Internet Explorer

Justin and I were quite spoiled in Durango. In addition to great friends and beautiful landscapes, we had excellent internet. It was important to our lives then and it has become even more important now and I didn’t think that that was even possible.

For some time now, Justin has been working from home as a software engineer while I commuted across the state line during the school year as a speech therapist. This move to Texas meant that I also started working from home doing speech teletherapy via video conferencing. We can both suck up bandwidth with our jobs alone even without our tv and movie streaming.

Just out of dumb luck we found a RV Park on Crystal Beach, TX with the biggest internet package available on the Bolivar Peninsula. We are one of only 6 RVs in the place. We are typically the only people at the park during the week with the others RVers coming in on the weekends for a quick getaway. We have since discovered that what we have found is rare and must be appreciated. Internet is a major reason that Justin and I have stayed on the Bolivar Peninsula so long.

As we look forward to moving onto a sailboat, we have been looking into Marinas and what they have to offer. Recently, we toured marinas in search of amenities, a short walk to the restroom for Pete (and for me) and for our blessed internet. We quickly learned that what we need, does not exist out there in the real world, let alone, in a marina. It seems that marinas are like typical RV Parks, the office is the source of internet and they send it out into the world via WiFi, maybe there are signal repeaters, maybe there aren’t. While we are going to be set up with a repeater/booster and internal network, we still have to get a decent signal to the boat. The marina that would be the best fit for us offers internet but it was unpredictable when tested. Another marina that we also liked has an estimate in for a complete internet overhaul that is awaiting owner approval (it has been awaiting approval for a few years now and is not a top priority). Currently, we are still scratching our head trying to come up with a plan.

Once we purchase a boat, we will have to leave the haven of our RV Park and our available options are few and quite expensive. So far, we have determined that there are nor DSL or Cable internet options available at the marinas in the area. We have seen satellite internet plans which would be simi-affordable but not wonderful for video conferencing due to its lag in video. We have looked into Cellular Data plans which would quickly become quite costly due to our data needs. For example, I used 42 GB of data on my computer alone last month and I use it primarily for work. (This does not include Justin’s work/personal computers, both of our phones and my work iPad.)

Though we enjoy watching tv and movies, we would be willing to reduce the amount of streaming we do if that meant that we could continue to work remotely. This will probably be a good thing for us in the long run. It would mean more reading books, writing blog posts, editing video, taking long walks on the beach, playing video games which don’t require internet and perhaps more actual conversation.

 

Ultimately, we are still searching for the best solution that will allow us to continue working until we are ready to untie the lines. If there are options out there that we have yet to explore, please leave us a comment.

Harvey

I really don’t know what to say. Harvey was quite an adventure. There is still so much work to be done for so many people affected by the storm. I feel a bit guilty talking about how it affected us. We still don’t actually know the outcome yet.

We started watching Harvey early last week. At that time it was just a named tropical depression, but it was headed right for us on the Texas coast. I’ve really learned a lot about tropical storms and hurricanes since then. First, was what does it all mean? Tropical depression, tropical storm, hurricane, storm surge, dirty side, landfall, steering flows. All of this was fairly unknown to me a week ago. Now I feel a bit overwhelmed with all the information.

Living half a mile from the coast that was well in the range that Harvey could hit was not ideal to say the least. How much wind can a stabilized 22ft RV take? Should be bail north now? Should we ride it out? We didn’t have any of those answers so we sought out the best advice we could. The owner of out RV park apparently had lived there on the peninsula for 40 or so years, I assume he should have some good info. He was pretty confident, “it’s just another tropical storm, we get them all the time” and “we see 40-50mph winds off the coast frequently, you should be fine.” He also said “we built our house and the structure for the RV park to withstand 150mph winds.” I assume after Ike pretty much leveled the whole of Bolivar Peninsula in 2008 pretty much everything was rebuilt to take a beating.

After that conversation I felt quite a bit better, and was planing on sticking it out. It could be a lot of fun! I planned on filling out water tank for 400lbs of ballast and some good drinking water just in case the water went bad. Gather some food, charge everything up, and enjoy. Or, at least that’s what I thought. By mid afternoon Thursday, several other “permanent” RV residence started packing up. I went around and chatted with them. “We have sat out a few of these, but I think we’re leaving on this one” one said. “Yea, I lent my generator to a friend, and I don’t want to go without power for a few days, so were headed out. Our neighbors are arriving in a few hours to take their rig too” said another. It didn’t take much more convincing than that for me to reconsider. A quick chat with Shannon and it was clear we should probably go to. An hour and a half later we were all packed and ready to roll.

We had not made much of a plan, but about an hour north of us was Beaumont, TX. It looked far enough from the coast, and far enough north that it should be at least safer for us and the camper. We found an RV park and reserved our weekend to ride out the storm.

That respite didn’t last long. We were up pretty much all night glued to the TV watching Harvey make landfall. Many of the heavily affected areas were places we had recently been. Port Aransas, Rockport, Corpus Christi, Galveston. It was fairly surreal. As we watched, the predictions of the storm path started moving north.  With rain totals predicted to be 20″+ in many areas now including Beaumont, we started to worry again. I looked up flood plans in the area, and it was all bad, but according to the insurance ratings, were in in as good a spot as we could. Not that we were really able to move again anyway, the wind and rain had already begin, and I didn’t want to risk pulling the trailer in that weather. We spent the next day “battening down the hatches.” All the prep that I had planned in order to stay in Bolivar, I was doing now. Fill the water tank, charge everything, prep the food stores, etc. We filled the truck we gas and settled in for the long haul. We played several games of Lords of Waterdeep, and watched the Weather Channel until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.

Waking up to Tornado warnings is something I hadn’t planned on. We had finally had a few hours of restless sleep and both our phones started blaring “Tornado warning, find shelter immediately.” We trudged through the six inches or so of standing water that had already accumulated and joined many other residents of the RV park in the laundry room for shelter. Two more Flash Flood and Tornado warnings later, we decided to bail again. This time we left the trailer. Not that we could have taken it anyway with the weather, but as it is a good two feet off the ground, I figured a bit of flooding in the area and it should be ok.

We have some friends that live a few hours north near Little Rock Arkansas, so we headed there to spend the week working. For the first 3 hours of the drive it didn’t stop pouring rain. Many streets were already beginning to flood. All we could do was hope for the best. Somewhere on the road we got a message from one of the boat owners we had been talking too in Corpus Christi. At first thought, we both immediately assumed that the boat did not make it though the storm. Turns out it was the opposite. He told us he couldn’t sell the boat anymore, becasue he has to move aboard. Apparently his house in Port Aransas did not fair as well as the boat did.

We’ve been working and watching Harvey continue to drop record amounts of rain on Texas from safety here in Arkansas for the week now. We contacted the RV park Tuesday morning to check on things, but it sounded a bit hectic. Beaumont was almost completely flooded, as was the RV park. they had spent the last day moving trailers away from the lake and were not sure what more could be done. At the time, our trailer was safe, bit the rain was still falling. As of now we still don’t know if it survived the flood.

One month in

It’s now been a month in Texas, we’re on the Bolivar->Galveston ferry again to head to Kemah to look at some more sailboats. It feels like we ride this ferry a lot these days. There’s really nothing on Bolivar Peninsula. There’s only one decent store at all, and it’s a combo grocery and hardware store, aptly named “The Big Store.” Anything we can’t find there we have to head into Galveston, or 30 miles north to a small town called Winnie. There’s no Laundromat, so we have to either hand wash in the sink, or hop the ferry again. We’ve eaten all all local restaurants, all 5 of them, they’re nothing to write home about. So if we have a craving for decent food, well, you can probably guess. One of them, the Tiki Beach Bar, does have one interesting little quirk, it has its own private grass airstrip where apparently pilots from all over  come in a have themselves some lunch.

There are some great bonuses to living here as well. For one it’s really quiet, traffic is non existent, except on the beach. The weather is really not too bad, it’s hot, and humid, but a quick walk to the beach and it feels quite nice again. Oh, and the beach, I love the beach. Its half a mile from the house, and ten miles in either direction of sandy goodness. I’ve never been much for just wasting time, I usually want to be doing something (and playing video games or watching TV, does count as that) but I can just sit on the beach and drink a beer and be perfectly content.

It’s not all beer on the beach though, we’ve had some issues with our A/C, and power outages. We had a storm roll by a few days ago that knocked out the power for nearly 10 hours. No power is generally OK for the trailer as we have backup batteries, but no power means no A/C. 10 minutes without A/C it’s a sauna inside the trailer. We were having other issues with the A/C as well. Due to a lovely design feature of the trailer, the thermostat is mounted on a wall that, due to the refrigerator, has some direct outdoor airflow. That airflow with all its moisture flows directly into the thermostat. It hits the cold dry air inside the trailer and immediately condenses. This kills the thermostat. It we woke up one night at around 3am and it was nearly 90 inside. Looking at the thermostat, it thought it was 40, good thing the heat didn’t turn on. I opened it up and found it dripping with water. So I dried it out and hoped for the best. Over the next few days the screen started shorting out, and it started melting, and freezing us in the middle of the night depending on its mood, so we replaced it. (Yet another ferry trip to Galveston.) I also made an attempt to put some insulation in that hole as well, so hopefully we won’t repeat that issue.

We are also still actively searching for our new sailboat. Last Friday after work we, um, took the ferry, to Kemah to look at several boats up there. After our last adventure to Corpus Christi, we were pretty much sold on the Islander 38 we saw, but it’s not really for sale, so we can’t really do anything about that right now. The broker in Kemah has 2 Islander 36’s and a few other boats in our price range so we had to have a look. Turns out the Islander 36 is mostly the same boat as the 38, just without a bowsprit, a pilothouse (really great view from the salon), or the really cool swim ladder on the stern. It has a more standard interior layout with a v-berth main cabin, and smaller quarter berths. Overall the boat was quite nice, and actually really well equipped. Unfortunately, I was still so set on the 38, that I just wasn’t looking at it with the right eye. So today, a week later and no movement on the 38, we are on our way back to Kemah to have another look.

This search for a boat feels like it taking a long time, but we’ve only been at it for a month and we already have some good options. We have one more month paid for here in Bolivar, so we have a bit more time, but we are starting to think of the next place. Do we head across the bay to Galveston? Down south to Corpus Christi? Or across the bay to Kemah? Who knows, but that’s the best part. It doesn’t matter, just go.