Campground Home for Pipeline Workers
Cody Gay’s backyard is the 15-foot-wide strip of graveled ground between his camper trailer and his neighbor’s trailer. He cooks on his barbecue as often as possible because he said cooking inside his camper generates too much heat and too many grease splatters for such a small space.
Gay lives in the RV campground at the Sweetwater County Events Complex north of Rock Springs in southwest Wyoming, which many people refer to as “Campertown,” according to the Billings (Mont.) Gazette.
“We don’t call it Campertown,” Gay said. “We call it ‘Home, Sweet Home.’“
Gay is a pipeliner, just like almost everyone who lives in Campertown. The campground was built by U.S. Pipeline in 2006 to give its employees places to live while they drive into the Jonah Field six days a week to connect gas lines.
Two hundred spaces are currently occupied in Campertown, many of which will serve as homes this winter to men and their families who followed the pipeline to Sweetwater County. There they will work, live and wait for spring
Gay has lived in Campertown since June when he moved to Rock Springs from a pipeline job in Texas. Working on pipelines for the last eight years has taken Gay all throughout the western United States; and wherever he goes, his wife and two young children go, too.
He said he would not, and could not, travel around to work if it meant being away from his wife and kids.
“You can’t do this for too long without your family,” Gay said. “I’ve seen guys divorced four or five times following the pipeline.”
He said his wife’s adaptability has been key to his ability to work on pipelines long enough to move into a supervisor position.
“She’s just like any pipeliner’s wife,” Gay said. “She’d do anything for you.”
Gay and his dinner guests – co-workers Tom Gray and Kyle Kinsley – all said they had witnessed sad family situations of men who follow pipeline work and leave their families behind.
“I know a guy who worked on the pipeline his whole life,” Gray said. “He’s got a dysfunctional family.”
All three men said they chose to live in campers because of financial reasons. While pipeline pay is good, it does not easily afford them the luxury of living in hotels in Rock Springs or Green River.
“You talk to people who are staying in hotel rooms. They’re paying $1,000-$2,000 a month,” Gay said.
In contrast, Gay and Gray, who live at the Events Complex’s campground, said they pay $645 a month for spaces, which includes water and gas hookups.
Kinsley said he pays $500 a month for a space at the KOA campground west of Rock Springs, although that does not include utilities. He said this is $100 more a month than his father-in-law, who is also a pipeliner, paid last year.
Both Gay and Gray have equipped their campers with skirting panels that run along the units’ bottom edges to the ground. The panels keep cold air from running beneath their campers. This helps to insulate the living spaces and protect gas, water and septic systems from the elements.
Gray said he has had experience fixing frozen septic systems, and it is not pleasant.
Despite the unseasonably warm weather in the beginning of October, residents of the Events Complex campground know that winter is not far away.
Anyone who has spent a winter in Sweetwater County knows the freezing bite of wind whipping across the desert. In town, buildings and trees provide some protection, but north of Rock Springs sage brush and dirt clods are little help.