Monday, June 3, 2013

Well, I wasn't planning on driving for two days!

I can finally post again - and especially wanted to let everyone know that Katie and I are fine and we are not  near any New Mexico fires.  However, it's been a frustrating, tiring, maddening, expensive few days, for sure.

Briefly, we left Storrie Lake because of the fires in the area and headed north. The day before we left I called Coyote Creek and Eagle Nest Lake State Parks to see if they had Verizon and Internet connections.  Both assured me yes, Coyote Creek has free wi-fi and Eagle Nest has good Verizon.

We saw an alpaca ranch along the way; there were lots of alpacas in the fields and a sign saying they were for sale.  When I saw them I pulled over into their driveway to get a good look and some photos.  I've never seen an alpaca before - I'm assuming these guys have long fur like a llama and had just received a hair cut for their fur? Cute looking animals, and very curious. I wouldn't have known what they were if there hadn't been a sign.


We arrived at Coyote Creek, got set up, and NO Internet.  (I had 4  bars for phone connection, but unless I have a Verizon tower I don't get an Internet connection.  The towers in the "roaming" areaa only provide phone connections, per the Verizon employee when I called them last year. No charge, though, to roam.)


Very nice campsite across the  street from the creek.

Coyote Creek view from the bridge

I packed up and asked a volunteer on the way out about the "free wi-fi" I was assured they had, and he commented that the signal only reaches to the electric sites, a tiny, sardine-packed row of sites, and the rest room area right next to it.  No signal to the dry camping areas.  Thanks!  (If Internet connections aren't important to you, though, the dry camping areas along the creek were really nice. I would have happily stayed there for 14 days if I could have gotten a good connection to get on-line.)

Along the road on our travels, we encountered this bull right on the side of the road, outside the fence.  I've seen this before - I guess they can roam, but they stay down where the grasses are.


We drove north to Eagle Nest Lake, arrived around 3:30 and got set up, and same thing, no Internet.  !@%$#!



Also, after I got my computer out to just play some games and listen to a book on tape, I discovered that my computer had crashed, so I had no computer, anyway.  But I could have used my phone or Kindle Fire to get on-line and do what I wanted to do.  In any case, it is what it is, and I was stuck there for the night.  I called Costco Concierge service - a wonderful service provided by Costco that I used once before.  They took all my information about the laptop I bought at Costco less than 4 months ago, helped me run some tests on the computer, which showed the hard drive had failed, then connected us to HP where we had a three-way conversation about the warranty service and returning the laptop to them. I had to wait until I had a physical address for them to send mailing labels and a return box and needed to confirm with Bluewater Lake that they would still accept a package for me.

We were camped right above the lake and it would have been very nice if I could have gotten a signal for the Internet.  (All the sites at Eagle Nest Lake are dry-camping.  NO hook-ups at all.)  There are Prairie Dogs all over the place up there.  I saw some crossing the roads on the way to Eagle Nest Lake, and once we were camped, I could see a bunch of them near our site.  They, too are very curious. Every time a new camper arrived, some would pop up out of their holes and watch the new arrivals.  They provided a little comic relief for me during the 90 minute phone call to Costco Concierge/HP Warranty Department.

In the morning we left, drove through Taos where I went to Wal-Mart and bought their cheapest HP computer and a cheap camera with a good zoom lens.  My good Nikon is so bad now, I can hardly use it.  (I thought this was interesting - I'm having problems typing on the new laptop keyboard. There isn't a number pad on the right side, and since I'm a touch typist, my fingers are going to the wrong places.  I'm slowly getting better at the letters, but I have to visually place my hands at the correct starting point. The delete and backspace keys are in a completely different place.  I have to re-train my brain-to-finger "memory muscles.")

Next we went through Santa Fe where they are apparently also having fire issues and we ended up in Albuquerque where I went to the only Costco in the state of New Mexico.  I wanted to double check that they didn't have a better deal on computers and cameras, but theirs were much more expensive, so I'll keep my Wal-Mart computer and camera.  I've been dying for fresh asparagus and artichokes and bought a big pack of both, then went to their tire department and had my tires checked.  The pressure was good in all six tires, which I was very happy about considering all the driving we've done and temperatures we've been in.

Next stop was PetSmart for Katie's nail trimming and huge bag of treats.  Then on to La Mesa RV where I got a new door latch.  The high winds here in New Mexico caused my door to slam really hard a couple of times and broke the connecting arm from the outside wall to the hook on the door.  Free fresh pop-corn and a bottled water later, we were back on the road.

We made three stops for gas during all the driving from Storrie Lake to Eagle Nest Lake on Friday and then the next day to our final destination.  On Saturday we left at 7:20 am and didn't arrive until 5:30 pm.  It was a long 10 hour day, half was driving and half was shopping at various stores in various places.  All was good, though, and we got everything done we needed to do.  The last hour was hard because I was tiring at that point, but happy that we would soon be settled again.

And we finally arrived at Bluewater Lake State Park!  I have to highlight that in gold, because I was sooooo happy to arrive in a great park with lots of good sites, water in the lake (although it's still very low), beautiful trees, and good Internet signals through my Verizon phone.  This is still my favorite park, even after visiting so many others this year.  I was planning to slowly head this way, but because some of the other parks we visited were lacking one thing or another and we moved on quickly, we are here early.   I wish some of the other nice parks had good signals, but maybe next year. I know they are all planning to have free wi-fi, and hopefully it will extend to the dry camping areas, too.

I got a few pictures along the way and missed a few, too.  One of the best scenes I didn't get was driving along a country road with wire fencing soon after we left Eagle Nest Lake.  All along the fence were hawks sitting there, lined up in a row watching for critters.  There must have been 12 of them.  It would have been a great shot!  I also passed a small coyote trotting along the road in the opposite direction.  Right on the roadside.  I was surprised to see him.

This morning I again called Costco's Concierge Service and he called HP and I got set up for them to send me the labels and shipping box to send back my computer.  Then when it's repaired or replaced (OMG I hope they can save the documents, photos, music, etc.) they will send it back by Fed Ex to Bluewater Lake.

I was a little frustrated by all the fire news, because I wasn't getting any TV, my computer wasn't working, and I was only getting Sirius radio, not local stations, so I didn't know where the fires were or how bad it was.  Apparently it was a good thing we left Storrie Lake, but I haven't checked yet to see how the fires are doing now.

REMINDER:  BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER - you never know if or when it will fail.  I have my things pretty well backed up, and also have an on-line back up service, but in this case, I'll be backing up from the service to the other computer.  It would cost more more to have that service on both laptops, so I'll see what HP can save, if anything, from the failed drive and back up what's missing.  I was glad I had quite a few files backed up on thumb drives so I could easily transfer them to this new computer.  This will be a "SPARE" computer now and I might, in fact, use it to back up important things in case I have another failure.  Each laptop can back up the other.

And now, a question for all you RVers out there which I'm asking because I've had two expensive laptops fail in four months.  When you are traveling, where do you put your computer?  How is it stored to keep it safe?  I put mine in Katie's soft-sided bed which is on the soft dinette bench seat, and cover it with a quilt so it's padded top and bottom.  It should be completely protected from any little jolts on the road, and I was surprised to have a second computer fail me.

Time to go - I have an artichoke boiling, so I'm going to get it now and enjoy every single leaf while I'm catching up on your blogs.  BTW, remember my "most annoying neighbors," the nesting bluebirds?  Well, I have more annoying neighbors from my first night here.  And they are humans. I'll tell you about them in my next post. :(

From Me and Katie, have a great Monday evening, everyone!  :)

18 comments:

  1. From my background having owned a computer business I would guess that your computer failures are nothing more than bad luck. I use a tower computer and it bounces down the road with me and is in its third year.
    To check fires around the country use this site: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/#
    Click on the fire to get more info about it.

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  2. WOW! and I thought I had a bad couple of days.

    Hope all goes well with the computer.

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  3. Glad to hear from you again. But so sorry we didn't get to meet up. I'm sure glad we left Santa Fe when we did. There's a fire up near Denver but nothing near us right now. Thank goodness. I just throw my laptop on the couch and cover it with the girl's blanket. Nothing special. So I have to agree with Shoeless - you just have bad luck.

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  4. We have two laptops, both HP, Windows 7. They have traveled 15K miles with us with no problems...we don't put them away when we travel or anything other than I put mine into Hibernate or off, while Marcia will normally use hers while I drive.

    Also, do you have a WiFi antenna? I use a Super USB WiFi Antenna that I got from Radio Shack while in Oregon last year. It will boost a one bar to a three bar situation, and a few times has given me two bars while Marcia has no bars without an Antenna. There are probably better ones out there than mine, but they do seem to work.

    Dave (Marcia, Bubba and Skruffy)
    GoingRvWay.com

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  5. I'm also a touch typist and know exactly what you mean... it took me a while to learn the laptop keyboard but I have.

    I have a MacBook Pro. Before that a Hewlett Packard ... I didn't leave Best Buy without a case. NOt only does it protect your laptop but when I would go into McD's or a library or Panera Bread or wherever for wifi...

    I had my stuff that I needed ... nice carrying case ... I've had it for ...hmm seven years at least.

    With my laptops, I had to realize that the inside whatevers still spin ... I, as Mac, suggested, put it to sleep before I pick it up.

    I did this with both laptops. They are meant to be used and moved but they still want to be moved quietly ... not abruptly ... ha?

    I also watch how hot my battery gets and you might want to check your manual to see how it wants you to take care of the battery.

    Some say ... let it totally discharge ... some say it doesn't matter... this Mac tells me that it is made for college students who will take it into a library or study hall and let it run down entirely.

    I do not leave mine charging after its charged. I don't leave it hooked up. AND ... I shut it down each day. I've had great luck with both….. oh, dear wood? I'ma knocking

    Since I'm writing an essay ... I also have an iPhone with unlimited data usage.

    When I traveled, I used it to blog... do whatever. As long as I had a cell ~AT&T ~ signal... I could get online and do whatever from my phone.

    the problem again was that tee tiny virtual keyboard... I bought a bluetooth keyboard and have had a wonderful time... just love it.

    I could be in a woodsy camp ... no wifi for miles ... and typed away in my van (Homer) ... emailing and blogging away. great fun. IF you have the cell phone service.

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  6. I have never seen even a picture of a newly-shorn alpaca. They are funny looking! When I had my 5th wheel I set the laptop in the middle of my bed and then laid a pillow on top of it. With the bedroom slide in there wasn't much place for it to go and it always stayed exactly where I left it, which may have just been luck.

    I'm glad you got away from the hazards of fire, at least for now. I have the feeling we'll be dodging them all summer.

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  7. Well, I hate that you have had all that trouble. But so glad to hear you and Katie are settled in. That's really weird about your computer. we don't do any special computer packing either...I just lay it on the bed!

    Hope you enjoyed your artichoke! Hugs to Katie!

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  8. I have a Toshiba netbook that I bought 3 years ago. I keep it in a backpack that's made for carrying a laptop (well padded). I store it wedged between the passenger seat of the cab and the couch of the house in my Lazy Daze RV. Never a problem and I use it every day. I should get a backup too, I suppose. I'd have serious withdrawal if my computer died.

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  9. That Eagle Nest Lake campground looks beautiful. Too bad about the wifi there. Sure would be nice if wifi was available everywhere. Probably will be some day.Glad you are settled in now. I just bought a new HP laptop from Costco. Hope it lasts longer than 4 months!!

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  10. Glad to here that you are not near any fires. You may be able to sign up for some type of alerts on your phone. I put my laptop in a zippered neoprene case that is made for laptops then it goes into a small overhead compartment that looks like it was made to fit a dvd player. I never leave it in a place that it can move around. It fits pretty tightly in the case and in the cabinet.

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  11. Hi,
    I just found your blog so this is my first comment. Judy, from Travels With Emma, mentioned on my blog that she thought you and I were at the same park. (I'm at Storrie.) This was Friday night, I think, the day that it got really smokey here. I looked for you Saturday to say "hi" but you had left. Andy must have left, too. Sorry I missed you.

    We thought about leaving, too, but it hasn't been smokey here since Friday. We talked to the ranger and he said we weren't at risk here but we would have left anyway if the smoke had stayed the way it was Friday. This park was empty this weekend!

    We're going to be staying in NM state parks for awhile so perhaps we'll bump into you some time. I just wanted to say "hi" and thank you for all the good info about the state parks around here. That will be really helpful to us newbies.

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  12. You're probably just having a run of bad luck, but do you make sure your laptop stays relatively cool when running? I use mine on a pad that has a little fan to help cool it. I had some papers underneath the laptop and I may have caused it to overheat...and I had a hard drive failure.

    I use mine while traveling since Al drives, so it's usually on the floor right beside me.

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  13. Ken and I both have those backpack computer bags. They are padded where the laptop goes. And then we just plunk them on the bed when we are travelling. So far, so good. I also have an online backup service but I can backup from both my desktop and my laptop. Guess it depends on what service you use.

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  14. I have a really old Dell laptop that I love. When I do purchase new technology, I always do research and read reviews.

    Dave already said it, but an antenna booster would really help. Many folks use the Wilson brand.

    Cheryl
    http://www.desertdiva.net

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  15. We had a fairly good internet connection at Eagles Nest last June. I thought you had a booster, don't you? Strange.
    Love those alpacas, how cute!

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  16. So sorry to hear about your internet and computer problems. We seem to have a hard time finding free wifi in lots of state parks but I am getting a booster before we set off again.

    The alpaca farm you mentioned is a great one. Did you go in the shop and feel the yarn? YUM. They will let volunteers come help sheer them in the spring. I want to do that but hubby is not quite sure.

    Near the farm is a raspberry farm and in Oct. they let you come pick your own at very reasonable prices. Yep, we travel to that area frequently. Had to look up your new digs. I hope the fires get under control soon as we are wanting to go above Red River in July and August!

    Good luck with your new laptops!

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  17. Maybe you've gotten all the frustrations behind you for a long while!

    How amazing to see a line of hawks! I have an HP too and travel with mine on top of a soft seat cushion with a quilt over it.

    I know people that use those boosters and they swear by them.

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  18. I'm really sorry to hear about your computer troubles. As a programmer, I know them all too well.

    Talking about backups, I wanted to let you know about some services. You may already know about them.

    1. Dropbox is a cloud storage service. You create an account and download a program that runs in your system tray. It puts a folder in your My Documents folder and whenever you put a file in there, it copies it to the cloud. Any time you make a change, the change is uploaded. You can always access your files in a web browser, too, if you're at a workstation somewhere. You can get a free plan with lots of storage.

    2. Carbonite is a backup service. It will do regular backups and store them in the cloud. I don't know about pricing.

    3. DocLanding is similar to Dropbox. It has a free personal account and has some security with it as well. It puts a folder in your My Documents folder as well but you have to download the sync client and run it by hand. That will be changing and be automatic at some point. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm the lead developer at DocLanding.

    Also, apart from cloud services, you can backup to a portable hard drive or a USB drive. If you need one, I can find a batch file you can run that will back up your files to a portable device.

    As a last thought, buy a laptop with a solid state drive. They have no moving parts. They're a little more expensive than regular drives but the prices are coming down and they are a LOT more reliable. If you buy a separate drive for backing up, I would suggest buying one of those.

    I hope these help. I know it's real frustrating when things like this happen.

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