A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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Tripbase Blog Awards 2009

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December 2004. — We are both online a LOT, and last time we went to Mexico, we spent a lot of time in often-noisy, often-slow Mexican internet cafes. The good news is that they were practically everywhere and easy to find.

This trip is different. We are online wherever we want to be. We researched what was available and discovered that it was out of our price range at this time. Basically, there are a variety of companies that add nifty equipment to a Direcway dish. With some of them, you can actually be online while driving down the road… hopefully while someone ELSE is doing the driving! Other systems are meant to help you set up more easily when stationery.

Well, it happens that Kelly is an inventor sort (he even got a patent for one of his ideas a while back) and also a real do-it-yourself type. So we bought a complete Direcway satellite system, brand new and with the newest modem, on eBay. If you do this, you do have to be sure that the system does not have any outstanding charges on it at Direcway. Or you can buy your system right from Direcway… it’s about $600 with shipping included to anywhere in the US (or at least the continental 48, not sure about Alaska/Hawaii). Direcway had a special going for $500, but we paid about $300 on eBay.

Next, we phoned Direcway and got set up as customers, giving them a credit card and signing up for 15 months of home service at about $60 a month. There was not a shorter option. You can’t do the installation yourself but must have an official installer put it on your house. The official installer in our town, a friend of ours, came over and got started with Kelly but he had to go out of town before things got done. Kelly called Direcway customer service a couple of times, waited 45 minutes to an hour each time, and both times happened to get very helpful tech support guys. One changed us over to Mexsat5, a satellite that covers the continental US and also Mexico. We needed that.

With the other one answering some of Kelly’s questions, we got online before our installer friend got back in town. Tra La! Faster than dialup, not as fast as DSL… that’s one reason a lot of people sell their systems on ebay: they switch to DSL when it comes to their area.

Kelly fabricated a tripod out of materials we had, or he could have bought one. He fixed up a way to carry the tripod and dish on the roof of the motorhome. The thing that sticks out of the dish, the various cables, and the modem are tucked away when we travel.

You need to know your latitude and longitude (or just your zip code if in the US) so we also bought on eBay a small GPS unit that runs off our laptop. (In Mexico, we haven’t even had to use our GPS unit yet, as our guide to Mexican campgrounds by Mike and Teri Church has the GPS locations for the campgrounds we have stayed at, or for ones just down the road and that’s close enough.) This gives us the numbers we need to plug in,and we just follow instructions for setting up, using Direcway’s software embedded in the modem. It requires Internet Explorer too.

“Just” follow instructions… it’s been uncertain a couple of times for a while, but each time it has ultimately worked. The first time it worked away from home, we were in a campground in Texas, and that was a thrill. Then there was the first time in Mexico, another thrill, specially because that was totally from the solar panels on our roof. Where we are now, at a hot springs campground near Ciudad Valles, in the state of San Luis Potosi, is our third setup. It took the longest because I had put the latitude and longitude in wrong, not converting the minutes to fractions of degrees. So that’s one mistake we won’t make again. Passing the second step, the cross polarization, takes a while sometimes. We do it manually till we are mostly passing, then do it automatically to lock it in.

One caution: Unlike TV satellite dishes, this baby is both transmitting and receiving. (You don’t need a phone line of any kind after that initial setup on your house.) So you need to put the dish where people won’t get fried by the transmitting energy… 6 feet or more off the ground.

If you are interested in doing something like this, google on “internet satellite dish” and RV, or some such phrase, and read everything you can! This has certainly had its extremely frustrating moments, but with Kelly as stubborn as he is, and good at this kind of thing, it’s working great for us!

Two essential parts of our hookup: the dish (among orange trees) and the blackwater drain, not always an easy thing to find in Mexico!

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