Settled in San Diego

Current Location: Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego, California

We woke up to rain this morning. It rained on us the whole time we hooked up in Indio and rained pretty much the whole way to San Diego. It was raining when we unhooked the trailer here. Right now, it’s not raining, but it is supposed to start back up tonight. Given that California has been in a drought condition for quite some time, I’m sure the rains are welcome. We’re not complaining since it isn’t snow, sleet or ice.

We arrived here just after lunchtime today with a non-stop drive from Indio. We tried to stop as we got into San Diego, but couldn’t find a suitable parking lot to pull into to take a break and enter information into the GPS. Fortunately, in our search for a stop, we hit enough red lights to get the GPS set up and instructing us on where to go. We were only 6 miles from the campground at that point.

We hung around the trailer all evening. Malcolm put the awning out far enough for shelter and set up the grill for dinner. Other than that, we’re just relaxing and Malcolm is getting ready for a couple weeks work at the office here in San Diego.

Our site

Our site

The campground here is pretty much all paved except for the trees at each corner and a strip of grass behind all the units. Though it isn’t lush and green, it is nicely cared for and in a good area near downtown and not far from Malcolm’s office. The motorhome to the left of us in the picture, above, belongs to a couple that Malcolm follows on Instagram. We knew they were going to be here and vice-versa. Of all the spots in this campground, to be put right next door to them was pretty ironic.

On to California

Current Location: Shadow Hills RV Resort, Indio, California

We took our time getting ready this morning since checkout was at 11:00 AM MST from Quartzsite and check-in time was 1:00 PM PST here in Indio. Since the trip was only a couple hours long and we gained another hour in the process moving into a new timezone, we knew we had to waste some time somewhere on the trip. That was verified as we were about 10 miles from our destination and Shadow Hills called to see when we were coming in since the person on the site we reserved hadn’t left yet.

The lonely road (I-10) between Blythe and Indio, CA

The lonely road (I-10) between Blythe and Indio, CA

We ended up stopping at a truck stop and fixed ourselves lunch. After lunch, we drove over to the truck wash and had the truck and trailer washed, then back to our site to wait for 1:00 or for a call from Shadow Hills to let us know the site was ready. We ended up calling them at 1:00 and they said to come on in.

We decided to have the truck and trailer weighed on the CAT scales at the truck stop before we left since we haven’t had the rig weighed for a while. The scales said we weighed at least 2500 pounds more than we expected. Though the scales are supposedly accurate, we wonder. There is no way we’ve added 2500 pounds (or more) of stuff to the trailer since we last weighed. We’ll wait until the national rally this summer and have it weighed there to find out the true numbers.

Our home for the night

Our home for the night

We pulled on in around 2:00 and got set up in our site. One of the reasons we are stopping in this area is to visit our son-in-law’s grandparents in Palm Springs. We called them up and they invited us to come over tomorrow at 5:00 PM. After talking with them, we headed out to the store to stock up on a few things we were out of. We also ended up eating dinner out at Red Robin since our stomachs are still on Central Time.

Tomorrow, we’ll decide what to do during the day based on the weather. The wind picked up pretty strong this afternoon and evening and the weather says it will probably be that way all day tomorrow into tomorrow evening.

License plates – 25 of 51 found today.

License Plates

License Plates

Taxes and Maintenance

Current Location: The Scenic Road RV Park, Quartzsite, Arizona

This morning was a lazy morning. Malcolm gathered all the information he needed to do our taxes, installed the latest H&R Block software and typed everything in. We’ll have to print out the forms and mail them in. We’ll probably do that once we get to San Diego this weekend.

After lunch, Malcolm decided to work on a couple of projects in the trailer. The main one was to remove our “spice cabinet” from the corner of the kitchen counter. The cabinet is mainly there to hide the gray tank vent tube that runs up in the corner. Not sure why 3/4ths of the cabinet was simply blank space, but now that it is removed, we have just that much more counter space.

Malcolm essentially busted the cabinet off the wall. Only two screws were easily gotten to. The rest were buried inside the cabinet. It was probably built in place at the factory. Malcolm reused one of the exterior panels to cover the pipe in the corner, screwing it to the wall. A little clear silicone along the bottom sealed it all up.

The cabinet before destruction.

The cabinet before destruction.

With door open. Cabinet is 9" deep, but back wall is only about 3" in.

With door open. Cabinet is 9″ deep, but back wall is only about 3″ in.

Front part removed.

Front part removed.

Everything removed. Look at all that space.

Everything removed. Look at all that space.

Pile of scraps. We removed the hardware and kept it.

Pile of scraps. We removed the hardware and kept it.

One of the side panels repurposed and screwed to the wall to cover the vent tube.

One of the side panels repurposed and screwed to the wall to cover the vent tube.

Clear sealant to finish the job.

Clear sealant to finish the job.

With the job done, we relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Malcolm grilled dinner outside and emptied gray tanks while it cooked. The sunset this evening was gorgeous as usual. Tomorrow we pull up stakes and move on into California. We’ll be staying in Indio, California over the weekend, then on to San Diego on Sunday.

Tonight's sunset.

Tonight’s sunset.

A Little More West

Current Location: The Scenic Road RV Park, Quartzsite, Arizona

Literally just after Malcolm posted our last locational blog post from his iPad on Monday afternoon, the Ford dealer called and said our truck was ready to pick up. We packed up our stuff and headed straight over there. The dealer found that our right-front wheel bearing was just a little loose and may or may not have caused the brakes to wear prematurely. They cleaned, inspected, repacked and tightened the bearings as well as replacing the brake pads and rotors.

While they had the truck, we had them go ahead and do an oil and filter change as well as change fuel filters. They also applied an update to the engine control module to address a new emissions-related recall. We took the truck and rental car and drove over to Hertz by way of the gas station, filling up both vehicles. We turned in the rental car and headed back to the trailer.

We decided on Monday since we had already paid a week (could stay until Friday) and the weather looked iffy that we would stay until Wednesday. On Tuesday, we ran into town and did laundry as well as a couple of other errands. Otherwise, we took it easy around the trailer.

This morning we packed up and pulled out around 8:00 AM. We had an easy drive through Mesa and Phoenix despite it being the end of rush hour. We picked up I-10 west and drove on towards the border. We stopped at a truck stop so that Malcolm could take a conference call for work, then headed on west afterwards. We stopped at a rest area and called ahead to an RV park in Quartzsite, Arizona that was listed in the Escapees RV Park book and found that they had a site available. We are set up there now and decided to stay two nights.

We also called ahead to another RV park in Indio, California that was listed in the Escapees RV Park book and set up reservations there for the weekend. We decided to take better advantage of the Escapees RV parks and their better rates and discounts than to rely so heavily on the KOA network. So far, it’s been working out well. We should have done this sooner.

As promised, here are a bunch of phone pictures from the past several days. Camera pictures will come later once we get them offloaded onto the computer.

Our site at Canyon Lake

Our site at Canyon Lake

Model A in the Ford Dealer Showroom

Model A in the Ford Dealer Showroom

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

Arizona Hills

Arizona Hills

Tortilla Flats Saloon

Tortilla Flats Saloon

"Bar Stools" at Tortilla Flats Saloon

“Bar Stools” at Tortilla Flats Saloon

Arizona Scenery

Arizona Scenery

The Mighty Wurlitzer at Organ Stop Pizza

The Mighty Wurlitzer at Organ Stop Pizza

Our new "portable desert"

Our new “portable desert”

Typical sunset in Arizona

Typical sunset in Arizona

Scenery along I-10 near Quartzsite, Arizona

Scenery along I-10 near Quartzsite, Arizona

More I-10 Scenery

More I-10 Scenery

Our site in Quartzsite

Our site in Quartzsite

Today’s License Plates – 19 of 51 states found.

License Plates

License Plates

Wireless Data on the Road

While many RV parks offer some form of wi-fi Internet connectivity, we have found over the past couple of years that the level of service is typically somewhere between very marginal to very unusable. For that reason, we have a data plan with AT&T that we use with our phones and with the MiFi device that distributes the Internet data wirelessly in the RV.

Over the course of more than two years on the road, we have found a few gotchas that you may not know about. These items may only be particular to our carrier (AT&T) or to our equipment (Apple devices). They may have equivalent anomalies with other carriers (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) or with other devices (Android and Windows). We can’t speak for those carriers or devices, but it would behoove you to see if these items may affect you in some fashion.

Where did my data go?

One month, our data plan was pretty much on target to last throughout the billing period. It was a little close, but we monitor it frequently and cut back on “wasteful” usage if it looks like it will be close.

Imagine our surprise when a couple days later, we were getting overage messages. Looking through the log of data usage, there was a period in time when we supposedly used over 8 GB of data in a couple hour period. Where did all that data disappear?

It turns out that if you have Apple devices (iPhone, iPod and iPad) and there is a new version of iOS available, your device will automatically download it in the background when the device is plugged in to charge and is connected to a wi-fi signal. Even if you have gone into settings on your device and turned off all automatic downloads, this still occurs.

Since our devices are connected to our MiFi device (wi-fi) and we typically plug them in at night to charge them back up, they all decided that each of them would go ahead and automatically download a nearly 2 GB update while we slept.

How do you prevent this? One way is to make sure there isn’t room on your device for the download to occur. This may not be practical. Another is to prevent the devices from reaching the Apple update site via your wi-fi router. I’m not sure if our MiFi device is capable of allowing certain sites to be disabled and instructions on how to do so are beyond the scope of this blog post. The last and simplest way is to turn off wi-fi on your device at night before plugging it in to charge.

I didn’t use that much data that day

When we checked to see where our several GB of data went, Malcolm was on the detailed data usage part of the AT&T website. It indicated that all that data was used on a Tuesday afternoon between 2:00 and 3:00. That was on a day that Malcolm was at the Nashville office working and Val was out shopping. 

Further, we’ve noticed that messages for data overages sometimes come the day after the new billing period has started. Also, we sometimes get a 75% of data used message followed closely by a 100% usage message (sometimes within minutes).

It turns out that AT&T posts your data usage sometimes two days after it occurs. Also, checking your data usage by dialing *DATA# on your phone (you do know that trick, right?) will usually show a different number than what logging onto the website will show. 

The takeaway to all this is not to let your data usage get really close to the limit within a few days of the end of the billing period. You may suddenly find yourself paying data overages.

Off Network Data Usage

As I write this blog post, we are staying in a remote area of Arizona near Canyon Lake. We were pleased to find that was had fairly adequate 4G data on our MiFi after setting up camp. A couple hours into the evening, Malcolm got an email from AT&T indicating that we had used 250 of a maximum of 400 MB of Off Network data for the billing period. If we continued past 400 MB, we wouldn’t get any data at all and, worse, if this behavior continued for more than one billing period, our entire account may potentially be cancelled.

The email went on to mention that you should be careful when using data when your device indicates it is “Off Network”. Malcolm looked at the MiFi unit and, sure enough, the top of the screen said “Off Network”. It definitely said “AT&T” when we first turned it on here. We just turned off the MiFi unit and Malcolm continued to use the Internet by tethering to his phone, which said “AT&T” at the top of the screen.

The next morning, Malcolm got a similar text message on his phone indicating the same issue with data usage. His phone now said “Off Network” at the top of the screen. Val’s phone still said “AT&T”. 

Malcolm researched this and found that AT&T allows you a maximum of 250 MB of “Off Network” data per billing period, but will possibly allow you to go over to 400 MB. “Off Network” means that another cell provider is providing the signal and data on your device and will bill AT&T for the usage. You will not know this is occurring, though, until you go over that 250 MB limit on your device and endanger your account. 

AT&T apparently thinks that it should appear seamless to the user and just show AT&T on the screen so that they don’t get confused. Only when you approach that magical limit will your screen actually indicate that you are on someone else’s network. If you look at your cell phone agreement, it would presume upon the user to check the availability of AT&T data in any location you might visit. We all know how accurate coverage maps are.

By the way, you can’t specifically prevent “off network” data roaming on iPhones, at least. There is a switch in settings to turn off International Roaming, but it doesn’t affect domestic roaming.