Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trading Places.....Trading Homes

usbackroads:  Trading Places......Trading Homes

As I started my career as a professional Forester I discovered that I was living and working in places that people vacationed.  The thought that I could trade my home for a home elsewhere for a couple of weeks came to mind, but I was unsure how to make it happen.   It was years later that I discovered that school teachers had been trading homes for years and had several web sites to facilitate trades.

If you search the web on home exchanges there are sites that show sites available for trades.  No recommendations.  We just ask people that advertise vacation homes for rent and ask if they want to trade.

Our trades for our Wenatchee area home included the San Juan Islands, Long Beach and Sequim in Washington state, Sedona, Napa Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains,  Baja California, and the Yucatan in Mexico.

I even agreed to a trade for a home in Paris, Texas.  Unfortunately, I misunderstood and  it turned our to be Paris, FRANCE.  Been there done that in 1976.  I did have great guide service provided by the CIA, but that is another story.  Alexandra and Susie did get to spend ten days in Paris, France while I stayed home.

There are upsides and downsides to trading homes.  The good news is that we have never had an issue with security or theft.  The downsides are more subtle.  Some people want to include vehicles in the trade.  We have stayed away from that trade due to liability concerns.d

Equal trades seldom happen.  You will either get a nicer home than yours or one that does not quite measure up.  It is part of the trade.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  However, in the long run it probably all evens up.  And then sometimes you get a jewel of a trade.

Would you go there if you did not have a trade?  The good news is that some trades turn out to be worthwhile even if you were not interested in the area.  Our Yucatan trade fit into that category.  I probably would have never gone on my own.  It was a worthwhile trip, one that I would not have taken, but the trade made me take the trip.

Saving money.  You do save money on accommodations.  But if you have to fly there, the accommodations become a minor part of the cost.  In some situations, it is probably better to spend the money for better locations than your trade.  Get an address or better yet a lat/long for the property and check it out with Google Earth.   If you can drive to the trade you definitely get a cheap vacation.

Community.  One advantage to a trade is that many times you get to be part of the community.  Neighbors will come by and check you out.  In Yucatan, we got invited to several "end of the world" parties, plus Christmas, plus New Years and lets just get together.  It was one of the best parts of the trip.  All of our best trips were we became part of the local community if only for three weeks.

Arranging the time for the trade is also an issue.  The best and easiest trades are with people that own vacation or second homes.  In many cases, they already rent their homes and they are set-up for guest visitors.  Trading primary homes is a bit more difficult since THEY have to go on vacation so you can stay in the house.   However, if you have plenty of free time than you can easily work around other peoples schedules.

Pets can also be an issue.  We have had to kennel our pets in several cases.  We have also had a nice black lab keep an eye on us during the exchange.  Be upfront with pets.  People with pet allergies really cannot have a pet living in their house for a week even if they are gone during that time.

The trading sites are full of urban trades.  There is a real lack of good stuff, like a trade for a farm with pheasants in the Dakotas or eastern Montana.  I would trade in a flash for a cabin on a good British Columbia fly fishing lake, instead we traded for 10 days in Paris!!

It is an interesting way to explore the world.  Trading places and trading homes.  You don't have to be a professional Forester to do it, but it helps.

Friday, July 19, 2013

IPAD in the usbackroads??

usbackroads product--IPAD

This posting focuses on the IPAD however, if you do not have a tablet the Android and other tablets do the same thing the IPAD does in many cases.  Sometimes, just not as easy or as well.

The IPAD a usbackroads product??  Really??

As Apple itself says "Designed in California"....with the unstated line of built in China.  Be forewarned this device is designed to be connected to the internet.  Which is really surprising since our experience with broadband access in California was so dismal.  However, in Wenatchee with our standard fiber service of 100mbps provided by the local public utility the IPAD is a joy to use.  On the road, in California, it was to use when possible.  However, it is still a handy device for backroads.

The typical stuff that a tablet is used for was covered in the previous postings.  It is great for magazines, adequate for books, and fair for storing of product manuals.

It is great for podcasts and watching video's or movies.  In my case, I subscribed to MLB.COM which has all the radio broadcasts for major league baseball and one TV game a day.  It is great for watching baseball if you can find a fast enough broadband connection!

Skype.  I loaded Skype on the IPAD and can use it to make phone calls.  If it had a headset it would be even better.  If you have hobbies, the camera can be used to show people how to tie a fly, set up a telescope, or anything else in the world.

Camera.  The IPAD has a camera that takes pretty good pictures.  And it is always there for use.  The pictures on this blog posting were ALL taken with the IPAD.  I wonder if anybody makes an underwater case for the IPAD?

All this stuff is fine, but how can you use the IPAD on usbackroads.  Well, you can put a GPS program on it and get rid of your GPS.  We kept our GPS, but it is an option if you do not want to carry lots of stuff.

Field guides.  Astronomy guides, bird guides, guides to tracks and scats, spiders, wildflowers, and a thousand other guides for the natural world.  All of them will fit on your IPAD or tablet.  They are easier and quicker to use than printed field guides.  In fact, the era of printed field guides is pretty much over.  This is a great savings in weight and you can have all your guides with you instead of just picking and choosing the few you think you will need.

Maps.  I have a collection of paper maps that fills several large boxes.  I think, Foresters collect maps like old ladies collect spoons and other knick-knacks.   You can store all those maps on your IPAD.  I use it for trips we will be taking.  A screen snapshot of google maps gives you all the detail you need in a large scale map.  Works well on the bicycle with limited storage space.

The one advantage I had as a professional Forester was access to air photographs.  I do admit to spending time in the Forest Service air photo file cabinets planning hikes and fishing trips.  There is a lot of information you can gleam from a photograph taken from 10,000 feet.

These days there is Google earth where government photos are placed on-line for everybody to use.  Wait, these photo's should be limited to professional's for security reasons!!!   But now every Tom, Dick and Harry has access.

Call up Google Earth on a tablet and take a screen snapshot.  So if you want to explore the Mayan ruins in Coba you can do the initial exploration on your tablet.  This works even better for hiking above alpine areas or scoping out fishing lakes.  Next trip, try doing it with Google Earth before you leave you home base.

There is/was talk of the tablet or IPAD replacing a PC.  Not really, if you are inputting data or information like working on a blog  you really want a PC.  The tablet does not function well as a device for inputting lots of keystrokes.

Reading, analyzing or viewing already created data is where the tablet or IPAD works best.

For being connected on backroads my recommendations is a good smartphone with hotspot capability and a good antenna.  A tablet for displaying all that stuff you usually carry with you like maps, photos, magazines, and other stuff.  And a laptop for data input and manipulation.

When Job's introduced the tablet is was widely predicted to be his first failure (doesn't LISA count??).  Why would anybody want a IPAD??  He knew that you would want one, before you knew you wanted one!

An IPAD or Android tablet?  Maybe a Windows tablet??  I won't make a specific recommendation, except if you have an IPHONE you already know how to run and use an IPAD.  But a tablet is in your future, probably sooner than later.  JUST BE SURE YOU USE IT AS A USBACKROADS DEVICE.

Get those field guides, maps and photos on it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nooks, Kindles and IPADs......Oh, my.

usbackroads products--Nooks, Kindles and IPAD's.......Oh, my.

Living out on backroads I always had a thing about being connected.  In the early days, that meant shortwave radio's and tuned loop AM antenna's.  Later on in the early 1980's we had a C-Band satellite dish along with our party line phone line.  Even with that party line phone line I showed the neighbors how to kick me off line so I could access CompuServe.  So for me being on backroads meant still being connected.

Today it is much easier to remain connected to the outside world in the middle of somewhere.  Here are the three recent connectivity devices.  The Kindle for reading books.  The mini-Tablet here represented by the Nook.  And, of course, the device you never thought you were going to use until you used it, namely the IPAD.

There are advantages to each.  Lets start with neither fish nor fowl.  Namely, the mini-tablet here represented by the Nook Color.

Alexandra bought this for our first couple of years with the 5th wheel.  So it dowloaded books from libraries, allowed us to listen to Pandora and with the attached CCrane radio transmitter listen to it on the FM band with any FM radio.

It also allowed us to download e-mail and surf the net.  This was handy until the IPAD became widely available.  When Alexandra  bought me the IPAD for a gift, the Nook never got the opportunity to go surfing again.

I still use it for reading books.  The backlight feature makes it very comfortable for reading at night.  So much so that I can read without glasses or contacts.  Very handy for reading just before sleep.  Though it is a blue light which is not conducive to sleep, but there are some apps that will change the color to red so as to not affect your melatonin  production.

Neither fish nor fowl.  I would stay away from purchasing a Nook Color.  It has a proprietary operating system so you get into ALL the issues with APPLE's IPAD without any of the benefits.  I would also pass on the mini-tablet size.  I my opinion, what you need is an e-book reader AND a full-size tablet.  More on this later.

The Kindle was off our list three years ago when we got the Nook Color.  At that time Amazon did NOT allow the Kindle to download library e-books.

There is something magical about being in the middle of somewhere, getting your library card out of the wallet and downloading a e-book that you wanted to read.

You can now do that with the Kindle for most library systems.

I would get a good e-book reader with a backlight for nighttime reading.  The screens also work very well in outdoor light.

That's it.  This is for reading e-books.  Forget about other uses.  For those get a mini-tablet or my personal recommendation for full size tablet.

The IPAD is Steve Job's payback for MicroSoft dominating software publishing for PC's for all those years. Now if you want a app.  It is always available for the IPAD or IPHONE, while you might have to wait for a Android application to be written AFTERWORDS.

If you already have an IPHONE the IPAD is exactly the same in the operating system so you already know how to run it.  I don't recommend reading books on an IPAD.  It is heavy to hold and the retina screen while a joy inside is more difficult to read outside.

So why do you need a Tablet??  Well, in my case it has been my personal briefcase.

I keep all my magazine subscriptions on the IPAD.  They are a joy to read in Portrait mode.  You always have them available.

I like listning to Podcasts on technology, fly fishing, astronomy and other interests that are frankly outside the mainstream media.  The Podcast app downloads them quickly .

I also love radio broadcasts of baseball games.  Now with the MLB At Bat app I can listen to every major league baseball game on a given day.  Almost as good as Armed Forces Radio Service before they shifted to satellite transmission.   They also have a daily game that is broadcast in high definition.

In addition, I have astronomy, birding and other specialized outdoor apps loaded on the IPAD.

Be forewarned, Apple is NOT a usbackroads company.  The IPAD works great with our 100mbps internet service in Wenatchee.  Traveling to California and Arizona where 1mbps service is considered fast makes the IPAD  very difficult to keep current.  In Arizona, an operating system download that took less than a minute in Wenatchee, was FIVE AND A HALF HOURS in Arizona!

My recommendation is a backlit e-book reader that downloads library books.  A full-size ten inch tablet like the IPAD or some other brand.  There are advantages to tablets running other operating system like a SD card slot.

Staying connected now includes an e-book, tablet, smartphone and a notebook personal computer.  Wow, I just wish I had all this stuff available when I was working in the backroads of Idaho and California.