Monday, February 24, 2014

A Week of Geeks

This is our life, and it is just too cool.  When we left the Roadtrek rally, we traveled about an hour north to Bushnell, Florida and checked in to the Escapees park there for a week.  During that week, we saw old friends (fellow Escapees) presented one seminar at the Escapees park, another one at a retirement community in Zephyrhills, and then a seminar and a hands-on class at another RV resort.  So, in one week, we had a couple days of pure R&R and 4 ‘gigs.’  Then we were on the road again, headed to Fort Lauderdale for a stretch at ‘home.’  We started late, after our hands-on class, so we just drove till we were tired and pulled in to a Turnpike Rest Area, turned off the key and relaxed with a glass of wine till we went to bed. 

Escapees Park in Bushnell

The park is called Sumter Oaks and we’ve been by here before, but never stayed.  It is by the Escapees RV Club, and we are members of that club.  We knew that the managers this season are Wanda and Wallace who we know well from their work at Escapades and also that Bob and Molly, the directors of the Escapades were also there.  It is a gorgeous park with huge live Oaks and bordered on a beautiful Cypress swamp, the first night I pushed Jim to go for a walk all around just before sunset – set my DSLR camera to auto-bracketing in hopes of getting some nice HDR shots compiled by Google Plus.  If you want to learn more about this technique … here’s the Google+ help page.  Meanwhile, here’s the results:

Our Site:

 

The Azaleas:

 

The Cypress Swamp:

 

I think this is my favorite … a huge Live Oak:

 

Then, just as we were drawing a blank when we asked each other, “What are we going to do for dinner?” Molly came over and invited us to a cookout.  Beautiful setting, good food, good friends.

 

And, as long as we were going to be there for a week, we might as well do a seminar!  Wanda thought that our Smartphone/Tablet overview would be the best received.  We had about 40 people show up – it worked out well.  Here’s Jim getting set up:

Betmar Computer User Group in Zephyrhills

We gave a seminar at this group last year.  They are part of the APCUG (Ass’n of PC User Groups) and we are on the speakers’ bureau.  Zephyrhills is about an hour drive from Bushnell, so this worked out great.  This time they asked us to present our Facebook seminar … how fast things change!  Just a couple years ago, “what is facebook all about” was our most popular topic.  Now we found ourselves talking about how young people are leaving Facebook, and us older folks still use it all the time and are looking for advanced tips and tricks!  We had a nice group – hope they feel they learned something. 

I know I learned – but not in a good way.  I hate when technology makes a liar out of me!  In this case we started to demonstrate what I think is a very important tip: “If you have a friend that posts too much garbage, you can limit the garbage you see from them without UNfriending them.”  Well, the technique that we showed even just one month ago … wasn’t there!  (go to the friend’s profile, click on the button that reads Friend and you should see an option for Settings – there you can specify what you do and don’t want to see) the option for Settings has disappeared.  This has happened before and we use it as a teaching moment to demonstrate using Help.  This time, even help didn’t reveal where these settings have gone.  It appears that we simply don’t have the option anymore to specify “only important” or “only pictures”  or “not shares and comments”.   hmmmm  Has anyone else noticed this?  Found a way? 

 

Florida Grande 

Our last gig was only 20 minutes in the other direction.  We’ve been to Florida Grande a couple of times and found a very appreciative group.  It is an upscale Motorcoach resort in Webster, FL.

This time we spent 3 hours on the first day presenting “Technology for Travelers” and taking questions.  We really enjoy working with this size group … we felt we had enough time to cover any questions they may have, so we told them to write questions on slips of paper and we collected them at the midway break so we could answer them all in the second half.  Then, the second day we charged a fee and told people to bring their smartphones or tablets and we’d show them some of the things they probably didn’t know about using the cameras in these devices.  That was really fun.

 

Jim even made sure they had a subject for the video portion and flew his little remote controlled “skywriter” around the room!

 

We left there about 4:30 and started heading for Fort Lauderdale about 4.5 hrs away.  We don’t like to be on the road too late, so about 8pm we called it a day and pulled into a Turnpike rest area.  I find it hard to believe but I still get a thrill at the idea that we can just stop our vehicle, and we’re home.  Let the Rest of the World Go By!  With some earplugs to ease the truck noises – we slept great and woke up to a foggy morning in Florida ready to get back on the road.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Roadtreks!

When we left Riverside, we traveled to Thousand Trails Orlando for a few days.  This time of year they are very busy and we were surprised that we were able to get a site at all.  We weren’t going to be picky, we’d take whatever site they had left.  And, take a look at the site we got!  It was big and beautiful!

Site A29 TT OrlandoGeeky Tip: We’ve been playing with QR codes lately and we decided to make a code with the GPS coordinates for this site.  We created this code by using the QRDroid app on Jim’s smartphone.  It allows you to make a code that has latitude and longitude built in, and since it’s on his phone he could just say “Make a QR Code for my current location.”  Give it a try … using a smartphone or a tablet with a QR Code (or barcode) scanner, scan this code and then you should see the actual lat/lon numbers and you can click on “Show Location on Map” or “Get Directions.” Pretty cool huh?  If you don’t know about QRCode scanning, you need to take the Geeks on Tour Smartphone class, or be a member and watch the Barcode scanning video!

We were only there for the weekend and we used the time to prepare for our next “gig” at the Roadtrek rally.  Roadtreks are those great camper vans that have everything, and Roadtrekers like to travel!  We arrived at the Rally a little early since it was only an hour away from where we were. Since we’d been at a Roadtrek rally in this same spot last year, we saw a lot of people we knew.

This was their national rally and there were people there from all over the country.  The first night’s speaker was Charlie Adcock, President of the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Ass’n.)  He was a hoot!  Bearing very good tidings on the current state of affairs of FMCA,  including the fact that the Roadtrek chapter was the 3d largest chapter in FMCA (Monaco #2 and Freightliner #1.)  I snapped several pictures while he was talking, and was pleasantly surprised at the “auto-awesome” picture that Google+ Photos created – it put them together as an animated gif.

The Geeks on Tour session was all morning on Wednesday.  We did our “Technology for Travelers” seminar which is an overview of everything we teach: Internet connections, GPS systems, Google Maps, Smartphones, Picasa, Blogger, Facebook, Movie Maker and whatever questions came from the audience.  This is becoming our most popular seminar – and the one we like teaching the most as well.  It was no problem stretching it into 3 hours instead of our normal 1.5.  In fact, we still didn’t cover all the material.  Obviously, we don’t really teach how to use all of the above in this overview seminar, we just introduce the topic, and I think that’s what so many of them want – like throwing a handful of spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.  For some people it was Blogger, for others it was Streets and Trips and, just about everyone has something they can learn about smartphones.  It’s also good for us because they see how, whichever topic suits their fancy, they can learn more by becoming a Geeks on Tour member and watching the videos.  We welcomed 22 new and renewing members at this rally.

In the afternoon, we hosted Mike Wendland of Roadtreking.com to do a presentation via Google Hangouts on Air.  You see, he was in Michigan at the time.  Google+ Hangouts is our latest favorite Tech Toy.  Think of Skype or Facetime but then add the ability to have up to 10 people visible in the call and also add the fact that the whole thing is automatically recorded and available to view on Youtube immediately after concluding the Hangout! 

We’ve already done a few Hangouts on Air, you can see them on our Youtube channel, but this was the first time we used it in front of a live audience.  One thing that you learn early on in doing Hangouts is that feedback is a problem.  If the sound is coming out of your speakers it is likely also getting picked up by your microphone.  The feedback gets picked up and recycled until the squeal and reverberations are simply unbearable.  Usually, to fix that, you make sure that everyone in the Hangout is wearing a headset.  That way, the sound is going directly into our ears and is not available to be picked up by the microphone.  HOWEVER, then the live audience hears nothing!  OOOOPS!  And, when Jim plugged in the amplified speakers for the audience to hear, OUCH, every word was repeated like we were in an echo chamber and amplified with a squeal.

 

We almost had to scrap the whole thing.  Our plan was for Jim to conduct the hangout from his computer at the front of the room, and for me to join the Hangout from my iPad and be a roving reporter in the room, taking questions from the audience.  What we found was that I had to mute the microphone in the iPad to stop the feedback.  So, questions from the audience weren’t quite audible, but we were able to go on and all in all it was quite successful.  That’s how we learn!  You can see the recording on our Youtube channel: Roadtrek Rally Mike Wendland.  Mike was so impressed with the technology, that, within an hour he had done his own hangout/interview and posted it on his website!  We love spreading technology!

All of our work was done on Wednesday, so we could actually participate in other sessions on Thursday.  I love reading books and am always looking for suggestions, so I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on the Book circle where they simply went around the circle and each person gave a book title that they had recently read and could recommend.  What a goldmine! 

I was also interested to see that almost everyone had a Kindle or tablet that they used to read their books, but all but one or two were using paper and pen to take notes!  More and more, I am taking all my notes using Evernote on my smartphone, because that’s what I have in my pocket!  Then I can go in to Evernote using my computer and cleaned up the typos etc.  For my book list I even got a few links to the books from Amazon.  If you’d like to see a good list of book recommendations, here are my notes from this Book circle: Recommended Book List  What was my recommendation?  The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

Monday, February 10, 2014

Home Again!

For us, home is not a place.  It’s a thing.  It’s our motorhome. And, it’s back!  With a fully working slide-out and several other minor improvements.  It’s also clean!  As a bonus for having kept it so long and done such expensive work ($4,000) Lazydays gave us a complimentary clean and detailing inside and out.  Nice touch, and very much appreciated.  They even got the discoloration out of the shower stall and cleaned the difficult mini blinds in the kitchen. 

And, it was just in time!  We picked up the RV midday and drove to Riverside RV park a couple hours away where we were scheduled to give seminars for the next 3 days.  This park is in a beautiful countryside location right on the Peace river in between Punta Gorda and Arcadia.  It would have been a major inconvenience if we had to use a motel for this one.

But everything turned out perfect, thanks to John Goodrich for making all the arrangements.  We had a great site just walking distance to the clubhouse – and we had lots of interested people for our Cloud Computing seminar as well as a hands-on iPhone/iPad class and a hands-on Android class.
While we were there, we also learned that our friends Howard and Linda Payne of RV-Dreams.com were staying right across the river.  They’re parked on a friends farmland and are set to have a Boondocking rally next week.  How cool is that?  And, what a beautiful piece of property it is.  If we weren’t already booked next week, we’d be tempted to join them.

The next day they took us on a “Mule” ride on a parcel of nearby property.  The “Mule” is a 4-wheel drive golf cart, Linda had fun taking us thru the saw palmetto and mud! 



There was also some of the most beautiful “Real Florida” you’ll ever want to see.



This property has Howard and Linda doing some more “RV-Dreaming.”  We see a lot of trees, brush, and river – they see a beautiful place to “nest.”  Hmmm … if they could get others to share this dream, maybe they could make an RV Park out of this property?  To read more about their current dream, check out Howard’s blog post.
Next week we’re presenting seminars to the Roadtrek Rally in Kissimmee, FL – so we checked into the nearby Thousand Trails, Orlando for the weekend.  They are fully booked this time of year, so we were pleasantly surprised when we were able to get in.  There were only a few sites available, and we would have been happy with anything – we were doubly surprised to end up with this beautiful site:

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Motels and Mermaids

We had a scheduled ‘gig’ at Royal Coachmen Resort on January 31.  We were provided an RV site for a couple of nights and we were supposed to present our “Technology for Travelers” seminar to their computer club and other interested residents.  No RV is no excuse!  We packed up the car and left Fort Lauderdale – spent 3-4 hours on the road and pulled into Royal Coachmen in Nokomis, Florida about 4 in the afternoon.  After meeting with our contacts, and checking out the room where we would be setting up, we went in search of a motel.  Google maps indicated that the closest one was Nokomis Inn and Suites, and it was cheap too – $62.  At least it was cheap for a motel.  It’s hard to compare anything to the $0-25 that we’re used to spending for parking our RV for the night!

Our visit to Royal Coachmen came about because of Carol and Chuck Genrich.  They told us that they’ve attended our seminars at FMCA rallies over many years, and all over the country!  Pomona, CA; Perry, GA; St. Paul, MN; Indianapolis, IN – and maybe more I forgot they mentioned.  They always learn something and they’ve been wanting to invite us to their winter home here in Florida.  Everyone we met told us, “We’ve heard so much about you from Carol and Chuck, we’re really looking forward to your presentation tomorrow!”  Wow – the pressure was on!  Royal Coachmen is one of those snowbird resorts in Florida where you’ll never get bored.  In addition to their very active computer club, there is Volleyball, Bocce Ball, Bicycling, hiking, and tennis – just to name a few. 

After we got checked into our motel, we went back to Royal Coachmen as Carol and Chuck had invited us to the evening’s entertainment.  A Righteous Brothers tribute duo called Soul and Inspiration.  They were wonderful.  Check it out – we turned the video recorder on our iPad for this one amazing song:

 

The next day we had a great group for our seminar.  They gave us a full two hours so we could easily take questions, and they had a lot of them.  This is SO the right way to do seminars … being invited by someone who knows us and promotes us to their group.  It’s so friendly and so rewarding.  The next day they had a craft fair, and gave us a table where we could talk to people and sign them up for Geeks on Tour Membership.  By the time we left, we had 17 new members and nearly 60 newsletter subscribers.  Thanks Carol and Chuck!

 

When we were done at Royal Coachmen, we had a couple of days to kill before our next gig at Riverside RV park in Arcadia, FL.  Once again, we were hoping we would have our RV back, so we first drove up to Lazydays in Tampa to check on it.  We had been told that the work was being completed on Thu-Fri, so maybe we could get it on Saturday.  But, no, it was parked on a back lot for the weekend and it was scheduled for the completion Monday morning.  We were going to need a motel for another couple of nights.

The SE Area FMCA rally was going on this weekend in Brooksville, FL – just an hour away, so we decided to go and say hello to lots of friends there, and especially Phil and Tracey from TechnoRV.  We did run into several friends right away, then we spent the rest of the evening with Phil, Tracey, and their daughter Ally.  It was so good catching up with them after many months of them being in England.  The conversation … and the wine … flowed.

After leaving Brooksville, we looked at the map and noticed how close we were to Weeki Wachee Springs – a Florida landmark attraction that we’ve been meaning to visit.  I remember seeing the mermaids there when I was a little girl.  We checked in to the Motel 6 directly across the street.  Then we took a day to play tourist and watch the mermaids.  It was great.  If you think that Florida is just Disney World and Miami Beach, you are missing so much!  The natural crystal-clear springs are all over the north and central part of the state.  Here is a view of the springs from above.  The bubbles are from the air hoses used by the mermaids to breathe underwater.

 

And, here’s a mermaid!

 

They put on two different shows: The Little Mermaid, and Fish Tales.  We saw them both!

 

 

We also took advantage of the River Boat ride and saw bald eagles and alligators.

 

The mermaid shows, as well as the boat ride, and an animal show are all included in the low $13 price of admission.  If you’re ever on the west/central coast of Florida – Weeki Wachee is a must see!