother Dave in Pennsylvania, where the weather was sunny and spring like. We arranged to have a new awning put on our trailer in the San Antonio area where the R/V repair place would store the trailer for us while we were gone.

Last Tuesday we took off in the car for Virginia via Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Springtime!

We arrived at Dana and her husband Sean’s Lazy Pigg Farm (named for the Pigg River that flows nearby) outside of Ferrum, Virginia on Friday not having tarried along the way. They and their daughters Maura, Kate, and Brigid have owned the place since they moved back from Germany a few years back. They raise sheep, cattle, and chickens plus a few animal odds and ends that farms always have. It is located in a lovely rolling hill setting and the farmhouse is about 100 years old.



When we got here on Friday the temperatures were cooling off when we took the grand farm tour.






The young lady holding the lamb is Brigid.

Soon, by last night, we were heading into to the single digits. Go figure, eh? Tomorrow we are leaving for Eastern Pennsylvania and the Winter Storm Warnings are being posted. Naturally!



Victims of the Price of Oil…..

This past Wednesday our good friends Bill and Pat came to visit with us here in the paradise that is South Texas while they were on their way to Houston. They had to be in Houston on Sunday so they could embark on a cruise to Central to Central America, and planned to stay with us until Saturday. We were having a nice visit catching up on things we’ve been doing when, on Thursday morning, our boss called and told us that we no longer had a job, and we needed to be gone in an hour’s time. Layoff it was.

We had been expecting this to probably happen as all 0f the companies that had been coming through our gate had been cutting back on their employees, and the projects they were involved in. Still it was quite a shock to have it actually happen. We all were gone within the hour after some frantic packing and scrambling around. So, not having any plans made for this eventuality, Kay and I, plus Pat and Bill all checked into an r/v park in the burg of Asherton which is about halfway between Corrizo Springs and Catarina to regroup. Pat and Bill left this morning for Houston in the rain (again), and Kay and I are going to head up to the San Antonio area on Monday just to get the Hell out of the oilfields. We are working on a plan for the rest of the winter and spring, but nothing has been set in stone.

As you already know, if you have been following this journey to the oilfields, that this was no pleasure trip. It was isolated and the job was mind numbingly dull. The area is basically…. ugly, with what have to be the trashiest roads we’ve ever encountered. There is litter everywhere. It is almost as if every few hundred feet along the highway a garbage truck exploded. And speaking of explosions, the roads themselves are dangerous. Way, way too much traffic. The main highway in this area is a two lane road with a 75, yes 75 m.p.h. speed limit in certain stretches. Kay hated to drive anywhere because of the danger. Hundreds of oil and water tankers, heavy equipment haulers, and myriads of pickups. In the past three weeks two tankers crashed on the highway. This particular wreck killed five people:


But hey, the money was good. Maybe we’ll be here again next winter if the price of oil goes back up.

Anyway I’ll keep you posted as to what we are up to!


Mud Season in South Texas……

Greetings! I hope you all made it through the Holidays without any lasting psychological traumas, and had a lovely time indeed.

Things have remained pretty much the same here at the ranch, and not to much new or interesting is going on with us. We have been experiencing more rain and drizzle. More rain and drizzle, I think, that we have seen on consecutive days, than we have experienced for all the years we’ve been doing this RV gig.  A lot of rain and drizzle and consequently – mucho mud. Cold, sticky, gooey, pastey, stick to anything caliche mud. The worst there is.


This lovely scene has played for us over and over since New Years. Here is Kay in her workday finest (the safety vest really makes the outfit don’t you think) searching in the distance for a hint of sunshine


and not finding any at all. She was none to happy about it either:


However, irregardless of the conditions here the trucks keep coming in and out through our gate day and night, and we keep checking them in and out: day after day after day…….etc. Boring. Quite boring, as I believe I have mentioned previously.

Thank God for the Internet! It certainly helps fill the empty hours for me, Kay, and (surprise!) Fiona.   Fiona, who just loves videos. Especially videos with animals in them, or old Looney Tunes Cartoons. I must confess that I’m the one who turned her on to Daffy, Porky, and Bugs.



Fiona will sit and watch for hours, but Harry not so much. He’s way too cerebral for such childish nonsense preferring instead to endlessly chasing a ball, or rolling in an extra special cow pie. A real Einstein our boy Harry is.

On Friday the sun finally began to make a reappearance and mesquite world began to dry out. And it was good. Kay took this picture out of our window of the sunrise on Saturday morning while I was still abed.


The sun is supposed to shine, shine, and shine for the next week. Here’s hoping!


Word of the Month

The Word of the Month here in South Texas is:

ennui |änˈwē|


a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.


It’s been about 30 days since I’ve posted anything from here at the old Briscoe Ranch gate. It is not because there has been so much activity here and loads of oil field fun that I haven’t had time to write anything. Au contraire …..it is because there has been nothing new or exciting to report. The job itself is mind numbingly dull most times. Especially now that the holidays are here and there isn’t anything happening. Because one of us has to be here at all times of the day and night, seven days a week, we don’t have any opportunity to sightsee, or even go for a Sunday drive together. Here is our shift schedule:

Kay: 4am – Noon

Andy: Noon – 5pm

Kay: 5pm – 9pm

Andy: 9pm – 4am


Day after day after day after….. The weather so far this winter has been warm and mostly cloudy with misty, moisty mornings and high humidity. Occasionally it is very windy and, if the sun comes out, the temperatures leap up into the 60’s and 70’s. Last week, we even had some nice desert sunsets:


We have set up a bird feeding area with seed, water, and cover out back behind our trailer.


It took a while to attract birdies out here in the mesquite, but if you build it they will come. We now see White-crowned Sparrows, Black-throated Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Bewicks Wrens, Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxia, and Quail. In the area surrounding the gate we are at we’ve also seen Harris’s Hawks, Crested Caracara, and even the occasional handful of Sandhill Cranes. Mammal-wise there are Cottontails, very large Black-tailed Jackrabbits (about the size of Harry in length), Coyotes out the wazoo, Deer, and Javelina. There are also the occasional wandering Moo-Cows that have to be chased off. Ah yes, and I almost forgot…, a spy in the sky Blimp now and then watching the border.

Often lately the weather has been overcast with low lying clouds and mist when I am on the graveyard shift. Stepping outside can best be described as resembling what the approaches to MORDOR would look like. The light of orange flames from the gas being flared off of a dozen or so wells in the area is reflected, dancing, off of the low clouds all around the horizon. I half expect to hear the steady rumble of Orcish drums at any moment, and sometimes I do! I’ll tell you why.

We run a generator here at the trailer 24 hours a day…7 days a week. You eventually get more or less used to its noise always being in the background. Kay and I have both experienced a new phenomena that appears to be triggered by the sound of the generator running constantly. And that is that occasionally you hear snatches of music or the sounds of people talking coming from within the sound of the generator. Very weird indeed. Very, very weird.

While I was writing this post late this evening, around 10 o’clock I heard a rather loud crashing, grinding noise outside. I thought I’d investigate; thinking that we were being visited by cows again. I went outside and here, it turns out, a large 18 wheel water tanker was laying on its side about 100 yards down the road from our gate. When I got there through the barbed wire fence some other trucks had stopped and those drivers were getting the driver of the overturned truck out of the cab. He was unhurt except for some minor cuts. The poor guy had tried to avoid hitting a deer, and in doing so ran off on to the very steep shoulder of the road and tipped over. He should have hit the deer as the critter would not have hurt the truck. Anyway, I did flashlight duty on the road until the Sheriff and the EMTs arrived.


It is now 11:30 and more police and wreckers are showing up. I am off duty in four and a half hours. Sigh. Not a dull night though. Still….ennui.

Good night folks, and I hope you all had a very nice Christmas indeed!


A Creature of the Night…..or How I Feel Like I Am Becoming One of the Undead!

Or so it seems like it sometimes at night out here amongst  the mesquite. Especially, at say, three in the morning when Kay is abed, and the dogs and Stinky Uno (the cat) are asleep. I sit here and listen to the generator a runnin’ and the oil company trucks a drivin’ by and to quote David Byrne:

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

But hey, the money’s good and there is no where to spend it. What more could you want? And, at this very moment, an 18 wheel oil tanker is heading up the road towards CHECKPOINT TAYLOR and I will decide if it passes through our gate or not! What power!  Muuwaaahaahaa!

When last I wrote we were on the Springer Ranch outside of Encinal, TX. As soon as the Coilers were finished with their job there we moved on with them to the Light Ranch which is located between Artesia Wells and Catarina. It was another coiling job that lasted but a few days. Here are some pics of our gate that site:



In the picture above, the buildings you see in the background house very large compressors used to move product through a pipeline. They were a wee bit noisy. The Light Ranch is one of quite a few of rather peculiar Texas ranches. It is a hunting ranch, as was Springer Ranch. For a rather large amount of money you can go on guided hunts on the ranch for either native species, or exotic types. We are talking thousands of dollars to kill yourself a large racked whitetail, or perhaps an oryx. While we were guarding the gate at Light all we saw were some type of unusual sheep.


Having raised sheep for a number of years, I hope these weren’t for hunting. I cannot imagine paying really big bucks to bag a sheep. A SHEEP! Some challenge for a Great White Hunter.

We were only at the Light Ranch for a few days until the Coilers were finished. Our boss Tony called and told us that he had a permanent post for us at the Briscoe Ranch which is situated about twelve miles to the west of Catarina, TX. It is a huge place with more acreage than the state of Rhode Island. So off we went again to our new digs which proved to be pretty nice actually:


And flat. Here is an aerial of the mesquite plain:


And all of the rules:


This isn’t a bad spot at all. It is isolated with not too much noise except for the traffic that travels the road day and night, and the constant sound of the generator (God bless it) which I don’t even notice anymore. The temperatures have been in the 70’s and 80’s during the days, and in the 40’s and 50’s at night. On Monday it actually reached 92 degrees. There are a variety of birdies and beasties about, and on our first night here we were visited by a small herd of young steers that I managed to chase off.  They haven’t returned, but the Coilers will….on Black Friday. Life is good.

Well, the night grows old and I must away before the coming of the dawn! Happy Thanksgiving y’all!


Workin’ in the Oil and Gas Fields of Texas! ….

After spending six days in the Carrizo Springs area of Texas, which seemed quite a bit longer than six days, we received a call from our boss at Guard 1 Services. He had a gate assignment for us nearby  at a place called Vivian Ranch in Catarina, TX, a virtual ghost town, which is about 20 miles or so southeast of Carrizo Springs. We would be guarding the entrance to the ranch, 24 hours a day, which has active oil and gas leases on it. The company working there is called Rosetta Resources who was going to be doing a coiled tubing at one of their well sites. What is a coiled tubing you ask? Well, a coiled tubing is like a colonoscopy for a gas or oil well. A very long metal tube that is coiled on a huge spool and sent down into the well to perform any number of functions. Here is an article about the process if you are interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coiled_tubing.

So, last Wednesday we left Carrizo Springs and drove the Casa over to Catarina, found Vivian Ranch, and settled ourselves into our assigned post. The owner, Eddie Vivian, who is a warm and friendly man in his 70’s came by and welcomed us to the ranch. Later on about sundown, Nick our boss, whom we met for the very first time, showed up  and gave us a quick lesson on what gate guarding consisted of : having one or both of us at the gate to check-in and check-out everyone who comes through the gate 24 hours a day. Photographs, and various other information is entered by us into an iPad and then synced off to Guard 1 Services. After our boss Tony was there for a while another man from another company came with a big diesel generator on wheels to power both our trailer, and a rather large four light tower for nighttime illumination of our dirt road and the vehicles coming in and out. It was a very busy evening to say the least. The next morning, on our 1st official day of work, we were also brought 200 gallons of potable (sort of) water in a tank to which we quickly added a filter, and a large septic tank to attach to our toilet. Here are some pics of the sight. Both day and nighttime views:



We were set as the trucks, after trucks, after trucks started to stop and check themselves in. The came in all shapes and sizes, pickups to eighteen wheelers. Cranes, tankers, flatbeds with the coiled tubing on them. Workers from Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma; all of whom have been very friendly and polite. A lot of “Yes Mam”s and “Yes Sir“s. Nice!



The data entry in the iPads took some getting used to as the training was brief and then we were on our own. But, we managed to catch on fairly quickly. It is the working twelve hour split shifts that really takes some getting used to. My loyal dog Harry and I have been doing the Graveyard Shift this week. I try to stay awake while he sleeps, but I suppose it’s the thought that counts. Fiona likes to sleep in the bed with Kay.  Kay’s turn for the dark of night starts tomorrow.

Vivian Ranch is a no hunting ranch…. in Texas….how can that be???  They certainly have their share of critters and birds. We saw Crested Caracaras, Cactus Wrens, Roadrunners, and Mockingbirds. There were also deer, rabbits, jackrabbits, coyotes, javelina, and I got to see my first armadillo.

This past Monday evening one of the bosses from Rosetta stopped by to tell us that they were finished with the coiling, and the next day at 8 a.m. we were to leave from Catarina with a convoy of “coilers” for a new spot on the Springer Ranch ( a hunting ranch…ahh,… that’s the Texas I’m familiar with) right outside of Encinal, TX.  Tuesday morning we were up early, packed, and on the road by seven-thirty for the 40 mile drive to our next station. Our directions were good and we found our current gate. Soon after we arrived the convoy of coilers started to roll in to their new job and our new home.


Not long after the coilers arrived Tony appeared as if by magic with a GenPac for Kay and I. Its a small utility trailer with a 30 amp diesel generator, fuel, and potable water tank all on the trailer. Very compact and easy to set up.


The gate sight is right off of Highway 44 and I-35. There is a constant flow of traffic, mostly oil an gas related, that goes by day and night. I know this because I am writing this at 2 a.m. I took this picture at sunrise yesterday morning:


A Texas oilfield sunrise. Aaah. Very picturesque.

With the sunrise came some excitement. Kay spotted two Mexican Green Jays. They are a neotropical species of jay that range up into this part of Texas. It was quite a treat for her, and I got to see 6 more of them around sundown.  Here is a stock picture (rather small, sorry) of one of the little beauties if you have never seen one. I wasn’t able to get a picture of one…. yet.


So, that’s what is going on here in Texas. We expect the coiling here to refinished by the weekend, and we will then be following the crew off to another site on the Light Ranch which is somewhere in the area. Or, so rumor has it.

Now, Goodnight Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Kay will soon be arising for the dawn patrol and I’ll be off to bed.


Deeeep in the Heart of Texas….

Let’s see….when last I posted anything we were leaving Ojo Caliente –


and making our way south to the ol’ Bosque Del Apache to visit with some friends and see some birds. Well, that we did. The Sandhill Cranes were beginning to arrive at the Bosque along with some Snow Geese. Here are some of the cranes on a rather cloudy morn:


Later that same afternoon the dogs came bird-watching with us, and the weather was quite nice. That’s Fiona in the foreground:


It was Monday and would be the last nice weather we would see, up thru and including today.  On Monday night we went to dinner at the Owl Cafe in San Antonio, NM with some old friends and caught up on all of the Bosque gossip. There were stories aplenty.

Tuesday morning we continued on our Texas odyssey with a rainbow to bid us farewell.


We went from the Bosque south to Anthony, TX  which is just over the New Mexico – Texas state line, stopping for a bit in Las Cruces to have drug tests done which the company we are going to work for requires. Then we spent the night in Anthony in a howling windstorm. The old trailer was a rockin’ and a rollin’. The high wind (+30 m.p.h.) was because of a massive frontal system that was starting to reveal its ugly head as came out of Mexico.

On Wednesday we drove from Anthony through El Paso (no fun!) to Fort Stockton on I-10 eastbound in the rain. Yesterday we went from Fort Stockton to Del Rio, then on to Eagle Pass following the Rio Grande until we swung east at Eagle Pass to our destination at Carrizo Springs, TX. Again the drive was in the rain. Texas is in a drought right ?


So, here we will sit until we receive our Oil Field Gate Guard assignment. Carrizo Springs ( carrizo is a type of reed by the way) is a small, not very picturesque town located in one of Texas’ oil  field areas. The country here a bouts is very flat and brushy with, not getting too technical, a lot of oil field “stuff” going on all over the place. When we find out where our final destination is I’ll be sure to let you know. Maybe we’ll see a sunny day tomorrow. Here’s hoping!


Still Heading South…..

November already….time’s changing….Old Man Winter is on the way…. and here ‘s proof!

Photo courtesy of William Kukes

Photo courtesy of William Kukes

Just kiddingActually the photo was taken by our friend Bill Kukes  whom we worked with in Yellowstone. Pat and Bill just got back from Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson’s Bay where they went to see the Polar Bears, and see them they did! I guess they didn’t see enough bears in Yellowstone.

Tomorrow we are leaving Ojo Caliente for the Bosque Del Apache. We’ve seen the Sandhill Cranes migrating south here at Ojo. I’ll keep you all posted from the Bosque. It’s kind of like going home for a while.


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