Keeping in Touch

DISCLAIMER! This was written in 1998!

Since Mick is the “computer nerd” and responsible for the technical stuff, this is mainly his “domain”, but Jenny will offer her comments from time to time (so what’s new?!?).

It has been an amazing experience, finding new technology (and old), figuring out what works and doesn’t, and what requires a mortgage or more to afford!

“Snail Mail”: We thought this was going to be a real problem! When you’ve been used to mail arriving every day, for your entire life, you may fear that it will feel as if the world has stopped, or you have just fallen off!

Escapees: The reality is wonderfully different. We joined the Escapees RV Club, an organization providing support services to all RVers, but especially full-timers. One of their services is mail forwarding. They provide a mail address at their headquarters in Livingston, Texas (see our home page). We give this address to everyone we know, and as often as we choose, we call Escapees and have them priority mail everything they have received to an address where we plan to be in about 3-4 days.

Receiving the mail this way it feels like Christmas once a week! We don’t really miss receiving mail every day, and life goes on just as well, if not better.

Escapees will sort your mail, identify and exclude “junk” mail, if you wish. They will even open and read a particular letter to you over the phone if is that important.

We really recommend joining Escapees; for full details check out their website below.

Telephone: After much trial and error we use one cellular phone: the NOKIA 6160 with AT&T One Rate Digital Plan gives us 1400 minutes/month for $149 and all calls are “local” … no roaming or long distance charges.

We heard recently, however, that AT&T are now restricting this service, so it may no longer be available to RVers like us — pity!

Fax: If, like us, you need to receive faxes on the road, there are now many solutions available. We use a free internet fax service — — which provides us with a phone number which can receive voicemail and/or fax messages. Messages received at this unique number are immediately forwarded to our email address. We then receive our faxes by email, and can download, view and print them or play voicemail messages using the Efax software provided (we don’t use the voicemail service as we already have a good system with our business).You may download Efax software and sign up at their website. Efax also supports fax sending, but we send faxes using WINFAX PRO software on our computer, through the modem and cellular phone, just like email.

A Visioneer “Paperport 6000” flatbed scanner completes our setup.

Email & Internet: Accessing your email as you travel is getting easier and easier. Now the Woodall’s and Camping World directories tell you whether RV parks have “modem hookup”; many more are providing this service in the office or another central location. Some even provide phone hookup at your site, but rarely for overnight stays, although this will improve over time.)

Because we run our business from our RV, we have a cellular connection so we can stay in touch (almost) wherever we are — I still look forward to getting online on top of a mountain, but that will have to wait for satellite phones!

We use AOL on the road every day with few problems … no more problems than using AOL from a direct phone line!

Cellular transmission speeds are very slow, but email works if you are patient. AOL helps here with the “Auto AOL sessions” which allow you to download and upload email and attached files, spending a minimum of time on-line. All writing and reading of email is handled off-line. This is more relaxed and definitely less expensive.

This is important as you may be paying cellular roaming charges as well as AOL’s 10 cents per minute for use of their 800 numbers. Although you may find local AOL access numbers much of the time, we find ourselves in the “outback” quite often so the 800 numbers are great.

While in Australia in 1999 (without RV and laptop!) we discovered the “joys” of “cyber cafe’s”. The photo here shows me online at an Internet cafe in Noosa in Queensland, checking our email!In Europe during the summer of 1999 for 9 weeks, we took Jenny’s small laptop and connected to AOL everywhere we went with very few problems.

If you decide to go the cellular route, here’s our advice. When shopping for the right equipment it is vital to perfectly match the phone, the modem and the cable that goes between the two … this is not as straightforward as it could/should be, so I suggest you seek expert advice. First, get the cellular dealer and phone company to tell you the modem and cable required to match their phone. Then go to a good computer store and get advice from them about the modem and cable that they say matches the phone. IF and WHEN their advice is consistent, then “go for it”! We had to go around this merry-go-round several times before all worked perfectly, and I am something of a computer guy!

We finally have, we believe, the perfect setup for our needs:
   Nokia 6160 phone (AT&T One Rate Digital Plan)
   3Com 56k cellular modem, 3CXM556Nokia DAR-3 data adapter
   US Robotics cable NOK3.

The total price was about $360, but shop around!

Until recently we could rarely connect and transmit at more than 4800 bps, but in recent months we are getting 9600 bps consistently — AT&T must have improved their network! Surfing the web is still not too realistic, however.

Happy Trails!