Thursday, May 27, 2010

Northern Cascades

We are at a Forest Service wayside on Washington 20, the Northern Cascades Highway, along the wild and scenic Skagit River (map). Our Days End directory said it was OK to park here, and there were no signs indicating otherwise. It's a beautiful spot, with a great view of the river from our windows, and hills all around us.

I wanted to make it an early night someplace with a good satellite view as well as good cell coverage -- something we can't count on as we head east. This spot fit the bill. We've been having satellite search problems ever since HughesNet moved us to a different transponder -- they lost the lease on the one we were on, which went back to Galaxy. We've been working with our HughesNet VAR, Mobil Satellite Technologies, to get this straightened out for a couple weeks now, and I really needed to spend some time on the phone with them well before the end of their support shift at 9pm ET, or 6pm here.

Unfortunately, our equipment is now so old that none of it is still on the officially supported list. After nearly an hour on the phone, we concluded that we would have to upgrade the actual dish hardware before we could get anywhere with Hughes. That could get expensive quickly, with our VAR in Virginia shipping items to us cross-country at new prices, and where we left it with them was that I would try to acquire an entire used HughesNet system, with not only the proper outdoor bits (LNB and BUC), but also a newer modem. Specifically I want an HN7000 and the newer, naked "gray" outdoor pieces. I should be able to pick the whole thing up for a couple hundred bucks, which is what Mobil Satellite wants just for the modem.

Until then, we are stuck having to manually tweak the dish each time we need to get on-line. A pain in the butt, but not a show-stopper. And once I buy one of these setups, we'll need to figure out where it can be shipped to intercept our path. It is rather irksome that we need to continually buy upgraded equipment to keep this system running, but it is really the only way we can get on line many of the places we go.

Today we will continue northeast into the Northern Cascades National Park. I'm not sure if we will end up at one of the two Park Service campgrounds on our route, or all the way on the other side of the park tonight.


  1. Sean & Louise, we're just catching up on your latest Motosat issues. Ugh. We feel your pain.

    We had an interesting discussion at the NuRVers rally, about sat versus wireless broadband service. We were the only RVers there with a dish, and everyone wanted to know why we bothered with the hassles and expense if cell coverage is "so good" now. Most people there said they've rarely been anywhere without coverage for their wifi service.

    Well, we said, then you defenitely don't go to the kinds of places we go to, because we've been to MANY places that don't have coverage. We couldn't convince them otherwise, but then someone brought up your name as an example of how you guys go off the beaten path and need to rely on your dish for service in a lot of places, which convinced the crowd that there's still a need for the dish.

    So is it worth the hassle? Absolutely we say. The love hate relationship with HughesNet and Motosat will continue until the day there's ubiquitous coverage in the U.S. We're not holding our breath.

    Hope the new parts work out. Good luck.

  2. Thanks, guys. Of course, when we bought the dish seven years ago, 3G did not really exist and even 1xRTT had poor coverage.

    That said, you (and whoever mentioned us) are correct: The most likely spot for us to decide "this looks lovely, let's spend two weeks" is a place far from a cell tower. Sometimes we can't even get voice coverage, and we've had to use Skype to retrieve our voice messages every few days over the satellite.

    I have every confidence that we will get the latest round of problems resolved and move on with life. In the meantime, we have workarounds and are able to get on line every day, albeit with a bit more effort.

    I think if I were doing it again today, I would have to seriously consider a 3G air card and something like a Cradlepoint router. But I also think that would ultimately have an impact on how we traveled. "It's lovely here, but we need to move along so we can get back to a 3G footprint."


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