Updated September, 2001
March began with a Board Workshop. We discussed a number of issues and made good progress. The new Board members continued to work well together.
More of my thoughts turned to preparing for our trip back east. Several important items needed resolution before we left, including flushing the truck transmission, a lub job for the truck, making reservations, finishing our tax return, rewriting the Splash Dance CD, weeding the lot for the rental pool, and figuring out how to handle email from both by satellite and over landlines.
The nature of email presented a problem. Starband has no dialup POPs. If you want to reach their email server over landlines you do it by logging in to some other service and then accessing their server. But when I logged into earthlink, I automatically logged into the earthlink POP3 email server. I could fetch email from Starband, but I could not send email through Starband. I could only send email through earthlink.
Further research proved that when connected through Starband, I could not send email through earthlink. It was the same problem from the other direction. So for now, I was faced with having both the Starband and the earthlink account so I can send email whether I am connected by satellite or landline. I planned to look for a less expensive solution than using earthlink, but they do have 800 number service and many local POPs across the country. My long-standing email address is also with them.
Once I understood how to send email in all cases, I could not resist making my life even more complicated. I decided to take the Starband installer training on the Internet, not only so I could service myself but so I could help others.
Our neighbors John and CC Rinderer came by and asked about Starband service. John purchased a laptop a week earlier and decided he would rather have Starband for his ISP than pay for a landline and ISP. CC also wanted satellite TV. I committed to completing the training quickly and become a certified installer so I could install a system for them. I made arrangements with Steve Oldham in LaPine, Oregon, to become an installer for him. Steve agreed to provide the hardware and phone support. I quoted a price to John and CC and they accepted. My task expanded from completion of the training and getting my certification to installing John's Starband system before we left for our vacation. I tell more about this experience in my Starband Log on this website.
After thinking over the consequences I bought a used golf cart -- I could use a cart or wear out our diesel truck driving two or four 0.3 mile trips between our rig and the Ranch House (location of the Board office) each day. The struggle with walking back and forth between our rig and the Ranch House (an elevation change of 182 feet) became more than I felt I could handle, though I know the exercise would do me good, and a new truck cost too much. Of course, the purchase added a requirement to arrange for charging the batteries -- yet another project.
I started to worry about a mole on the side of my cheek. I made an appointment to see Dr. Ebersole about it. He looked it over and took a biopsy. It was a few weeks later but I found out that there was no problem. If I wanted to have the mole removed, I could do so at my own convenience.
The CD for aquasize no longer played on the boom box at the swimming pool. I took it home to try rerecording it. The task grew because I decided to clean up some of the tracks -- removing noise and balancing volume. But when I took the new CDs to the pool, they still would nolt play. The aquisizers needed a new boom box with a working CD player.
On my birthday (3/18) we drove down to Palm Desert to spend the day with sister Janet. We had a great time. The only problem is that I am another year older, but then I guess each day I am another day older. Time doesn't stop for anyone!
On the 20th and 21st, Alice and I served on call for AED (automatic emergency difribulator) duty. Luckily, no one went into cardiac arrest while we were on watch, but we honored our commitment to "be prepared."
The Board of Directors met on Thursday, the 22nd. We covered the important items as things came down to the wire. I spent the next two days bringing all the minutes for the meetings and briefings up to date and training Sherri Lewis on being my stand-in while we were away. Alice also finished her current activities as Treasurer of Hilltoppers and briefed Mary Higby to handle those duties over the next three months.
Our planned schedule called for departure the morning of Sunday, the 25th. But Saturday evening Alice and I both felt drained with the flurry of work. We decided to take an extra day and leisurely prepare the trailer for rolling, a good decision. We even had time to take the cart down to the Ranch House and say goodbye to everyone.
We got everything stowed and ready for travel and took our time doing it. I even figured out how to stow the Starband antenna. We felt much better Sunday night.
It was time to head out on our long awaited trip. All that remained to do the next morning at Jojoba Hills was eat breakfast, pull in the slides, and hitch up. That did not take long and then we started to the east.
With our first scheduled stop at Yuma, I decided to head directly southeast, following Hwy 79 to Country Road S2, then S2 to I-8 at Ocotillo. Our friends, the Richardsons from Sacramento, had said road was tough to drive when they came to visit last year, but I didn't expect it to be a problem. I found it to be good road though it wound a bit at times.
The end of March is a beautiful time to drive in the desert. Buds could be seen on some of the trees. This year the hills showed sprinklings of green grass from the recent rains, turning the colors from the dull gray of winter to the gray-green of early spring. The temperature was in the low sixties, warm enough to drive with the windows down.
As we passed the stands of ocotillo alongside the road, we saw many already leafed out and small, bright blooms topped many of the stems. Several times I pulled off to the side of the road to let others go by so we could continue our slow drive through the desert country.
It was back to freeway driving when we reached I-8, but the easy drive down S2 made it easier for me to just set the truck cruise control to 55mph and tootle down the road. After passing El Centro we realized we were breaking new ground -- we had not driven this section of I-8.
I used the new Earthmate GPS from DeLorme along with Street Atlas 7.0 to track the trip. Earlier that morning I plotted the course to the KOFA SKP park to the south of Yuma. Once again by simply following the blue line on the map as we found the right exit and turned south.
We noticed the intense smell of orange blossoms first thing as we pulled into KOFA. The park sits in the midst of citrus orchards and it takes a while before you no longer notice the pleasant smell. After checking us in at the office the manager lead us to lot 14 on the west side. Alice gave me radio instructions and I did a pretty good job backing it. It had been a while and I needed to get back in practice.
We put out the slides and set up the rig. Then I started to work on setting up Starband. Within 15 minutes I had the antenna up and in place with a good strong signal. The RxLock light shown brightly and a strong signal showed on the TV, but the OnLine light was dark. I called Steve Oldham for help. Then as we worked around to see why the light was not shining it suddenly came on. We surmized that it took about 20 minutes for the hub to recognize that the presence of my system back on the network. For the next two days I had great Internet access and TV reception.
Alice and I enjoyed our stay at KOFA. The next morning we attended their coffee social and went to Aquasize afterward. Their tape of Splash Dance sounded clean, and I asked for and received permission to make a copy to take back to Jojoba Hills.
We drove to town at noon to do some shopping. I walked at least three times around the new Walmart Superstore in my old sandals (and would pay for that). The rest of the day I spent most of the day organizing my laptop and checking things on the Internet.
Thursday morning I stowed everything away and we headed for the Saguaro SKP Co-op in Benson. My heel ached like it had a few weeks before. Then I realized the connection -- lots of walking in my sandals messed up my heel. It hurt more and more, but I could find nothing to do for it. Just remember, avoid walking long distances in the sandals.
We drove along I-8 through much the same kind of desert we had seen around El Centro, flat and sandy. At places we drove very near the Mexican border, and we could see Border Patrol SUVs running around through the brush.
We stopped at a roadside rest for lunch. The temperature remained quite reasonable so we enjoyed sitting in the shade and listening to the gackles flinging insults at each other. Then we returned to the freeway, again taking it easy at 55mph.
The traffic picked up when we joined I-10. The traffic grew more hectic as we drove through Tucson -- but nowhere near I-15 traffic through Riverside. Once past Tucson we enjoyed an easy drive on to Benson.
We pretty much knew the drill at Saguaro, having spent a night three years ago in Benson. We drove through town and headed south on US 80, searching for the small sign that announced where we should turn to the right. We saw the RVs on the hill before we saw the sign. We checked in at the office and a parker lead us up to site 74. I back in more quickly this time.
After setting up the rig, I mounted the Starband antenna and sighted in on the satellite. I quickly picked up a good signal, but again the OnLine light would not come on. I waited. And I waited some more. Then I tried fine-tuning the position even more precisely. The dratted light still would not come on. I tried different polarization settings. I tried cursing. Nothing worked.
I called Steve but he was out on a call, so I called the user side of Starband Customer Care. I probably should have avoided this, for John gave me the third degree, wanting to know my telephone number, my name, my account number, etc. I explained to him I had moved some of the cables, and he finally weasled out of me that I was in an RV. He lectured me that the system was not intended for use with an RV and that pretty much ended any help. He did tell me that the hub said I was no longer attached to the network. I said I had passed the installer certification so I would call the Installer Customer Care number. He agreed I should.
I finally reached Steve and talked with him. He agreed I had probably moved too far and once the hub could not see my system it took it offline. It would require some action on Starband's part to get the system back on the network. The hour was late and my heel hurt more and more. I decided to try again the next morning.
First thing I noticed a burning pain in my heel the next morning. But I figured I could just grin and bear it. Then after breakfast I booted up my laptop. Nothing happened!
I went through the power-on boot-up again. Again nothing happened. The power light came on but the system did not access the hard disk drive. I put a system floppy disk in the drive and again did the boot-up. Nothing happened. I found the Toshiba manual and read it. I did everything they suggested, but nothing would convince the laptop to boot up.
I looked at my dead laptop and suddenly realized I had not done any backup since the first of the year. I had three months of work and emails on the hard-disk and unless I found someone who could retrieve the data, I was in deep trouble.
I called and talked with the help center at Toshiba. After explaining the problem to Pablo, he told me it sounded like a sick mother board. Looking ahead in our trip I asked about getting the laptop fixed in Austin. He gave me an address and phone number, but he expected it would take a minimum of 10 days to fix it. My depression grew.
I mopped around the trailer. Then at lunch Alice asked me why not take the computer into Tucson. "Dummy! Dumkopf!" I exclaimed to myself (under my breath of course). The thought of going backward had not occurred to me. What a mindset does to a person! So I checked around and found a place in Tucson that would retrieve the vital files from the hard drive. We rushed back to Tucson and the folks at Laptops Plus on Speedway saved my bacon. It cost $150, but I received three CDs filled with the most important files on the laptop. The service manager also report that the computer definitely needed to go back to Toshiba. I called and made arrangement to ship it.
Shipping a computer to the repair center when you are traveling presents an interesting problem. Toshiba wanted to send a shipping container to my location. Then when the computer was fixed, they would send it back to the same location. I finally told Toshiba to send the shipping container to my friend's place in Georgetown, TX, where we will be next Wednesday. We can send the computer from there, but when fixed Toshiba will ship it back to the same location. Then I can call my friend and have him ship it to me wherever I am. Being on the road has its problems!
While waiting for the data, Alice and I drove out to the Sabino Canyon area north of Tucson. There is a great viewing area there and a tram up the side of the mountain. We agreed we must go back to spend more time. We had an early supper at the Hidden Valley Inn and enjoyed some good company.
Friday morning I put together an email to the Starband group to tell them of my problems and my decision to not bother with Starband until we reached Livingston. Then after lunch Alice and I drove to Tombstone, 22 miles south of Benson.
Tombstone is described in some literature as a glitzy tourist ghost town. How true! It is almost all shops with touristy things for sale. They have several places where you can pay to see a gunfight and a lot of would-be gunfighters walking the streets with brochures trying to convince you to go see their particular fight. We didn't go see the gunfights but found a shop where they had very large ice-cream and sherbert dishes, so we enjoyed ourselves and listened to the shots coming from behind the walls.
With some of the afternoon still remaining, we decided to drive 20 miles further south on US-80 to Bixbee. One of the largest open pit copper mines in the world is located at Bixbee. The last mine tour had already left when we arrived, so we could only look around on our own. We stopped at the parking area east of town and I took several pictures of the pit. Then we drove back through the town, viewing the houses and businesses that lined the canyon walls. Obviously, we needed more time to do justice to the town. Bixbee is another place worth going back to see.
Then I drove back to Benson. I took photos of some of the flora around KOFA and did a last collection of email at the clubhouse and we prepared to head for New Mexico the next morning.
The weather forecast mentioned increased winds on Saturday, but only small breezes blew the next morning. We quickly rigged for travel and headed down the road. Our next stop at Deming would be another Escapee Park, Dream Catcher.
The road continued to be in good condition as it climbed a little higher into the mountains to the east of Deming. We passed through Texas Canyon, and area of rounded boulders that had been popular for the filming of westerns many years ago. After a while we noticed that the wind indeed blew strongly, but it blew against our back. We had a good tail-wind.
We reached Deming in good time and checked in. As SKPs our cost was only $7.50 per night plus electricity. I even got a SKP hug. The office staff told us to be sure to return at 4pm for the social hour.
We moved up to our site and set up camp. I pulled out our DISH 500 antenna and set it up so we could have TV. Then we headed down to the clubhouse for the social. We met even more SKPs and swapped some old jokes.
Alice wanted to have a meal out, so we headed off to find Si Senor, a Mexican restaurant where we had eaten before. It had not changed at all, as far as I could tell. The food was once again excellent, and they served us complimentary sopapillas with honey. Wow! What a treat! New Mexico is still the only place I have found where they know how to cook sopapillas.
Finally we returned to the rig. It was the end of the month. Tomorrow was the start of Daylight Savings Time. I decided to go to bed early. Alice stayed up to watch TV.