Back to Conibear!

April 20th, 2008

It’s been quite a week. Tuesday night, we got a friend to watch the cats (thanks Eduardo!) so we could take the camper over to Lakeland for repairs. Pretty minor stuff, but we wanted to get it fixed before we hit the road at the end of the month.

Tuesday night was spent in another beautiful Wal-Mart parking lot. The ‘master list’ of Wal-Marts that do not allow overnight parking shows both Wal-Marts in Lakeland as off-limits, but there were several RV’s and trucks already parked and no signs posted, so we went inside to check and were told to go ahead. The following morning, the guy in the class A next door came out to see us off, quiz us about the large pirate flag flying from the ladder and show off his pirate tattoo. People in RVs are weird. And they’re following us.

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Welcome Home!

December 6th, 2007

As of December 1st, we are officially homeless!

Apparently the delivery driver decided to take an extra long Thanksgiving holiday. Thankfully, Robbie and the rest of the service team over at Conibear were able to get the camper finished in under a day, so we were able to pick it up late Thursday afternoon.

Here’s our sexy new vagabond machine loaded up the first night.

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Odds and Ends

November 6th, 2007

Well, the big day is getting closer. I still don’t have an exact delivery date from Conibear, but we expect the camper sometime in the next week or two. Meanwhile, we’ve got only three weeks left in our apartment.

We’ve canceled cable television and internet service. There’s still way more television being broadcast in the area than we really need. Quite frankly, I wish we watched even less television than we do.

For internet we’re using Sprint’s wireless data service. We have the new Novatel U727 usb modem. One of it’s big selling points is the built-in GPS. Unfortunately, the GPS is pretty lousy. Most of the time, you can’t even get it to lock onto satellites in a vehicle. Perhaps it would work better in the open air, but I rarely walk around with a laptop and actually need a GPS.

At least the internet service works pretty well. It took some fiddling with the EVDO settings and finding a good place to put the router, but we’re getting about 800kbps downstream. There is not currently an external antenna cable available for the U727. Hopefully it will take less trial and error with locations once we can permanently mount an antenna on the outside of the camper.

I’ve been very happy with the EVDO router. Its a Cradlepoint C350. It acts as a wifi hotspot and NATs the IP address that Sprint assigns. The interface is pretty intuitive and packed with a ton of features. The only real problem we’ve run into is trying to get WDS to work properly between this router and the Linksys access point we’ve been using. Since the C350 is wifi only, a fair portion of our network is currently unable to reach the internet. We’re making due with a couple of PCI wifi cards I had laying around from another project and multi-homing our workstations so we can still reach the NAS.

Switching ISPs has forced us to move along with some other things as well. The biggest one so far has been relocating our email and web toys to a domain hosting company. For the past ten years or so, I’ve run all the services for my vanity domain and Jenn has done the same with hers. Its a bit of a change letting someone else deal with all the root level things and rather frustrating when you have an issue that you could solve in five minutes if it were your box but instead have to ask someone else to look into.

We’re using Hostgator as our domain host and so far I’ve been very impressed with their customer service as they dealt with some dumb questions and some more esoteric technical issues.

The other big thing we need to deal with is our phone service. We have VOIP through our company, but we’re planning to switch to Skype. I’m still in the process of researching wifi VOIP phones. I also haven’t been overly impressed with Skype’s website interface or their customer support when we ran into some website problems. Hopefully we can resolve that issue and get set up. In the meantime, we’ll use cell phones for a bit longer.

The last bit of setup this week has been our mail forwarding service. We’re using Good Sam’s mail forwarding service. So far, it’s been a nightmare to get set up and taken far longer than I expected. If you want to use Good Sam mail forwarding service, save yourself a lot of headaches and just call them instead of trying to sign up online.

It’s been a pretty hectic time for us as we try to get all of this sorted out. There’s still a ton of things to do before we get as far as moving into the campground for a few months. As I have more time, I plan to go into a bit more in depth review of the products and services we’re using. In the meantime, if anybody is using a good wifi phone for Skype, let us know about it!

It’s Official!

September 2nd, 2007

Yesterday, we put down a deposit on the camper. We added and removed a handful of things that should really optimize the overall comfort for two people.

  • No oven. Really, how often are we going to be baking cookies? A stove is plenty and Jenn wants to play with a solar oven anyway. Maybe we’ll pick up a small grill to go with the thermal cooker. We get a large cabinet where the oven would be.
  • No dinette seating. We opted for the couch instead. This should be more comfortable for general lounging. There is still a table we can set up in front of the couch, although I think we will probably build our own articulating desktops.
  • Wet bath. A lot of people don’t like wet baths. They do, however, provide a lot more room to move around by combining your toilet and shower space. Additionally, we get a very large wardrobe next to the bathroom by saving space. The only real downside in our mind is that the ‘bathroom storage’ is limited to what will fit in a medicine cabinet. But with all the extra storage we gain outside of the bathroom and the increased space to shower properly, it’s a net win.
  • Full wall wardrobe in the cabover. This was a bit more difficult decision. It cost us a nice window, but the extra storage space is considerable. For long-term living, storage is one of our most important concerns. Besides, the window on the driver side is a wide escape hatch instead of a narrow, divided window.
  • No skylight in the kitchen. The benefit of the skylight really seemed questionable to us as we stood in the unit on the lot. It added some light, but only in a limited area. It is one more potential leak and one more place to introduce heat and cold. We save a few bucks by getting rid of it as well.
  • No generator. The standard generator burns LP gas inefficiently, is rather noisy and costs about $3k. We can pickup a quiet, efficient gasoline unit for around $800. It won’t make quite as much juice and we can’t push a button to start it, but overall I prefer this route.
  • 7K BTU air conditioner. Hopefully, this will put an end to my search for the perfect AC unit. It’s a bit higher wattage than I’d like, but I’m more comfortable with it’s ability to cool the camper. Sadly, we actually had to pay more for a 7k unit than if we had gone up to a 13.5K unit. However, with this unit, we should have no problem running it on our downsized generator.
  • Thermal pane windows. They really charge a premium for these, but if we’re going to be in the cold weather, it’s thermal pane or storm windows. And just where are we going to store those storm windows when we’re not using them?

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