Technomadia http://www.technomadia.com Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity Wed, 23 Jul 2014 00:14:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Completing the Sunrise Coast: Roger’s City & Cheboygan, Michigan http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/completing-the-sunrise-coast-rogers-city-cheboygan-michigan/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/completing-the-sunrise-coast-rogers-city-cheboygan-michigan/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:55:19 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15415 After such a wonderful time in Alpena, we were a bit hesitant to move on up the coast – but adventures call. And it’s always better to leave a location wanting more than to leave it feeling like you’re ready to move on. Hoeft State Park – Roger’s City Our next stop would be Hoeft State Park (our review) just north of Roger’s City, Michigan. We had heard raving reviews of the campground and area, so were looking forward to it.  We booked online, using the park’s own descriptions and photos to select a site. We selected site 108 because it was described as secluded, level and large enough for a 40′ RV. The site was actually rather unlevel and our 35′ motorhome barely fit in…it was very oddly shaped. And it definitely wasn’t secluded. The front view is of the housing neighborhood across the road, and the site was clearly visible from the park roads and backed up to two other sites. When a family reunion moved in at the site next to us with constant commotion from early morning to late late night, we decided it was time to investigate other possible options. This just wasn’t going to be conducive to intense writing. We selected site 126 around the bend, that was against a line of trees – and the staff was super helpful in reassigning us.  It too was not overly level, but manageable (we only have wood blocks for leveling) – but would at least give us some peace and quiet.  We had almost no neighbors within site the entire time. Kiki loved it too. It was a much better solution to allow the family reunion the freedom to connect and make memories, and give us the solitude we needed. Our house has wheels – if we don’t like our neighborhood, move! We honestly didn’t do much while in the area but write, research and write some more. At this point in our trip, we were on a mission – get The Mobile Internet Handbook manuscript ready for editing! We did some hiking around the park, enjoyed strolling the beach and did find a gluten free bakery right across the street!  We only headed into Roger’s City once to stock up on groceries, but it seemed like a cute little town. Had we had more time, we probably would have rented some bikes and visited the lighthouse up the road. Overall, we weren’t overly impressed with the campground. There were very few sites that are our style – most were tightly packed in, unlevel and offered little distinction between them.  So we’re pretty pleased that we scored the site we did. It was perfect for our needs at the time. Cheboygan State Park – Cheboygan Our buddies the Wynn’s contacted us to let us know they were approaching the UP quicker than originally thought, so we decided to move on up the coast ourselves to Cheboygan to be closer by to rendezvous. While we were exploring the east coast along Lake Huron, they had been exploring the west coast along Lake Michigan (a route we had done before). Another long driving day of about 45 miles, and we arrived to Cheyboygan State Park (our review) and snagged a site for two nights. We hit the trails for a hike to go out and see the lighthouse off the coast – and finally discovered what all the fuss is about mosquitos being the state bird of Michigan.  Up until this point we had just encountered a few here and there. But wow, they were out in swarms on the trails. Instead of hiking back via the wooded trails, we opted to scrimmage through the marshlands with tadpoles nibbling on our toes. Our stay was short and enjoyable, we got some quality writing done – but we honestly could see little reason to return to this location in the future. Unless you really like mosquitos. Sunrise Coast Closing Thoughts We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Michigan’s Sunrise Coast, and are so happy we selected this routing to do most of our book research and writing. A perfect pace for us with short driving days and beautiful chill locations to explore. A quick recap: Tawas City, MI - we spent a week driveway surfing with friends and exploring this very cute town. Harrisville, MI - we camped at Harrisville State Park, which was just lovely with great sandy beaches. Alpena, MI – this town won our hearts with our beautiful water front spot at the fairgrounds with access to walking & kayaking. Roger’s City, MI – Hoeft State Park is not exactly our style, but the location is beautiful with sandy dunes beaches. Chebyogan, MI – just a quick stop for a couple night at this small state park campground. In total, just 140 miles covered over about 3 weeks. This is route is definitely worth a gander if you’re in search of an excellent place to slow down and keep cool during the summer. We wore sweaters most evenings, and even had to run the heater. A sure sign we’ve done better this year following the weather than we have in recent years. Compared with the Michigan west coast, we found it much less crowded and easier to get prime camping locations last minute. The beaches are gorgeous, and the towns super friendly. I wouldn’t be surprised if we returned to this area of the country in the future. Book Update! We’re pleased as punch to announce  that after several 18 hour days in a row we did finish the manuscript to the book on Sunday morning, and got it uploaded to our editor. She’s now busily editing away with intentions to get it back to us by the end of the month.  We’ll have some final touches to make once it’s back in our hands, and are aiming to get the PDF eBook ready for distribution in early August. We’ll then focus on getting it formatted for Kindle, iBooks and print! While she’s working on that, we shift focus to catching up on some other projects – including launching our new mobile internet resource center website! It’ll be a central place for RVers to get timely information about this complex and rapidly evolving subject! Up Next: We’re currently meandering around the UP of Michigan playing tag team with Nikki & Jason. We’ll part ways later this week as we head westward towards Oregon, and they southward to their next destination. Our routing is mostly unplanned except for a stop in Billings, MT to have our engine serviced before our rebuild warranty expires next month. We’re also aiming for West Glacier to meet up with some friends in early August.]]>

After such a wonderful time in Alpena, we were a bit hesitant to move on up the coast – but adventures call. And it’s always better to leave a location wanting more than to leave it feeling like you’re ready to move on.

Hoeft State Park – Roger’s City

This isn't our idea of 'secluded'

This isn’t our idea of ‘secluded’

Our next stop would be Hoeft State Park (our review) just north of Roger’s City, Michigan. We had heard raving reviews of the campground and area, so were looking forward to it.  We booked online, using the park’s own descriptions and photos to select a site.

We selected site 108 because it was described as secluded, level and large enough for a 40′ RV.

Ahhh...much better!

Ahhh…much better!

The site was actually rather unlevel and our 35′ motorhome barely fit in…it was very oddly shaped. And it definitely wasn’t secluded. The front view is of the housing neighborhood across the road, and the site was clearly visible from the park roads and backed up to two other sites.

When a family reunion moved in at the site next to us with constant commotion from early morning to late late night, we decided it was time to investigate other possible options. This just wasn’t going to be conducive to intense writing.

Even Kiki loved it!

Even Kiki loved it!

We selected site 126 around the bend, that was against a line of trees – and the staff was super helpful in reassigning us.  It too was not overly level, but manageable (we only have wood blocks for leveling) – but would at least give us some peace and quiet.  We had almost no neighbors within site the entire time. Kiki loved it too.

It was a much better solution to allow the family reunion the freedom to connect and make memories, and give us the solitude we needed. Our house has wheels – if we don’t like our neighborhood, move!

We honestly didn’t do much while in the area but write, research and write some more. At this point in our trip, we were on a mission – get The Mobile Internet Handbook manuscript ready for editing!

IMG_2817 IMG_2843 IMG_2826

We did some hiking around the park, enjoyed strolling the beach and did find a gluten free bakery right across the street!  We only headed into Roger’s City once to stock up on groceries, but it seemed like a cute little town. Had we had more time, we probably would have rented some bikes and visited the lighthouse up the road.

Overall, we weren’t overly impressed with the campground. There were very few sites that are our style – most were tightly packed in, unlevel and offered little distinction between them.  So we’re pretty pleased that we scored the site we did. It was perfect for our needs at the time.

Cheboygan State Park – Cheboygan

Our coastal hike.. great lighthouse view.

Our coastal hike.. great lighthouse view.

Our buddies the Wynn’s contacted us to let us know they were approaching the UP quicker than originally thought, so we decided to move on up the coast ourselves to Cheboygan to be closer by to rendezvous. While we were exploring the east coast along Lake Huron, they had been exploring the west coast along Lake Michigan (a route we had done before).

Another long driving day of about 45 miles, and we arrived to Cheyboygan State Park (our review) and snagged a site for two nights.

Avoiding the mosquitos and making our own trail!

Avoiding the mosquitos and making our own trail!

We hit the trails for a hike to go out and see the lighthouse off the coast – and finally discovered what all the fuss is about mosquitos being the state bird of Michigan.  Up until this point we had just encountered a few here and there. But wow, they were out in swarms on the trails.

Instead of hiking back via the wooded trails, we opted to scrimmage through the marshlands with tadpoles nibbling on our toes.

Our stay was short and enjoyable, we got some quality writing done – but we honestly could see little reason to return to this location in the future. Unless you really like mosquitos.

Sunrise Coast Closing Thoughts

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 5.25.05 PMWe thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Michigan’s Sunrise Coast, and are so happy we selected this routing to do most of our book research and writing. A perfect pace for us with short driving days and beautiful chill locations to explore.

A quick recap:

  • Tawas City, MI - we spent a week driveway surfing with friends and exploring this very cute town.
  • Harrisville, MI - we camped at Harrisville State Park, which was just lovely with great sandy beaches.
  • Alpena, MI – this town won our hearts with our beautiful water front spot at the fairgrounds with access to walking & kayaking.
  • Roger’s City, MI – Hoeft State Park is not exactly our style, but the location is beautiful with sandy dunes beaches.
  • Chebyogan, MI – just a quick stop for a couple night at this small state park campground.

In total, just 140 miles covered over about 3 weeks.

Beautiful frogs we found in Cheboygan

Beautiful frogs we found in Cheboygan

This is route is definitely worth a gander if you’re in search of an excellent place to slow down and keep cool during the summer. We wore sweaters most evenings, and even had to run the heater. A sure sign we’ve done better this year following the weather than we have in recent years.

Compared with the Michigan west coast, we found it much less crowded and easier to get prime camping locations last minute. The beaches are gorgeous, and the towns super friendly. I wouldn’t be surprised if we returned to this area of the country in the future.

Book Update!

coming-soon-TMIHWe’re pleased as punch to announce  that after several 18 hour days in a row we did finish the manuscript to the book on Sunday morning, and got it uploaded to our editor.

She’s now busily editing away with intentions to get it back to us by the end of the month.  We’ll have some final touches to make once it’s back in our hands, and are aiming to get the PDF eBook ready for distribution in early August. We’ll then focus on getting it formatted for Kindle, iBooks and print!

While she’s working on that, we shift focus to catching up on some other projects – including launching our new mobile internet resource center website! It’ll be a central place for RVers to get timely information about this complex and rapidly evolving subject!

Up Next: We’re currently meandering around the UP of Michigan playing tag team with Nikki & Jason. We’ll part ways later this week as we head westward towards Oregon, and they southward to their next destination. Our routing is mostly unplanned except for a stop in Billings, MT to have our engine serviced before our rebuild warranty expires next month. We’re also aiming for West Glacier to meet up with some friends in early August.

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Working 9 to 5 (So instead – Links to helpful posts!) http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/working-9-to-5/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/working-9-to-5/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 05:44:25 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15405 That’s 9a – 5a, by the way. We’re working around the clock, quite literally, on the re-write of The Mobile Internet Handbook. When we’re working on a project as intense as this together, we work in shifts. Cherie gets to work around 9am and works into the early afternoon. Chris gets up, and we get some time working together and comparing notes. We take a break late afternoon for walking, exploring, worshipping Kiki and eating. Then back to work late into the evening. Cherie goes to bed around 1 or 2am, and Chris finishes the shift coming to bed around 5am for a few precious hours of cuddles. It works really well for us – giving us time to super focus on our own, time to ourselves and time to coordinate.  We leave notes to each other in the project we’re working on, so we know where one left off – and to insure all our cloud syncing is working properly before the other picks up. We’ve been on this sort of schedule for weeks now. And we’re entering the final push to get the manuscript off to our editor – hopefully by this evening. (crossing fingers!) The book is coming along solid, and we’re super happy with what it has become. The 2013 edition? It’s absolutely laughable in comparison.. and we can’t wait to share with you the new edition! But it’s keeping us super busy, and I’m lacking time and spare creativity to write this week’s blog post. So instead, I’m going to point you to some super useful content we’ve written over the years – content we often get asked about. More About Us Our Start Here Page - The short story of who we are Our Full(er) Story – How we met, who we are, our various forms of travel thus far and how we earn our income as we roam. Our Home on Wheels - A tour of our current nomadic home – an awesome 1961 vintage bus. Also includes links to our bus project logs. Our Mobile Gear - A listing of some of the gear that enhances our mobility – from tech, to toys to practical household items. Our Monthly Cost Log –  We’ve shared our travel cost log online for years, and you’re welcome to view it. Life on the Road Curious about hitting the road yourself?  In addition to writing about our own travel adventures, we also share a lot of practical and ‘thinky’ content about how we’ve made it work: No Excuses: Go Nomadic This is our series of articles about the logistical aspects of living a nomadic life. We offer it as a free blog series, or as a convenient eBook  on a ‘pay as you wish’ basis for those who wish to contribute to the costs of maintaining this site and help keep us inspired to keep sharing.  Enjoy! Some of the topics in the series: Mobile Income Ideas Affording it Family Logistics – Domicile, Mail,Voting  Pets Healthcare & Health Getting rid of your stuff Ramblings: Tales from Nomads Our video interview series  - we love meeting up with our nomadic friends in our travels, so we decided to start filming interviews with them so you can meet them too. Our way is not the only way. We now have a collection of over 20 (!!) interviews produced, and try to release a new one monthly. Check this series out, there’s some serious inspiration here from a variety of folks living on the road and making it happen. Want to meet more fellow working on the road nomads? Here’s our extensive listing to blogs of Fellow ‘Younger’ RVing Nomads. In addition to the interview series, we’ve also been hosting monthly(ish) live video streams, and have them all archived here. RVing Stuff  Our articles specific to RVing, including: Reflections from Seven Years on the Road Food Restrictions and Full Time RVing Our 12 Favorite Campsites of 2013 Our iPhone & iPad App Essentials for RV Travel Case Studies of Full Time RVing Workspaces & Offices Gift Giving Guide for Full Time RVers Healthcare on the Road (Updated for the Affordable Care Act!) Tips and Tricks for a Versatile RVing Wardrobe Our 10 Most Surprising Things about Full Time RVing Our House is in the Shop (when your RV breaks down) Realities of Living & Traveling in a RV Full Time (video) Setting up our Domicile in Florida (Why, how and how much) Full Timers Perspective on Fuel Costs Given the number of questions we get on a wide variety of topics we’ve written about before, I’m hoping some of this is useful reminders. Ok back to writing.. or cat worshipping.. or something.  What time is it? What day is it? We’re excited to get to the next phase, take a bit of a breather and then get the eBook into your hands in early August!]]>

That’s 9a – 5a, by the way.

We’re working around the clock, quite literally, on the re-write of The Mobile Internet Handbook.

Glimpse at our notes to each other as we switch shifts!

Glimpse at our notes to each other as we switch shifts!

When we’re working on a project as intense as this together, we work in shifts.

Cherie gets to work around 9am and works into the early afternoon. Chris gets up, and we get some time working together and comparing notes. We take a break late afternoon for walking, exploring, worshipping Kiki and eating. Then back to work late into the evening. Cherie goes to bed around 1 or 2am, and Chris finishes the shift coming to bed around 5am for a few precious hours of cuddles.

It works really well for us – giving us time to super focus on our own, time to ourselves and time to coordinate.  We leave notes to each other in the project we’re working on, so we know where one left off – and to insure all our cloud syncing is working properly before the other picks up.

We’ve been on this sort of schedule for weeks now. And we’re entering the final push to get the manuscript off to our editor – hopefully by this evening. (crossing fingers!)

The book is coming along solid, and we’re super happy with what it has become. The 2013 edition? It’s absolutely laughable in comparison.. and we can’t wait to share with you the new edition!

But it’s keeping us super busy, and I’m lacking time and spare creativity to write this week’s blog post.

So instead, I’m going to point you to some super useful content we’ve written over the years – content we often get asked about.

More About Us

  • Our Start Here Page - The short story of who we are
  • Our Full(er) Story – How we met, who we are, our various forms of travel thus far and how we earn our income as we roam.
  • Our Home on Wheels - A tour of our current nomadic home – an awesome 1961 vintage bus. Also includes links to our bus project logs.
  • Our Mobile Gear - A listing of some of the gear that enhances our mobility – from tech, to toys to practical household items.
  • Our Monthly Cost Log –  We’ve shared our travel cost log online for years, and you’re welcome to view it.

Life on the Road

Curious about hitting the road yourself?  In addition to writing about our own travel adventures, we also share a lot of practical and ‘thinky’ content about how we’ve made it work:

eBookNo Excuses: Go Nomadic

This is our series of articles about the logistical aspects of living a nomadic life. We offer it as a free blog series, or as a convenient eBook  on a ‘pay as you wish’ basis for those who wish to contribute to the costs of maintaining this site and help keep us inspired to keep sharing.  Enjoy!

Some of the topics in the series:

Ramblings: Tales from Nomads

Our video interview series  - we love meeting up with our nomadic friends in our travels, so we decided to start filming interviews with them so you can meet them too. Our way is not the only way.

We now have a collection of over 20 (!!) interviews produced, and try to release a new one monthly. Check this series out, there’s some serious inspiration here from a variety of folks living on the road and making it happen.

Want to meet more fellow working on the road nomads? Here’s our extensive listing to blogs of Fellow ‘Younger’ RVing Nomads.

In addition to the interview series, we’ve also been hosting monthly(ish) live video streams, and have them all archived here.

RVing Stuff 

Our articles specific to RVing, including:

Given the number of questions we get on a wide variety of topics we’ve written about before, I’m hoping some of this is useful reminders.

Ok back to writing.. or cat worshipping.. or something.  What time is it? What day is it?

We’re excited to get to the next phase, take a bit of a breather and then get the eBook into your hands in early August!

]]>
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The Sunrise Coast: Alpena, Michigan http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/the-sunrise-coast-alpena-michigan/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/the-sunrise-coast-alpena-michigan/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 04:14:38 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15379 One of the challenges of life on the road is finding a somewhat peaceful spot over holidays. Popular camping locations are usually booked up far in advance, which is fine by us – we generally prefer avoiding crowded campgrounds and parties. We looked ahead on Highway 23, did some research into campgrounds around – and found some tempting reviews for the Alpena County Fairgrounds. Fairgrounds are usually a solid barebones option for staying in cities, but descriptions of this one included ‘waterfront’.  Hey, we’re down for that! We called ahead, and were delighted to book a waterfront site for a week over the 4th of July weekend.. for just $110. Looking at the campground map online and the satellite view on Google Maps, it seemed like even if the entire campground got booked up, it shouldn’t feel too crowded. And that set our pace for leaving Harrisville State Park, and continuing our northward trek up the sunrise coast. We pulled in on the 1st to discover our reservation had been lost, but no worries – plenty of availability. We were given our choice of several spots open for the week.  None of which were particularly level. Oh darn – the only way we could get level was by parking parallel to the shoreline of the Thunder Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.. giving us amazing office views.   We’d have to endure the amazing sounds of beautiful swans landing on the water in front of us for an entire week. Oh, the horrors. For our first couple of days, we had the place pretty much to ourselves – so tranquil and lovely. And amazing sunsets over the sanctuary every night. The Alpena Bi-Path also ran right in front of us, giving us access to the entire city by foot. This was perfect for quick exercise breaks – we could stroll over and wander around the cemetery or trails on some of the nearby islands.  It also really made us wish we had bikes onboard, we really need to put some focus on finding ideal folding bikes for our bays. And just as soon as I mentioned to Chris that this place could only get better if there was a kayak launch… we found one right at the base of the hill of the campground. Giving us easy access to explore the kayak trails through the sanctuary. One afternoon we were strolling around the cute Alpena downtown while our laundry was tumbling at the laundromat, and had a couple come up to us and ask ‘Do you own a motorhome by chance?‘ Turns out Mark and Linda are gearing up to hit the road and have read the blog as part of their research.  Funny, I had actually seen them checked into RVillage, and was about to poke them. Serendipity was clearly intent on us meeting, and we enjoyed getting together with them for lunch. Come the 3rd, we had two ‘parties’ surround our encampment at the fairgrounds. But with our positioning, we kept our unobstructed view. We were rewarded that evening with a lovely sunset that transformed into a stunning double rainbow! See.. the rainbow shot for our Life Liberty & Free WiFi post wasn’t staged or Photoshopped! Simple natural perfection. And our neighbors were actually quite nice folks – we got invited to join in both of their festivities, which was awfully kind. The fairgrounds is also the assembling grounds of the 4th of July parade, so we were already positioned at the start. The town makes an event of the day, starting with the parade, then cardboard boat races, free music concert downtown and then followed with fireworks over Lake Huron. Such fun to be part of a small town celebration! Come Sunday, all our neighbors had left – leaving us back to finish out our week in blissful tranquility. Alpena was our perfect place to ride out the chaos of the 4th, and what a delightful little town. Just big enough to have fun stuff, but small enough to feel quaint. We didn’t get a chance to explore nearly enough of it, including taking a boat tour of the shipwrecks in the area – which just means, we’ll have to visit again in the future! Of course, our time has not been consumed with just kayaking, walking and celebrating the 4th – we’re super busy finishing up ‘The Mobile Internet Handbook’. We’ve worked around the clock adding content, polishing our research and lining up professional illustrations. We hope to integrate in Jack Mayer’s contributions and finish the manuscript to send off to the editor by the end of this week. Whew. Writing a book is a lot of work! What’s Next: We just wrapped up a stay at PF Hoeft State Park in Rogers City, and arrived to Cheboygan.  Our plans from here get a bit murky, and we’ll be playing it a day at a time as we balance the writing and a hopeful rendezvous with our friends Nikki & Jason to explore some of the UP together.  We’re super looking forward to celebrating getting the manuscript completed and catching up on some other projects too.]]>

One of the challenges of life on the road is finding a somewhat peaceful spot over holidays. Popular camping locations are usually booked up far in advance, which is fine by us – we generally prefer avoiding crowded campgrounds and parties.

We looked ahead on Highway 23, did some research into campgrounds around – and found some tempting reviews for the Alpena County Fairgrounds. Fairgrounds are usually a solid barebones option for staying in cities, but descriptions of this one included ‘waterfront’.  Hey, we’re down for that!

We called ahead, and were delighted to book a waterfront site for a week over the 4th of July weekend.. for just $110. Looking at the campground map online and the satellite view on Google Maps, it seemed like even if the entire campground got booked up, it shouldn’t feel too crowded.

And that set our pace for leaving Harrisville State Park, and continuing our northward trek up the sunrise coast.

We pulled in on the 1st to discover our reservation had been lost, but no worries – plenty of availability. We were given our choice of several spots open for the week.  None of which were particularly level.

Oh darn – the only way we could get level was by parking parallel to the shoreline of the Thunder Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.. giving us amazing office views.

Our waterfront spot at the Alpena Fairgrounds. Yeah, this isn't going to suck.

Our waterfront spot at the Alpena Fairgrounds. Yeah, this isn’t going to suck.

 

Did you know a swan landing sounds kinda like a clydesdale galloping?

Did you know a swan landing sounds kinda like a Clydesdale galloping?

We’d have to endure the amazing sounds of beautiful swans landing on the water in front of us for an entire week. Oh, the horrors.

For our first couple of days, we had the place pretty much to ourselves – so tranquil and lovely. And amazing sunsets over the sanctuary every night.

The Alpena Bi-Path also ran right in front of us, giving us access to the entire city by foot. This was perfect for quick exercise breaks – we could stroll over and wander around the cemetery or trails on some of the nearby islands.  It also really made us wish we had bikes onboard, we really need to put some focus on finding ideal folding bikes for our bays.

Ask.. and ye shall receive.

Ask.. and ye shall receive.

And just as soon as I mentioned to Chris that this place could only get better if there was a kayak launch… we found one right at the base of the hill of the campground. Giving us easy access to explore the kayak trails through the sanctuary.

One afternoon we were strolling around the cute Alpena downtown while our laundry was tumbling at the laundromat, and had a couple come up to us and ask ‘Do you own a motorhome by chance?

Why yes, Mark & Linda, we do own a motorhome!

Why yes, Mark & Linda, we do own a motorhome!

Turns out Mark and Linda are gearing up to hit the road and have read the blog as part of their research.  Funny, I had actually seen them checked into RVillage, and was about to poke them. Serendipity was clearly intent on us meeting, and we enjoyed getting together with them for lunch.

Come the 3rd, we had two ‘parties’ surround our encampment at the fairgrounds. But with our positioning, we kept our unobstructed view.

What does it mean?!?  (does that ever get old?) Notice the campground filling up around us.

What does it mean?!?
Notice the campground filling up around us.

We were rewarded that evening with a lovely sunset that transformed into a stunning double rainbow! See.. the rainbow shot for our Life Liberty & Free WiFi post wasn’t staged or Photoshopped! Simple natural perfection.

And our neighbors were actually quite nice folks – we got invited to join in both of their festivities, which was awfully kind.

At the start of the parade route!

At the start of the parade route!

The fairgrounds is also the assembling grounds of the 4th of July parade, so we were already positioned at the start. The town makes an event of the day, starting with the parade, then cardboard boat races, free music concert downtown and then followed with fireworks over Lake Huron. Such fun to be part of a small town celebration!

Come Sunday, all our neighbors had left – leaving us back to finish out our week in blissful tranquility.

A little exploring in downtown Alpena - the entrance to the harbor.

A little exploring in downtown Alpena – the entrance to the harbor.

Alpena was our perfect place to ride out the chaos of the 4th, and what a delightful little town. Just big enough to have fun stuff, but small enough to feel quaint.

We didn’t get a chance to explore nearly enough of it, including taking a boat tour of the shipwrecks in the area – which just means, we’ll have to visit again in the future!

Of course, our time has not been consumed with just kayaking, walking and celebrating the 4th – we’re super busy finishing up ‘The Mobile Internet Handbook’. We’ve worked around the clock adding content, polishing our research and lining up professional illustrations. We hope to integrate in Jack Mayer’s contributions and finish the manuscript to send off to the editor by the end of this week.

Whew. Writing a book is a lot of work!

Our spot at Alpena County Fairgrounds Kayak Sunset. Kayaking Thunder Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Sunset on the sunrise coast.

What’s Next: We just wrapped up a stay at PF Hoeft State Park in Rogers City, and arrived to Cheboygan.  Our plans from here get a bit murky, and we’ll be playing it a day at a time as we balance the writing and a hopeful rendezvous with our friends Nikki & Jason to explore some of the UP together.  We’re super looking forward to celebrating getting the manuscript completed and catching up on some other projects too.

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Tried & True RVing Travel Gear We Love http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/tried-true-rving-travel-gear-we-love/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/tried-true-rving-travel-gear-we-love/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 02:01:36 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15330 Have we mentioned that we use a lot of technology to enable our travels, and that we love gizmos? We try a lot of stuff. Some of it gets repurposed pretty quickly, but some things have stuck around. Here’s some of the stuff that has made the cut to continue traveling with us: Our Mobile Printer of Choice We don’t print much, but sometimes we just need to. We picked up the Canon PIXMA iP100 Mobile Photo Printer several years ago (before they were WiFi enabled), and are always amazed with the quality of print for such a small printer measuring 12.7 x 2.4 x 7.2 inches and weighing just under 4.5 pounds. And the ink cartridges are actually quite reasonable – we generally pick up a package of two black and 1 color for just over $30… and that lasts us a year or more. The printer sits underneath our desk, and we just pull it out when we have a quick photo or document to print using a USB cable (the current model is WiFi enabled.) For any serious printing needs, we either send our photos off to a print lab like Walgreens to pick up, or use an office store like FedEx Office or Office Depot. It’s traveled over 30,000 miles with us since probably 2010, has held up very well. It’s earned a rightful place in our travel tech arsenal.  iPad Mini Keyboard This past spring, when we were hanging out with the Geeks on Tour, Chris whipped out her iPad Mini attached to this fabulous little bluetooth keyboard. I was in instant lust. One of my only frustrations with the iPad Mini is typing on the darn onscreen keyboard. Sure, in a pinch I can do it, but I always ending up cursing. This keyboard from Logitech is perfection for me.  It magnetically attaches to the iPad, just like the SmartCover does, is super slim & light, holds the iPad upright to have it function like a mini-computer and when closed, acts as a lid for the tablet. After having traveled with it for a couple of months now.. I give it my thumbs up. Not Your Grandpa’s Camping Lantern One day I had a vision – I wanted a lighting source for picnic tables. But I didn’t want something with harsh light, more of a glow. And I wanted something stylish, battery operated and efficient.  Because what we do – we don’t consider camping. We’re living. So I did a quick search on Amazon for LED Camping Lanterns, and this baby showed up at the top of the list. It’s dimmable, it’s usable either sitting on a table or hanging from a tree. It’s rechargeable by a USB cable. And it doesn’t look like traditional camping gear. We’ve found so many uses for this – sticking in a RV bay we’re working in as a work light, dining under the stars, taking a walk around the campground at night and using for ambient light while socializing outdoors. And recently at a rally we attended, we got to use it as an emergency signal to help direct the first responders to our neighbor’s RV after calling 911. The fireman actually came up to me afterwards to see just what created such a bright light that helped him navigate to our site through 600 RVs closely parked to each other. Yup, this lantern has earned its keep. We’ve had it since the beginning of the year and love it. Only thing we’d change is a better handle on the bottom – it’s a flimsy plastic hanger that can easily break. Fitbit One We’re geeks, it’s so easy to get super focused on what we’re doing and forget to get our butts out there moving a bit. But make it a game by invoking technology that tells us what to do? That’s the ticket! We’ve both now worn Fitbits every day since January 1, 2013. It’s a fancy electronic pedometer that tracks how many steps we’ve taken, syncs to our iPhones and to the web, where we can ‘compete’ with other friends. We have several nomadic friends who also wear them, and it’s been a super fun and healthy way to keep in touch! It’s not uncommon to catch us speed walking a campground at 11:45pm to get the last of our steps in for the day (we aim for at least 10,000 a day). We look forward to the evolutions coming in personal fitness tracking, but for now – our Fitbits are our mistress. (Shhhh.. don’t tell the cat!) Inflatable Kayak Before I joined Chris on the road, I had an awesome Ocean Kayak that I used regularly. I’ve craved having a kayak along for our RVing adventures for years, but we never had room for one.  And we don’t find places to kayak often enough to merit lugging one around on top of our Mini Cooper. An inflatable kayak has been the perfect solution for us. 18 months ago while in Cedar Key, we had Amazon deliver a Sea Eagle 370 right to our campsite after reviews from fellow RVers. And we couldn’t be happier. It’s super easy to set up and roll back into its bag, comfortably seats the two of us and fits nicely in our bay. So when we find a place to kayak we can take advantage of the opportunity. Is it as good as my old hard sided kayak? No. Not by a long shot. But it gets us out on the water with a minimum of fuss and is a great balance between functionality and space. Thus far we have punctured it once, on the evil oyster beds in Cedar Key. We followed the directions to install a patch, and it’s held up wonderfully for well over a year now. Cork Pops It’s been nearly 3 years since our friends Ben & Karen gifted us a Cork Pops, and we simply love it. We’ve bought dozens of these to gift to friends in our travels. It’s the most efficient and fun way to open a bottle of wine. Simply use the integrated foil cutter, stab the cork with the needle and press the button. A bit of compressed gas explodes the cork and it pops right out. It’s well known that we’re fans of boxed wine, but this gizmo motivates us to keep glass bottles on board too – which ups our variety and quality of vino. It’s also a great compliment to the local wine we pick up in our travels at vineyards we stay at as part of our Harvest Hosts membership. Tip: Do NOT use this on a bottle of wine marketed as using ‘eco glass’. Ahem.. sorry again Nina & Paul. Thank goodness their carpets are red wine colored anyway. These are just some of the gadgets we find useful for a mobile lifestyle. We have lots more listed on our Travel Gear Page. Go check it out, we keep it updated as we bring new stuff into the bus. And of course, all the links above use our Amazon Affiliate Code - we just love it when you start your shopping session off by using our link. You pay the same price, and we get a small cut. It really helps us cover some of the expenses of running this website and keeping the wine cabinet stocked! Thank you!]]>

Have we mentioned that we use a lot of technology to enable our travels, and that we love gizmos?

We try a lot of stuff. Some of it gets repurposed pretty quickly, but some things have stuck around.

Here’s some of the stuff that has made the cut to continue traveling with us:

Our Mobile Printer of Choice

Our Canon printer pulled out to print. It usually stows underneath the desk.

Our Canon printer pulled out to print. It usually stows underneath the desk.

We don’t print much, but sometimes we just need to. We picked up the Canon PIXMA iP100 Mobile Photo Printer several years ago (before they were WiFi enabled), and are always amazed with the quality of print for such a small printer measuring 12.7 x 2.4 x 7.2 inches and weighing just under 4.5 pounds.

And the ink cartridges are actually quite reasonable – we generally pick up a package of two black and 1 color for just over $30… and that lasts us a year or more.

The printer sits underneath our desk, and we just pull it out when we have a quick photo or document to print using a USB cable (the current model is WiFi enabled.) For any serious printing needs, we either send our photos off to a print lab like Walgreens to pick up, or use an office store like FedEx Office or Office Depot.

It’s traveled over 30,000 miles with us since probably 2010, has held up very well. It’s earned a rightful place in our travel tech arsenal.

 iPad Mini Keyboard

My awesome iPad Mini keyboard.

My awesome iPad Mini keyboard.

This past spring, when we were hanging out with the Geeks on Tour, Chris whipped out her iPad Mini attached to this fabulous little bluetooth keyboard. I was in instant lust.

One of my only frustrations with the iPad Mini is typing on the darn onscreen keyboard. Sure, in a pinch I can do it, but I always ending up cursing.

This keyboard from Logitech is perfection for me.  It magnetically attaches to the iPad, just like the SmartCover does, is super slim & light, holds the iPad upright to have it function like a mini-computer and when closed, acts as a lid for the tablet.

After having traveled with it for a couple of months now.. I give it my thumbs up.

Not Your Grandpa’s Camping Lantern

One day I had a vision – I wanted a lighting source for picnic tables. But I didn’t want something with harsh light, more of a glow. And I wanted something stylish, battery operated and efficient.  Because what we do – we don’t consider camping. We’re living.

IMG_2811So I did a quick search on Amazon for LED Camping Lanterns, and this baby showed up at the top of the list. It’s dimmable, it’s usable either sitting on a table or hanging from a tree. It’s rechargeable by a USB cable. And it doesn’t look like traditional camping gear.

We’ve found so many uses for this – sticking in a RV bay we’re working in as a work light, dining under the stars, taking a walk around the campground at night and using for ambient light while socializing outdoors.

And recently at a rally we attended, we got to use it as an emergency signal to help direct the first responders to our neighbor’s RV after calling 911. The fireman actually came up to me afterwards to see just what created such a bright light that helped him navigate to our site through 600 RVs closely parked to each other.

Yup, this lantern has earned its keep. We’ve had it since the beginning of the year and love it. Only thing we’d change is a better handle on the bottom – it’s a flimsy plastic hanger that can easily break.

Fitbit One

We are so totally rocking the steps lately!

We are so totally rocking the steps lately!

We’re geeks, it’s so easy to get super focused on what we’re doing and forget to get our butts out there moving a bit. But make it a game by invoking technology that tells us what to do? That’s the ticket!

We’ve both now worn Fitbits every day since January 1, 2013. It’s a fancy electronic pedometer that tracks how many steps we’ve taken, syncs to our iPhones and to the web, where we can ‘compete’ with other friends.

We have several nomadic friends who also wear them, and it’s been a super fun and healthy way to keep in touch! It’s not uncommon to catch us speed walking a campground at 11:45pm to get the last of our steps in for the day (we aim for at least 10,000 a day).

We look forward to the evolutions coming in personal fitness tracking, but for now – our Fitbits are our mistress. (Shhhh.. don’t tell the cat!)

Inflatable Kayak

The kayak rolled up.

The kayak rolled up.

Before I joined Chris on the road, I had an awesome Ocean Kayak that I used regularly. I’ve craved having a kayak along for our RVing adventures for years, but we never had room for one.  And we don’t find places to kayak often enough to merit lugging one around on top of our Mini Cooper.

An inflatable kayak has been the perfect solution for us. 18 months ago while in Cedar Key, we had Amazon deliver a Sea Eagle 370 right to our campsite after reviews from fellow RVers. And we couldn’t be happier.

It’s super easy to set up and roll back into its bag, comfortably seats the two of us and fits nicely in our bay. So when we find a place to kayak we can take advantage of the opportunity.

The bag is large enough to hold the kayak and both the seats.

The bag is large enough to hold the kayak and both the seats.

Is it as good as my old hard sided kayak? No. Not by a long shot. But it gets us out on the water with a minimum of fuss and is a great balance between functionality and space.

Thus far we have punctured it once, on the evil oyster beds in Cedar Key. We followed the directions to install a patch, and it’s held up wonderfully for well over a year now.

Cork Pops

This bottle opened in under 30 seconds!

This bottle opened in under 30 seconds!

It’s been nearly 3 years since our friends Ben & Karen gifted us a Cork Pops, and we simply love it. We’ve bought dozens of these to gift to friends in our travels. It’s the most efficient and fun way to open a bottle of wine.

Simply use the integrated foil cutter, stab the cork with the needle and press the button. A bit of compressed gas explodes the cork and it pops right out.

It’s well known that we’re fans of boxed wine, but this gizmo motivates us to keep glass bottles on board too – which ups our variety and quality of vino. It’s also a great compliment to the local wine we pick up in our travels at vineyards we stay at as part of our Harvest Hosts membership.

Tip: Do NOT use this on a bottle of wine marketed as using ‘eco glass’. Ahem.. sorry again Nina & Paul. Thank goodness their carpets are red wine colored anyway. :)

These are just some of the gadgets we find useful for a mobile lifestyle. We have lots more listed on our Travel Gear Page. Go check it out, we keep it updated as we bring new stuff into the bus.

And of course, all the links above use our Amazon Affiliate Code - we just love it when you start your shopping session off by using our link. You pay the same price, and we get a small cut. It really helps us cover some of the expenses of running this website and keeping the wine cabinet stocked! Thank you!

]]>
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The Sunrise Coast: Harrisville, Michigan http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/the-sunrise-coast-harrisville-mi/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/the-sunrise-coast-harrisville-mi/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:36:23 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15306 After all of our packages arrived to Tawas, we were ready to start our northward trek up the Sunrise Coast to our next stop – Harrisville State Park (our review). We were surprised to even snag a site over a weekend at a state park, and by looking at pictures online on the Michigan State Park reservation system – it looked like we might have scored a great wooded site too. Turns out, we were right!  Our site, spot 29, was huge and tucked into a back corner and surrounded by trees. It offered a lot of privacy, and even had direct access to the walking path into town. Perfection. But our first love with the park started at the dump station.  It’s not often we remark on a dump station. Michigan state parks are all electric sites with no water or sewer, and so far, we’ve noticed all the parks offer very convenient dump stations with fresh water fills. We’ve made a habit of dumping our tanks upon arrival, and filling up the water before settling into our site. At this park however, they have courtesy dump hoses!  At first, you just want to go ‘ewwwwwww.. who’s used this before?’ But it didn’t take long to come around to just how darn convenient this is, and who really cares about who used it before – poop is poop, and it’s going out your tanks, not in. (And you wear gloves anyway, right?) Instead of fiddling with getting our hoses out, and then putting them away wet – we just hook theirs up and release.  So time-saving, especially if you have folks waiting in line behind you. Unfortunately, when we dumped on the way out – both of the attachment pieces of the hoses hadn’t survived the weekend.  So maybe this system has a major flaw in it after all. Our love with the park continued, especially once we took our first walk on the sandy beaches. We had expected that the east coast of Michigan was mostly rocky beaches – and so far, we’ve not found that true. Harrisville has marvelous sandy beaches, and we made a habit of walking this one a couple of times a day at least.  A great diversion. They even have campsites right on the beach.. absolutely lovely!  We weren’t fortunate enough to score one of those, so we rejoiced in the solitude of the site we did end up with. The park also has about a mile walking path into the adorable little town of Harrisville, which is just large enough to sport a small IGA grocery store, a couple of cafes, laundromat and 3 hair salons. Just enough to cover the essentials. Aside from several walks a day on the trails, beach and into town – mostly we wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more.  We’re super focused on the re-write of ‘The Mobile Internet Handbook‘.  We’re writing & research fiends. What’s Next?  We’re now in Alpena, MI – where we just rode out the holiday weekend in a lovely place (we’ll update on that soon!). This morning we’ll be heading northward about 40 miles to P F Hoeft State Park, just outside Rogers City – our next top on the Sunrise Coast trail up highway 23.  These long driving days are killer!  We intend to get the first draft of the book done by the end of this week, spend a week doing several editing passes … and then it’s off to our editor. Whew, lots of work ahead of us!]]>

After all of our packages arrived to Tawas, we were ready to start our northward trek up the Sunrise Coast to our next stop – Harrisville State Park (our review).

We were surprised to even snag a site over a weekend at a state park, and by looking at pictures online on the Michigan State Park reservation system – it looked like we might have scored a great wooded site too.

Our wonderfully secluded spot at Harrisville SP.

Our wonderfully secluded spot at Harrisville SP.

Turns out, we were right!  Our site, spot 29, was huge and tucked into a back corner and surrounded by trees. It offered a lot of privacy, and even had direct access to the walking path into town. Perfection.

But our first love with the park started at the dump station.  It’s not often we remark on a dump station.

Michigan state parks are all electric sites with no water or sewer, and so far, we’ve noticed all the parks offer very convenient dump stations with fresh water fills. We’ve made a habit of dumping our tanks upon arrival, and filling up the water before settling into our site.

Hoses!!  Dump Hoses! Rejoice!

It’s the little things that make RVers happy!! Dump Hoses! Rejoice!

At this park however, they have courtesy dump hoses!  At first, you just want to go ‘ewwwwwww.. who’s used this before?’

But it didn’t take long to come around to just how darn convenient this is, and who really cares about who used it before – poop is poop, and it’s going out your tanks, not in. (And you wear gloves anyway, right?)

Instead of fiddling with getting our hoses out, and then putting them away wet – we just hook theirs up and release.  So time-saving, especially if you have folks waiting in line behind you.

Beautiful sandy beaches (and yes.. we did go swimming!)

Beautiful sandy beaches (and yes.. we did go swimming – refreshing!!)

Unfortunately, when we dumped on the way out – both of the attachment pieces of the hoses hadn’t survived the weekend.  So maybe this system has a major flaw in it after all.

Our love with the park continued, especially once we took our first walk on the sandy beaches.

We had expected that the east coast of Michigan was mostly rocky beaches – and so far, we’ve not found that true. Harrisville has marvelous sandy beaches, and we made a habit of walking this one a couple of times a day at least.  A great diversion.

Beachfront camping!!

Beachfront camping!!

They even have campsites right on the beach.. absolutely lovely!  We weren’t fortunate enough to score one of those, so we rejoiced in the solitude of the site we did end up with.

The park also has about a mile walking path into the adorable little town of Harrisville, which is just large enough to sport a small IGA grocery store, a couple of cafes, laundromat and 3 hair salons.

Just enough to cover the essentials.

IMG_2552 IMG_6216 IMG_2564 IMG_2555

Aside from several walks a day on the trails, beach and into town – mostly we wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more.  We’re super focused on the re-write of ‘The Mobile Internet Handbook‘.  We’re writing & research fiends.

What’s Next?  We’re now in Alpena, MI – where we just rode out the holiday weekend in a lovely place (we’ll update on that soon!). This morning we’ll be heading northward about 40 miles to P F Hoeft State Park, just outside Rogers City – our next top on the Sunrise Coast trail up highway 23.  These long driving days are killer!  We intend to get the first draft of the book done by the end of this week, spend a week doing several editing passes … and then it’s off to our editor. Whew, lots of work ahead of us!

]]>
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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Distant WiFi: FlagPole Buddy & Ubiquiti NanoStation http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/flagpole-buddy-nanostation/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/flagpole-buddy-nanostation/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 05:35:53 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15252 When it comes to getting online, very often nothing beats a little altitude. We’ve long loved the WiFiRanger Sky on the roof of our bus – it has worked wonders in many campgrounds allowing us to surf away happily via WiFi at distances substantially further than we could ever reach without it. But if a big Prevost or boxy toy-hauler pulls into a site between us and the campground hotspot, we’ve more than once had our great signal completely obstructed and obliterated to nothing. If only we could hoist an antenna another 6 or so feet into the air, getting the WiFi receiver up and over all the other rigs and obstructions nearby… While researching the new edition of The Mobile Internet Handbook, I set out to find an easy and elegant way to be able to accomplish this. The solution I’ve grown very impressed with. The FlagPole Buddy I reached out to Christine & Dave at FlagPole Buddy, and they sent us a 12′ Pole & Mount Kit to experiment with. The FlagPole Buddy mount design is simple and elegant – just attach the mounts to any flat surface or clamp to an RV’s rear ladder, and then when you want to hoist a flag (or antenna, or both!) you can very easily angle in the pole from ground level into the top bracket, and then raise the pole to vertical and drop it securely into the base. Lowering the flagpole is just as easy – it literally only takes seconds. No tools are required – making it easy to quickly get the flagpole down if there is an approaching storm, or to store in a bay for transport. FlagPole Buddy offers three flagpole sizes – a 12′ aluminum pole with a 1″ diameter base that collapses down to 6′ tall, a 16′ fiberglass pole with a 1.5″ diameter base that collapses down to 4′ tall, and a 22′ fiberglass pole with a 2″ diameter base that also collapses down to 4′. Dave recommended we try the 12′ aluminum pole for our antenna experiments since it was more rigid, and indeed it has been working great. The downside of the 12′ we have discovered is that it does not have a locking pin to hold the pole fully extended, so it can gradually slide back down a bit if you don’t twist it extra tight to secure it. And the 1″ base mount does not have an insert for a locking screw to keep the pole from rotating – not needed for a flag, but important if you want to aim a directional antenna and rely on more than friction to keep it that way. The two larger poles have both of these features however. All of the poles can be deployed to less than fully extended height – so we are considering eventually adding the 22′ pole to our arsenal as well. On calm days the extra altitude might be nice for the WiFi gear, and on breezy days it will be a great place for flags during the day and solar beacons at night. The FlagPole Buddy kit comes with a traditional ball for the top of the pole, but they also offer a mounting bracket for attaching a flat metal plate to the top. We used this to create a mount point and ground plane for our magnetic-base cellular antennas. A future upgrade for up top – FlagPole Buddy offers a whole range of awesome solar powered dusk-till-dawn flashing beacons and flag lights that look really cool. The FlagPole Buddy gets us the altitude we need, but what should we put up there to bring in the signal? Ubiquiti NanoStation 2 / WFRBoost One little known yet totally awesome feature of the WiFiRanger routers is that they support a feature called “WFRBoost” that lets them remotely control and manage many Ubiquiti CPE devices. CPE stands for “Customer Premises Equipment”, and is the term used for commercial grade WiFi access points used by wireless service providers. Very often – the equipment providing WiFi in a campground is actually Ubiquiti CPE gear. The one we’ve been testing is an old spare NanoStation 2 that WiFiRanger sent us to try out. The Ubiquiti NanoStation M2 (the newer model of the NanoStation 2 – with 802.11n support and not just 802.11b/g) is a small affordable (less than $100) CPE with a built in directional antenna, designed for pole mounting. In this case – flagpole mounting. When plugged into a WiFiRanger, the NanoStation shows up as just another signal source in the main WiFiRanger control panel. Only – now you can see networks vastly further away than the Sky ever could. The downside is the setup time — the NanoStation’s directional antenna does wonders pulling in a distant signal, but you need to raise the mast and spend time slowly rotating and checking signal strength until you find an optimal setup. Where we are camped this week, I managed to connect to an open WiFi network over a quarter mile away by carefully aiming the NanoStation! I don’t consider the NanoStation a replacement for our Sky, but rather the perfect compliment to it. The Sky is better / faster for “medium range”  passive situations, as it doesn’t require setting up a mast or aiming an antenna to use. So it is perfect for hopping online while passing through retail parking lots or shorter stays at campgrounds. But when we are stopped someplace and need to pull in WiFi from as far away as possible, I am blown away by what the NanoStation so far seems capable of. Cellular Up Top Too? Cell towers are likely to be both much further away and higher than nearby WiFi hotspots, meaning that an extra few feet of altitude is less likely to make such a dramatic difference. But to keep our options open for when struggling in fringe signal areas, I also set up a metal plate that can be mounted on the top of the flagpole as well, giving an extra-high mounting option for the magnetic-based antennas that we use with our cellular boosters. To actually take advantage of this will require some antenna extension cable, and it will take some experimentation to determine whether the loss from the longer cable is made up for by the gain from the extra altitude. So far since setting up the FlagPole Buddy we haven’t been any place “fringe enough” for it to make a difference with cellular, but I am looking forward to further experimentation. Gave proof through the night that the signal was still there… Overall, the combination of the FlagPole Buddy and the NanoStation 2 CPE have made a wonderful upgrade to our bus, and we look forward to getting some custom flags and solar beacons to bling out our pole even further. And though we have only had a chance to use it at two locations so far, I am literally blown away at the extreme range that the NanoStation seems capable of. I can’t wait to keep testing it out in a range of additional locations. Happy Independence Day – may freedom shine brightly upon you!]]>

When it comes to getting online, very often nothing beats a little altitude.

For more information on mobile internet options… visit our resource center.

We’ve long loved the WiFiRanger Sky on the roof of our bus – it has worked wonders in many campgrounds allowing us to surf away happily via WiFi at distances substantially further than we could ever reach without it.

But if a big Prevost or boxy toy-hauler pulls into a site between us and the campground hotspot, we’ve more than once had our great signal completely obstructed and obliterated to nothing.

If only we could hoist an antenna another 6 or so feet into the air, getting the WiFi receiver up and over all the other rigs and obstructions nearby…

While researching the new edition of The Mobile Internet Handbook, I set out to find an easy and elegant way to be able to accomplish this.

The solution I’ve grown very impressed with.

The FlagPole Buddy

To avoid putting holes in the side of our bus, we attached the FlagPole Buddy mounts with 3M VHB tape - aka 'Scotch Outdoor Mounting Tape'.

To avoid putting holes in the side of our bus, we attached the FlagPole Buddy mounts with 3M VHB tape – aka ‘Scotch Outdoor Mounting Tape’.

I reached out to Christine & Dave at FlagPole Buddy, and they sent us a 12′ Pole & Mount Kit to experiment with.

The FlagPole Buddy mount design is simple and elegant – just attach the mounts to any flat surface or clamp to an RV’s rear ladder, and then when you want to hoist a flag (or antenna, or both!) you can very easily angle in the pole from ground level into the top bracket, and then raise the pole to vertical and drop it securely into the base.

Lowering the flagpole is just as easy – it literally only takes seconds. No tools are required – making it easy to quickly get the flagpole down if there is an approaching storm, or to store in a bay for transport.

FlagPole Buddy offers three flagpole sizes – a 12′ aluminum pole with a 1″ diameter base that collapses down to 6′ tall, a 16′ fiberglass pole with a 1.5″ diameter base that collapses down to 4′ tall, and a 22′ fiberglass pole with a 2″ diameter base that also collapses down to 4′.

Flying the colors over Zephyr, with a Ubiquiti NanoStation way up high too!

Flying the colors over Zephyr, with a Ubiquiti NanoStation way up high too!

Dave recommended we try the 12′ aluminum pole for our antenna experiments since it was more rigid, and indeed it has been working great.

The downside of the 12′ we have discovered is that it does not have a locking pin to hold the pole fully extended, so it can gradually slide back down a bit if you don’t twist it extra tight to secure it. And the 1″ base mount does not have an insert for a locking screw to keep the pole from rotating – not needed for a flag, but important if you want to aim a directional antenna and rely on more than friction to keep it that way.

The two larger poles have both of these features however.

All of the poles can be deployed to less than fully extended height – so we are considering eventually adding the 22′ pole to our arsenal as well. On calm days the extra altitude might be nice for the WiFi gear, and on breezy days it will be a great place for flags during the day and solar beacons at night.

The FlagPole Buddy kit comes with a traditional ball for the top of the pole, but they also offer a mounting bracket for attaching a flat metal plate to the top. We used this to create a mount point and ground plane for our magnetic-base cellular antennas.

A future upgrade for up top – FlagPole Buddy offers a whole range of awesome solar powered dusk-till-dawn flashing beacons and flag lights that look really cool.

The FlagPole Buddy gets us the altitude we need, but what should we put up there to bring in the signal?

Ubiquiti NanoStation 2 / WFRBoost

Ubiquiti NanoStation 2 on the left, and a magnetic-mount cellular antenna on the right.

Ubiquiti NanoStation 2 on the left, and a magnetic-mount cellular antenna on the right.

One little known yet totally awesome feature of the WiFiRanger routers is that they support a feature called “WFRBoost” that lets them remotely control and manage many Ubiquiti CPE devices.

CPE stands for “Customer Premises Equipment”, and is the term used for commercial grade WiFi access points used by wireless service providers. Very often – the equipment providing WiFi in a campground is actually Ubiquiti CPE gear.

The one we’ve been testing is an old spare NanoStation 2 that WiFiRanger sent us to try out.

To power the NanoStation, I mounted a DC-powered POE Injector (power over ethernet) in the utility bay. When I raise the flagpole, I just plug the NanoStation's ethernet output in here. The other end of the POE has ethernet running up to the tech cabinet and WiFiRanger Go2 router.

To power the NanoStation, I mounted a DC-powered POE Injector (power over ethernet) in the utility bay. When I raise the flagpole, I just plug the NanoStation’s ethernet output in here. The other end of the POE has ethernet running up to the tech cabinet and WiFiRanger Go2 router.

The Ubiquiti NanoStation M2 (the newer model of the NanoStation 2 – with 802.11n support and not just 802.11b/g) is a small affordable (less than $100) CPE with a built in directional antenna, designed for pole mounting.

In this case – flagpole mounting.

When plugged into a WiFiRanger, the NanoStation shows up as just another signal source in the main WiFiRanger control panel. Only – now you can see networks vastly further away than the Sky ever could.

The downside is the setup time — the NanoStation’s directional antenna does wonders pulling in a distant signal, but you need to raise the mast and spend time slowly rotating and checking signal strength until you find an optimal setup.

Where we are camped this week, I managed to connect to an open WiFi network over a quarter mile away by carefully aiming the NanoStation!

WiFiRanger Control Panel: Showing cellular, the Sky (WFRControl), and the NanoStation (WFRBoost) all hooked up at once.

WiFiRanger Control Panel: Showing cellular, the Sky (WFRControl), and the NanoStation (WFRBoost) all hooked up at once.

I don’t consider the NanoStation a replacement for our Sky, but rather the perfect compliment to it.

The Sky is better / faster for “medium range”  passive situations, as it doesn’t require setting up a mast or aiming an antenna to use. So it is perfect for hopping online while passing through retail parking lots or shorter stays at campgrounds.

But when we are stopped someplace and need to pull in WiFi from as far away as possible, I am blown away by what the NanoStation so far seems capable of.

Cellular Up Top Too?

Cell towers are likely to be both much further away and higher than nearby WiFi hotspots, meaning that an extra few feet of altitude is less likely to make such a dramatic difference.

But to keep our options open for when struggling in fringe signal areas, I also set up a metal plate that can be mounted on the top of the flagpole as well, giving an extra-high mounting option for the magnetic-based antennas that we use with our cellular boosters.

To actually take advantage of this will require some antenna extension cable, and it will take some experimentation to determine whether the loss from the longer cable is made up for by the gain from the extra altitude.

So far since setting up the FlagPole Buddy we haven’t been any place “fringe enough” for it to make a difference with cellular, but I am looking forward to further experimentation.

Gave proof through the night that the signal was still there…

Overall, the combination of the FlagPole Buddy and the NanoStation 2 CPE have made a wonderful upgrade to our bus, and we look forward to getting some custom flags and solar beacons to bling out our pole even further.

And though we have only had a chance to use it at two locations so far, I am literally blown away at the extreme range that the NanoStation seems capable of.

I can’t wait to keep testing it out in a range of additional locations.

Flags, WiFi, and Rainbows!

At the end of the rainbow lies a land filled with bandwidth and buses…

Happy Independence Day – may freedom shine brightly upon you!

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The Sunrise Coast: Tawas, Michigan http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/the-sunrise-coast-tawas-michigan/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/07/the-sunrise-coast-tawas-michigan/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:59:10 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15231 Who would have ever thought that night owls like us would end up touring Michigan’s ‘Sunrise’ coast? Only serendipity could make such an unlikely combination converge … with a little prodding from good friends. Earlier this spring, we really thought we’d be spending our summer slowly working our way westward towards Oregon via perhaps Colorado or Wyoming or Utah. But on a whim, our path took us back east a bit to northern Indiana to attend not one but two major RV rallies and knocking some major bus projects off our to-do list. We really thought we’d turn back from Goshen and continue directly westward. But something kept calling us northward instead. And that wasn’t just the occasional chime coming from iMessage every so often from our friends Krash & Karen, tempting us to come visit them. It was also a romance with Michigan that started two summers ago when we explored the UP and western shoreline as part of ‘Operation: Dip Toes‘ – a unique surprise birthday present for my ailing father. We’ve gotten to know Krash & Karen and their adorable pooch Pipa during our past winters in Cedar Key, FL – they’re not RVers, but they wintered down there too and have gotten to know our little community of nomads pretty well. Hanging out at the Low Key Tiki Bar can do that for you.  Their rest of the year home is Michigan, in East Tawas along the shores of Lake Huron. Karen lightly suggested that they had driveway parking for us should be want to come up that way, and when she confirmed we could have some packages meet up with us there – our next destination was planned. And it definitely wouldn’t suck to then continue on via the UP of  Michigan to get out west from there. We figured we’d accept their generous offer to park at their place over the weekend, and then relocate over to the nearby Tawas Point State Park – we never like to overstay our welcome, and given our primary focus right now is the re-write of The Mobile Internet Handbook, we felt we might also need some distraction free time to get writing done. When we arrived, the bus fit perfectly at their place – like it was meant to nestle in there. And with a peak of a water view too. And a WiFi password to utilize. Karen and Krash took us on a little driving tour of the Tawas area,  including the state park. All four of us dropped our jaws – it wasn’t the style of state park we had been enjoying recently with secluded little spots. We knew that part coming already. But wow, was it packed full – and the campsites were right on top of each other with almost no distinction at all. While we can certainly make the best of it and did have a water view spot reserved, this style of campground is not our preference. They made it clear, we were more than welcome to stay with them for our time in the area awaiting a few more packages to catch up with us – there was no rush on their part for us to move over. So we canceled our reservation and made ourselves at home with our new temporary neighbors. And what great neighbors they were – the perfect kind. Respectful of each other’s space and time, but yet there for shared meals, a bit of touring when there was time and casual conversations as we go about our days. We love that kind of meshing, when we don’t feel like we’re being hosted as guests or intruding on someone’s existing pace of life. We bring our own house, and are pretty self contained. Our week in the area was an absolutely perfect blending of getting lots of focused work done, while having easy distractions when we needed a break. East Tawas is an adorable little town that tends to have just a touch of quaint coastal tourism as it’s an easy escape from the Detroit metro area. And Karen & Krash’s neighborhood is laid back and peaceful, with easy accessibility to lakefront walking and views. We which we partook of several times a day. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the area, especially getting to know our friends better. We’re so thankful for the opportunity to stop for a bit, allow packages to catch up to us and feel so incredibly welcomed into someone’s life. Thank you Karen & Krash! What’s Next? We’re also thankful for the poke to head this way, because the adventure this little detour from our intended route has set us upon is shaping up quite nicely as we embark on exploring the shores of Lake Huron along US 23.  We’ll continue our tale later, but suffice it to say – we’re thoroughly picking up on that romance with Michigan we started a couple years ago. We’re currently riding out the 4th of July holiday weekend in the sanctuary of Alpena, and next week we’ll be exploring Roger’s City, followed by Cheboygen. Our goal is to send off the manuscript of the book to our editor before we cross the bridge to the UP. That gives us just a little over 2 weeks to go – so back to writing!  ]]>

Who would have ever thought that night owls like us would end up touring Michigan’s ‘Sunrise’ coast?

We didn’t realize we were embarking on a tour! How cool!

Only serendipity could make such an unlikely combination converge … with a little prodding from good friends.

Earlier this spring, we really thought we’d be spending our summer slowly working our way westward towards Oregon via perhaps Colorado or Wyoming or Utah. But on a whim, our path took us back east a bit to northern Indiana to attend not one but two major RV rallies and knocking some major bus projects off our to-do list.

We really thought we’d turn back from Goshen and continue directly westward.

But something kept calling us northward instead.

And that wasn’t just the occasional chime coming from iMessage every so often from our friends Krash & Karen, tempting us to come visit them.

It was also a romance with Michigan that started two summers ago when we explored the UP and western shoreline as part of ‘Operation: Dip Toes‘ – a unique surprise birthday present for my ailing father.

We’ve gotten to know Krash & Karen and their adorable pooch Pipa during our past winters in Cedar Key, FL – they’re not RVers, but they wintered down there too and have gotten to know our little community of nomads pretty well. Hanging out at the Low Key Tiki Bar can do that for you.  Their rest of the year home is Michigan, in East Tawas along the shores of Lake Huron.

Karen lightly suggested that they had driveway parking for us should be want to come up that way, and when she confirmed we could have some packages meet up with us there – our next destination was planned. And it definitely wouldn’t suck to then continue on via the UP of  Michigan to get out west from there.

IMG_2396

Lots of packages arriving. All of it test gear being sent to us for both The Mobile Internet Handbook and our upcoming solar project.

IMG_2515

Solar panels starting to arrive – our next project will be testing various flexible panels head to head to find out what is the best balance for us of quality, cost and efficiency. Follow the challenge here: http://www.technomadia.com/solar

We figured we’d accept their generous offer to park at their place over the weekend, and then relocate over to the nearby Tawas Point State Park – we never like to overstay our welcome, and given our primary focus right now is the re-write of The Mobile Internet Handbook, we felt we might also need some distraction free time to get writing done.

Should we stay here at this lovely and pretty private spot?

Should we stay here at this lovely and pretty private spot?

When we arrived, the bus fit perfectly at their place – like it was meant to nestle in there. And with a peak of a water view too. And a WiFi password to utilize.

Karen and Krash took us on a little driving tour of the Tawas area,  including the state park. All four of us dropped our jaws – it wasn’t the style of state park we had been enjoying recently with secluded little spots. We knew that part coming already. But wow, was it packed full – and the campsites were right on top of each other with almost no distinction at all.

While we can certainly make the best of it and did have a water view spot reserved, this style of campground is not our preference.

Or stay here? Tawas Point State Park.

Or stay here? Tawas Point State Park.

They made it clear, we were more than welcome to stay with them for our time in the area awaiting a few more packages to catch up with us – there was no rush on their part for us to move over.

So we canceled our reservation and made ourselves at home with our new temporary neighbors.

And what great neighbors they were – the perfect kind. Respectful of each other’s space and time, but yet there for shared meals, a bit of touring when there was time and casual conversations as we go about our days.

We love that kind of meshing, when we don’t feel like we’re being hosted as guests or intruding on someone’s existing pace of life. We bring our own house, and are pretty self contained.

Our week in the area was an absolutely perfect blending of getting lots of focused work done, while having easy distractions when we needed a break. East Tawas is an adorable little town that tends to have just a touch of quaint coastal tourism as it’s an easy escape from the Detroit metro area.

IMG_2491

On our daily walks

IMG_2499

Dipping our toes…

We never caught a sunrise.. but the sunsets were pretty awesome too.

We never caught a sunrise.. but the sunsets were pretty awesome too.

IMG_2484

Cute downtown East Tawas (we caught a showing of ‘How to Train your Dragon 2′ for just $5!!)

IMG_2460

Getting our lighthouse fix – Tawas Point Lighthouse

IMG_2467

We had to resist giving tours during our own tour. Up here, volunteers *PAY* to stay at the lighthouse and give tours. (Don’t get any ideas Oregon!)

And Karen & Krash’s neighborhood is laid back and peaceful, with easy accessibility to lakefront walking and views. We which we partook of several times a day.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the area, especially getting to know our friends better.

Thank you Krash & Karen!

Thank you Krash & Karen!

We’re so thankful for the opportunity to stop for a bit, allow packages to catch up to us and feel so incredibly welcomed into someone’s life. Thank you Karen & Krash!

What’s Next? We’re also thankful for the poke to head this way, because the adventure this little detour from our intended route has set us upon is shaping up quite nicely as we embark on exploring the shores of Lake Huron along US 23.  We’ll continue our tale later, but suffice it to say – we’re thoroughly picking up on that romance with Michigan we started a couple years ago.

We’re currently riding out the 4th of July holiday weekend in the sanctuary of Alpena, and next week we’ll be exploring Roger’s City, followed by Cheboygen. Our goal is to send off the manuscript of the book to our editor before we cross the bridge to the UP. That gives us just a little over 2 weeks to go – so back to writing!

 

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Mobile Income Sources for Non-Retired RVers – Jobs, Careers and Workamping http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/mobile-income-sources-for-non-retired-rvers-jobs-careers-and-workamping/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/mobile-income-sources-for-non-retired-rvers-jobs-careers-and-workamping/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 16:23:31 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15204 Preface: This post is a newly updated chapter in our No Excuses: Go Nomadic logistical series. It’s been greatly expanded to contain even more resources, ideas and information on forging a thrivable mobile income source.  Enjoy.. it’s our gift (but you can get the entire series as a ‘Pay as you Wish‘ eBook if you’d like.. details at the end.) Many people have dreams of long term travel, something that is more than the typical 1-2 week vacation a couple times a year (or every couple of years!). They crave a slower pace to more fully immerse themselves in different cultures and experiences. More opportunity to enjoy quality time with far flung friends and family. A chance for ever broadening horizons, not constrained by a “back to work” deadline. That sort of long term travel is generally thought of as reserved for: Retirement – when life savings, pensions and social security can cover the expenses, and one has completed a career and put that phase of life behind them. Before career – fresh out of school before one commits to a career and family, taking a few months or years to explore the world. In between careers – when a current careers is no longer rewarding, quit, take off and travel for a while before re-entering the workforce. Essentially, extended travel is often to the exclusion of work or career. It’s something you do after you’ve ended a career, or in-between phases of life. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these approaches. Taking time in-between life chapters, and focusing on travel, can give one very deep insights into themselves and the world. Valuable stuff. But what if now is when you want to travel, not some distant post-retirement future when your health and physical capabilities may no longer be up for the experience? What if a year just isn’t enough to experience the world? There is another option. Combining Career and Travel Not many of us are in a position to entirely quit the workforce, retire early and sustain our desired lifestyle. Some of us actually enjoy working, embrace our careers, and aren’t itching to escape them. And others, despite vigilant financial planning, haven’t been able to acquire enough savings to travel without some sort of supplemental income. There are certainly many careers that are not apt to a full time traveling lifestyle.  For those passionate about such a career path, that is reason enough to put off full-time travel. In the meantime, find ways to integrate in purposeful travel into your vacation time, sabbaticals, and/or by creatively extending business related trips. You might be surprised at how much flexibility you actually have – many part-time nomads manage to negotiate time-off (without pay) to turn the typical two week American vacation into two or more months off each year. You never know until you ask, or sometimes issue an ultimatum. But if you’re not on a stationary career track that inspires you, and travel is calling you louder, perhaps it’s time to explore creative ways to re-think life. There are generally two different ways to go about earning an income while traveling. First, find work that naturally integrates in travel. Or, design a “location independent” career that involves work that can be done primarily remotely, letting you work from wherever you are. Here are some examples to get you thinking… Careers with Travel Built In A nomadic life based on following the work is nothing new at all – it’s been part of human culture since the earliest adventurers got the itch to explore the world around them. There are many career paths that can require, or be adapted to, travel as a core component of them. Artists & Jewelers Musicians Entertainers Seasonal Workers Festival Workers Truck Drivers Harvest workers Oil fields Construction and Craftsmanship Contract Medical Staff (nurses, doctors, technicians, etc.) Journalism Photographers Disaster Services Cruise Ship Staff Fishing or Boat Crewing Military Service Traveling Sales & Demonstrators Therapists & Body Workers Hair Stylists & Cosmeticians Tattoo Artist House & Pet Sitters Tour Guides Amusement Park Staff Concessionaires Providing Services (cleaning, organizing, computer setup, handyman, etc.) Repair & Technician Work Temp Workers (from cashiers, stockers to office work) Performance Artists (balloon twisters, dancers, comedians, gymnasts, fire swallowers, etc.) Conference Speakers Field Researchers Inspectors & Secret Shoppers Onsite Guarding (gate guards, onsite security, etc.) Trainers & Teachers Teaching English as a Second Language Volunteer Jobs (that cover some living expenses) Consultants & Designers Speciality products sales (ie. Mary Key, Pampered Chef, etc.) Workamping Many of these career paths could utilize travel as part of the means of getting to a work site, but often may require adjusting your travel plans to meet the schedules of work obligations (military service being an extreme example).  Some might even require travel away from your RV. You may have to strike a balance that works for you between giving up control of your schedule and destinations, and having work that actually pays you to travel. And you may have to compromise on where you go if your profession involves local licensing challenges. Other nomadic career paths allow for travel totally in your control, but you need to have faith that you can show up to a location and market yourself to find gigs or sell your wares. There are some jobs (particularly in remote areas – such as oil fields, fishing or mining) that offer a rotating schedule of intense periods of work (weeks to months at a time) then lots of time off. Taking a job that involves such hard intense work for a month straight may be grueling, but it is balanced out with time off to travel extensively before you need to return. Workamping – Combining Work with Camping While the founders of Workamping.com, who coined the word, intended it to mean any work that is done while staying in a RV, it more commonly is used to refer to work where living in an RV is an asset. There are some temporary job positions that are popular with RVers in particular that allow folks to pick up seasonal employment. Some positions will pay a wage, and some just offer a free campsite. Paying positions include working at an Amazon.com fulfillment center via their CamperForce program, in which RVers get their campsite paid for and receive an hourly wage for helping fulfill orders. There’s also sugar beat harvests in the northern states, working at amusement parks, working for a concessionaire at national parks, working special events across the country, being part of a sales team and gate guarding in the oil fields. Some RVers are able to make a sustainable income out of moving between these sorts of jobs throughout the year, especially if their living costs are low. Some campgrounds also will exchange hosting duties – registration, office work, maintenance, cleaning – for a campground site and/or wages. Some might even pay a wage for work done over a certain number of hours. There’s also other volunteer positions available within public park systems that could range from interpretive hosts, campground hosts to grounds keepers. And then there are also opportunities to caretake someone’s property while they are out of town, which could range from tending the gardens, pet sitting or just providing a bit of security. It’s very important when considering a workamping position if the compensation is worth the hours you put in. For instance, a campground might offer you a free spot that they normally charge $500/month for – but is requiring a total of 30 hours a week of your time. Do the math – that’s just over $4/hour, well below minimum wage. If you need to earn a livable wage to pay your bills and build your savings, trading your time for a free site may not be worth your time. In such case, seeking out temporary employment positions in an area and paying for your site might turn out to be a much better financial outcome. But if reducing your living costs is your goal while you perhaps work on other income earning opportunities or supplement other income sources, it may be worthwhile. Especialy if there are other perks with the position that are worthwhile to you – such as free propane, laundry, discounts to local attractions or  more. Maybe one member of the household can provide the workamping hours to reduce living expenses, while the other concentrates on bringing in income – such as remote working or building up a business. Or perhaps you’d like to volunteer your time at a public campground or park – then it’s not necessarily about the money or cost savings, but for the experience and the joy of volunteering. If these sorts of positions are of interest, get involved by searching for ‘Workamping’. There are lots of forums, listings and resources available for tracking these positions down. Here are some resources to help get you started: http://www.workamping.com http://www.work-for-rvers-and-campers.com http://www.coolworks.com https://my.usajobs.gov/ http://www.caretaker.org http://www.amazon.com/camperforce http://www.sugarbeetharvest.com Also check out each state’s park system website, many offer volunteer opportunities for RVers. Remote Work Ideas With the advent of wireless broadband, there’s a whole new class of mobile careers available. They’re digital nomads and location independent professionals - or as we prefer to call ourselves, technomads. Some examples of careers that can be done remotely from anywhere with decent connectivity might include: Programmers Developers IT managers Database managers Bookkeepers / Accountants / CPAs Lawyers Personal Assistants Web Designers Writers Editors Bloggers Podcasters Photography (journalism, portrait, stock, artistic and training) Audio (voice over, audio books) Videography (freelance or YouTube ad income) Affiliate Sales Social Media Specialists Product Evangelists Bargain Hunting & Re-Selling Online Online Products & Stores Graphic Designers Online Professors & Teachers Tutors Personal and Professional Coaches Consultants & Advisors Freelance Writers Customer Support Agents (travel, insurance, etc.) Investors / Traders Transcriptionists Translators Researchers Content Creators Authors These are folks who can utilize technology to take the office with them untethered by ethernet cables and phone lines. Sometimes people pursuing digital nomadism have existing gigs lined up before they hit the road, and sometimes they search for remote working compatible gigs as needed by searching job boards such as: https://weworkremotely.com http://www.craigslist.org http://www.elance.com http://www.odesk.com http://www.vworker.com http://www.dice.com http://www.flexjobs.com And some build up their reputation online and in person, and market by word of mouth and social media. Intersection of your Skillsets & Passions The above lists certainly aren’t comprehensive of the options. You’re only limited to your creativity, skill sets and passions. What skills and interests do you have?  How can you adapt your skills into a job that allows you the level of travel you desire? Think creativity about what you can offer that would work with a mobile lifestyle. Just because you’ve always worked at a single location, doesn’t mean that’s the only way your skills can be put to use. What resources and contacts do you have in your industry that you can utilize to network? What is going to light your passions up and provide you incentive to get out of bed in the morning and put in work hours while you’re in a tempting new location that you really want to go out and explore? Brainstorm, and don’t let anyone tell you your idea isn’t worthwhile exploring. Just because you don’t know of someone doing it now, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You and your passion is what might make it possible. You may also find that one single income source is not reliable or robust enough, and that exploring multiple income streams provides you a better income base. Such as combining campground hosting for several hours a week to reduce your living expenses while working on your next online business venture. Or taking several weeks to work for a wage at places like Amazon or a harvest to build up some funds, that allow you more creative time later to work on deploying a new product or service. Having multiple income sources also means if one goes away, you don’t have all your eggs in one proverbial basket. You can more quickly rebound, and find ways to adjust to the new income levels. Think creatively. Maybe you have a job that lets you work remotely part of the time, but really needs you onsite from time to time. How can you combine your reality with your dreams? Can you compromise your travel desires by limiting them geographically so you can easily return back to your job’s location when needed?  Or how about planning to fly out to your shorter term work obligations instead of always planning to drive there in your RV? Remote Employee As the world has become more and more virtual, and the economy has forced more companies to scale back on the costs of maintaining real estate, more traditional workplaces are becoming keen on allowing their employees to transition to becoming remote teleworkers. So why not take it a step further, and work from anywhere? Some companies have even gone entirely virtual – with no fixed office at all. Of course, not all positions are going to be able to be done remotely, and not all companies are keen on the idea. Particularly factoring the uncertainties that come with working while traveling. However if you have a job that you think you could do from anywhere, you might want to consider coming up with a proposal for your boss. Don’t expect your employer to jump right on the opportunity, and expect that you may have to prove you can do it by perhaps starting with working from home on occasion. It is possible however, and really all depends on how open minded your workplace is, your history as a reliable employee and how critical your role is to your organization. It likely won’t be an overnight transition, but if you like your current career and job but just want to do it from anywhere – think creatively on how you can make it happen. If you are willing to negotiate a lower salary in return for fewer mandated office hours and more travel flexibility, you might be surprised as to what your company might agree to. If you’re wanting to pursue this path, think hard about if you’re self motivated enough to get your work done while working not only from home, but a home that is constantly moving with lots of potential distractions at every stop. Will you really be able to balance productive work hours, with driving days, exploring new locations and visiting friends & family? If you’ll be traveling with other people – such as a spouse and kids, will you be able to create a workspace inside of an RV that gives you ample amenities, privacy and space to get your work done? And if your job require you to remain accessible by phone, video conferences and/or internet, will you be able to maintain the level of connectivity you need while on the road? And of course, there are lots of employment and contractor positions out there that require travel – such as sales, service, installation, inspection, security, demonstration and field research. These sorts of organizations usually already have awareness of RV & traveling workers, and probably have some support services that come along with the job to help you better navigate the logistics. Entrepreneurship On the other hand, not working for someone as an employee can be very freeing. Do you have ideas for products or services you can provide on your own and/or with peers? Do you have the motivation, skillsets and self-discipline to create, market, manage and ride the ebbs and flows? You might be cut out to be an entrepreneur. Many folks who have hit the road were either already self-employed, or explored it as part of a life transition to location independence. Living on the road has a lot of benefits that support exploring entrepreneurship, such as the variability of costs from month-to-month, and potentially flexible hours. It also means being quite disciplined and resourceful to both find work and keep your clients happy, as well as figuring out all of the logistics of running  a company – paperwork, taxes, accounting, healthcare, insurance, etc. It can also take quite an investment in time, and maybe money, to get your business to a point of providing the income you want. If you’ve never run your own business before, it may be daunting to approach learning the ropes while also adapting to a fully mobile lifestyle. Or it might be exhilarating, some folks thrive on a total life reset. How much of a change you’re up for is going to vary quite a bit by person, skills, risk factors and tolerance. Want some inspiration and ideas for entrepreneurial endeavors that took little upfront investment? We highly recommend the The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. Secure your mobile income first, or later? Is it better to have your mobile income source secured first, or figure it out once you’re on the road? Honestly, that really comes down to how much of a nest egg you have to fund your uncertain months, and how adaptable you are in making things work out. If you already have an income source that can be taken mobilely, the answer is easy – start doing the work to transition yourself to location independence… and get out there already! If you have an income source that won’t be apt for mobility, do you have ideas to pursue that you can start implementing now to see if they work? What can you be doing now to better position yourself, while you still have the income coming in? Are there classes you can take to pick up new skills? Can you apprentice and or volunteer to gain new experience? How can you think differently about your current career path to adapt it for life on the road? We also have a lot of folks ask us what degree they should go get so they can better create a mobile income. Folks, there’s no ‘mobile income’ degree out there (maybe we should sell one? hmmm.. there’s an income idea!). What will work for you as a mobile income out on the road comes down to one thing – you. What are your skills, interests and passions. Honestly, you should start with what you want to do for income – and then pursue degrees and certifications that might be necessary to achieve your goals. Not all, heck most, career paths don’t require a degree, especially if you are pursuing self-employment. And many people with degrees are on career paths divergent from their degree anyway. Invest your time and money in gaining skillsets, and only in degrees & certification if they are required or expected for your chosen field. There are a lot of free college level classes you can take online from www.Coursera.com, Stanford, MIT and iTunes U, and probably affordable classes within your local community too. One word of caution here – changing your life to mobile AND setting up a brand new income source are both two major life transitions. Each individually will take adjustments and have their growing pains.  If you choose to hit the road without a mobile income source flowing in, we highly advise that you have the funds or plans necessary to support yourself for up to a year or more as your figure it all out. Life on the road can be mighty distracting – so many places to explore, people to meet and balancing work/travel is a difficult transition. Trying to find the mental bandwidth to forge a new career path along with the excitement of perpetual travel aren’t necessarily good companions in the beginning. And the cost of travel in the first year can generally be more expensive as folks tend to take a faster pace resulting in more fuel costs and higher nightly rates at RV Parks and campgrounds. When you slow down your pace, the costs can go down. Way down. And you have more time to work on your income source. If you can afford to do so, enjoy the first few months on the road as more of an extended vacation – and then buckle down on creating and sustaining the income source you need to sustain your newfound love of the road. If you can’t afford that time, then make sure you try to approach this new lifestyle realistically. Recommended viewing: Our ‘Realities & Myths of Full Time RVing’ video chat & notes Working less or working smarter? After Timothy Ferris’ book The Four Hour Work Week came out, a bunch of folks got the notion that they could set up online businesses, outsource the bulk of the work, and only work 4 hours a week while earning a bunch of cash and playing the rest of the time. Sure, it may be possible for some, and there’s good stuff in Tim’s book that can really help folks think differently about the role work plays in their life. Just don’t get the idea that life as a nomad is always a full time vacation.  It takes a lot of work to set up and maintain a passive income stream – so much so that for most it’s really hard to call what they end up doing all that passive. Most of the mobile working nomads we’ve encountered don’t have a life of complete leisure or a passive income stream.  True, we may not be always working a typical 40+-hour work week plus commute, but we are putting in productive hours with deliverables.  We just tend to do it smartly without all the wasted time that tends to come with an office life. Many of us are working in careers that inspire us in some way, better the world and that we actually enjoy. And we’re doing it from amazing places with ever-changing amazing office views.  Instead of ending our workday (or night) and coming home to the same old routine, we have a new location waiting for us to explore! We’ve encountered such a variety of ways people make it work – from working a fairly normal work day, to those that work in waves of intense 12-15 hour days for a few weeks then coast for months after that. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just make sure it’s YOUR way. Balancing Mobility & Work Working on the road may not be as glamorous as it sounds, and it’s certainly not a non-stop vacation. You will have to find your stride to make it work. You’ll be pulling into amazing new locations and be tempted by a lot of social opportunities as you visit family and are making new friends. Your RV is going to have issues at inopportune times that you’ll have to attend to if you want to keep mobile. It can be hard to find the time to sit down and get in your work hours with all the constant distractions. Especially in your first months to year on the road when it’s very difficult to differentiate a life of travel from an extended vacation. We see a lot of nomads give up this lifestyle within the first year or two because this balance is so hard to find. They either exhaust themselves trying to do it all, or they run out of funding because they never struck that balance. Here’s some tips we’ve found for helping with this: Plan some of your travels away from distractions. Instead of constantly exploring pretty places and visiting nearby friends, sometimes it makes sense to set down somewhere that you don’t know anyone nearby so that you can focus. Slow down your pace of travel, and stay places longer so you have time to both get in your work hours AND explore the location. Spread out your exploration time just like you do your extra-curricular activities now after your workday. Trying to balance motion in with work hours is sometimes just not possible. Making miles takes time, as does setting up, breaking camp and figuring out where your next stop will be.  Sometime it makes better sense to just travel a couple hours a day, and sometimes it might make sense to put aside a day where you get a lot of miles in to make major headway towards your next destination. Put attention towards your work space. If you need to be at a computer many hours a day, working from a laptop on a picnic table or on the beach may sound idyllic, but it’s just not practical or comfortable long term. And you may find you don’t do your best work from public locations with free WiFi like coffee shops or libraries. Options range from building in a comfortable desk space into your mobile home to arranging to rent in co-working spaces as you travel to urban locations, or borrowing space from friends as you travel. Pad in fun time to explore! Some nomads prefer working in intense focused bursts to generate their income, and then take weeks or months with minimal work commitments. And the most important tip of all: Try to switch your attitude of having to work while visiting an interesting new place to getting to work from all these amazing places! Think of it as always amazing office view changes.   Our Mobile Careers Working for ourselves, and working remotely, is the primary route we’ve taken. I’ve been location independent since 1994 when I started taking over my family’s software development company, running it from my beachside home in Florida. I used to tease my clients when they called that I could be working from anywhere – by the pool or the beach.  Then I started taking it further. When I needed to travel for work, I’d tack on personal days to explore, taking advantage of the majority of the travel costs having already been covered. Then I started taking longer personal trips where I integrated in a remote work day, and used my off-time to explore. I liked the balance of travel just being a regular part of my life and having the flexibility to just go with little need for pre-planning. And I’ve never felt like I needed to escape my career – I already built something I loved. When I met my lifemate Chris in 2006 (who was already living as a full time nomad), it all came together for me to totally remove myself from a fixed homebase and office, and I started the process of shifting my life to become fully mobile. Before going nomadic, Chris had a career in the mobile technology industry – most recently having worked for Palm and PalmSource as their Director of Competitive Analysis (aka ‘Chief Spy’), traveling the world to keep tabs on the entire mobile tech industry. It was truly a job too good to give up until Palm & Palm Source imploded. He had already long ago decided that this would be his last job for a big company, and his lay off propelled him to finally jump into something he always wanted to do – become a technomad. Today, Chris and I run Two Steps Beyond LLC (www.twostepsbeyond.com), where we combine our backgrounds to offer unique products and services. We have completely shut down the business that I ran with my family, and our current income sources have been completely built while on the road.  We develop our own line of travel related mobile apps and written some books. We’ve also taken on several short term gigs that have included: advising tech start-ups and companies, orchestrating new product launches, doing intensive market research, product development & project management, providing market insight to investors, selling our photography and travel videography and writing for tech journals. We’ve also been known to take on temporary gigs outside our norm just to explore new things, such as workamping for a month at Amazon.com packing boxes during their peak holiday season and volunteering as interpretive hosts at a lighthouse. We like to shake it up, explore new avenues of income, and most of all – have fun! Further resources on this topic: Our link list of other working on the road RVers Our ‘Ramblings: Tales from Nomads’ video interview series Our ‘Realities & Myths of Full Time RVing’ video chat & notes Our recent video chat with Gone with the Wynn’s on this topic: Read Chapter 2: Affording Full Time Travel —->   No Excuses: Go Nomadic This article is part of our ‘No Excuses: Go Nomadic’ series – addressing the common logistical obstacles of hitting the road full time. In the series, you’ll find our answers to things like mobile income sources, pets, family, community, mail/domicile, handling money and much more. Read the whole series:  No Excuses: Go Nomadic eBook version - This blog series is also available as a convenient eBook. We offer this expanded compilation with bonus material on a ‘pay as you wish’ basis. We don’t aim to make a living off our blog, but contributions to keep the blog going is appreciated (kinda like taking us out for a thank-you beer or dinner). Cost: Pay As You Wish (really… just set the price!) (PDF Format)     ]]>

Preface: This post is a newly updated chapter in our No Excuses: Go Nomadic logistical series. It’s been greatly expanded to contain even more resources, ideas and information on forging a thrivable mobile income source.  Enjoy.. it’s our gift (but you can get the entire series as a ‘Pay as you Wish‘ eBook if you’d like.. details at the end.)

Many people have dreams of long term travel, something that is more than the typical 1-2 week vacation a couple times a year (or every couple of years!).

They crave a slower pace to more fully immerse themselves in different cultures and experiences. More opportunity to enjoy quality time with far flung friends and family. A chance for ever broadening horizons, not constrained by a “back to work” deadline.

That sort of long term travel is generally thought of as reserved for:

  • Retirement – when life savings, pensions and social security can cover the expenses, and one has completed a career and put that phase of life behind them.
  • Before career – fresh out of school before one commits to a career and family, taking a few months or years to explore the world.
  • In between careers – when a current careers is no longer rewarding, quit, take off and travel for a while before re-entering the workforce.

Essentially, extended travel is often to the exclusion of work or career. It’s something you do after you’ve ended a career, or in-between phases of life.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these approaches. Taking time in-between life chapters, and focusing on travel, can give one very deep insights into themselves and the world. Valuable stuff.

But what if now is when you want to travel, not some distant post-retirement future when your health and physical capabilities may no longer be up for the experience?

What if a year just isn’t enough to experience the world?

There is another option.

Combining Career and Travel

Not many of us are in a position to entirely quit the workforce, retire early and sustain our desired lifestyle. Some of us actually enjoy working, embrace our careers, and aren’t itching to escape them. And others, despite vigilant financial planning, haven’t been able to acquire enough savings to travel without some sort of supplemental income.

There are certainly many careers that are not apt to a full time traveling lifestyle.  For those passionate about such a career path, that is reason enough to put off full-time travel. In the meantime, find ways to integrate in purposeful travel into your vacation time, sabbaticals, and/or by creatively extending business related trips.

You might be surprised at how much flexibility you actually have – many part-time nomads manage to negotiate time-off (without pay) to turn the typical two week American vacation into two or more months off each year. You never know until you ask, or sometimes issue an ultimatum.

But if you’re not on a stationary career track that inspires you, and travel is calling you louder, perhaps it’s time to explore creative ways to re-think life.

There are generally two different ways to go about earning an income while traveling.

First, find work that naturally integrates in travel.

Or, design a “location independent” career that involves work that can be done primarily remotely, letting you work from wherever you are.

Here are some examples to get you thinking…

Careers with Travel Built In

A nomadic life based on following the work is nothing new at all – it’s been part of human culture since the earliest adventurers got the itch to explore the world around them.

There are many career paths that can require, or be adapted to, travel as a core component of them.

  • Artists & Jewelers
  • Musicians
  • Entertainers
  • Seasonal Workers
  • Festival Workers
  • Truck Drivers
  • Harvest workers
  • Oil fields
  • Construction and Craftsmanship
  • Contract Medical Staff (nurses, doctors, technicians, etc.)
  • Journalism
  • Photographers
  • Disaster Services
  • Cruise Ship Staff
  • Fishing or Boat Crewing
  • Military Service
  • Traveling Sales & Demonstrators
  • Therapists & Body Workers
  • Hair Stylists & Cosmeticians
  • Tattoo Artist
  • House & Pet Sitters
  • Tour Guides
  • Amusement Park Staff
  • Concessionaires
  • Providing Services (cleaning, organizing, computer setup, handyman, etc.)
  • Repair & Technician Work
  • Temp Workers (from cashiers, stockers to office work)
  • Performance Artists (balloon twisters, dancers, comedians, gymnasts, fire swallowers, etc.)
  • Conference Speakers
  • Field Researchers
  • Inspectors & Secret Shoppers
  • Onsite Guarding (gate guards, onsite security, etc.)
  • Trainers & Teachers
  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Volunteer Jobs (that cover some living expenses)
  • Consultants & Designers
  • Speciality products sales (ie. Mary Key, Pampered Chef, etc.)
  • Workamping

Many of these career paths could utilize travel as part of the means of getting to a work site, but often may require adjusting your travel plans to meet the schedules of work obligations (military service being an extreme example).  Some might even require travel away from your RV.

You may have to strike a balance that works for you between giving up control of your schedule and destinations, and having work that actually pays you to travel. And you may have to compromise on where you go if your profession involves local licensing challenges.

Other nomadic career paths allow for travel totally in your control, but you need to have faith that you can show up to a location and market yourself to find gigs or sell your wares.

There are some jobs (particularly in remote areas – such as oil fields, fishing or mining) that offer a rotating schedule of intense periods of work (weeks to months at a time) then lots of time off. Taking a job that involves such hard intense work for a month straight may be grueling, but it is balanced out with time off to travel extensively before you need to return.

Workamping – Combining Work with Camping

While the founders of Workamping.com, who coined the word, intended it to mean any work that is done while staying in a RV, it more commonly is used to refer to work where living in an RV is an asset.

There are some temporary job positions that are popular with RVers in particular that allow folks to pick up seasonal employment.

Some positions will pay a wage, and some just offer a free campsite.

Paying positions include working at an Amazon.com fulfillment center via their CamperForce program, in which RVers get their campsite paid for and receive an hourly wage for helping fulfill orders. There’s also sugar beat harvests in the northern states, working at amusement parks, working for a concessionaire at national parks, working special events across the country, being part of a sales team and gate guarding in the oil fields.

Some RVers are able to make a sustainable income out of moving between these sorts of jobs throughout the year, especially if their living costs are low.

Some campgrounds also will exchange hosting duties – registration, office work, maintenance, cleaning – for a campground site and/or wages. Some might even pay a wage for work done over a certain number of hours.

There’s also other volunteer positions available within public park systems that could range from interpretive hosts, campground hosts to grounds keepers. And then there are also opportunities to caretake someone’s property while they are out of town, which could range from tending the gardens, pet sitting or just providing a bit of security.

It’s very important when considering a workamping position if the compensation is worth the hours you put in. For instance, a campground might offer you a free spot that they normally charge $500/month for – but is requiring a total of 30 hours a week of your time. Do the math – that’s just over $4/hour, well below minimum wage.

If you need to earn a livable wage to pay your bills and build your savings, trading your time for a free site may not be worth your time. In such case, seeking out temporary employment positions in an area and paying for your site might turn out to be a much better financial outcome.

But if reducing your living costs is your goal while you perhaps work on other income earning opportunities or supplement other income sources, it may be worthwhile. Especialy if there are other perks with the position that are worthwhile to you – such as free propane, laundry, discounts to local attractions or  more. Maybe one member of the household can provide the workamping hours to reduce living expenses, while the other concentrates on bringing in income – such as remote working or building up a business.

Or perhaps you’d like to volunteer your time at a public campground or park – then it’s not necessarily about the money or cost savings, but for the experience and the joy of volunteering.

If these sorts of positions are of interest, get involved by searching for ‘Workamping’. There are lots of forums, listings and resources available for tracking these positions down.

Here are some resources to help get you started:

Also check out each state’s park system website, many offer volunteer opportunities for RVers.

Remote Work Ideas

With the advent of wireless broadband, there’s a whole new class of mobile careers available. They’re digital nomads and location independent professionals - or as we prefer to call ourselves, technomads.

Some examples of careers that can be done remotely from anywhere with decent connectivity might include:

  • Programmers
  • Developers
  • IT managers
  • Database managers
  • Bookkeepers / Accountants / CPAs
  • Lawyers
  • Personal Assistants
  • Web Designers
  • Writers
  • Editors
  • Bloggers
  • Podcasters
  • Photography (journalism, portrait, stock, artistic and training)
  • Audio (voice over, audio books)
  • Videography (freelance or YouTube ad income)
  • Affiliate Sales
  • Social Media Specialists
  • Product Evangelists
  • Bargain Hunting & Re-Selling Online
  • Online Products & Stores
  • Graphic Designers
  • Online Professors & Teachers
  • Tutors
  • Personal and Professional Coaches
  • Consultants & Advisors
  • Freelance Writers
  • Customer Support
  • Agents (travel, insurance, etc.)
  • Investors / Traders
  • Transcriptionists
  • Translators
  • Researchers
  • Content Creators
  • Authors

These are folks who can utilize technology to take the office with them untethered by ethernet cables and phone lines. Sometimes people pursuing digital nomadism have existing gigs lined up before they hit the road, and sometimes they search for remote working compatible gigs as needed by searching job boards such as:

And some build up their reputation online and in person, and market by word of mouth and social media.

Intersection of your Skillsets & Passions

The above lists certainly aren’t comprehensive of the options. You’re only limited to your creativity, skill sets and passions.

What skills and interests do you have?  How can you adapt your skills into a job that allows you the level of travel you desire? Think creativity about what you can offer that would work with a mobile lifestyle. Just because you’ve always worked at a single location, doesn’t mean that’s the only way your skills can be put to use.

What resources and contacts do you have in your industry that you can utilize to network?

What is going to light your passions up and provide you incentive to get out of bed in the morning and put in work hours while you’re in a tempting new location that you really want to go out and explore?

Brainstorm, and don’t let anyone tell you your idea isn’t worthwhile exploring. Just because you don’t know of someone doing it now, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You and your passion is what might make it possible.

You may also find that one single income source is not reliable or robust enough, and that exploring multiple income streams provides you a better income base.

Such as combining campground hosting for several hours a week to reduce your living expenses while working on your next online business venture. Or taking several weeks to work for a wage at places like Amazon or a harvest to build up some funds, that allow you more creative time later to work on deploying a new product or service.

Having multiple income sources also means if one goes away, you don’t have all your eggs in one proverbial basket. You can more quickly rebound, and find ways to adjust to the new income levels.

Think creatively. Maybe you have a job that lets you work remotely part of the time, but really needs you onsite from time to time. How can you combine your reality with your dreams?

Can you compromise your travel desires by limiting them geographically so you can easily return back to your job’s location when needed?  Or how about planning to fly out to your shorter term work obligations instead of always planning to drive there in your RV?

Remote Employee

As the world has become more and more virtual, and the economy has forced more companies to scale back on the costs of maintaining real estate, more traditional workplaces are becoming keen on allowing their employees to transition to becoming remote teleworkers.

So why not take it a step further, and work from anywhere?

Some companies have even gone entirely virtual – with no fixed office at all.

Of course, not all positions are going to be able to be done remotely, and not all companies are keen on the idea. Particularly factoring the uncertainties that come with working while traveling. However if you have a job that you think you could do from anywhere, you might want to consider coming up with a proposal for your boss.

Don’t expect your employer to jump right on the opportunity, and expect that you may have to prove you can do it by perhaps starting with working from home on occasion. It is possible however, and really all depends on how open minded your workplace is, your history as a reliable employee and how critical your role is to your organization.

It likely won’t be an overnight transition, but if you like your current career and job but just want to do it from anywhere – think creatively on how you can make it happen.

If you are willing to negotiate a lower salary in return for fewer mandated office hours and more travel flexibility, you might be surprised as to what your company might agree to.

If you’re wanting to pursue this path, think hard about if you’re self motivated enough to get your work done while working not only from home, but a home that is constantly moving with lots of potential distractions at every stop.

Will you really be able to balance productive work hours, with driving days, exploring new locations and visiting friends & family?

If you’ll be traveling with other people – such as a spouse and kids, will you be able to create a workspace inside of an RV that gives you ample amenities, privacy and space to get your work done?

And if your job require you to remain accessible by phone, video conferences and/or internet, will you be able to maintain the level of connectivity you need while on the road?

And of course, there are lots of employment and contractor positions out there that require travel – such as sales, service, installation, inspection, security, demonstration and field research. These sorts of organizations usually already have awareness of RV & traveling workers, and probably have some support services that come along with the job to help you better navigate the logistics.

Entrepreneurship

On the other hand, not working for someone as an employee can be very freeing.

Do you have ideas for products or services you can provide on your own and/or with peers? Do you have the motivation, skillsets and self-discipline to create, market, manage and ride the ebbs and flows?

You might be cut out to be an entrepreneur.

Many folks who have hit the road were either already self-employed, or explored it as part of a life transition to location independence.

Living on the road has a lot of benefits that support exploring entrepreneurship, such as the variability of costs from month-to-month, and potentially flexible hours.

It also means being quite disciplined and resourceful to both find work and keep your clients happy, as well as figuring out all of the logistics of running  a company – paperwork, taxes, accounting, healthcare, insurance, etc. It can also take quite an investment in time, and maybe money, to get your business to a point of providing the income you want.

If you’ve never run your own business before, it may be daunting to approach learning the ropes while also adapting to a fully mobile lifestyle. Or it might be exhilarating, some folks thrive on a total life reset.

How much of a change you’re up for is going to vary quite a bit by person, skills, risk factors and tolerance.

Want some inspiration and ideas for entrepreneurial endeavors that took little upfront investment? We highly recommend the The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.

Secure your mobile income first, or later?

Is it better to have your mobile income source secured first, or figure it out once you’re on the road?

Honestly, that really comes down to how much of a nest egg you have to fund your uncertain months, and how adaptable you are in making things work out.

If you already have an income source that can be taken mobilely, the answer is easy – start doing the work to transition yourself to location independence… and get out there already!

If you have an income source that won’t be apt for mobility, do you have ideas to pursue that you can start implementing now to see if they work?

What can you be doing now to better position yourself, while you still have the income coming in?

Are there classes you can take to pick up new skills? Can you apprentice and or volunteer to gain new experience?

How can you think differently about your current career path to adapt it for life on the road?

We also have a lot of folks ask us what degree they should go get so they can better create a mobile income. Folks, there’s no ‘mobile income’ degree out there (maybe we should sell one? hmmm.. there’s an income idea!). What will work for you as a mobile income out on the road comes down to one thing – you. What are your skills, interests and passions.

Honestly, you should start with what you want to do for income – and then pursue degrees and certifications that might be necessary to achieve your goals. Not all, heck most, career paths don’t require a degree, especially if you are pursuing self-employment. And many people with degrees are on career paths divergent from their degree anyway.

Invest your time and money in gaining skillsets, and only in degrees & certification if they are required or expected for your chosen field. There are a lot of free college level classes you can take online from www.Coursera.com, Stanford, MIT and iTunes U, and probably affordable classes within your local community too.

One word of caution here – changing your life to mobile AND setting up a brand new income source are both two major life transitions. Each individually will take adjustments and have their growing pains.  If you choose to hit the road without a mobile income source flowing in, we highly advise that you have the funds or plans necessary to support yourself for up to a year or more as your figure it all out.

Life on the road can be mighty distracting – so many places to explore, people to meet and balancing work/travel is a difficult transition. Trying to find the mental bandwidth to forge a new career path along with the excitement of perpetual travel aren’t necessarily good companions in the beginning.

And the cost of travel in the first year can generally be more expensive as folks tend to take a faster pace resulting in more fuel costs and higher nightly rates at RV Parks and campgrounds. When you slow down your pace, the costs can go down. Way down. And you have more time to work on your income source.

If you can afford to do so, enjoy the first few months on the road as more of an extended vacation – and then buckle down on creating and sustaining the income source you need to sustain your newfound love of the road. If you can’t afford that time, then make sure you try to approach this new lifestyle realistically.

Recommended viewing: Our ‘Realities & Myths of Full Time RVing’ video chat & notes

Working less or working smarter?

After Timothy Ferris’ book The Four Hour Work Week came out, a bunch of folks got the notion that they could set up online businesses, outsource the bulk of the work, and only work 4 hours a week while earning a bunch of cash and playing the rest of the time.

Sure, it may be possible for some, and there’s good stuff in Tim’s book that can really help folks think differently about the role work plays in their life.

IMG_4007Just don’t get the idea that life as a nomad is always a full time vacation.  It takes a lot of work to set up and maintain a passive income stream – so much so that for most it’s really hard to call what they end up doing all that passive.

Most of the mobile working nomads we’ve encountered don’t have a life of complete leisure or a passive income stream.  True, we may not be always working a typical 40+-hour work week plus commute, but we are putting in productive hours with deliverables.  We just tend to do it smartly without all the wasted time that tends to come with an office life.

Many of us are working in careers that inspire us in some way, better the world and that we actually enjoy. And we’re doing it from amazing places with ever-changing amazing office views.  Instead of ending our workday (or night) and coming home to the same old routine, we have a new location waiting for us to explore!

We’ve encountered such a variety of ways people make it work – from working a fairly normal work day, to those that work in waves of intense 12-15 hour days for a few weeks then coast for months after that.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just make sure it’s YOUR way.

Balancing Mobility & Work

Working on the road may not be as glamorous as it sounds, and it’s certainly not a non-stop vacation. You will have to find your stride to make it work.

You’ll be pulling into amazing new locations and be tempted by a lot of social opportunities as you visit family and are making new friends. Your RV is going to have issues at inopportune times that you’ll have to attend to if you want to keep mobile.

It can be hard to find the time to sit down and get in your work hours with all the constant distractions. Especially in your first months to year on the road when it’s very difficult to differentiate a life of travel from an extended vacation.

We see a lot of nomads give up this lifestyle within the first year or two because this balance is so hard to find. They either exhaust themselves trying to do it all, or they run out of funding because they never struck that balance.

Here’s some tips we’ve found for helping with this:

  • Plan some of your travels away from distractions. Instead of constantly exploring pretty places and visiting nearby friends, sometimes it makes sense to set down somewhere that you don’t know anyone nearby so that you can focus.
  • Slow down your pace of travel, and stay places longer so you have time to both get in your work hours AND explore the location. Spread out your exploration time just like you do your extra-curricular activities now after your workday.
  • Trying to balance motion in with work hours is sometimes just not possible. Making miles takes time, as does setting up, breaking camp and figuring out where your next stop will be.  Sometime it makes better sense to just travel a couple hours a day, and sometimes it might make sense to put aside a day where you get a lot of miles in to make major headway towards your next destination.
  • Put attention towards your work space. If you need to be at a computer many hours a day, working from a laptop on a picnic table or on the beach may sound idyllic, but it’s just not practical or comfortable long term. And you may find you don’t do your best work from public locations with free WiFi like coffee shops or libraries. Options range from building in a comfortable desk space into your mobile home to arranging to rent in co-working spaces as you travel to urban locations, or borrowing space from friends as you travel.
  • Pad in fun time to explore! Some nomads prefer working in intense focused bursts to generate their income, and then take weeks or months with minimal work commitments.
  • And the most important tip of all: Try to switch your attitude of having to work while visiting an interesting new place to getting to work from all these amazing places! Think of it as always amazing office view changes.

 

Our Mobile Careers

Working for ourselves, and working remotely, is the primary route we’ve taken.

I’ve been location independent since 1994 when I started taking over my family’s software development company, running it from my beachside home in Florida. I used to tease my clients when they called that I could be working from anywhere – by the pool or the beach.  Then I started taking it further.

When I needed to travel for work, I’d tack on personal days to explore, taking advantage of the majority of the travel costs having already been covered. Then I started taking longer personal trips where I integrated in a remote work day, and used my off-time to explore.

I liked the balance of travel just being a regular part of my life and having the flexibility to just go with little need for pre-planning.

And I’ve never felt like I needed to escape my career – I already built something I loved.

When I met my lifemate Chris in 2006 (who was already living as a full time nomad), it all came together for me to totally remove myself from a fixed homebase and office, and I started the process of shifting my life to become fully mobile.

Before going nomadic, Chris had a career in the mobile technology industry – most recently having worked for Palm and PalmSource as their Director of Competitive Analysis (aka ‘Chief Spy’), traveling the world to keep tabs on the entire mobile tech industry. It was truly a job too good to give up until Palm & Palm Source imploded. He had already long ago decided that this would be his last job for a big company, and his lay off propelled him to finally jump into something he always wanted to do – become a technomad.

Today, Chris and I run Two Steps Beyond LLC (www.twostepsbeyond.com), where we combine our backgrounds to offer unique products and services. We have completely shut down the business that I ran with my family, and our current income sources have been completely built while on the road. 

We develop our own line of travel related mobile apps and written some books. We’ve also taken on several short term gigs that have included: advising tech start-ups and companies, orchestrating new product launches, doing intensive market research, product development & project management, providing market insight to investors, selling our photography and travel videography and writing for tech journals.

We’ve also been known to take on temporary gigs outside our norm just to explore new things, such as workamping for a month at Amazon.com packing boxes during their peak holiday season and volunteering as interpretive hosts at a lighthouse.

We like to shake it up, explore new avenues of income, and most of all – have fun!

Further resources on this topic:

Our link list of other working on the road RVers

Our ‘Ramblings: Tales from Nomads’ video interview series

Our ‘Realities & Myths of Full Time RVing’ video chat & notes

Our recent video chat with Gone with the Wynn’s on this topic:

Read Chapter 2: Affording Full Time Travel —->

 

No Excuses: Go Nomadic

This article is part of our ‘No Excuses: Go Nomadic’ series – addressing the common logistical obstacles of hitting the road full time. In the series, you’ll find our answers to things like mobile income sources, pets, family, community, mail/domicile, handling money and much more.

Read the whole series:  No Excuses: Go Nomadic

eBook version - This blog series is also available as a convenient eBook. We offer this expanded compilation with bonus material on a ‘pay as you wish’ basis. We don’t aim to make a living off our blog, but contributions to keep the blog going is appreciated (kinda like taking us out for a thank-you beer or dinner).

Cost: Pay As You Wish (really… just set the price!)

(PDF Format)   Add to Cart

 

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Fort Sleepy – Decompressing in Central Michigan http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/fort-sleepy/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/fort-sleepy/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 17:00:31 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15172 After a hectic few weeks in Elkhart and attending the Fleetwood GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, IN – we were in serious need of some alone time. Researching and writing a book really requires finding a unique balance of undisrupted solitude, but quick distractions nearby for breaks. Our next major destination would be East Tawas, Michigan – but before arriving to visit with friends, we knew we needed to get in several days of writing and research. So we looked on a map, found the closest state park on our route and ended up pulling into Fort Custer State Park (our review) in Augusta, Michigan – between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Just under 2 hours away, it seemed like a great escape! When we pulled in, the campground host asked what sort of site we were looking for.  We both exclaimed ‘Secluded!’. She nodded and grinned as she assigned us to site 77. And wow. What a treat! Our site was completely lined with shrubs and trees, providing a private little yard with nothing else in visible site.  Our favorite kind – a place we can sleep with the windows open and not worry about walking around naked inside our home. With our Michigan state annual park pass purchased ($31 for non residents, per vehicle) and 3-nights paid for at the campground at a very reasonable $21/night with electric included – we settled in. We put up the ‘Quiet Time’ sign and got to work. We should know by now however – that if we really and truly want alone time, we shouldn’t post about our location or update on RVillage. Almost immediately, we got invites from folks to drop by for a visit to meet up. And we just can’t say no – we are social RVers after all, and we LOVE meeting up with our readers. It’s hard to resist. Sandy & Randy contacted us via RVillage – they’re currently also staying in the area and asked if they could drop by for a quick visit. It was marvelous to meet up with them, and it’s not just because they came bearing a lovely ‘Welcome to Michigan’ basket full of wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits.   These two enjoy seeking out treasures at thrift shops, auctions and garage sales – and then selling them on eBay. They’ve made an art form out of it that provides them a nice supplemental income. Almost immediately after they left, Chris went to take a quick cat nap and I eyed a truck slowly passing by us and then parking across the way.. and start walking over. He saw our ‘Quiet Time’ sign up and started to turn away – but we caught him just in time to say ‘hi!’ Turns out, it’s our fellow GM bus nut friend Gordie Allen, who happens to live in the area and he caught word we were in town.  Word sure does travel fast! We last saw him at the ‘Back to Bricks’ bus meet-up in Clio last time we were in Michigan two summers ago. Not only does he live in the area, he’s a volunteer trail master for the park and forges and maintains the mountain bike trails that we had been enjoying hiking on! So, we got some bonus bus-geek time showing off the recent electrical bay modifications we made, and the engine rebuild. So much for a cat nap.. and so much for alone time! There are days we wish we could disguise Zephyr to look like a Fleetwood. But really, if the worst thing we can find to complain about is all the amazing people we get to meet – life is pretty darn good. Despite the social distractions, we did get a lot of work done on The Mobile Internet Handbook project – and the book re-write is solidly underway. While we could have extended for a couple more nights at Fort Custer and continue enjoying our lovely campsite – we decided to head on up the road to Sleepy Hollow State Park (our review) – we just love checking out state parks in our travels. Having already checked Michigan’s online reservation system, we knew there would be several spots available – so we again didn’t make reservations. We pulled in, and the attendant warned us a severe thunderstorm alert had just been issued and then asked if we wanted to drive around the campground to pick out a site. We opted for trusting her judgement on selecting us a nice site. And so glad we did, because just as soon as we backed into our site – the skies opened up. By the time I got back in the bus after directing Chris in, I was completely soaked. And then it hailed. Once the storms passed, we got a peak at our site, and it was quite lovely. All of the sites in the park were, actually – lots of seclusion built in. Just the reason we tend to favor state parks! We didn’t get too much hiking in at this park as all of the trails remained swampy. The biggest benefit of this park however was how lacking in cell phone signal it was, which is not a feature we generally seek out. But it was perfect for testing out our Wilson Mobile 4G we had just gotten in from PowerfulSignal.com. We collected a bunch of data comparing it to the Wilson Sleek, and it did provide a substantial boost that gave us very usable signals for general surfing. We’ll have a more comprehensive report out after we’ve been able to test it out in a greater variety of locations. But alas, we had a phone video conference call scheduled with a new client we’re ramping up for after the book is done – so headed into the nearby town of DeWitt to catch some solid LTE.   We had asked on Facebook before hitting Michigan for recommendations of pleasant places to stay on our way up to Tawas – most everyone directed us up the western shoreline, claiming that central Michigan is lacking in beautiful places. The western shoreline is very pretty – no doubt. But we completely disagree – central Michigan also has some beautiful spots too, and between Fort Custer and Sleepy Hollow, we definitely got our nature itch scratched. Oh wait, that’s probably from all the mosquito bites! What’s Next? We’re currently in East Tawas, Michigan along the shores of Lake Huron visiting our friends Krash & Karen. We’ll spend the next couple of weeks working our way northward up the index finger of Michigan. We’ll be super focusing on the book re-write – aiming to get a manuscript off to our editor by mid-July when we reach the bridge to the UP. We’ll spend a little bit of time finding some new to us areas to explore (we’ve already done one pass through before and visited the popular attractions of Sault Ste. Marie, Tahquenomon Falls and Pictured Rocks) – and then get our butts westward with a stop in Billings for a 1-year inspection on our engine rebuild before the warranty runs out in August. We have lighthouse duty starting on Sept 1 in Oregon, and the summer is seeming awfully short now! We’d really like to spend more time exploring the Pacific Northwest before settling in at Cape Blanco for the fall.]]>

After a hectic few weeks in Elkhart and attending the Fleetwood GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, IN – we were in serious need of some alone time. Researching and writing a book really requires finding a unique balance of undisrupted solitude, but quick distractions nearby for breaks.

Our next major destination would be East Tawas, Michigan – but before arriving to visit with friends, we knew we needed to get in several days of writing and research. So we looked on a map, found the closest state park on our route and ended up pulling into Fort Custer State Park (our review) in Augusta, Michigan – between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

Just under 2 hours away, it seemed like a great escape!

When we pulled in, the campground host asked what sort of site we were looking for.  We both exclaimed ‘Secluded!’.

She nodded and grinned as she assigned us to site 77.

Our big private yard!

Our big private yard!

And wow. What a treat! Our site was completely lined with shrubs and trees, providing a private little yard with nothing else in visible site.  Our favorite kind – a place we can sleep with the windows open and not worry about walking around naked inside our home.

All set for a writing retreat!

All set for a writing retreat!

With our Michigan state annual park pass purchased ($31 for non residents, per vehicle) and 3-nights paid for at the campground at a very reasonable $21/night with electric included – we settled in.

We put up the ‘Quiet Time’ sign and got to work.

We should know by now however – that if we really and truly want alone time, we shouldn’t post about our location or update on RVillage.

Almost immediately, we got invites from folks to drop by for a visit to meet up. And we just can’t say no – we are social RVers after all, and we LOVE meeting up with our readers. It’s hard to resist.

Meeting fellow RVillager's, Sandy & Randy.

Meeting fellow RVillager’s, Sandy & Randy.

Sandy & Randy contacted us via RVillage – they’re currently also staying in the area and asked if they could drop by for a quick visit.

It was marvelous to meet up with them, and it’s not just because they came bearing a lovely ‘Welcome to Michigan’ basket full of wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits.

Now that's our kind of bouquet! Thanks Sandy & Randy!

Now that’s our kind of bouquet! Thanks Sandy & Randy!

 

These two enjoy seeking out treasures at thrift shops, auctions and garage sales – and then selling them on eBay. They’ve made an art form out of it that provides them a nice supplemental income.

Almost immediately after they left, Chris went to take a quick cat nap and I eyed a truck slowly passing by us and then parking across the way.. and start walking over. He saw our ‘Quiet Time’ sign up and started to turn away – but we caught him just in time to say ‘hi!’

From one of our hikes at Fort Custer SP.

From one of our hikes at Fort Custer SP.

Turns out, it’s our fellow GM bus nut friend Gordie Allen, who happens to live in the area and he caught word we were in town.  Word sure does travel fast!

We last saw him at the ‘Back to Bricks’ bus meet-up in Clio last time we were in Michigan two summers ago.

Not only does he live in the area, he’s a volunteer trail master for the park and forges and maintains the mountain bike trails that we had been enjoying hiking on!

Geeking out with Gordie.

Geeking out with Gordie.

So, we got some bonus bus-geek time showing off the recent electrical bay modifications we made, and the engine rebuild.

So much for a cat nap.. and so much for alone time!

There are days we wish we could disguise Zephyr to look like a Fleetwood. But really, if the worst thing we can find to complain about is all the amazing people we get to meet – life is pretty darn good.

Despite the social distractions, we did get a lot of work done on The Mobile Internet Handbook project – and the book re-write is solidly underway.

While we could have extended for a couple more nights at Fort Custer and continue enjoying our lovely campsite – we decided to head on up the road to Sleepy Hollow State Park (our review) – we just love checking out state parks in our travels.

Our lovely site at Sleepy Hollow SP

Our lovely site at Sleepy Hollow SP

Having already checked Michigan’s online reservation system, we knew there would be several spots available – so we again didn’t make reservations. We pulled in, and the attendant warned us a severe thunderstorm alert had just been issued and then asked if we wanted to drive around the campground to pick out a site.

We opted for trusting her judgement on selecting us a nice site. And so glad we did, because just as soon as we backed into our site – the skies opened up. By the time I got back in the bus after directing Chris in, I was completely soaked. And then it hailed.

The lake nearby the campground.

The lake nearby the campground.

Once the storms passed, we got a peak at our site, and it was quite lovely. All of the sites in the park were, actually – lots of seclusion built in. Just the reason we tend to favor state parks!

We didn’t get too much hiking in at this park as all of the trails remained swampy.

The biggest benefit of this park however was how lacking in cell phone signal it was, which is not a feature we generally seek out. But it was perfect for testing out our Wilson Mobile 4G we had just gotten in from PowerfulSignal.com.

We collected a bunch of data comparing it to the Wilson Sleek, and it did provide a substantial boost that gave us very usable signals for general surfing. We’ll have a more comprehensive report out after we’ve been able to test it out in a greater variety of locations.

Commuting for bandwidth.

Commuting for bandwidth.

But alas, we had a phone video conference call scheduled with a new client we’re ramping up for after the book is done – so headed into the nearby town of DeWitt to catch some solid LTE.

 

We had asked on Facebook before hitting Michigan for recommendations of pleasant places to stay on our way up to Tawas – most everyone directed us up the western shoreline, claiming that central Michigan is lacking in beautiful places.

The western shoreline is very pretty – no doubt. But we completely disagree – central Michigan also has some beautiful spots too, and between Fort Custer and Sleepy Hollow, we definitely got our nature itch scratched.

Oh wait, that’s probably from all the mosquito bites!

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 6.07.16 PM

Our general July route might look something like this.. variations by serendipity always possible.

What’s Next? We’re currently in East Tawas, Michigan along the shores of Lake Huron visiting our friends Krash & Karen. We’ll spend the next couple of weeks working our way northward up the index finger of Michigan. We’ll be super focusing on the book re-write – aiming to get a manuscript off to our editor by mid-July when we reach the bridge to the UP.

We’ll spend a little bit of time finding some new to us areas to explore (we’ve already done one pass through before and visited the popular attractions of Sault Ste. Marie, Tahquenomon Falls and Pictured Rocks) – and then get our butts westward with a stop in Billings for a 1-year inspection on our engine rebuild before the warranty runs out in August.

We have lighthouse duty starting on Sept 1 in Oregon, and the summer is seeming awfully short now! We’d really like to spend more time exploring the Pacific Northwest before settling in at Cape Blanco for the fall.

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Quick RVing Tip: Toad Light Check http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/quick-rving-tip-toad-light-check/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/quick-rving-tip-toad-light-check/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 08:42:06 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15117 A few weeks ago, our friend Chris Guld let me know that the first time they met us a year ago she was inspired by watching us check our toad’s lights. Usually we like inspiring folks for less mundane things, but we’ll go with it. She liked our system so much, that she and Jim now use our hand signals as part of their own pre-trip check. Chris and I kinda stumbled upon a set of clear & intuitive hand signals on our own that work really well. We figure if a 10-year full timing veteran picked up something new from us - perhaps other might as well? So, we captured our light check on camera the other day to share with you.. here it is in a very quick video: (Direct Video Link) This little video was a lot of fun and pretty easy to create. Let us know if there are other quick tips like this we can share with you, and we’ll start recording them as we have time. We’re humbled that RV Travel featured our little video today as the video tip of the day! General Update: We’re super busy and heads down researching, testing equipment and re-writing The Mobile Internet Handbook. We’ll do our best to keep the blog up to date as we go!  ]]>

A few weeks ago, our friend Chris Guld let me know that the first time they met us a year ago she was inspired by watching us check our toad’s lights. Usually we like inspiring folks for less mundane things, but we’ll go with it.

She liked our system so much, that she and Jim now use our hand signals as part of their own pre-trip check.

Chris and I kinda stumbled upon a set of clear & intuitive hand signals on our own that work really well. We figure if a 10-year full timing veteran picked up something new from us - perhaps other might as well?

So, we captured our light check on camera the other day to share with you.. here it is in a very quick video:

(Direct Video Link)

This little video was a lot of fun and pretty easy to create. Let us know if there are other quick tips like this we can share with you, and we’ll start recording them as we have time.

We’re humbled that RV Travel featured our little video today as the video tip of the day!

General Update: We’re super busy and heads down researching, testing equipment and re-writing The Mobile Internet Handbook. We’ll do our best to keep the blog up to date as we go!

 

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Three Years in a Vintage Bus http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/three-years-in-a-vintage-bus/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/three-years-in-a-vintage-bus/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 06:21:29 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15051 Has it really been three years already?!? It seems like just yesterday we were roaming around the country on a month long Amtrak pass searching for a vintage bus to become our next home on wheels. After 4 years of traveling in smaller travel trailers and having just spent a winter living in the US Virgin Islands, we knew that we were not ready give up life on the road. We were however ready for more mobile space. Just not too much space. We fantasized about finding a motorhome in the 25′ – 32′ range, and we really had no interest in either slides or class-C style rigs. We just wanted a solidly built comfortable home optimized for two working-on-the-road geeks. Unfortunately, new or used, none of the commercially manufactured rigs we had ever seen really appealed to us at all. Usable “work” space was unheard of, and typical construction standards in our target price range seemed more suited to three-weekends-a-year usage, not full time living. The desire for a more solidly built home inevitably led us to bus conversions, and our desire to stay as small as feasible is actually what first led us to vintage buses. We had to go way back to the 60′s when 35′ buses were common to find buses we liked, and at first even 35′ felt too big. Modern buses are more typically 40′ or 45′ — way too large for us! Along the way – we fell in love with the styling and uniqueness of vintage buses, and we began to love the idea of keeping an old classic alive and on the road. We figured if we could find a livable vintage bus conversion, we could then invest our money into modifying it – building our own ideal high tech home on wheels, our way. Three years ago today, after a lot of (literal!) blood, sweat, and tears learning to prime a 2-stroke diesel engine to even take a short test drive – we handed over $8000 in cash in parking lot in exchange for the title to a 1961 GM 4106 and a bill of sale scribbled on scrap paper. We looked at each other, not sure if we should celebrate or freak out… we now owned a bus older than we are! It was a mystery bus without much known mechanical history, and we were relative bus novices too with so much to come up to speed on. We were brave and crazy, and we loved it. In the 115+ degree desert heat of Yuma, AZ we drove our new acquisition on its rotted tires to the nearest RV Park to start the adventure of figuring just what we had gotten ourselves into. And an adventure indeed it has been. The bus that would eventually come to be known as ‘Zephyr’ immediately needed a lot of work to be road worthy – new tires & wheels, all fluids changed out, and all rubber replaced. We considered it all part of the acquisition cost of our bus, and not knowing much about diesel engines or the history of this one, we also immediately banked around $20k for the likelihood of major future engine work. After having spent just $8,000 to buy her – we still felt like we were getting a good deal. Costs of  Zephyr We get asked all of the time how much it costs to acquire, maintain, and remodel a bus conversion. And while that’s a personal question unique to our own style and approach - we’ve been happy to share along the way. Here’s all of the costs we’ve incurred on bringing Zephyr up to date, ongoing maintenance, and our remodeling projects to make her our own: (For those reading in RSS or e-mail delivery, you may need to click through to the full post to see the embedded spread sheet.) All and all, we’re pleased as punch with what we’ve spent, and we feel we’re under budget from what we projected our costs would be when we approached this project three years ago. Yes – we know that we could have done it a LOT cheaper, and we could have also spent way more as well. But we did it our way (queue Frank Sinatra!) – striking our own balance of do-it-yourself and professional work, with costs spread out over a few years. Of course, we also still have some major projects left to complete – solar panels (coming soon!), upgrading the lithium ion battery bank, and eventually adding a diesel hydronic heating system (but honestly, we’ve been rocking it with an electric space heater and running the water heater off electric). Some other cost metrics for the past 3 years: 22,615 miles traveled (average of 7538/year) $13,136 spent on fuel (average of $4378/year) 3100 gallons of diesel (average of 1033/year) Average fuel economy: 7.29 mpg Prior to the bus, we traveled with a truck/Jeep and trailer combination, and did get much better fuel economy (often 12-18 mpg). But we also used to travel 10-13k miles a year in those setups. With the change to the bus, we intended to slow down the pace to 8-9k miles per  year – and we’ve exceeded that with averaging out at around 7500. We put about the same mileage per year on our MINI Cooper, which gets 33+ mpg. Zephyr plus the Mini has proven to be a great setup for us. Reflections on 3-Years It’s been an amazing 3 years living and traveling in Zephyr. We’ve been able to balance working on bus projects in stages while incorporating in a life full of exploration, work projects and quality time with amazing people. Some of the unexpected attributes of the past 3 years in a vintage bus: Each bus project represents a different story in place and time – a unique memory and personal touch from whoever serendipity brought into our lives to help us out with it. We look around at what we’ve created, and it’s really a bus that has been built by a network of friends made across the country. How admired Zephyr has been – whether driving down the road and gaining smiles & waves from passerby’s, or ogling in campgrounds or parking lots. We don’t seem to be able to make a stop without someone pointing at us, or approaching us. While we intentionally choose a unique looking substrate and usually enjoy it, there are honestly times we wish we could mask the bus to look like a more generic RV just to blend in a bit more. Maybe some Bounder camouflage? How accepted Zephyr is. So many folks warned us that driving an RV over 10 years old would get us kicked out of RV Parks. So far, it hasn’t happened once. The few RV Parks we’ve needed to stay at with the dreaded ‘over 10 year rule’ we call or e-mail ahead and send the park manager to our Zephyr page for a tour. We have always passed muster as being a restored and well maintained classic, not the feared ‘old’ RVs that might break down in their park and cause problems. That said, generally speaking, we favor places without such rules anyway. How much more comfortable it is to stay in commercial RV Parks than it ever was in our previous small trailers. With abundant & comfortable interior space, it’s easier to forget that we have another RV parked just feet away from us. Not that we necessarily enjoy the experience, but it has vastly opened up our options to be where we need to be without going stir crazy. How accessible parts have been. Owning a vintage bus can present challenges in finding parts when you need repairs or upgrades. Thus far, nearly every part we’ve needed replaced has been a fairly standard part obtainable with only a bit of searching. We can even generally find what we need in truck supply shops – thank you GM for using standard stuff! Yes, things will get scarcer as time goes on, but it has been easier than we feared. And the online community of fellow bus nuts is awesome when it comes to helping track things down! Would we Do it Again? This is now the longest we’ve lived in the same mobile vessel, and it’s hard to believe it’s already been 3 years. We really have no temptation to switch to anything else right now. We’re incredibly comfortable in this home on wheels we’ve built. Sure, there are times we visit fellow RVing friends who have several slides, and we get envy at being able to host a group for an evening. But we then hear many of the same friends having substantial trouble with their slides, reminding ourselves why we specifically didn’t want slides in the first place. We really are truly blessed to have found Zephyr on that hot summer day in Yuma – with such a well thought out the floor plan. So many have commented at how spacious and open she feels, despite being a 96″ narrow body 35′ coach. And the intelligently designed storage space we have is incredibly ample and efficient. After now having attended several RV rallies and toured the coaches of many fellow RVers – we’ve yet to see a coach that even rivals what we have. Without getting into $250k+ (new price) coaches, we’ve not found anything that feels as close to the quality of our conversion or the amazing floor plan that works so well for us. For the $75k we’ve put into Zephyr so far, we feel we have gotten one heck of a home on wheels that enjoys regularly changing awesome views. So heck yes.. we’d do it again! Should You Get a Vintage Bus? We get asked this question all the time too, and have had folks write us letting us know they too purchased a bus after being inspired by us. Owning a bus is an odyssey all its own, and a labor of love. It is definitely not for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind about a vintage bus: They were built for commercial service and are heavy duty machines meant to be maintained by a revenue generating business. Yes, you may be able to buy them fairly cheap – but there will be extensive costs & effort required to keep one on the road. We’ve been averaging about $2600/year in general maintenance – outside of major engine repairs or factoring in replacing tires every 6-7 years. This seems to be a bit more than what our friends with regular diesel pusher motorhomes pay, but we’ve not conducted an exhaustive survey on that. And an engine rebuild can easily set you back at least $8k if you luck into breaking down where you can do the work yourself – or upwards of $20k to have it done in a certified shop by a professional with a warranty. Skilled mechanics for older engines like our Detroit Diesel 8V71 2-stroke are aging out of the profession. These engines were still installed and used up until the mid-1980s, but are now becoming rare. If you take on a vintage engine, make sure you are soaking up resources, connections and skillsets as you go – you will need them! Make a point to get to know & participate in the bus conversion community, they can be your greatest asset for information when you need it. You’ll hear this phrase over and over in regards to a diesel engine – ‘It’ll run and run and run, as long as you keep up with your preventative maintenance.’ Yeah well, true..  Until they don’t.  There’s no guarantees that come with these things, and no extended warranty company is going to cover a coach this old. You’re on your own for all repairs, and there’s a lot that can go wrong – have a plan. Will a major break down take you off the road, or do you have the resources to deal with it? Are you willing to take the chance without having the cash tucked away to deal with major repair bills? Can you handle a disruption in your travels while you deal with an unexpected derailment? At the very least, make sure you have towing insurance – we use Coach-Net. No matter how much cash you throw at a vintage bus conversion, the return on that ‘investment’ is very low. A vintage bus, with rare exceptions, will still be a vintage bus at the end of the day. And it can take years to find a buyer for one if you ever do want to sell. Yes. Years. Any house that is undergoing constant earthquake conditions is going to have problems that need to be corrected regularly – that’s just the nature of the beast with any RV. And each manufacturer and model will have its own challenges in getting service and parts. With all the of the problems we’ve had with our bus – from two minor air system problems to a major engine rebuild, we can point to dozens of other major RV setbacks our friends have undergone too. Some actually even more extreme, more expensive and longer to take care of. A rebuild on a more modern diesel engine? It can also set you back $10-15k, but will probably present you with more accessible resources. And heck, a regular sticks-n-bricks house can need major repairs and remodeling too. We look at our engine rebuild to be on par with a new roof on a house and some remodeling projects. Thank you Zephyr, you’ve been an amazing partner on the road – cheers to many many more years together! The Story of our Bus: Why we sold our Oliver  Why a Vintage Bus? Our Search for a Vintage Bus Buying our Bus To Tow or Not To Tow (a vehicle behind) Remodeling & Projects: Interior Remodeling: Round 1 Interior Remodeling: Round 2 – Dual Desk Our Lithium Iron Battery (LFP) Research, Cost Analysis and Installation 7 Months in a Bus (Review of bus life, plus maintenance & remodeling costs so far) Our Propane Free Goal Kitchen & Bathroom Remodel Project Dominoes – Simple Refrigerator Replacement sparks 33 other projects Our Mobile Internet Gadgetry Setup All of the Engine Rebuild Articles Shopping & Installing RV Seats in Elkhart, IN The Master Tech Marathon (major electrical re-wiring project) Take a Video Tour of our Bus (only slightly out of date):]]>

Has it really been three years already?!?

Our first look at Zephyr!

Our first look at Zephyr!

It seems like just yesterday we were roaming around the country on a month long Amtrak pass searching for a vintage bus to become our next home on wheels.

After 4 years of traveling in smaller travel trailers and having just spent a winter living in the US Virgin Islands, we knew that we were not ready give up life on the road. We were however ready for more mobile space.

Just not too much space.

We fantasized about finding a motorhome in the 25′ – 32′ range, and we really had no interest in either slides or class-C style rigs. We just wanted a solidly built comfortable home optimized for two working-on-the-road geeks.

Unfortunately, new or used, none of the commercially manufactured rigs we had ever seen really appealed to us at all. Usable “work” space was unheard of, and typical construction standards in our target price range seemed more suited to three-weekends-a-year usage, not full time living.

The desire for a more solidly built home inevitably led us to bus conversions, and our desire to stay as small as feasible is actually what first led us to vintage buses. We had to go way back to the 60′s when 35′ buses were common to find buses we liked, and at first even 35′ felt too big. Modern buses are more typically 40′ or 45′ — way too large for us!

Priming the engine to take our test drive.

Priming the engine to take our test drive.

Along the way – we fell in love with the styling and uniqueness of vintage buses, and we began to love the idea of keeping an old classic alive and on the road.

We figured if we could find a livable vintage bus conversion, we could then invest our money into modifying it – building our own ideal high tech home on wheels, our way.

Three years ago today, after a lot of (literal!) blood, sweat, and tears learning to prime a 2-stroke diesel engine to even take a short test drive – we handed over $8000 in cash in parking lot in exchange for the title to a 1961 GM 4106 and a bill of sale scribbled on scrap paper.

We looked at each other, not sure if we should celebrate or freak out… we now owned a bus older than we are!

It was a mystery bus without much known mechanical history, and we were relative bus novices too with so much to come up to speed on. We were brave and crazy, and we loved it.

What have we gotten into??

What have we gotten into??

In the 115+ degree desert heat of Yuma, AZ we drove our new acquisition on its rotted tires to the nearest RV Park to start the adventure of figuring just what we had gotten ourselves into. And an adventure indeed it has been.

The bus that would eventually come to be known as ‘Zephyr’ immediately needed a lot of work to be road worthy – new tires & wheels, all fluids changed out, and all rubber replaced. We considered it all part of the acquisition cost of our bus, and not knowing much about diesel engines or the history of this one, we also immediately banked around $20k for the likelihood of major future engine work.

After having spent just $8,000 to buy her – we still felt like we were getting a good deal.

Costs of  Zephyr

We get asked all of the time how much it costs to acquire, maintain, and remodel a bus conversion. And while that’s a personal question unique to our own style and approach - we’ve been happy to share along the way.

Here’s all of the costs we’ve incurred on bringing Zephyr up to date, ongoing maintenance, and our remodeling projects to make her our own:

(For those reading in RSS or e-mail delivery, you may need to click through to the full post to see the embedded spread sheet.)

Interior Before & After

Interior Before & After

New floors going in!

New floors going in!

All and all, we’re pleased as punch with what we’ve spent, and we feel we’re under budget from what we projected our costs would be when we approached this project three years ago. Yes – we know that we could have done it a LOT cheaper, and we could have also spent way more as well.

But we did it our way (queue Frank Sinatra!) – striking our own balance of do-it-yourself and professional work, with costs spread out over a few years.

Of course, we also still have some major projects left to complete – solar panels (coming soon!), upgrading the lithium ion battery bank, and eventually adding a diesel hydronic heating system (but honestly, we’ve been rocking it with an electric space heater and running the water heater off electric).

Some other cost metrics for the past 3 years:

  • 22,615 miles traveled (average of 7538/year)
  • $13,136 spent on fuel (average of $4378/year)
  • 3100 gallons of diesel (average of 1033/year)
  • Average fuel economy: 7.29 mpg

Prior to the bus, we traveled with a truck/Jeep and trailer combination, and did get much better fuel economy (often 12-18 mpg).

But we also used to travel 10-13k miles a year in those setups. With the change to the bus, we intended to slow down the pace to 8-9k miles per  year – and we’ve exceeded that with averaging out at around 7500. We put about the same mileage per year on our MINI Cooper, which gets 33+ mpg. Zephyr plus the Mini has proven to be a great setup for us.

Reflections on 3-Years

It’s been an amazing 3 years living and traveling in Zephyr. We’ve been able to balance working on bus projects in stages while incorporating in a life full of exploration, work projects and quality time with amazing people.

Some of the unexpected attributes of the past 3 years in a vintage bus:

  • Each bus project represents a different story in place and time – a unique memory and personal touch from whoever serendipity brought into our lives to help us out with it. We look around at what we’ve created, and it’s really a bus that has been built by a network of friends made across the country.
IMG_1133 IMG_2141 IMG_5041 IMG_0608 IMG_2160 IMG_4231 IMG_2031 IMG_1788 IMG_7555
  • How admired Zephyr has been – whether driving down the road and gaining smiles & waves from passerby’s, or ogling in campgrounds or parking lots. We don’t seem to be able to make a stop without someone pointing at us, or approaching us. While we intentionally choose a unique looking substrate and usually enjoy it, there are honestly times we wish we could mask the bus to look like a more generic RV just to blend in a bit more. Maybe some Bounder camouflage?
  • How accepted Zephyr is. So many folks warned us that driving an RV over 10 years old would get us kicked out of RV Parks. So far, it hasn’t happened once. The few RV Parks we’ve needed to stay at with the dreaded ‘over 10 year rule’ we call or e-mail ahead and send the park manager to our Zephyr page for a tour. We have always passed muster as being a restored and well maintained classic, not the feared ‘old’ RVs that might break down in their park and cause problems. That said, generally speaking, we favor places without such rules anyway.
  • How much more comfortable it is to stay in commercial RV Parks than it ever was in our previous small trailers. With abundant & comfortable interior space, it’s easier to forget that we have another RV parked just feet away from us. Not that we necessarily enjoy the experience, but it has vastly opened up our options to be where we need to be without going stir crazy.
  • How accessible parts have been. Owning a vintage bus can present challenges in finding parts when you need repairs or upgrades. Thus far, nearly every part we’ve needed replaced has been a fairly standard part obtainable with only a bit of searching. We can even generally find what we need in truck supply shops – thank you GM for using standard stuff! Yes, things will get scarcer as time goes on, but it has been easier than we feared. And the online community of fellow bus nuts is awesome when it comes to helping track things down!

Would we Do it Again?

This is now the longest we’ve lived in the same mobile vessel, and it’s hard to believe it’s already been 3 years. We really have no temptation to switch to anything else right now. We’re incredibly comfortable in this home on wheels we’ve built.

We love our castle on wheels!

We love our castle on wheels!

Sure, there are times we visit fellow RVing friends who have several slides, and we get envy at being able to host a group for an evening. But we then hear many of the same friends having substantial trouble with their slides, reminding ourselves why we specifically didn’t want slides in the first place.

We really are truly blessed to have found Zephyr on that hot summer day in Yuma – with such a well thought out the floor plan. So many have commented at how spacious and open she feels, despite being a 96″ narrow body 35′ coach. And the intelligently designed storage space we have is incredibly ample and efficient.

After now having attended several RV rallies and toured the coaches of many fellow RVers – we’ve yet to see a coach that even rivals what we have. Without getting into $250k+ (new price) coaches, we’ve not found anything that feels as close to the quality of our conversion or the amazing floor plan that works so well for us.

For the $75k we’ve put into Zephyr so far, we feel we have gotten one heck of a home on wheels that enjoys regularly changing awesome views.

So heck yes.. we’d do it again!

Should You Get a Vintage Bus?

We get asked this question all the time too, and have had folks write us letting us know they too purchased a bus after being inspired by us.

Owning a bus is an odyssey all its own, and a labor of love. It is definitely not for everyone.

Here are some things to keep in mind about a vintage bus:

  • Constant maintenance.

    Constant maintenance.

    They were built for commercial service and are heavy duty machines meant to be maintained by a revenue generating business. Yes, you may be able to buy them fairly cheap – but there will be extensive costs & effort required to keep one on the road. We’ve been averaging about $2600/year in general maintenance – outside of major engine repairs or factoring in replacing tires every 6-7 years. This seems to be a bit more than what our friends with regular diesel pusher motorhomes pay, but we’ve not conducted an exhaustive survey on that. And an engine rebuild can easily set you back at least $8k if you luck into breaking down where you can do the work yourself – or upwards of $20k to have it done in a certified shop by a professional with a warranty.

  • Skilled mechanics for older engines like our Detroit Diesel 8V71 2-stroke are aging out of the profession. These engines were still installed and used up until the mid-1980s, but are now becoming rare. If you take on a vintage engine, make sure you are soaking up resources, connections and skillsets as you go – you will need them! Make a point to get to know & participate in the bus conversion community, they can be your greatest asset for information when you need it.
  • Do you have the resources  (skills, patience and funds) to deal with this?

    Do you have the resources (skills, patience and funds) to deal with this?

    You’ll hear this phrase over and over in regards to a diesel engine – ‘It’ll run and run and run, as long as you keep up with your preventative maintenance.’ Yeah well, true..  Until they don’t.  There’s no guarantees that come with these things, and no extended warranty company is going to cover a coach this old. You’re on your own for all repairs, and there’s a lot that can go wrong – have a plan. Will a major break down take you off the road, or do you have the resources to deal with it? Are you willing to take the chance without having the cash tucked away to deal with major repair bills? Can you handle a disruption in your travels while you deal with an unexpected derailment? At the very least, make sure you have towing insurance – we use Coach-Net.

  • No matter how much cash you throw at a vintage bus conversion, the return on that ‘investment’ is very low. A vintage bus, with rare exceptions, will still be a vintage bus at the end of the day. And it can take years to find a buyer for one if you ever do want to sell. Yes. Years.

Any house that is undergoing constant earthquake conditions is going to have problems that need to be corrected regularly – that’s just the nature of the beast with any RV. And each manufacturer and model will have its own challenges in getting service and parts.

With all the of the problems we’ve had with our bus – from two minor air system problems to a major engine rebuild, we can point to dozens of other major RV setbacks our friends have undergone too. Some actually even more extreme, more expensive and longer to take care of. A rebuild on a more modern diesel engine? It can also set you back $10-15k, but will probably present you with more accessible resources.

And heck, a regular sticks-n-bricks house can need major repairs and remodeling too. We look at our engine rebuild to be on par with a new roof on a house and some remodeling projects.

Lightpainting by Ben & Karen Willmore.

Lightpainting by Ben & Karen Willmore.

Thank you Zephyr, you’ve been an amazing partner on the road – cheers to many many more years together!

The Story of our Bus:

Why we sold our Oliver 
Why a Vintage Bus?
Our Search for a Vintage Bus
Buying our Bus
To Tow or Not To Tow (a vehicle behind)

Remodeling & Projects:

Interior Remodeling: Round 1
Interior Remodeling: Round 2 – Dual Desk
Our Lithium Iron Battery (LFP) Research, Cost Analysis and Installation
7 Months in a Bus (Review of bus life, plus maintenance & remodeling costs so far)
Our Propane Free Goal
Kitchen & Bathroom Remodel
Project Dominoes – Simple Refrigerator Replacement sparks 33 other projects
Our Mobile Internet Gadgetry Setup
All of the Engine Rebuild Articles
Shopping & Installing RV Seats in Elkhart, IN
The Master Tech Marathon (major electrical re-wiring project)

Take a Video Tour of our Bus (only slightly out of date):

]]>
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The Fleetwood & GLAMARAMA Rally http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/the-fleetwood-glamarama-rally/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/the-fleetwood-glamarama-rally/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 03:32:56 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15073 We swear.. we’re not becoming rally people! But when the Wynn’s invited us to join them for the Fleetwood rally they were presenting at in Goshen, IN – we couldn’t resist attending our 3rd major rally this spring. After years of blog stalking each other, we finally got to meet up for dinner a couple months ago as we were both passing through Georgia. This would be a perfect opportunity to get more time together, and check out another style of rally too. We met up in Goshen for early entry on Monday, which gave us two chill days together before the rally officially started. We decided to park our RVs ‘awning to awning’ so that we’d have a shared yard space for hanging out, sharing meals, co-working and letting our cats mingle. Kiki, Singa and Cleo got along pretty well, as well as cats can anyway. At least there’s wasn’t too much hissing. And it was pretty evident from the beginning, this was going to be an amazing time getting to know Nikki & Jason better. The rally itself was on the same fairgrounds where we had just attended the Escapade, and was similarly attended in terms of numbers. However, this rally was actually a meshing of two smaller ones – the Fleetwood Motorhome Association and the Great Lakes Area Motorhome Association (i.e.. GLAMA). The Fleetwood rally had lost their other venue and the two merged rather last minute. Seminars! Seminars! Seminars! Given the chaos of merging two rallies with two different schedules together, it came together pretty well. But there was a lot of confusion, as different versions of the schedule with different information were floating around.. which led to seminars being less attended than anticipated. Jason & Nikki were signed up to present 4 different presentations (Boondocking Tips, Solar for Newbies, Kitchen Gadgets and Top 5 Destinations). However given the scheduling debacle, they ended up with a bonus time slot. That open time slot was Saturday morning at 9am – definitely not night owl friendly. We offered to brave the morning hours with them, and co-present on a topic we both know lots about – Working on the Road!  Since we weren’t sure how many rally attendees were interested in earning incomes on the road (many tend to be retired), we decided to also livestream the presentation to our readers. We were really surprised with how well attended and engaged our audience was – both live and on video! It definitely seemed to be a welcomed and needed topic, and personally I think the four of us totally rocked it, especially considering we put the material together last minute. Not to mention that whole morning thing. Here’s an archive of that presentation, if you’d like to hear what we had to say: (Direct Video Link) We also stayed afterwards and did a live video Q&A session, if you want even more Gone with the Wynns & Technomadia goodness! If you’d like to be notified when we schedule our live video chats, which sometimes we do rather last minute, be sure you’re on our video notification e-mail list. Our friends the Geeks on Tour were also presenting at the this rally, and invited us to participate. For their ‘Tech for Travelers’ overview seminar, they had us present on mobile internet – a topic we know a thing or two about. And we also assisted them on a presentation about Harvest Hosts, sharing about some of our recent stays at a winery and an air museum. So, for not having planned to attend this rally a week prior - we ended up contributing to three different seminars. Fun! We do love presenting, it’s so much fun to share with others and help educate. Touring Coaches One of the reasons we went with our vintage bus was because at the time, there were slim pickings for well constructed motorhomes 35′ and under with appealing designs. It’s always fun to have an opportunity to tour the latest and greatest and see how the manufacturers are coming along. Fleetwood had a good selection of all of their current floor plans on display, so we spent some time with Nikki & Jason touring them and hearing their perspective after now having traveled in a new 33′ Fleetwood Excursion for the past 6 months to help give the company feedback about what younger RVers are desiring. We were impressed with some of the Bounder & Excursion floor plans that integrate in L-shaped collapsable couches that create a separate living area from the dining/kitchen and bedroom. And it seems some other manufactures are also playing around with this concept and innovating making comfortable living spaces in a compact space. But what’s still missing is usable work space. With more and more pre-retirement folks hitting the road and combining work & travel, this just seems like a market that remains mostly ignored by the RV industry. Heck, the boomer generation is retiring now in mass numbers – and many are armed with computers and a desire to do part time work, keep in touch with family, blog, participate in social media, and other desk oriented tasks. It’s rare to see anything but a laptop nook or dining room table to cater to those who need a spot to set up shop. While spending $100-200k for a new house on wheels is not insurmountable for a career focused professional replacing a sticks-n-bricks home, needing to immediately remodel one to accommodate usable workspace can become an obstacle. Who wants to rip out or modify the interior of a brand new rig? Those desiring office space still tend to lean towards converting an at least slightly older coach. But of course, in this class of entry level motorhome – the construction quality is a bit on the low end. Quite honestly, most of the ones we toured just didn’t feel solid. Mis-aligned cabinet doors, wonky shelving, filmy feeling walls, flooring that easily gets scratched up, and non well integrated systems. It’s hard to imagine many of these vehicles being in good enough shape 10 years from now to be worthwhile keeping on the road… especially if used for full-timing. Not to mention the off-gassing smell of the construction materials. I was getting quite the headache after touring just a few new coaches. We’ll stick with our vintage bus conversion, thank you very much… which we’ve now had 3 years this weekend. Stay tuned for a post summarizing our thoughts after of living in our bus a few years, including our maintenance and remodeling costs. Other Rally Fun Probably the best thing about attending rallies is meeting people, and then seeing them again at future rallies. Each rally we’ve attended has gotten more and more fun, simply because we know more people. And that’s awesome. Some random shots from around the rally… random bits of mayhem left out to protect the innocent.     What’s Next? We’re now off on our adventure of exploring Michigan. Two summers ago we started in Madison, WI and explored parts of the UP and then the gorgeous west coast of Michigan. It was part of secret mission, ‘Operation: Dip Toes’ - a special present for my father before he passed away. So this time around, we’re exploring the upper east coast along Lake Huron. We’ll be aiming for Tawas later this week to meet up with some friends, and then keep heading north into the UP. We hope to rendezvous again with the Nikki & Jason, who are setting off to explore the western shoreline. Along the way we’ll be finding scenic and quiet spots to super focus on re-writing The Mobile Internet Handbook, and testing out cell phone boosting gear in weak signal areas.]]>
The 'Under 35' section of the rally.  (We weren't sure if they meant age, or RV length.)

The ‘Under 35′ section of the rally. (It took us a moment to realize they meant RV length, not age.)

We swear.. we’re not becoming rally people! But when the Wynn’s invited us to join them for the Fleetwood rally they were presenting at in Goshen, IN – we couldn’t resist attending our 3rd major rally this spring.

After years of blog stalking each other, we finally got to meet up for dinner a couple months ago as we were both passing through Georgia. This would be a perfect opportunity to get more time together, and check out another style of rally too.

We met up in Goshen for early entry on Monday, which gave us two chill days together before the rally officially started.

One of many converged meals shared.

One of many converged meals shared.

We decided to park our RVs ‘awning to awning’ so that we’d have a shared yard space for hanging out, sharing meals, co-working and letting our cats mingle. Kiki, Singa and Cleo got along pretty well, as well as cats can anyway. At least there’s wasn’t too much hissing.

And it was pretty evident from the beginning, this was going to be an amazing time getting to know Nikki & Jason better.

The rally itself was on the same fairgrounds where we had just attended the Escapade, and was similarly attended in terms of numbers. However, this rally was actually a meshing of two smaller ones – the Fleetwood Motorhome Association and the Great Lakes Area Motorhome Association (i.e.. GLAMA). The Fleetwood rally had lost their other venue and the two merged rather last minute.

Seminars! Seminars! Seminars!

Given the chaos of merging two rallies with two different schedules together, it came together pretty well. But there was a lot of confusion, as different versions of the schedule with different information were floating around.. which led to seminars being less attended than anticipated.

Jason & Nikki presenting on Solar.

Jason & Nikki presenting on Solar.

Jason & Nikki were signed up to present 4 different presentations (Boondocking Tips, Solar for Newbies, Kitchen Gadgets and Top 5 Destinations). However given the scheduling debacle, they ended up with a bonus time slot.

That open time slot was Saturday morning at 9am – definitely not night owl friendly. We offered to brave the morning hours with them, and co-present on a topic we both know lots about – Working on the Road!  Since we weren’t sure how many rally attendees were interested in earning incomes on the road (many tend to be retired), we decided to also livestream the presentation to our readers.

We were really surprised with how well attended and engaged our audience was – both live and on video! It definitely seemed to be a welcomed and needed topic, and personally I think the four of us totally rocked it, especially considering we put the material together last minute. Not to mention that whole morning thing.

Here’s an archive of that presentation, if you’d like to hear what we had to say:


(Direct Video Link)

We also stayed afterwards and did a live video Q&A session, if you want even more Gone with the Wynns & Technomadia goodness!

If you’d like to be notified when we schedule our live video chats, which sometimes we do rather last minute, be sure you’re on our video notification e-mail list.

Us helping Chris & Jim present on Harvest Hosts.

Us helping Chris & Jim present on Harvest Hosts.

Our friends the Geeks on Tour were also presenting at the this rally, and invited us to participate. For their ‘Tech for Travelers’ overview seminar, they had us present on mobile internet – a topic we know a thing or two about.

And we also assisted them on a presentation about Harvest Hosts, sharing about some of our recent stays at a winery and an air museum.

So, for not having planned to attend this rally a week prior - we ended up contributing to three different seminars. Fun! We do love presenting, it’s so much fun to share with others and help educate.

Touring Coaches

L-shaped living area in some new motorhome floor plans.

L-shaped living area in some new motorhome floor plans.

One of the reasons we went with our vintage bus was because at the time, there were slim pickings for well constructed motorhomes 35′ and under with appealing designs. It’s always fun to have an opportunity to tour the latest and greatest and see how the manufacturers are coming along.

Fleetwood had a good selection of all of their current floor plans on display, so we spent some time with Nikki & Jason touring them and hearing their perspective after now having traveled in a new 33′ Fleetwood Excursion for the past 6 months to help give the company feedback about what younger RVers are desiring.

The Fleetwood Excursion 35B had an innovative floor plan with living area, and bar stools.

The Fleetwood Excursion 35B had an innovative floor plan with living area, and bar stools.  This one was our favorite.

We were impressed with some of the Bounder & Excursion floor plans that integrate in L-shaped collapsable couches that create a separate living area from the dining/kitchen and bedroom.

And it seems some other manufactures are also playing around with this concept and innovating making comfortable living spaces in a compact space.

But what’s still missing is usable work space. With more and more pre-retirement folks hitting the road and combining work & travel, this just seems like a market that remains mostly ignored by the RV industry. Heck, the boomer generation is retiring now in mass numbers – and many are armed with computers and a desire to do part time work, keep in touch with family, blog, participate in social media, and other desk oriented tasks.

It’s rare to see anything but a laptop nook or dining room table to cater to those who need a spot to set up shop.

A Frieghtliner chasis on display... the foundation of many modern motorhomes.

A Frieghtliner chasis on display… the foundation of many modern motorhomes.

While spending $100-200k for a new house on wheels is not insurmountable for a career focused professional replacing a sticks-n-bricks home, needing to immediately remodel one to accommodate usable workspace can become an obstacle.

Who wants to rip out or modify the interior of a brand new rig? Those desiring office space still tend to lean towards converting an at least slightly older coach.

But of course, in this class of entry level motorhome – the construction quality is a bit on the low end. Quite honestly, most of the ones we toured just didn’t feel solid. Mis-aligned cabinet doors, wonky shelving, filmy feeling walls, flooring that easily gets scratched up, and non well integrated systems.

Ahh.. found the perfect word!

It’s hard to imagine many of these vehicles being in good enough shape 10 years from now to be worthwhile keeping on the road… especially if used for full-timing.

Not to mention the off-gassing smell of the construction materials. I was getting quite the headache after touring just a few new coaches.

We’ll stick with our vintage bus conversion, thank you very much… which we’ve now had 3 years this weekend. Stay tuned for a post summarizing our thoughts after of living in our bus a few years, including our maintenance and remodeling costs.

Other Rally Fun

Probably the best thing about attending rallies is meeting people, and then seeing them again at future rallies. Each rally we’ve attended has gotten more and more fun, simply because we know more people. And that’s awesome.

Some random shots from around the rally… random bits of mayhem left out to protect the innocent. :)

IMG_2338

RVillage Meetup

 

Geeks on Tour, Gone with the Wynns, Technomadia and the RV Doctor. (photo courtesy of Jim Guld)

Geeks on Tour, Gone with the Wynns, Technomadia and the RV Doctor. (photo courtesy of Jim Guld)

Full moon on Friday the 13th? Of course we need fire dance!  (Jason is seeing if fire will power his solar panels)

Full moon on Friday the 13th? Of course we need fire dance! (Jason is hoping fire will power his solar panels).  Our RVing friend Sean Heiney also created a video at the rally from his perspective, which ends with the fire performance.

Chris inspecting Jason's solar install, and pointing out installation mistakes.

Chris inspecting Jason’s solar install, and pointing out installation mistakes – Jason will be reporting on these soon.

 

Parting is sweet sorrow... but we know we'll see these guys again! New friends for life, no doubt. (photo courtesy of Jason Wynn)

The best part of this rally? Solidifying a new dear and long-lasting friendship. (photo courtesy of Jason Wynn)

Our friend Sean teaching us how to navigate around Michigan.

Sean preparing us nomads to navigate around Michigan.

What’s Next? We’re now off on our adventure of exploring Michigan. Two summers ago we started in Madison, WI and explored parts of the UP and then the gorgeous west coast of Michigan. It was part of secret mission, ‘Operation: Dip Toes’ - a special present for my father before he passed away.

So this time around, we’re exploring the upper east coast along Lake Huron. We’ll be aiming for Tawas later this week to meet up with some friends, and then keep heading north into the UP. We hope to rendezvous again with the Nikki & Jason, who are setting off to explore the western shoreline.

Along the way we’ll be finding scenic and quiet spots to super focus on re-writing The Mobile Internet Handbook, and testing out cell phone boosting gear in weak signal areas.

]]>
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The Definitive Guide to Cellular Booster Registration http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/the-definitive-guide-to-cellular-booster-registration/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/the-definitive-guide-to-cellular-booster-registration/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 03:31:43 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15057 New rules from the FCC went into effect on May 1st – outlawing sales of old booster models and paving the way for a new generation of cellular boosters designed to reduce the potential for causing interference to wireless networks. Waiting for these new standards and the accompanying certification process has essentially frozen the market for cellular boosters, holding back new models for over a year. Consumers wanting boosters with LTE and 4G support have been left with incredibly few choices, frustrating bandwidth hungry nomads everywhere. But at last – new boosters are shipping! But these boosters all now come with a scary mandated warning label: “BEFORE USE, you MUST REGISTER THIS DEVICE with your wireless provider and have your provider’s consent. Most wireless providers consent to use of signal boosters. Some providers may not consent to the use of this device on their network. If you are unsure, contact your provider. You MUST operate this device with approved antennas and cables as specified by the manufacturer. Antennas MUST be installed at least 20 cm (8 inches) from any person. You MUST cease operating this device immediately if requested by the FCC or a licensed wireless service provider.” All the major carriers have already issued blanket consent for the use of the new generation of FCC approved boosters on their network, so you don’t need to ask any of the big four for permission. But that doesn’t get you off the hook from registering. Old booster that do not support the new network protection features are no longer legal to be sold, though they are still OK to use with some carriers… for now, at least. But according to the new FCC rules you are now required to register all old boosters too. But – how? Where? And what will happen to you if you don’t register? The currently shipping boosters don’t come with any instructions on where to go and register – just a warning sticker saying you MUST. And these new rules are still completely confusing and often unknown even to the “advanced” support desks at the major wireless carriers. Calling and asking for advice about “booster registration” will just get you sometimes hilariously inaccurate and often conflicting information. Stopping in to the carrier stores will just get you blank stares. We’ve done the research and have tracked down all the critical details for all of the major carriers. Read on for the definitive guide to booster registration. AT&T: In the name of science, I tried multiple times to contact AT&T to ask how to register a cellular booster. AT&T online chat and phone support literally had no idea what a booster is, much less how to register one. But after two cumulative hours logged on hold, I eventually reached “advanced support” – where I was told the Wilson Mobile 4G cellular booster I had was actually intended to help with AT&T landline telephone service (wrong!). When I pointed out that this was actually for cellular mobile RV use, I was told that the booster must be for “a new type of radiation” and that I should probably notify RV park management, not AT&T. “This is something new – thanks for showing it to me.” Clearly – calling AT&T support is not the best way to go about getting registered. To actually register a booster with AT&T, you need to go directly to this address: http://www.attsignalbooster.com AT&T’s form requests the owner’s name, operator’s name (if different), contact phone number, booster make, model, and serial number, date of initial operation, and installed location. AT&T references use in “recreational vehicles” in the FAQ – but AT&T offers no clarification on what you should enter for the “booster location” if your location is going to be changing regularly. I suggest using your mailing address, wherever that may be. A literal reading of the AT&T FAQ also seems to imply that older boosters are no longer authorized: “After April 30, 2014, only FCC certified or carrier approved signal boosters may be operated on the AT&T network.” At the moment, AT&T seems to be the only carrier that is taking a “no old boosters unless explicitly approved” stance – a very sharp contrast to Verizon’s openness. Verizon: Verizon has a much more thoroughly developed registration process than any of the other carriers, with a nice FAQ and even an explicit (tentative) approval for older booster models: “Verizon also tentatively approves the use of consumer signal boosters that do not meet the new network protection standards. This approval is provided only for the boosters not causing interference and may be revoked if the particular booster or booster model is found to cause interference issues. To help avoid possible interference issues, however, Verizon recommends that customers who need signal boosters replace existing boosters as soon as possible with consumer signal boosters that meet the new network protection standards.” Verizon also gives instructions for how mobile boosters should be registered: “For mobile boosters in a car, RV or boat use the address where the vehicle will be stored or parked like the home address or marina in the case of a boat.” This is a start – but what about full-timers who never “store or park” their home on wheels? Again, I recommend going with your mailing address, unless you are going to be in one location for an extended amount of time. Here is the link to register a booster with Verizon: http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/register-signal-booster.html To actually register a booster, you have to have a Verizon account. If you get Verizon service via an MVNO like Millenicom, you will have to register your booster through them (see below.) Sprint: Sprint has the most primitive booster registration page that you can possibly imagine. These instructions are not even findable via “search” on the Sprint home page, but we tracked them down: http://www.sprint.com/legal/fcc_boosters.html You actually register by emailing the following information to signalbooster@sprint.com: “The name of Sprint customer. Make and model of the signal booster. Sprint phone number linked to the signal booster. Mailing address Address where the Sprint customer will operate the signal booster if different from mailing address.” Sprint offers up no guidance on whether or not old boosters are welcome, or how to register a booster that has no fixed operating location. T-Mobile: T-Mobile has an FAQ and booster registration tool located here: http://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-9827 There is no information given on whether old boosters are approved (though very few actually fully supported T-Mobile fully anyway), but presumably they are ok to register and use. And just like AT&T, T-Mobile seems to have no conception of boosters that lack a fixed “use address”. Unique to T-Mobile is a request for the “number of users” that will be using a booster. Millenicom: MVNO’s that do not own their own network but which resell service on other larger networks are required to provide a way to register boosters, but few of them have so far. After we asked Millenicom about it (our personal favorite Verizon MVNO), they actually created a registration process within a day. Here are the instructions we received from Millenicom: “If a customer wishes to use our service with an amp or booster they must register the amp or booster with us by logging into the Members Center and selecting “Order” and then submitting the form from the Register Signal Booster link. They can use the following link if they do not wish to log into the Members Center (please note this is only for Millenicom clients): https://members.millenicom.com/members/order.php?step=1&productGroup=46&product=147 It is now a requirement with the FCC to register all amplifiers and boosters. Failure to do so may result in significant fines which will be passed on to the owner of the Millenicom account (you). This is the case with both older and newer equipment. If you have more than one amp or booster, all of them need to be registered.” The Millenicom registration process is actually shoe-horned into their service purchase process, so registering a booster is akin to making a $0.00 purchase. They actually send you an invoice as confirmation. But hey, it works and gets the job done. Millenicom’s form specifically asks if your booster will be used in a fixed or mobile location – however a booster location address is still required, with no explanation if you should re-register for each location you use the booster at. Others: We will update this post with links to other booster registration pages as we find them, but at the moment most are still missing. If you know of any not listed here, please leave a comment. US Cellular — The booster registration link for US Cellular is located here. Straight Talk — The popular Walmart-linked MVNO Straight Talk Wireless has an FAQ page with registration information for T-Mobile-Compatible boosters here. MetroPCS — T-Mobile owned MetroPCS has an FAQ page with registration information here. At the time of this writing, the actual registration page linked to returns a “Page Not Found!” error. Based upon how cobbled together the registration process is for even some of the big carriers, it is not surprising that so many of the smaller cellular networks seems to be totally caught off guard by their responsibility for having a registration process in place.   Booster Registration FAQ’s: Why Register? I honestly expect that many people will not register, often without even realizing that they are supposed to. And this isn’t the end of the world. But – by registering you are demonstrating the demand and need for cellular boosters, and if the new process works the carriers and the FCC will hopefully make more advanced boosters possible. The primary purpose of the registration databases being built is to help with network troubleshooting issues. If a defective booster is wreaking havoc on the network, the registration info may help carriers track down and isolate the problem before it causes too much interference. There really isn’t a downside to registering, other than just a little bit of hassle. BTW, here is the official FCC justification: “Registration is a key element in providers’ ability to control the devices that operate on their network. Registration is also one way for subscribers to obtain and demonstrate that they have provider consent. Further, registration will assist providers in locating problematic boosters in the event interference occurs and will facilitate consumer outreach. We find that the benefits associated with a provider-based registration system (e.g., provider control of devices, rapid interference resolution, ease of consumer outreach) outweigh the costs of such a system.” What if I don’t register? You will not be fined, or hauled off to jail. But you might be required to cease and desist if your booster is caught causing any network issues. AT&T sure doesn’t sound too threatening here: “The operator of an illegal signal booster could be required to stop operation of the device.” This general leniency only applies to “consumer boosters”. If you install a booster labeled for “industrial use” without having documented explicit permission from a carrier, you may be facing “penalties in excess of $100,000”. And if you ignore a request from the FCC or any licensed carrier to stop using a booster that is causing interference… well, then you are just asking for trouble. Here is what the FCC has to say: “At this time, the FCC likely will not pursue enforcement against current or prospective signal booster users unless it involves an instance of unresolved interference. If a wireless licensee or the FCC asks you to turn off your signal booster because it is causing interference to a wireless network, however, you must turn off your booster and leave it off until the interference problem can be resolved.” Is this just a ploy to eventually outlaw boosters? “If cellular boosters are outlawed, only outlaws will have good signal…” Actually – the new FCC rules point to a long and bright future for cellular boosters. Old booster designs could cause serious network interference issues, and they were already operating in a legal grey area by transmitting without authorization on airways that are licensed by the various cellular carriers. The cellular carriers, FCC, and booster manufacturers came together to define new technical and operational standards to minimize interference so that boosters could continue to help users in fringe areas, while avoiding causing issues everywhere else. The FCC webmaster is clearly a fan of boosters – notice the page title for the FCC consumer booster information page: “Signal Boosters are the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread” (seriously!) What is Required to Register? All the registration forms I tracked down request some subset of the following information – owner’s name, operator’s name (if different), contact phone number, booster make, model, and serial number, date of initial operation, and installed location. Some of the forms ask whether the booster will be “mobile” or installed at a “fixed location”, but many of them seem to not have considered mobile users – especially mobile users without a fixed location home base. In those cases – the best thing to do is to use your mailing address. What if I have multiple devices on multiple networks? Most boosters are not carrier specific, and many of the new ones are nearly “universal” supporting boosting on most of the major carriers. So – who should you register with? The guidance from the FCC says that you should register with every carrier where you will regularly be connected. You need to register once per booster per carrier – it does not matter how many devices you are connecting. What about friends who use my booster? Guests? The FCC has ruled that it is perfectly fine for friends and visitors on other carriers to take advantage of your booster without explicit registering. But if you have a housemate who is making regular use of your booster, they should register with their carrier too. Straight from the FCC: “In some instances, a subscriber may be authorized to operate a Consumer Signal Booster to connect to his/her wireless provider and a third party may also wish to use the booster occasionally to connect to the third party’s wireless provider. Examples include a visitor in a home or guest in a vehicle. We view these occasional, incidental uses as de minimis and authorize them under the license of the third-party user’s serving provider.” … “If a third party intends to use a Consumer Signal Booster on a regular, sustained basis, the third party must seek its provider’s consent to do so.” What is the deal with the E911 warning? The E911 system provides the location of your cell phone to 911 dispatch automatically when you make an emergency call. This system works in part by cell tower triangulation. With a booster thrown into the mix, it is possible for this triangulation process to get confused and to think that you are closer to the cell towers than you actually are. If you are on a booster and call 911, be sure to confirm that the dispatch operator has your actual location. Can I Change Around Antennas? One of the other stipulations of the new FCC rules is that consumer boosters can no longer be sold other than as part of a kit that includes all necessary wires and antennas. This is meant to ensure that whatever is installed matches what was submitted to the FCC for testing. There is nothing that technically prevents an end-user from changing around antennas at a later date, and the rules do allow for booster antenna upgrade kits to be sold as well. But to stay compliant – all additional antennas should at least meet manufacturer specifications. Here is the official FCC rule: “Our antenna kitting rules require a manufacturer to sell Consumer Signal Boosters (fixed and mobile) together with all necessary antennas, cables, and/or coupling devices. This requirement is not intended to preclude equipment options, such as upgraded antennas or other equipment options, to be offered with the Consumer Signal Booster purchase or with an after purchase upgrade, but all equipment options and features must be tested to ensure the Network Protection Standard is met. This requirement ensures that consumers have the appropriate special accessories when they purchase a Consumer Signal Booster and that after purchase upgrades still comply with the necessary requirements. We do not require consumers to use Consumer Signal Boosters only with these manufacturer-provided special accessories to allow for future replacement due to damage, loss, upgrade, etc. Consumers must nonetheless use any Consumer Signal Booster with manufacturer-specified special accessories.” In other words – if you want to use a different antenna with a booster, contact the manufacturer for advice and recommendations. We already know that both Wilson Electronics and Maximum Signal are planning to offer special “RV Kits” with new antennas later this year to go along with their new mobile boosters. If you choose to use an antenna that has not been officially tested with your booster, try at least to match the specifications of similar antennas that have been. What about WiFi “Boosters”? These new rules only apply to cellular boosters, not WiFi repeating systems. So you do not need to do anything about products you might be using for your WiFi signal enhancing – such as from WiFiRanger, Alpa, Ubiquity, etc. If you’re using something from companies like Wilson, TopSignal, Cellmate, Maximum Signal – then the new rules apply. A Final Reminder… Always remember – if you ever get a knock asking you to shut down your booster because you are causing interference, do it. And yes, your location can be triangulated if your booster is causing network interference. They will find you. Even if you are using a new FCC compliant booster with the stock provided antennas, you are required to comply with any FCC or licensed operator requests to shut down if you are causing interference. It is the neighborly thing to do too – a technician would not have been sent out to triangulate your location without a good reason. We’ve had a friend who has recently “gotten the knock” (with an old-style booster), and the FCC tech was actually incredibly friendly and even gave him advice on how to reconfigure his system to avoid interference. And that just means… more signal for everyone! Related Posts: Our full Mobile Internet Resource Center (our video, articles, app, book and services!) What’s the best mobile internet?  - We directly compare campground WiFi, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile at the same location. The Millenicom Verizon Hotspot Plan Survival Guide - 4G/LTE history and gadget overview Where are the LTE Boosters??? - our October 2013 update to the state of the cellular boosting industry The 2014 Edition of The Mobile Internet Handbook is coming out soon!  ]]>

FCC Booster Warning LabelNew rules from the FCC went into effect on May 1st – outlawing sales of old booster models and paving the way for a new generation of cellular boosters designed to reduce the potential for causing interference to wireless networks.

Waiting for these new standards and the accompanying certification process has essentially
frozen the market for cellular boosters, holding back new models for over a year. Consumers wanting boosters with LTE and 4G support have been left with incredibly few choices, frustrating bandwidth hungry nomads everywhere.

But at last – new boosters are shipping!

But these boosters all now come with a scary mandated warning label:

“BEFORE USE, you MUST REGISTER THIS DEVICE with your wireless provider and have your provider’s consent. Most wireless providers consent to use of signal boosters. Some providers may not consent to the use of this device on their network. If you are unsure, contact your provider. You MUST operate this device with approved antennas and cables as specified by the manufacturer. Antennas MUST be installed at least 20 cm (8 inches) from any person. You MUST cease operating this device immediately if requested by the FCC or a licensed wireless service provider.”

All the major carriers have already issued blanket consent for the use of the new generation of FCC approved boosters on their network, so you don’t need to ask any of the big four for permission. But that doesn’t get you off the hook from registering.

Old booster that do not support the new network protection features are no longer legal to be sold, though they are still OK to use with some carriers… for now, at least.

But according to the new FCC rules you are now required to register all old boosters too.

The Wilson Mobile 4G is one of the first 5-band LTE boosters compliant with the new FCC rules. We are testing it now.

The Wilson Mobile 4G is one of the first 5-band LTE boosters compliant with the new FCC rules. We are testing it now.

But – how? Where?

And what will happen to you if you don’t register?

The currently shipping boosters don’t come with any instructions on where to go and register – just a warning sticker saying you MUST.

And these new rules are still completely confusing and often unknown even to the “advanced” support desks at the major wireless carriers. Calling and asking for advice about “booster registration” will just get you sometimes hilariously inaccurate and often conflicting information. Stopping in to the carrier stores will just get you blank stares.

We’ve done the research and have tracked down all the critical details for all of the major carriers. Read on for the definitive guide to booster registration.

AT&T:

In the name of science, I tried multiple times to contact AT&T to ask how to register a cellular booster. AT&T online chat and phone support literally had no idea what a booster is, much less how to register one.

But after two cumulative hours logged on hold, I eventually reached “advanced support” – where I was told the Wilson Mobile 4G cellular booster I had was actually intended to help with AT&T landline telephone service (wrong!). When I pointed out that this was actually for cellular mobile RV use, I was told that the booster must be for “a new type of radiation” and that I should probably notify RV park management, not AT&T. “This is something new – thanks for showing it to me.”

Clearly – calling AT&T support is not the best way to go about getting registered.

To actually register a booster with AT&T, you need to go directly to this address:
http://www.attsignalbooster.com

AT&T's Booster Registration Page

AT&T’s Booster Registration Page

AT&T’s form requests the owner’s name, operator’s name (if different), contact phone number, booster make, model, and serial number, date of initial operation, and installed location.

AT&T references use in “recreational vehicles” in the FAQ – but AT&T offers no clarification on what you should enter for the “booster location” if your location is going to be changing regularly. I suggest using your mailing address, wherever that may be.

A literal reading of the AT&T FAQ also seems to imply that older boosters are no longer authorized:

“After April 30, 2014, only FCC certified or carrier approved signal boosters may be operated on the AT&T network.”

At the moment, AT&T seems to be the only carrier that is taking a “no old boosters unless explicitly approved” stance – a very sharp contrast to Verizon’s openness.

Verizon:

Verizon's Booster Registration Page

Verizon’s Booster Registration Page

Verizon has a much more thoroughly developed registration process than any of the other carriers, with a nice FAQ and even an explicit (tentative) approval for older booster models:

“Verizon also tentatively approves the use of consumer signal boosters that do not meet the new network protection standards. This approval is provided only for the boosters not causing interference and may be revoked if the particular booster or booster model is found to cause interference issues. To help avoid possible interference issues, however, Verizon recommends that customers who need signal boosters replace existing boosters as soon as possible with consumer signal boosters that meet the new network protection standards.”

Verizon also gives instructions for how mobile boosters should be registered:
“For mobile boosters in a car, RV or boat use the address where the vehicle will be stored or parked like the home address or marina in the case of a boat.”

This is a start – but what about full-timers who never “store or park” their home on wheels? Again, I recommend going with your mailing address, unless you are going to be in one location for an extended amount of time.

Here is the link to register a booster with Verizon:
http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/register-signal-booster.html

To actually register a booster, you have to have a Verizon account. If you get Verizon service via an MVNO like Millenicom, you will have to register your booster through them (see below.)

Sprint:

Sprint's Spectacularly Sparse Booster Info

Sprint’s Spectacularly Sparse Booster Info

Sprint has the most primitive booster registration page that you can possibly imagine. These instructions are not even findable via “search” on the Sprint home page, but we tracked them down:

http://www.sprint.com/legal/fcc_boosters.html

You actually register by emailing the following information to signalbooster@sprint.com:
“The name of Sprint customer. Make and model of the signal booster. Sprint phone number linked to the signal booster. Mailing address Address where the Sprint customer will operate the signal booster if different from mailing address.”

Sprint offers up no guidance on whether or not old boosters are welcome, or how to register a booster that has no fixed operating location.

T-Mobile's Booster Registration Form

T-Mobile’s Booster Registration Form

T-Mobile:

T-Mobile has an FAQ and booster registration tool located here:
http://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-9827

There is no information given on whether old boosters are approved (though very few actually fully supported T-Mobile fully anyway), but presumably they are ok to register and use.

And just like AT&T, T-Mobile seems to have no conception of boosters that lack a fixed “use address”.

Unique to T-Mobile is a request for the “number of users” that will be using a booster.

Millenicom:

MVNO’s that do not own their own network but which resell service on other larger networks are required to provide a way to register boosters, but few of them have so far.

After we asked Millenicom about it (our personal favorite Verizon MVNO), they actually created a registration process within a day.

Here are the instructions we received from Millenicom:
“If a customer wishes to use our service with an amp or booster they must register the amp or booster with us by logging into the Members Center and selecting “Order” and then submitting the form from the Register Signal Booster link. They can use the following link if they do not wish to log into the Members Center (please note this is only for Millenicom clients):
https://members.millenicom.com/members/order.php?step=1&productGroup=46&product=147

Millenicom's Booster Registration Invoice?!?!

Millenicom’s Booster Registration Invoice?!?!

It is now a requirement with the FCC to register all amplifiers and boosters. Failure to do so may result in significant fines which will be passed on to the owner of the Millenicom account (you). This is the case with both older and newer equipment. If you have more than one amp or booster, all of them need to be registered.

The Millenicom registration process is actually shoe-horned into their service purchase process, so registering a booster is akin to making a $0.00 purchase. They actually send you an invoice as confirmation. But hey, it works and gets the job done.

Millenicom’s form specifically asks if your booster will be used in a fixed or mobile location – however a booster location address is still required, with no explanation if you should re-register for each location you use the booster at.

Others:

We will update this post with links to other booster registration pages as we find them, but at the moment most are still missing. If you know of any not listed here, please leave a comment.

US Cellular — The booster registration link for US Cellular is located here.
Straight Talk — The popular Walmart-linked MVNO Straight Talk Wireless has an FAQ page with registration information for T-Mobile-Compatible boosters here.
MetroPCS — T-Mobile owned MetroPCS has an FAQ page with registration information here. At the time of this writing, the actual registration page linked to returns a “Page Not Found!” error.

Based upon how cobbled together the registration process is for even some of the big carriers, it is not surprising that so many of the smaller cellular networks seems to be totally caught off guard by their responsibility for having a registration process in place.

 

Booster Registration FAQ’s:

Why Register?

I honestly expect that many people will not register, often without even realizing that they are supposed to. And this isn’t the end of the world.

But – by registering you are demonstrating the demand and need for cellular boosters, and if the new process works the carriers and the FCC will hopefully make more advanced boosters possible.

The primary purpose of the registration databases being built is to help with network troubleshooting issues. If a defective booster is wreaking havoc on the network, the registration info may help carriers track down and isolate the problem before it causes too much interference.

There really isn’t a downside to registering, other than just a little bit of hassle.

BTW, here is the official FCC justification:

“Registration is a key element in providers’ ability to control the devices that operate on their network. Registration is also one way for subscribers to obtain and demonstrate that they have provider consent. Further, registration will assist providers in locating problematic boosters in the event interference occurs and will facilitate consumer outreach. We find that the benefits associated with a provider-based registration system (e.g., provider control of devices, rapid interference resolution, ease of consumer outreach) outweigh the costs of such a system.”

What if I don’t register?

You will not be fined, or hauled off to jail. But you might be required to cease and desist if your booster is caught causing any network issues.

AT&T sure doesn’t sound too threatening here: “The operator of an illegal signal booster could be required to stop operation of the device.”

This general leniency only applies to “consumer boosters”. If you install a booster labeled for “industrial use” without having documented explicit permission from a carrier, you may be facing “penalties in excess of $100,000”.

And if you ignore a request from the FCC or any licensed carrier to stop using a booster that is causing interference… well, then you are just asking for trouble.

Here is what the FCC has to say:

“At this time, the FCC likely will not pursue enforcement against current or prospective signal booster users unless it involves an instance of unresolved interference. If a wireless licensee or the FCC asks you to turn off your signal booster because it is causing interference to a wireless network, however, you must turn off your booster and leave it off until the interference problem can be resolved.”

Is this just a ploy to eventually outlaw boosters?

“If cellular boosters are outlawed, only outlaws will have good signal…”

The FCC Says: Boosters are the "Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread"

The FCC Says: Boosters are the “Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread”

Actually – the new FCC rules point to a long and bright future for cellular boosters. Old booster designs could cause serious network interference issues, and they were already operating in a legal grey area by transmitting without authorization on airways that are licensed by the various cellular carriers.

The cellular carriers, FCC, and booster manufacturers came together to define new technical and operational standards to minimize interference so that boosters could continue to help users in fringe areas, while avoiding causing issues everywhere else.

The FCC webmaster is clearly a fan of boosters – notice the page title for the FCC consumer booster information page: “Signal Boosters are the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread” (seriously!)

What is Required to Register?

All the registration forms I tracked down request some subset of the following information – owner’s name, operator’s name (if different), contact phone number, booster make, model, and serial number, date of initial operation, and installed location.

Some of the forms ask whether the booster will be “mobile” or installed at a “fixed location”, but many of them seem to not have considered mobile users – especially mobile users without a fixed location home base.

In those cases – the best thing to do is to use your mailing address.

What if I have multiple devices on multiple networks?

Most boosters are not carrier specific, and many of the new ones are nearly “universal” supporting boosting on most of the major carriers. So – who should you register with?

The guidance from the FCC says that you should register with every carrier where you will regularly be connected. You need to register once per booster per carrier – it does not matter how many devices you are connecting.

What about friends who use my booster? Guests?

The FCC has ruled that it is perfectly fine for friends and visitors on other carriers to take advantage of your booster without explicit registering. But if you have a housemate who is making regular use of your booster, they should register with their carrier too.

Straight from the FCC:

“In some instances, a subscriber may be authorized to operate a Consumer Signal Booster to connect to his/her wireless provider and a third party may also wish to use the booster occasionally to connect to the third party’s wireless provider. Examples include a visitor in a home or guest in a vehicle. We view these occasional, incidental uses as de minimis and authorize them under the license of the third-party user’s serving provider.” … “If a third party intends to use a Consumer Signal Booster on a regular, sustained basis, the third party must seek its provider’s consent to do so.”

What is the deal with the E911 warning?

The E911 system provides the location of your cell phone to 911 dispatch automatically when you make an emergency call. This system works in part by cell tower triangulation. With a booster thrown into the mix, it is possible for this triangulation process to get confused and to think that you are closer to the cell towers than you actually are. If you are on a booster and call 911, be sure to confirm that the dispatch operator has your actual location.

Can I Change Around Antennas?

One of the other stipulations of the new FCC rules is that consumer boosters can no longer be sold other than as part of a kit that includes all necessary wires and antennas. This is meant to ensure that whatever is installed matches what was submitted to the FCC for testing.

There is nothing that technically prevents an end-user from changing around antennas at a later date, and the rules do allow for booster antenna upgrade kits to be sold as well. But to stay compliant – all additional antennas should at least meet manufacturer specifications.

Here is the official FCC rule:

“Our antenna kitting rules require a manufacturer to sell Consumer Signal Boosters (fixed and mobile) together with all necessary antennas, cables, and/or coupling devices. This requirement is not intended to preclude equipment options, such as upgraded antennas or other equipment options, to be offered with the Consumer Signal Booster purchase or with an after purchase upgrade, but all equipment options and features must be tested to ensure the Network Protection Standard is met. This requirement ensures that consumers have the appropriate special accessories when they purchase a Consumer Signal Booster and that after purchase upgrades still comply with the necessary requirements. We do not require consumers to use Consumer Signal Boosters only with these manufacturer-provided special accessories to allow for future replacement due to damage, loss, upgrade, etc. Consumers must nonetheless use any Consumer Signal Booster with manufacturer-specified special accessories.”

In other words – if you want to use a different antenna with a booster, contact the manufacturer for advice and recommendations. We already know that both Wilson Electronics and Maximum Signal are planning to offer special “RV Kits” with new antennas later this year to go along with their new mobile boosters.

If you choose to use an antenna that has not been officially tested with your booster, try at least to match the specifications of similar antennas that have been.

What about WiFi “Boosters”?

These new rules only apply to cellular boosters, not WiFi repeating systems. So you do not need to do anything about products you might be using for your WiFi signal enhancing – such as from WiFiRanger, Alpa, Ubiquity, etc. If you’re using something from companies like Wilson, TopSignal, Cellmate, Maximum Signal – then the new rules apply.

A Final Reminder…

The FCC's Graphical Explanation of "Why Boosters"

The FCC’s Graphical Explanation of “Why Boosters”

Always remember – if you ever get a knock asking you to shut down your booster because you are causing interference, do it.

And yes, your location can be triangulated if your booster is causing network interference. They will find you.

Even if you are using a new FCC compliant booster with the stock provided antennas, you are required to comply with any FCC or licensed operator requests to shut down if you are causing interference. It is the neighborly thing to do too – a technician would not have been sent out to triangulate your location without a good reason.

We’ve had a friend who has recently “gotten the knock” (with an old-style booster), and the FCC tech was actually incredibly friendly and even gave him advice on how to reconfigure his system to avoid interference.

And that just means… more signal for everyone!

Related Posts:

The 2014 Edition of The Mobile Internet Handbook is coming out soon!

Get Notified when the new Book is out!

 

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Northern Indiana Exploring http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/northern-indiana-exploring/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/northern-indiana-exploring/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:50:27 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=15026 Our time in northern Indiana hasn’t all been consumed with bus projects – we did get out and play a little too. Elkhart While still at Elkhart Campground (our review), RVillage founder Curtis Coleman hosted an impromptu meet up at his coach – which was very well attended. We hardly had time to talk with even a quarter of the folks who stopped by. Amazing to see RVillage working so well to bring people together! RVillage.com now has over 8000 members, and new features have been regularly rolling out. It’s been really awesome to see this project grow. While In Elkhart, we created a quick 3-minute video tour of RVillage – and that video is now featured on RVillage’s landing page. So if you haven’t checked it out yet – go view the video to get a taste of what it’s all about. Click here: We also spent an afternoon with Curtis exploring the RV Hall of Fame, which was a pretty incredible collection of RV history. Many unique and vintage RVs are on display for touring – and they have an incredible library upstairs that contains every RV-related magazine published. After we left Elkhart Campground, we then visited Bradd and Hall for new RV seats and then ended up at Master Tech RV for our unexpected project marathon.  Indiana Dunes State Park After three all-nighters in a row, we took a day long nap and then were desiring being somewhere more in nature. We didn’t want to go too far from the area, as we had already committed to joining Nikki & Jason at the Fleetwood & FMCA GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, IN. So on Tuesday we headed up to Indiana Dunes State Park (our review) on the shores of Lake Michigan, just a bit over an hour away. We were able to snag a sweet spot next to a dune and enjoyed some much needed chill time on our own. As the park was completely booked up for the weekend, we were only able to grab 3 nights – but I kept an eye on ReserveAmerica, and was able to book a last minute cancellation to stay Friday night as well. We enjoyed the many hiking trails within the park, and the quick walk to the beach for a lovely view of Chicago across the lake. We’d definitely return, especially during the week when it’s not crowded. We’d love to make use of the train station at the entrance to head into Chicago for the day too. Campaign Success Our Indiegogo Campaign for the re-write of The Mobile Internet Handbook came to an exciting close while we were at the Indiana Dunes State Park! When we decided to try crowdfunding to cover the costs of editing and art work at least, we seriously thought that setting a $3000 funding goal was dreaming. And setting stretch goals all the way up to $10,000 to fund adding new chapters to the book was extremely ambitious. We thought maybe we’d get one or two of them funded. We started the final day of the funding off already funded near $8000, and felt beyond satisfied with that. And the contributions kept coming in all day long, including some very generous ones. In the final hours, we hosted an impromptu live video chat that lasted nearly 2 hours to share the excitement and take viewer questions. At the end of the campaign, we had raised a stunning $10,264 thanks to 272 supporters – meeting every single stretch goal we had set out. Including signing up 105 founding members to our new premium membership site. Just incredible, and so very humbling. We are so thankful to everyone who supported us in this campaign and we’re busy working away on the re-write, including getting in a bunch of test gear to review. We are determined to create a fantastic resource for RVers who need to keep online in their travels. We have a lot of writing ahead of us, as we now have *seven* new chapters to research and write. To watch the progress, we have a new Facebook Page for the book, and we’re keeping our Mobile Internet Resource Center updated as well. Back to Elkhart & Goshen After our four glorious nights at the dunes, we headed back to Elkhart to attend the graduation party of Austin – Master Tech RV owner’s son. It was a fun time, and we enjoyed getting to know the family better. On Monday morning, it was off to Goshen to meet up with the Wynn’s for our early arrival to the rally. We’re already having a fabulous time hanging out with these guys and there will be stories to tell later! For anyone else who happens to be attending the rally, Nikki & Jason have scheduled their first RVillage meet up for Saturday afternoon at 5pm. We’ll of course be there too.  Details on RVillage!. What’s Next? We have scheduled a bunch of packages to arrive to meet up with us in northern Michigan next week at a friend’s house – so we’re heading that way. We’ll spend the next few weeks finding a variety of spots in northern Michigan (including the UP) to test out various mobile internet boosting gear in places we know signal can be more faint. All for science, of course!  ]]>

Our time in northern Indiana hasn’t all been consumed with bus projects – we did get out and play a little too.

Elkhart

RVillage Elkhart Meet Up

RVillage Elkhart Meet Up

While still at Elkhart Campground (our review), RVillage founder Curtis Coleman hosted an impromptu meet up at his coach – which was very well attended. We hardly had time to talk with even a quarter of the folks who stopped by.

Amazing to see RVillage working so well to bring people together! RVillage.com now has over 8000 members, and new features have been regularly rolling out. It’s been really awesome to see this project grow.

While In Elkhart, we created a quick 3-minute video tour of RVillage – and that video is now featured on RVillage’s landing page. So if you haven’t checked it out yet – go view the video to get a taste of what it’s all about.

Click here:

We also spent an afternoon with Curtis exploring the RV Hall of Fame, which was a pretty incredible collection of RV history.

IMG_2829

Being silly with Curtis at the RV Hall of Fame.

IMG_2848

Exploring the RV museum

Many unique and vintage RVs are on display for touring – and they have an incredible library upstairs that contains every RV-related magazine published.

After we left Elkhart Campground, we then visited Bradd and Hall for new RV seats and then ended up at Master Tech RV for our unexpected project marathon.

 Indiana Dunes State Park

After three all-nighters in a row, we took a day long nap and then were desiring being somewhere more in nature. We didn’t want to go too far from the area, as we had already committed to joining Nikki & Jason at the Fleetwood & FMCA GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, IN.

So on Tuesday we headed up to Indiana Dunes State Park (our review) on the shores of Lake Michigan, just a bit over an hour away.

We were able to snag a sweet spot next to a dune and enjoyed some much needed chill time on our own. As the park was completely booked up for the weekend, we were only able to grab 3 nights – but I kept an eye on ReserveAmerica, and was able to book a last minute cancellation to stay Friday night as well.

Enjoying the beach! Gorgeous sunset over Chicago Shores of Lake Michigan Our spot at Indiana Dunes SP. The boardwalk was more like a 'boards wade'. Beach sunset

We enjoyed the many hiking trails within the park, and the quick walk to the beach for a lovely view of Chicago across the lake. We’d definitely return, especially during the week when it’s not crowded. We’d love to make use of the train station at the entrance to head into Chicago for the day too.

Campaign Success

tmih-coming-soon-600

100% Funded!

100% Funded!

Our Indiegogo Campaign for the re-write of The Mobile Internet Handbook came to an exciting close while we were at the Indiana Dunes State Park!

When we decided to try crowdfunding to cover the costs of editing and art work at least, we seriously thought that setting a $3000 funding goal was dreaming. And setting stretch goals all the way up to $10,000 to fund adding new chapters to the book was extremely ambitious. We thought maybe we’d get one or two of them funded.

We started the final day of the funding off already funded near $8000, and felt beyond satisfied with that. And the contributions kept coming in all day long, including some very generous ones.

Test gear arriving!  The Wilson Mobile 4G is in.

Test gear arriving! The Wilson Mobile 4G is in.

In the final hours, we hosted an impromptu live video chat that lasted nearly 2 hours to share the excitement and take viewer questions. At the end of the campaign, we had raised a stunning $10,264 thanks to 272 supporters – meeting every single stretch goal we had set out. Including signing up 105 founding members to our new premium membership site.

Just incredible, and so very humbling.

We are so thankful to everyone who supported us in this campaign and we’re busy working away on the re-write, including getting in a bunch of test gear to review. We are determined to create a fantastic resource for RVers who need to keep online in their travels.

tmih-300

We have a lot of writing ahead of us, as we now have *seven* new chapters to research and write. To watch the progress, we have a new Facebook Page for the book, and we’re keeping our Mobile Internet Resource Center updated as well.

Back to Elkhart & Goshen

Playing giant Master Tech RV block balancing game.

Playing giant Master Tech RV block balancing game.

After our four glorious nights at the dunes, we headed back to Elkhart to attend the graduation party of Austin – Master Tech RV owner’s son. It was a fun time, and we enjoyed getting to know the family better.

On Monday morning, it was off to Goshen to meet up with the Wynn’s for our early arrival to the rally. We’re already having a fabulous time hanging out with these guys and there will be stories to tell later!

For anyone else who happens to be attending the rally, Nikki & Jason have scheduled their first RVillage meet up for Saturday afternoon at 5pm. We’ll of course be there too.  Details on RVillage!.

What’s Next? We have scheduled a bunch of packages to arrive to meet up with us in northern Michigan next week at a friend’s house – so we’re heading that way. We’ll spend the next few weeks finding a variety of spots in northern Michigan (including the UP) to test out various mobile internet boosting gear in places we know signal can be more faint. All for science, of course!

 

]]>
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Bus Projects: The Master Tech Marathon http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/bus-projects-master-tech-marathon/ http://www.technomadia.com/2014/06/bus-projects-master-tech-marathon/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 04:54:36 +0000 http://www.technomadia.com/?p=14968 Sometime last month we got an e-mail from a guy named Kasey, who said he was in the Elkhart area getting some work done on his coach. He mentioned that he had gotten turned on to Victron inverters thanks to discovering our blog, and he would like to meet up if it was possible while we were also in the area. Sure, we love meeting people – especially other RV tech geeks! We quickly learned that ‘getting some work done’ was a huge understatement – Kasey and his girlfriend Amber were in the middle of a complete gutting and over-the-top remodel of their rig that they were having done at Master Tech RV. They had actually been living there for most of the past year working on creating what will be one of the most ridiculously geeked out RVs ever, once it is finished. It is rare that I get blown away by someone else’s tech upgrades – but Kasey’s 65′ surplus TV news truck retractable antenna mast left us with major tech envy. And that was just the start of it. Master Tech RV happened to be one of the service centers we had contacted on our way into Elkhart to see if they might be up for tackling some of our bus projects, but having been swamped with other urgent tasks, we had not yet committed to get on their schedule. Though our pending-project list is always pages long, the one urgent fix we wanted some professional help with was getting the inversion valve that blew out on our way into Memphis more securely mounted to the bus rear bulkhead. Even though it had taken the previous valve decades to fail, we didn’t want to take any chances with our air brake system. Working on the inversion valve required access to a pit, run-up ramps, or a lift – so it was something we needed a shop’s help to tackle. We also wanted to inspect the entire air system to see if there were any other lurking problems. As usual – serendipity aligned everything for us. By coming over to meet Kasey and Amber, we got introduced to the owner of Master Tech RV – Tim, and his son Austin. It was a pretty instant connection all the way around. After a harsh winter in Indiana, all of the shops in Elkhart are experiencing a very busy season with RVers wanting spring and summer work done. Getting into a shop last minute was going to be a bit difficult. But Tim invited us to come stay at Master Tech’s onsite campground after we had our seats installed at Bradd and Hall, and if we were willing to be flexible - he’d work us into the shop as soon as he could. This was fine by us, and gave us a place to hang out for a few days, and the opportunity to spend more time with Kasey and Amber too. On Friday afternoon, we had a knock on the door that the shop could get us in – so we moved the bus into the bay and they got us up on their lift system to get at the air valve. Our tech fabricated a new mount to hold the valve securely to the bulkhead, and we also did a few more safety and leak related tweaks to the air system. The crew had to go home, but Tim was going to be working all weekend long, and late into every night, on his awesome 1974 Winnebago Brave that has been his passion project for years – getting it ready to show off at the upcoming Fleetwood / Glamarama rally where Master Tech will be exhibiting. Tim invited us to be his neighbor in the shop, and said we could make use of the lift, his tools, and tap into his expertise if we wanted to tackle any other projects on the bus on our own. That’s an offer that just doesn’t come around every day – so we decided to take full advantage of it! Austin then sweetened the deal by giving us the access codes to get us onto the super-fast WiFi, and allowing us to use AirPlay to control the shop’s rocking sound system from our iPhones. Before becoming a master RV tech, Tim was a professional DJ – so this shop has a super impressive sound system. It was shaping up to be an awesome weekend of intense bus projects while rocking out! Now.. what projects to tackle?? The list is so long! Project 1: Suppressing our Surges Our plug-in 30A surge protector had recently bit the dust after many years of service, and we’ve been carrying around an inline TRC Surge Guard 50A protector that our friends Forrest and Mary had gifted us from their spare parts bin, waiting for a good opportunity to install it. Friday night’s project was redoing the bus shore power input to pass through the surge suppressor – meaning that I now no longer need to go unplug us from the pedestal when lightening storms are in the area. Tip: We consider a full-rig surge protector to be an essential piece of RVing gear if you plug in to shore power and are concerned about your electronics! Project 2: Strutting Our Stuff The pneumatic strut that holds open the bay door over our utility bay has never been strong enough to hold up the door on its own. Back when we first got the bus I tried three separate times to find a more appropriate strut – but gave up in frustration dealing with auto part stores that can’t look up parts by spec, but only by “what year, make, and model”. I asked Tim for advice on where to buy an appropriately sized stronger strut – and he grabbed his parts bin before I could even finish describing the problem. “Let’s try 150lbs. Nope, way too strong. 80lbs – nope, too weak. 100lbs – yes, just right!” For the first time ever – I was now able to work in the utility bay without needing a pipe to hold open the door! Wahoo! Project 3: Taking it to the Rear When we first installed the lithium battery system and inverter, we located it way up in the front bay – requiring a very long wire run all the way forward from the utility bay, and then all the way back to the circuit breaker panel. This was an especially long run for the DC power to flow when we wanted to charge the batteries or run the roof air-conditioning using power from the alternator, and we were taking advantage of some old bus wiring and a chassis ground to enable this – but the DC wiring was far from ideal. At the time we had no choice – the back bay was still occupied with a giant 50 gallon propane tank. But we long ago went propane free, and that back half of the utility bay had become just a hard-to-access junk and spare parts storage area. We’ve long wanted to relocate the batteries and inverter there, beef up the wiring that ties into the alternator, and in general improve the electrical installation. At last – we had the perfect opportunity! But… What a big job! It essentially involved dismantling and rebuilding our entire bus electrical system, and it took two full marathon days and nights. Fortunately we had Tim around to tap into for occasional advice and tools – his giant crimper and coaching helped us make easy work of making the new 0/4 cables we needed, among many other things. By early Monday morning when we finally powered everything back up my arms were jello, my fingers bloody, and I could barely utter a coherent sentence. But we pulled it off, and the install looks great. We are also now ready for mounting a solar controller, and I even sized the battery chamber to allow for an eventual upgrade to a larger lithium ion battery bank. (The new 1250Ah Balqon cells have our eye!) The next big electrical upgrade? Solar! We’re deep in research choosing our flexible panels. We then took the empty front bay, and turned it into a perfect storage area for all our outside furniture. More Info: Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs Project 4: The Annoying Anode Even us seasoned RV’ers occasionally overlook seasonal maintenance, and it had dawned on us that we had gone two years since installing a new anode into our water heater. Yikes! It took an oversized breaking bar to get the corroded old one loose, and it was indeed LONG overdue for a change. But we got this chore tackled too. REMINDER: If you have a steel water heater (Suburban, etc) in your RV – change the anode EVERY year! Project 5: Waking Up Horny Late Sunday Tim was showing off the air horn on his Winnie, and not to be outdone I hit the bus air horn. It roared to life, but…. It didn’t stop! The horn was stuck, roaring away until I pulled an air system release valve and drained all the air away. Yikes! I saturated the stuck horn valve in chain lube, and hoped that it would unstick by morning. 7AM Monday morning we had to be ready for the main work crew to check over a few final air system leaks, and then to get out of the bay and off the lift so the regularly scheduled work could continue. When directed – I fired up the bus, and as air pressure built…. The rising sound of the horn gave everyone a very exciting wakeup call, echoing through the entire shop! The horn was still stuck – whoops! Some saturating with PB Blaster into the valve eventually got it unstuck and back to smooth operation, and we were soon done in the shop and relocated back to the campground. Thank you Master Tech RV – it was an absolute pleasure being here, and getting so much done. You rock our world, and we look forward to returning! And after having spent some time getting to know the owner, the crew, and many of Master Tech’s customers – we can highly endorse this shop for any of your RVing repair, renovation, or advancement needs. ]]>

Sometime last month we got an e-mail from a guy named Kasey, who said he was in the Elkhart area getting some work done on his coach. He mentioned that he had gotten turned on to Victron inverters thanks to discovering our blog, and he would like to meet up if it was possible while we were also in the area.

Sure, we love meeting people – especially other RV tech geeks!

Getting a big case of tech envy with Kasey and his big mast.

That’s a mighty big mast you have there, Kasey!

We quickly learned that ‘getting some work done’ was a huge understatement – Kasey and his girlfriend Amber were in the middle of a complete gutting and over-the-top remodel of their rig that they were having done at Master Tech RV. They had actually been living there for most of the past year working on creating what will be one of the most ridiculously geeked out RVs ever, once it is finished.

It is rare that I get blown away by someone else’s tech upgrades – but Kasey’s 65′ surplus TV news truck retractable antenna mast left us with major tech envy.

And that was just the start of it.

Master Tech RV happened to be one of the service centers we had contacted on our way into Elkhart to see if they might be up for tackling some of our bus projects, but having been swamped with other urgent tasks, we had not yet committed to get on their schedule.

Master Tech RV in Elkhart, IN

Master Tech RV in Elkhart, IN

Though our pending-project list is always pages long, the one urgent fix we wanted some professional help with was getting the inversion valve that blew out on our way into Memphis more securely mounted to the bus rear bulkhead. Even though it had taken the previous valve decades to fail, we didn’t want to take any chances with our air brake system.

Working on the inversion valve required access to a pit, run-up ramps, or a lift – so it was something we needed a shop’s help to tackle. We also wanted to inspect the entire air system to see if there were any other lurking problems.

As usual – serendipity aligned everything for us. By coming over to meet Kasey and Amber, we got introduced to the owner of Master Tech RV – Tim, and his son Austin. It was a pretty instant connection all the way around.

Tim, Austin and myself inspecting the air systems.

Tim, Austin and myself inspecting the air systems.

After a harsh winter in Indiana, all of the shops in Elkhart are experiencing a very busy season with RVers wanting spring and summer work done. Getting into a shop last minute was going to be a bit difficult. But Tim invited us to come stay at Master Tech’s onsite campground after we had our seats installed at Bradd and Hall, and if we were willing to be flexible - he’d work us into the shop as soon as he could.

This was fine by us, and gave us a place to hang out for a few days, and the opportunity to spend more time with Kasey and Amber too.

Up on a lift! Zephyr kinda looks like an AT-AT from Star Wars, eh? That would be a cool upgrade!!

Our super cool new AT-AT bus upgrade! (Geek points earned if you get the reference…)

On Friday afternoon, we had a knock on the door that the shop could get us in – so we moved the bus into the bay and they got us up on their lift system to get at the air valve. Our tech fabricated a new mount to hold the valve securely to the bulkhead, and we also did a few more safety and leak related tweaks to the air system.

The crew had to go home, but Tim was going to be working all weekend long, and late into every night, on his awesome 1974 Winnebago Brave that has been his passion project for years – getting it ready to show off at the upcoming Fleetwood / Glamarama rally where Master Tech will be exhibiting.

Geeking out with Austin into the wee hours of the morning.

Geeking out with Austin into the wee hours of the morning.

Tim invited us to be his neighbor in the shop, and said we could make use of the lift, his tools, and tap into his expertise if we wanted to tackle any other projects on the bus on our own.

That’s an offer that just doesn’t come around every day – so we decided to take full advantage of it!

Austin then sweetened the deal by giving us the access codes to get us onto the super-fast WiFi, and allowing us to use AirPlay to control the shop’s rocking sound system from our iPhones. Before becoming a master RV tech, Tim was a professional DJ – so this shop has a super impressive sound system.

It was shaping up to be an awesome weekend of intense bus projects while rocking out!

Now.. what projects to tackle?? The list is so long!

Project 1: Suppressing our Surges

Hardwiring in a 50A surge protector.

Hardwiring in a 50A surge protector.

Our plug-in 30A surge protector had recently bit the dust after many years of service, and we’ve been carrying around an inline TRC Surge Guard 50A protector that our friends Forrest and Mary had gifted us from their spare parts bin, waiting for a good opportunity to install it.

Friday night’s project was redoing the bus shore power input to pass through the surge suppressor – meaning that I now no longer need to go unplug us from the pedestal when lightening storms are in the area.

Tip: We consider a full-rig surge protector to be an essential piece of RVing gear if you plug in to shore power and are concerned about your electronics!

Project 2: Strutting Our Stuff

Amazing what a difference the small stuff can make.

Amazing what a difference the small stuff can make.

The pneumatic strut that holds open the bay door over our utility bay has never been strong enough to hold up the door on its own. Back when we first got the bus I tried three separate times to find a more appropriate strut – but gave up in frustration dealing with auto part stores that can’t look up parts by spec, but only by “what year, make, and model”.

I asked Tim for advice on where to buy an appropriately sized stronger strut – and he grabbed his parts bin before I could even finish describing the problem. “Let’s try 150lbs. Nope, way too strong. 80lbs – nope, too weak. 100lbs – yes, just right!”

For the first time ever – I was now able to work in the utility bay without needing a pipe to hold open the door! Wahoo!

Project 3: Taking it to the Rear

Moving the lithium out of the front bay..

Moving the lithium out of the front bay..

When we first installed the lithium battery system and inverter, we located it way up in the front bay – requiring a very long wire run all the way forward from the utility bay, and then all the way back to the circuit breaker panel.

This was an especially long run for the DC power to flow when we wanted to charge the batteries or run the roof air-conditioning using power from the alternator, and we were taking advantage of some old bus wiring and a chassis ground to enable this – but the DC wiring was far from ideal.

And into the rear utility bay.

And into the rear utility bay.

At the time we had no choice – the back bay was still occupied with a giant 50 gallon propane tank. But we long ago went propane free, and that back half of the utility bay had become just a hard-to-access junk and spare parts storage area.

We’ve long wanted to relocate the batteries and inverter there, beef up the wiring that ties into the alternator, and in general improve the electrical installation.

At last – we had the perfect opportunity!

But… What a big job!

It essentially involved dismantling and rebuilding our entire bus electrical system, and it took two full marathon days and nights. Fortunately we had Tim around to tap into for occasional advice and tools – his giant crimper and coaching helped us make easy work of making the new 0/4 cables we needed, among many other things.

Wiring the inverter mounting board - contactors, EMS, bus bar, etc. Late night campfire - techno style. Heat shrinking 0/4 wiring! IMG_2195
Nice clean install!

Nice clean install!

Our new outdoor stuff bay!

Our new outdoor stuff bay!

By early Monday morning when we finally powered everything back up my arms were jello, my fingers bloody, and I could barely utter a coherent sentence. But we pulled it off, and the install looks great.

We are also now ready for mounting a solar controller, and I even sized the battery chamber to allow for an eventual upgrade to a larger lithium ion battery bank. (The new 1250Ah Balqon cells have our eye!)

The next big electrical upgrade? Solar! We’re deep in research choosing our flexible panels.

We then took the empty front bay, and turned it into a perfect storage area for all our outside furniture.

More Info: Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs

Project 4: The Annoying Anode

Ooops.

Even us seasoned RV’ers occasionally overlook seasonal maintenance, and it had dawned on us that we had gone two years since installing a new anode into our water heater.

Yikes!

It took an oversized breaking bar to get the corroded old one loose, and it was indeed LONG overdue for a change.

But we got this chore tackled too.

REMINDER: If you have a steel water heater (Suburban, etc) in your RV – change the anode EVERY year!

Project 5: Waking Up Horny

Tim's awesome renovated 1974 Winnebago Brave!

Tim’s awesome renovated 1974 Winnebago Brave!

Late Sunday Tim was showing off the air horn on his Winnie, and not to be outdone I hit the bus air horn.

It roared to life, but…. It didn’t stop! The horn was stuck, roaring away until I pulled an air system release valve and drained all the air away. Yikes! I saturated the stuck horn valve in chain lube, and hoped that it would unstick by morning.

7AM Monday morning we had to be ready for the main work crew to check over a few final air system leaks, and then to get out of the bay and off the lift so the regularly scheduled work could continue.

When directed – I fired up the bus, and as air pressure built…. The rising sound of the horn gave everyone a very exciting wakeup call, echoing through the entire shop! The horn was still stuck – whoops!

Some saturating with PB Blaster into the valve eventually got it unstuck and back to smooth operation, and we were soon done in the shop and relocated back to the campground.

Thank you Master Tech RV – it was an absolute pleasure being here, and getting so much done. You rock our world, and we look forward to returning!

And after having spent some time getting to know the owner, the crew, and many of Master Tech’s customers – we can highly endorse this shop for any of your RVing repair, renovation, or advancement needs. 

]]>
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