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Our Satellite Dish: Part III of 3

June 3, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 71 Comments  
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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.

Camping with Satellite Dish in Cades Cove, Smokey Mountains National Park

Camping with Satellite Dish in Cades Cove, Smokey Mountains National Park

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 Ihere in Black Canyon 0914months 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.

Barry From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

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71 Responses to “Our Satellite Dish: Part III of 3”

  1. CageyOldVet on June 3rd, 2010 5:03 pm

    Heh, heh. You two remind me so-o-o much of Clark and Ellen Griswold. The doofus and his patient partner, though she’s marginally more limited in knowledge than he is. Very funny exploits, you two. Keep it coming! Ha ha.

    Also, there’s a funny episode with the sewer hose in RV that I’ll bet you can top.

    Can you explain more about the automatic night light that “unfortunately” annoyed your neighbors? Hilarious!

  2. Joyce on June 3rd, 2010 5:15 pm

    I’d like to know how you tether your computer to your phone. I have an iphone. I also have Broadband2Go but have only used it once.

  3. Gary Savage on June 3rd, 2010 5:42 pm

    Until just recently you couldn’t tether your computer to your iphone. Either right now or very soon you will be able to tether it. Check with your provider and I am sure they can fill you in on the details.
    Gary

  4. Marilyn Moore on June 3rd, 2010 11:01 pm

    I am a single, 62 yo female full-timer. I put a satellite on my roof because I watch a lot of tv and only had problems a couple of times because of the trees. It has been well worth it. However, I have my own internet on my laptop with an express card, which plugs into the laptop (I have Verizon Wireless but I think they all have it). It is a secure site and I think it’s worth the extra dollars because wifi is not secure and more and more campgrounds are making you pay for it. Once, when I didn’t have cell phone service, I still had internet, though it was really slow. When I was a volunteer at a park the couple next to me had a dish for their internet, which they had on the ground, and ran the wire in through their window. For the two months that we were there together, they had to adjust the signal at least once a week, which involved him moving the dish and her telling him whether or not it was better or worse. I had always wondered about a dish for the internet. I’ll keep my dish for tv on the roof and my secure card for my internet on my laptop.

  5. Phil Schoner on June 4th, 2010 10:23 am

    We use satellite internet when we volunteer in Grand Teton National Park. Our Verizon signal here is not sufficient for the internet. My wife and I are here all summer-this is our third year-and I have never had to readjust the dish after first finding the signal (Except that time when a microburst of wind knocked the dish over.) We have a Maxwell PortaSat dish/modum system that works with Hughsnet. You can find them at Maxwellsatellite.com or 800-860-6070.

    When we have sufficient signal, we prefer our Verizon air card. Works great and Verizon is available most places we go, especially out west.

  6. Jeannie on July 6th, 2010 5:28 am

    We have the easiest solution to the t.v. problem. Forget it totally and listen to the radio. If you have satellite radio, you will not be out of touch in even the most remote campsite. We used to live just fine without t.v. in the 40’s – can be done in the 10’s, believe it or not! All you need to hear is the weather and the news. We take books and are never bored. Go to any library wherever you are and usually you can buy discarded books for .50 to $1.00 and then, when done, leave them for the next visitor at your camp (restrooms are great places to share books.)

    We are old campers and started our adventures when camping was the reason to go…..with none of the conveniences of home…..so can’t quite understand the new camping mentality of constantly having to be “entertained.” We also carry playing cards, Scrabble, and other 2-person games. If we feel the need to watch something, we pop a DVD into the computer…..usually carry National Park DVD’s along.

    Try it, you might like it.

  7. Tom on July 11th, 2010 5:34 pm

    As a hurricane insurance adjuster, about the time of Katrina I got suckered into the Hughes Net portable internet where you set up a surveyor tripod with an aluminum frame holding a hugh dish et al. It took 45 minutes just to drag the stuff out and set it up, then a day or two of frustrating pointing. Once you got it running, after a day or two it would quit for no reason. If you were lucky, all you had to do was unhook and rehook all of the connections, go through a tedius and exacting proceedure of resetting the computer, modum (and probably the microwave, I’ve repressed most of it) in exactly the right order and it would work for another day or two-Maybe, no guarantees. If it was serious you could fool around for days, even with tech support on the phone, until it just started working again for no descernable reason. I guess the signal with Hughes net was so tenuous that the pull of the moon or maybe even just bad thoughts would bend or constrict the electron flow.

    That being said, a National Monument had Hughes Net in a permanent building install that worked fine as long as you unplugged/replugged the modum every couple of days.

    However, I’ll take my chances with reception on my Verizon mifi card, thank you very much, and drive to McDonalds if necessary rather than aim a dish for a highly theoretical internet connection. TV dishes are marginally better, but still no fun. And I agree, books are way bettter, especially when I can carry 50 of them on my Blackberry.

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