How To Find Mass on the Road

Inside Stella Maris, Goose Island, Texas

I still am getting used to the idea of using my smartphone instead of paper maps, telephone books and a cell phone. Everything evolves around here, especially with rving full-time and relying heavily on modern technology to navigate and assist in finding what we need during our slow travels. The travel tip I’ll share today is from my smartphone, it sure makes simple work of finding Sunday Mass.
yp on google play

We have previously used various websites to locate Catholic churches and Mass times while adventuring. Currently, with our smartphones, on this most recent road trip to parts previously unknown, we have made good use of the YP (yellow pages) app and the pre-loaded maps app on the iPhone4. Although, in a couple of instances we have been steered wrong, these two apps have helped us find churches, post offices, homes of friends and relatives, rv parks, campgrounds, grocery stores, and more.

maps from apple

I shudder to recall the days when Google maps always had to be backed up with a paper street map and a cell phone to call and get directions. I still laugh about my friend’s couchsurfers, who never did find the Grand Canyon, because their smartphones sent them off on a more direct route – as the crow flies, rather than as the car drives. I now laugh at myself, when I get frustrated at the phone for leading me to an empty warehouse instead of the post office, but I am learning to pull over, re-calibrate and enter different info when that happens. It also helps to drive around a bit and have a young’un who’s pretty good with reading maps and navigating. And smartphones.


We haven’t gotten lost yet, but I can tell you, we have unintentionally taken some scenic drives and did arrive late for Mass once. We haven’t missed Mass on Sunday, though. I usually check YP on Friday, map out the route to the church, then call the number provided to check Mass times. 

Our Lady of the Valley, La Jara, Colorado

I still carry a road atlas and some state maps for general route planning and reference, but to find local stuff along the way, the YP app and the maps app have been invaluable and saved an enormous amount of time and frustration. I highly recommend checking your smartphone or tablet and trying out similar apps which may be available to you, as you plan your next pilgrimage.

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Public Wifi vs. Personal Hotspot

Some notes about public wifi. We have relied on public wifi quite a bit. From libraries, to McDonald’s, Denny’s to the hockey rink, public wifi is great for checking email, playing games like Words With Friends, or keeping up with social media. But for things like banking, updating the blogs and websites, or other activities that are better done on a secure line, your own password protected hotspot is a wiser choice. Like your home service, you can leave your hotspot open, but other people are guaranteed to piggy back off of it and slow everything down, if not hack right into your accounts. As soon as I set up the Straight Talk account I gave it a strong password. I have had to reset the account a couple of times in the past year, such as when the first hotspot died and the company sent a replacement. 
 

 

Learning how to get the most out of the hotspot is a real challenge. It is great for checking email, social networking, banking, etc. Games and streaming videos run slow, usually. Uploading pictures and videos can go fairly quickly or very slowly. We have learned to keep an eye on how much data we’re using. Especially since photos and videos use up a lot of data in uploading. When we get down to our last 500mb, everything tends to slow down. When we add a new data card, everything goes more smoothly. We have also learned, that even keeping data cards in reserve has its quirks. Straight Talk will automatically add a reserve card on the service end date, but not when we use up all our data. Then we have to call or go online and add one of our reserve cards or buy a new one and add it. If we use all our data before we add the card, then we have to call to add the reserve, since we can’t get online to go to our account and add it.
In spite of all the frustrations involved in the learning curve, I am happy with our current internet setup. Yes, we are still working out the bugs. We had so much trouble with our former rural internet providers that I wish I had known the mobile hotspot would work nearly as well at the house. I would have cut them loose years ago. It is still odd to walk into the house and not check the answer machine right away. But since I can take my cell phone and internet service with me wherever I go, without the added $100 monthly expense, I think I’ll stick with Straight Talk for now.
For lots more detailed info on mobile internet, visit the Technomads, they wrote the book on Mobile Internet.

 

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Adventures With Mobile Internet

 
Today’s travel tip is all about our adventures with mobile internet. Internet service is a big issue when living and working on the road full-time in an RV. We are doing slow travel, usually staying in a location for several weeks at a time, before moving on. In addition to writing, I run a small craft business online. I am also promoting my first book, The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling”. Reliable internet is critical. When we are staying at one of the grandpas’ homes we use their DSL, which is usually pretty good. In between and at our home base, we use a Straight Talk hotspot. I am still learning its quirks, but I will share what I’ve gleaned so far.
 
 
When we decided to downsize and embrace a minimalist lifestyle, traveling and living in the truck and trailer, it didn’t make sense to continue to pay $80 a month for landline and DSL that we would rarely use, in addition to cell phones and a mobile hotspot. Keep in mind that I do not have a smart phone or any other 3 or 4G gadget, I cannot advise on how any of that works on the road. I chose Straight Talk over Verizon or AT&T, because prior to hitting the road, our DSL usage was averaging 2-3GB monthly. So far this past year, we have only had 2 weeks at a time with only the hotspot for internet and with gaming, streaming and uploading photos, videos and files from the computer, our usage has easily gone up to 1-2GB a week. Still, even at 8GB a month, I think Straight Talk is more affordable than one of the others. Especially since there are months we don’t use it at all. So for now, we stick with Straight Talk. 
 
Here is what I am learning about the hotspot and data usage. Our hotspot is tied to Verizon, so if we are in an area served only by AT&T and its sub-sellers, we get no internet connection with our hotspot. One grandpa is in one of these areas, but fortunately, we are able to use his wifi. When that does not come in so well, we can drive about 10 miles and pick up a signal on our hotspot, or just go all the way to the next big town and use the library wifi. Our home base is out in the boonies. The hotspot picks up a signal, but uploading photos and streaming videos is a very slow process. Sometime this year, I plan to try a wifi range extender and cell phone signal booster there (our cell phone signal is pretty weak at “home”, too). I am still investigating whether the range extender will amplify the signal coming in from outside to the hotspot or only the signal from the hotspot to our devices. If the latter is the case, it may not help.
 
 
Since this post is already getting a bit lengthy, I will save the rest for next time: Public Wifi vs. Personal Hotspot; Getting the Most out of Our Hotspot; Is it Worth it?
 
Until then, check out the Technomads, they wrote the book on Mobile Internet!
 
You might also enjoy:
Surviving Slow Travel
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A Simple Plan

With all the wonderful gadgets we have available to us, it is easy to get lost in today’s technology.  I have experienced the mind-numbing addiction of staring at the computer screen for hours on end.  I try to limit my computer, phone and other related gadget time so that I don’t miss out on life.  Gadgets also eat up precious creative and productive time.

Then I felt the need to return to a more detailed planner for the coming year, 2012, but could not find one on the market that would work for me and was within my budget.  I tried designing my own, but felt like I was re-inventing the wheel.  Before I proceeded to invest large amounts of time in this project, I decided to see what I had in my computer.

I have not previously used computerized planning systems because
(a) it is not convenient to carry the computer around with me and
(b) printing out daily, weekly and monthly schedules, and reprinting with changes and updates, uses an enormous amount of paper, which is also not convenient to carry around and
(c) computers crash and lose information.

Fortunately, I found that there is a calendar on my ipod which will sync with a calendar on my computer.  The ipod is very convenient to carry around.  I now have a backup drive to store my programs, so there are 3 locations for my information to be stored.  I can also print out copies of my schedule, although I will probably just do this for the end-of-year archives, if this all turns out to work the way I hope it will.

For my weekly to-do’s I am using the notepad on my ipod, which I can email to myself if I want to print out a list (my ipod does not sync with my current printers).  Right now, I am just filing the emailed copies in case the ipod crashes.

Although it has taken me 3 solid days of my Christmas break to input everything and learn how to use this system so that it will make my life easier, it seems to be working so far.  As long as everything is backed up where it can be retrieved and printed out if necessary, I should be fine.  If nothing else, I can make a printout and go back to the pencil and paper style.

It’s getting so complicated to keep it simple.

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