Ah, summer travel. Even though Eleanor and I grew up in the northeast, we have to readjust every time we go north in the summer. It is (as always) sticky humid, which makes a mild 82 degree heat seem excruciating. The front of the Mercedes and the dome of the Airstream are disgustingly decorated with squashed bugs and bird droppings from our 900 mile trek over the weekend. We are all feeling a bit car-burned from having traveled so much recently. All of these things tell me that we need to stop and get acclimated for couple of days.
We have traveled from Denver, Colorado to Denver, Iowa for a few days of courtesy parking. This visit has been a long time coming. Paul and Marcia, our hosts, first wrote to us in November 2006. Paul intrigued me with his offer of an 18-hole disc golf course, but we never seemed to be coming through Iowa during our full-timing years. Last year we passed right by on our way to Wisconsin but we were in too much of a hurry stop. But finally everything came together and I wrote to Paul again to ask if his three year-old offer of courtesy parking was still good.
It was, so we detoured about 50 miles off our route and plunked the Airstream into a bucolic country setting at Paul and Marcia’s house. What a terrific spot! We are parked on concrete, with an electric hookup and water nearby, next to their 1966 Globetrotter and their 1984 Sovereign, with beautiful shady trees all around and just a few steps from the first tee of the disc golf course.
After getting the Airstream established, a round of golf was the obvious first order of business. Eleanor, Emma, and I had never tried disc golf (a.k.a. frisbee golf) but I knew we’d all like it. The course is 18 holes, all par 3, with numerous tricky obstacles (trees) and uphill/downhill shots. Paul of course came in well under par, I came in second (I think I was four under par), and Eleanor and Emma did pretty well too. Marcia drove the golf cart and “caddied.” It was great fun, so we’ll play another round on Tuesday, I’m sure.
For today, however, we’ve all got to get down to business. Paul and Marcia have gone off to work and left me with access to the house and a tray of frosted brownies. It’s nice and cool in the lower level of the house, even though it doesn’t have air conditioning, so I’m happy here. I’ve got my laptop and office gear all set up on the kitchen table. That tray of brownies is really horrible temptation, however.
Eleanor and Emma have elected to stay in the Airstream and do some homeschooling. Even though we probably have sufficient voltage to run the Airstream’s air conditioner, Eleanor wants to just make do with fans today. She thinks a little suffering in the humidity will get her ready for a summer in Vermont.
Being out here in the rural country has given me a chance to break out some of the more esoteric mobile technology that I use. Cellular service is pretty weak here, which means I can’t reliably make calls and my Internet is also marginal. My first corrective measure was to take my Cradlepoint cellular router out of the Airstream and plug it in in the upper level of the barn just behind the Airstream. That got it out of the aluminum shell and up at a higher elevation. The device indicated three bars of signal when I moved it, compared to 1.5 bars of signal inside the trailer, but the service was still sporadic.
My next step would normally be to use my Linksys WRE54G wireless LAN repeater to pick up the house’s wifi and direct it into the Airstream. Unfortunately the house’s wifi was password-protected, and the Linksys can’t repeat a password-protected signal. So I moved into the house’s kitchen (with permission), and am using our host’s wifi for the day. This sort of situation is exactly why I keep most of my “office” small enough to fit in a backpack. I often have to relocate to be able to work effectively. Having a single backpack makes it easy to grab and go, whether it’s to a kitchen table, a borrowed office, or a booth at Panera Bread.
The other technology challenge of the day was to be able to make phone calls. This is where I got to break out a rarely-used piece of gear, the Verizon Network Extender. I plugged it into the house’s DSL connection, and within a few minutes, it connected and created a cellular phone “picocell.” Now my Verizon phone works anywhere near the house. Instead of connecting to a cellular tower far away, my phone is connecting to the Verizon Network Extender, which is sending the call over the Internet via the house’s DSL.
This is going to be a busy week. Not only am I nearing deadline for articles for the Fall 2010 Airstream Life, but Alumapalooza is next week, and we’ve still got several hundred miles and two different business stops between here and Jackson Center, OH. The real challenge is Alumapalooza, because there will undoubtedly be some last-minute signups and both Brett and I will be on the road. If either of us answers the phone later this week, it will be while driving on some Interstate highway, and emails won’t be responded to until late at night. But the blog must go on …