Monday, November 29, 2004

Texas Gulf - the Third Coast

We left Austin yesterday to travel south and visit 3 more Coach Connect Parks. Rockport 35 RV Park, Sea Breeze RV Park and Gulf Waters Beach Front Resort. All three of them are on the Texas Gulf Coast - the third seashore in the US.

Texas IS BIG. I know you know that - but you can't really know that till you drive around here. I grew up in Alaska and learned to pooh-pooh Texan's claim to their big state because Alaska is so much bigger. But Texas is actually inhabited throughout it's 262,000 square miles.

We had to stay in a motel last night. Odie's first motel. We're in another one tonight. At least this one has Wi-Fi. I don't think they know they have it - they don't advertise it, and the network name has nothing to do with the hotel. But, Jim turned on his computer and found it ... made a few configuration changes and voila!

We will be back in the Rio Grande Valley tomorrow. Hopefully our motorhome will be ready and we can be back home. I've taken a lot of photos - I'll post them when I'm back at my computer. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I know we did - Thanx to the Drews!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

Hey! Long time no talk to! We've been away from 'home' for 4 nights now. I don't have my computer and the first thing I realized I forgot to pack was the battery charger for the camera. We went and bought a new charger yesterday (it has both AC and DC - pretty cool) and I'm finally sitting down at Jim's laptop to tell you about our last few days. Here's Frank's parents' house where we're staying in Austin: It's in a very nice neighborhood in Austin, and the weather has been picture postcard perfect. We feel so lucky to have been invited here for the Thanksgiving holiday. We're right at home around the breakfast table - it doesn't bother us a bit for Frank to have his laptop in front of him like a modern-day version of the newspaper! On Thanksgiving afternoon, Frank took us sightseeing around Austin:

Then we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with three generations of just the nicest family you can imagine.

On Friday, we went into the Coach Connect office and Jim made some support calls. There's lots more, but that's all I can stay awake to write about now. I'll leave you with a photo of sunset over Lake Travis.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What to Pack?

We're leaving our home for the Thanksgiving weekend. This is a first. We'll be leaving the motorhome at the body shop and driving the car to Austin where we'll stay for a couple days at Frank's house. I have no idea what to pack. Lynne told me this would happen. When we just started living in the motorhome we were staying in Fort Lauderdale, we would plan a weekend trip and I would find myself mentally planning what to take. When it dawned on me that my whole home was going to be with me and I didn't have to pack anything, it felt very wierd. Lynne, who had been a full-time RVer for a while already, said "Wait till it's the other way around. You'll get used to having everything with you all the time and you won't know how to pack for a regular trip." Yep. Odie's going to be glad to be somewhere that he can walk without getting burrs in his feet. There's not much grass here in the Rio Grande Valley, and what grass there is contains more burrs than grass. It's really nasty stuff.

Wi-Fi Tip: Find the Hotspot

I got email from a blog reader who asked that I add a Wi-Fi tip with each post. I don't know if I'll do it every time, but I like the idea. Thanx 'Chris in Ohio'. Wi-Fi is only available in 'Hot-Spots'. If you've ever used Wi-Fi for Internet Access, this may be obvious, but I've found that people are confused. I believe it's an advertisement for Centrino, that shows someone on Mt. Everest with his laptop having an instant message conversation with his daughter in the US. The message: "With wireless technology, you can connect to the Internet without wires, anywhere." What they don't show you is the powerful satellite dishes set up right next to camp that are making the Internet connection possible. You must have at least one broadband connection (DSL, Cable, T1, or satellite) before you can have a Wi-Fi 'hotspot'. Usually a hotspot only covers about 300 sq ft - the size of a coffee shop or a room in the library or a hotel. You must be physically within that hotspot in order to connect to the Internet. RV parks are a special case and we're pushing the technology to make it cover a larger area. Hotspots are popping up more and more. If you really want to use one, you can find one nearby. Check out this directory at

Monday, November 22, 2004

Paperwork Day

We don't get mail every day. We get mail when we ask for it. You have to have a permanent address in this world. We use the address of Jim's Dad. All our mail goes there. We've made sure that we don't have very much mail. Our preferred method of payment is via credit cards and that gets deposited electronically to our bank account. 90% of our bills are paid online and almost all of our personal communication is with email. Once every 2 or 3 weeks, we ask Jim's Dad to gather up our mail and send it to a designated address, a campground or a general delivery address. You would think, that with only one mail delivery every couple weeks, I could keep up with it. Wrong. I am in denial. Apparently, I believe that I only need to deal with mail when the pile gets to a certain height. When we lived at a house with daily mail delivery, that height was reached in a week, now it takes about 6 weeks to accumulate - but I wait! You can bet that there is at least one item in here that is an original bill - AND another item that is a 'your payment is one month overdue' letter. Ahhhh, once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator. Why can't the Internet do everything for me?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Pleasant Valley Sunday

I know I'm a little delinquent in my blogging the past couple days. When we're not actually traveling, there's not as much to tell you. I'm not sure you want to hear much about our work, but that's all there is to tell for the last few days ... so that's what you're going to get! I just couldn't resist that heading. Actually we were at 'Pleasant Valley' last Tuesday - that was the one with the French interpreter. This weekend was 'Sleepy Valley'. We did another seminar yesterday: We cover a lot about what is Wi-Fi, how to use it, and frequently asked questions. What finally dawned on me yesterday is that lots of these people really need to see what high speed is. If all they've ever known is dial-up, they haven't even seen the Internet that we know, and can't appreciate the value of high-speed. And, maybe some of them do have DSL or cable at 'home' but they don't understand that Wi-Fi is that fast. So, since I'm the one 'driving' the computer - I make Jim shut up for a couple minutes while I take them on a whirlwind tour. The first stop, of course, is this weblog. You can scroll thru the whole thing in just a couple minutes, with every photo downloaded and displayed. Try that on a dialup! Then I showed them trip-planning with Trailer Life's mapping, how to read your home newspaper online and even how to download movies with my favorite - I think we made a few converts. Here's Jim helping one resident configure their Wi-Fi adapter. He does a lot of that - I'm not usually there to take pictures, but I'll bet they all look pretty much like this. Today we decided to go for a drive. Not just any drive. A War Drive. I thought War stood for Wireless Access Reconnaissance - but I don't think that's true. Sounds good tho doesn't it? War Driving means driving around with your Wi-Fi enabled laptop looking for hotspots. Or, in our case, checking the signal range from a known hotspot. We visited Sleepy Valley, Dream Valley, Hidden Valley and GolfView Estates. Everything is looking pretty good. Take a look at these new antennas ... they're called 'tree busters' because they can transmit signal thru trees. There's truly something new every day in this technology.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Price of Gas in Texas

We were able to fill up for 1.70/gallon today. Woo hoo! And, we even saw a sign for 1.69. Hard to believe that, less than a month ago we paid 2.72. Our Wi-Fi seminar today was at a computer club meeting in downtown Mission. How great that they are meeting to help each other figure out their computers. They went around the room and anyone who had a computer question had a chance to ask. Anyone who had an idea about the answer brainstormed and helped. It's been a long time since I've been to a computer club - it used to be kids at computer clubs - not anymore. Kids are the ones who know all the answers now. These folks ask each other only when their grandkids aren't around to help!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

More Wi-Fi

Don't look now, but we're almost in a routine here. Every day this week except yesterday, we've presented seminars. Then Jim handles some phone calls with people needing help with their Wi-Fi. I do a little website and other computer work. Then dinner, TV (West Wing at least), hot tub and bed. Here's a part of the Wi-Fi work that I'm glad we don't have to do! Yesterday I had to drive the RV about 30 miles down the road to a body shop to get an estimate on the damage done by the tire blowouts. I did this all by myself because Jim had work to do. Aren't you proud of me? Driving a 30 ft. long, 8.5 ft wide vehicle on a freeway under construction with those concrete walls on either side is a little nervewracking, but I did it, and I'm glad. You may remember reading that we already took the RV to a shop and got an estimate for body work, but then we learned that the insurance company had a 'pre-approved' body shop down here - that's the way to go. I just give the shop a check for our deductible amount ($500), they do the work and submit their bill to GMAC - nice and clean. We may have to live at the body shop's parking lot for a few days - but they say there is an electric hookup - so we'll be fine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Parlez Vous Francais?

This was a first. Jim's seminar today had a lot of French Canadian people. No, Jim doesn't know how to speak french, so they designated one very fluent gentleman as the interpreter! We think it went very well. But how would we know?! At one point, Jim commented "Did I say all that?"

Hasta La Vista

Time for John and Lynne to move on. They need to be in Quartzsite with family for Thanksgiving. Ariel is ready! It was so nice to have a girlfriend next door. Bye guys. C U soon. And, THANX for all the new goodies you made or fixed on our RV. I love having that screen wall on our awning.

Chris' Seminar

Hey, my turn to do a seminar. This one is hands-on. People bring their laptops and I teach an introduction to computers. Takes me back to 1983 when mom and I first started our computer training center. We thought the introduction class would have a limited life. Hah! Fooled us. 21 years later people are still just starting to use computers. Especially RVers. Backspace, Delete, Cut, Copy, Paste. Creating a document with a word processor and organizing files into folders is something they still need to learn. The biggest difference is I can't teach them about floppy disks - most computers don't have floppy drives any more.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Rio Grande

We've been here in the Rio Grande Valley for about a week and still have not seen the river. That famous river, the Rio Grande, that separates the United States from Mexico. I asked a local person, "Where is the best place to go to see the river?" She looked puzzled and asked if I wanted to go to the beach, I should go to South Padre Island. She's lived here 5 years and she didn't seem to know there was a river here?!?! So, Lynne, John, Jim and I decided to go exploring. We found Pepe's on the River. A Texas-sized tiki bar right on the Rio Grande. I guess it's simply not a recreational river. The only boat we saw was the border patrol boat with heavily armed officers. Jim asked them if we might be able to paddle our kayak on the river somewhere and they said, 'well ... I guess so, just never seen anyone doing it'. So, we did what everyone else does and had a margarita.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Cold Rainy Day

Where am I anyway? It feels like the Oregon coast again. The temperature has not gotten over 56 degrees all day. It started out at 50! So what sounds good on a cold rainy day? ... ... Cookies! And Lynne brought over hot rum and apple cider to go along. Yum.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Martin Valley

We're in Mission, Texas just on the US side of the Mexico border. We're here because there are new Coach Connect Wi-Fi installations here at Martin Valley Ranches. That may sound like one RV park, but actually it's 8 communities. And Wi-Fi has been installed for all. The population here are called 'Winter Texans'. I think that's the equivalent of South Florida's 'snowbirds'. Here we are giving our Wi-Fi seminar for the people at El Dorado Acres: We'll be here for at least a couple of weeks. We'll need that to give our seminars and help people get connected at all the different parks. There's Sleepy Valley Ranch, Pleasant Valley Ranch, Dream Valley Ranch, GolfView, Restful Valley Ranch, Enchanted Valley Ranch and Hidden Valley Ranch. I wonder if they sell salad dressing?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Warm at Last

It seems like we've been traveling south for quite some time. We keep going south, and we've still been cold. We've now come as far south as possible in this country ... and it's warm! 70 degrees. We're in Mission, Texas. The road down here looks a little like Florida! Complete with Palm Trees. Traveling with friends means a lot of comparisons of our rigs. Theirs is a class A - ours is a class C. Theirs has a 75 gallon gas tank, ours is 50. We're both 11.5 feet high and 30 feet long. We both complain about the price of gas. But at least it's been coming down lately. Here we're paying 1.85.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

On Our Way

Sometimes things go smoothly. We were told that the hole in our exhaust system could cause the valves to burn and it was unsafe to drive. We were referred to B and B Muffler to fix the hole, but they weren't open on Saturday. First thing Monday morning we called and they said 'bring it in'. Two hours later we had our rig back, the hole was welded and we had a new tailpipe. Total cost $163. We were quite pleased - if you need muffler work in Austin, we'd recommend B and B! I was happy because this was my birthday and my goal was to be in a place with a hot tub where we could party with Lynne and John. Hey! We did it. We stayed at Blazing Star RV park in San Antonio. Nice place and a nice hot tub and it's a Coach Connect park so we could check on things while we're here. Here's the party: What is it about birthdays that makes you want to kill brain cells? Or maybe I just want to act like I'm 22 instead of 52! I blame Odie ... A good time was had by all - no photos from the hot tub. Thanx to Lynne and John for making the effort to meet up with us - they make life on the road seem almost normal! We're going to travel together for a little ways. We're off to Mission today. Gotta go.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Too Much Fun

We've just been having too much fun to take time to make a Blog entry. Saturday night Marty and Rob came over to see our home and then we went out to dinner. And, on Sunday, Lynne and John arrived. They left Florida about a week ago. They're on their way to Quartzsite, AZ and figured they could spend some time 'hanging' with us on the way! Anyone who thinks they have a 'party house' doesn't know what they're talking about until they have friends with RVs. You don't have to go to someone else's house and worry about driving home or sleeping on their floor. You both drive your 'house' to a mutual location and park next to each other. Meanwhile, it's not all fun and party. We had planned to be in Mission by now, but we were told on Saturday that the hole in the exhaust pipe really needed to be fixed before we drive anywhere, and no one could look at it till Monday. So, we're off to a muffler shop now.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Old Friends

One of the best parts of this on-the-road lifestyle is getting to visit farflung friends. Right now I'm visiting Marty, who I haven't seen for many years. We worked together in Computer Training in Florida. Here we are: And here she is with her son David. The last time I saw him he was about 7 years old. My how time flies!

Home Repairs

It sure is a totally different thing to take your vehicle to the shop, when that's your home too! I'm a little discombubbled. And, don't ever give a repair shop your whole laundry list of things you'd like fixed ... the estimate will kill you! So, now I'm going thru the list and deciding what REALLY needs to be fixed. Brakes (yes, the brakes we just had replaced are making bad noises :-( ) and muffler are top on the list, so I'm letting them have my home again today. Jim is still on the road, in Mission Texas, with Frank. Odie keeps looking out for him.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Alone at Last!

Here I am in Austin, Texas ... yes, that's Austin, the capitol of Texas where George W. Bush was governor - and the vote count here was 42% for Bush, 56% for Kerry. I'm happy to be in Austin. Take a look at this cool architecture in the Austin skyline: I'm in Austin, and I'm alone! Frank took Jim with him to visit the Coach Connect Wi-Fi installations in Mission for a couple days. Here's Jim and Frank yesterday - computers in front of them and phones in their ears. Think these two can be trusted together down by the Mexican border? I used to be very accustomed to being alone - lived alone, traveled alone. I loved to go out to dinners and movies alone. Even after Jim and I got together 11 years ago we both had many activities we did alone - including traveling alone. But, ever since we left Florida, 6 months ago, we haven't been out of each other's sight! This feels very strange. If I could just stay in the motorhome, I have plenty to do on the computer. But, this is the day scheduled to start the service work. So, I have to stow everything and drive the motorhome to the service bay. hmmmmm ... it'll actually be quite luxurious to curl up on a couch in the waiting area and read a book. And, of course, I'm not really alone - I have Odie. He's allowed in the waiting room - RV service centers know they're making you homeless while they do their work and they're very accomodating.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day in Austin

Ahhhh ... sitting still today here in Austin feels good. It's cold outside (56 degrees) and we've had the heater going all day while we're staying in the RV park attached to the service center. They can't even look at our problems till Thursday ... so, we get to sit. We even have a cable hookup here which means we'll be able to watch election coverage by The Daily Show's John Stewart. We've really been enjoying video clips of his show. It's a comedy show, but with a lot of intelligent foundation. Whatever the results of this election, it's exciting how it has motivated people to vote. I so enjoyed getting an email today from a friend in Florida who recently passed his citizenship ...
"I never thought that the sole experience of voting was going to be so special. I never got to vote in Venezuela becuase I just didn't really care, perhaps I was still too young mentally, but after today, there is no way that I will feel that I don't care about these things any more!!"
I'm so glad you're here Gil. You remind me that we should never take our democracy for granted. Austin has a beautiful capitol building. We got to see it thanx to our host and tourguide, Frank! Then he took us to his family's home for a fabulous dinner. We met his family, and fell in love with them, at the RV rally in Hutchinson in June. We were thrilled to get to see them again. Thanx for the wonderful dinner and evening Frank, Frank Sr., and Carol.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Texas is on the Map

The rule for putting a state on your map is that you must spend the night there. Just crossing over the stateline doesn't count. Texas fills out our map quite nicely don't you think? We've covered a lot of ground since leaving Florida in April. This will be the last state we add for a while since we will be going to Mission, TX next and spending a few weeks. The plan after that is to go back west to Quartzsite, AZ for Christmas where we will spend some time with friends. Then down to Casa Grande, AZ where there is a big Coach Connect RV park - Palm Creek. We hope to stay there for a couple months doing seminars and other computer work. Here's a west Texas highway - pretty awesome. Right now we're in Fredericksburg - because we were told about the Museum of the Pacific War that is here. Why? Because Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific, was born here. It was an amazing museum - I could spend a lot more time there. Two things struck me: 1. computer nerds won the day! the code-breakers were extremely instrumental in Allied victories. An interesting story is the "Navajo code talkers"- who we also read about in Arizona. 2. the war was essentially about control of resources - primarily oil. We need to learn from history ... not repeat it.