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Copyright rvtechwithrvrob.com 2017

Buying Tech Wisely

Alfa USB WIFI adapter

Technology like Cameras, Televisions and Laptops are difficult to shop for and it is always hard to find a good deal.  It is easy to find good prices but that does not necessarily mean it is a good deal.

There are 2 key factors that determine if you are getting a good deal: the first is price, obviously getting something cheaper is a good thing.  However the other factor is quality, which can be trickier to define.  The important thing to realize is that something that is cheap is not necessarily a good deal.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.

When deciding if something is a good deal, consider that you can categorize any tech into 3 main groups: high-end/bleeding edge, middle of the road, and low-end/end of life.   When looking at high end, always remember that high end newer equipment is always marked up.  You will not often find a good deal when shopping high end as the manufacturer and retail know people are willing to line up in the cold to buy the new iPhone or preorder the latest game so they know you are also willing to pay more for the privilege of being the first to own it.  Also when shopping low end, keep in mind that in many cases low end is code for :”we need to get rid of this old crap”.  Many of the low end and on sale devices are cheap because they need to move the old tech to make room for the latest and greatest model.

So when shopping always try to stay in the middle of the road category, this category will always have the highest volume being sold, meaning you have scales of economy working in your favor so the more volume they are selling the cheaper it is to manufacture, and thus to sell it for.  You also do not need to worry about over paying for tech that is bleeding edge or buying cheap and getting stuck with something that is obsolete before you open the box.

So how do you know if you are shopping in the middle of the road category?  Simple, stay as close to the middle of the road price range the store is offering.  If they have laptops ranging from $500 to $1500 try to shop in the $1000 range.  This strategy will get you the best value for the price you pay.

Now how do you go a step further and get a really good deal?  Easy, you get a middle of the road device on sale right?  Well… sort of…  The problem is that a sale on a middle of the road item can often be a signal that, the device is no longer middle of the road, but is an  older model middle of the road device starting to be transitioned to the low-end.  The trick when looking at sales of middle of the road items is checking the specs on the sale item.  If its specs do not match the rest of the middle of the road items, than it is not a deal but something being moved to the low end category or was a low end item marked up before putting it on sale.  However if its specs do match the rest of the middle of the road items, than it is a genuine sale.

In reality however, the profit margins are so slim in the tech industry and it is so competitive, finding a good deal is often very tricky so I do not spend too much time looking for a good deal, they are too rare and often not worth the time and effort to find.  Also keep in mind when buying tech, a 3 year life span is expected, in fact accounting rules in many regions say that companies should depreciate tech over 3 years.  This means that after 1 year a $1000 laptop is only worth $667, after 2 years it is only worth $333 and after 3 years the device has absolutely no financial value to the company.  It is however common to have a laptop or camera last well past 3 years, but it is important to realize that these devices are not built to last forever.  I have an analogy that I like to tell people when talking about device life-cycle… it is well-known that dogs and cats typically live 1/7th the length of people, so a 1 year old dog is really 7 years in human years and a 2 year old is 14 in human years.  This same thing can be said for computers given that they are designed to last for 3 years.  This means a 1 year old computer is 33 years old in human years (approaching middle age), a 2 year old computer is 66 (at retirement age) and a 3 year old computer is, well ancient.  So think about that 6 year old laptop you may still be using and think about this… how many 198 year old people do you know?

You can also use sites like Amazon to check where an item falls in the price range or if it is a good price and use their extensive reviews to confirm if you are getting a good product.

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Exploring Canada’s East Coast

East Coast Canada Trip

This trip has been our longest trip yet.  We spent 3 weeks exploring the East Coast of Canada.  There were a lot of landmarks we wanted to see that we did not get to on our previous trip out east.   This trip had a mix of short and long drives as well as major highway and secondary roads.  There was a mix of KOA and National Parks, including some of the biggest sights in Eastern Canada.  We also found out that 3 weeks was about our limit for a single trip.

The Drive

Leg 1 Home to Malloytown:  This leg was simple in that we did the 401 across Ontario with a detour around Toronto via the 407 and the brand new 412.  This day did not go well when we merged back into the 401, as it was Saturday, Canada Day and the start of the first long weekend of the season.  This meant that we lost a lot of time on the stretch east of Toronto getting bogged down in cottage country traffic.

Leg 2 Mallorytown to Quebec City:  This part of the drive was also straight forward, just continuing along the same one highway, 401 until it turned into Autoroute 20 in Quebec.  We detoured Montreal via AUT30 but with a twist.  This time we tried highway 201 across Grand ile to join AUT30 just after the toll.  The drive was uneventful and we lost very little time on traffic lights on Grand ile.

Leg 3 Quebec City to Fundy National Park:  This part of the drive started to get more scenic.  As you take AUT20/Trans Canada east to Rivere du Loup the St Lawrence river widens and the views across the St Lawrence valley open up and are dotted with occasional mountains.  The stretch along the Trans Canada south to Fundy is hilly and well forested with few towns and stops along the way.  The road curves and goes up and down enough to not be boring like most of the highways around the Great Lakes, however this was the longest stretch of the trip, with over 8 hours of driving to get to Fundy.  The scenery really picks up after you get off the TransCanada and drive the last hour into Fundy.  It gets quite a bit more hilly with long views of the Bay of Fundy in the final stretch into the campground.

Leg 4 Fundy National Park to Halifax:  This was one of the shortest legs and we chose to not follow the GPS straight back to the Trans Canada and on to Moncton, we ended up taking highway 114 along the coast of the Bay of Fundy which is a very scenic secondary highway that hugs the water the whole way.  After Moncton, the drive was not much different from the TransCanada thru New Brunswick as we entered Nova Scotia.  It is worth noting that there is a toll on the TransCanada strategically located at the narrowest point where there are few secondary roads to avoid the toll.  The typical east coast rocky scenery you see in pictures does not really start until you get right to Halifax itself.

Leg 5 Halifax to Sydney:  This leg started on the TransCanada again until reaching Cape Breton Island.  I found some of the most aggressive and unfriendly drivers of anywhere in North America on this stretch.  Once onto Cape Breton, the scenery changed dramatically and the roads were smaller, winding and had lots of views.  As we got closer to Sydney, the views kept getting better and better with steep inclines and long mountain views over hills, bays and open ocean.  The last hour of this drive was one of the most scenic drives we have ever taken, second only to the next leg of this trip.

Leg 6 Sydney to Cape Breton Highlands NP Cheticamp:  For this part of the drive we planned to follow the Calbot Trail around the island to the North shore.  This was only 4 hours of driving which allowed us to stop at every turn off and lookout on the trail and still get to Cheticamp in time to set up before dinner.  This drive was the most spectacular drive we have ever taken.  Of all the drives we have taken thru the Poconos, the Adirondacks, the Laurentians, the Smokey’s and along various coastal drives like US Route 1, this is the best.  The only other drive that can come close to comparing is the Blue Ridge Parkway.  However with the great views, came quite a few long steep climbs, long steep drops, and twisty roads with sheer drop offs.  There was even some construction near Cheticamp just to keep us on our toes.    Although we were able to manage the drive just fine with our rig in tow, you need to be comfortable driving in mountains and be prepared to downshift so you do not burn thru your brake pads.  Taking the trail from Sydney to Cheticamp is the better direction, as this puts you on the outside edge the entire way, the passenger side will have an amazing view the whole way.  Going the other direction puts you closer to the hills with less ability to see the sights below, although going the wrong direction is still going to be one of the best drives one can take.  Word of warning, almost immediately after leaving the Sydney KOA we had to do a ferry.  This ferry ride was only a few minutes/ few hundred feet across and only cost about $7 to cross, however we were lucky having an SUV and a 21′ trailer.  I did see them turn away a Class C motor home on the other side and when I talked to one of the crew about the size of my rig, it was clear there was a size limit and that mine was OK.  The alternative would be another 30 minutes added to the trip to detour.

Leg 7 Cheticamp to PEI National Park:  After you leave the national park, it almost immediately changes from huge hills to small hilly/rocky fishing towns like you would see in postcards.  After we left Cape Breton, we joined the TransCanada again until New Glasgow.  We decided instead of taking the TransCanada the rest of the way to turn off and take highway 6 along the coast.  Again this route was like the drive from Fundy to Moncton, lots of views, small fishing villages and scenery.  this route takes you right to the bridge to PEI.  Like the previous trip, the bridge and the drive thru PEI was spectacular.

Leg 8 PEI National Park to Jellystone Woodstock:  This drive was just a straightforward drive along the TransCanada once we left PEI.  New Brunswick is fairly easy driving as it is not flat and boring, there is always something to drive up, down or around to keep you occupied while behind the wheel.

Leg 9 Jellystone to Quebec City:  By this point we were repeating the drive down so it looks the same both directions.

Leg 10 Quebec City to Mallorytown:  Again this drive was the same as the drive out east

Leg 11 Mallorytown to Home:  The only difference on this leg was there was no Canada day traffic to slow us down.

 

The Stops

Mallorytown KOA: I have written about this KOA in the past, it is one of our favorites, it is quiet, well-kept and the owners are excellent.  The first stop of our trip was on Canada day.  There was no shortage of activities and they had a professional firework show at the end of the night.

Quebec City KOA:  On our way down we did not get a chance to really enjoy this KOA as it was pouring rain and we arrived late in the day and ended up staying in the trailer all evening.

Fundy National Park:  The park is a definite must see, the Chignecto campground was well forested and private.  The drive thru the park was incredibly scenic with long ocean views from the tops of the hills.  There is an amazing lookout with the UNESCO World Heritage Site plaque just up the hill from the Headquarters campground.  The pool, which is not far from the Headquarters campground was unique as it was built right on the edge of the Bay of Fundy with nothing but a glass wall keeping the ocean spray back.  The town of Alma is right next door to the park and it was quite nice and not too touristy, with an excellent little bakery and a perfect spot to witness the tides from the bridge.  Fundy is in easy driving distance to Cape Hope Provincial park where you can see the famous flowerpots and caves at low tide.  Cape Enrage Lighthouse is another great place to see a lighthouse and to go right down to the water to see the tides and is an easy drive from the park.  The roads in this area are very scenic and there are even a few covered bridges in the area as well as lots of maritime post card views.

Halifax West KOA: This KOA was the biggest disappointment of the trip.  You could tell at one time it was a great park, but in the past few years they bulldozed a swamp and filled it in to make a big back section for larger RV’s.  The back section was flat and open with no privacy.  Because it was built on a swamp the sites were very uneven and buggy.  Also we had issues with both water pressure in the morning and had frequent brownouts as well.  The kids still loved the park and we probably would have enjoyed it more if we stayed up in the front forested area.  However this park was well located as we could get down into the city to see the Titanic Graves, The Maritime Museum, The Citadel, and the Keith’s Brewery Tour in under a half hour.  Peggy’s cove was also only an hour away and was cold but absolutely incredible to see and to climb the rocks on the shore.

Sydney KOA:  This campground is very unique with great views.  It is not a big park and probably the only real draw to it is that it is close to the ferry to Newfoundland.  However the campground is built on the side of a very large hill with terraced rows so every site has amazing views of the water, the bridge and the surrounding hills of the Cabot Trail.

Cape Breton Highlands NP:  The park itself is quite large and takes hours to drive across but the Cabot Trail thru the park is very scenic with some of the best postcard views near Cheticamp campground.  There are also numerous primitive camping areas along the trail and lots of hikes as well.  Cheticamp was a nice campground but we picked poorly and ended up right beside the maintenance yard and had a lot of heavy equipment noise while we were there.  If you are at Cheticamp or anywhere on the north side of the island, doing the Skyline trail is an absolute must.  You do not need to do the full 10km loop, in fact I would suggest you take the left fork to the lookout and return on the same path and only do about 6km.  The rest of the loop is nice but really the wow factor of this trail is the boardwalk that goes right on the tops of the hills along the water and has some of the best views on the entire east coast of North America.  It is worth noting that Cheticamp does not have laundry as we found out after we arrived with a load of dirty clothes and the town has a small laundry that at the time only had one working dryer.

PEI National Park:  I have talked about PEI National Park before, Cavendish is one of our favorite campgrounds.  The park is well-kept, has new comfort stations, the red sand beach is amazing to walk along and to watch the sun set.  The full hookup sites in the trees are very large and will accommodate a large Class A with a Toad.  If you want just water/electric or unserviced, you can get a grass site right at the beach and watch the sun set right from your site.  The Cavendish area is touristy due to all the Ann of Green Gables activities, but it is not over the top touristy like Niagara Falls or Las Vegas.  This trip we ventured further away to the north part of the island to see the famous bottle house and a lighthouse that was converted to a hotel.

Woodstock Jellystone:  This campground was a letdown for us as well.  The water park is fantastic however the sites were quite tiny and it was difficult to fit a small trailer in.  It was also a party park.  There were lots of people running around yelling, lots of tailgate parties, and lots of extended family visits.  The park is also beside the TransCanada so the road was quite loud as well.

Quebec City KOA:  On the return visit we stayed in Quebec for a few days to visit the old city.  The city itself is fantastic and well worth the visit.  The park turned out to be quite nice and the staff were very friendly.  Although we did our best to speak French, everyone at the campground and in the old city was more than willing to speak English if you were struggling.

Mallorytown KOA: We initially planned on staying one night, just as a stop over on the way home, but we decided we just wanted to take it easy and relax after a long trip, so we added another night and just sat by the pool for a day.

Review: Jellystone Campground Woodstock NB

Jellystone Campground Woodstock

Warning, this is probably my most critical review to date!

Last summer as part of our east coast trip we decided to stop at the Jellystone campground near Woodstock NB.  As the stretch from Quebec city to Fundy has virtually no provincial, national, KOA or decent private parks, it makes for a very long drive.  We decided to break up our return trip with a campground with a decent water park in it.

In all fairness, the water park is excellent for a campground and possibly one of the best (if not only) water parks in all the Maritime provinces.  However we did not enjoy the campground itself.  The park is located right beside the TransCanada highway with no buffer space.  There are sites right up against the fence separating the park from the highway with very little vegetation to block the sounds and sights of the highway.  This made for a rather loud visit.  The park itself had more of a trailer park feel to it than a typical Jellystone, KOA or Provincial/National park.  It seemed to be the go to place to spend a summer sitting outside your 1970’s era trailer with a dirty shirt on, while you drank beer and yelled at your kids as they ran loose like rabid dogs breaking the rules.

In the end we felt that the water park was not enough to offset the highway noise and the wild atmosphere.  We left feeling uncomfortable and out-of-place because we did not drink publicly and because our kids were well-behaved.  This one will be remembered for a very long time as one of our least favorite camping experiences.  The next time we go out east (and we will, it is amazing out east) we will opt for a Wal-Mart parking lot if we need to stop over in that area again.

Review: Fundy National Park

Bay of Fundy

Fundy National Park is located on the south coast of New Brunswick and is a reasonable drive from St John and Moncton.  Its draw is the Bay of Fundy which boasts some of the highest tides in the world.  This is one of the reasons UNESCO has designated the area as a World Heritage Site and it is well worth the honor.

The park itself is huge and has far more than just the tides.  There are a a number of campgrounds with excellent natural sites, some have WIFI and some even have views of the tidal basin.  The drives thru the park are very scenic with huge hills and amazing views similar to the TransCanada highway near Lake Superior Provincial Park on the Ontario coast of Lake Superior.  The park has a really nice pool, set right on the shore of the Bay of Fundy.  The pool has amazing views, almost as good as an infinity pool.  The town of Alma is a quaint little tourist town, but not over commercialized like Bar Harbor.  Hopewell Rocks is nearby along a very scenic highway drive along the coast of the Bay of Fundy.  The rock formations and caves that you can see at low tide are amazing, and another of the reasons this area holds the honor from UNESCO.  The Cape Enrage lighthouse is a short scenic drive along the coast.  It is worth the walk out to the lighthouse and down to the water at the bottom of the cliffs.

If you are ever in Eastern Canada, Fundy National Park should be one of the top picks to visit along with Cape Breton Highlands National Park and PEI National Park.

Posting to Social Media, sharing or plagarism?

Youtube

Over the past 3 years I have been putting out content on my blog and sharing info on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.  I have been learning a lot about generating traffic and generating revenue from the info I post.  My blog is not by any means popular like Nomadic Fanatic, Gone with the Wynns or SV Delos, however over the past few years I have posted a number of very technical articles.  These articles were the first time these particular ideas have been posted on the internet and I was proud that some of them still are either the only or the top rank search results on Google for those topics.

Over time, I looked at different ways to generate more traffic, some were successful and some were not but one method had a result that really surprised me.  At one point I decided to review my Twitter account and ensure I was following people who were relevant to my content so I started following all the big RV related Youtubers on Twitter.

What surprised me was that within a week of following a bunch of Youtubers, two RV Youtubers posted their next video and I was surprised to find out that two different pieces of content that were unique to only my blog had been turned into videos.  At first I wondered, is this coincidence that they thought of this, and I could not get out of my mind that this is very technical content that only someone with both a network engineering background and RVing background could come up with on their own.  Neither of these Youtubers had this skill set.  It was also difficult to get out of my head that they both posted these videos a week after I started following them.  So I wondered, should I be flattered that they liked my ideas or should I be insulted that they did not credit me.  In this world of social media should this be considered sharing or plagiarism?

Copyright rvtechwithrvrob.com 2017

It is that time of year again

RV Antifreeze

Since winter is very quickly creeping up on us I decided to do a post to point back to posts on a couple of topics that come up every fall:  RV Antifreeze and Snow Load

Choosing RV Antifreeze

RV Snow Load

Review: KOA Halifax West

Halifax West KOA

KOA Halifax West unfortunately goes down on our list of less preferred campgrounds.  There is no question that the park is well located for a visit to the Halifax area and even Peggys Cove.  However the park itself has had some growing pains that make us reluctant to recommend it without a strong warning.

The park itself has all the features you would expect of a KOA including a pool, laundry etc.  Even the sites in the front (older) section closest to the pool are excellent and if you can get a site in that area you may be much happier than we were.  The thing that we dislike about the park is that it recently went thru a poorly thought out expansion.  The first issue with this expansion is that the original park was surrounded by swamp on two sides (the back and the west sides) so to expand, their only option was swamp bound.  This presents several issues, one is that swamps tend to be popular breeding grounds for mosquitos and the back area did have its fair share of them.  The second is that many people often find out that when they fill in a swamp, they need to relevel the area frequently due to the soft wet and unstable ground.  Our site along with the roads and most sites in the new area was very uneven making it difficult to level the trailer, difficult to find a flat spot to put the picnic table and difficult to just find a flat spot to set up a chair.  The next issue was that with any expansion, the utilities like water and electricity need to be factored in, especially when increasing the size of the park around 3-4 times its original size.  A number of times every day we would see the voltage drop on our little Camco voltage meter to under 100v.  This kind of brownout is a silent killer as it does not cause equipment to stop working, it causes motors to draw more amps to make up for the reduction of volts, this generates heat which dramatically shortens the life of the Air Conditioner, Fridge and other appliances.  Finally the water service in the campground did not appear to have been upgraded when the park was expanded as during most parts of the day the water pressure was around the expected 50psi, but between 7am and 10am the water pressure would drop so low it was more like a leaky faucet than a steady stream.  This prevented us from being able to shower in the mornings so we had to do that in the evenings instead.

Now that it is a full year later, they may have overcome some of these growing pains but when we visited we were unhappy with the park due to all the issues we had.  However the area is still worth the visit with the Halifax Citadel, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (with many Titanic artifacts), the Fairview Cemetary (with most of the Titanic graves), the Keiths Brewery tours, the boardwalk and the close drive to Peggys Cove and Oak Island.