Spring Into Texas

Winter is really over. It has been raining like crazy here in the Rio Grande Valley and everything is lush and green. And wet.

Our neighbor two doors down has a lovely garden he calls Thorn Thicket. It is a huge attraction for birds and a quiet oasis tucked into his side yard. There is a babbling water feature, a winding path, a swing and benches. When we take Carmella for “walks” she always wants to go there but we don’t let her go in. She is interested in the birds, not the flowers.

This is a small sample of What’s Blooming Now. Hibiscus, cosmos, lovely lilies, sunflowers (!), the legendary Texas bluebonnets and more. It has been a delight to be able to enjoy flowers and hummingbirds all winter long. Being an avid gardener for so long, it is a real pleasure to enjoy different regional seasons. And other people’s efforts.

Gratitude.

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Meet the Fussnecker

I had been meaning to write a post about the vacuum cleaner we bought back when we were visiting Ed and Cindy in Dayton, Ohio and riding the trails there. Because we were so thrilled with it.

One day, when Ed had graciously loaned us his truck, we just happened to pass an old style vacuum cleaner store. It was called Fussnecker’s. We decided to go in and see if we could find an upgrade for our reliable old Royal hand vacuum.

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This little guy is about 60 years old, as near as I can calculate. It was my mom’s and was always on the shelf of the broom closet when we were kids. We used it for steps and cleanup. It was always there. When we broke up my mom’s house I brought it home and we moved it into the bus for daily use.

It works great but doesn’t have a wand attachment to get the corners and all the nooks and crannies in the bus. So we went to Fussnecker’s since we were right there.

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We ended up buying this model hand vac with a wand attachment. We called it The Fussnecker after the store, which Ed and Cindy told us had been there forever.

All set. With three cats, we Fussneck every day around here. It only takes a few minutes to do both strips of rugs under the chairs, the cat waves and the few throw rugs we have in the kitchen and bath. Sometimes we vacuum the cat beds and the quilt and comforter.
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Housekeeping in the bus is a plus; you can deep clean the whole thing, including windows, in about a half hour.

We bought The Fussnecker in August. Used it every day. Cleaned out the filter after every use; and once a week or so, Jim would take it out and blow it out with the compressor. That made it have good “suck.” Come February, it wasn’t performing nearly as well. He ended up taking it apart and replacing a bunch of parts; belt, filter but it was making this funny noise and didn’t have as much “suck” as it used to. This is only about six months into a new vacuum. At least it was still under warranty.

So Jim called the place in Ohio and they told him that unit wasn’t even manufactured by Fuller Brush.
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WUT? Fussnecker’s basically washed their hands of it. Besides they are in Ohio and we are in way south Texas. Hmmm…

We rented a car last week so we could get some stuff done before we take off from here in a few weeks. We went to Mexico to get our teeth cleaned. You can’t believe how many dentists are in Mexico. Separate post coming on that. I had a good experience with a dentist in Mexico about 35 years ago and we had good referrals. It went fine.

I washed all the rugs, the quilts, comforter, blanket, towels and sheets. I also washed Jim’s phone that he left in his jeans pocket. OOPS! Miraculously it got dried out thanks to our neighbor’s borrowed hairdryer and it works fine again. Thanks Suzanne!

We grocery shopped, of course, and stocked up on the heavy stuff like liquor, coffee, pop, beans. Things that are heavier/harder to carry on the bikes.

While we had the car Jim spied a vacuum repair shop and took The Fussnecker in to see what could be done. I wish I had taken a picture of this place because it was stuffed, I mean jam-crammed full of every type of vacuum you can imagine. I have never seen so many! It was a funky little place but the guy honored the warranty and he traded our old Fussnecker out for a re-manufactured one. Totally free.

When we asked about buying a spare belt for the Royal, the his eyes got real big and he said, “That’s an old one!” Jim said, “That’s right, but you know what? It still works great! After 50+ years.” The new one didn’t even last a year!

So we spent like $3.00 and have two vacuums again. It’s nice to have a spare.

 

 

Counting Down the Grapefruit

I eat a grapefruit every morning; have for many years now. Buying them in the grocery store in Kansas was an expensive, wildly unpredictable and often disappointing experience. More often than not, the skins were thick, the fruit was dry and there was hardly any juice in some of them. Why did I keep eating them? Often enough I got a good one and what was the alternative? I mean, I couldn’t go to Florida every morning. When we were in Naples a couple of winters ago our friend Jon had them fresh from the tree too. So fresh the juice runs down your chin.

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Since we have been in the Rio Grande Valley, I am in grapefruit heaven! The park is loaded with trees and we have had a steady supply of grapefruit and oranges. We juice the oranges and some of the grapefruit. These babies may not look supermarket perfect on the outside but they are fabulous and juicy and delicious. I have a favorite tree and can easily borrow a fruit picker for the higher ups. As the season goes on, the low hanging fruit goes first.

We heard the other evening that they were having a Bowling with Grapefruit Happy Hour and I thought “Oh no!” All those lovely grapefruit! So we went and collected as many or more as we will eat while we are still here. It turned out that they juiced a lot of the grapefruit and we ended up with plenty of grapefruit and about a gallon of juice too! It’s going to be hard going back to buying them in the store.

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This is about how many days we have left before we head out and this picture was taken a few days ago! We are heading west from here but don’t have any firm plans yet. We know we are going into the Hill Country to meet up with cousins who are Rvers, then to visit Marni’s sister near Austin. From there we may make our way to Big Bend National Park and set out on the western Mexican border trail. We have friends in Arizona, California and Colorado that we want to see and we hear the bike trails in Colorado Springs are great. A friend here told me you can ride for days.

We want to get some miles under our belts! Rails-to-Trails bike paths don’t seem to be real prevalent in Texas; several are like two miles long! So more research is coming on that. If you know of any places or bike trails that we should check out, let us know.

Stops on the list so far on the list in Texas are Lockhart for BBQ and cousin meet-up, maybe Seguin, Luling and a couple other towns. New Braunfels is nice and the Guadalupe River is beautiful. We may not make it out of Texas!

We are doing some prep-for-the-road type stuff this week. It has been raining so we figured this is a good time.We rented a car so we can go get our teeth cleaned in Mexico ($30), excellent references.  I have a huge large laundry load including rugs, blankets, quilt, comforter plus all the usual stuff. Jim wants to go to a couple of music stores. And I want a martini!

We want to get those chores done before the Olympics start here in the park next week! Too bad they don’t have yoga in the Olympics…This picture is from a few years ago in Mexico but I just did this pose again the other day. Extended pavrita bakasana.

Cell memory is a beautiful thing. Just like a good grapefruit.

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Pico de Gallo

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We have been big fans of Pico de Gallo ever since we first went to Mexico together in 2003. That was our first big Mayan ruins trip in the Yucatan and we encountered an especially delicious form at Chicanna, on the way to the ruins at Calakmul. They called it salsa fresa and we have been making and eating it ever since.

Click here for more of our Mexican adventures 2003-2011.
We went to ruins all over the Yucatan.

Anyway…
Pico is a great Happy Hour food, no calories except the chips you scoop it up with. We eat it on tacos all the time too.  And eggs. And straight out of the bowl sometimes. It is that good.

Here’s how to make it. The secret for making it perfect is simple: eyeball the same amount of tomato, onion and cilantro. Then I add back a little more tomato. Add jalapeño peppers to taste; I usually use about three for about a quart or so. Kosher salt, ground pepper and lime juice add the final touches.

Roma tomatoes
Cilantro
Onion (red or white)
Jalapeño peppers
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
Lime juice to taste. Don’t scrimp here, this makes it super yummy.

Chop everything up, mix together and let it sit for a while so the peppers take effect.

While you’re at it, make some guacamole to go with it as pictured above. Just smush up the avocados, add back some of the pico, some salt and lime juice. The key to making sure the guac doesn’t turn brown is to cover it with Saran Wrap and push the covering right down on the guac so no air is in there. Some people leave the pit in for the same reason, but this can lead to a surprise when serving.

We’re having tacos tonight with beans, avocados, olives, chicken, lettuce and pico (of course!)

Enjoy!

February 16 and All is Well

How is it already the middle of February? We are still wrapping our minds around the fact that we consider a cold day when the temperature is about 50 and the wind is blowing. Today it was about 80, but the temperature is dropping fast and will be in the 40s tonight. EEK! We gleefully sorrowfully follow the news of epic snows in the Northeast, and even Ohio and Tennessee. Even parts of Texas are under the weather, so to speak. In Dallas, which is about  500 miles north of us, it was in the 40s today. So you can see that it’s easy to get spoiled.

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So February 16. My brother, Duncan, would have been 60 years old today. He died when he was 38 on the day before Mother’s Day. February 16 is also the day my mom died in 2012. As my sister Cherie said, “Dunc came down and scooped her up in his strong arms.”

It also looks like February 16 may be the birthday of Jim’s niece’s baby. We got a text that she was in labor earlier today. Edited to add: Ransom Andrew Smith born at 5:04 PM. May the circle be unbroken.

We have been so fortunate here; people are always stopping by and asking if we need a ride to the store or anything picked up. Today we had two offers, both of which we accepted. Whenever we ride into town on our bikes, somebody from the park always sees us and reiterates their invitation for a ride or loan of their car. One lady told me that she saw us in town on the bikes and told her husband that they should stop and take us wherever we wanted to go. I told her that was not necessary but much appreciated. In fact, the last time we biked in for groceries, we bought more than we ever had. We had to bungee some stuff on; usually it all fits in the saddlebags. So a ride is nice from time to time and we are grateful.

Today I swam laps and relaxed at the pool (!) and read. Jim played water volleyball. We picked up a couple of free patio chairs for our site. The kitties had a long outing. Tonight we are celebrating Valentine’s Day with steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli. We saw a well produced local play last night. Tomorrow there is a Super Happy Hour, body painting and Mardi Gras parade in the park.

Life is good. Happy February 16.

Office and Okies

Time is flying by here in the Rio Grande Valley and we are definitely having fun. The weather is turning nicer after a few cool rainy spells but we have absolutely nothing to complain about compared to those enduring winter farther north. This is the first winter I have spent in a warm climate and I have to wonder why all those folks up north don’t move south immediately. And why we didn’t move south sooner. Oh yeah, jobs and all that.

Speaking of jobs, the cool weather has been a great opportunity for me to work ahead. Jim installed an extendable laptop arm for each of us and I have been making the most of mine. The granite tabletop was not conducive to long-term use; it was uncomfortable to sit for so long and the granite froze my forearm. This arrangement is much better.

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When not in use, the arm folds up flat against the wall between the charging station cabinet and the passenger seat. Genius!

We bought swim goggles and have been making up for the lack of 40+ mile bike rides by swimming laps. It also helps to counteract all the deliciousness we encounter here in the park and in town. Before 2014 was over, I had over 1000 miles on my new bike, all since mid-July. My goal for this year is at least 2500 miles. We are still riding to the store, of course, but that is only about a 20 mile round trip. We have to do a bit of dog dodging; whole packs seem to lay in wait for us but it just gets our adrenaline up and we bike faster. And if the wind is blowing, which it often is, one leg of the trip goes much faster than the other. It helps to be loaded down when the wind picks up.

We also need to figure out where we are heading when we leave here. We know we will go west but have been so busy eating and drinking having fun and socializing that we haven’t really figured out any specifics. I know I want to get back on the Bike Trail Tour, so we just need to spend some time on that. We have friends in Arizona, California, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado we want to see too. We probably won’t make it to Alaska this summer. That is the last state I need to check off my list.

Jim has started playing his ukeleles and he sat in on his first gig at Pub Night last week. A couple of musicians in the park have taken him under their wing and it is fun to sit outside under the awning listening to them jam during Happy Hour. He is playing The Big Rock Candy Mountain in the variety show next weekend and has been practicing diligently. For just a month or so in, he is pretty good and improves daily. I will try to post a video soon.

Our good friends from Oklahoma are coming to visit next weekend! Yay! They call themselves Dos Okies. We met in Mexico at a similar venue and hit it off with them right away. When our hosts in Mexico said, “The tie-dye people are coming tomorrow” I asked why she called them that. She said “You’ll see.” And we did. They have perfected the art of tie dye and create some fantastic designs. They always wear tie dyed stuff; I have never seen them in anything else. We visited them in Oklahoma one long weekend a few years ago and had a marathon tie dye session. I predict a colorful weekend with friends. We can’t wait!

 

Junior’s Deserves its Own Post

One of the things we were a little worried about before we got to our Winter Texas spot was the proximity of groceries. We had asked about it before coming, of course, but you know how you just need to see for yourself. Since we would be depending on the bikes, we needed to be sure we could get the goods.

When we got here, we were assured that there was Walmart, Costco, HEB and other stores nearby, like within 8 miles or so which is definitely do-able. Somebody also mentioned the “Mexican” grocery store, which is the closest,  and that sounded good to us but other people said, “We never shop there.” We needed to check it out. Once we got the bus parked, we didn’t want to be taking it out to get groceries. We needed to use the bikes.

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The most excellent “Mexican” grocery store is just five miles away by bike. It’s called Junior’s and it has a whole lot of goodness packed into a small space. This place is unbelievable, a dream come true.

The produce and meat departments go on forever and would put our grocery in Kansas to total shame. The meat department extends for miles. They have all the usual stuff, except thick steaks KC style, plus all kinds of goodies like marinated chicken, fajita skirt steak, arrachera, chorizo, ribs, crawfish, frog legs, pig feet and even pig heads. Last time I went they also had cow heads, complete with teeth. Only $1.39 a pound. The pig heads are only 99 cents a pound! I must say I have never seen pig (or cow) heads in the grocery before. When you see them in peoples’ carts, they usually have an entire cart full. What on earth do they make with them? I bet it’s good. When I see somebody’s grocery cart loaded up with pig heads, all manner of peppers, spices, beans, onions and tortillas I just want to go home with them and see what they cook up.

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These are the cow heads, Cabeza de rez. If you look closely, you can see the teeth. At $1.39 a pound, they are huge, since they go for about $40. We didn’t buy one.

They are heavy on the Hispanic stuff which is fine with us because we can’t get enough. The spices are packaged in environmentally friendly bags, not hard plastic throwaway containers. Some of the types of peppers I had never heard of, but we are busy trying them all. We make pico de gallo and guacamole a couple times a week, the avocados are cheap, large and delicious. There are scores of types of tortillas but not much bread except the spongy white stuff. The tilapia fillets are perfect for fish tacos and the selections of beans and peppers are amazing. There must be a hundred kinds of peppers, both fresh and dried to choose from.
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We have been eating lots of fish, arrachera, avocado salad with olives, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and salsa. Yum.

It is also interesting to observe grocery store behavior. Coming down the narrow aisle with your cart? Those large Mexican ladies are not going to stop their conversation and scoot our of your way. You just go with the flow. We are in the minority, after all. It works.

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The meat department guys are so courteous and helpful and always offer to answer questions in their very good English. Then they turn to their fellow butcher and discuss the situation in rapid-fire Spanish. Everybody who works in the store, or lives around here for that matter, is fluent in both Spanish and English. I am so envious!

Aside: I know lots of people in this country are in the “English only!” and “Close the border” camp but I gotta tell ya’ that it ain’t gonna happen. Look at it this way; Mexicans (and other immigrants) speak two languages adeptly and switch back and forth easily so why can’t we? And why on earth wouldn’t we want to? As far as I know, most Americans didn’t learn the language of this land’s natives when they settled here. Note to self: Speak more Spanish!

Texas is good at packing a lot into a small space. Our grocery store in Kansas was huge. I loved it for many years, but about six months before we moved, they undertook a major renovation which made it into a trendy, wasteful, kiosk oriented, sushi bar, homemade potato chip and salad bar, overpriced wanna-be Whole Foods without quite making it. The meat department had been very good, but they totally degraded it and made it into very expensive small packages of not nearly as good a selection as they had before. It seems like if you renovate, it should get better, not worse. At some point, I became so frustrated with them that I was actually happy we were moving and didn’t have to shop there anymore. It was an over-the-top attempt to make everything oh-so-trendy while removing convenience and quality. Very American, I guess. I prefer the way they do it down here.

Another thing I have found since we started traveling is that the groceries are priced at what the market will bear. When we were in south Memphis for a week or so, we were near a Kroger and the prices were so low, I couldn’t believe it! We stock up whenever we can. Same in Philadelphia and other cities. We had been overpaying in Johnson County for years. They can’t charge more than what people can pay. We were getting thick cut pork chops and similar meats at a fraction of the price that the good old Johnson County Price Chopper charged. Like $1.29 a pound. We fill the freezer every chance we get.

One good thing about going to the grocery on the bikes is that we can carry a lot, but usually not more than we can fit into the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Self-limiting. Edinburg has a very extensive system of bike lanes, so even when we need to go to the “American” store, HEB, or the hardware store, we can get there easily. We have been very fortunate while we are here and several folks have offered us rides to the store. We take them up on it when we need something heavy, like Coke or tuna. Every time we bike to town, somebody from the park mentions that they saw us riding and offers us a ride next time or even offers to lend us their car.

We got the best of all worlds here. We’re enjoying it and we are eating really well. We love Junior’s. Plus it is right across from the tamale place. We have lunch, shop and get to ride bikes.

Win win win.

Signs of Mexico

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We love Mexico. We have been going for years, so even though it was just a day trip it was great to be back. I even had pesos in my money clip that I had been carrying around since we were there last. We had a chance a while ago to go on a day trip to the border town of Progreso, so we did. Funny how you just start speaking Spanish again.

We drove to and walked across the bridge. The first stop was the very good margarita bar. Then most of the girls except me went to the nail salon to have pedicures and manicures. They didn’t tell me about the margaritas there!

Man, is it ever catered to the day trippers. What lots of Americans go to the border towns for are dental work, liquor, prescription drugs and booze. So every store is a combination of bar (great margaritas), tourist trap shop, liquor store, and pharmacy (antibiotics, Viagra available without prescription). We did a little bit of the “No, gracias” strip touring and succumbed to a couple of bolsa bags. As soon as you get off the main drag, it is the same as what we remember in the Yucatan. Pollo asado, colorful houses, goats, friendly people. Ahhh.

Some photos. More on Flickr.

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We done got’s us one ‘o them thar Sat’lites!

IMG_6984The Journey:

We’ve had all of the TV services out there and as you know it is a love/hate kind of thang! Dish, DirecTV, TWC, etc. they are all a bunch of crooks if you ask me. My biggest bitch is they save all the best deals for their least loyal customers! If you’ve been a loyal customer, paying your bill on time they ‘thank’ you by racheting up the cost year after year. They extend the best deals to new customers. The only way to beat the system is dump your current provider every 12 – 24 months. On top of that, there are really only a dozen or less channels with anything worth watching, but you have to pay for all 250 most of which is pure #^$%. But Hey folks, that’s what competition does for you, the consumer, it provides choice and selection! It puts you in the driver seat.  So glad… Ok, rant done… well almost… actually not…

Obviously, we are really not big fans of TV, but Wendy loves her sports. In the fall its football, come winter there’s basketball, then March Madness in the spring and baseball all summer. OK, yes I like to watch too. We were missing most of it because all we could pull was the local channels depending on where we were parked. Usually that meant nothing! Sooner or later I knew this ‘over-the-air’ (OTA) thing would lose its charm. Digital broadcasting sure beats the old analog stuff, and it was the right price, but that was just about its only advantage. Nothing is still nothing.

So, I started looking into our options for TV programming that would get us that sports coverage we were missing. In the good ol’ US of A, for full time RVers there are only 2 choices: a satellite service or OTA and you already know the OTA was not working out. Of the satellite services there is Dish Network or DirecTV. There’s that vaunted market-based economy workin’ for ya, how’s that going? Both are despicable, but a man must do what a man must do for love…:)

Dish is actually just a little cheaper than DirecTV and has a slightly better customer service reputation. Surprisingly, the hardware an RV’er needs to pull in Dish Network is more readily available and a little cheaper also. There’s a gotcha, though ain’t there always – a little known FCC regulation that limits satellite services from broadcasting local channels outside a 100 mile radius! Now for those of you living in a standard brick and mortar that’s no hardship as your home doesn’t move (hopefully). For RVers that’s a problem if you want to watch network programming on ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, etc. The FCC forces the satellite services to ‘spot-beam’ for local channels Move too far out of your local broadcast area and you pass beyond the spot-beam and suddenly you can only get network affiliates via OTA. See above for the problems that incurs.

There is a ‘work-around’ for this problem: Distant Network Services (DNS). In its infinite wisdom, the FCC allows exceptions to the rule if you can prove you live in an area that is not served by local channels or you live in a recreational vehicle! Problem solved? – NOT! Dish Network ended their contract in 2014 with the company that provided DNS to its customers. So Dish customers cannot receive the DNS service anymore! So, no network coverage when you are outside your local broadcast area (based on your billing address) except – you guessed it! OTA

Nice little pickle the FCC set up for us full-time RVers, huh?

If I have to pay one of these outfits for TV coverage every month then I’m not going to settle for OTA for the network channels. Most of the time that would mean no coverage! Besides, I’m paying for 200 channels of worthless $%^& and I can’t get ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX? Ok, I know that’s mostly %@&^ too, but it’s familiar $%^$. So, for us DirecTV is the only option. However, above, I mentioned that the hardware for an RVer to pull satellite services is less expensive if you go with Dish? Well, as it turns out it is a whole HELL of a lot cheaper! Why? Because if you want to pull DirecTV in HD in your motorhome there’s only one choice of satellite dish! That’s right! Only one and it retails for $2000 MSRP! Don’t be fooled by misleading advertising. Nobody, even at DirecTV itself, will tell you this! You have to read the fine print and figure it out for yourself. Do your research carefully. None of the multitude of satellite recievers out there (not the carry-outs, nor the domes, nor any other product) on the market for RV’ers will receive DirecTV in HD, except one – Winegard Slimline SWM-3. That’s right, only one! DirecTV will actually try to sell you another dish setup, but it will NOT bring in the HD signal. Don’t believe them! And, if you want DirecTV in HD ‘in-motion’ – it’s not gonna happen at all. Also, if you want DNS (see above) don’t bother calling DirecTV because the rep. you talk to will be absolutely clueless about that. Trust me, I tried. In fact, let me save you a WOS – Do Not call DirecTV to buy or activate your service! They absolutely do not comprehend the special needs of an RVer! I was finally told by a DirecTV rep just before they hung up on me, “Don’t call us back!” Believe it…

So in spite of the vaunted marketplace competition that we enjoy, HDTV in an RV that includes the network channels boils down to one service and one receiver in static mode only. If you are considering undertaking this journey, find an online vendor that can sell you all of the equipment (including the DTV receiver) and activate your account. If you try to do this via DirecTV, you will fail.

I found such a vendor at SolidSignal.com. A good price, free shipping and a rep that understands the needs of an RVer. So I did what I knew I was going to do all along and ordered the stuff. At least I did my research and had a reasonable chance of success. If I had relied on the ‘experts’ it would have turned very, very ugly…

Once I made the decision, ordered the stuff and the money was gone… I forgot all about the trials of the journey. Don’t look back!

This receiver is COOL! It mounts to the roof of the bus. It will stow/deploy itself automatically. Upon deployment, it unfolds, scans across the southern sky and locks in three different satellites! That’s what allows it to pull in DirecTV in HD – you’ve got to be able to lock in to all 3 of the satellites at the same time. When it is time to hit the road, it stows itself nearly flat on the roof. AutoMagic!

The Installation:

The installation instructions are decent and available online and they ship with the antenna. I also ordered a thin sheet metal mounting plate. I don’t really know if it was necessary, but I think it simplified the installation and added another layer of strength to the rooftop mounting. If you think you might do this on your RV, download the installation instructions to see if this is something you want to do yourself. Its not difficult, but does involve making holes in your roof – and sealing things up so it doesn’t leak.

Step one is to find a good location on the roof that is free of obstructions. This thing is bigger than it looks from the ground! I’d hoped to install it in front of the fore A/C unit, but that was not possible. So I put it down the centerline behind that front A/C unit. I still have room for solar panels, so this position will work well. That big plastic carbuncle will also protect my dish from low-hanging branches. Proper mounting requires a free and clear 34″ radius from the center of the mounting plate and nothing higher than 10 inches.

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Sheet metal mounting plate in position.

The pre-drilled plate needs to be anchored to the roof and screws are provided. The roof of the bus is slightly rounded, so there were small gaps between the edges of the mounting plate and the roof. Generous quantities of a good quality roof caulk ensured a good seal.

Mounting plate secured and sealed

Mounting plate secured and sealed

FedEx delivered to our door, but Wendy and I had to figure out how to get it up on the roof! It weighs about 50 lbs, so we needed a good plan… At first, I thought I’d just heave it up into my arms and carry it up the ladder – NOT! Wendy had a better idea wherein we used our heads vs. my old back and brawn. So we wrapped the unit in blankets and towels and looped a rope around the base. With me on the ladder and Wendy below, using a piece of cardboard as a slide we hoisted it up the ladder onto the roof. Nothing and no one broken.

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Wrapped and ready to slide up the ladder.

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Up on the roof…

The mounting plate is also pre-drilled for the satellite dish! So using it just simplifies the installation. The instructions caution you to be sure to seal the bottom of the dish where it contacts the roof/mounting plate so no moisture can seep under the dish and eventually corrode the internals. Here again, a generous application of caulk should do the job.

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Mounted and sealed, ready for cabling.

Cabling was next and I decided to use an existing hole in the roof that I used to install an external antenna for our mobile hotspot. You can see it in the upper right corner of that last picture. The hole wasn’t big enough to accommodate the satellite dish cables, so I had to pull the external antenna wire and enlarge the hole with a drill and a grinding stone. The roof is aluminum, so that job only took a couple of minutes. Besides the big control cable a 30′ coax cable is provided with the dish and must also be run to the roof, but they only crimped a coax connector on one end of the cable!? Presumably so that the installer could cut the coax to length. I didn’t have a way to crimp a coax connector so I just used a shorter coax cable I’d purchased for another little project. That meant some coax cable will be forever coiled up inside the cabinet, but I just didn’t feel like pedaling 30 miles round trip on my bicycle for a shorter length. The dish also comes with a nice plastic cap (screws included) to cover and seal the hole in the roof. Again, generous application of caulk will ensure a long-lasting seal.

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Cables installed, routed and sealed.

Now it was time to see if all the equipment would fit into the cabinet down below. Besides the NAS that was already in the cabinet, I now have to fit the following components and all cables and power supplies: Satellite control box, satellite power inserter, control cable, coax cable and AC power supply, satellite coax splitter; DirecTV receiver and power supply, DirecTV CKK (for LAN connection) and AC power supply, Blu-Ray DVD (w/ LAN connection) and AC power supply. Here’s a picture of the results. I hope it works the first time! I don’t want to pull all of that stuff out.

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Amazing! It all fits.

Even more amazing – It worked! I plugged the power strip in and powered it all up and voila that thar sat ‘lite just set right up pretty as ya please! Once it locked on to the 3 satellites, a quick call to SolidSignal and the dish was activated on the DirecTV network and we were in business. IMG_6990 IMG_6989IMG_6988IMG_6986

All in all, the install was fairly simple. Now we have TNF, SNF, MNF and all the playoffs plus more talking heads than anyone could possibly need. How is it possible to have SO MUCH TO SAY about football? I like HBO too.  March Madness in the spring, and so much more. Oh how did we live without this??

Merry Christmas from the Rio Grande Valley

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Merry Christmas to all.

Being here in south Texas doesn’t seem like a “normal” Christmas. Warm days, flowering trees, swimming and bike riding aren’t what we are used to in December. But we are working hard on them daily and we are making much progress! I am really enjoying the low key/low expectation season.

Now I think all the hustle/bustle of the holidays is (even more) manufactured to keep peoples’ minds off the weather. How’s that working out for ya’?

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