So, back in October of 2011, I set off on an adventure in my funky old 27′ 1992 Ford Tioga motorhome. That was Part 1. I didn’t have an “official” blog back then. For some reason, privacy was of utmost importance to me. The only people who could access my blog had to either click on a link on my website, or click on a link at the bottom of my emails.
I have now seen the light.
Part 2 will now be of the Official Blog variety.
Part 1, however, will be my first entry. There’s a lot of content, and somehow it’s gotten deleted twice (even though I “saved” it) before publishing. So I will be publishing bits as I enter everything here.
There’s not much to report on Part 2, yet. But it’s coming…
Life on the Road as a Fulltime Voiceover
October 12, 2011
Am I nuts? I’ve got this great house, and a terrific sound studio all set up just the way I like it and it’s humming along just fine and I decide to do something crazy.
Unfortunately, this great house is in Arizona, a lovely place in many respects, but a place that just doesn’t resonate with me. I miss spring in New England, autumn in New England, summer in New England, and yes, winter in New England. I miss water, trees, and dirt that you can sink a shovel into when you garden. I miss great biking, old friends, and Christmases with snow.
I’ve always considered myself an adventurer, an explorer, and a traveler. Trouble is, I haven’t done nearly as much of that in the past few decades as I’d like.
SO….time to shake things up. My house has been on the market for a year with NO SHOWINGS (although I just hired a new realtor and I think she’s going to be great). I didn’t want to wait another year to leave here, so I’ve bought at 1992 RV with 38,000 miles on it. And bought a custom sound booth for the back bedroom, 2 new computers (because the old ones were …. old), and spent the last 2.5 months getting things configured, networked, replaced, repaired, and tested.
It’s been A LOT of work. Far more than I imagined. And now I’m planning to leave in less than 2 weeks. Yikes!
Last weekend I did a trial run to Tucson (about 1.25 hours away) and stayed at an RV park. After 2 days there, I drove 40 minutes north to Catalina State Park, a gem at the foot of the Catalina Mountains with lots of great hiking trails. The next morning I got a request for a 1.5-2 hour session for a regular client. Would my internet be good enough for the live-over-IP session he wanted? Would my mic pick up the sounds of rigs leaving and entering the campground? There were a few audio dropouts, but otherwise he thought my setup sounded great and that the dropouts were not a deal breaker. Whew! I do worry about that kind of stuff. I consider myself a consummate professional and don’t like problems of any kind (internet, ambient noise, etc) to make me look like an amateur.
If you’re interested in how this all turns out, stay tuned. I’m pretty curious myself.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Day one of my new adventure. It’s a five day (2+3), and Five is all about adventure and exploration – my favorite words. It was a chore to get to the place where I could finally shove off, so to speak. I wanted to meet a friend who was traveling in her RV and heading west, so that set me back timewise. When I finally stopped at Camping World outside of El Paso, it was Sunday night at 6:10 and they were closed. There was an RV park about 1/10 of a mile away, so I blew off staying at the state park a few miles away and decided to stay here so I could hit Camping World first thing. I needed to pick up a few small things for the RV. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this treeless, stark, and rather unattractive RV park has 4G service – translation: blazing fast internet from my mobile broadband. Which will be wonderful if I have to work in the morning (although the sound of trucks on the interstate might be a little loud – but I think it’ll be okay).
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The last two days have been a bit of a haul. I left the RV park at Camping World late because I had work to do. Then I had to pick up a few things at CW. By the time I left there, it was 11:30. I drove straight through to Carlsbad Caverns.
When I was done, it was about 4:30, too early to stop for the evening, so I decided to press on. After finally making it out of Carlsbad (very busy and very confusing), I drove, and drove, and drove. I was on backroads highways, but the speed limit was still 55 or higher. They were dark, narrow, and there were few cars. The only comfort I had was from my GPS receiver showing me inching closer to somewhere.
The first town I came to, Eunice, didn’t seem to have much to offer. So I kept going. At the worst, I thought, I could pay for a motel room just to have someplace to park for the night.
Finally, around 8pm, which had become 9pm due to a time zone change at some point, I HAPPENED to notice an obscure sign saying that the Chamber of Commerce had free RV parking. Yikes. I couldn’t find it right away, so I used my iPad to find the address and then input the info to the TomTom. Voila. There were no hookup sites available (there were only six spots in all), so I just parked against a building and hoped that no one would wake me up in the middle of the night and insist that I move. It was a little noisy with main street type traffic, but I slept pretty well and headed out first thing.
The roads were great – about 70mph speed limit with 4 lanes and little traffic.
Austin was 1 hour 40 minutes beyond Fredericksburg. The traffic started to get heavier, and I was nervous about driving in such traffic with sudden stops possible. Nevertheless, I made it to a state park in Austin about 6:30. There’s 4G broadband here, which is totally cool because I have a Source Connect session on Thursday. Yay!
McKinney State Park in Austin – Can you believe I’m getting high speed internet here?
October 27, 2011
Okay, time for some nuts and bolts talk.
I was originally thinking of getting a utility trailer and putting a recording studio in it. I talked to George Whittam at Eldorado Recording Services and he suggested a used RV, pointing out that it would already have electrical, heat, and A/C. Since I live in Arizona, there’s no shortage of used RVs. I went onto Craig’s List and found, just 7 miles away, a 1992 27′ RV with 38,000 miles. This is somewhat astounding to me, because as much as I’d like to say that I live in a one horse town, the truth is that there are many more horses, cattle, goats, javalinas, coyotes, and rabbits than there are people.
Within 5 days, I had arranged to buy the rig. The guy I bought it from, Dave (and his wife Lurah), had owned a solar company, so he installed a solar panel on the roof with an inverter inside tied to 2 6 volt batteries. So even if there’s no electrical for some reason, I can still use my laptop (with my external monitor plugged into it) with my preamp and use minimal power.
Their neighbor Marvin took out the bed in the back bedroom and moved the electrical box to the side wall. After that, a friend installed new burgundy carpeting through the entire rig (the carpeting was 20 years old…).
While all this was happening, I ordered a new PC and a new laptop, both with Windows 7. I don’t recommend getting new computers with new operating systems while one is preparing for a major life change such as this. (Mac users – yeah, I know. Next time…). I had to deal with installing programs, updating programs, networking the computers together, solving conflicts, etc. BUT, my old laptop and old PC were very old. I was getting strong signals from both of them that they weren’t going to be around much longer. It was a lot of work getting all of this computer stuff done. But I didn’t anticipate all of this happening as quickly as it did (I do have a habit of being impulsive).
I also had to figure out phone patch, Source Connect and those other little gadgets that make my working life easier. More on those later.
In the next installment, all about my custom sound booth.
Instead of a back bedroom, I have a custom sound booth. The fridge is on the left, and the bathroom is on the right.
October 28, 2011
Originally I had thought about perhaps building a sound isolation “closet” in the RV, but I’ve liked working with my Sound Sucker booth from Gretch-Ken so much, I decided to investigate using one of those. The standard height is 7′, which definitely would not have worked in the RV. The ceiling is 7′ and about a foot of clearance is needed to put the top/ceiling on. I nervously dialed GK, hoping that this wasn’t going to be phenomenally expensive. Turns out that GK cuts all booths to order, so I only had to pay for the next size up. Whew! I went with a booth 3.5×3.5×6. It’s a little cramped and I probably could have used a few more inches on each side. But, too often I’ve measured and ordered and then realized, “Oh…I hadn’t thought/realized/considered such and such…”. So I erred on the side of caution and generally I’m pretty happy with the booth. I have it flush to the bedroom wall in the front so that one walks right into the booth instead of the bedroom. There’s another fairly narrow door to the right, which allows me access to the back of the bedroom, which I used as a closet and for storage. My PC is in the corner behind that door. All of my cables run through the cable tube in the wall. I was using my PC networked with my laptop (using the PC for all applications except recording and using the laptop just for recording), but I found this setup cumbersome in the RV (even though I use this setup with 2 PCs in my home office and love it).
Dave screwed a closet pole along the rear top of the booth and secured it to both sides of the RV so there wouldn’t be a lot of rocking movement when driving. Since the booth front is flush to the front bedroom wall, even if I have to stop hard, the booth won’t go anywhere.
Of course, it’s not sound PROOF, merely sound isolating. Wind makes my rig rock a little which causes creaking sounds. I haven’t done any recording in the rain (been living in Arizona, you know), so I’m not looking forward to that, ahem, challenge. And I’ve been very fortunate not to camp next to noisy children or dogs. Of course, this setup is MOBILE, which means I can also stow everything (takes about 10 minutes) and drive somewhere quieter. I have solar, so I can use my laptop if need be. However, it seems that I don’t actually try this stuff out until it becomes necessary. After running myself ragged for 3 months, I’m just trying to recharge right now.
Next installment – mobile broadband, Source Connect, and ISDN on the road.
October 31, 2011
Being on the road means I’ll miss Halloween celebrations. Well, next year.
I’m in a beautiful state park in Louisiana today. It was 20 minutes off the interstate but worth it. Lots of beautiful trees and privacy and decent 3G internet.
Speaking of internet, here’s the scoop.
Last year I found out about mobile broadband (I’ve been living in a very low tech area of the country and so I’m not up on these things). So I got a Mifi device, which acts as a wireless hotspot for up to 5 devices. I also have a USB modem for backup (I just have to move the sim card over). It’s $50 a month for 5GBs and then $10 per GB after that.
Now, using Source Connect with mobile broadband had me totally confused for awhile, but I won’t bore you with the details. Turns out it works fine with mobile broadband. You’ll get a “port not mapped” message, but that’s okay. I did an SC session from Catalina State Park for an hour and a half and there were just a few little dropouts (which may have been caused by software trying to update, so I’ve disabled some of my startup services using msconfig). I always record sessions on my end so I can send them to the engineer if needed.
As far as ISDN goes, I use a Source Connect bridge (www.isdnbridge.com) which is $35 an hour booked in advance. Now, some studios don’t want to use a talent who’s using a bridge and some studios don’t even want to use Source Connect. Being mobile means making some sacrifices.
And now, one of my favorite studio gizmos – my phone patch. Yes, a cellular phone patch. JK Audio makes the “Daptor Two” which connects to your audio interface and has a 1/4 inch headphone jack with a mini plug at the end. You may need an adapter as I did for my Blackberry. JK Audio can advise you on that. I did find that the first adapter I bought worked sporadically at best. The second adapter I bought works fine.
November 4, 2011
Just outside of Greensboro, NC
The night before last I stayed at an RV park (expensive at $42) just off I-40 in North Carolina. Truck rumblings made it impossible to work, so I left early. (Note to self: check satellite image on iPad before deciding on where to stay.)
I drove about an hour and visited with one of my favorite studios. If I had to work a job outside the home, I’d want it to be at a place like that. I was so welcomed and even taken out to lunch. About 6 people piled into the RV to see my setup (although the cats seemed to get most of the attention). They implored me to consider moving to that town, and it’s so cool and beautiful, that maybe I will…
John Brooks, me, and Dan Friedman of ProComm Studios
I had a Source Connect session this morning and my Mifi showed me getting 4G. I uploaded some files and saw the speed go up to 7Mps (yowza yowza).
BUT, maybe there were sunspots or something because I was having a tough time connecting with the studio. (Immediately after the session I was going to do an echo test with Source Connect but both echo lines were busy. I’ve never seen that before, so maybe something was going on with the Source Elements servers.)
So, we ended up doing a phone patch, which went very well. After the session, we re-connected using Source Connect and it was fine (“Of course!”, said the engineer). My gratitude for a patient engineer and his patient clients.
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain (it rained all night too – a novelty after living in Arizona for 5 years), the sound of crows cawing, and the low rumble of a truck somewhere.
It seems serendipitous that I should be in this business. I’m very sound sensitive (but not sensitive enough to, say, consult with people about their acoustics – just sensitive enough to be driven crazy by barking dogs, screaming kids, and loud vehicles).
So when I woke up, not having recorded in the rain yet, I was a little nervous. Would the crows go away? (They did). Would the truck rumbling stop? (It did). Would my mic pick up the rain? (It didn’t). The session went well and the engineer and his clients were pleased, which is the bottom line.
In a future post, I will discuss Synchronicity, Serendipity, and The Flow. I’m learning a lot about all of these on this Adventure.
But someone asked about MAIL.
I read somewhere that it’s important to have your driver’s license, registration, and legal address all in the same state, otherwise authorities may get give you a hard time. Since I still have property in Arizona, my legal address is still there. Otherwise, if I didn’t have any property anywhere, I would change my legal address to Texas, Florida, or South Dakota, which are known as “friendly RV” states because of their laws regarding vehicle inspections and legal residences. One may have merely a mailbox there to be considered a legal resident.
The USPS will forward your mail via Priority mail once a week, but it’s pricey ($15 a week from what I recall). So I’ve taken an easy way out. I’m having my mail forwarded to a friend in Raleigh (since I’ll be here for at least 3 weeks), then I’ll go online to USPS and change the forwarding address to my mom’s place for a few weeks. After that, I’m not sure. But I can have my local PO hold my mail until I know where to send it. Some RV parks will accept forwarded mail – others won’t. And some POs will accept general delivery mail and some won’t.
It would be great if all my clients paid by PayPal or direct deposit. But they don’t or can’t, so when I pick up my mail, I’ll be sending a batch of checks to my bank (probably by Priority Mail). I looked into getting an account at a Big Bank with branches all over the country, but I get a queasy feeling from them these days. At my bank in Bisbee, Arizona, I know all of the tellers by name and they all know me by name. A valuable asset if there are problems.
November 8, 2011
Some little things I’ve learned from the past 2 weeks on the road.
Interstates kinda suck, but in some places they’re the best and fastest way to get from point A to point B and there isn’t a terrible amount of traffic. I had an agenda to get to Raleigh, and so I had to take the interstates. From here on out, I hope to stay on secondary highways.
I also try to avoid metropolitan areas whenever possible. Too much traffic.
When staying at a park off the interstate, try to find a park several miles from the highway. Otherwise you’ll be listening to trucks all night.
I love my iPad. It allows me to plan my routes very easily and efficiently.
Don’t keep driving past the 1/4 tank mark with gasoline in order to find a better price. It wouldn’t be worth it to run out. Sometimes you win with a low price, sometimes you don’t. I know there are apps for finding gas prices, but I just haven’t had time to look into that.
My TomTom GPS receiver is invaluable. It talks me through every turn and has graphics for when I’m a little confused. And when I think it’s wrong, it almost always isn’t.
In Autumn, it’s best not to park under oak trees. Acorns fall and squirrels follow, running across the roof.
Always scope out a campground before deciding on a place to park (unless they won’t let you). Telling someone you want “a quiet place” is the kiss of death. You will almost certainly be next to noisy people. (The campground folks don’t know who’s quiet and who’s not.)
Determine mobile broadband strength before you park and set everything up. (See next posting.)
November 16, 2011
Falls Lake Campground in Durham in November
After taking last week off to re-energize (which didn’t really happen because I had to move out of the RV with my cats and all my valuable stuff because my friend’s neighborhood doesn’t have room for RVs and therefore I had to park 1/2 mile away) and so I was living away from home and couldn’t take care of a lot of things that I haven’t had time for yet – I moved into a state park 2 days ago.
It took me the better part of a day to move my stuff back in and organize.
My friend and I drove around here last week to check out the mobile broadband signal and I was thrilled to see 4G on my device. HOWEVER, when I moved in, no such signal was found. And for three days now, I’ve had intermittent internet. It will sometimes be fairly strong and other times drop out entirely. My Mifi shows a strong 3G signal and sometimes even a 4G signal, but at times I can’t transfer anything via FTP and sometimes my PC shows that I have no internet connection at all.
Fortunately, I am the BACKUP QUEEN.
I also have a Pantech USB wireless modem, so I switched the sim card and fired that up and now I have a strong connection with upload speeds of around 800 Kbps.
I looked online for information about the Mifi and it turns out that there’s a firmware problem with is mostly noticed when one is switching between 3G and 4G, which apparently is the case here.
November 22, 2011
Okay, so how did I get here?
As I’ve already mentioned, I’d been thinking for years about ways to travel more, but I DO have to work for a living. About a year ago, I met a new soon-to-be neighbor who traveled a lot with her husband. I asked her about internet and she told me about mobile broadband (remember, I’ve been living in a tech void in SE Arizona for 5 years). Okay, so now the gears are spinning again about traveling and working…
I love cycling, so I briefly thought about something like this,
which might have worked had I not needed to make a living as a voiceover (and not had two cats).
Then, I met a man who converts utility trailers, old government vehicles, etc into campers. So I contacted him but he had a lot going on and I could see that it was going to take quite a while for him to build me something. And, as I’ve mentioned, I’m rather impulsive, so I wanted to get going on this sooner rather than later.
So then I contacted George Whittam of Eldorado Recording Services and told him that I was considering converting a utility trailer into a mobile recording studio (I was thinking that I could do housesit gigs or even rent a one bedroom apartment somewhere and still have my studio and be able to move around from place to place).
George suggested that I buy a used RV (“It already has heating, AC, and electric”, George reasoned.)
And since I lived in the land of RVs, I decided to look around for something suitable.
The next day I checked Craig’s List and found a 27′ RV (20 years old but with only 38,000 miles) just 7 miles from my house (you have to see where I live to know how extraordinary this was. Nothing is 7 miles from my house except a post office and a gas station/convenience store).
To make a short story shorter, I bought it. I mentioned to Dave and Lurah (the owners) that I wanted to put solar in (I thought it was going to be very expensive). Dave mentioned that he used to have a solar company and could do the work at cost (please see a future post on Synchronicity, Serendipity, and The Flow).
Then they introduced me to their neighbor, Marvin, who removed the bed, moved the electrical box that had been under the bed to a side wall, and installed the solar panel and inverter. Subsequently Marvin would do many more tasks involving the RV, and I am eternally grateful to him and Dave and Lurah for all their assistance.
The carpet was b-a-d, so that got replaced.
Back bedroom of RV before
New curtains were made and I started a collage of old family photos on the walls so I would always have loved ones with me. Future plans involve a collage on another wall of special friends.
And, as I’ve already written, I had to order my custom sound booth, new PC, new laptop, and other little things to make my studio hum.
I looked at the RV on July 15th, and hit the road on October 23rd. Impulsive indeed. I’ve found myself saying over and over, “WHAT am I doing?” It feels surreal.
And yet, Travelers must travel. They get antsy staying in one place for too long.
So, I guess THAT’S how I got here.
December 2, 2011
Here I am in Carolina Beach, just south of Wilmington, NC.
Carolina Beach Campground
For the most part I’ve had 4G internet (YES!), although yesterday my internet dropped down to next to nothing for awhile.
There’s been some road noise from the busy road that’s adjacent to the campground. There’s a bridge over a cut (river) and sometimes big trucks lumber over that bridge.
Which brings me to an important (for me) topic:
Audio engineer and author Dan Friedman took one look at my setup and said, “No one should try this!” He knows all the little things that can mess up audio quality. Nevertheless, he gave my studio a thumbs up.
I do stress out quite a bit. About internet connections. About Source Connect (and by extension, ISDN) sessions. And most of all, about noise.
I stress about barking dogs, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, motorcycles, trucks, rain. I have a tendency to think that the noise from these will be continual. Which is rarely the case.
When I arrived at this current campground, I could hear the traffic noise from the bridge. I considered moving to a different campground. BUT, there’s no guarantee that another campground will be much quieter, especially in an urban area.
When I was laying in my bunk that night, I could hear something that sounded rather large moving through the area, perhaps a passing boat. OH NO! I could feel myself stressing out.
But the next day, when I got into my booth, it was quiet. Once in a while I could hear a large truck, but it passed quickly. Occasionally a campground resident would drive by, but that too would pass quickly.
I went for a walk and heard a guy about 100 feet away using some kind of power equipment. OH NO!
I got into my booth and couldn’t hear it.
Yesterday I had hours of work to do. From time to time I’d have to stop recording for a passing truck. Sometimes I could see “little dots” on my waveforms, which meant low hum sounds (such as from engines), but I couldn’t hear anything on playback.
Now, there are those people who can hear a pin drop in the next campground. I’m not one of those, fortunately. But I have begun to realize that I am far more critical than most of my clients when it comes to audio. And much of yesterday’s work was for a client in Denmark who was going to be putting ambient sound in the background anyway. So, why stress so much?
I know it will take more time for me to get a feel for recording in a mobile studio. I’ve been visualizing worst case scenarios.
And I’ve learned not to ask people about noise.
“Oh yeah, it’s real quiet here. Real quiet.”
Then you get there and realize that the campground is underneath the flight path for a major airport. Other people just don’t hear what we audio people hear.
But it’s now been almost 6 weeks that I’ve been on the road and I’m beginning to learn that stressing out just isn’t worth it. I haven’t been in a place yet where I haven’t been able to work.
So I guess I just need to follow the advice I have written on my dry erase board:
Don’t worry – be happy!
December 12, 2011
It’s been a hectic week or so.
After I left Carolina Beach, I headed south for a few hours to Charleston, SC where I checked into a county park which was surprisingly expensive ($47). However, it was more like a private park in that it had a store, laundry, and other amenities. Turns out, it’s also host to the Festival of Lights, a 22 year tradition that benefits the county park system. Three miles of roadway were adorned with lighted displays – sometimes Christmasy (Angels, Santas, etc), sometimes not (Pink Flamingos, Trains, etc).
I was concerned that it would be noisy with a fairly full campground, but it wasn’t. I had decent internet and was able to get work done before I headed south again, this time to Hilton Head to visit a friend. Unfortunately, this friend lived in a gated community and I wasn’t able to park at her house, but she arranged for me to park the RV at the stable there (yes, a stable in a gated community). Unfortunately, there was constant traffic noise and I wasn’t able to work much so I hit the road early. My original plan was to drive along the coast, visit friends in Port St. Lucie, and then head west toward Mom’s place on the Gulf Coast. But after speaking with Mom on the phone (she’s 86 and not in very good health), I decided to head straight for her place. Ten hours later, I arrived, exhausted. I had made reservations at a park and called to see if I could check in early. I could. Unfortunately (there’s that word again), the internet here is AWFUL. I could barely connect. What’s up with that? This is a fairly good sized city and I assumed that I’d have great mobile broadband. OH NO!
So I checked with a few neighbors (there are quite a few fulltime residents since this appears to be more of a trailer park than an RV park) about the internet problem. Frank said to ask Kenny. Kenny told me that the entire park is wired for Comcast high speed internet. SAY WHAT?
So I called Comcast and now I have this nice little cable running into the RV bringing me super fast broadband, all for $29.95 per month (on a month-to-month basis).
(Thank you Comcast!)
The park is fairly quiet. I’m parked at the very end, which is adjacent to land with trees. There are small planes flying overhead from time to time, and every time a resident drives by, I have to stop recording, but otherwise, as I said, it’s fairly quiet.
LIFE IS GOOD.
My spot at the back of a sad little RV park in Naples, Florida. But it was only 12 minutes to mom’s house.
December 14, 2011
Okay, an addendum to the above about quiet and stress about lack thereof.
This little park I’m staying in has its share of noise. Everyone drives to the dumpster on their way out of the park, and since the dumpster is at the back of the park (where I am), there’s a lot of driving by here that goes on.
At dusk, I noticed a lot of “thuds”, but when I went outside to investigate, the thuds seemed to be coming from difference directions. Huh? I’ve chalked it up to mobile homes, RVs, and trailers contracting when it starts to get colder at night and “thudding”.
But there’s also been a “banging” that happens from time to time. I had a Source Connect session today and the studio was concerned about the connection (I was concerned about the banging).
However, during the session, there was no discernible noise whatsoever. (Thank you, Noise Gods.) The engineer was happy, the client was happy, and I was happy.
After the session, I figured out that the banging was coming from Kenny’s trailer (Kenny’s the guy who told me about Comcast).
So, armed with a small tin of Danish butter cookies, I paid a visit to Kenny to thank him for the Comcast information. Turns out that Kenny is replacing the tile in his trailer with wood flooring, hence the banging. But the banging is sporadic and it looks like he’s 3/4 done with the project. In any event, if I have a critical session, I’ve now established a neighborly relationship with Kenny and could probably wander over and ask a favor if I needed to.
January 3, 2012
Synchronicity, Serendipity, and The Flow
Yes, it’s been awhile. Happy New Year!
It’s been a challenging few weeks. My mom needed major surgery and we scheduled it for December 21st. We weren’t sure she’d survive the surgery, but she did and she’s doing well now. I think she may get discharged from rehab within the week, and after spending a few weeks getting her re-acquainted with daily life in her apartment, I plan to leave Florida and head north (but not TOO far north).
So, with the advent of a new year, it’s probably a good time to talk about Synchronicity, Serendipity, and The Flow.
Sounds a little new agey, but (for me anyway), these exist and the secret is in letting them happen and not trying to force something.
Is it a coincidence that I arrived in Florida just in time to help my mom get through her medical woes?
Did I just happen to meet a great RV service guy who made house calls, fixed a bunch of stuff, and who told me about a park to stay in on the coast of North Carolina?
Here’s a great example:
I had bought a cellphone adapter to use with my JK Audio Daptor Two, a phone patch. The adapter didn’t seem to work very well and when I called JK (I didn’t buy it from them), we both figured that it was my phone.
Then I went on my “shakedown” trip to Catalina State Park. When I returned, I couldn’t find the adapter anywhere. I looked, and looked, and looked. The company I had bought it from apparently was out of business (that was fast!), so I bought another adapter from a different company. When it arrived, it worked perfectly. The next day I found my old adapter on the rug in the dining room. Hmmmm. If I hadn’t “lost” the old adapter, I still be struggling with it and perhaps would have bought a new phone (and discovered that the adapter didn’t work any better with it). Plus, I would have been on the road, where it can be difficult to receive packages in a timely manner.
So, I’ve already told you about the RV service guy, Dan. He fixed an A/C leak (turned out that the bolts holding it down hadn’t been tightened when it was installed last year), then loaned me a space heater when the heater in the RV stopped working right when the temperature dropped down below freezing. THEN, I kept losing my lighting in the evening. It was a problem with the electrical converter, which was very old. He ordered me a new one, but it wouldn’t arrive until after I had left (I had to leave on a Monday because the state park where I was staying had a two week maximum). But Dan told me about the park in Wilmington where he has a camper and met me out there the following weekend and installed my converter. What service!
In Texas, I was driving in the evening, looking for a place to stay. It got dark, then darker, then darkest, and I still hadn’t seen anyplace in the small towns I passed through.
In Andrews, I just happened to notice a small sign that said “The Andrews, Texas Chamber of Commerce Welcomes You! Free RV parking behind the chamber building” (or something to that effect).
It took me a few minutes to find it (thanks iPad!), but yes, there was free parking with hookups. Unfortunately, all the spaces were taken, but I pulled up alongside a building and parked. I was too exhausted to go anywhere else, and I figured that if the police came along in the middle of the night and asked me to move, I’d just tell them to arrest me.
When I ordered my custom sound booth, I had a cable pass-through cut in one wall. I thought I had ordered it with two pass-throughs in different walls, but no….I hadn’t. I had planned to put my PC, printer, etc on top of the storage space in the very back of the RV. But now I’d have cables running all over the place, which wouldn’t be practical at all.
So I put my PC in the corner behind my booth “escape” door (which leads to the back of the RV). I was able to bungee the PC to a corner cabinet with a pillow between the cabinet and the computer, which keeps it safe and sound for when I’m driving.
As far as the back storage space goes, I was keeping all my shoes on top of it, which made it very challenging to access the inside. The lid was heavy to lift, and shoes would come tumbling down from all directions.
My friend in Raleigh, whose mother had just died, was getting rid of some of her stuff, including a hanging shoe caddy that fits perfectly along the back wall of my booth.
So now, I can access the storage space, which is where I keep tools, bike stuff, roller blades, etc. I actually go in there quite a bit, so this worked out great.
When I left Arizona, I worried about internet access, noise, where to stay, bad guys, rain. Turns out, I’ve been wasting my time worrying. Things seem to work out.
Serendipity, Synchronicity, and The Flow.
January 24, 2012
Three months on the road as of yesterday. I had planned to write about What I’ve Learned So Far After Three Months On The Road.
I had a chance to meet (in my world) a rock star. Peter Thomas has been doing voiceovers since 1948 and I’ve been a fan of his for decades. His is probably my favorite male voice of all time. I had learned many, many years ago that he lived in Naples, the same town my mom lives in. I always wanted to call, but it seemed that I was only in town for a few days, it was the holidays, etc. Plus, it seemed a little groupie-ish (“Hi, I’m, like, a really big fan of yours and like, I’d really really love to meet you!”)
When my agent in Atlanta heard I was in Naples, he emailed me, “Oh, Peter Thomas lives in Naples.” Hmmm, maybe it was time to get in touch.
THEN, one of the women my mother and I have lunch with every day at her clubhouse, upon hearing that I was a voiceover, innocently asked, “Have you ever heard of Peter Thomas?”
Long story short, she gave me his telephone number (I had already looked for a website, but he doesn’t have one. He doesn’t NEED one.)
So I called, and yesterday, my 3 month anniversary on the road, I visited him and his wife at their beautiful oceanfront home. It was built in the 1950s and Peter and Stella have had the good taste not to tear it down and build a mansion.
Well, they couldn’t have been more hospitable and welcoming. I felt like an old friend. Peter indulged me and allowed a photo. (I’m smiling so broadly that I’ve created a double chin!)
Peter Thomas and me
Then he showed me his studio (in his garage, just like a lot of the rest of us). And then I pressed my luck and asked him to record something for me. (I used my Blackberry voice recorder function, so the quality isn’t very good.) Of course, he did. That’s the kind of guy he is.
Anyway, I’m so very grateful to have finally met my voiceover idol. He’s still going strong and doing major voiceover gigs at 87.
Thank you Peter!
So, Saturday I hit the road again. I’m going to Port St. Lucie for a few days to visit with friends from Maine who live in Florida most of the year. And then I’ll spend the month of February in St. Augustine.
After 7 weeks here spending an average of 5-6 hours a day with Mom while she recovers from surgery, I’m woefully behind on work-related activities. I just got another book in to narrate and soon I’ll be receiving the first manuscript of a 20 book series of novels. Plus, all my usual broadcast, IVR, and narration work. I’m extremely grateful to have a lot of work at a time when many people are unemployed.
One of the reasons I picked St. Augustine (other than the beaches and historical city) is that it looks as though (from the coverage map) that Verizon has 4G service there. BUT, since areas with overlapping 3G and 4G service sometimes cancel each other out, I decided to see if I could transfer my Comcast service to the RV park in St. Augustine. I CAN! Upload speeds are 4-6Mbs. Excellent. It’s still just $29.95 a month (payable month to month with no contact), however the installation fee is $44.95. Steep, but worth it.
January 30, 2012
In the driveway of friends in Florida
On Saturday, I got here a little late. I had the outer layer of an inside rear tire (got that?) peel off on I-95 in Pompano Beach. But I bought new tires and arrived here just after dark.
Yesterday (Sunday), Cynthia mentioned that she couldn’t download books onto her Kindle because she didn’t have WiFi anymore after getting Comcast internet in her house. So we went off to Staples and bought a wireless router and I hooked it up for her. Problem solved. Her laptop is also old and was woefully slow, so I defragged, did disc cleanup, and deleted her temp files and cookies. Ah, much better.
Then, we ran my 150′ foot ethernet cable (you can see it in the photo above) from her modem in the rear bedroom of the house, out the window, around the side of the house, and into the back of the RV through a rear hatch. (Precisely the scenario I prepared for by buying so much cable.) I was showing uploads speeds of about 3.5 Mbs, but today it was closer to 2.25 Mbs. Good enough for a Source Connect session later this afternoon.
I’ll be here until Wednesday morning, when I head up to St. Augustine, about 3 hours north. Comcast will come (hopefully) sometime between 5 and 7pm that day to install my high speed internet.
February 3, 2012
Beautiful and historic St. Augustine, Florida
I arrived here Wednesday afternoon and Comcast arrived about 15 minutes after I did. They hooked me up and now I’m golden for at least another month (longer if I decide to stay here).
After spending 7 weeks tending to my mom in Naples, I’m very behind in work, so I’m chained to the microphone for at least the next week. BUT, the ocean is so close I can hear it. I can’t really see it that well because of sand dunes, but I can feel it (the moist, salty air, which I LOVE!).
RV park in St. Augustine
This photo makes it look like there’s hardly anyone here, but it just happens that there are some empty sites in this particular area. There are over 200 RV and park home (manufactured housing) sites here, so it’s a fairly busy place. Just beyond the far buildings and over the dunes is the ocean. Probably a few hundred feet from where I’m parked.
The day I came in, a tow truck pulled in and idled for 20 minutes before parking. About an hour later, it idled again for quite awhile as it loaded up a truck that needed towing.
In a place like this, people call out to each other, dogs bark, trucks come and go. In other words, a lot of noise. Despite my earlier BS about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”, I had a lot of anxiety about this place. I’ve paid for a month, and I was worried about noise. So worried in fact, that I didn’t sleep well my first night here and woke up at 6am. I decided to start work very early in order to get a lot done in case noise started up. But actually, it’s relatively quiet here. Sure, dogs bark. Trucks come and go. People call out to each other. But not constantly. I was able to get quite a bit of work done yesterday. In my zeal to get ahead, I ended up working until about 10:30 last night. Not a good move, as I woke up exhausted.
What I know for Sure After 3 Months on The Road
This is bound to change after “4 months on the road”, etc. But here goes.
Wired internet is far superior to mobile broadband (duh)
It ain’t easy working as a voiceover from the road (duh, again). If it weren’t for my incredible desire to travel more, I don’t think I’d do this. The logistics can be staggering. It would be SO much easier to sit in my cushy little studio/office and work.
It’s expensive. Figure approximately $700-1200 per month on campground/RV park fees. Plus gas. For me, $100 of gas takes me about 200 miles, or four hours driving, depending on terrain and speed. (I’m still paying a mortgage until my house sells, too.) Plus repairs (I just had to buy new tires – about $1000). Plus, I need an awning so I don’t broil in here with the morning and midday sun that I’m currently getting. Figure another $1500.
It’s lonely. Most people who travel this way are couples. And many of them travel with other couples. They’re friendly, but it’s not the same as meeting other solo travelers. I’m joining groups of solo travelers, but it takes time to join those and actually meet a few folks. I have a few tricks for meeting locals (having to do with some personal interests of mine) but this is actually the first time I’ve been able to explore that path.
My soundbooths (one in my house and a custom booth in the RV) continue to be one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my voiceover business.
Staying somewhere for a month or more is ideal. It lets you get to know the area (I don’t have a car, just bicycles, so it can be difficult to see an area in a short amount of time). There’s the possibility of meeting other travelers. And you can just settle in and relax for awhile. No stowing away of things that you use everyday but that would bounce around if not tucked securely in a cabinet.
It’s not advisable to bring a dog or another person.
Maybe the ultra-plush and more expensive RVs are different, but in my rig, my mic will pick up even the cat jumping down from the sofa. A dog or another person walking around just wouldn’t work. It was be stressful for both the other person and the VO who’s trying to work. And don’t kid yourself that the other person could find something to do outside the RV for awhile. If you’re a busy VO, that “awhile” could turn into many hours, every day.
February 9, 2012
RV parks are probably among the worst places to stay. Huh?
Well, RV parks are full of transients. People come and go all the time. People in rigs that have big noisy engines or rigs that are hauled by trucks with big noisy engines.
I just left the park I had been in for a week. When I called to make a reservation, I specifically asked if it was quiet there. “Oh yes.”
When I checked in, I asked if my site would be quiet. “Oh yes.”
Four days after I checked in, construction equipment showed up to tear down a bathhouse not 100 feet from my site. In addition to that, employees in golf carts seemed to be constantly driving around. RVs were coming and going. Carpenters were fixing wooden decks or whatever. It was the NOISIEST place I’ve ever stayed. I realized a few days ago that my stomach had been in knots just about the whole time I was there.
I found out that a new pool (think heavy equipment again) and bathhouse were going to start being installed on Monday. I was able to get a refund on the rest of the month (which wasn’t easy, because there are NO REFUNDS signs all over the walls).
After many hours spent looking on the iPad and calling around, I found an RV site across the street in what is primarily a “residents park”, which means that most of the homes here are park homes, with very few RV sites (perhaps 6-8). I have to stay relatively close by because a friend is forwarding all my mail, which this month includes all my 1099s, and the mail is going to the old park across the street.
I also had to call Comcast and transfer service to the new park. I just hooked up to the cable here and it’s working perfectly. In the meantime, I fired up my Mifi hotspot device, just in case. I had put it on suspension when I couldn’t get any service in Naples. It’s pricey, but a good backup. And there’s 4G here. I can put my account on suspension again online, and it doesn’t cost anything. There’s just a 90 day max.
But now I’m in my new park, everything’s hooked up, and IT’S QUIET.
The amazing (to me) thing is that today is Feb. 9th, and this site is available until, you guessed it, March 9th. And it was the last site available.
There’s a sad little park about 6 miles from here that is only $275 a month (which is why it’s sad), so that’s an option for next month. I’m sticking around Florida until Mother’s Day, when I’ll head back down to Naples to spend more time with Mom until I head north.
So, the lesson in all of this is, if you’re going to work as a VO, it’s best to look for parks with fewer transients and more residents. I still prefer state parks, but they get all booked up this time of year in Florida.
So, in the midst of all this peace and quiet – hi ho hi ho, it’s off to work I go…
February 27, 2012
So, yesterday I booked two months at a lovely park just north of St. Augustine starting March 9. I may leave a few days early to head down to Naples for Mother’s Day and visit with mom for awhile first so that I can leave the day after Mother’s Day and head north.
Today, I realized that this new park is only a mile or so from St. Augustine Airport. Now, the airport doesn’t get much commercial business, HOWEVER, when I spoke with someone at the RV park, they mentioned that they do “jet aircraft maintenance there and sometimes jet engines are idling all day”. Yikes. In Maine, I lived about 10 miles as the crow flies from Brunswick Naval Air Station and I could hear jet engines idling from time to time. I couldn’t work at those times. But back then I didn’t have a sound booth. But those jet engines were 10 miles away, not a mile.
What to do? What to do?
This park is one of the loveliest I’ve seen in a long time. Lots of trees and shade, which is going to become increasingly important as the temperatures rise in the next few months. The intracoastal is at the rear of the park, the ocean is directly across the street from the front of the park. Publix is only 2.5 miles away. St. Augustine is 5.5 miles away. There’s much less traffic on the road than where I am now. Comcast has already put in my order to make sure there’s service at my new address.
What to do?
Well, since I’m in a mobile vehicle, I think I’m going to chance it and try staying at the new park. If there are jet engines idling and I have a lot of work that can’t wait, I’ll just have to stow everything and drive to a quiet location for the day. (I still haven’t tested out my setup with my solar inverter – but all I’ll need to work is my laptop, external monitor, audio interface, and preamp – and if the sun is shining, my batteries will be charging as I’m working). Then I’ll come back to the park and upload audio files. The wrinkle will be if I have Source Connect/ISDN sessions which are scheduled ahead of time. I’ll have to re-activate my mobile broadband (which I’ve suspended for the time being since I have Comcast) and use that. St. Augustine has 4G, so I should be able to have a nice fast connection).
Stowing everything and disconnecting all my hoses, etc. takes about 20 minutes or so. In other words, it’s a minor hassle, not a major one. There’s a conservation area not far from the park, and it’s probably fairly quiet. It’s on the west side of the airport (I’ll be on the east side). If it’s not sufficiently quiet there, I’ll just drive somewhere else.
I really want to stay at this lovely little park!
Ah, flexibility and not anxiety.
I continue to learn and grow on this trip. And sometimes, it ain’t easy…
March 21, 2012
Happy Vernal Equinox!
It’s very shady in my new park. VERY shady.
In fact, it’s quite lovely here.
The intracoastal waterway is at the back of the park and the ocean is across the street from the front.
But, IT’S NOISY!
There are helicopters (scenic tours), military choppers, jets (from nearby Jacksonville), small pleasure airplanes, and a pilot practicing aerobatics. (I’m NOT kidding!)
Then, last week was Bike Week in Daytona. Even though it’s about 50 miles south, every biker within 1000 miles seemed to be here, and hardly any of them had mufflers.
On Monday, the noise was almost non-stop. But yesterday it quieted down a bit. Except for when the brush cutter was on the street adjacent to my site.
Today has been even quieter.
Okay, the bright spot in all of this noise?
This noise is always “fleeting”. I don’t have jet engines idling all day (as I did when I lived in Maine).
I don’t have trucks rumbling by constantly on the interstate (as I did when I was staying outside of Asheville, NC).
I don’t have carpenters hammering and sawing most of the day (as I did in my previous park here in St. Augustine).
So, I’m counting my blessings.
But even so, what’s a voiceover to do in the midst of all this noise?
RELAX. Breathe. Go for a bike ride (the non-motorized kind). Go for a walk. Do laundry.
I find that my anxiety level is heightened with so much ambient noise. It’s important to seek distractions. So sometimes, just going for a walk helps, because I’m focusing on the walk and not on noise.
Yesterday, I had one of my busiest work days ever. I had to stop a few times for passing planes, or brush cutters, or motorcycles. And yet, I got everything done.
And last week I had a 50 minute session and only had to stop once for a distant plane.
So, it’s important to keep everything in context. It quiets down in the afternoon and evening, so I can always record then. I just prefer to work in the morning when I have more energy and before it gets too hot.
I also discovered in the past week that something in my audio chain is causing occasional distortion. I have an expensive “backup” preamp, but I haven’t been using it because my audio interface is a little on the noisy side and this expensive, sensitive preamp picks up some of the noise and puts little dots in my recording window.
SO, I bought a new audio interface. It arrived yesterday and I just have to download drivers and hook everything up.
I’m dragging my heels on this a bit, because in the past I’ve used equipment from a particular (to remain unnamed) company that always seemed incredibly difficult to set up.
I also have one more chapter in a book that I’m narrating, so I want to be consistent with the audio until the book is finished. (But, actually, I’m just dragging my heels…)
March 28, 2012
I can’t remember if I’ve spouted drivel before about letting go and “don’t worry, be happy”. I now realize that I am a LONG way from this ideal. I worry about noise a lot. And not just for work reasons, but also personal reasons. I’m “noise sensitive”. I think that’s probably part of this journey for me. Learning to let that go.
For example, my neighbors next door here in the park are only here on weekends. But when they’re here, they’re rather, um, loud.
The old me would have gotten upset, maybe talked to them (maybe not), and silently fumed here in my little motorhome.
But the new me closes the windows, turns up the radio, goes for a walk, puts on the (noisy) AC.
In other words, I’m dealing with it in a much more positive way.
I’ve also realized that even though all the plane noise here is amazing (just found out that the aerobatic pilot is world famous Patty Wagstaff, and I get to watch her practice FOR FREE), probably only about 5% of my work is done with clients over Source Connect or phone patch. So, 95% of my work can be done at any time, even nights when it’s relatively quiet here.
Ahhhh, letting go….
And, by the way, that new audio interface’s drivers did NOT work with my OS (Mac users, yes, I know…but I really like the software that I use with my PC and it’s not available for Macs). Once I get stuff working, it’s great. So I’m waiting for a new interface to arrive. If this one doesn’t work, I’ll give it up for awhile and just work with what I have.
I need more photos on this blog. Hopefully coming soon…
April 16, 2012
Okay, it’s been way too long since I wrote anything. I promise to get better at that. BUT, I’ve had a lot of work, and that’s the priority.
Anyway, the order of today is publicity.
The Florida Times-Record, which (I believe) is one of the largest newspapers in the state, came out last week to take photos and do a story on me. The reporter was supposed to let me know when the story came out, but today I got several emails about new Twitter followers, so I suspected that something was up. Turns out that a story appeared on Jacksonville.com along with seven photos. I believe the story will also be in print in the Times-Record, but I’m not positive.
In the meantime, here’s a photo of me at the top of the St. Augustine lighthouse.
April 23, 2012
It’s been six months since I hit the road. It hasn’t always been easy, but as I look back, I really have enjoyed this journey. I have definitely been out of my comfort zone, that’s for sure. A sound-sensitive gal living in close proximity to people who are predominantly vacationing (read: partying and noisy).
So I leave here in 16 days. And I have very mixed feelings about that. It’s going to start getting really hot here, so I’m definitely not interested in hanging around for that.
But, I’ve gotten very, very comfortable here. It’s shady, so I’ve rarely had to use my AC. I’ve got my Comcast high speed internet, which has made uploading files and Source Connect sessions a breeze. The ocean is across the street, so I generally walk for an hour or so 3-4 times a week looking for sharks teeth. And the supermarket is a 5 mile roundtrip, which is great when one only has a bicycle (with cargo trailer) for transportation. I’ve fallen into a routine, a very comfortable routine. And now it’s time to hit the road again.
So, I’ve called the park near my mom where I stayed in December and January and reserved my old site. I’ve called Comcast and put in a request to transfer my service when I leave here. I’ll only be there for 8 or 9 days. And then I’m heading to Jacksonville to celebrate my birthday with a friend. I still have to scope out that park to be sure it isn’t terribly noisy. I’ll be there for about a week before I start heading north. I plan on visiting friends in Virginia and DC before driving northeast to New England. If you live along the I-95 corridor and want to get together for lunch or coffee/tea, give me a shout.
May 17, 2012
My how time flies!
Anyway, here I am in Naples for one more day. Tomorrow I head back to St. Augustine. I decided to go back to the previous park I had stayed in. I kept my Comcast account there, as well as my modem. I was trying to figure out how to keep my internet here in Naples until the last minute. I would have to drop off the modem on my way out of town, so I scoped out the location to be sure the Voxmobile would be able to negotiate the driveway and parking area. Then, I decided to buy my own modem.
Up until now, I hadn’t really thought much about the modem situation. But it’s not only cheaper, but makes more sense when you consider that you have to return them everytime you travel to a new location. I also bought a wireless router that has ports for wiring in other devices. Previously, when I wanted to use my laptop on the dinette, I would plug in part of the 150′ ethernet cable I had brought (just in case I wanted to access internet in someone’s house). It wasn’t too much of a pain and I had gotten used to it. But with the router, I could access the internet wirelessly from my laptop as well as my iPad. My PC is still wired in to the router.
No new photos here as the park I’m staying in is a little scruffy and my neighbors are close enough to perhaps feel a little put upon if I start snapping photos. So when I get back to St. Augustine, there may be photos of the river and the ocean that form the eastern and western boundaries of the park there.
May 24, 2012
BREAKDOWN! Sort of.
I decided to head from Naples back to St. Augustine the night before I had originally planned to. About 40 minutes in, I felt that something was different in the handling of the motorhome. I wasn’t sure what it was, but decided to keep driving for another 1.5 hours until I got to my destination for the evening, a lodge of an organization I belong to that allows members to camp behind their buildings.
Shortly after the handling changed, I noticed that my AC wasn’t working anymore. The blower hadn’t worked since I bought the rig, but when I was on the road, the cab stayed cool enough, so I didn’t worry about it. But now there was no AC at all and I was uncomfortably warm.
When I got off the highway and turned onto the local road, I realized that I had no power steering. I was able to muscle through the few turns required to get to the lodge, and I was extremely relieved to find a power outlet on the side of the building for plugging in. Now I would have AC in the coach during the night at least.
In the morning, I called the Ford dealership in St. Augustine and made an appointment. At the end of the day it was finally ready. The problem? Chewed up belts and hoses. The cause? A rat! The mechanic found a nest in the engine compartment, which is curious, since I had had the belts and hoses checked just a few months ago (supposedly). Arizona is notorious for pack rats that chew up automotive wires, but I didn’t think I had brought one all the way across the country with me. It’s possible that a rat found its way into my engine in Florida.
In any event, I bought a nice, bright flashlight for checking the engine compartment from now one. And I’m thrilled to have a fully functional air conditioning unit. Not to mention power steering.
Tomorrow I start my “vacation”. Actually, I’m heading north and didn’t want to have to get stressed out about noise and internet on the way. I plan to drive about 4 hours each day. My motorhome is a class C, which means it’s on a truck chassis, and everytime a truck goes by, I have to fight a little to stay in my lane. It’s very fatiguing, hence the desire to not spend more than 4 hours per day on the road.
June 5, 2012
After leaving Jacksonville, I stayed at a state park in South Carolina. Beautiful, but hot and steamy.
The following night, I hooked up at a lodge in Rocky Mount, NC.
I was the only one there.
When the lodge opened, I went inside for a beer and talked to the bartender, Carol, and the lone customer, Paula. After hearing about my travels, they both said, “You go girl!”
Then, it was off to DC for several days to visit with friends. I stayed in the driveway of my friend’s in-laws.
We hit it off so well that I was sad to leave.
From there I headed north, visiting with fellow female VO Moe Rock in PA. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo. But we had a great time talking about the voiceover business during a fabulous lunch overlooking the river.
That night, I stayed in a WalMart parking lot, a first for me. There were three other rigs, so I felt safe. It was right next to the highway and there was truck noise all night, but I plugged my white noise machine into the solar inverter outlet (otherwise, if I’m not plugged into an electrical box, I only have lights – my outlets don’t work) and that masked the rumbling.
I drove through the rain off and on for three hours before arriving at my campground in New England.
I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the site that I was supposed to occupy, since I started sinking down into the mud that seven days of rain had created….
…so I was relieved when the park owner and his right hand man returned from their excursion to get some planks to put under my tires and announced that they felt the site next door would work better.
Sounds good to me.
Home for the next month.
Verizon came about an hour later and wired me up for broadband. Unfortunately, it’s pretty rural here and the best I could get was a download speed of 1.5-3mbps (but closer to 2) and an upload speed of about 800-900 mbps. Not great, but better than 3G mobile broadband.
It’s quiet here. And I do mean QUIET. Most of the folks who come to this campground are weekenders. And because it’s been so rainy, hardly anyone is here at all right now. In fact, it’s in the 50s today. That’s what I get for complaining about how hot Florida was.
So, the bad news is that it’s a HILLY ride up to the campground, which makes bicycle excursions to the laundrymat and grocery store very unappealing. Fortunately, I have a friend who’s staying ten minutes away and can give me rides.
And since I grew up near here, old friends will be coming by now and again.
June 6, 2012
Source Connect session today. So I thought it would be a good idea to test the software since I have a new modem for Verizon.
Damn. These new modems have built in routers, so I assumed that I’d need to configure SC for port forwarding. Even though I’ve done this dozens and dozens of times, I was shocked when I completed the steps and received the message, “Port Open.”
The session went well without any glitching, so I guess my upload speed is adequate.
July 19, 2012
The rest of June didn’t go quite so well.
The following week, I felt really lousy. Then I got chills and sweats. After a few days, I visited a doctor. Suspected Lyme disease. So I immediately went on antibiotics for 3 weeks.
I’m always amazed at how life will sometimes clear the way when other things need to take center stage.
It happened when I helped my mom move a couple of years ago. I got virtually no work that week. Which was great, because I was working 24/7 to get her old place cleared out and cleaned, and getting everything into her new place.
A friend was concerned about my lack of work, but I told her that I’d been a fulltime VO for 16 years (at that time) and wasn’t worried.
It happened again when I got the Lyme disease. Hardly any work that week. The following week, I got an audiobook in with a tight deadline. Then another audiobook with another tight deadline. And the following week, two more audiobooks. And this is in July, typically a very slow month for voice work.
So there you go. Thanks Life. Thanks Universe.
Shortly after recovering somewhat from the Lyme disease, I called Verizon to put in a cancellation order for my internet. Usually it takes 7-10 days for the order to take effect, so I always call at least a week ahead of time.
I requested a shipping label for sending back the modem and the CSR informed me that they don’t usually do that until the cancellation takes effect, but…wait…she thought she could do it right then. Sure enough, I received my shipping label a few minutes later. And sure enough, I lot my internet connection immediately thereafter.
So I called Verizon, who informed me that “it will take 7-10 days to cycle the account through and get the internet back up.”
In the digital age, it astounds me that something like this could happen. Needless to say, I was not amused. I told the CSR that I felt Verizon OWED me. She offered to refund $30. I took it.
Fortunately, I had my Mifi hotspot device. So I fired it up and got a respectable signal.
Unfortunately, that respectable signal only deteriorated as time went on. Don’t know why. However, the signal in my next campground would make that one look good.
Another good reason to have a USB modem or wireless hotspot device (which I usually called “mobile broadband”) is for bill paying. Here, I’m using Wifi to connect, but I don’t feel terrible comfortable using the Wifi to access bank and credit card accounts. So I disconnect from the Wifi and connect to the Mifi (my own secure wireless hotspot device) for those types of transactions.
Five Islands at Georgetown, Maine – photo by John Lynch
Got to Maine on July 2nd, just in time for the July Fourth festivities.
I’ll be in the great state of Maine for the rest of the summer. Woo hoo!
Unfortunately, the internet at this campground is not very good. The park owner told me that it was fine and he’d had no complaints (sometimes I think they’ll tell you anything to get a reservation).
The internet is adequate to abysmal. It ranges from 400 kb/s to 16kb/s. It’s very sporadic and unpredictable.
So, having to upload large audiobook files can take awhile. But they do upload eventually.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying cycling the beautiful roads here. The weather has been mostly fantastic (a few very hot and humid days, rain at night a few times) and the scenery is gorgeous.
photo by John Lynch
I’ll only be here for another 2 weeks and then I head about 1.5 hours south to an “adults only” park (I double checked to make sure it wasn’t clothing optional). Mobile broadband there should be great, since it’s close to Portland. They also offer Wifi for $1 a day (this park is already pretty expensive, so it’s amusing to me that they charge extra for Wifi). It might be worth the $30 to be able to stream movies. One pays mightily for that with mobile broadband.
It’s fairly quiet here, although I have a neighbor who thinks he lives on a farm. I’m in the seasonal area, meaning that the people who live on this little road all keep their units here year round. They probably only come for 4 months total. Anyway, this guy has a double lot with a park home on one lot. The other lot hosts his plethora of toys – motorcycles, boat, lawn mower, shed, woodpile. Every morning he’s out there hammering, nailing, shoveling, or running some sort of engine or another. Fortunately, he only does that for an hour or so. But I can’t really complain – because otherwise, it’s pretty darn quiet here.
A wrinkle in my scenario:
The friend who was taking care of my mail and depositing my checks decided that she didn’t want the responsibility any more, so I had to scramble to come up with an alternative. I opened a PO Box at my home post office and arranged for my 17 year old caretaker to forward my mail. Except that it didn’t happen. Three weeks later, and I’m still waiting for mail. I contacted some friends who will now send me my mail every other week by Priority.
In the meantime, I wasn’t getting any information from my caretaker (“G”) about what he was doing (I had asked him to text me everytime he was at the house, which happened a few times, then nothing), so I finally talked to his father and explained that I had hired someone else to take care of the mail but that I REALLY needed G to communicate with me better. His father told me that G was doing an excellent job taking care of my house and property (and I have no reason to disbelieve him, since the father is a very upstanding guy). I told “D” that I had no way of knowing that G was doing such a good job since he didn’t communicate with me. D had a talk with G and G called me within the hour, apologetic and promising to communicate better in the future. So G has his job back, but he’s on probation.
Just a warning to anyone who’s considering life on the road while still owning property that needs caretaking…
Sell the house first if you can. (Unfortunately, this market is not conducive to that.)
August 7, 2012
New month, new park.
I moved last Friday, stopping to get a hair cut, get groceries, and get propane (no car, remember?). Unfortunately, I would only be in my site for three days before I’d have to move to a new site. But since I was only going about 150 feet, I didn’t have to do all the prep work I usually do when I’m heading out on the road.
The great news is: the mobile broadband here is great! 4G – not full strength, but pretty darn good.
The not so great news? Well, there really isn’t any. The sites are kinda close here, but it’s a very small park and it’s adults only (no, it’s not clothing optional).
It abuts Scarborough Marsh in Scarborough, Maine (mosquitoes aplenty here) and is quite beautiful.
Lots of great cycling roads too.
I’ll be here until August 30th, when I head to Rhode Island.
For the longest time I’ve been meaning to write about the Gear and Gadgets I have on board. Maybe this week. I’ve been busy riding one of the three bikes I brought with me. A guitar playing friend recently asked me why I needed more than one bike. I asked why he needed more than guitar. “They all do different things,” he replied.
August 15, 2012
Gear and Gadgets (finally)
Okay, so I acknowledge right off the bat that everyone’s setup is going to be slightly different. So with that in mind, here’s what I’ve got:
(it’s in a corner behind the booth and is bungee corded to a corner cabinet where I screwed in some O rings. I took a photo, but it came out lousy because of some dust and terrible lighting. Besides, you don’t need to see a photo of a PC, do you?
I keep a pillow between the PC and the cabinet when I’m driving.
Laptop (for backup)
I keep this in a leather laptop satchel that I wedge between my own chair and the front passenger seat. It’s great for watching movies or doing other stuff on the kitchen table, so that I don’t have to sit in my “coffin” while I’m using the PC.
God’s gift to the modern traveler.
I use it to plan my driving route, look for campgrounds/RV parks, determine nearby amenities, such as grocery stores, restaurants, etc., and find my way home from a long bike ride.
I also use it to read the news, read emails, look things up online, read books, and occasionally watch videos online (but I don’t do that a lot because it eats of lots of data and mobile broadband data is expensive).
Satellite radio/Bose radio
I don’t have a TV, so have satellite radio is wonderful. I didn’t want to be using the cab radio (which would wear down the battery when I’m parked for awhile), so I brought along my Bose radio. Excellent sound in a compact unit. I can also use it to hear great audio from the laptop, iPad, and my mp3 player.
I don’t use this all that much since I have the satellite radio, but in my current park, the satellite signal was dicey for awhile. I moved my antenna and it seems better now. But in the meantime, I broke out the mp3 player. Uh oh. It needed a new battery. Rather than sending it in and paying $50, I ordered a new battery online for $23 and installed it myself using the handy online video tutorial (with Ravel’s Bolero as a soundtrack). I guess I’ll have to listen a little more often now.
Definitely my favorite “driving” toy. I’ve done professional driving and delivery work since I was 19. When you’re struggling to keep a rig in your lane on the interstate with cars jockeying back and forth in front of you and there are signs everywhere for exits and you’re not sure where to go, it’s great to have the TomTom guide the way.
I hated to get an inkjet printer, but my beloved color laser printer was just too heavy and too bulky to consider bringing along. Plus, it doesn’t scan.
I did my research and found a printer/scanner/copier with excellent reviews. It sits on rubber padding on top of a corner shelf just underneath one of my tiny rear closets. There are two small brackets that keep the printer from landing on the floor in case of a hard turn or stop (which has never happened).
The scanner is great when you have to fax something and don’t have a fax machine. Just scan and send as an attachment.
Currently, I’m using a Daking Mic-Pre One preamp
M-Audio Mobile Pre audio interface,
TLM 103 microphone,
JK Audio Daptor Two Wireless Phone Audio Interface (aka phone patch for my cell phone)
I have backups for everything, including headphones.
Here’s a photo of my little booth setup, warts and all. I didn’t pretty it up, in other words.
I also have my Blackberry, soon to be replaced by something else, but I’m not sure what. It seems that the longer I wait, the more wonderful the smartphone options are.
I almost forgot about my seat!
I use a musician’s three legged stool. The legs fold up for storage or transport.
It also fits neatly under my desk so that I can easily access the back of the RV behind the booth (which is my closet and also where the PC and printer are located).
The thumb screws loosen up over time and have to be tightened regularly. The door handles on my booth also loosen up over time as well. I’ve got a nice selection of tools on board to handle just about anything.
August 23, 2012
“Celebrating” 10 months on the road with the Voxmobile.
I put celebrating in quotes, because this trip has been a challenge in many ways.
I still have noise and internet anxiety, despite my earlier drivel about “letting things go”.
It’s hard not having a car, although where I am now is within 5 miles of just about everything I need – grocery store, bike shop, hair salon, and beach.
The loneliness gets a little overwhelming at times, although coming to New England has been a balm for my soul. I’ve been able to get together with old friends, and that has been wonderful.
I don’t really relate to most of the people I meet in these parks and campgrounds. Not that they aren’t really nice people – I just don’t have much in common with them. Most of them are retired. Many of them drink cheap beer. Many of them ride cheap bicycles.
I do not believe in drinking cheap beer or riding cheap bicycles.
This particular park that I’m in is very quiet a night, but during the day there’s a LOT of noise, surprisingly.
Several of the seasonal folks work around the park in the morning doing chores such as driving around in little (noisy) John Deere “carts” emptying the trash cans, weed wacking, and using a leaf blower to blow the sand off the paved campground road (translation: NOISY).
We are fairly packed together (see photo above).
I’m in the middle loop, so everyone who comes and goes drives by my rig (translation: NOISY).
I’m in the pull-through section, which is where the big rigs (motor coaches) park, and they leave their AC on all day, which is surprisingly loud (translation: NOISY).
Also, the internet has been sporadic. Supposedly I’m in a 4G area, but sometimes the speed is very good, and sometimes the speed is very bad. I paid for the park Wifi (this is the most expensive park I’ve ever stayed in and yet they charged $1 a day for Wifi), but it was worse than my Mifi signal. Fortunately, I got my money back.
So, workwise, it’s been very frustrating and difficult working here.
But the cycling is great, the sweet corn is in season, and the ocean is just 3 miles away.
Thursday I head for Rhode Island, where I’m looking forward to more fantastic cycling. The ocean will be 15 miles away but it will be less crowded and busy than here.
August 31, 2012
So I’m here in my new home for the next 6 weeks or so.
The park is big but a little “scruffy”. There are a lot of campers that look as though they’ve been here for a few decades.
It’s a kids’ mecca, with a pool, pond, mini golf, rec room with video games, volleyball court, horseshoes, and little “train” (tractor hauling little handmade carts).
The rec room also sells food (nachos, burgers, ice cream, etc).
There’s no landscaping, thank god. So no weed wackers, lawnmowers, leaf blowers (at least not until late September anyway).
It’s fairly quiet at the moment, but this is a big weekend, so I’m sure rigs will be pulling in all afternoon. I imagine it will be much quieter after this weekend.
Okay, the good news is: ta da! I get decent internet here. It’s 3G but actually seems to work better than the 4G signal I was getting in Maine.
So I guess this is the deal – if you’re getting marginal 4G, the speed isn’t always so great. But if you’re getting excellent 3G, the speed is pretty good. I kept losing my connection and had to keep resetting my Mifi hotspot device.
I did a Source Connect bridge ISDN session last week and it wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, the engineer and client were patient and we were able to get ‘er done.
In the meantime, I’ve contacted Cox to see if I can get wired internet here. They have the address in their system, but this park is pretty big so I’m not sure they’ll be able to service me. But at least I’m not as anxious about the internet here, now that I know I get a decent signal.
So, it’s now been 10 months and 1 week since I left the quiet and comfort of my home and home studio.
What do I know for sure?
That the road can be a lonely place.
That mobile broadband still has a ways to go.
That you should check to see whether a campground has lots of landscaping.
That it’s best to ask if you can see the available sites before they check you in (I still have never done this. When will I learn…).
That time goes by quickly so you need to seize each moment you are in a place, because you may not be back.
That I am a true New Englander. This is my place. These are my people.
September 28, 2012
No posts for the past month since there hasn’t been much news to report. The wifi here is better than the Verizon mobile broadband signal I can get. Both are sporadic. Fortunately I haven’t had any requests for ISDN and only a few Source Connect sessions. (I would like to thank my loyal and patient clients for their understanding during those somewhat glitchy sessions.)
I learned a long time ago that certain things come in waves, sort of like the gift shoppers who descended upon the store I worked at on Cape Cod when I was a teenager.
Anyway, lately it’s been lots of audiobook work. Lots of uploading, but my connection here is adequate enough to take care of that.
So, it’s now been over 11 months since this adventure started.
What do I miss for sure?
I miss my friends. Phone calls, texts, and emails aren’t the same.
I miss my cushy home studio in my oh-so-very quiet “neighborhood” (it’s so rural where my house is that my nearest neighbors are 2 miles away).
I miss gardening.
I miss a hot bath on a cold day. There aren’t many cold days, since I have to follow the warmth, therefore…
I miss cold days. Seriously. I’m a New Englander. I like cold. I like raking leaves. I even (gasp) like snow.
I miss having a real kitchen.
I miss being able to do jigsaw puzzles (no room in here).
I miss my harp.
I miss yoga (again, no room in here).
But I have important news
(or should I have said, “But wait, there’s more!”?)
My house has sold, or will be sold on October 10th.
I’ll be driving down to Florida next week, parking the camper for 10 days, and then flying to Arizona to pack up the rest of my stuff and drive my car back.
(Oh, should I have said that I miss my car?
I’ve been without a car for over 11 months. It’s been somewhat isolating not having it, but on the other hand, I’m in much better physical condition and have lost some weight having to bicycle every time I needed to get groceries, get a hair cut, bring recyclables to the transfer station, etc.
It’s been rather challenging, since most campgrounds are located a bit of a distance from commercial areas, but I’ve been able to get by. Maybe we should all take a year, or a month, or a week away from our cars. There’s nothing like abstaining to make you appreciate something even more.)
Since winter is approaching in New England, I’ll be staying in Florida until at least late March. It’ll also give me a chance to spend some valuable time with my mother, who turns 87 in a few months.
So it looks as if the Voxmobile will live on for at least another 6 months.
After that, who knows?
Anyone tempted to try this?
October 23, 2012
So I am totally a free agent now. No more house to escape to if I want.
And today just happens to be the one year anniversary of my travels with the Voxmobile.
Would I do it again?
Good question. I’m not sure if I would do it again.
Acknowledging that the grass is always greener, I guess I’m at the point where I’m longing for a place to live on a more permanent basis. It is NOT easy being a voiceover on the road. So much noise – regular folks just don’t understand. I’m in a beautiful park in St. Augustine right now with the ocean about 1/4 mile away and the waves are really loud because it’s rather windy today.
Now, who would complain about ocean noise except a VO?
Except that I’m really not complaining – just making an observation. My booth cuts out that noise just fine.
But there are also planes, motorcycles, diesel engines, and the usual ambient sounds of this area. After being adjacent to the interstate in Jacksonville for a few days though, this place suits me much better!
There are many, many RV parks in this country. The majority of them seem to be right off major highways (noise).
I love state parks, but unfortunately most of them are not in areas that receive mobile broadband signals very well.
Working on the road isn’t easy. Mobile broadband isn’t the greatest and one never knows how the signal is going to be until one arrives (same with the noise factor).
Over a month ago, I ordered Comcast to be started at this site yesterday, and (of course) I had to call yesterday morning and spend an hour on the phone until my connection worked. That seems to be par for the course. Everytime I move to another Comcast-available site, I have to spend a big chunk of time on the phone with them getting it to work. What’s up with that?
So all of you who have been envious of my life for the past 12 months, my advice is to wait until you retire before you travel. You will enjoy the experience so much more.
(Unless you’re a part time voiceover and don’t have a lot of work, but also have clients who don’t have tight deadlines or very high standards for audio quality.)
Truth is, I’m ready to get off the road NOW. But my mom is about to turn 87, her cancer came back, and she lives in Florida. Part of the reason I built the Voxmobile was to be with her when her time came. So I’m anticipating at least 6 more months in the Sunshine (and Humidity) State, since I want to live in New England and I’m not heading north until at least the end of March.
Yes, it’s been quite a while since I updated this journal. A lot has happened.
After I drove back to St. Augustine from Arizona when my house sold, I had a car for the first time in a year! It was very liberating. Although I sort of enjoyed the challenge of getting around under my own steam, it was somewhat isolating because I couldn’t get everywhere I wanted to go. Most campgrounds and RV parks are not in urban centers, so to ride a bike to a cultural center, yoga class, or festival usually involved distance and traffic. I don’t mind the distance, I do mind the traffic.
So, I was finally free to go just about anywhere.
A few days before Thanksgiving I traveled down to Mom’s with the motorhome to spend 5 weeks with her. She had slowed down a little and wasn’t feeling all that great, but I made an editorial decision to return to St. Augustine just before New Year’s. Being only 6 hours away, I felt that I would be able to get down there rather quickly if I needed to.
We talked every other day and I told her I was leaving for New England at the end of March. I planned to visit her before I left. She didn’t want me to go to all that trouble (well, yes she did, but you know how mothers are….).
But in mid February, she took a turn for the worst. I got to Naples and six days later she died. All my years of planning how I could be with her in her final days (which I thought could take weeks or even months), and her passing was very quick. Quite a blessing, as she was more than ready and I felt relieved that she was finally at peace. We had spent many hours in deep conversation about life and death and we had said our goodbyes a few times already. I was honored to be with her at the end.
Within a week, I had packed up her house and donated just about everything to Hospice (I’m a Hospice volunteer). I took care of everything that I could and returned to St. Augustine.
Five weeks later I was on the road north. I took two weeks vacation (I’ve only done that once before in the 19 years that I’ve been a fulltime voiceover, and that was only last year. My vacations are usually one week to ten days) and stopped a few times along the coast.
It is now April 18th and I am in Rye, New Hampshire, parked at the end of a very small dead end street on land owned by a woman I barely know.
I met her last summer when I was contemplating a house sit for the winter and she was looking for a house sitter. I decided that I wanted to be in Florida all winter where I would be close to my mother, but I passed along the house sit to a friend of mine. The homeowner invited me to stay on her land when I returned north, so I’ve been taking her up on it.
The electric is sketchy, as we’ve got 2 extension cords from the house. So no microwave (that’s okay with me, actually). Her two hoses weren’t long enough to reach, so I ordered a hose online. It came today. But the fantastic news is that I get incredible mobile broadband here. 4G! Which is really, really good, since I was too far away to pick up her wifi signal from the house. Whew!
But, I don’t have any sewer, which means that I have to drive about 15-20 minutes to the wastewater treatment plant in next town over and use the RV dump station they have. It’s $4.50 for non-residents, which is no big deal. But it’s a pain to have to unhook everything, put all my stuff away, strap down my monitor, put away my microphone, etc to get rid of my black and grey water. Not much choice though. I’ll have to do this several more times before I move into….
…my new house! I got here on April 8th and bought a house on April 16th. But I’d been looking at this area online for about a year. I was very familiar with the housing market in this area. And I found a place I love. Unfortunately, I can’t move in until May 31st. Which means another six weeks of going to the dump station every 10 days or so.
So, I’m thinking of selling the Voxmobile. If you’re interested, shoot me an email and we’ll talk. I’d still like to do some traveling, but as I won’t be living fulltime in a mobile unit, I’ve got something else in mind. I’m keeping it under my hat for now, but as soon as I’ve got everything together, I will definitely update this blog and post the news on LinkedIn and the voiceover forums.
In the meantime, I’m counting the days until I live in a real house again. With a real kitchen, a real bathtub, a real shower, and a roomier sound booth.
May 20, 2013
Three more days until I start moving into my new house. Ahhhh, to say that I’m excited is a gross understatement.
Three more days will mark the 19th month that I’ve been on the road. It’s also my birthday. Interesting synchronicity, don’t you think?
SOOOOO, as I mentioned, I’ll be selling the Voxmobile. I’ll create a page with photos and lots of information for anyone who’s interested. If you just can’t wait and want to be the first to have a crack at owning this historic vehicle (just kidding, sort of), drop me a line and we’ll talk. Including the sound booth, fairly new tires, fairly new batteries, rooftop solar panel, and other assorted “new” stuff, I’ll be asking in the neighborhood of $17,000. If no VO expresses interest after a month or so, I’ll take the booth out and advertise it to the general public.
May 29, 2013
Exhausted. Grateful. Emotional. Exhausted.
I’ve spent the past 5 days hauling, lugging, toting, and unpacking. For the first few days, I was hobbling around because my muscles were so sore. And this is a woman who does long distance cycling and yoga!
After 19 months of living in the Voxmobile, it feels a little overwhelming to be in a house.
My home sound booth, in particular, feels rather….huge. And it’s only 4x4x7. I’m trying to get used to my larger monitor and sitting farther back from my mic, which is a luxury I didn’t quite have in the Vox.
My office is a complete shambles. I packed up a bunch of stuff 19 months ago, and then more stuff last October when I sold my previous house. PLUS, bringing in all the stuff from the RV. I’m trying to network 2 PCs together, plus use a KVM switch to go back and forth between 2 PCs and 2 monitors. I spent a few hours on Sunday unsuccessfully trying to accomplish all this and then decided to call in the pros. The computer guy will be here tomorrow. I guess my brain can only handle so much at once. Again, there’s that word “overwhelming”.
My cell phone coverage here is abysmal, but I suspected it might be. Which is why I’ve waited to upgrade my phone. And the mobile broadband is downright dismal. Fortunately I got hooked up with wicked fast internet yesterday. Plus a landline, which I definitely prefer over a cellphone, despite the additional cost. However, Fairpoint here in Maine offers 30/15 Mbs fiber optic internet and unlimited local and long distance telephone for $50 a month. And that’s not a promotional price. (I don’t have a TV, so I’m not sure what that would add to the cost).
Now to consider getting ISDN again. I’ve been using a Source Connect bridge for ISDN sessions, but there’s always the chance that the client will want to start early, or late, or postpone, or go over the allotted time. Which hasn’t happened yet, but…
Anyway, I have to look into the costs of installing and the monthly rate. Just add it to the list of things I have to take care of, including health insurance. But the list is a lot shorter than it used to be…