Technology desert in the boonies

I am not quite sure where to start. I am a slave to technology. It has been more than four months since my last post, before we went to the dark side – northwest Montana, Here’s why. Little did we realize, when we agreed to be workampers at the Whitefish-North Kalispell KOA from mid-May to mid-September, that our technology connection to the rest of the world would be severely limited.

(Spoiler alert:  This post is entirely in text.  The subject matter does not lend itself to photos.  At least I don’t have any.)


Our phones (on Verizon) worked pretty well, but not everywhere.  In the RV park, those who had AT&T had to drive to the top of the road to get service while Verizon, although not strong, at least would connect to the outside world.  Those on one of the second tier phone services (Sprint, Straightalk, T-Mobile and the like) were totally out of luck, even on the main highways where you would think there would be some kind of service.  I could get 4G with one bar some of the time, but often went to 1X.  We were quickly reminded of what life was like before cell phones.

Before we left Steamboat to head north, we signed up for unlimited data with Verizon.  One would think that unlimited data would mean just that – unlimited data.  Well, technically, it does mean unlimited data, but what they don’t tell you is that they have now instituted a practice called “throttling”.  Each device has a limit to how much data you can use AT 4G.  Half way through the first month of unlimited data I got a notice that I had used 90% of my data and did I want to purchase more.  Just when I thought I had it figured out and bit the bullet to pay for unlimited service on all our devices, they change the rules… AGAIN!

The notice I got was for the data on my MiFi Jetpack Hot Spot.  What??? Little did I know, each of my devices has a data limit at 4G which turned out to be a helpful tip I learned from the awesome Jackie at the Whitefish GoWireless store after she explained throttling. (Throttelling is when you have been limited to 3G or less after you reach your 4G limit.  You get throtteled back to a lower speed.) She taught me about using the hotspot in my phone for my laptop as well as my phone.  I didn’t know.  (I am more technology challenged than I want to admit, and it is constantly changing.  I am too old for such fast changes.)  I have a separate  MiFi hotspot  device (at an additional charge) from our phones and tablets so I can connect my laptop when the internet signal is not strong through wifi in the RV parks.  Well, it doesn’t work that way, either.  Turns out (which makes sense when I think about it), if your phone signal is not strong, your Verizon hotspot will also not be strong.  It uses a lot more data searching for signal than it would if the signal was strong.  Duh!!!


Just like the phones, the internet was pretty spotty.  To give the owners of Whitefish KOA a lot of credit, they have done everything they can to make access to the internet the best it can be.  There are repeaters (or whatever they are called) throughout the park.  They added additional Century Link connection to double the capacity.  When the park was not full, there was plenty of internet.  But, for the prime six or seven weeks of summer, July through mid-August,  the park was 110% full.  Once we ran out of campsites, cabins and tent sites, people were willing to pay to stay in parking lots, on grass in front of the office, and anywhere else they could park. This was EVERY DAY for six weeks It was nuts!  And, of course, they all wanted great phone service and access to the internet.  Needless to say, I could never get enough bandwidth to write my blog.

When I have had this problem in the past, I either go to the library in the town we are near or use a hard-wired connection offered by the RV Park.  In Whitefish, even at the library, the internet was spotty.  It would come and go.  Never mind. Barnetts’ RV Adventure went on hiatus for the summer.

Satellite TV:

OK, so we couldn’t get Netflix because of the spotty internet, but at least we have our Dish TV Tailgaiter, right?  Nope!  The Whitefish KOA is in a very thick evergreen forest and also down in a “hole”, so there were very limited places where satellite dishes could get a clear shot at one of the appropriate satellites to get signal.  If you had a clear shot, you didn’t have trees – which only existed down in the middle of the park.  As workampers, we were in the last row of the park, surrounded by VERY THICK TREES.  One of the workampers worked for half the summer to try and get his satellite to work.  He bought miles and miles of coax cable and tried umpteen different locations near us to try to get a signal through the few little holes we could see. In each location, the dish would just rotate for a really long time, sometimes turning straight up, and finally just stop without finding a satellite. About the end of July he tried putting his dish up on his neighbor’s patio rail and was able to get intermittent signal there.  We gave up early.  Rather than continue to pay for Dish service when it was so unreliable, we cancelled it for the summer.  Even though we are back on the road, we have not re-activated our account.  So far we are able to get enough TV through our antenna, and that’s free!  The owner of the park also has a great collection of DVDs he let us use and we were able to watch some pretty terrific old movies.  Old school!


So that is the saga of why our blog has been silent for so many months. Technology is spotty Montana.  I have so many experiences and adventures to share from this wonderful summer, but that will happen when I get my pictures downloaded and can insert them in the next posts. It was a wonderful summer (despite all the smoke from Montana’s, Idaho’s, British Columbia’s and Alberta, Canada’s fires), but those are stories for another time.