Today's post is from Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia, a well-known RV blogger who has provided RVParking.com with lots of great reviews. Stay tuned for a Las Vegas RV Park review and more photos of the day. If you are interested in contributing to the blog or have an idea for blog post, please let us know.
My partner Chris and I have been full timing in a small RV since 2006.
Unlike a lot of full-time RV'ers, we are relatively young (we are in our late 30's), and far from retirement. And though people often assume that we must be independently wealthy or on some sort of extended vacation, these images of us could not be further from the truth.
Rather, we consider ourselves technomads, and have taken our high tech careers on the road with us. As long as we have our laptops and a way to access the internet, we can literally work from anywhere. And for 5 years - we have done just that!
We have some steady clients that we do consulting work and high end custom software development for that provide our primary income, but after a couple years on the road, we began to realize that there wasn't "an app for that" that handled some of the unique issues that full-time RV'ers like ourselves face.
With some spare time in between projects, last year we decided to start dabbling in iPhone application development. We figured the worst case would be we had fun, learned some new skillsets and ended up with something useful. Best case, we'd generate a touch of ongoing passive income.
To be completely honest, one of the first app ideas we started speccing out was an app that would compile a list of all of the RV-friendly campgrounds around the country, gathering lots of information on them and allowing for reviews - all accessible on a mobile device.
Fortunately RVParking.com launched around that same time, saving us an immense amount of hard work. We have to say, the folks at RVParking have done a fabulous job and have created something very close to our vision. Kudos to them!
Then we thought about all the little laws and regulations that change with each state we traveled into. It was a confusing chore even trying to keep track of which states had rules about handsfree cellphone use, txting while driving, rest area time limits, triple towing limitations, blue laws that prevented buying real beer in grocery stores, smoking bans in restaurants (yay!), and so on.
We also noticed that planning our fuel stops or shopping runs in states with lower tax rates could really pay off, but looking up these always changing tax rates was too much work to keep on top of.
So last year, we launched our first iPhone app, 'State Lines' - which tracks over 50 state laws that affect travelers. Since then, we've also launched the app for HP's WebOS, Windows Phone 7, and soon we will be supporting Android as well. We also have the information available in a PDF eBook format that may not be able to auto-locate the nearest state, but which can be opened on any device - including your laptop, or even printed.
The next app we launched solved a very different problem. Like many travelers, we carry multiple cellular devices to get online with - most recently we've been depending on an aircard from Verizon and tethering on our iPhones from AT&T. And no matter what the advertising claims, every carrier's coverage maps leave a lot to be desired, particularly if you are interested in fast data and are often away from major metro areas. As every traveler knows, sometimes finding a usable signal can be the most frustrating thing in the world.
And while we can check each carrier's web-based coverage maps online, it's a chore. And impossible to do if you currently don't have any signal at all. There have been so many times that we just needed to know which direction to start heading to get a signal to check e-mail or join in on a conference call. So, a few months ago we launched 'Coverage?' for iPhone & iPad.
'Coverage?' provides an at-a-glance "universal" coverage map by interactively overlaying the coverage maps from the four major nationwide US cellular providers. And unlike the online tools, 'Coverage?' works while offline - when you need it the most. 'Coverage?' also lets you zero in on the type of coverage you need - 4G, 3G, or any at all. And it can even help you avoid roaming areas.
We've found 'Coverage?' to be an awesome way to help planning which route to take for days we need to keep connected, or selecting which town to overnight in with the best odds of being able to get a usable fast connection.
A lot of people ask us if mobile app development is worth pursuing as a mobile-friendly career. And to be honest, it can be - particularly as a fun and rewarding side job. It doesn't take a large investment to get started, and there are great free online training and developer resources. But it takes a lot of luck to win big in the mobile application lottery, and very few developers do. It takes more than just a great idea - you need solid execution, a marketing plan, and if you want to get seen it takes a lot of outreach to reviewers and the press.
Targeting a niche audience with specialized apps is not a good way to strike it rich, but we are very happy that our apps have been able to earn us a bit of beer money every day.
And for us - we didn't go into this looking to get rich. We wrote both of these apps because as full time travelers, we needed them, and there is nothing else like them out there.
We now regularly use both our apps in our travels, and they have proven to be extremely useful to us. And we love getting so much great feedback from other travelers (and online reviewers) who have also been finding our apps to be indispensable.
If you try them, let us know what you think!
Here are the key links:
Platform: iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch (Universal)
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/coverage/id388815949?mt=8
Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNNzUtjgJIo (Still shows off version 1.0 - current version is 2.3)
App URL: http://www.technomadia.com/apps/Coverage.html
Title: 'State Lines'
Platform: iPhone / iPod Touch / eBook / Windows Phone 7 / WebOS (iPad Universal and Android coming soon)
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/app/state-lines/id371852080?mt=8
App URL: http://www.technomadia.com/apps/State_Lines.html
eBook URL: http://www.technomadia.com/store
Technomads Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy have been on the road together since May 2007 - traveling, living, working and playing full-time in a small solar powered RV, embracing nomadic serendipity.
Their most recent adventure has them hitting the road in pursuit of the ideal vintage bus to turn into their next home and office on wheels. Follow their adventures at: www.technomadia.com
After years of planning and anticipation, Jay and Ayo quit their Wall Street and consulting jobs to take a number of years off from corporate life. Eight months in, they’ve lived in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Israel. They are now exploring the United States by RV.
My wife and I live in a 24 foot Tioga motorhome. We’ve been traveling for nearly eight months now, and the most recent two and a half months have been in the RV.
Unlike some RVers, neither of us are software developers, engineers, or analysts. We don’t need connectivity for work. We do, however, love our technology and would never be caught without internet access on the road.
Enter our Palm Pre Plus, whose Mobile Hotspot application enables wireless tethering for up to five computers at once, all sharing the Pre’s lightning-fast 3G service. We use Verizon as our provider and couldn’t be happier. I can’t count how many times we’ve been the only ones in an area who have service. Those Verizon “Can you hear me now?” commercials are legit.
A while back, we blogged about our stay in Fossil Falls. There, in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert I clocked 3 Mb/s download speeds. It rocked. All in one day I was able to wake up, go for a hike, eat breakfast, jump online with broadband connectivity, and then sit out in a canyon reading a book, miles away from anyone. Not bad.
The Mobile Hotspot application couldn’t be simpler to use. Two quick taps and our wireless network is ready to go, complete with WPA2 encryption. The phone’s WiFi signal offers impressive range, but the best part is that Mobile Hotspot tethering is free. Yes, there’s a five gigabyte cap for tethered data usage, but unless you’re streaming movies or playing World of Warcraft, five gigs isn’t as little as you’d think.
One downside to the Mobile Hotspot app is that it’s a power hog, and it’ll drain your battery much faster than regular phone use. The flipside to this is the phone’s ability to charge off of your computer’s USB port. We tend to keep the phone plugged in to a computer while using Mobile Hotspot, which solves our problems. (Especially when combined with solar and a HyperMac.)
The other downside - though I believe that it’s the case for all tethered phones - is that phone service and data service cannot be used concurrently. If you receive a phone call while using Mobile Hotspot, your internet connection will be put on hold for the duration of the call.
Overall, I give the Pre’s Mobile Hotspot a solid 9 out of 10 for on-the-road connectivity, with the only real downside being its power drain. I haven’t commented on the Pre Plus hardware and operating system (which I like), but I’ll note that the Pre 2 is hitting the market shortly and will be bringing the phone up to speed with an OS update, 1 Ghz processor, and 5 megapixel camera.
If you would like to follow our adventure, visit our blog at ourtakeonfreedom.wordpress.com.
Continuing our series on getting online from the road is a review of Verizon MiFi from the authors of Hit the Road JACK.
When we were in the stationary home, we used cable for our internet needs and we loved it. It was quick and very reliable but it just wouldn’t work for us in this lifestyle. So, through the years we have tried all sorts of ways to connect to the internet while traveling.
Our first year up at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we used satellite for our internet connection. It was not very reliable and we were constantly getting bounced off, but it was our only option at the time.
Many businesses, including libraries, coffee shops, hotels, RV parks and campgrounds offer free WiFi. The only problem with using there service is that it is not always convenient. Many places turn it on and then off again, so those late nights or really early mornings the service might not be available to us. Also, many of the WiFi offered is not reliable and definitely not protected, so doing personal business is not advised.
A few years ago, when Verizon introduced the Wireless Broadband service, we were hooked. We started with the PC Card, then updated to the USB Modem, then finally to the MiFi just a short time ago.
Through the years, we had one card or modem and it was usually on my computer. Jerry was not into the internet as faithfully as I was and he was content with using the WiFi, if and when it was available. But something changed a short time ago, he got hooked on the internet as much as I did. We discussed getting another card and/or modem but they did not offer a family plan as they have with the cell phones. We would have to pay the same price we were already paying for the first card and we just could not justify that cost, that was until they introduced MiFi.
The nice thing about getting the MiFi was keeping our current plan. Since we received our PC Card when the service was first introduced, we received a great plan, a plan that they no longer offer with unlimited usage and we are grandfathered in, so changing our plan will not be an option.
The MiFi 2200 fits in the palm of our hand and is so convenient to use. We ordered it online since there was an additional bonus for doing it there and it was delivered the very next day. The setup was so simple, turned it on and followed a few menu clicks and it was complete. Within minutes, we were both online enjoying the internet.
We usually use it while it is plugged into the power in the RV but it also has battery power. Several times we took it outside while we listened to the rushing sounds of the river we were parked next to or as we watched the animals frolic in the woods. MiFi 2200 makes it convenient to enjoy nature but still be connected to the world and the connection seems stronger than the USB modem we had for years.
The first time we discussed our dreams was shortly after we were married. The dreams that lied deep within that we hardly shared with anyone, because they were so bizarre that we were almost embarrassed to tell another person. But, we had always been able to share our heart’s desires with one another, so we did.
We spoke about traveling around in a RV, taking photos, writing our stories and having them published. We finished each others sentences, we shared what we had kept inside ourselves since we were very young but the stories matched. Even though we knew we had to do this once and for all we once again met up with too many obstacles and put it on hold for another 6 years while a life that we thought would make us happy continued on.
Then, the turning point in our lives happened when my baby brother at an early age of 40 passed away, leaving behind many of his dreams unfulfilled. During those last moments of his life, we shared some deep secrets with one another and he made me promise to get on with my life and to follow my own dreams, never again allowing anyone or anything to stand in the way. This began a year of research, finding opportunities to make a living while traveling the country.
We travel, main highways, country roads and many of the roads less traveled. We either work or are spectators at many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, eventually accomplishing every track on the circuit with a photograph of each of us in front of the race track sign. We also play a little game of achieving a photo of every state line we pass, but we have to do this in action, while driving, no stopping and taking the easy way out. If we miss one, we then know that we will need to take another trip someday through that state.
One of our favorite things to do is to stay, play then review the popular sightseeing locations, as well as many of the small “mom & pop” businesses and share this unbiased opinion with our many readers. Living this lifestyle has allowed us in just a few short years to visit, the Grand Canyon, Mall of America, Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, Gateway Arch, Soo Locks, and so many more then we ever imagined we would ever see. Doing this all on such a small budget that our readers are able to see themselves doing it too is also another benefit we share.
At times we each must travel many miles in the opposite direction to get ourselves on course once again but knowing our home is in our hearts at all times makes the travel easier. Our home is also right where we are at that very moment living our dream, traveling this wonderful country, taking photos and sharing our stories with our readers. Come join us and see where our journey leads us, our plans often change as we learn to live our lives from a much deeper place deep within ourselves.
Today's guest blog post comes from Betty Barnes, RV blogger and the author of great reviews here on RVParking.com:
I have been asked to share with you our experiences utilizing a satellite Internet system. Although we have been full-timers for a few months, I am pleased with our choice. Everyone's situation is different. This method of getting online may not be what you want or need as part of your technology on the road. For us, though, it seems to be just the ticket.
"Why?" you ask. Here's a scenario we have already encountered. Recently we spent two very enjoyable weeks nestled in a valley amidst the Smoky Mountains. It was a lovely park undergoing some renovations and upgrading, and WiFi service was not yet available. Our AT&T cell phones had no signal. Other campers who asked about our tripod setup had the phone service starting with a "V," barely enough of a signal to make/receive calls and no way/no how could they access the Internet. With our HughesNet dish on a tripod, we were up and surfin'!
Making the decision about how to access the Internet on the road was almost more difficult and taxing on the gray cells than the decision to go full-time. "Will it actually work?!?!" "Can I do it myself?" kept rattling around in my head like a song you hear on the radio on the way to work that just will not leave your memory all day. We've all been there, eh? Having a television service was less critical than that of reliable Internet and, in fact, the only television reception we get is via cable provided at RV parks or through our indoor antenna/rabbit ears. Being able to access the Internet, however, was a must-have.
The hours I spent online researching air cards, satellite, different cell phone carriers, coverage areas, routers, amplifiers . . . well, I am glad I did not keep track of those hours! Satellite Internet of the type that uses a rooftop- mounted dish was simply too expensive for us. Thanks to a veteran full-timer of 25+ years and a member of a full-timing forum I frequent, I learned of the mobile tripod-mounted system you see above. We also got an external cable outlet which is mounted on the exterior of one of our slides.
What you see above are the external cables that run back to the tripod. No way was I going to "just leave a
window open" with cables running through it! Do you know how big mosquitoes can grow??
The entire system turned out to be significantly less cost up front than the rooftop system. What about the
monthly cost? We opted for the HughesNet ProPlus plan, which gives us what we believe should be an adequate daily download allowance for the two of us. (We each have a laptop.) Many folks pay monthly subscriptions for both Internet via air cards and a television service, so we may not be far off that.
We already had a wireless router purchased quite a while back, still brand new and in the box, so we have our own wireless network here in our RV. Again, this is a simple process. Once the satellite signal is acquired and my laptop (the host) is successfully on the Internet, I shut everything down, hook up the router, turn everything back on and there we are! Our personal wireless network! Feel free to surf inside the RV or even outside if it's a nice day.
Now, I know what you are thinking. "Gee, that just looks like too much work and hassle, setting up that contraption and breaking it down." You know what? It really isn't bad at all. The pointing hardware and software provided with our system makes finding the satellite a breeze. Although quite stable and sturdy, the entire tripod when completely assembled is not extremely heavy, for those of you concerned about cargo weight or awkwardness of handling the tripod and its components.
All that being said, do I set it up if we are stopped for a night or two? No. If we are in a park that provides free WiFi, we will use that. If we are not, well, we just do without. It is sort of nice to "drop off the grid" for a brief spell now and then.
Some points, and this is just a starting point, you might want to consider when thinking about what will work for you. Again, this is based on our personal preferences and experiences.
• What is your primary use of the Internet? Personal or business? Combination of both? We are both online off and on throughout the day and night. I do some work online, so a consistently reliable connection is vital. I simply did not want us to be reliant on cell phone coverage, or lack thereof.
• Tripod versus rooftop mounted system? With a tripod you can park under trees and put the tripod in a clear area. With a rooftop system there is less setup.
• Upload/download speed: Having had no choice in our ISP prior to full-timing and it being the worst I have ever experienced regarding speed and reliability, our system is more than satisfactory.
• VoIP services such as Skype (which we use to call family in Scotland) do not work very well with satellite, although it can be done. Latency is a problem. Think of an Earth-to-space conversation.
• Online games and downloading large files, videos and the like really are problematic. You may find you are swiftly eating up your download allowance. OUCH! We have a "free zone" during the wee hours of the morning when downloads are not counted against your allowance. This works out great for us, as we are currently working night shift. HughesNet provides a free Download Manager program with which you can schedule and manage "free zone" downloads in case you aren't a night owl. Another handy free download from the HughesNet site is a status meter. I have one on each of our laptops as a Taskbar icon so we can check our allowance status with a quick click of the mouse.
I hope my contribution here has given some insight of what life is like with a satellite Internet system if you are contemplating this method versus an air card for accessing cyberspace. Again, these are simply our experiences and viewpoints on what works for us. Everyone has to make a decision based on their wants and needs and what they feel is the most "comfortable" option for them. Whatever you decide, I hope it works well for you and that you enjoy your time in cyberspace. Thank you for reading, and safe travels to you all!
Betty Barnes is a nine-year cancer survivor, Reiki Master/Teacher, cyclist and drum circle facilitator. She and her husband Dave, originally from Scotland, began full-timing in their fifth wheel in June 2010, workamping as they travel the Lower 48. Betty's first RV experience was literally as a babe in arms over 50 years ago. She has camped under canvas, in a pop-up and travel trailers now a fifth wheel. Betty has seen much of Scotland, so now she and Dave are taking the opportunity to experience together the wonder and beauty of her native country. Betty maintains an active blog describing their adventures on the road at Phoenix Once Again. You are also invited to visit her Reiki Web presence here.