Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Death Valley to Las Vegas

We thought we may stay one night at the north end of Death Valley - but all campgrounds were full. We drove to Ubehebe Crater and thought we may stop for lunch there, but the wind was wicked. I barely was able to stand solid long enough to take a photo. What this sign doesn't tell you is that the wind might blow you over the edge! So, we got outa there in a hurry and just ate some lunch on the road. The sweeping vistas in this valley actually remind me of Polychrome Pass in Mt. McKinley (Denali) national park. Probably a twisted memory there - the Alaska mountain range and Death Valley certainly bear no resemblance to each other ... and yet ... So, we drove about an hour or so more ... and we saw this sign. Is this a park for us or what?! Hot Springs and cocktails. Yes! And, this is what an RV Park office should look like right? But, alas! It was not to be. We checked our cell phones and saw that there was no signal here. One full day without phones was kinda nice, but now we had some calls we needed to make. We had to move on. Pretty spectacular scenery. Yucca mountain is around here somewhere. You know, where they want to dump the nuclear waste? We didn't go too much further before we saw full signal on the phones, so we looked for a place to stop and found a campground with hookups for $13. But when we tried to make calls we got fast busy signals, or messages that 'your call cannot be completed as dialed'. No matter what we dialed. Also, even though my computer was off, the stereo was off, the car was off ... there was faint music playing on my computer speakers. hmmmm, do you think this had anything to do with it? So we spent another phoneless night with the wind rocking us to sleep. In the morning the phones worked. I never thought of Las Vegas as a ski destination - but take a look at snow mountain. Pretty amazing how the desert gives rise to the snow.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Day in Death Valley

We were tourists yesterday. It was wonderful. We slept in. We read our books for a little while in the afternoon. We still turned on the generator and computers for about an hour in the morning and handled some email. But, mainly we went sightseeing. We went to the visitor center and pushed our way through the crowd to see the welcome slide show. Then we hit the road. We had to leave Odie home because he's not allowed on the trails. Here's our campground. Just a huge parking lot, but it means there IS a place to park. All the regular campgrounds were full. This one's called Sunset and it's at Furnace Creek. Usually, when our GPS says we're at a negative altitude, we figure it is malfunctioning. Not here. And there's lots of Borax memorobilia here. Remember the TV show called Death Valley Days with host Ronald Reagan? Only vaguely for me .. but Jim reminded me. That was all about the 20 Mule Teams. The fields of yellow flowers are right next to the road. And they are spectacular. Desert Gold I believe they're called. This scene deserves 2 shots Apparently the seeds for these flowers have been patiently collecting for years waiting for the year with enough rainfall to bring them out in this profusion. You can just feel the joy. Get ready .. here we go .. Then we went on to Salt Creek. Flowing water thru the desert. But wait! There's more flowers. This one is supposed to be very rare. You only see it in years like this. It's called the Desert 5 Spot. hmmmm, wonder how it got that name? I also have to tell you that Jim took this shot. But I spotted the flowers! Then we ended the day at the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. I had hoped to catch them with that beautiful red sunset color .. but sometimes the sun just sets with no display. It was still beautiful.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Pahrump, Nevada

Actually, we are in Death Valley now, but I need to post a couple photos from Pahrump before I move on. I know Pahrump as home to Art Bell, the popular late night talk show host. He talks about fascinating, scary and/or outrageous topics like Alien abductions, Nanotechnology, or Remote Viewing. I learned from his talk show and website that he lived in Pahrump and built his own self-contained radio station, complete with an antenna farm. So, we had to go by and see it. What do you think? This must be it. Notice the RV in the garage! It's covered with antennas too. And, I believe this is the actual radio station. He operates a radio station here in town: KNYE. Sure sounded funny to hear Art Bell's voice (usually talking about alternative realities) giving the weather report! I may know Pahrump as the home of Art Bell, but many people know it as the home of the world famous Chicken Ranch! It's right down the road from Art's place! And next door to that is Sherry's Ranch. They have tourbuses stopping there! OK! Now we can go on and explore Death Valley. The weather is beautiful here. 80 degrees midday, 60 at night. Hundreds of people are here to see the wildflowers: And to kayak 282 feet below sea level at Badwater.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Spoiled Brats

There is one huge, overwhelming, critically important, monumental fact that makes our wonderful lifestyle possible. That fact is:

With cell phones, computers and Internet access, you can work from anywhere at anytime.

Our motorhome is a mobile office complete with telephones, Internet access, computers, networks, printers, scanners, and filing cabinets. I have some clients in Florida who hardly know I'm gone. Using Instant Messaging, I am sitting right beside him anytime he needs me. When we were staying at the 'cabin' in Quartzsite, we found that we had enough phone and computer work to keep both of us busy at least 6 hours/day, 7 days/week. Often 8 or 10. Now that we are staying in a park, giving seminars and helping users, make that a minimum of 10 hours. We seem to have overlooked one little, simple, minor, tiny fact:

With cell phones, computers and Internet access, you can work from everywhere all the time.

I was complaining to Jim the other day - you know the sound, whine, whine, whine - when I received this wonderful email that just made my day. It was a sales followup email - I almost deleted it as junk mail - but I noticed the topic of Xinhua China. That is a stock that I learned about at the Money Show last month and may be interested in buying. I got permission to share the email with you. In fact, if anyone else wants to learn about XHUA, you can email him back!

From: ahelmel@xinhuachina.com.cn I am the source of the last email from Xinhua China Ltd. which was a news release for our company. I am also the guy who telephoned you in February to provide you with answers to questions you may have had regarding Xinhua China Ltd. from the Florida Money Show. Now, while creating this e-mail to again provide you with an update, I noticed the domain in your email address and typed it into my browser. After a few minutes of admiring the content of the website and thinking to myself that I'd rather be rv'ing across the United States than typing emails and calling people, it occured to me that according to the travel plan it was not possible that the Jim and Chris on the web page were at the money show as they appeared to be in Arizona. So I concluded that either a) time travel is possible, or b) you are a relation to that Jim and Chris and were given an e-mail to use from their domain. Regardless, I enjoyed the content and will continue to write my email as I am not, unfortunately, rv'ing across ths US but simply performing the duties of my job...

Thanx Alex! Your email reminded me of just how COOL it is to be RVing across America. We're just a couple of spoiled brats! And, we're off to Death Valley right now - it's supposed to be a 'once-in-a-lifetime' wildflower display. Maybe we'll even turn off those phones and computers for a few hours! *gasp* you can DO that? By the way - here's our seminar room at this RV park: And, we just LOVE meeting the people, giving the seminars and helping them with their computers. Yes, life IS good.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

WiFi Tips: USB and 'Repair'

Greetings from the beautiful high-desert town of Pahrump, Nevada. We are in the Terribles Lakeside Casino and RV Park giving WiFi seminars and helping RVers connect their laptops to the WiFi system here. Some recurring themes we are seeing have prompted me to write these tips. 1. USB adapters should match your USB port. I covered this in the "Get the right adapter" article, but it bears repeating. We highly recommend using the USB type of WiFi adapter rather than the cards or built-in type. But, that's not all. There are 2 different flavors of USB ports and your adapter should match your computer. USB ports started out with 1.1. Sometime in 2002 laptops started using USB 2.0, also known as 'high-speed USB'. Most USB adapters you will find today are designed for the newer, faster 2.0. If you install a high-speed USB adapter into a low-speed USB port, you may get a message something like "no high speed USB controller detected". However, it will install and it will work. The box may even claim that it is 'downward compatible' with the old 1.1 USB ports. Don't believe it! It has been our experience that USB 2.0 adapters plugged into a USB 1.1 port will work very poorly. Your connection will be slow, it will drop off, and generally be VERY frustrating. You need to either find a USB 1.1 adapter, or add a USB 2.0 port to your computer withe something like a cardbus. That's a PC card that plugs into your PCMCIA slot and then has USB ports on it. 2. Repairing your connection. WiFi connections can fluctuate in their signal and their speed. It's part of how the technology works. A very useful procedure you can do to get the best connection is to 'Repair'. If you have Windows XP, you can right-click on the little network icon - - in the lower right corner of your screen and choose the 'Repair' command. Essentially, this process 'reconnects' and almost always improves your signal and/or speed. It's like, when you're on the phone and you have a bad connection - lots of static or voices dropping off - you might say "Let's hang up and I'll try calling you again." Your phone call is almost always better the second time around. Same thing. If you have Windows 98, you will need to find the icon for your WiFi adapter and look for a command like 'rescan' or 'renew'. You can do this as often as necessary. It can't hurt, and it usually improves your connection substantially.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Our Brave Dog

I've called Odie our 'Smile Therapy' ever since we got him. You just can't look at him without smiling ... and you always feel happier for it. But, sometimes he gives us a real belly laugh. Today was one of those times. We're staying at a park called 'Terribles Lakeside' in Pahrump Nevada. It's a really nice place. There IS a lake - even though this is still the desert. Lots of grass and landscaping, and they have these horse statues. Actually quite lifelike, but they are some kind of plastic. The first time Odie saw one he ran right up to it's front legs and started growling and barking. When the horse didn't respond, he got even more ferocious - running around to the other side, rocking back and forth from his front legs to his back legs and bark, bark, bark. What a brave dog. Until Jim picked him up and held him closer to the horse - then he started vibrating with fear. Oh our poor, silly dog. Of course, by the time I could have gotten the camera he had stopped - and now he hardly even looks up when we walk by one of the horses. So, you'll just have to take my word for it. By the way ... anybody know what that white stuff is?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Letting Go

We've been in Arizona for almost 3 months! 6 weeks of that was in Quartzsite at Dick and Frankie's lot. We really like Arizona. And we just loved staying with Dick and Frankie. The best part was in December when Lynne and John were there too. But, as we stayed on quite a while after Lynne and John were gone - Dick and Frankie changed from being 'Lynne's folks' to being our friends. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It was great! Now we're on the road again heading towards Nevada. This lifestyle gives you a lot of practice with 'Letting Go'. It may sound a little painful ... lots of goodbyes ... but as my favorite philosopher says "By letting go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go!" (Lao Tzu) And then there's the deadlines. The 'cabin' at Quartzsite is the perfect place to get all those motorhome projects done. Well, the day before we're scheduled to leave, there were still projects unfinished. Nothing like a deadline to get things done! We really like a shiny, waxed motorhome. I worked all day and got it polished up. Jim had too many WiFi tech support calls to handle, so I actually did the whole thing myself! I'm so proud. Just look at that shine! It's like a mirror. And then there's all the other cleaning projects. How DO you get those little mini-blinds clean anyway. I spray and wipe, and spray and wipe again. And I know I'm just pushing the dirt around. Well! Frankie knows all. You take the blinds out - they're held on by two brackets with little clips that swing out and let it go. I couldn't figure it out, but Jim got it done. Then you take the blinds to the shower and spray, scrub and rinse. Hang them on the line in this Arizona dry heat and they're done in 15 minutes. Clean blinds. Really clean! Cool! Jim finished caulking every seam up on the roof. That's a constant maintenance project. We are ready. With our 6 new Toyo tires, the new front and rear swaybars, the clean, shiny and caulked coach and all the newly organized cupboards and work areas - it's like we have a brand new rig to continue our journey! And, the crowning touch ... Jim got our 'Odie's Roadies' license plate put back together and attached to the bumper! This is the plate that Lynne and John gave us and that got damaged in our little fender bender in Wyoming last summer. We're truly ready to go now. Here's our campsite - we just pulled off the road a little north of Lake Havasu City and stayed on BLM land.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Rainbow Acres that is. This is where we've been staying in Quartzsite. Here's a view of the community from atop our favorite hill: And, here's Jim on the top of our hill: What a great morning walk this is. Odie will miss it even more. So much open space to RUN. In a previous post, I showed you an 'ultralight' in flight and said that Jim wants to do that. Actually, this is the one he wants to fly: It's called a powered parachute and it's extremely easy to fly and very safe. We finally got our other swaybar installed on the motorhome yesterday at Eric's . So, we're ready to 'rock-and-roll'. Ooops, no, the swaybars will prevent that right? Anyway, we can leave anytime now, but it's hard - we're so comfortable here - obviously! Whether it's today or tomorrow depends on how many cleaning/organizing projects we try to accomplish this morning. We started waxing (actually we use dri-wash) yesterday and completed about 1/3 of the motorhome. Here's our travel plans for the next few months:

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Spreading the Seeds of WiFi

WiFi evangelists. Is that what we are? hmmmm It seems so. We're still in Quartzsite because we so enjoy the site where we're staying thanx to the hospitality of Frankie and Dick. And, we're still waiting for another RV part to arrive and get installed .... no hurry. We try to give back with some computer support. Carol suggested that we might even want to offer computer classes. A little late for this season, but if we return to Quartzsite next year, we may try to set up classes in a community center or something. Meanwhile, I said, lets try one. You can be my guinea pigs. I figured I might give them a 'Using Windows XP' class, or a 'Sharing Digital Photos on the Web' or 'Safe Computing' or even Word, Excel or Powerpoint. But, what did I end up with? 'Using WiFi' My students were Frankie and Carol. Frankie has already been using WiFi provided by our Satellite dish, and Carol didn't have the equipment to use it, but that's the class I wanted to give, so I did. Well, Frankie was just a sponge wanting to understand all about this WiFi stuff that she has been using. And, Carol let me install an adapter on her computer and she was like a kid in a candy store exclaiming about how much faster this was than using her cell phone to connect to the Internet! I really had fun. They both ended up spending lots of time on www.jiwire.com looking for hotspots in all the other places they plan to stay throughout the year. Would you believe there's even a free hotspot in Mammoth Lakes! That's a little town way up in the mountains where Frankie will be this summer. Carol asked, if she would be able to use the WiFi back at her RV which is halfway down the block from ours. I said I wasn't sure, but let's try and see. It worked great. I'm a little surprised because we don't have any amplification on our system. The Access Point is inside our RV. And Carol's RV is about 400 feet away. The couple across the street also has a WiFi-enabled computer and have logged onto our system. Whaddaya know? We have a neighborhood hotspot. All from our mighty Motosat / Datastorm satellite dish. There's also a commercial WiFi hotspot here called RVLogon, but from where we are you need a powerful external antenna to be able to connect to it. We are able to connect to them with the antenna on the right in the photo above - but that's not something that everyone wants to buy. We're not the only Datastorm user providing a WiFi hotspot for neighbors. Check out Joline's weblog. She's on a caravan in Mexico and, with her Datastorm she is providing WiFi Internet access to anyone in the group who wants it. She's even enlisted some of them to be 'reporters' on her Blog. I can't wait till we go there. Thanx for the preview Joline! And, I understand that Gypsy John plans to do the same thing on his Alaska trip this summer. I'll be watching.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Desert Outing

Take a day off from computers! Well, half-a-day anyway. Dick and Frankie were planning a picnic type of outing with several other friends and invited us along. We went to an old miner's cabin at the Apache Chief Mine. It's on a 4 wheel drive road. Hey! We're old hands at that. We followed the leader thru a beautifully blooming desert. I think there are as many Saguaros here as in Saguaro National Park. With only minor wear and tear, we made it to this rather sturdy old cabin. I especially like this photo that Frankie took ... she said I could 'borrow' it for the blog! Aren't you proud of her Lynne? Dan signed the guestbook inside. Notice the bag labeled 'Gold' hanging right next to the Christmas wreath over the door. ... just in case. We took time to do a little exploring, climbing up the hill by the cabin. A sure sign that someone used to live here ... Odie enjoyed our outing as well, but he got hot and tired pretty quick. It is starting to feel a little more like a desert these days. We've also been warned that snakes are about, so we try to keep him close. We took our lunch break in the shade. Then Dick played tour guide and showed us a couple mines. Actually, finding the mines is not the hard part. The hard part is not falling in them ... it is literally a mine field (he he) out here with thousands of old abandoned gold, silver and copper mines. We enjoyed our sunny day in the desert. But the time came to say goodbye to Moe and head back home.