28 December 2015

I blew out my data

Controlling your data

When you are on the road you don’t have the luxury of large amounts of data at a home plan rate. Wireless data is expensive whatever country you are in, and the USA is no different.

When we came into the USA a few months ago, we blew out our data plan four times! Unlike home plans, they don’t just throttle you back - they give you another gig and charge you double than if you had included it in your plan, and when you’ve used that they give you another one. We thought we were being very careful, and while it has never been this bad, it has happened before. So it was time to find some answers and fix the problem!

Fixing the problem

Firstly I went into my System Preferences on my Mac and then:

Under Notifications - I turned off all notifications on every application, except Tunnel Bear. I use Tunnel Bear on my laptop to make a secure connection for banking or accessing my passwords when I’m using a public WiFi. You need to know when the line is secure, so you need to be notified on a banner.

Under the App store – turn off “Automatically check for updates”, you will need to manually check for these now. There is a “Check Now” button under this section.

Under Flash Player – check the “notify me to install updates” box. That way you can update them when you are on another network.

Check for other applications that might be sending data to and from the cloud such as Dropbox, Photos, Evernote and turn them off.

We downloaded an app called Surplus Meter for the Mac laptops and My Data Manager for the iPad. There are many programs like this out there, so take your pick. You will need to split your data allocation up between your devices. It resets each day, but also gives you a running monthly total. You can suspend it while you are using someone else’s network.

It’s interesting to see which websites use bucket loads of data. You then have a choice to decide whether to avoid them.

Installing Ad Blockers can vastly reduce your bandwidth consumed.

What happens when I go over?

We have a contract plan with Verizon. When we go over they charge $15 per gigabyte, when you use that up, they give you another etc. When we were with AT&T, it was $10 for each extra gig. Verizon is better for the West Coast, and I have heard that both are good for the East Coast. The other carriers are good if you’re in a major city or large towns. If you travel around a lot like we do, you are stuck with the major (more expensive) players.

Leaving the country

When we leave the country we suspend our plan and reduce it to the lowest amount which is 4Gb, unfortunately we can only suspend it for 90 days, not the total time we are away – so when we have to pay but aren’t using it, we want the lowest amount possible.

Be careful when you suspend your account as they pro-rata the data by the number of days you are connected, so on a 30 day month, 8Gb for 15 days is really only 4Gb. Go over 4Gb and you will have an overage bill. The catch here is that if you wait for your month to end and are out of the country, you can’t suspend it online, you can however contact them on chat and they can report it as lost or stolen.

With Verizon, before the month is up, you can change your data plan to reflect what you think you are going to use. It was still on 4Gb when we came back into the country and we went over by 4Gb which would have generated a $60 overage fee. By increasing our data limit on the last day to 8Gb, they reversed our 4Gb plan and charged us for an 8Gb plan which saved us $40. Luckily they don’t charge you for changing plans.


Why didn’t we go with prepaid? You don’t have the variety of plans, really just 5gb & 10gb. Then we would have to get a new SIM card every time we enter the country.

12 December 2015

Campground Review - Cathedral Springs CA

Site 41

Cathedral Palms RV Resort

35901 Cathedral Canyon Drive, Cathedral City CA

Why we chose here? We were meeting up with friends in Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Palm Desert

Location: In between Palm Springs and Desert Springs, CA

Sites: 145 – 33 50 amp FHU, 14 E & W, all the rest are FHU 30amp

Facilities: Pool, Recreational room, pickleball court, restrooms, free wifi

Groceries: shops are a 7 minute drive away

Reservations: Yes

Cell Coverage / WiFi:
Their Wifi was unusable at our site, it is strongest in the recreational room

Price Paid: $43 + tax

Date of visit: December 2015

Other: We were in site 41, wifi was terrible and we had noise from the equipment hire place next door using air compressors.

Would we come here again? Not sure, we would look at alternatives first.

6 December 2015

Wrapping up 2015

Watson Lake AZ

After the dentist in Yuma we went north to Cave Creek in AZ to catch up with our friends Bill & Michele. Lindsay took the opportunity to get the truck and trailer detailed to keep it looking good. One of the days we went up to Prescott to have lunch and then onto Watson Lake, which is really pretty. Another day we took a picnic up to Yellow Cliffs at Bartlett Lake in the Tonto National Forest.

Yellow Cliffs, Bartlett Lake AZ

A first for us was meeting up with a couple whose blog I follow – Mona-Liza and Steve. They were staying in nearby Cave Creek state park, less than 10 minutes from where we were. We spent a couple of hours drinking red wine and swapping stories. They have been to Australia where Mona-Liza fell in love with sticky date pudding, it just happens to be one of my specialities, so I've sent her the recipe. They have been to nearly every state in America, so have lots of information and ideas that I will be able to use for our upcoming North-east coast trip next year.

I had booked a week in Cathedral Springs as it was so nice down there when we visited a few months ago. Many snowbirds come from all over North America to spend winter here. I was looking forward to some mild weather but unfortunately Mr El Niño had other ideas, giving us 10 degrees cooler temperatures than normal. We had some great catch up dinners with Cameron & Christine, Lane & Debbie, and Ben & Amy.

I managed to talk Lindsay into a hike up Whitewater Canyon. After about half a mile we came upon the famous Pacific Crest Trail and stayed on it for the next 1.5 miles. The Ranger said that about 300 people attempt the mammoth 2,663 mile walk each year. It goes from the Mexican border to the Canadian Border up over the Sierras. So you are probably going to have to deal with 100°F temperatures and snow. After the movie Wild came out the number increased to 800, but many only walked a short way. By absolute coincidence, we had watched the movie the night before but hadn’t realised that our walk would be any where near the PCT. Even on our fairly cool day we got quite warm and stashed our jumpers behind a bush to retrieve later; I would hate to think what it would be like in 100°F.

Lindsay booked our truck in for a problem with the diff because it was leaking oil. The prognosis was not good and they wouldn’t give our truck back to us until they have completely rebuilt the differential. Hopefully this will be covered under warranty. As it’s Christmas it won’t be ready until after we have left the country. So lucky we don’t need it to leave the States this time as we are flying.

Our last week, including Christmas was spent with our good friends Dale and Shelly. They are at 3,200ft, so it is even colder than down in the low desert. But not cold enough yet for snow, so no white Christmas!

After spending winter on Vancouver Island last year, we decided this year we would go somewhere warmer. After watching an episode of Househunter’s International on Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, we decided that it looked like a great place to go. It’s a favourite spot for winter with Americans and Canadians on the coast of the mainland (as opposed to the Baja). From Mexico City draw a straight line to the west coast and you will have the approximate location. Temperatures will be somewhere in the 20’s, just the way I like it. We will be living a normal life for a change, living in once place for more than a week and without a house that moves.

The night before we fly out we're watching 'Beach Front Bargain Hunt' and it’s on a Canadian couple wanting to buy in Puerto Vallarta – it’s a sign! The weather outlook for next week is 27°C - 29°C (79-82°F) - perfect.

2 December 2015

Going to the dentist in Mexico

Mittry Lake Yuma

Dentist in Los Algodones?

If you are thinking of going to the dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico

Here are some things you might want to know…these are based on our experience

How do I get there?

From Yuma travel along the I-8 going towards San Diego, turn left at the Los Algodones sign. Quechan casino is on the corner. Go down this road until you can see the border crossing ahead of you. There is a parking lot to the right, turn into these gates and drive around to the entry booth. In 2015 the fee for parking is $6, cash.

You then just walk across the border. No-one will ask for your passport on entry, but you will need it to come back into the USA. Towards the end of the day, the line to come back in can be quite long, so try and make an appointments as early as possible. Part of the walkway is undercover, but take a hat.

Where do I stay?

You have a few choices, either a motel/hotel in Yuma or in Los Algodones; or

If have an RV: Yuma has many RV parks, or you can dry camp in the Casino for $10 for 3 nights. There is an RV park on the road to the border. Since the Casino started charging, most people have just moved down the road to boondock.
The back of the Quechan casino

Who do I see?

You can just walk into any dentist as a walk in, but the best ones may be booked out. Try and get a referral from a friend. The first time I went there I just walked into one dentist and got an appointment straight away. They charge more and did a lousy job of cleaning my teeth. What’s more they said I had 5 fillings without taking x-rays – I got a second opinion from Erika. She did x-rays and I didn’t have any fillings – so it pays to be careful.

We went to Erika Medina

Tel: (658) 517-7866

1st Street Suite 101 Flamingo’s plaza, Los Algodones BC, Mexico

www.medinadentalcare.com - you can organise an appointment via email.

Their surgery works on Yuma time zone, not Mexico. Check with whoever you go to what time zone they work off.

How much will I pay?

These prices were in December 2015 in USD
  • Exam, clean and x-rays $25
  • Deep clean (needles and cleaning below gum) $150 per quadrant
  • Root canal $250
  • Crown $200
Payments by cash or USA check (cheque)

Waiting Times

  • A week in between a deep clean and a crown
  • It might take a week to get an appointment to have a deep clean after your first examination
  • You will need 3 appointments for the crown – I’m assuming one is for the initial mold, then a test, then the real thing – the last two can be done a day apart