Then and Now

April 2, 2016

So, I said I’d discuss the differences between traveling in 2011 and 2016. I’ll also talk about the differences between that rig and this one.

Back in 2011, mobile broadband was in its infancy. There are more choices now, although I can’t really tell you what those all are. I still have my original Mifi device (through ATT), but I find it rather archaic that you have to pay a “reactivation” charge on top of a monthly fee. Plus, you’re paying for data used, which can get quite pricey when you’re uploading audio files by day and watching a few videos at night (last year it cost me $200 for one month of service!). I would gladly pay $100 a month for good fast mobile broadband with no limits on data usage. Of course, I only travel for a few months a year. I’ve heard that you can tether with your Sprint-enabled phone, but I’m loathe to give up my T Mobile service, since it works in about 200 countries worldwide with no extra data charges (you will be on a slower network, however) and only 20 cents a minute for phone calls. That’s pretty terrific when I’m on vacation in Canada or Europe.

Five years ago, I had my desktop bungee corded to the corner of my back bedroom-turned-office space. If I didn’t have broadband somewhere, I would have to fire up my laptop, transfer files, and then find a place with free Wifi to upload everything. A bit of a pain.

Now, I have a super light and small laptop that can handle everything I ask it to (although I have to use a USB hub, since the laptop only has 2 USB ports and I have about 6 peripherals, including my wireless mouse/keyboard, audio interface, printer, and a few other things). I can unplug the laptop, grab the wireless mouse/keyboard, and USB for those and bring them into the van if I want to work there for a while, or bring them into a coffee shop or other place to use the wifi (which has not happened to date, by the way, except here at the park office).

I bought my iPad shortly before I left in 2011. It was incredibly valuable. I could determine the route I wanted to take to my next destination, divide it into segments, and find campgrounds, gas stations, and stores. In Austin, I used it to see a bird’s eye view of the Whole Foods Store there to determine if the parking lot could accommodate my rig (it couldn’t, but the adjacent lot could). I’d love to get an iPad Mini, but I just can’t justify that (I’m a thrifty New Englander) since I still have my iPad2 and a Samsung Galaxy 4.

And, there are an astounding number of apps today. Info about free camping sites, cell phone coverage in different areas, and probably dozens of others that I don’t know about. There are Facebook groups for traveling women, traveling singles, etc (I have to admit that I really don’t look at these. I actually don’t really use Facebook much at all. I don’t know why that is. I’ve tried being more active there, but I end up just reading a few posts and then doing something offline that interests me more.)

That Rig and This One

So, the original Voxmobile was 27 feet and built in 1993. It didn’t have many miles on it when I bought it (under 30,000, I believe), but it had been in the Southwest for years, and the relentless sun (which is completely overrated, by the way) takes a toll.

It was convenient having the booth in the back bedroom and quite luxurious having a dinette table. I wasn’t crazy about having to climb a ladder to get into bed (actually, climbing the ladder up wasn’t bad – I really didn’t like having to climb down in the middle of the night for you-know-what…). The fridge was small, but big enough for my needs. I didn’t have a car, but brought along my 3 bicycles.

Son of Voxmobile is a camper van, about 20 feet long. Intrepid The Mobile Studio (as you know) is in a cargo trailer that I tow. The van is small (cramped, actually) but kinda cool because it reminds me of being a kid and young adult and “roughing it”. I went cross country in my first van when I was 20. It was just a van. No galley, no toilet – just a primitive bed with storage underneath. When I was 32, I went cross country on my bicycle. I was with a group and we camped on school grounds. I ate most of my meals either sitting on the ground or a park bench or at a picnic table. So by comparison, this is much cushier. But still, very small. And it’s absolutely critical to change the cat litter frequently. (I keep the litter box on the floor underneath the steering wheel.It’s a little close to my tiny little table, but it’s the only choice I have.)

Despite the fact that it’s so small, I like all the choices this rig affords me. If I wanted/needed to, I could disconnect the van (electric/water/sewer) and drive somewhere (after putting everything away and securing stuff inside). I can park in most parking spaces. AND, here in my little park in St. Augustine, my friend and neighbor has a hitch on his minivan, so if I really needed to get a lot of work done and there was too much noise, I could borrow his minivan (which smells like wet dog and old bait) and tow the studio to a quieter place. With the solar panels on the roof, I don’t have to worry about having power (yes!!).

Another fun option is if I want to travel around a bit in the summer. I wouldn’t have to take “official” time off. I’m thinking of getting a new car this year, and if I do, I’ll make sure it has a hitch and the towing capacity to handle the trailer. I’m a cyclist, and it would be fun to go somewhere for a while to explore and still be able to work. It’s a bit of work to dismantle the home studio and set everything up in the trailer, but I think with a few extra pieces of equipment and some practice sessions, I could probably get it down to a science.

Other Options

I walk around the park here a lot. Always have. So I see all kinds of rigs. The other day I saw a jeep with a platform on top with a tent!

Anyway, there are 5th wheels, which are pulled by (usually) pickup trucks. This wouldn’t work because I need to tow the trailer. Class C rigs are the ones you drive with sleeping quarters over the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Class B rigs are on a bus chassis and are usually bigger. Motor coaches are gigantic. The bigger rigs don’t interest me at all. I’m much more fascinated by the smaller units. It feels more like an adventure.

There’s also something called a Toy Hauler. This is a rig the ones I’ve seen have been 5th wheels) that has a section in the back for a motorcycle or ATV. The back of it opens up like a ramp, although you can probably get a barn door instead. There’s a door inside that leads to the main cabin. There aren’t that many of this kind (that I know of), so I don’t think there are a ton of options with that type. But it would be cool to have a studio in the back of one of these.

Plus, there’s the pickup truck with the camper on top. I love those! Again, it would be rather cramped, but you can still tow the trailer, plus you’ve got the pickup truck to drive around if you leave the camper part at a park.

So, there you have it. Then and now. That rig and this one. Sorry there aren’t any photos. I should take photos of the inside of the trailer, but it’s a mess and it’s raining today….

I leave here in 2 1/2 weeks. I’m just about ready to get back to Maine. Sometimes it’s so hot and humid here that it’s unbearable. And it’s only April 2nd! But I can always leave early.

I love having options.


2 thoughts on “Then and Now

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