Odessa and El Paso

One thing we have been trying to do at work is standardize our internet service providers. If there’s some area that has a one-off provider we don’t use anywhere else, we are trying to get away from that. Well, the provider in Odessa was such a provider. They were planning on changing our static IP address so we’d have to make changes to the router anyway. We decided to install a cellular 819 router instead and then kill that wired connection.

I noticed that Odessa was about half the way to El Paso. I had a list of work I needed to do in El Paso, including also switching over their internet provider (not to cellular on this one though). I also had to network cable the entire special investigations office (SIU) that was just recently moved into.

I hit the road at 5:30am. It was kind of like the drive where I saw completely different weather patterns in Texas, but it only threatened rain, for the most part, instead of poured.

The closer I got to West Texas, the more clear it became. It also became much windier and dustier.

Along the way, I saw a tank that definitely qualified as an oversized load. It actually dwarfed the semi that was passing it.

I basically got to the office, switched over the router, and then did my set of routine on-site tasks. After that, I hit the road for El Paso. One thing I noticed since last time I was in Odessa, is there was a lot more oil activity. It seemed like there were rigs everywhere spread really close to each other and, in a lot of cases, all you could see on the horizon.

Ironically, right after I noticed this, I read some news articles stating that oil plummeted about $8 a barrel due to increased drilling in the Permian Basin. This was the exact area where I saw all the new oil activity. I guess I didn’t need a news article to tell me there was a lot of shiny new pump jacks, as well as new wells being drilled right as I drove by.

As I drove further, I saw some cool artwork on an overpass.

As time progressed, I got to see the sunset in the desert.

By the time I got to the hotel, it was dark. When everything was said and done, I had worked 16 hours and had driven almost 650 miles!

The room was just like the one last time, but it was not on the top floor like last time.

The next morning, I noticed the window was super dusty.

I started off the day with a decent breakfast. I’d be starting the running of network cables in the SIU office and this was the first time I’d be doing it myself. I know I was definitely in for a lot of up and down on the ladder and physical work.

Now the special investigations unit is their own covert thing at TABC. When you hear about some drug or human traffic ring getting busted after a multiple year investigation, these are the guys gathering intelligence. They embed right in with the dirtbags and work undercover. It is obviously very secretive by nature, so they have an office in another area of town away from our main office.

It’s secretive enough, I couldn’t even take the TABC vehicle there. An agent picked me up and I loaded everything in his vehicle. I obviously didn’t take any pictures and don’t even know the exact address of the place. The work that I did there was similar to what I did in Laredo and Arlington.

For lunch on Tuesday, I went with the agents to a steak burger place. I got a steak burger and it was good.

We had to make a second trip to get some more stuff that didn’t fit in on the first trip. On the way back, we were close to Mexico on Highway 85. I was told that before the wall barrier there helped with things. Before it, bandits would basically hop over from Juarez, put things in the road like rocks to make people stop, and then rob them. They would then run back over the border. This barrier helped with this issue a ton.

We also went by the old Fort Bliss, which was stationed right on the border.

We picked up what was needed and then I was taken back to the office. I got about 2/3 of the work done before it was the end of the day. That night, I had the obligatory Chico’s Tacos.

The next morning, it was another hearty breakfast before finishing up my cabling work.

I met with the agents at the main office in the morning and then was taken to the SIU office. I then finished up around noon. I was taken back to the office and did the internet cutover immediately. We had a few hiccups, but got it working by the end of the day. It was nice I had 2 major things on my list checked off. One of the things that had pointed out is Rosa’s Cantina and how it was a famous bar. I decided to have supper there that night.

The next morning, I did my walk across the street to the main office and then worked a while. The final major thing on my list was to test a cellular 819 router that had built in wifi. Currently we use cellular 819 routers but have a separate access point hooked up to them for wifi. The wifi is used for the handhelds that the Tax Collection Officers (TCO) use to collect taxes and run credit cards.

I spoke with the port supervisor and she agreed that Tornillo was the best port of entry to try this at due to it not being too busy. It was about a 45 minute drive there, but being able to as non-disruptive as possible with the tests is always a good thing. I setup the test router and started walking around checking the distance.

I guess I was looking too much at the handheld, because I looked up and a Custom’s guy was walking towards me. Luckily the TCO signaled that I was with him and, when I noticed this, I just yelled over to him that I was doing range testing for our handhelds. That seem sufficient and he didn’t walk any closer to me and walked back to his booth. The tests overall were very successful and I could have walked even further, but decided not to since I already had Custom’s jumpy.

I then made it back to the office and finished out my day there. Everything was taken care of, and I was definitely happy it was another successful trip. That night, I decided I didn’t want to fight traffic, and since the weather was really nice, I walked a couple blocks to The Pizza Joint, and had a couple slices of pizza for supper.

The next morning, I filled up at the gas station by the cool illuminated bridge.

I hit the road for the 9 hour drive back to Austin. Since I started driving at 5am, I could see the lights of Juarez to my right and that city does seem huge when you do see it all lit up.

Just like on my way to El Paso where I saw the sun set in the desert, on my way to Austin, I saw the sun rise.

The driving was uneventful and traffic wasn’t bad until I hit Austin. You can never really drive anywhere in Austin without a traffic jam.

It was clear for the most part on the drive back, but by the time I got gas, it started to sprinkle a little bit.

It was definitely a long week with basically 1300 miles of driving, but I did get a decent amount of work done. Also, the testing it did at the POE is allowing another project (with a ton more traveling coming up) to move forward. I definitely love going out to El Paso and had a good time. It’ll be interesting how long it is before I’m out there again.

To see more of my adventures, click on the map! Or if you prefer to see a list of more blog entries, click here.

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