Monday, June 30, 2014

Staying connected on the road

View from Foothills library
We’ve been spending a lot of time at the Foothills library recently. Partly because it’s a lot cooler than our trailer and partly because of the free internet. It also has better views out the windows than our trailer does.

We have a mobile hotspot (Verizon Jetpack)  that allows us to get internet service wherever we can get Verizon cell phone service. It’s a handy little device to have, but expensive to use. The rate is based on the amount of data you use. Initially we signed up for 4 gigabytes of data usage per month. Go over that amount, and the cost zooms from $50 to $80 a month. I upped our plan to 6 GB a month for just $10 more total. Still expensive, but we can usually manage on that amount.

We were managing pretty well on 4 GB a month, but that was when I was in treatment five to seven days a week at the hospital. Jon used to bring his laptop and watch youtube videos for two to four hours a day on the hospital’s internet connection. Videos eat up so much data that I won’t let him watch them at home. Since we no longer make daily trips to the hospital, he needed another internet connection. Hence, the daily visits to the local branch of the Yuma County Library District, so he can watch videos to his heart’s content.

Like most libraries, this one limits internet time if you use their computers. Bring your own laptop and you can be online all day. The Foothills branch is a really nice library, and is bigger than the main branch of the Mid-Columbia Library back home in Kennewick, Washington. One side of the building is nothing but windows with a wonderful view of the mountains that surround Yuma. The library also sells snacks, such as sandwiches, bagels, chips, soft drinks and candy bars, so you can munch away while you’re online.

Staying connected on the road is important. We both do more than just email. I use the internet to research articles for the clients I write for, as well as for my own writing projects. Many RV parks offer internet service, but it’s usually not free. Plus, you have to sign up for each park’s service and that can get to be a hassle. We got our portable hotspot after one park’s service said my bank refused the credit card charges – this is after I’d spent an hour on the phone with a tech just trying to get to the web page where you sign up – while the bank said the ISP never submitted any charges, so how could they refuse them. Multiply this by a different park every night or every week, and it’s just not worth the trouble.

The convenience of not having to go through this every time we change RV parks is worth the extra money. We hope to be back on the road in the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to researching campgrounds while Jon is driving. That’s something you can’t do with a standard modem.

Disclaimer: The federal government requires me to say that I did not receive any compensation from Verizon for mentioning their service in this article.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Doing laundry on the road: save those quarters!

Whether you live in a stick-built house or a recreational vehicle, doing laundry is a necessity unless, of course, you’re one of those people who wear clothes until they get so dirty they stand up by themselves and then you throw them away.

It just isn’t as much fun on the road. Few RVs have room for even a small washer and dryer, which means you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the RV park’s laundry room. Before we left home, I scoured the internet for manual washers. I found one that was hand cranked and used only two gallons of water. It could hold a couple of pairs of jeans and four t-shirts or a sheet. Unfortunately, it did not come with a wringer. I looked into getting the wringer off an old wringer washer, but those things are considered antique now, somewhat hard to find and not cheap if you do find one.

During the season, doing laundry is a social activity in that you get to meet other RVers doing their laundry. There’s also a good selection of magazines left by other RVers when they’ve finished with them, so if you’re the only one there, you’ve got lots of reading material to occupy your time.

Coming up with enough quarters to do our wash can be a hassle. We put every quarter we get into a special jar; if we’re lucky, we have enough quarters saved up by the time to do laundry again. If not, we have to leave the park to get more. However, not all RV laundry rooms take quarters. One park we stayed at required campers to buy tokens from them in $5 increments. In our case, $5 wasn’t enough to do one session of laundry, but $10 was too much. Unfortunately, park management won’t buy the unused tokens back. I’m told some parks require RVers to use their special pre-paid cards in amounts of their choosing. Supposedly, they also won’t buy the unused portion back. If you can’t sell the tokens or cards to other RVers, I guess you’ve just bought yourself some souvenirs.

Our first encounter with an RV park laundry room was in Redding, California, on New Year’s Day. The weather was sunny and balmy, and we enjoyed sitting by the pool while their machines did our work.

So far, we’ve only encountered immaculately clean laundry rooms, though I was distressed about finding “out of order” signs taped to half the washers and dryers at an older RV park. Of course, a lot of people wanted to do laundry at the same time I did, which meant a long wait for the machines. Just as I was putting my last load into a washer, a man carried eight laundry baskets in. I was so furious when I saw him rip off the out-of-order signs, put his quarters and laundry in and the machines miraculously worked.

What I’ve learned from doing laundry on the road is never to take a home washer and dryer for granted again.



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yuma, Arizona: Summertime and the livin' ain't easy!

Skies definitely are blue in Yuma.
To paraphrase that beautiful ballad from Porgy and Bess is almost  like ruining the song, but the words describe what a summer in Yuma is like for snowbirds who stay on after the season is over.

Sure, the lines at the Walmart prescription counters are a lot shorter. Instead of standing in line for an hour, at least, to drop off prescriptions and then another hour or more to pick them up, you can be in and out in mere minutes. I, however, would be willing to stand in these long lines if it meant lower temperatures outside. Temperatures have been in triple digits here since early April. I swear I’ll scream if I hear a permanent resident tell me one more time, “If you think it’s hot now, just wait until July.”

Keeping cool is paramount
Life in Yuma these days is a mad dash from an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned building and back again. (Some Walmarts and the local mall have covered parking.)  I’m beginning to see why siestas are such an important part of Latin American culture, though I’m finding it too hot to sleep in the afternoon. Even running the air conditioning full time in our trailer, temperatures don’t get cool enough to sleep comfortably until about 4 a.m. By 6 a.m., the temperatures are moving from searing to scorching, and the day goes downhill from then, even though the temperatures are only going uphill.

We’ve taken to doing our laundry in the middle of the night because the laundry room isn’t air-conditioned. Plus, we used to do laundry every week, but now try to go at least two weeks between washing. A hose connects our trailer to the city water system. Cold showers have become the norm because water comes out of the cold tap warm enough that you don’t have to turn on the hot water tap.

Our awning would provide some shade if we could use it. High winds can come up at any time in Yuma and will bounce the awning around, damaging it. (There have been times I’ve put the awning down at 6 a.m., only to bring it in at 6:30 a.m.
Avoiding dehydration is important
Dehydration is always a risk in hot weather. Our bottled water bill has quadrupled since the temperatures started soaring. While we may leave our American Express card at home when we go out (well, we would if we had one), we never leave the trailer without cold bottled water, frequently in a small ice chest. A bottle of frozen water can go from ice to too hot to drink when left in my scooter's drink cup holder even for a few minutes.

There’s less to do in Yuma in the summer months. When we arrived here back in January, I was too sick to do many touristy things. Now that I’m better and can get around more, the attractions are closed until fall. That includes one of our favorite spots, Martha’s Gardens, an organic date farm that serves the most delicious date milk shakes.

So when will we be leaving Yuma? Who knows? Our intent was to be here only a few weeks, but my medical problems have kept us here longer. We’ve quit guesstimating when we might be able to leave; every time we think we might be out of here in a few weeks, I have a setback. Note to snowbirds: If you’re looking for excellent, senior-friendly health care, Yuma is the place to be. The main facility where I treat is considered one of the best in the country, and on the cutting edge of medicine.