By Barry Zander
Remember when Starbucks charged $8 for an hour of internet and $12 for a day? $30 for the week? In 2006 that would have been a blessing, but there was no such thing at the time.
When I told my company bosses that we were selling the house and traveling – but I planned to continue working from the road – they said, “No.” Apparently they reconsidered, coming to the realization that my contacts with our national sales force had value, so my computer stayed busy for the next few thousands of miles.
In order to write my nightly newsletter from everywhere and nowhere, I had to have cell service, very dicey in those days. Even worse, when it came to sending out the news, I had to find an internet source, which often meant leaving the campground to find a town where there was a business with service staffed by someone willing to let me use their system
We have vivid memories of driving for hours, desperate to tell the sales force how wonderfully they had done over the past 24 hours.
When Starbucks began to offer WiFi, finding locations became easier, but it was at a price I was willing to pay at the time.
Relief: About a year after we began our RV adventures, we had a HughesNet satellite dish installed on top of our 22-foot travel trailer. It was heavy and way too large for our small rig. “What are the blue lights on the dish?” people often asked. The installer explained that they were marketing lights. They didn’t have any purpose except to get people to install HughesNet dishes, which, at the time, were state of the art for RVs.
The system worked. Sometimes. Not a lot. So, I became very close friends with Richard, the retired trucker who was my HughesNet technical contact in Virginia. We spent many anxious hours on the phone trying to make it work. Many hours.
Added to that invasion of our happy days of RVing was my wife Monique’s frustration over the whole system. I would press the buttons to get the dish to lift up from its sleeping position. It would slowly churn upward on the top of the trailer, then canvas the heavens trying to find the satellite. After 20 minutes of a raspy hum, it would shut down, and I would spend the next two hours on the phone with my best friend, Richard.
We avoided a divorce
Monique and I pulled into one of the beautiful campgrounds along Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. She selected a perfect parking spot, so I set up the trailer and searched for the internet. No connection. After realizing that we were under gorgeous oak trees, we knew we had to relocate, which took us to a very sunny, hot site. She was not happy!
Her happiest day of our travels up until then was when I received an email from the sales support vice-president at my company letting me know that my services were no longer needed. Monique cheered.
We had bought the HughesNet internet dish with DirecTV service for $5,000. We sold it for pennies on the dollar but unloading it saved our marriage.
A short time later, public WiFi became more common and, even better, I could get on with the “Personal Hotspot” on my cell phone … after I upgraded from my cherished Blackberry to a smartphone.
The past 12 years of traveling without those twinkling blue lights sparkling in the nighttime sky have been so much more pleasant, thanks to the advances in the internet service. And since Elon Musk just launched a rocket to fill our skies with 57 more satellites designed to make the internet more available, our world out there at Interstate rest stops, on BLM lands and Walmarts will no doubt continue to get even better.