Sleepless in RV-attle
Full-time living in an RV puts a premium on personal space; there’s much less of it to go around, and what little of it there is changes from hour to hour. Tired of staring at that same face all day every day? Outdoor activities might be the best answer during the day, but at night you could try escaping to the bedroom for some quiet you-time while your significant other lounges in the front of the rig - until they want to go to sleep, that is, then you have to switch places.
That works fine a lot of the time, but what do you do while they’re sound asleep at 3am and you’re still wide awake? Sound really carries inside an RV and you know you have to be quiet, so polishing up your tap dancing routine is pretty much out of the question. But you can’t just sit there staring at the walls - you’ll go nuts! - which is exactly the situation I found myself in last night. What did I do and how did I do it? I’m glad you asked.
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. -Dr. Suess
I read extensively, though typically not fiction. I’m a glutton for non-fiction information on just about any subject; world news, how-to’s, history, owner’s manuals, appliance manuals, technical manuals, etc., and especially anything having to do with RVs - maintenance, remodeling, parks, safety, etc. I scour RVillage.com almost every night to find those little tidbits I might have missed earlier in the day, but I also count on my Kindle Fire HD tablet to deliver just what I’m looking for right when I need it most.
The best thing about Kindle tablets is that you don’t have to carry around all those heavy, space-hogging books and magazines. Plus, Kindles can be constantly updated with the latest offerings so you’ll never have to worry about being out of date… like the time I tried to change the spark plugs in an all-electric car.
I know, I know… some of you have an almost-romantic attraction to actual books - the cover’s gentle caress; the intoxicating perfume of the pages; their gentle whisper as they turn under your touch (ahem!) While I concede that tablets aren’t exactly the most romantic alternative, they are inarguably far more practical - especially while RVing.
TV or not TV... that is the question.
Watching the boob-tube is another option, of course, with the sound very low or with headphones if you’re lucky enough to have them. Personally, I don’t like watching broadcast TV because of all the silly commercials, and cable is an option only in a few RV parks and even then the signal is often pretty sketchy. We do carry an extensive library of DVD’s with us in a compact carrying case, but watching those over and over can get old after awhile.
If you're an Amazon Prime member - and every RVer really should be - then you have access to all the entertainment you could ever want. You can stream thousands of movies and TV shows or listen to music from every generation through your phone, your computer or even your previously mentioned Kindle tablet!
Another extremely reasonable option is Amazon’s Fire TV. We have both the Fire TV HD for our larger front television (with the higher resolution) and the Fire TV Stick for our smaller unit in the bedroom. We originally purchased them for our stix-n-brix house but they transferred seamlessly to our RV. Much of the content on Amazon TV is free with your Prime membership, but there are several subscriptions available as well. We subscribe to HBO Now, Showtime and Netflix, and even with the annual Amazon Prime membership it all costs a lot less than renting movies or paying for cable.
Take my WiFi, please.
But all those electronic entertainment options require internet connectivity, and that’s one of the things RVers struggle with most while on the road. RV park Wifi is notoriously slow and finicky to connect with, but that’s one of the benefits of being up so late (or so early, depending on your perspective): Everyone else in the park is probably asleep so you may be the only one using it, making it possible to stream right off the free Wifi like I did last night.
One of the most common issues with a park’s WiFi is a simple matter of signal strength; if their Wifi signal is broadcast from the office in the front of the park and you’re parked way in the back, you’re likely going to have a difficult time connecting and/or staying connected. A Wifi Ranger can be an enormous help bringing in those weaker park signals, and you may even be able to pick up stronger signals from nearby stores like Starbucks or other local business. A strong signal doesn’t guarantee it has the bandwidth for you and everyone else in the park to stream Netflix or YouTube but it’s a great start.
Even if free WiFi isn’t an option, like in a slow park or while boondocking, you still have many more options available to explore. RVillage friends Chris and Cherie from Technomadia have written (and updated) and extremely useful guide for RVers trying to connect on the road. In it they’re asked, “What is the best way to keep connected while RVing?” Their reply is simple: “Whatever works best at your current location.”
That may sound vague or over-simplified, but all it really means is that you want to give yourself as many options as are practical for you to find the one that works best at any given place and time. For instance, we use a combination of free park Wifi, our cellular service’s unlimited data plan plus 20GB hotspot and a Verizon Mifi jetpack, which is really just a dedicated mobile hotspot. By having these three options available to us, we’re virtually never without internet connectivity - unless we’re boondocking way out in the middle of nowhere, in which case we probably don’t want to be connected to anything anyway.
Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.
Night time is also when I do most of our trip planning. Like many RVers, we love the freedom of being able to go wherever we want whenever we want, but in a 42’ rig towing a car you have to plan at least a little bit in advance; we don’t have the luxury of simply making a u-turn when the road gets a little dicey. That’s where our Garmin RV760 LMT comes in so handy; I’ve mentioned before how much I love the unit and it’s accompanying mapping software BaseCamp, but I’m kind of a gadget and software geek so things like that appeal to my nature.
As much as I love the Garmin and BaseCamp, I have to admit the mapping software isn’t for the faint of heart. It has a pretty steep learning curve to get over, but that’s because of how robust the software itself is. There are easier mapping tools out there but none compare to BaseCamp in my opinion. Even so, you should never rely on any single source of information - especially for trip planning - which is why I also heavily rely on the series of ebooks from Mountain Directory. They’re not only chock full of extremely valuable information - like grade warnings, low clearances, sharp curves, speed restrictions, runaway ramps, etc. - they also make very good bedtime reading; as important as the information is, it’s pretty dry stuff so you’ll likely be asleep in no time.
Travel safe. Travel well. Travel often.