WARNING: If you are not a techie or gadget freak you may wish to skip the first 3 or 4 paragraphs.
For much of this trip I have been frustrated by my inability to access the Internet whenever I wished or at a reasonable speed when I did manage to connect. Even in locations where “Free Internet” is advertised I have been unable to connect due to distance, obstacles, low power, insufficient bandwidth, or who knows what. I never before realized how dependent I was on instant access to the Internet.
We are now in Tucson at the Lazydays RV Park for our national Discovery Owners’ Rally. The park has free Wi-Fi and because the park is so large there are several repeaters scattered throughout the park. My wife has no trouble connecting to the park’s network with her Windows-based laptop. However, my MacBook Pro laptop was unable to successfully “talk” to the park’s Wi-Fi network unless I was sitting right outside of the park’s office.
I love Macs but their laptop Wi-Fi adapters are seriously underpowered (32 mW compared to 50 mW on many other laptops) and their internal antennas are quite small. Yesterday I did something that I should have done a long time ago. I bought a USB amplified network adapter with a 3 dbi antenna (a Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless-150N) for a little under $50. The 3 dbi antenna itself will double the power to 64 mW. The amplifier boosts it up to around 125 mW, about a four-fold increase in power.
What a difference after I got it set up! Not only am I quickly connecting to the network but also the throughput (speed) is almost at par with the high-speed cable access I have at home.
So, with that out of the way perhaps I should tell you a little about what’s been going on with Carol Ann and me. In a few words, we have been trying to stay cool. The temperature gets up to about 90° but the humidity is low, around 20-25%. They call it “dry heat” and unless you are in direct sunlight it really doesn’t feel uncomfortable. The nights are fantastic with temperatures around 70° degrees (plus the low humidity) with a light breeze.
The turnout for our national rally is a bit disappointing. There are only 65 coaches attending this year’s rally. Last year there were around 100 coaches. For the past few years the attendance has been in a steady decline, probably due to the sluggish economy and rising fuel prices. The U.S. average retail price for a gallon of diesel fuel in 2007 was $2.942, in 2011 it was $3.840 and this week the average is $4.094. Yet in California we paid as much as $5.11 a gallon. To put it into perspective, to fill our 90 gallon tank in 2007 cost an average of $264.78 versus $368.46 at the current average retail cost. That’s an increase of more than $100 a fill up! With an average fuel efficiency of 7 to 8 MPG, it has become a lot more expensive to go RV’ing. The industry really needs to develop more fuel efficient motorhomes.
I realize that I am boring everyone out of their minds and I am truly sorry. Unfortunately, we have experienced no excitement for some time. I this to change once we leave Tucson (Sunday) and go off the beaten path for a few days to “dry camp” (no electricity, water, or sewer) in the Gila National Forest north of Silver City, NM. The motorhome has its own power generator, fresh water supply, and sewage tank so that we won’t exactly be “roughing it”. The scenery is supposed to be incredible and I hope to get some good photos. You probably won’t be able to read about the adventure until we rejoin our Texas friends in Concan, TX where we hope to have Internet access. If we have nothing exciting to report I may have to make something up.
Tomorrow we are going to the old historic section of Tucson for a look around and have lunch at El Charro Café, a Tucson tradition since 1922 and the oldest continuously operated family-owned Mexican restaurant in the U.S. Some of our friends went today and gave it a very good recommendation.
On Friday we are going to Tombstone, AZ and check out the O.K. Corral and other haunts of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. It’s only about 40 miles from Tucson. I’ll make sure to post some photos once we return to the RV park.