Rustic Wi-Fi

IMG_7072We love travelling in our motorhome and staying at scenic, out-of-the-way camping places. Over the years we’ve camped in a variety of tents, trailers, and motorhomes. We currently travel in a 37-foot Safari motorhome. It’s pleasant to be able to take our home with us. Wherever we are, our immediate surroundings are familiar and we can enjoy our little conveniences wherever we may be.

Like most people, we’ve become accustomed – spoiled, actually – with our modern conveniences. We flip a switch and the lights come on. We turn a faucet and endless hot water comes out. We nudge the thermostat and the furnace (or air conditioner, if it’s hot outside) kicks in and we feel more comfortable. We haven’t opted for satellite TV, but we do watch our DVD’s with 5.1 surround sound. (I just love that subwoofer.) Now, as we travel, we have all these conveniences as part of our motorhome lifestyle. Camping is not nearly as rustic as it used to be. (Oh, good. The icemaker just kicked out another batch.)IMG_7085

Where we haven’t caught up is in the area of communications – and our need to be in touch, right now! The ability to have blazing fast Internet whenever and wherever we may be. What I miss most is good Internet.

Cell phones and Internet are urban services. They also work quite well along major transportation routes. If we are close to an Interstate highway, we do just fine. Our phone works and our trusty hotspot gives us all the Internet we need or want.  However, if we wander into more remote areas, these services fade away. And we don’t  have to wander too far off the beaten path. If we’re tucked away in the middle of nowhere, we’re hooped. If we’re staying at an RV park, we may have a fighting chance.

Most RV parks these days provide Internet to their guests. Not the fast kind we’re used to. Usually it’s wi-fi – available throughout most of the park if we’re staying at one of the more deluxe places, or more often, at a central location somewhere: you carry your computer to the wi-fi area of the lodge. Typically it’s a shared service, throttled down in speed and reduced in coverage, sometimes erratic, and, if a lot of people are using it, agonizingly slow. No streaming movies here. Not ideal, but, still, I can read my email and post my selfie with the scenic background onto Facebook.IMG_7082

Sometimes, if we’re camped close to the wi-fi signal, we don’t actually have to go into the lodge. This is very nice. The prime sites in a campground these days are the ones that have a clear view of the sky for satellite TV reception, and the ones close enough to the wi-fi signal to be able to use it inside the motorhome. Not usually too many of these – if any.

At best, I always seem to be camped at the fringe.

So, how can I improve the signal that I’m almost getting?

IMG_7055Getting in the right position helps. I can move my computer up closer to the windshield or, maybe, by the bedroom window, the one that looks toward the lodge. Or height. Getting up higher usually improves the signal.

So does having a better antenna. Most of our technology is not very efficient at picking up wi-fi. After all, it is designed for an environment in which we are all being slow-roasted by all the wi-fi and cell signals around us. It is not optimized for fringe reception.

So what can people do?

IMG_7059There is usually a way to connect some kind of external antenna – something higher and outside. These little omnis are popping up on more and more RV’s. There are also boosters that don’t need an antenna connection on the device. There! We just improved our coverage area.

And for the ultimate, there’s the high-gain directional antenna. (It is based on the theory that if you have a big enough dish, you can pick up anything, anywhere.)

IMG_7057In addition to the antenna, this guy had a network in his 5th-wheel trailer that would put a small high-tech company system to shame. You needed binoculars to see the lodge that had the wi-fi lounge and he had a solid enough signal to stream video – if the wi-fi system in the lodge didn’t constantly keep dropping him. Sometimes you just can’t win.

As for me, I’m still muddling along on the trailing edge of technology, looking for the ideal solution (effective but cheap). Look for only an occasional Facebook post from me.

IMG_7061I’ll bet I could pick up the wi-fi just fine from here if it weren’t for those power lines up on that hill.

***

Where does Vello travel and what does he see and do on the road? Visit his travel blog: Heading Down the Road

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