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A few details

Our little counter upgrade seems to have struck a nerve with our blog readers. Yesterday morning I received half a dozen emails asking questions about it.

One person asked if I have a photo of the area before the counter went in. I went through my archives and couldn't find a single decent shot of it! Sorry ...

Blog reader Dirk asked:

Will this be your corner office now? By the way, after a year on the road what parts and pieces have you found worked best with your Mac for internet connectivity? Many reading the blog may be interested in the specifics for when they run away from home!

No, the space is a little tight still for working. I'll continue to use the dinette and the master bedroom for work. I can spread out a bit more in those places. The new counter is really just temporary space, and a mechanism to mount under-counter storage, which is coming soon.

I've talked about Internet a few times in the blog and you can read my thoughts on it from last year here. This year there are more options for people to get online, especially more wifi hotspots, and cheaper cellular data cards. A lot of people are going with Verizon or Sprint cellular data cards, which work well and are often free with a 2-year contract. Unlimited access is between $59.99 and $79.99 per month.

I still use a few things to give myself an edge, including:

1) Linksys WRE54G wireless range extender (for use in campgrounds). This amplifies and re-broadcasts wireless signals so they easily penetrate the Airstream's aluminum skin.

2) Verizon data cable to connect my Mac to my Verizon phone, as a backup method of getting online. (Rarely used.)

3) An Ethernet cable for occasions when I spot an open Ethernet tap at someone's home or office.

4) The free "Airport Radar" widget (available only for Macs running Tiger 10.4.1 or above)

These days the only places we have trouble getting online now are the remote spots of the west -- and the numerous campgrounds that offer "free wifi" but don't deliver. As I've said before, it's more about knowing where to look than anything. Public libraries, strip malls, cafes, motels, etc. are all easy spots to get online.

"TMI" Department:

You might also be wondering about how we manage to dump the Airstream's holding tanks while we are courtesy parking for extended periods. Usually we're gone in a few days so we just find a place along the road (a rest area or campground). But since we are comfortable here at Barry's and don't feel like moving, we had to come up with something else.

(Warning: if you weren't wondering about this subject, you may want to skip to the next blog entry, because this gets mildly graphic, although I'll spare you the worst details.)

Barry has a septic system into which he pumps the contents of his holding tank using a macerator. A macerator is sort of a blender/pump, but it sure doesn't make daquiris. It attaches to the holding tank and chops up the effluent from the tank and pumps it through a garden hose. With this, he's able to pump his tanks 50 feet to the sewer inlet. It's a lot neater than using a blue tank.

Being a clever sort of fellow, Barry saved money by buying a marine macerator pump and making a custom attachment to connect it to his 1973 Airstream's Thetford dump valve. The problem is, newer Airstreams use Valterra dump valves, and the two are not compatible. An adapter was available through Camping World, but apparently no longer. So off we went to Home Depot to manufacture something that would do the job.

Tampa macerator.jpg

Inspired by Rube Goldberg, our custom connector uses a piece from a Shop-Vac, some silicone waterproofing tape, a hose clamp and a section of 1.5" clear plastic tubing. The clear tubing puts you up close and personal with whatever you ate in the previous week, but it has the distinct benefit of letting you know when the job is done, and when the tank has been well flushed with fresh water. Let me assure you, we tested the gizmo on some gray water (to confirm it wouldn't suddenly and catastrophically fail) before pulling the black tank handle.

It worked, but the experience reminded me of the things I don't like about macerators. At least we have a solution for the duration of our stay here at Chez Barry. This effort was way above what we normally need to do when courtesy parking, so don't get the idea that this is a normal part of traveling ... I doubt we'll ever have to go to such lengths again.


FYI, the Flying J truck stop on I-75 a couple of exits North of the I-275 junction has a dump station.

2 quick questions:
Where do you put your Linksys repeater?
Has it been compatible with most of the wireless lans you've encountered?

Thanks for the septic info - addressed questions I haven't yet had the nerve to ask [grin]

Hi Elly

Generally the Linksys repeater goes in a plastic bag on the ground outside the trailer. It is compatible with any wireless LAN that is not encrypted.

It's a 1972! A 1972! One more time... a 1972 Airstream!

OK, I feel better now. :)

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