Our Satellite Dish: Part III of 3
Any two people who consider it a highlight of life to drink $18.00-a-bottle wine from an empty Pringles canister must be compatible. So, despite the counseling of her four sons to think twice about marrying me, Monique followed her intuition, which is practically 100 percent reliable.
There have been three disruptions in our marriage which we have overcome. Most recent is the mistake of trusting the GPS 100 percent. I finally learned to trust Monique’s navigating more than “Camille’s,” the name we’ve given our GPS.
Instead of siding with Camille, I just turn left when Monique directs me to (most of the time, anyway). That has gone a long way toward keeping us happy during our 24/7 together.
A second “disruption” was when I bought a 13×12-foot camp shelter that came in about 30 parts. We erected it for the first time in Joshua Tree National Park, California, in 108-degree heat. Those steel poles burned our fingers through the gloves for most of the hour it took to get it up. I told the store manager when I took that confounded Erector Set back, “Either give me back the money or I’m leaving it here anyway to save the marriage.” He agreed to the refund and life returned to glorious.
And most disruptive: the internet-TV dish atop our first trailer. When we left our working lives in Southern California, it was with my employer’s agreement that I would continue working from the road, which required constant internet communications with offices all over the country. The dish was a major investment but warranted because of the need for good internet access, plus, for a few dollars more, we had TV reception on the road.
Our first stop after embarking on our life in an RV was Sequoia National Park, one of our nation’s greatest treasures. We parked the trailer in the last spot available, with a clear view of the sky except for the narrow corridor where one giant sequoia stood between us and the satellite. I could not convince the ranger that that tree had to go.
That’s when it all started. While Monique walked through the gorgeous forest, I sat inside trying to do the impossible. I didn’t understand the system, and we had no phone reception to get expert guidance from the techies. We drove dozens of miles down the mountain to send out the evening’s report from the nearest town.
A few weeks later in Babler State Park near St. Louis, we set up, then switched sites, then switched again trying unsuccessfully to avoid trees. At Denby Point on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas, we parked, moved forward five feet, five more, five more, back two. Luckily we carry an extension for our 30-amp plug-in. “Let’s just get rid of that thing,” was the cry from Monique. Another exasperating experience for us both.
For the next three months, we had to choose our parking spot, not for beauty or convenience, but for whims of the dish. Perhaps we should have gone with the alternative of not having the dish complete with automatic satellite finder mounted atop our 22-foot light-weight trailer. We could have opted to have the dish on a stand and set it up ourselves in the campgrounds. But, the thought of hauling out an 86-pound dish and then having to align the signal didn’t sound very appealing.
We chose a travel trailer because we want access to small, woody campgrounds, so the dish on top was frustrating for us (we now have a 28-foot TT). For larger rigs driven by folks who like the comforts of private parks, it makes good sense to have the dish on top.
The result of choosing the roof-top dish was the parking problem and, even more nerve-jangling, the 5 to 30 minutes of WHIRRRR, while the system tried to hone in on the signal … and sometimes failing. It finally got to that point where the marriage was stress-tested
This is not to say a satellite dish for internet isn’t a wonderful thing, it just wasn’t for us at that point in our travels, particularly when, after three months on the road, my replacement arrived at the company and my services were no longer needed. Monique still considers receiving the e-mail message telling us we were free from the responsibility as the happiest day of our travels.
Giving our roof-top mounted dish back to the company that installed it was a relief. On the other hand, it meant that the blue lights on the dish weren’t going to attract the attention and admiration of fellow campers.
Since we no longer needed that speed or data capability and the other benefits of the internet-capturing satellite dish, we’ve made do with tethering our Blackberry to the laptop for internet, which works well when we have phone signal. At other times, we seek out public spots for access, which gives us a chance to soak up a bit of local culture. The good news is that campgrounds with WiFi are becoming much more prevalent.
Monique and I aren’t typical Americans: we spend very little time watching TV. Our TV dish comes in handy on cold, rainy days or when there’s some compelling show that we don’t want to miss. On the other hand, if you’re spending lots of time traveling or living in your RV, you’re not too typical either.
Before closing, two warnings about manually finding signal for your portable satellite dish. First, be careful where you set it up. When the lake rises around the dish, as we have seen in Arkansas, it means wading out to retrieve it or reeling it in like a 12-pound catfish through the muck or rocks.
And second, we have heard – over the beep-beeps of the signal finder in the adjacent campsite – heated bickering brought on by the frustration of turning and lifting the dish for up for what seemed like an hour.
We chalk it all this up to being just another part of life in an RV, almost equal to draining the black and grey water on rainy days.
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.