Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The satellite is working. Finally! More than three weeks from the initial install date. I had to uninstall the software, remove some registry entries, and go through the complete software install from scratch. Everything worked this time. The problems we had were a bad upper control board on the dish and a bad receive modem from Hughes. Part of the reason the whole process took so long was due to the holiday season. Chris is working with it right now. We did some speed tests to compare with the wifi here at Paradise Island. Wifi has higher speeds, especially uploads. But we knew that. We are moving the coach tomorrow for New Year's open house at Easterlin Park. Happy New Year!

A Christmas Trip

A Christmas Trip
The day after Christmas we picked up Debbie (Jim's sister) and Bob (her husband) to take them on a 4-day RV trip to northern Florida.

Picking up Bob and Debbie, complete with presents for their son in Daytona

They wanted to go to Amelia Island that is just north of Jacksonville, so I looked at a map (one of my favorite things to do!) researched campgrounds that would work. Blue Springs State Park looked like a good day's drive for the first night. I made reservations on www.reserveamerica.com - a really good-working website for campground reservations. We got there just before sunset. They were turning away dozens of visitors ... a very popular place.

Debbie, Bob and Jim on the boardwalk at Blue Springs

Blue Springs is known for its manatees, this is the best I've ever seen them.

We got a site right on the beach on Amelia Island. The campground was Fort Clinch.

The fort at Fort Clinch

This one's for Mom!

There's a spot in Jacksonville Beach where you need to take a ferry to cross the river! We called this our "Christmas Cruise".

I was really impressed with how comfortable our camper was for four of us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Happy Holidays! I usually view Christmas as way too much effort and money. I prefer to take a vacation and ignore it. But, as with so many things in the RV, the effort is so minimal that ... what the heck! I bought a potted Norfolk Pine from Lowe's for about $5, Jim got 2 little strands of lights for $2 each, and he had a few ornaments he saved from the house. And, you can't fit too many presents under there! It's so cute! I'm even playing some Christmas music ... Jim has at least a dozen CD's collected over the years. And, for New Year's I'm going to revive an old tradition of mine and have an 'Open-House' brunch. Or, make that an 'Open-motorhome' brunch. We'll park it at Easterlin, a local County Park, and anyone who wants to come by is welcome. It will be a sort of bon voyage party too, since we expect to be leaving town in a month or so.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Well, hopefully, the 3d time will be a charm! Yep, that's right ... we went for another trip to hook up with the Datastorm installer and are still coming back inoperational. Only one of the 2 suspect parts were available to replace ours. The second one is now being overnighted to us. So, that (the receive modem) must be the problem, cuz it's still not working. It looks like it's going to work, but just never finds the satellite and locks on to signal. It's certainly not for lack of trying on anyone's part. But, we enjoyed our trip anyway. It is so indescribably scrumptious to be able to travel about and yet always be home. Today we were driving back to Fort Lauderdale from Ft. Myers on the west coast. We pulled over at a rest stop to take a bathroom break and realized that the Dolphin’s were playing our ‘arch-rivals’ Buffalo Bills at 1pm and it was now 1:15 … what the hey! We cranked up the TV antenna, popped the top on a beer and settled in to watch the game. This is the ‘cab over’ part of the RV – we call it the loft. It is the most comfy TV spot I’ve ever had in a home. We don’t have a TV per se … we use our computer projector and project onto an artist’s painting canvas! Add the 6 Bose speakers and we have one heluva home entertainment center!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Well, the install went smoothly until time to load the software. The hardware presented a couple of challenges. Chris' PC did not come with old fashioned RS232 serial ports or a floppy drive. We got a USB- to- serial adapter at RS and the darned thing came with installation files on a floppy! Sure glad we got a USB floppy drive recently and that the PC has lots of USB ports. When we hooked everything up, and installed the software, the compass was not registering. Everything else looked all right and we could manually put in the compass heading. After all the testing and calibrations, we couldn't find a suitable signal. Multiple calls for tech support were not able to get us operational. Indications are a receive modem and/or a board on the dish assembly. We'll be going back for completion next weekend. In the meantime, the dish looks cool on top of the coach, and we still have high-speed Internet from Coach Connect here in Paradise.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Hey!! Hey!! Hey!! Today is really Christmas morning for us - we get our Datastorm satellite dish installed today. Datastorm is the way we can get Internet ANYWHERE! Yep ... although it is our goal for every RV park to have wireless internet ... we won't be tied to that. We can pull off the road at a rest stop and get online once this dish is installed! Also, how do you sell someone (an RV park) something (wireless internet service)??? You give them a free sample! When we have satellite-based internet, we can be a mobile hot-spot and anyone around us can get wireless connectivity from us. So, it's worth the $5,000 that it's costing us right? We traveled from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa so that RV Anywhere could install it for us. We met Scott (from RV Anywhere) at the Datastorm rally in November and learned that it is very important to get someone who knows what they're doing to do the installation. SO ... here we are, and here are some photos from today: Scott and helper arrive on the scene: The Satellite dish weighs just over 100 pounds ... getting it on the roof takes a little ingenuity. Jim did a great job of supervising! This part was hard to watch as they drilled a hole in the roof of our home! But, it's not going to work unless there are cables from the satellite dish connecting to our computer, now is it? ... and it looks like they did a pretty good job of stowing all the cables and caulking the hole from the roof side. Now, they have to make all the cables, modems and routers fit in the cabinetry inside the coach. Looks like it's going to work pretty good. Here it is! The satellite dish is successfully mounted on our roof in record time. This is the last step of installation, where we had to have a phone line to initiate the connection (a one time thing). We drove the RV over to the park office to use a phone line with a 100 foot cable. BUT ... here is where trouble begins ... installing and using the software that finds the satellite gave us errors. We reinstalled a couple times, switched computers and installed on the laptop ... all to no avail. Scott is researching our problems tonight and will be back tomorrow. To be continued .....

Friday, December 12, 2003

I'm so sorry I didn't take any photos the other evening. I belong to a group called Women's Executive Club. Among other things, we meet once a month at a member's home for a social. This month I was co-hosting the social with Vivien, the owner of Blue Water Books and Charts. I told people they could visit Vivien's AND my home ... no, we don't live together! Jim and I drove our motorhome over to Vivien's home and parked in her driveway for the evening. It was great. I so enjoyed having these women, some of whom I've known for many years, see my new lifestyle. The reactions were interesting - from "You've got to be kidding, there's no way my husband and I could co-exist in here!" to "Oh! you're really sparking my wanderlust ... I would so love to do this!" Whatever the reaction, I know that I LOVE it. All I could talk about with these women I 've known for 20 years is how lucky I am to have found a partner who loves the same things as I do. Jim drove the RV there and was happy to give tours to all who stopped in! So cool! And, of course, the views we had while parked at Vivien's home were pretty spectacular. The waterways of Fort Lauderdale's Rio Vista Isles. Just a few blocks from where I lived when I was in Jr. High.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Living and Working in our Motorhome

Hey! We've actually been acting like we live in a motorhome the last few days! There's an RV park in central/western Florida - Riverbend - who also has Coach Connect wireless internet service - like we have here - and they needed some help getting folks connected. So, Coach Connect asked if we would pay them a visit on Friday.

 We left Fort Lauderdale Thursday afternoon and pulled in to John Prince park in Lantana just before dark. That is such a pretty place, I had to take a couple photos.

We relaxed there for the evening, got a good night's sleep and hit the road early the next morning. We arrived at Riverbend and had a dozen or so eager students waiting for our presentation. We set up our computer and projector, but the room was too light and there was no wall to project - so we improvised and used my 19" monitor for the audience to look at. Not ideal, but it worked. Everyone was full of questions and Jim and I were full of answers. It was great. The wireless internet connection worked just fine and Jim was able to explain it to everyone's satisfaction - even though there were some system engineers in the crowd. Then we spent the rest of the day there helping individuals get online.

 It was successful all the way around, but one site took a while and was a little flaky. Jim gave him our number and we may be hearing from him again. One thing I realized while Jim was giving the main presentation is that so many people use services like AOL or MSN or Earthlink or Walmart for their email. I don't think they realize that they don't have to have their email with the company that provides their internet connection. I told them about using a webhost like Catalog.com to get their own domain name and email addresses and they seemed VERY intrigued. I think I should put together a package to set people up with their own domain, email, and website - probably using blogger.

Here's our rig at Riverbend:

When we were done there, we went to a place down the road to spend the night. Riverbend is a 'Class A only' resort, so we couldn't stay there. They sent us to a place down the road called 'Grandma's Groves'. Pretty cool, camping in the middle of an orange grove!

It was so peaceful and quiet. It was also a bit chilly the next morning. We tried out the little space heater my Dad gave us and it warmed up nicely. Then the sun came out and bathed us all in glory: