Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our Internet Service Solution

This week I embarked on a new business venture.  As with almost all RV’ers, Internet connectivity is much desired, oftentimes necessary for our day to day lives.  We have had a few different types of Internet Service during our travels. 

We started with 2 Sprint smartphones that were Jailbroken and shared the unlimited data through Foxfi.  As we travelled we found that Sprint was not “everywhere” and would not support us.  During a work camping stop, we hooked to Comcast for 3 months with a cable modem.  That was great, but we haven’t been in another park where our cable modem would work. 

I read about the Assumption of Liability process from Verizon in 2014, but didn’t jump on that because I was skeptical about Verizon keeping it Unlimited and Unthrottled.  I missed that opportunity.  I was seriously considering a Millenicom account getting 20GB for $80 per month.  This seemed acceptable compared to other options.  In my haste I didn’t buy one, and the next month Verizon bought Millenicom and shut down their data plan anyway. 

We ended up shutting off our Sprint service and switching both of our phones to Verizon.  Then Verizon offered a Double your Data promotion, and we were able to get 40GB to share.   This made things much better, but we still had to monitor our usage carefully.  We shut off Netflix and told the kids no YouTube unless we were hooked into park Wi-Fi.  They could go to the clubhouse and watch away.  I do have a Jefa Tech Wi-Fi repeater setup, and occasionally I am able to log onto park Wi-Fi and connect my router to it.  This is seldom, and the service is slow to non-existent, as many RV’ers know. 

I signed up for Omnilynx about a week after I heard about it.  How exciting to be able to get Unlimited Verizon 4G service for $50 per month.  It was all the talk on the RV forums and Facebook groups.  However before I could receive my Jetpack from Omnilynx, their service was shut down.  They went above and beyond the original scope of their plan with Verizon, and they were done. 
My search continued and I was introduced to Karma Wi-Fi.  This is on Sprint, so I know about the coverage limitations, but I gave it a try.  I missed out on Millenicom and Omnilynx due to my hesitation so I went for it.  I got my Karma Go in around Thanksgiving and it worked good.  However in the 6-8 weeks that I had it, Karma sent out emails about how excited they were with the response to their service and they were overwhelmed and would have to change things.  I went from Unlimited at 5MBps to a mere 15GB.  After 15GB they would throttle the service to where only email could be used.  This was unacceptable, so I returned the device and shut it down.  They did however promise a FULL refund for the device and service.  As of this posting, I am awaiting my refund, but I’m sure it will be there.

HERE IS THE GOOD PART.  I decided to lease a Data line from a 3rd party.  Most people I know that didn’t obtain a Verizon prior to the Assumption of Liability shutdown in 2014 can now lease a line from someone that did.  There are people or companies out there that have hundreds of lines available and lease them out for anywhere from $125 per month to $200.  The cheaper ones are very rare and hard to find.  They usually aren’t advertised and can only be obtained from someone with the “I know a guy” reference.  I did come across a plan that has multiple lines attached to it.  I wanted only 1 line, but I had to take them all.  Now I have several Unlimited Verizon Data Plan lines.  I only need 1, so the others are available to be leased from me.  I have contacted Verizon customer service as well as their Assumption of Liability line.  I have asked about leasing and subleasing the grandfathered personal as well as business lines and have been told by multiple representatives that it is legal. I have the SIM cards for the lines, and soon plan to purchase some used Verizon Jetpacks.  Right now I am offering them at $145 per month for the service and it can be done through PayPal or Credit Card.  I have offered these out on several Facebook discussion groups and have posted them on EBay.  I hope this works out because I have to lease at least 10 of them just to break even.

It is actually funny how this has all come full circle.  I start out questioning the validity of the Verizon unlimited data hotspot plan.  I ignored it and watched Millenicom and Omnilynx not succeed on the Verizon network.  I actually tried and was disappointed with the Karma Go on the Sprint network.  Now here I am 2 years later and the best I can still find is the old Grandfathered Verizon Data Plans.  You cannot open a new line of service with Verizon and start up a line on the old plan, but there are literally thousands of grandfathered lines of service that Verizon has publicly stated they will not throttle or force any lines off of their network. 

So I didn’t get in with the whole AOL thing and get my Internet for $35 per month like some.  Those days are long gone.  The Wireless companies continue to change their data plans all the time.   Many have asked if a true unlimited data plan will ever return, and the answer is always no.   The AT&T grandfathered plans are still out there, but they have been known to throttle service at around the 22-25GB mark.  Verizon has kept true to their word and allows the old plans to keep going.  I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to be able to offer the Verizon data plan to people for $145 per month.   Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tire change on the Interstate

OK, so this is a little different than the typical tire change on the road.  Driving down I-40 from Henry Horton State Park to our destination in Crossville TN started out as any normal day.  I checked all of the tire pressures before we left.  I don’t have a TPMS system yet, but it is on the list.   However a TPMS system wouldn’t have helped on this one because my tire stayed fully inflated the entire time.  As we were cruising along at 57MPH we just passed the exit 258 off ramp when I felt the RV shift behind me.  It felt like we hit a rough spot in the road or went over a speed bump.  I looked in the mirror and noticed my house was tilting to the right.  I always monitor the rear view mirror and look at the level  between the top of the tailgate and the door to the front basement storage.  I use this as a give away since I noticed it the day we broke a leaf spring going down the road.  That’s another post I have yet to write.
I immediately pulled over, still on the overpass from the exit, got completely off the road.  This part of road thankfully has large shoulders that allowed my truck and trailer to safely get off the road.  Lauren asked why we pulled over and I told her “the house is sitting crooked like before.”  She thought we broke another leaf spring and went to check.  She came back and told me we had a flat tire.  I thought it was a  blow out because the RV shifted so quickly.  She went and looked again and said we LOST A TIRE.  Now I am thinking we blew a tire and it peeled off the rim.   I got out and looked, and none of my thoughts were correct.  The flat tire she saw was the rear trailer tire that was squashed because it had the load of the entire right side on it.  The front trailer tire and wheel were completely gone.  I looked and ALL 8 lugs had broken off at the drum.  

Backtracking, a month ago on moving day I had a flat tire on the right front tire.  Jacked it up and put on the spare and torqued all nuts to 100ft/lbs.  On the road with only a 30 minute delay.  Re-torqued all lug nuts when we got to the next park. 2 parks later sitting outside I noticed that 1 of the 8 lugs on that same tire had broken off.  No problem, I will fix it soon.  7 lugs will be fine until I can get it fixed.  I still feel that 7 lugs would be adequate for traveling, but now I don’t have that option.
Now I am on the side of the road with the entire wheel and tire assembly GONE!  I called Katie, she and Chloe were behind us because we still have the car and they pulled for a glass of tea and a bathroom break.  I told them where we were and I was walking back to look for the tire and hubcap.  I walked about ¼ mile back and didn’t see it.  I started heading back to the truck and as I was going over the overpass I looked down at the road below, and there was my wheel/tire in the ditch below.  

There was a local Police Officer sitting on the side of the road there too.  I hiked down the side of the on-ramp to my wheel and picked it up.  The officer looked at me and got out of the car as I started to walk by with my tire.  He asked if I had AAA.  No I don’t.  He said he had been dispatched because someone reported a tire coming over the overpass to the road down below.  He said he called the local AAA and told them he had a tire/wheel on the side of the road here in case they got a call.  He couldn’t help me haul the tire up because he would have to go down to the next exit to turn around where I am and can’t go up the on ramp and  back up to my broken down rig.  I told him I was going to look at what I had going on, now that I had my tire back, and asked if there was an Oreilley’s near.  He pointed me in the right direction to the O’reilleys 6 miles up the road, and if they didn’t have what I needed, there is an Auto Zone and Advance Auto parts a little further up.   No problem, I put the tire on my shoulder and trekked up the hill to my rig.  By now Katie and Chloe had caught up to us, as well as our friends we have been traveling with the last couple of parks, Chris and Heather Gebbia.  They went on to the next off ramp to get out of the road and wait in case we needed any help.   I assessed the damage to my rig to find that only the lugs were broken.  The tire came off and didn’t destroy the skirting or fender flaps.  I managed to pull over quick enough that I only drove on the brake drum for a few hundred feet so it and the axle were still completely in tact.  Luckily this all happened on the door side of the RV so I am not sitting in the middle of the interstate while I work.  However the controls for the leveling system are on the road side.  I went between the truck and RV and peeked out for a clearing and had to open the side basement door to get to the controls.  Let me just say that I absolutely love the 6 point hydraulic leveling system.  We were not looking for it on our rig when we started shopping.  It just happened to be on this rig and we love it.  I lowered all 6 jacks, leveled it out a bit and lifted the rear of the RV up to get the right side tires off the ground enough for me to get to work.  
Removing the brake drum was pretty easy, as the center cap came off with the wheel, and I didn’t recover that.  I just had to take out the cotter pin, loosen the nut that holds it on, and off came the drum.  That’s the EASY part.  

I had Katie drive me to O’reilleys and the parts guy and I started to work.  I have to say that the staff at the O’reilleys in Gordonville TN are top notch.  They went far above and beyond what they had to do to help my family out and get us on the road as a VERY satisfied customer.  Since it is a trailer, there are no specs as if it was from a specific model car or truck.  Anyone that has done any work on their RV has found out that there is absolutely no standard anywhere in the industry and no parts list available.  I got a mallet from him, and all we could find was a 3/8in extension to pound out the lugs.  I got one out, and was struggling to pound out the rest.  One of the customers, who reminded me of our son back in TX gave it a try and got 1 more out.  We were destroying the extension, when the girl that worked there found a center punch, and he and I were able to get the rest of the lugs out.  Took about 20 minutes of pounding with a 3lb mallet, wore my arms out.  Unfortunately every lug broke off even at the drum, and there was not any threads showing, so finding a match was becoming impossible.  I had Katie drive me back to the RV so I could get a lug nut off of the other wheel.  Once back at the store, Damien, the sales clerk went to work finding a lug that would fit.  All in all he went through about 10 trying to find one with the right length of threads, diameter, and would fit inside my drum.  Got it finally.  He helped me to install them by wrenching them in with a ratchet while I held the drum still on the counter.  We got them all in finally.  Now I needed to shop for other supplies.   I got 2 sizes of cotter keys, just to be safe.  I got a tub of axle bearing grease, and Damien got me 8 new lug nuts.  $45 dollars in parts and we were headed back to the RV.

I greased up the bearing good, installed the drum, re-greased the bearing again and installed the nut and cotter key.  Now since I didn’t find the dust cap or hub cap that came off with the tire, I had to remove the rear wheel and “borrow” the chrome hub cap from it to protect the bearing.  I got the rear wheel back on and ready to go.  Now at this point I thought I would put back on the original wheel/tire that went flat a month ago.  I’ve had it plugged and have been carrying it in the bed of the truck.  I put it on and found it to be under inflated when we came down off jacks.  Jacked it back up again, put the spare back on and tightened all good.  Lowered the RV back off jacks and continued tightening all 8 lug nuts and finished pulling the new lugs into the brake drum completely.  Got my torque wrench and torqued all 16 lug nuts and in only 3½ hours and $45 in parts and $0  in labor and we were  back on the road headed to our next destination. 

  Luckily we had this one planned as a short drive day so with getting  out of the park around noon, and our delay, we still arrived around 6:30PM.  It was dark, but we got set up good all the same.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Branson On A Budget

Branson, MO~~Day 1

Keith & I had never been to Branson. When we attended the Oklahoma City RV Show in February we put our name in for a drawing.  We were "selected" to receive a special offer of a 3 day, 2 night vacation package including tickets to see a show at The Grand Country for the low price of $99.  Now what this actually meant was, we were now expected to come listen to a 90 minute sales presentation about travel club membership. We thought "Why not? It fits the budget & it's not too far from the house." We paid our money and set a date with them.  

By the time we made it to Branson on our planned date we had launched into our full-time lifestyle. We made a plan to stay at a local campground and then stay over night at the hotel so the kids could swim and we'd have a cool hotel room.  We have pets on board so we couldn't stay away too much you know. 

 We arrived a day early so we could have time to set up camp and look around town.
It was decided that we would stay at Branson View Campground.
We are members of a group called FullTime Families and because we are, this campground offers HALF PRICE on their daily or weekly rate to us.

We were greeted by management and given our site assignment. While at check in we were told about the evening potluck and invited to join them. 
We left to get settled in but returned sooner than they expected us to. 
The site we were assigned to had another guest on unwelcomed guest of sorts...

A swarm of yellow jackets came out of this old tree stump that was in the driveway area of our pad. With Keith driving over it several times with his loud diesel engine they were madder than all get out. And get out they did!! They were swarming the truck, I was yelling at Keith & the kids to roll up the windows and then...I went running for my life.  I didn't get away quick enough though. One got me...TWICE.

I drove down to the office in my car to let them know we would not be able to use that spot while Keith took a round through the park.    

Management felt so terrible about it. Immediately, they went into action to exterminate the nest.
They gave me an ice pack, a Benadryl and a new site assignment.  Yay!

I had no idea how itchy a yellow jacket sting could be...then multiply it times two! Wowzers.
It was swollen, red and itchy for days.

Our new site was great!  We were right next to the bath house and the view just down the hill from us was amazing.

After we got settled in we strolled down to the potluck. It was such a great time of fellowship! So many wonderful folks were there.
We were the only family unit in attendance of the fulltimers.  We all shared what our plans were while in town. They were all surprised when we said we would not be going to Silver Dollar City. It just wasn't in our budget. One of the ladies stopped by our table to chat a bit and then said, "I'll be right back. Please do not leave until I come back."
When she returned she handed me 4 guest passes to Silver Dollar City. She is a workamper there and they earn free passes each month to give to family or friends. I teared up at her generosity. What a blessing we had just been handed!
Our girls were so excited!
This week was looking better and better and if the folks down in town were half as friendly as our new campground friends then boy howdy, it's going to be great week for sure.

**Branson View Campground is an excellent place for families. It's very clean and well kept. The bath houses were never dirty and the laundry room was very clean. The grounds were well maintained and the view overlooking Branson was beautiful. They have several decks with porch swing or sitting chairs to rest in and enjoy the view. They do have a pool however, it was too cool for us to enjoy during our stay in September. We will visit here again and hope you will too!
You can find them on Facebook and they have a blog page as well.

They offer discount rates for Military (Active & Veterans), AAA, AARP, Good Sam, Seniors over 55, SDC Season Ticket holders and Members of  Fulltime Families

Monday, May 11, 2015

The American Pigeon Museum & Library

The American Pigeon Museum & Library

Last week we went on an adventure to The American Pigeon Museum in Oklahoma City.
We were met outside by the Curator, Lorrie Monteiro, who was gracious enough to speak with us about pigeons and show us a few of the lovelies they had showcased out front. 
Our first meeting was with the beautiful, curly, Frill Back. 

Next we met Elvis, the King pigeon. This breed of pigeon is known for its large size and is often bred for squab production. What is squab production? Well it's a culinary term for young pigeon meat, very young. Yikes! But no worries, nobody will be having Elvis for lunch that's for sure! 

Elvis was a beauty. So gentle and calm.

On down the row we met another feathered lovely:
This beauty is another from the Fancy breed, a Jacobin.

Here are some pigeon facts:
~Pigeons mate for life.
~Hens lay 2 eggs every 4 weeks.
~During day time the male sits on the eggs while the female takes the night shift.
~Both parents breast feed the babies through milk glands located in their neck.
~Babies are out of nest around four weeks of age but tend to stay close for a few weeks.
~Pigeons molt twice a year, spring and fall.
~They can fly up to 600 miles in a day.
~Their biggest predator is the Hawk.
~Their friend is the crow and since Hawks do not like crows they're really great at keeping the pigeons safe from their enemy when they hang around.
These babies shown here are just a little over 2 weeks old and almost as big as their Mother.
In the picture below you can see the new feathers growing in and replacing the soft yellow down they are born with.

Once inside the museum we learned so much about pigeons and their place in history. Of course most everyone knows about their role played in WWI and WWII however, did you know that early Olympians used them to send messages to their cities during the games to let them know if they had won an event by the color of string tied to the pigeon's leg?

Did you know that pigeons are commonly called doves? That's right! When Noah released his dove it was actually a pigeon! So when folks release their white doves at their weddings they're really releasing pigeons. 

There is so much wonderful history at The American Pigeon Museum & Library. 
So when in Oklahoma City, OK please stop by for a visit. They are located at 
2300 N.E. 63rd St, OKC 73111
in the Adventure District close to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma.
Admission is FREE however a donation box is located at the visitors information desk.