First Time with No Cell Coverage

So here’s another post with no pretty pictures (except at the end) and the story is not so fun.  If you like the blog for those things, you might want to go back and reread the Glacier post and skip this one.   For months we have been talking about what would happen if we hit an area with no cell coverage.  Because I work that is not a viable option for us and despite conventional wisdom you can’t always just move down the road.  Well, you can, but it’s costly in some cases and you might have to miss the thing you traveled all that way to see.  Months ago (before we learned all we know now) Deb and I had booked reservations near Glacier National Park.  For the first week we intentionally picked a state park that had some AT&T coverage.  I knew it was going to be on the outer edge of their coverage, but at the time was a little “fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll worry about that another day.  Yes, despite my crazy over planning tendencies I do on occasion blow things off and this trip, which I wanted so much, definitely fell into that category. Lee on the other hand has been trying for months to get me to proactively solve this potential problem.  He used Technomadia’s recommendations and the price tag came in at roughly $1K.  This included a WiFi booster, a cellular booster, and a flagpole to get the antenna as high as was reasonably possible.  Every time we talked about it…and it came up often…I would shy away from spending the money.  I did try to find a less expensive solution, but Lee is an all-or-nothing guy and felt if we were going to spend the money we should do it right.  So, we were at an impasse, and the problem just sat out there unresolved.  We both kept waiting for it to rear its ugly head, but all through Minnesota and North Dakota I had a great experience, so I started thinking maybe this wouldn’t be an issue at all.  I wish that was the post I was writing.

When we arrived at Whitefish Lake State Campground we saw right away we were going to have a problem.  The campground is an old one and the sites are small and heavily wooded.  Sometimes I like this arrangement but since we were boondocking for an extended period of time and needed cell coverage, it was the worst possible arrangement.  The situation was complicated by the fact that we are 30 yards (yes 30 yards) from a train track and trains go by every 30-60 minutes.  This by the way is why I would never recommend this campground as the train noise is so loud and frequent that you often have to suspend conversations because you can’t hear the other person and the train interfered with what little signal I had.

The train track so so close to us

The train track was so close to us.  Our campsite was where the water is just farther back









Steve and I discussed it and since he has Verizon as a backup he loaned me his small cellular booster.  We tested it briefly and it seemed to work, if I was 6 inches from it, and since my only day off on the west side of Glacier was Sunday we decided to go ahead and enjoy the park.  I don’t regret that decision at all.  You saw the pictures and the day was amazing, but it did add further stress to the situation.  The weak cellular was complicated by the fact that for the first time we were boon docking for an entire week.  Again, Lee had tried to get me to proactively solve the potential problem by simulating boon docking conditions in a campground where we had services (this is strongly recommended by Howard and Linda of RV-Dreams ) , but I was extremely resistant, feeling like we should actually be in a spot worth boondocking over before we tried here.  My thought process was that I would hate boondocking without the beautiful setting and then be resistant down the road.  Lee knowing this could very well happen capitulated, but he thought it was a bad idea. 

Are you seeing a pattern here? This leads me to something I have been wanting to talk about for some time but had no idea how to broach.  So as before I am going to write my truth with the understanding that it may not be yours.  Actually I hope it’s not.  I don’t believe we are alone in this problem, however, but you as always decide whether or not it resonates with you.  Almost two years ago Lee brought this lifestyle to me.  Since he wanted to do it so bad, he went to a considerable amount of trouble building a convincing argument to get me to agree.  Let me be clear, I never in a million years would have had the courage to do something like this on my own, but Lee has always been the visionary in our marriage and that vision has truly enriched my life.  Once we were on the road it isn’t like his encouragement stopped.  Actually it was harder because vague concepts became reality, good and bad, and he sort of babied me along for the first 6 months.  I fully admit I needed that.  I have never been this far our of my comfort zone for such an extended period of time in my life.  So all of that was fine and was working for us as a couple, but eventually it became not fine.  It wasn’t his choice, it was our choice, and I needed to start owning my part in that.  Plus I am sure he was getting tired of being extra careful with me all the time because I might have an emotional reaction.  How does this relate to not having cell coverage and boondocking?  Because it all came to a head.  My unwillingness to be proactive caused an emergency which he felt he had to deal with.

What was the emergency?  Well Monday morning my first call was at 7:30am.  Using Steve’s booster I made the call and everything was fine.  The next call was at 8:30 and it was a very important call that I was hosting.  Hosting means my number is used and no one can join the call until I arrive.  Also if my line disconnects then everyone else is disconnected.  At 8:26am I realized I could not make a call of any kind.  Luckily I was able to email someone and ask them to start the call and I grabbed my cell phone and laptop and we jumped in the truck and drove 5 miles down the road.  I was several minutes late to the call I was leading and was actually quite proud of myself that I managed to hold onto my cool and professionally handle the call.  Lee was not so impressed.  All of a sudden we had a problem that needed to be solved immediately and it became his whole day.  We drove 30 minutes away and bought a small booster which we tried, but just didn’t work well for me.  Then we took the small booster back and bought a larger booster which works much better,WeBoost Home 4G, and I broke down and stopped at a Verizon store along the way.  In a nutshell it took all day, in between me handling a very busy call schedule from parking lots, and we were out $399 for the WeBoost (we later got an $88 refund because Ellen bought the same one and used Red Laser to get a price match discount), a $32 restocking fee on the first booster we returned, and $57 a month for a new Verizon plan.  In case you’re interested, we ended up choosing a 1GB month-to-month plan which can be suspended twice for up to 180 days total in a one year period or changed to increase or decrease the data at will.  We could not use a prepaid option because those phones cannot act as a WiFi hot spot so got the bare minimum phone Samsung Galaxy Core Prime for $169.  I was pretty unhappy about needing two phones at first, but after making Verizon calls with no issue all week I will say that $60 is a small price to pay.

So Monday was a crazy day and at the end of it I was feeling like we had done OK and managed to hold it together pretty well.  Well, that was my perspective.  That evening we got in one of the worst arguments we have had in the last 15 years.  (we’ve been married for 25 but the last 15 years truly bad arguments have been few and far between).  I am not going to get into all the details, but I will say this: This lifestyle does not fix your baggage.  You bring your marital issues into the lifestyle and essentially put them into a pressure cooker.  What I mean by that is the  problems we are having are not caused by the lifestyle, but in a sticks and bricks existence they might be easier to manage.  For one thing you have more room to get away from each other if you’re not getting along.  Also for us, we are going through the normal marital adjustment that happens when your last child leaves home. For all couples with children this is an adjustment and many couples simply don’t know how to relate to each other in a kid free environment.  Kids do act as a great buffer in a way.  It’s all about the kids for such a long time, you often don’t deal with couple issues you might be having. Lee and I recognized this as a possibility well before Kasey left home and part of what started all of this was our desire to ensure our relationship didn’t die a slow death the way we had seen many others.  What I didn’t count on was full-timing would escalate the time-table on dealing with some of that stuff and it would be done in an environment where both people were out of their comfort zone.  Personally, and your mileage may vary here, I believe this lifestyle in the beginning is relationship high stakes poker or maybe the better analogy is extreme sports.  The rewards are amazing if you can work through it, but there is risk.  Again, you may not agree, but that has absolutely been my experience and truth and I have been wanting to share it for a long time.

Have we worked it all out?  Absolutely not, but hopefully we have moved forward into a better place.  I need to own my choice in this life and respect that when he wants to deal with something in advance we should do it.  Lee needs to learn to not let his feelings build up and let me know when things are bothering him so we can immediately address them. Next week I am on vacation and we are on the East side of Glacier with minimal cell coverage, if any.  We can take that time to reconnect with each other and enjoy the most beautiful aspects of this life and I think it will be good for both of us.  Plus, we are with our friends Deb and Steve who have 4 kids and have been married for 30 years so if anyone gets it, they do.  And just so you don’t think it was all bad this week, I finally got to go kayaking with Deb.  Something I have been looking forward to all year.  It was fun and she answered the long running question of who steers the kayak.  She took a 3 day class and what she learned was the person in the front is the person who steers and the person in the back is the power.  Dammit, Lee was right about that too.

Whitefish Lake

Whitefish Lake

Around White Fish Lake

Around White Fish Lake

In the kayak

In the kayak

Kayaking with my friend Deb

Kayaking with my friend Deb


Whitefish Lake State Campground 1615 W. Lakeshore Whitefish, MT  1 out of 5 pinecones

Older campground with small heavily wooded sights which make generating sufficient solar power in this no services environment difficult. The sites themselves are less than optimal either extremely close to an active train track or on a steep incline. No dump station but water in the campground at various spots.  Beautiful lake with great access, but  AT&T barely works but the Verizon signal was strong.  Close to town and numerous services, yet still feels isolated.    So it would be a good campground except when the train is running and unfortunately that is far to often.  Unfortunately because the trains go by every 30-60 minutes and are so loud (numerous times we had to suspend our conversations because you simply couldn’t hear each other), unfortunately I have to give it my lowest rating.  I would never stay here again.



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13 thoughts on “First Time with No Cell Coverage

  1. Tracy, Can totally relate to the work frustration regarding cell coverage issues. When we had dinner with Deb and Steve recently and he described going into a local library to work and take calls, I cringed at that idea. I wouldn’t have that much patience and we would be moving on to another location.
    It is frustrating and it does lead to tension. During our years of traveling part-time and working from the RV during those travels we learned all about cell boosters, finding good locations, etc. I think that has saved us a ton of headaches as we went full time, however, we’ve also learned to plan better and to know our options / limitations.
    It’s a compromise to be able to work from the road, enjoy this FT RV life, but at the same time to reduce stress and angst, we’ve had to prioritize picking locations where we knew I could work. When I got frustrated because I couldn’t work very well, Dale reacted to my frustrations with trying to “fix” it and eventually we’ve discovered what works best for us.
    Give yourself a break, this isn’t learned overnight and we had the advantage of traveling part time for a few years before the FT journey started.
    Enjoy Glacier!
    Dale & Ruth

  2. Your honesty always amazes me in your blog! I know it was a tough week, and I felt bad for all the connectivity issues, but it was great to spend time with you both! (and I LOVED my turkey sub!)

  3. Hello Tracy and Lee,

    I came here from and link in Rv-Dreams. I also read Deb’s blog and we have exchanged a few comments. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated the honesty in this entry. We had similar issues when I was still working for the short time I did before I retired. It was very stressful .We also had other issues that I may discuss in my blog some day. Maybe not.
    I enjoy your blog. We also went full time in 14.

  4. So glad you wrote this post.

    You have solidified my decision to not work while on the road.

    We have sold our s/b close 9/18. I am not a fan of how addicted to technology we have become. I actually have learned to enjoy no cell service for short periods.

    You must be finding it conflicting to be working while on the road and that would add to stress to anyone.

    I love your blog and hope to meet you one day on the road.

    • Hi Susan. Thanks for the feedback. Not working in some capacity is not an option for us, but for those that it is I certainly understand the choice. Linda says I have a foot in both worlds and that is certainly true. Mostly I am grateful that I have a way to finance this lifestyle at my age, but it absolutely does add stress to the situation. Glad you reached out and best of luck to you on the road.

  5. You can’t fix it until you recognized it is broken…I think you have recognized that so I am sure it will get fixed. BTW…compromise is what makes marriage, this life style and just about everything work. Most people think I don’t paddle when we kayak because I have a bad shoulder. Well, truth be known…Bill just has to steer:o)) Love your honesty!!!

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