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How this blog reaches you (getting online)

Without a doubt the number one question I get from working people who want to travel by RV is, “How do you get online?”

The short answer is, “Any way I can.” Since we travel a lot, we can’t count on any one method of Internet access to work all the time. And since getting online is absolutely mandatory for me to do my job, we do what ever it takes to find the Internet, even if it means hitching up and moving onward. Sometimes that means a compromise between where we’d like to be and where we must be.

Normally, I use a cellular Internet system called “Internet in Motion” to get online. It’s basically a little black box that runs off the 12v system in the Airstream. With it, I can get online anywhere there is a cellular signal. This service costs $60 per month for unlimited use. The really nice thing about this system is that it can be left on even when in motion, so the Internet is always available. Eleanor gets online from the passenger seat while I’m towing, to look up information (weather radar, campgrounds, parks, etc). The downside, of course, is that if there’s no cellular signal, it can’t work.

Satellite is an excellent option for people who like to really roam to out-of-the-way places. It has the advantage of working anywhere you can see the southern sky, after about five minutes for the dish to orient itself. The equipment is more expensive– about $5000 installed. Monthly charges are about the same as cellular. The other thing to consider is that the satellite modems require AC power, which means you have to either be plugged in or have a big battery bank and inverter.

If we can’t get online with our IIM system, we run down the list of alternatives:

1) Is it really important to get online during our stay, or can we just pack the laptops and catch up later?
2) Is there a cyber cafe or other wireless hotspot nearby?
3) Can we borrow an office nearby with an Ethernet (wired) connection? Or, can we disconnect someone’s computer from their Internet connection for a few minutes?
4) Does our Verizon cell phone work? If so, we can connect a cable to it and get online that way.
5) Can we borrow a phone jack and dial in? (We rarely are reduced to this level, fortunately.)

The point is that it helps to have multiple ways to get online. There are no perfect, one-size-fits-all, guaranteed ways to get online. Sometimes you’ll just get skunked, as has happened to us many times. It can be frustrating that the best places to be are often the ones with no cell phone or Internet services, but we regard that as a sign that we should take a day off and go hiking!

If this sort of thing interests you, you should check out the new Digital RV Forum. It’s all about digital technology in RVs. The forum just launched on December 28 2005, and I’m one of the forum moderators. Post a question there if you have one!

2 Responses to “How this blog reaches you (getting online)”

  1. jim Says:

    We too use a cellular system. It is a T-Mobil and works just great. If no cellular signal, then we turn to Wi-Fi Hot spots or as a last resort, land line usage. Glad to hear of your travels. We have been in front of you since November. Maybe one of these days we will slow down some more and let you catch up with us.

  2. Rich C Says:

    I’ve been testing out my new Verizon Wireless Broadband service too Rich. Looking good so far. With luck I’ll be blogging along side you in a month or so (shooting for Feb 20th departure).