Lesson Learned

I’m obviously not the brightest bulb on the planet. Sometimes I have to experience a thing to learn the lesson that others have attempted to share. On top of it, I have a poor memory as I have learned this particular lesson already, a couple times – I simply had to re-learn it, again…

The most recent lesson was arriving at an unfamiliar campground after dark. On this occasion – very dark (no moon). Several times I have heard and read that this should be avoided – just like arriving at an unfamiliar anchorage with a sailboat – do it during daylight hours.

The good news is that there was no damage. The bad news is that I probably wasted a couple years of my life with unnecessary stress. For those that have never camped at a state park – they typically have pretty narrow roads with relatively tight turns. Toss in low hanging branches, ‘stuff’ along the edges, poor headlights on a Class A, and the need to see the site markers to know if a spot is available and, well, it just isn’t the easiest of tasks.

After work, I cruised eastbound on Highway 50 from Gunnison, CO to Pueblo, CO on a late afternoon trip. What a spectacular route! The views are amazing! This route takes you over Monarch Pass which is the continental divide at 11,312′ of elevation. JBAM performed flawlessly both going up and coming down.

Newmar Dutch Star Lesson Monarch Pass Continental Divide Newmar Dutch Star Lesson Monarch Pass Continental DividePassing thru Salida, while still daylight, I spotted all kinds of neat little camping/recreation areas along the Arkansas river but I didn’t stop (no, not me!).

Passing thru the Cannon City area (near Royal Gorge), while still daylight, there were numerous campgrounds.

As I approach Pueblo, the sun set and it got dark – real dark.

I won’t bore you with the details. I found the park, I found the campground (one of several) and I got parked in a spot (not a very good one). I did not enjoy the experience. I suspect some moonlight would have helped significant.

The next morning I got up, got my bearings, went exploring for a good camp site, and relocated – in the daylight!! What a difference!

Newmar Dutch Star Lesson Pueblo Lakes Campground

Oh well… lesson learned, I won’t be attempting to relocate after work again – at least not until I forget this lesson.


I am currently in the Curecanti National Recreation Area a little west of Gunnison, CO. The National Park Service says the following about the area:

“Curecanti National Recreation Area is a series of three reservoirs along the once wild Gunnison River. The reservoirs that make up Curecanti today are a destination for water-based recreation high in the Rocky Mountains. Best known for salmon and trout fishing, Curecanti also offers opportunities for hiking, boating, camping, and bird watching.”

This area is fairly high at 7,500′ so it is not hot! Given how beautiful the trees are, I think winter is just around the corner!

As I was driving into the area, over one of the passes, I crested the rise and was greeted with a VERY IMPRESSIVE sight! A big puff of wind had just blown thru a large stand of Aspen trees. The bright golden yellow leaves were blowing all over and the sun was intensifying the color. The sight is one that I hope to never forget!

I am camped at the Elk Creek campground. This is a big four loop campground but due to the time of the season, only two loops are open. Not many folks here either, maybe a dozen at most. The only real negative with the area is that the Verizon cellular signal is not all that good. I am able to occasionally get 3G signal with only my phone. My tablet has no success at all. With my tall antenna and amplifier, I am able to get a reasonably reliable 3G signal but it is neither fast nor reliable (drops and reconnects pretty regularly).

Curecanti National Recreation Area Elk Creek Newmar Dutch StarI’ve scouted a number of the small campgrounds located around the area and they all seem to have mighty small spots. Many of them are tent sights. I suspect you’d be pretty lucky to get a small Class C into very many of them.

There are some amazing sights in the area – you just have to get out and find them!

Curecanti National Recreation Area Elk Creek Newmar Dutch StarCurecanti National Recreation Area Elk Creek Newmar Dutch Star

It appears that there is some good mountain biking near Gunnison. Sadly, my current “injury status” prevents me from giving them a try. Definitely bummed!

Cellular Data Antenna

As you probably already know, I am a working full-timer (software engineer) and need to be connected to the Internet most of the time to do my job. I spend the majority of my time dry camping/boondocking so relying on Wifi is simply not an option (even if you could find it and the performance was reasonable). So, I concluded long ago that the only affordable option for me is cellular data (mobile data, Mifi, etc…, all the same thing).

Here in the western part of the USA, Verizon has the best coverage available from a cellular provider and that coverage is pretty good. However; there are a few places where issues can occur. The most typical is being in a hole. Many good camping spots are in low spots next to rivers and streams or in canyons – this is my definition of a hole. Cellular signal is line of sight so getting down into these holes is very difficult (impossible).

I wrote about my experience with the Wilson Sleek amplifier here. It makes a big difference but to maximize the potential, a better antenna mounted way up high in the air would be helpful.

I ordered a 20′ Jackite fiberglass pole. Typically, these poles are for mounting windsocks and those bird-kite things. I selected the 20′ model as I expect to mount it 5-8′ off the ground and that the last section will be too small/light to hold an antenna and ground plane. So, I think this will put the antenna itself just over twenty feet in the air. Obviously, for maximum performance, raising the antenna to fifty feet would be better, and, of course, one hundred feet would be better still, and, of course, two hundred feet would be even better… I had to choose a limit and twenty feet sounded reasonable – at least for phase one of this experiment.

My original plan was to mount an antenna to some sort of extendable pole and mount that to JBAM (my motorhome).

cellular data antenna jackite fiberglass pole shaft extension

A long length of RG174 coax cable with SMA connectors is necessary. I ordered one thirty feet (9 meters) long. This will connect the omni antenna on the pole to the Wilson Sleek amplifier.

Next, I needed the “better” antenna. I chose the 12″ 800/1900 MHz dual band omnidirectional antenna from Wilson.

cellular data antenna wilson

Finally, a nice long 1/4″ x 6″ bolt and small piece of flashing from Lowes finished the parts list.

The flashing will be the ground plane. It came as an angle so I had to unbend it, drill a hole, and attach the bolt. The bolt then slides into the second from the top piece of glass tubing in the Jackite pole. This is a semi-loose fit so it can easily be removed. My thinking is that this long bolt will be plenty to hold the ground plane with the antenna stuck to it in moderate winds. When the winds are worse than moderate, I will take the antenna down. At least that’s the plan.

I had originally thought that I would permanently mount the Jackite pole to the outside of my coach and simply lower it when I travel. I have now reconsidered. After searching for a good spot to mount the pole, I have decided against this. I can imagine all sorts of problems occurring. Instead, I decided to go with these handy Quick Fist rubber mounts (the 1″ to 2.25″ model).

Quick Fist Mount Cellular Data Antenna

At this point I am undecided if I will permanently mount the grips. I don’t really care for the idea of drilling holes in the side of my coach. I may mount the grips to the aluminum awning brace (the part permanently mounted to the side of the RV, not the part that moves). For the time being, I am simply securing the pole to the side of the motorhome in a very, very crude fashion – we are still in prototype test mode!

20150903_162326 cellular data antenna omnidirectional

So, does it work?

I am happy to report that it does work. I have not yet measured the difference but it is certainly observed. More updates to follow!

Colorado River

For the last couple of weeks, I have been in the Grand Junction, CO area. The terrain and sights in this area are fantastic!  The Colorado River has done some amazing work and revealed some truly spectacular sights.

I spent a week dry camping at the McInnis Canyon National Recreational Area. I really loved this place. There are a huge number of trails and dirt roads on which to explore. I spent a lot of time on my mountain bike and in the Jeep. The sights at the end of most of these trails is well worth the effort – absolutely spectacular! I even did a bit of geocaching – I haven’t done much of that in many months.  The Verizon signal was excellent and the large RV parking lot worked quite well.  I was originally not very impressed with the idea of a large parking lot but it worked just fine.  Most of the time, I had one or two other RV’s in the lot but a good distance away.  For a couple nights, a group of about ten RV’s that were traveling together were in the lot but again, it is a huge lot so they were a good ways away.

McInnis Canyon BLM Colorado River

McInnis Canyon BLM Colorado River

McInnis Canyon BLM Colorado River

McInnis Canyon BLM Colorado River

Due to the high temperatures, I needed some relief so I headed to the Colorado River State Park in Fruita, CO. This is a very nice park – the staff is super friendly and very good! Since I was close to civilization, I had a chance to restock and do a bit of maintenance.

The front, driver side wheel hub has been leaking a wee bit of oil since I purchased JBAM. I purchased a Stemco Oil Bath Hub Cap Window Kit while in Fruita (at NAPA). The hub has been a bit over-full of oil so I used a bit of plastic tubing to remove some of the excess. Then I replaced the red “plug” with the new one from the window kit. We’ll see if that solves the problem. If it does not, I will have to pull the “hub cap” to replace the gaskets. Other than the mess of the oil, this does not appear to be a very big job.

Newmar Dutch Star Stemco Oil Bath Hub Cap Leak

Pain Must be Shared

I have come to the conclusion that pain must be shared.

I see it all the time and it doesn’t matter what the topic is. If someone feels some type of pain, either physical, emotional, financial, etc…, they MUST tell people about it.

Why??Angry and Frustrated by Managements Lack of Intelligence

Boy, that is the million dollar question! I have no idea. I bet if I knew, I could write a book and make a fortune.

Maybe if I knew the answer the behavior would not be so annoying.

I’ve written about this before (here).

People – please STOP!!

You’ve had it tough, you got a raw deal, life’s not fair. Your wife was screwing some other guy, You pay too much in taxes. Your wife left you. Your brand new vehicle blew an engine and you had to pay to have it fixed. The court demands that you financially support your wife and her new lover.  Your kids treat you like you are Satan. Your job sucks. Everyone in DC is an idiot. Now move on. Stop bellyaching about your troubles.

It has gotten REALLY old!!