Saturday, January 24, 2015

Casa Grande on a Saturday

Saturday morning and I''m in the business room of the hotel using their desktop computers to update my blog. I am traveling with my iPad and cell for internet connection and connecting with the iPad is a slow process here. Using the facilities computers makes this project much quicker.

Yesterday we drove around town noting all the new growth in industry here. The roads are phenomonal after the pot hole infested roads in Lafayette. Unaltered blacktop provides a smooth ride around town and it appears the whole town just got a fresh coat of that stuff. The city coffers must be healthy. Strange what one notices while
traveling. Temperatures were in the 50's with a brisk wind and I was cold. Today the temperatures are expected to be in the low 70's. It's warming up a bit here as that artic blast creeps eastward.

I'm the early riser in this relationship and thankfully this hotel has it's own restaurant. Not just a coffee shop but a restaurant where breakfast can be ordered along with a buffet. I can hide out here and sip coffee until the husband wakes.

 Yesterday lunch found us at Little Sombreo's across from what was once the huge white grand High School which is now City Hall. Little Sombreo's was a favorite hangout for those students attending the High School and one of those places we have lunch every time we come here. (Casa Grande).
A huge cheese crisp with green chili's and a taco and a cherry Coke; lunch was a treat.

The Falconers of Arizona are holding their convention  this weekend. A roped off area of the grounds have falcons and their owners gathered; a beautiful white owl sits on his perch, his speckled white coat, furry feet and golden eyes  stare back as he swivels his head in semi circles allowing one to get close for a good view. Birds make me nervous. I don't like to get too close but viewing from a distance is interesting. I've heard white owls are sacred to the Native Americans. I'll need to Google for more information on this.

The parking lot is dominated by huge rigs from CBS sports; the photographers wander the hotel with huge cameras. The football pro bowl is this weekend in Phoenix; next week the football Super Bowl so it's a busy place around here. Casa Grande is a bedroom community, meer minutes from Phoenix  and all the motels have been reserved for these games.

Friends were seen, beer was consumed and dinner out with a portion of the family last night and plans in progress for this evening. We are usually busy when we get here. The husbands family is huge and he likes to allow time to see everyone of them.

I'm off to have some breakfast and wait for a phone call from the husband alerting me that he is up and ready to start his day. Mine started hours ago!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day 2, Snow and Go

Thursday Morning, Jan. 22, 2015 at 1819hrs.
Woke up to a wet cold morning. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn in Ozona, Texas. This town has taken a major down turn related to the oil crisis. At one time, securing a room at this Inn was impossible. Travel trailers on the side  of the road used  an extension cord leading to a house that has rented that minute space to a oilfield worker; the trailer parks now have spaces for rent. The job cuts are noticeable here.

Gas has been at 1.67 to 1.99 a gallon on this trip. We expect to spend 200.00 in gas for this trip from Lafayette, La. to Casa Grande, Arizona. Usually this would easily be 600.00 prior to this oil field bust. 

Since we have decided to watch this bust from the sidelines, we are doing some traveling and what better time for a long trip with these gas prices.

Listening to CNN this morning, proclamations of layoffs with American Express are starting. More co lateral  damage. People enjoying these low gas prices will hesitate to revel as their jobs are impacted. 

We are heading for Las Cruses today where we will spend the night. The weather is wet and cold with lots of fog wrapped around the ground cover. The sagebrush and century plants are a bright green against the soft tan sand of the desert. Across the buttes stand rigid against the sky, miles and miles of wind turbines spinning  their 3 arm salute. Knowing that they are generating wind energy does little to quell the sadness I feel on their marring of the natural landscape of the desert.

The highway is flanked on either side by the cuts made through the buttes enabling this road to have a straight shot, no curves to slow the need for high speed travel. I enjoy seeing the different layers of the earth in these cuts.
My imagination wanders. Wagon trains, cowboys and Indians used to  hunt, live and fight to live here. Years before 3 armed windmills and miles and miles of asphalt, the wagons slowly crossed this desert. When I get a little uncomfortable riding mile after mile in this truck, I simply place my self in an unheated, no shocks and no cell phone covered wagon. An instant cure for self pity.
I'm off to watch the rain, gently splashing the windshield and hoping it this moisture continues in this form. Driving in rain much preferable to snow!

And later in the afternoon, the flurries began. The flakes were small and occasionally not the soft fluffy kind. Pings on the windshield attested to the ice mixed with the snow. The desert was white which is something I have never experienced. Sand trucks were loaded and ready for the snow forecast for this evening. The cars and trucks off the road and down embankments was a silent testimony to last night's weather and slick roads. 

We arrived in Casa Grande and moved into our reserved room. The husband contacted his sister and neice and we spend the remainder of the evening sipping on Fuzzy Navels and Screwdrivers. Tomorrow starts the round of visits to family members! Are we having fun yet? It IS nice to be on the road with no real set schedule on being anywhere at any time!
Signing off from Casa Grande, Arizona!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Your Fingers and Toes Won't Fall Off

Long held beliefs and fears are difficult to change.

Getting into the swing of the husband and his retirement (which just means he is between jobs and home since this oil field slump) I was tired of looking at green walls. The temperature had zipped up to a lovely 50 degrees from the below freezing temps that had been gracing our huddled homebound bodies.

Where to go? A day trip. What better place to visit on a warm sunny winter day but a Leper Colony! To say the husband is a bit squeamish when it comes to anything pertaining to an unhealthy condition would be a huge understatement. Seeing skin that is not intact, blood, guts and gore he quickly grabs the remote control and switches the TV to the weather channel. So what do I suggest? "Oh honey, lets go to Carville and tour the Leper Museum." I think he was watching for my head to do a 360 degree swivel. He declined.
A little nagging and cajoling, and we were on our way. 
The drive was lovely. We stopped in Baton Rouge for a snack. Boudin balls and meat pies, just yummy and we were on our way again.
The sanatorium sits close to the highway, a lovely old planation home it's centerpiece. Long covered walkways, used by the patients for recreation on rainy days , lead from one building to another and the complex is huge. A soft yellow stucco used on the walkways softened what could have been very stark and harsh effect of this sanatorium.
Arriving at the guard gate, the husband expected me to be satisfied with gazing at the buildings from that viewpoint. I wanted to go in. The National Guardsmen at the gate requested driver's license to gather information on the form required to enter. This facility is now the National Guard headquarters for Louisiana. The Museum is open to educate people on leprosy or what is now called Hansen's Disease.

The husband parked beneath the Live Oaks and there he stayed. He refused to enter the building. The fear, the stigma of the lepers remains that strong in many people yet. I didn't expect the museum to be much but I was amazed at how many artifacts collected and displayed. This was a huge hospital at one time; doctors and nuns staffed and cared for the patients. Not one staff member ever contacted leprosy from the patients. It is not considered contagious. By 1940 a medicine has been discovered that halted the progress of the bacillum and if caught early, damage to the periphery could be eliminated.
"Your fingers and toes do not fall off" said the guide. "The body absorbs the bone in the fingers and toes." It's a neurological condition.
I wandered from exhibit to exhibit after watching a short film. There were relics from the operating room, the morgue and the registries of purchases to keep the facility operating. Another room held a 4 foot tall spindle with patient charts. Photos covered the walls, much to read and see but eventually I made my way back to the front door and out into the sunlight.

The husband still parked beneath the big oaks, watched and shook his head as I made my way back to the truck. I was surprised that he let me back in or didn't have a disinfectant spray to use on me.

Two patients remain on the grounds and are seen by a doctor and a nurse daily. When the facility was closed after finding the disease wasn't contagious, many of the patients that had lived there all the lives did not want to leave. They were allowed to stay, while some of them returned to their families. Baton Rouge houses 15 of them that chose to leave and had no family to return to. They live in a retirement /assisted living home.
Why doesn't he find this interesting? There are only two places in the USA that house these patients. The states that primarily produce these patients are Louisiana, Texas, California, Florida, New York and Hawaii. There maybe a few other states. I can't remember everything the guide mentioned. The museum is kept open and free to the public to educate them and alleviate the fear of this disease. Now to just get people to enter the door into this information center huh? Though I shared all this information with the husband, he clearly was not interested and remains skeptical and fearful.

Our day trip proceeded to the casino and dinner. We waited out the rush hour traffic and arrived back home at 2100 hrs.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day; the husband only enjoyed part of it; the blackjack tables.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Doom and Gloom, The Decline of 2015

It's that time again. It was a good run. Years and years of unlimited amount of work with excellent income lulled them into a false sense of security. Those that were lulled were the "30 and under" group that hadn't lived through a cycle of life in the 'patch'.  The 'patch'. Everyone that works in the oil industry is familiar with that word. No questions raised on what that word means. If you're in the patch, it goes without saying, you're involved in the oil industry in one of their many operations that are inherent to the recovering of oil and gas.

The early years of the husbands experience in the patch was when we moved to Wyoming in 1978. The boom was on, housing was overpriced, it was bitter cold and workers were scarce. The husband climbed 60 ft. into the air on ice encrusted derricks to handle pipe going in and coming out of the hole. After all, being a derrick hand paid an extra dollar an hour. This was his training ground for the job he eventually captured, never to return to being a 'roughneck'.

This new couple were in the 'struggle stage' of their relationship. Most of us have been there unfortunately. Few young folks get the order of a relationship right. It should go something like this.
1. college leading to entry level job
2. starter home and car
3. savings
4. children
I actually know a few couples that follow this order. I know many more that were like me so the struggle is on.
We had once a month "dinner outs." We saved what little we could and moved up from the 25ft. travel trailer to a 35 footer and then into a 14 X 72 footer on a lot we purchased and finally into a house. We had a plan and a goal. And then the bust hit.
Weekly visits to our house by friends that were in the 'patch' to report their layoff notices. Every week it was more and more until finally we received our notice. We moved from our house back into the big mobile home while we listened to the news of the black hole of unemployment, houses left abandoned, armed guards surrounding the banks, suicides in the prairie from owners of rigs that had lost everything and the futile effort of people trying to find any job to survive. The new subdivisions built when the boom was on, were now streets of huge homes with broken windows and hugged with yellowed weeds waist high. Street after street, it looked like the lower Ninth Ward after Katrina, devastated not by water but by the economy. Waiting time to rent a U Haul to leave town was 3 months.

We watched and listened and we learned. This was our first rodeo but it wouldn't be our last.
We didn't waste time. While we still had savings, we loaded up the 35 ft. travel trailer, hooked it to the truck,   and headed to Arizona. Eventually we ended up in Phoenix. We both secured jobs and spent off times roaming the desert, site seeing all over the area and waiting.

One year passed and one day a phone call came in. "Would you like to return back to work?" The husband was happy to be back in his field and back to the 'patch'. We loaded up and drove back to Casper, Wyoming where we collected all our furniture from storage, loaded it all up and headed to Morgantown, WV. I was devastated. I wanted to stay in the Rockies. The company thought I would be excited about going back to my home state. I said "I've always known the way back and if I had wanted to be there, I would have been!"
A beautiful state, WV, but a state that has always struggled to provide employment for their native sons and daughters. The mountainous area and the lack of roads have always deterred manufacturers from establishing any industry there as the expense to truck in and out is a long and cost prohibitive endeavor. Most of the industry there is sited on the rivers that border the state; the Ohio and the Kanawaha.  I was happy to leave soon after high school and only wanted to return for vacation visits but here we were back. Twenty two months later found us on the road to Mississippi. That tour lasted one year. Transferred again, it was 1990  and this time to Lafayette, La. which is where you will find me today. 
Between Mississippi and the first years here, I spent in college. I was officially out of the 'patch' and into a hospital as a Registered Nurse. One of us would be non dependant on the 'patch'.
We bought a house and paid it off in 9 yrs. Security. Paying off the house was my first priority. New cars followed but never incurring huge debt. 8 months and the new car was paid for. The memory of the bust was still fresh and raw for me.
As the years passed, we continued to save money, living without extravagant spending. When we could have moved to a bigger more exclusive neighborhood, we chose to stay in this house in this nice neighborhood, neither of us needing to impress anyone with a bigger home and fancy cars.
The husband worked for Baker Hughes for over 20 yrs. Eventually he went on his own as a consultant. The client would call and offer him a job that was up; he either chose to do it or declined. I have never seen him decline a job. He charges by the day and the money was excellent as was the all expense paid rate. He always said "I'll take these jobs now. This won't last forever."
His clothes were seldom unpacked. He would get a call and be on the road to the next location, to be gone a week to thirty days and sometimes even longer. Many Thanksgivings and Christmases and anniversaries were spent on the rig site.
Times were good for us and this boom was going to be ridden to the end and we would be ready when it happened.
It has happened. The bust is here as we knew it would be.
Utilities and insurance and food; that's the extent of our bills. The savings are hefty. We can now relax and do some traveling. We had a plan. We followed the path that helped us get to our goal. We are there.

The young folks that we tried to caution on their lifestyles lent a deaf ear. They were clueless. Big homes, bigger trucks and Escalades for the wife, the money was rolling in.
This is their first lesson. It will be a tough one but one they need to learn.

We are on the sidelines watching this one roll out. Hang on, it's gonna be a rough ride.