RVing is for geeks

Farm Forum

Recreation vehicle owners feel they need to be hooked up to the Internet, no matter if they are escaping for a brief getaway, or hitting the road for a lifetime. Many RVers want it all – mountains, beaches, national parks, two-lane highways – and all the comforts of home, including high-speed broadband access.

These days Americans report they are RVing shorter distances with less advanced planning. They also use their RVs year-round for a variety of uses, including tailgating at sporting events, snowmobiling and ice fishing, or pursuing special interests such as horse, dog and antique shows.

A majority are no strangers to computers. According to a 2011 Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (rvia.org) survey, 56 percent of RV owners frequently access the Internet while traveling and 63 percent carry laptops with them. The Internet is a boon for RVers who can research online for maps, travel information and weather reports while driving down the highway.

A decade ago, computer techies Jim and Chris Guld were on the cutting edge of Internet technology when they started working and living full-time on the road.

“Then, the only way to connect anywhere, anytime, was satellite Internet,” said Jim Guld of Geeks on Tour (geeksontour.tv). “We purchased the MotoSat Datastorm at $6,000 for equipment and installation, plus it cost $115 a month for service.”

These days the Gulds still live and work full-time in their 2007 37-foot Gulfstream Endura Class C motorhome while crisscrossing the country conducting computer trainings for RVers. They teach travelers that you don’t have to be a computer geek or carry all sorts of equipment on board to get online. There are a number of options for staying in touch.

“As for basic equipment,” said Jim Guld, “so much depends on how and where you want to travel and what you want to see and do. Consider your options carefully, but realize you can change even after a purchase.”

There are laptop computers, tablets and smartphones. “People can start small and add only what they need, depending on their travel habits,” advised Jim Guld. “Be flexible.”

“A smartphone is the single best device you can carry,” said Guld. “They are small computers that can be your connection to the Internet for email and browsing.”

Once you have your computer or smartphone, there are many ways to get online while being mobile, including cellular connectivity, public WiFi hotspots and satellite Internet.

“Verizon Wireless has the best overall nationwide coverage,” said Guld. “We do have an iPad with AT&T cellular data as a backup just in case.”

According to Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia.com (technomadia.com), “All of the major cellular carriers have been deploying faster and faster connection speeds in more locations. Most folks can now get online as simple as using their smartphone as a hotspot for their computers. For those that want to venture further away from civilization, an investment in cellular boosting equipment, and even possibly mobile satellite gear may be worthwhile,” she said.

Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy started Technomadia.com, a software development and technology consulting company in 2006. They call themselves “technomads” who are “exploring the intersection of mobility, technology, career, community and serendipity.” They run their business entirely from the road in their “geeked-out” vintage bus conversion, with their cat, Kiki.

“We rely on mobile Internet for our business and for keeping connected to friends and family.”

Over the years they have traveled in several different RV setups, however, in 2011 they purchased a classic 1961 GMC Greyhound bus. “We built desk space in the front and have installed all sorts of cellular and WiFi boosting gear, including a cutting-edge lithium ion battery system,” said Ve Ard. “We push mobile technology to its edges on a regular basis.”

Jim and Chris Guld’s “Geeks On Tour” (GeeksOnTour.tv) website features hundreds of free articles, posts and checklists. In addition they have produced more than 230 tutorial videos.

“The Mobile Internet Handbook” (technomadia.com/internet) by Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy (2013), addresses many questions on how to connect online while traveling.

The book helps readers set realistic expectations for what is possible and helps people assess their own needs in order to pick the type of gear that will best serve their needs.

“We’ve done a lot of research over the years on this topic to enable our own lifestyle,” said Ve Ard, “and have tried just about every possibility to see what works and what doesn’t. We’ve also learned to live within the limitations.”