Wednesday, September 28, 2005

WiFi Detective

Jim was called upon to do a little detective work with a non-functioning WiFi hotspot. All the RV park systems 'check-in' electronically with our monitoring center every 20 minutes or so. This park last checked in on Friday night at 7:11pm. Why does this always happen on a weekend? Jim didn't get back from Salt Lake City till Sunday afternoon and we couldn't make any connection with the park management. So, it was late Monday before we could get there and there were some grumpy customers by then. I KNOW how grumpy I get when I'm without my Internet!! OK, so where do you start. First he turns everything off. Turn off the gateway device, turn off the bridge to the remote access point, turn off the modem. Count to 10. Now, turn everything back on - modem first. So often, that is all it takes. Just like a computer gets 'hung up' and needs to be rebooted, the hotspot equipment needs a reset once in a while. But, this time it didn't help. Using his laptop, Jim checks to see if he can get connected. Although he connects to the wireless network OK, when he opens a browser he gets 'Page cannot be displayed'. No Internet. OK, let's eliminate the hotspot (wireless network) altogether and plug the cable modem directly into the computer. Still no Internet. Aha! It's something to do with the cable modem. Yeah - the 'ready' light is NOT on, and it should be. So, I call the cable company. They usually can perform some diagnostics from their end and help figure out the problem. Busy. I call again. Busy. Again. Busy. After about a dozen tries, I look for another number for the cable company. This time I get a recorded message something like: 'no-one is ever going to answer your call because we are having technical dificulties ... ha ha' Meanwhile, Jim is still thinking. He follows the cable from the modem to the wall and sees a splitter that has nothing else attached to it. So he removes the splitter - eliminating one more possible bad piece. It didn't help. "Let's go outside and see where the cable comes into the building, maybe we'll see a problem there." He can see the cable going into the building, but it immediately disappears into the ground, so he can't follow it. He walks around a little, notices a utility pole, and then ... hmmmm, what's this? "Oh ya, well there's that then." Apparently, a very tall RV pulled in on Friday night and didn't notice that he'd gotten hold of this cable. Some people saw and tried to yell at him to stop - but he didn't hear. He kept going until the cable had torn apart! They don't know what the cable goes to - but Jim had a pretty strong suspicion that this was the cable that fed Internet to the cable modem. But, a good detective needs proof. He can't see where the cable goes, but he has an 'electronic friend' who can! His digital multimeter that he's had (and kept) since electronics school in '85. With this device, he can test the cable. With the outdoor end of the cable 'open', he tests the inside end and gets no beep. With the outdoor end 'closed', (shorted, wire crimped together), he tests the inside end and - I hear a beep. That's it! It is the cable. Unfortunately, this is a problem he can't fix, and we wish them luck with the cable company. But at least the mystery is solved. I gotta tell ya ... before we ever walked in the place, Jim said, "I'll betcha the problem is with the cable." Ah yes, the WiFi force is strong with this one. p.s. Jim got a brand new, shiny multimeter in his toolkit from Motosat. He's so excited! I wonder what he's going to do with his 'old friend'?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Never stop learning

There is so much to learn. I am so lucky to be able to attend training as I did last week in Salt Lake City. The MotoSat facility is impressive. They are a complete production facility creating and innovating the technology that allows Odie's Roadies to do what we do. They are passionate about what they do, and it shows. Dealer training is a combination of technical and marketing information. I like the technical stuff, myself. Now, I have to put what I learned into practice. Thanks to Royal, Tim, Maurice, Kim, Morgan, Mike, Wendy, Mary, and all the others involved. I am looking forward to working with you all.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

It's Official - Jim is a Datastorm Installer

Cool! Jim completed all his training at Motosat in Salt Lake City. That means he can now install dishes like the one we have on our roof. He took some photos during the training - I'll let him post those and add his own comments. Meanwhile, back in hurricane country ... it didn't even rain here this weekend! Pretty disappointing actually, we need some rain around here. It was windy on Friday night and much of Saturday - but that was the only indication that there was a hurricane anywhere nearby. The operative weather word was H O T! Over 100 degrees. I was tempted to crack an egg on the pavement and see if it cooked - but I didn't have the energy!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Planes and Offices

I didn't take any pictures, and don't have a whole lot to say since yesterday. But, apparently there was some little glitch with our blog this morning (all you saw was a blank white screen) and we've had 2 calls asking, "Are you OK?" So, I figure I better post an entry! Jim caught his plane to Salt Lake City and his Datastorm/Motosat installation training class yesterday. It's Back to School for him! I went to the office. I only lasted 4 hours! It's been 9 years since I worked in an office! Hard to believe that some people do this 8-9 hours every day. The water cooler was cool :-) Hurrican Rita has veered further to the east. Austin is just barely on the western edge of the projected track now. The satellite images show it as so big, I still figure we'll get plenty of rain and wind. But the local weather forecasts are saying, "partly cloudy, 20% chance of rain". Sounds pretty harmless. Which is sure good news for Austin with the famed, Austin City Limits Music Festival taking place this weekend. Bye for now, I'm off to the office :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Deja Vu

It turned out to be easy to find another place to stay. The same place we stayed last year when we were in Austin - Crestview RV. It's primarily an RV sales and service location, but it has an RV park attached. We were here last year because we had some work that needed to be done on the motorhome. Anyway, they had plenty of space and we could reserve for a whole week. It's as good a place as any to be in a storm. It's on a hill and the trees are rather sparse. It's relatively inexpensive as well ($120 for the week) but take a look at what's right next door .... it may turn out to be an expensive stay! Cabela's, in case you're not familiar, is an awesome outdoor equipment store. There's always something we need that they have. Rita is now a category 5 hurricane, and it's still headed this way. The Texas gulf coast is under mandatory evacuation and many of them are coming here to Austin. I expect this park will fill up too. Austin is 150 miles inland. It's gonna get pretty stormy. I just can't believe that we traveled 1560 miles away from hurricane-prone South Florida only to face this monster storm on the other end.

We're being followed

Well, we made it to our destination - Austin, Texas. I thought we'd be able to pat ourselves on the back for getting out of South Florida with more hurricanes coming, but nooooo - the hurricanes are following us! Here's the current projected path for Rita as shown on Now - Austin should be a reasonable place to be - we'll get rain and wind, but it shouldn't be dangerous, but - here's our problem: We called the RV park several days ago to check for availability. We also asked if they were impacted by evacuees from hurricane Katrina. They said no, no problem - lots of space. So we just reserved for one night figuring we'd take a look around and see which park we liked the best before committing for our 2 months here. Well, yesterday, before we arrived, they were inundated with calls from evacuees from hurricane Rita. They are booked solid for the weekend and we don't know what to do. Jim is getting on a plane for Salt Lake City tomorrow, returning on Sunday. Ah well - always a challenge. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hotter Yet

We got to Texas today. Actually we got to Texas right away, since Shreveport is right next to the Texas state line. We stopped at the first rest area to get a taste of having WiFi at a Rest Area. Coach Connect got the contract with the state of Texas DOT to install WiFi in all the rest areas. Pretty cool. We've always been able to pull into a rest area, raise our satellite dish, and check our email, but that takes about 15 minutes. Then we need to stow the dish again - another 5 minutes. With the WiFi, we pulled into the rest area, logged on to the WiFi system, checked and sent some email, and were outa there in 5 minutes. We cut our drive time a little short today in order to visit another Coach Connect park. It's interesting to see how places in the 'boonies' need to use satellite dishes for their communication needs. It's a beautiful place, get a load of this golf course: Do you notice that there's no one playing golf? I'll tell you why ... IT'S H O T Our poor air conditioning has been chugging away since we got here about 3pm. Only in the last hour (10pm) has it gotten below 80 inside (79). It's still 92 outside. About 7pm, when we were also using the microwave, we threw a breaker ... no electricity. Boy was I scared. Luckily, Jim just went outside and turned it back on and it worked. whew Jim is enjoying Monday night football ... rooting for Dallas. Hey! We 'live' in Texas now - they're our home team. You gotta be fickle if you live on the road.

Shreveport - Hot

After another 400+ mile day, we pulled into a campground in Shreveport about 5pm. Our thermometer said 103. Fort Lauderdale heat doesn't hold a candle to this! At least you have the ocean breeze there. Not a breath of air here. We had to have a regular campsite last night because we discovered that our generator dies after about 20 minutes of running the air conditioner. Jim thinks it just has a dirty air filter - I hope that's what it is. This campground also advertises free Wi-Fi. But, I couldn't get it to work on my computer at all ... my adapter didn't see the signal. Jim's super-duper Sony Vaio could see the signal and attach to it, but it was unbearably slow. So, we raised our trusty Datastorm/Motosat/Direcway satellite dish, and in 8 minutes, we had our own Internet! I think that $115/month is worth every penny! Travelling across Mississippi on highway 20 was no problem. We saw a few signs of hurricane damage around Jackson - down trees and highway signs - but no current problems. Getting gas was also no problem - plenty of gas stations and the price keeps getting lower. We filled up for 2.57 and we saw signs for 2.49. reports 2.41 at a FlyingJ on route 20.

In fact, we had such smooth-sailing that we wonder if it would have even been OK to travel on I-10. It certainly would have been interesting to see, firsthand, what it looks like down there. But, I believe we did the right thing by staying out of the way. Here's a picture out the window as we crossed the Mississippi river. I had expected to see it looking very full - after all, the area was just flooded right? It actually looked downright low - look at all that beach. Interesting. Did I mention that it was HOT here? One little trick we use while traveling is to hang a blanket from the cab-over bunk. It hangs down behind the seats in the cab so, when we use the engine A/C, it only has to cool the small cab area. Another technique is to turn on the generator while you're driving and keep the coach A/C running to cool down the rest of the 'house'. But, since all 3 of us ride in the cab when we're underway, we think the blanket is the most efficient method.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Greetings from Selma Alabama

Geez, Florida is a loooooonnngg state. We've traveled north for 778 miles since leaving Fort Lauderdale, only to reach the 'Deep South'! Of course, part of the problem on this particular trip is that we are detouring north a bit in order to avoid traveling thru the hardest hit area from Katrina. We understand that all the roads are open and that gas is available, but the area is in much disarray and we don't want to add to the congestion. So, although highway 10 is the logical route to get from Florida to Austin, Texas - we traveled an extra 100 or so miles to get to highway 20. That will take us to Dallas, then we'll head back south again to go to Austin. Y'know, I've never been to New Orleans - but now certainly is not the right time! We know a few folks, with the Datastorm satellite dish who are going there to help out by providing Internet connections. But they have specific assignments to do so - you don't want to just 'show up'. So - we get to add a new state to our map today! We beat our previous mileage record of 400 miles today. We traveled 422! But the real record was money spent for gas. Here we are filling up for the second time today, spending a grand total of $234 for gas! Our gas tank holds 50 gallons and that gets us about 400 miles. Well, at least the price is going down rather than up - notice the $2.63 price on the sign. And check out the love bugs! We didn't stop till about 8pm and, we needed to do some grocery shopping anyway, so we just parked at Walmart for the night. Westward ho!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Happy Birthday Candy!

We arrived at my Dad's home last night. He has a nice big driveway ... Tom and Candy's RV resort! They're right on the Withlacoochee river ... another place we'd love to do some kayking someday. Actually, they're on a wide part of the river known as Lake Rousseau. We stopped by a couple months' ago on our way south just for one night, promising to spend more time on our way north. Well, I'm afraid it's not to be, we have to leave tomorrow if we have any hope of making it to Austin in time. We had to spend most of today driving to Orlando for a short job at another RV park. We left Odie here. When we returned, we hear the tale of his little adventure. Take a look at this photo of their back yard. It ends at the banks of the river. Apparently, a lot of vegetation has been dislodged upriver and found a resting place here. All that green you see is just floating on top of the water. But Odie doesn't know that. When he gets to the end of the dock, he decides to jump down to this lower level lawn for a stroll. Glub ... Blub ... woops! I remember that he did that last year when we were here, I still laugh about the sight of him disappearing in a splash after jumping onto these lilly pads. He probably doesn't think it's so funny. After a few worrisome moments looking about for the resident alligator, Candy guided him to an area of the bank where he could get out. She washed the muck off of him and kept him inside for a while. When we got back, she simply explained that "Odie had a bath!" Here he is enjoying a post-bath run in the yard. Boy can he run. Our visit happened to fall on Candy's birthday. So we got to join them for a special dinner at December's Restaurant. We had a delicious gourmet dinner. And even were visited by the very friendly chief cook and bottlewasher ... the owner. Happy Birthday Candy!

In a Hurry

We left Grandma's Groves and made a stop at a Coach Connect park, Riverbend, where Jim planned what he thought would be a half-hour meeting. Well, 6 hours later, we got back on the road! Sure is nice that we have our home with us everywhere we go! While Jim was working at the park, I turned on the generator and had air conditioning and my computer, so I could do 'office work' in comfort. We have to be in Austin, Texas by September 21 because Jim has a plane to catch! Coach Connect is sending him to Datastorm Installers training in Salt Lake City. He's really looking forward to that, but it's such a shame we have to hurry. Our next stop was at a Coach Connect park called Rambler's Rest - and it's really too bad we didn't have more time there. It's right on the Myakka river and it looked like it would be a great place to paddle the kayaks for a while. And, look at this great hot tub we didn't have time to use! Headed north. Hey!! Is that a hill I see? That means we are out of South Florida. Oh Boy! It feels so good to be back on the road.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fort Lauderdale in our Rear View Mirror

We got back on the road today. Leaving Fort Lauderdale behind .... again. We had a great time. Saw so many friends and family, and did the kayak diving we love so much (have I told you about that?) We saved the weekend for that 'one last visit.' With Jim's sister and brother in law, we chose to take in a show. We saw Paula Poundstone perform at the West Palm Beach Improv. It was Cool! We were just a few feet away from her. And the dinner was great too. With old friends, Chris and Richard, we loved their suggestion to go get a hamburger at one of our old hangouts, Le Tub, on Hollywood Beach. Saying goodbye to Jim's folks was the hardest part - we made it short and sweet. My Mom was the easy part, since we put her on a plane last week! So, now we're on our way to Texas where we plan to work at Coach Connect's offices in Austin for a few months. We finally hit the road about 3:30 and made it a couple hours before stopping. We've been eating out a lot lately in Fort Lauderdale, it's kinda nice to be back to our simple lifestyle on the road. Here we are with our marvelous dinner of fresh fish (snook) given to us by a neighbor in Paradise Island who caught it yesterday! (Jim gave him a couple lobster) We also opened the bottle of wine that we've been saving. This is the bottle that David, from Prairie Oasis RV, made - and he told us it needed to age for 3 months. That was on May 21. It tasted wonderful! The adventure continues!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Have I told you how much we love kayak diving?

Last week we set our departure date for this coming Tuesday. That meant we only had a few more days for kayak diving. So, we went out on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. We have gone out kayak diving 6 of the last 10 days! The weather has cooperated marvelously. I have been thinking for days about the words to write in this blog that can convey how we feel about kayak diving. Words that will allow you to experience a little of this unique sport. I keep searching for words but coming up short. No words can do it justice ... but let me tell you about it anyway. It's the perfect outdoor recreation. You're in hot weather, but you get to be wet. It's not strenuous, yet you do get some exercise. You share it with companions, yet when you're underwater, it's very individual and solitary. And, it's a combination of activities: kayaking and scuba diving. Although I like both, neither one alone would have such a power over me. It is truly the whole which is much greater than the sum of it's parts. Paddling on the ocean is beautiful. Your own personal watercraft. No engine noise, no gas smell. You're barely separated from the ocean itself. Just sitting on the water with a little bit of plastic holding you up. On a good day, you can see the coral of the reef below. You can see a little of what I mean in this picture. I wish it was better, but I don't dare take my good camera out there. This is taken with a disposable underwater camera. Then, after you've enjoyed the paddle for a while, you stop over the reef in your own little space of peace, quiet and communion with Mother Ocean. You can sit and enjoy the view for a while, or, if you're anxious, you can get right in the water. If you want to see what is entailed in getting in and out of the water - check out the little videos I posted in a weblog entry last year. Diving is being part of another world. Not as an observer, but as a participant. For a short time, you are weightless. You are flying. And, you are up close and personal with very foreign creatures. Today, we saw a beautiful green moray eel. Some of the most spectacular eels in the world are right here off Fort Lauderdale beach. This one was about 6 feet long and probably 10-12inches around. Usually you just see their head sticking out of the coral. Today, the eel ventured out and free-swam alongside us for a few dozen feet. It's so graceful, like a ribbon, then it just slithers into a hole in the rock and disappears. The colorful tropical fish are everywhere, as well as the intricate corals. It's not just the sights that I like. It's the feel. The warm water flowing on your skin. The absence of any sound other than your own breath blowing bubbles. The weightlessness. The way the current carries you along on your journey. I find it a meditative experience. The ultimate expression of 'go with the flow.' Jim would add that he enjoys the thrill of the hunt. I let him catch the lobster, although I enjoy looking for them. It gives you a reason to look under those ledges ... and you see all sorts of things. And, I sure enjoy eating them! Our freezer is pleasantly stocked now. And reservations have been made with several friends and family along the way for a nice lobster meal. Then, eventually (about an hour and 15 minutes) you run out of air and have to return to the surface. I often hang out in the water for a while, just enjoying the awareness of what an insignificant speck I am, floating on the water of the ocean which covers two thirds of our planet. The enormity of it makes everything else disappear. ToDo items I haven't done are unimportant. Money, or lack thereof, doesn't matter at all. All that matters is this warm, wonderful ocean holding me up, the sun on my face, my kayak that is my way back, and my companion - my husband. Kind of Zen-like or Taoist. Oh yeah - you do meet other people out on the ocean too. Like this nice (really!) officer from the Fish and Wildlife Commission. He wanted to measure the lobster that Jim caught. They all passed and he wished us a pleasant day! Have I told you how much we like kayak diving?!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mom goes to Bhutan

I am so spoiled by our motorhome! I am accustomed to doing a little cleaning up and tying down, then just turning the key and going, knowing that I have EVERYTHING I could possibly need for my travels, because, well ... because I have EVERYTHING I own with me! And, as we're traveling, we can stop anywhere and make a nice lunch, we can take a nap, use the bathroom (our own private bathroom). Mom had to think about what she would need for each day of the next 2 1/2 weeks and pack it all in a little suitcase. Very little, since the flight on Druk airlines from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan has a limit of 44 pounds! She'll have to sit in an airplane seat for god knows how many hours. What a barbaric way to travel! :-) Here's Mom and Emily as we dropped them off at the airport way too early in the morning. But, I gotta admit, she goes to some pretty exotic places! This trip is guided by Keren Su of China Span who she has traveled with before. So, where is Bhutan? Well, it's in the Himalaya mountains, east of Nepal, south of China and north of India. It's commonly thought of as the location of Shangri-La. It has only been open for tourism for the last 30 years. Should be quite a trip! It's been fun to spend a lot of time with her while here in Florida. We actually reviewed all her trips over the last dozen or so years. It's been on my list for a long time to work on her web page and I finally did it. Check out and see where all she has been! And ... soon, she will fill in some stories and video clips for her trips. I made sure it all worked and posted a couple sample clips on her weblog that came from video of her 70th birthday. Mom, Jim and I went to Walker's Cay in the Bahamas and did the Shark Rodeo dive. Check out the video here. How many 70 year olds do you know that invite 40+ sharks to their birthday party?!?!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina Aftermath and Wi-Fi

As I mentioned in a previous post, we slept thru Katrina with just a rocking of our motorhome by the winds. We found a few branches down around us in the morning and the electricity was out, but that was all. We were fine. Many friends around Fort Lauderdale were without power for up to 7 days, we were only out for a few hours. People on the Gulf coast were not so lucky. I wanted to post a couple links here to useful sites I have found regarding Katrina. The first one is This one is interesting because it existed long before the hurricane. It is a web designer named Katrina Blankenship. She started getting so many hits on her website after the storm that she converted it into gathering place for all sorts of information and help for people affected by the storm. The other is This was developed by a friend of ours here in Fort Lauderdale and I think it's a wonderful idea. Giving people a place to simply say 'I'm OK'. The database is quick and simple, organized by the person's phone number.

Hurricane Katrina I'm OK Registry

It's interesting to see the business aftermath of a hurricane. The RV Park where we are staying, Paradise Island, is busier than ever during this, their slow season, because of Insurance adjusters. They have to travel extensively for their job and what better way to do it than in an RV? There are approximately 40 of them in the park. Why here? Because of the Wi-Fi of course. What better way to get your work done than with a high-speed Internet connection in your coach. The adjusters called ahead to all the available RV parks to inquire about Internet access before making their choice. The manager here is VERY pleased that Coach Connect's Internet antennas survived the hurricane. Unlike the television antenna!

The Wireless Internet antenna (in the middle of the roof) withstood hurricane Katrina's winds unscathed. The TV antenna (at left) didn't fare so well. We are getting ready to pack up and hit the road again soon. Our next destination is Austin, Texas where we will be working at Coach Connect's headquarters for a while. Looking at a map, the logical route is via I-10. We're going to have to study that a bit because it goes right thru New Orleans. I believe portions of the highway simply don't exist anymore. We will probably detour north.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Party Mobile

Can't have a party in your house? Take your house to where the party is! The club I've belonged to since 1983, Women's Executive Club, has a social every month. It is either at a member's home or at a member's place of business. Well, this one was both. Vivien scheduled the social at her business, Bluewater Books and Charts. And, Jim and I drove our motorhome to her parking lot. So, it was both a business AND a home social! Most of the party took place in the bookstore of course. But a few non-claustrophobic souls hung out in the motorhome for a while. It is so funny to watch people's reactions to our home. A few say, "Wow, this would be a dream come true. I would LOVE to do this." More say, "You guys are crazy, I could never live in a space this small. Especially not with my husband!" Notice how Jim is enjoying crashing this 'women-only' event! Then, we had also promised to bring our motorhome to our Toastmasters meeting one morning. Here's the meeting room, and you can see the motorhome outside the window. After the meeting, people came to visit. I wonder what the record is for number of people in a 30 foot motorhome?