Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Washington State, Thousand Trails, and RVTravel.com

After leaving Boise, we were headed to the very northwest corner of the country. For the first stop we had to find a location where we knew the Verizon signal would be good because it would be a Sunday and we have our weekly online show to broadcast. We picked a place in southeast Washington called Kennewick. The show went well - here's the recording if you want to watch: https://plus.google.com/events/c1h5d12flk2ru625f5cum29rrcg.
After the closing credits of our show, we feel that we deserved a treat, so we went for a little sightseeing drive and early dinner at a brewery.

The next day we were up and at em, raring to go ... about noon ... and headed north.

It became very obvious that we were in the northwest! Mount Adams, Mount Ranier and more.

Our destination was the Thousand Trails park called La Conner. We had originally planned to go to that park back in 2007 but never made it. This is a bit out of the way up here in the far northwest! I'm so glad we finally made it!

We sure made the right decision to be somewhere else for our weekly show though. We haven't had Verizon signal this poor in a long time. Even phone calls placed from our RV would drop for lack of signal. An Internet connection couldn't be made at all. For the first time we made us of the AT&T connection on our iPad. We turned the iPad into a hotspot and were online ok, but certainly not good enough to broadcast our show. The interesting thing is if you just walked thru the trees to the beach area, our phones had 3-4 bars of good 4G signal from Verizon.  And, I didn't mind walking out there to make a phone call! Just look at this view.

Wait just a bit, and you even got to see a pair of bald eagles in the tree.

The next day, we had planned to visit with Chuck Woodbury of RVTravel.com at his office just north of Seattle. Then we would go into Seattle, take in Pike's Market and have a drink at the Space Needle. Well, it was pouring rain. We made it to Chuck's place, had a nice lunch, and chatted about our websites, broadcasting Internet shows and our respective production studios. He actually has a real production studio! We discussed having each other as guests on our respective shows.

It's always a treat to visit with people in their homes or offices when you primarily know them only online.

When we were finished with our visit, it was still pouring rain, so we decided not to go into Seattle. There would be no views to be had from the space needle anyway.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Boondocking Geeks and WiFiRanger

Geeks need electricity, so we’re not all that fond of boondocking. In case you don’t know “boondocking” means to camp in your RV without any hookups – no electricity, no water, no sewer. Some RVers, like Bob Difley, strive to boondock as often as possible. They seek out remote, beautiful places. We only do it as a last resort and end up in parking lots - but it's good to know we can! So, why then did we Boondock 5 out of 8 nights?!
Well, the first 2 you already read about – they were Walmart parking lots when we couldn’t find an RV park with any available spots. We even broadcast our weekly Internet show from one of those Walmart parking lots! Then we had the 3 nights in a beautiful State Park, then it was on to a Harvest Host winery location. Aha! You may be seeing a method to our madness – we do have some priorities that come before computers. Cold Creek winery was a Harvest Host location where we’ve stayed before and we know we like their wine!

Next stop was to visit Kelly Hogan who owns WiFiRanger. This is a device that we’ve used for several years now, and we really appreciate the customer service we get from them. We’ve met Kelley before and knew that his office is near Boise, so before we headed into Idaho we called him up to see if he’d be around. Yep! And there is a gravel lot right next door where we could park if we wanted to Boondock.

Well, OK. With 100 degree weather and fires raging all over Idaho, we had to run our air conditioner. We cranked up the generator and left it running all day. It did cool down at night so we could turn off all that noisy stuff while we slept. We ended up staying a second night because we had such good Internet there! Kelly set up a WiFi access point just for us and we got a lot of work done.
We also got to spend some time learning about his business. The WiFiRanger began primarily as a way for RVers to get better results from campground WiFi. There’s an inside component, and an outside component. The outside component (the ‘Mobile’) is primarily an antenna that pulls in the signal from the campground. The inside component (the ‘Go’) is primarily a router that takes that signal and creates a private WiFi network inside your RV for all your devices to connect to.
We’ve had some discussions about WiFiRanger on our member forums. Here’s a video we did last year talking about the WiFiRanger:

Link to Youtube video.

A “SmartRV?”

In conversation with Kelly we learned more about how the WiFiRanger is being used and it was fascinating. It is becoming the hub of what I would call the “Smart-RV!”
In today’s world, Internet has become a utility just like water and electricity, and many more devices are using it than just computers. Our printers, phones, SmartTVs, Wii and Playstation devices, tablets, picture frames, even some household refrigerators, coffee makers and alarm systems.  This is becoming known as the “Internet of Things.” In a house, where you have one Internet connection and one router, all of these things can be programmed to get to the Internet thru that connection. In an RV, we are changing our Internet connection all the time. The WiFiRanger allows us to approximate the same situation as in a house. Our Internet connection is always the WiFiRanger. It changes what it is connected to all the time, but our devices can just connect to the WiFiRanger.
This is a good thing. We recently bought a Samsung Smart TV. The “Smart” means that it can access the Internet. It can play movies from Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. IF it has an Internet connection. We program it to get an Internet connection from the WiFiRanger. Then, we don’t have to re-program it when we move.
What Kelly told us though, goes even further. There are engine monitoring devices for RVs which can benefit by a consistent method of Internet connection. Also inverters and other electronic equipment, if they had a consistent method of Internet connection – like a hardwired line of communication – can then be accessed by the manufacturer for troubleshooting. Wow! What a concept. Having trouble with your Smart CoffeeMaker? Just put the pot on the phone with the manufacturer’s tech support and let them fix it! Having trouble with your engine? Call the manufacturer and put them on the direct Internet line to your diagnostics!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sundance Hike

After our Walmart night, and completing our weekly show, we were able to check into the State Park where we had reservations. What a nice place! Jordanelle State Park. I'd be happy to come here again. The Verizon signal is very good also - it doesn't get much better! Well, the sites could be a bit more level.

The first night we had a little cookout with our friends Tom and Margo Foster who were staying in their townhouse just a few miles away. Then they planned a hike for us the next day!

We started off for the hike by driving to Sundance resort.  Here's the scenery along the way. That's Mt. Timpanagos. Usually, when I know I'm going to someplace scenic, I'll be sure to take my "good" camera. The Canon T3i Digital SLR with the heavy lens that can take very wide angle as well as zoom in (18mm - 135mm) or maybe even the long lens for real (300mm) telephoto pics. But, lately, I've been so happy with the pictures taken by my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone, that I decided to leave the big camera behind. It was a hot day so we had to carry 2 bottles of water each, I wanted to travel as light as possible. So, all these pictures were taken with the smartphone.

We were taking a hike up to Stewart falls. Luckily, most of the "up" was done on a chairlift!

I couldn't have taken this 'selfie' with my good camera!

We walked by massive Aspen groves.

Here's Stewart Falls

May as well take a bit of video too!

After the hike, they took us on a drive up to the Guardsman Pass. First stop was Homestead Crater - it's filled with water that stays at 97 degrees! People take scuba diving lessons here - what a trip! I can't imagine scuba diving in 97 degree water!

Back on the road and going up, up, up. What spectacular scenery! I almost missed my "good" camera with it's wide angle lens here, but then I remembered Panorama mode!

Thanks to Margo, we got a few photos of both of us.

And all four of us!

What a beautiful day! Thanks for getting us out guys!

See more pictures in our monthly photo album.  And, here's Margo's album.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Scenic Route thru Colorado

If you ask Google to take you from Denver to Park City, UT it wants you to drive north to Wyoming and then west on 80. But notice that it does acknowledge some alternate routes that go thru the mountains straight west of Denver. That's what I wanted. The scenic route! What do I care if it's steep grades and curvy? Jim does the driving!

Not only was it steep and curvy, but there was lots of construction and it was raining!

I still think it was worth it. Beautiful scenery! Here's the area near Glennwood canyon.

We planned to find a place to stay somewhere around Glennwood, but no such luck. I found all the campgrounds available using my Allstays Camp and RV app, and tried calling them. All full. So, we ended up in the Walmart parking lot in Rifle, CO. There were "no overnight parking" signs all over the place so we were a bit worried even there. We had some shopping to do so, once inside Walmart, we found a customer service manager and asked about parking overnight. "No Problem" she said. OK. And, here's the view from our bedroom window. Not bad.

The next day we headed straight north out of Rifle. It was a small road, but well maintained. Jim pulled off the road for a delightful lunch stop.

I'm so glad we took the scenic route!

We actually had reservations for our next destination near Park City where we planned to meet up with our old friends Tom and Margo Foster who recently bought a vacation home there. Unfortunately, we arrived a day before our reservation and we were told there were no spaces available at that park. We called around, and everyone was full! So, it was another Walmart night. This time in Heber City, UT.

The location of our production studios for the 3d Episode of our weekly show.

Our main concern was Internet because we had to do our weekly show on Sunday. This was our third episode of "What Does This Button Do?" Pretty amazing that we can produce a worldwide broadcast from our RV using the generator for electricity, our cellphones for Internet connection (Verizon was actually very good at the Walmart!.) We did mess up and not have our sound set correctly though. We talked for over 13 minutes before getting the message that no one could hear us! We've edited that out, and you can watch the recording of WDTBD Episode 3, along with all the other archives at www.GeeksOnTour.tv/wdtbd

Our view of the super moon the next morning was made even more super looking out our bedroom window in a Walmart parking lot!

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