Sunday, August 24, 2014

California Russian River

One of my favorite songs is Red Tail Hawk by Kate Wolf, but I know it by the refrain, “The Golden Rolling Hills of California.” I thought of it a lot during our drive this day.

Whenever there’s a Thousand Trails park anywhere near our route, that’s where we’ll go. We pay about $500 a year to be a member of Thousand Trails, then we stay at their parks without getting any money out of our pockets! So nice. It takes 25 nights’ stay then, to bring the cost to $20/night. Any more than that and we’re getting a really good deal.


We’ve never been to the Russian River TT before so it was a treat. It’s a very hilly park, not easy to drive the rig and get parked, but we did. In fact, the neighbors even applauded Jim’s parking job. He gives me all the credit for guiding him, but I know he could almost do it without me.  I think it’s all in getting the right approach – that’s the hard part. Then I just fine tune the position and tell him when to stop.
The park was old, and not very luxurious, but it was a quick walk down to the pretty riverside.


THE INTERNET WAS GOOD! We looked it up beforehand on our Coverage App, as well as looking at actual Cell Tower locations. Those indicated that it would be pretty good, but we still didn’t believe it. Thousand Trails parks are known for being in out of the way places with no good Internet connections. Check out these actual speedtest results from our site:
2014-08-29 17.08.56
This was very important to us because we’d like to stay till Sunday, and Sunday morning is our Internet Show, “What Does This Button Do?” We really need good Internet in order to do that show. And, we did! Here’s the whole show: Episode 9 video on Youtube, if you’re interested in learning about Smartphones and Tablets.

Oh yeah ... we felt the earthquake! This from WikiPedia: The 2014 South Napa earthquake occurred near American Canyon, California on August 24 at 3:20 a.m. local time, measuring at 6.0 on the moment magnitude
It woke us up, but we just rolled over and went back to sleet. An RV is a good home to have in an earthquake, it's very used to shaking!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Behind the Redwood Curtain

After leaving  Crater Lake we had no reservations and had no luck finding a campground on our route with an opening. Our backup plan was to stop at the rest area on I5 at Valley of the Rogue State park, but it was just plain Closed. I assume it was for lack of funding – what a shame, looked like a great place as we drove by.  So, back to our plan C – Walmart. We did need to do some shopping anyway, so Grants Pass Walmart it was.


Then we had a full day for our next drive. Even though it was well under 200 miles, it was a very scenic route and included yet another National Park, right on the way. Redwoods National Park.
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The last time we were here, we didn’t have the National Park Passport. Now, whenever we’re near a national park, we have to stop at least to get our passport stamped … so we can prove we’ve been there? Aren’t the pictures, and the blog, and Facebook, and Google+ … enough? I guess I just have a love of stamped passports! So, we stopped at the Visitor Center which isn’t in the Redwoods at all! It’s right on the beach.

Then we drove thru some Redwoods. It’s not just one park, they even call it Redwoods National and State Parks – there’s a whole series of them as you drive thru this area. And then there are the private attractions as well.



Our purpose in coming this route was to see our old Datastorm User Group friends Don and Joy. They let us park in their driveway and we stayed a couple nights. The first day we went geocaching in the local city park. It’s called Sequoia for good reason!
Joy and Chris admiring a tree


Don and Joy take us Geocaching in their local, city park!


When telling us a bit about their history here in Eureka, Don mentioned that they liked being “Behind the Redwood Curtain!” The weather is always cool with fog from the Pacific. It’s a bit isolated, so they have their own culture, and not a lot of outside interference. It also means they can be a bit lacking in services – all the gas stations seem to have an agreement on the prices, and Internet connections are not the greatest. Don told us that there is only one Internet trunk line in and out of the area and it’s owned by AT&T. Verizon has to lease from them. And, yes, our Verizon connection was nowhere near as good as it has been in most cities we’ve visited. But it was better than on the road here! I don’t think we’ve driven anywhere in this country where we’ve been out of cell service for as long as we were on the drive here. Not even in the Rocky Mountains.

We also went to lunch with Don and Joy at a restaurant with a great view down by the Marina. We watched boats come and go and noticed several signs for fresh tuna for sale. Let’s check it out! We expected to be able to buy a couple of tuna steaks, but no, they were selling the whole fish. They asked if we wanted them to clean and filet it .. uh … yes please. We ate some that night and froze the rest. I had no idea tuna could taste SOO good.




After leaving Don and Joy’s, we drove thru Avenue of the Giants … I think this is what I remember as THE Redwood Forest.






Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pack up, Take a Drive, See a Lake

The rally's over, where'd everybody go? We're never in a hurry to leave - we're tired and enjoy a day of rest after rallies like this. Besides, we had our weekly "What Does This Button Do? Internet show to do on Sunday. When we got back from breakfast, we found that the electricity had been turned off. Oh well, this wasn't the first time we had to do our show on generator power.

Here's my desk after the show is over. We use, and demonstrate, lots of different computers, smartphones, and tablets!
After the show we just took a leisurely walk around the fairgrounds. We always marvel at how these mini-cities can get all set up, be active, then disappear within 5 day's time.

Where'd everybody go?
 On Monday we also took it easy. We had to take Ally to the airport, then we planned to hit the road and head south. Our next destination was to visit friends in Eureka, CA. We didn't really expect to do anything in between. I was actually looking forward to some boring drive time to relax, but it wasn't to be! I looked at the map and noticed how close Crater Lake was. And, there appeared to be a route that would take us right by the lake and continue on towards Grant's Pass. So long to boring!

I'm sure glad Jim was driving! It was a narrow, curvy road with some steep dropoffs on the outside edge.

We stopped at a couple of places in order to walk around and enjoy Crater Lake.
Crater Lake is a stunning sight

I like this photo that Jim took with the Fisheye setting on his phone.

Just another drive? NOT!

A great viewpoint at the southern end of Crater Lake

Wizard Island and Crater Lake

Gotta have a selfie at Crater Lake!

Another angle on Wizard island and Crater Lake

And what a gorgeous day we had for Crater Lake
I liked this tree stump in the foreground of Crater Lake
The HDR photos above
You might notice that a few of the pictures above look almost like paintings rather than photographs - the colors are too vivid and the lines are too etched. That's because they are actually 3 pictures put together as one in what is called HDR, standing for High Dynamic Range. This is more than the HDR setting on your smartphone or tablet. I took the 3 originals with my Canon T3i digital SLR camera and then uploaded them to Google+. The auto-awesome feature puts the 3 originals together into a 4th HDR picture. Then I decide which ones I like and include them with my photo library. I know that some of them are a bit too much, but once you start getting used to them, the real photos look so plain.  If you want to know more about how Auto-Awesome works, here's an article I wrote about a different type of Auto-Awesome: http://picasageeks.com/2014/05/picasa-tip-smile-its-auto-awesome/
If you have a Verizon Unlimited Data plan:
And, on another techie note: we've just heard a notice from RVMobileInternet.com (a service by Technomadia) that the loophole that has allowed many of us to upgrade our smartphone while still keeping our Unlimited Data Plan - is going away soon. You cannot upgrade your phone at the subsidized price and keep your Unlimited data plan, but some Verizon reps have been willing to use a technique of swapping plans with another line. The Verizon representative who performed the upgrade for me is Ryan and his number is (740) 403-8414. If you have a smartphone with a Verizon Unlimited Data plan and you want to keep it while upgrading to a new phone - call him, or someone willing to do this Verizon contract swap before the 'swapping plans' loophole is closed on August 24.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Geeks on Tour–Ten Years Teaching Technology to Travelers

Our first FMCA - 2004 - helping people in the Wi-Fi Hotspot (that's Jim in orange at right, and Frank Drew of Coach Connect, also in orange)
It was August 2004 - 10 years ago - that we worked our first FMCA convention, and it was in Redmond, Oregon too. We were working for Coach Connect at the time. Coach Connect was a company who installed Wi-Fi in RV parks. They sponsored the Wi-Fi hotspot for the rally and we were the support team.  Here's the blog post I wrote about it back then.
Shortly after that rally, we were teaching Wi-Fi at a Coach Connect park and decided to do a little session about managing digital photos, and making a Blog as well. A new career was born! And, that was before Picasa! Here's the blog post on that day.
Also 2004 - our very first Blogger class! (at Phoenix RV park in Salem, OR)
We credit FMCA with creating Geeks on Tour. When Coach Connect went out of business, we had no reason to go to the RV rallies, but FMCA wanted us to teach our seminars! The seminar coordinator then was Mary Ann Crowley and she made all the arrangements for us to present other topics besides Wi-Fi. We still wore our orange Coach Connect tshirts at the 2006 rally in Charlotte. But by the next one in Perry, GA March 2007, we were Geeks On Tour!
Our first FMCA as Geeks on Tour was in Perry, GA March 2007. I think those are iron-on patches on our shirts.

When we were at the FMCA in Redmond in 2010 we set our attendance record for one seminar. The photo below shows the audience for our intro to Picasa seminar. There were over 700 people in the live audience, plus another 400 watching online! Here's the blog post on that!
What a crowd!
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2010 - our largest seminar ever! Picasa at the FMCA in Redmond in 2010. 740 people!
I doubt we’ll ever see that kind of crowd again, but we had good turnouts this year – 10 years later – at the same Deschutes County Fairground in Redmond, OR. We had 240 people in the Smartphone/Tablet seminar and we were told there were another 600 watching the live stream online. FMCA produced this Live Streaming event for people at home to watch - there were 6 of them total, 3 of which were Geeks on Tour!
If you're not an RVer and don't know about Rallies, here's an aerial photo showing the fairgrounds with 1,400 RVs!

The high-desert, volcanic region around Redmond is known for it's sunsets. Here's one I captured.

We like having our table next to the Rally’s WiFi hotspot and Computer Help Desk. The Help Desk is staffed by the Bits and Bytes chapter of FMCA and we offer our help whenever we can. I particularly enjoyed meeting Lena and hearing about her plans to hike the Camino in Spain. She had a lot of questions about how she could use her smartphone to best advantage while on the hike. In this photo we had just found, and installed, an App specific to the Camino Pilgrimage experience. She was excited. I think she attended at least 6 of our classes during the rest of the week! I sure hope we hear from her on her walk!

I showed Lena how to download some specific Camino apps.

Jim helped Lena and her husband in the hands-on Smartphone photography class.
For those of you who know TechnoRV’s Phil and Tracey May, you’ll understand why we were thrilled to have their daughter Ally as a roommate this week. Her parents could not make it to this rally, so she flew in to be part of the TechnoRV booth.  Since Ally literally grew up living in an RV, we knew she understood things like conserving water while we were parked in the fairgrounds with no water or sewer hookups. She didn't even ask about using the shower but trudged off to the locker rooms provided by the fairgrounds. She was also reunited with their dog, Murphy, during this visit. It was great seeing you Ally!



It was a busy, busy, week. Exhausting and Exhilarating. There were lots people who attended 4 or more of our seminars this week. We taught 10 classes during 3 days, and loved every minute. You can download any of our seminar handouts (for personal use only!) on our website's Seminar Handouts dropbox page.
  1. Google Maps
  2. Geeks On Tour: Technology For Travelers
  3. Smartphone Photography – hands-on
  4. Blogger: Every RVer Needs A Blog
  5. Smartphones/Tablets For Travelers
  6. Organizing Pictures with Picasa
  7. Editing and Sharing Pictures with Picasa
  8. Smartphone Photography: Hands-on
  9. Cloud Computing
  10. Geeks On Tour: Technology For Travelers

Just getting ready for our first seminar. Nice setup! Thanks FMCA.

Gotta get one picture of the two of us. Give us pitchforks and we have "Geek Gothic" ???



Some people told us that our seminars were the reason they came to the Rally! We welcomed 89 new and renewing members to Geeks on Tour during this week.

Since that first FMCA Convention for us in 2004, we've only missed one of their national conventions - the one in Perry, GA March 2005. You can see the list of all the FMCA conventions on their website. This one was our 17th. Next one will be in Pomona, CA March 2015. See you there?!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Back in Rally Mode

We scheduled ourselves into a small rally in Albany, Oregon for the week before the big rally. It was in the fairgrounds where we’ve been before. So we got to relax and ease back into presenter mode. It’s been a while! Our last rally was back in Goshen.
Here’s our parking spot at the fairgrounds.

It was a nice little rally. We were able to sit with individuals at our table and go thru all their questions. One person had a new Galaxy Note 10.1 – just like mine – so that was fun. Then another person needed help with her iPhone. I always like that to see how much my iPad knowledge translates. Here's our table:

Then we gave a couple of our regular seminars, and last a hands-on smartphone/tablet class. The people in this group were in the perfect place, they all had a phone and used it for calls, texts, and emails ok, but were not aware of a lot of the other stuff they can do. By the end of the session, they were all talking so excitedly about how much they learned. That’s what we live for!



And we were so excited because we had a new toy. Have you heard of AppleTV or ChromeCast? Well, we have both of those also, and we use them at home to project our phone or our iPad’s screen to our TV, but they don’t really do what we want in a seminar presentation situation. Jim just got the Samsung AllShare Wireless HDMI Display Adapter. So, as long as the projector has an HDMI port, we can be standing anywhere in the room with either our Samsung phones or tablet and whatever we’re seeing on the tablet is being projected to the big screen. Our powerpoint presentations work on the Samsung tablet, we can show web pages too. But my favorite part is that we can tap the camera app on the tablet, then we’re seeing – and the audience is seeing – whatever we’re focused on. So … we can stand next to a student who has a question on their iPhone for example, and we can focus on their phone and their hands – as we step them thru the answer to their question, everyone else in the room is seeing it too! I love it.
One little rally down, one big one to go. Over the mountains to Redmond we go!