Hotspot Problems and Two Weeks Stuck in Ridgecrest, CA

Our first few weeks in California were accompanied by some crazy, uncommon weather. Our first boondocking was in Lone Pine, CA, in an area called the Alabama Hills. We expected to stay here for a few weeks, but were forced to move on by impending floods after just five short days. Next, we stayed in an area called Fossil Falls, where we were, once again, driven away by intense winds. Around the same time that we left Fossil Falls, our hotspot malfunctioned. It was then that we decided that our next best move would be to travel to the nearest, populated city to await the arrival of our new hotspot. Here, we could enjoy shelter from the winds and much-needed Internet via nearby locales that offered free WiFi. With this in mind, we left Fossil Falls on January 10th, and headed to Ridgecrest, CA.

To backtrack a bit, I will briefly explain our WiFi situation. Brendan and I both run remote businesses from the road, and this is what allows us to fund our full-time travels. Without Internet, we are unable to work, and without work, we are unable to travel. So, we could easily say that data connection is the most vital aspect of our new lifestyle. Prior to leaving for our journey, we had configured a careful data connectivity set-up, one that we thought was foolproof. We shared a 25GB AT&T cell plan, allowing us a good amount of data on our phones, with the added ability to connect our phones to our computers as a hotspot when necessary.

When we lived in a house, we shared 5GB of cell data monthly, and this was more than enough for us, as we had our Comcast WiFi connection at home. However, for all-day connection and Brendan’s web design agency, 5GB is definitely not enough data for a full month on the road. Our new 25GB AT&T plan would not be enough for a full month either, so, to supplement our cell data, we decided that we needed an unlimited data plan. However, AT&T does not offer an unlimited plan for hotspots, so we then looked into getting an unlimited Verizon plan. It turns out, though, that Verizon has also cancelled their unlimited data connection permanently for all non-grandfathered users (grandfathered users are account holders who purchased an unlimited plan years ago, before Verizon stopped offering unlimited plans). However, after some googling and researching what other RVers used for connection from the road, I learned that we could rent an unlimited Verizon plan from someone who owned a grandfathered account. Bingo!!

I then found, what I thought, was a great hotspot deal on EBay. I bought the newest Verizon hotspot for a decent price, along with a rental service that included unlimited data for $130 per month. This was more than we had paid at home for unlimited connection via Comcast, but, for an unlimited hotspot, this was a great monthly price. Plus, we figured that paying a decent price for good connection was worth it, as we depend on data for income. Further, we have virtually no utility bills in the RV, so the price of our lifestyle has also been significantly reduced. Obviously our plan was fully foolproof, or so we thought…

During our trip out to California, we jumped back and forth between using our AT&T cell plan and our Verizon hotspot depending on which had the strongest connection in the area. During our stay in Lone Pine, CA, we relied on our cell data connection through AT&T, since we were not able to find a campsite with good Verizon connection. There, we used about 20GB of our 25GB limit from our phone plan. Then, when we moved to Fossil Falls, we began using our Verizon Hotspot, which was still working wonderfully. However, on January 9th, we hit the 25GB usage mark on the Hotspot, and the device seemingly ceased connectivity. Although the device advertised truly unlimited connection, we were reduced to loading web pages in 30-60 seconds, which really does not cut it for web design and ECommerce. We emailed the seller of the device, who said that the device was covered under warranty and that we should send it back to them for a replacement. They said that the turnaround time for the replacement device would be about three to four days. We thought this seemed like a viable plan, but we also knew that we would soon run out of AT&T data, and that we needed to be able to work. This, combined with fleeing the strong winds found in Fossil Falls, prompted our move to Ridgecrest, CA. Since the EBay seller needed a physical address to send our new hotspot, we gave them the address of the post office in Ridgecrest, CA.

Our first night in Ridgecrest was on January 10th, 2017. Since the area was still experiencing strong winds of 30-35 MPH, we parked behind a permanently closed Walmart building, using the building as a shield from the wind. I was initially nervous, thinking we would be asked to move, but no one bothered us whatsoever, and this spot was surprisingly private.

The next day, we went out in search of WiFi, and we found that the only nearby location that offered free WiFi was a single Starbucks. While Ridgecrest is the only town in about a 4-hour radius with basic accommodations, such as a Walmart, Home Depot, restaurants, etc., it only seems to have one version of each amenity. Thus, we would soon learn that this solitary Starbucks would become our home for the next few weeks.

We arrived in Ridgecrest on a Tuesday, and we expected to receive our new hotspot by the end of that week, according to the initial estimate given to us by the EBay seller. However, when I requested the tracking information for the new device, the seller immediately started to act shady, and soon stopped responding to us altogether. We opened a claim with EBay, who said that they would make their best attempt to contact the seller and request they send us our hotspot immediately. However, this process could take up to two weeks. Thus, we were stuck in Ridgecrest for two weeks, when we had originally thought we would only be stuck for two days.

But where were we going to park while we waited for the hotspot situation to pan out?

The first night we stayed was behind the abandoned Walmart, but this was merely to hide from the strong winds. We only expected to stay for two additional nights, so we figured that we would stay at the actual Walmart across the street (apparently the Walmart had changed locations at some point and the old location had not yet been turned into a new store).SInce most Walmarts have a two-day limit for staying overnight, we had already used up this limit, and we began looking into nearby RV parks. However, we soon found that there was nowhere for us to officially stay nearby to wait out the hotspot situation. We thought about leaving Ridgecrest and awaiting the hotspot dispute result elsewhere, but we had given the seller the Ridgecrest post office address. This meant that if they did decide to send the hotspot, we would potentially be hours away and unable to retrieve it. Also, any new location we moved to may not have a convenient nearby location which offered free WiFi. Thus, we decided to stay in Ridgecrest and try to figure out somewhere to stay.

We decided we would attempt to stay in the parking lot of the old abandoned Walmart, and this worked out surprisingly well. It turns out that there were several other people in RVs and/or vans that had made this abandoned parking lot their home. There were a couple individuals parked there, for whatever reason, the entire time we were there as well. We then settled in for the long haul stay in Ridgecrest. However, this stay was not entirely bad.

Almost the entire time we were in Ridgecrest, we were going to the local Starbucks to work everyday. We were able to drive our entire rig to the Starbucks parking lot and park in a way where we could watch our dogs and make frequent trips back to walk them and check on them. This worked out very well, and we soon found this one specific spot in the corner with a good view of the RV where we would work for 8-12 hours everyday. This time was surprisingly productive, and it was in Ridgecrest that we built and launched our entire website.

During this two-week waiting period, we mostly worked, but there were a few days that changed up the monotony. One day was Archie’s birthday, where I made him a “pup-cake” using a doggie safe cake recipe and threw him a mini birthday party with Max and Luna. It was super cute, and they really liked the cake. ?

Another fun day was a day we spent repotting all of our houseplants. We needed a break from the Starbucks hustle, and what better way to relax than a day spent gardening. On this day, we transferred many of our plants into new pots and moved some to different areas in the RV based on lighting needs. Since we both greatly enjoy gardening, we really appreciated this break from the monotony.

In the last few years, Sam and I discovered that we shared a passion for indoor gardening. When we began planning our travels, we couldn't bring ourselves to give up gardening and leave our plants behind. Moreover, we really wanted to incorporate our fauna into the design of our space. To solve this problem, we developed some creative methods to ensure that each plant could travel in relative safety (more on that to come). Today we were doing a bit of gardening, as we had a few new specimens which needed homes, plus some others in need of transplanting. We thought it would be fun to set up a group shot before putting everyone back. . Note: there are 72 various species of succulents in this photo, so I will make my best attempt at a left to right labeling of everything that is NOT a succulent: African Violet, Lucky Bamboo, Cactus, Prayer Plant, Cactus, Air plants x3, Purple Passion Vine, Aloe Vera (technically a succulent), Moth Orchid, Snake Plant, Lavender, Jade (behind lavender-also technically a succulent), (baby) Aloe Vera, Areca Palm, String of Pearls (another succulent), Bromeliad, Chinese Elm (bonsai), Venus Fly Trap, African Violet, Air Plant, Peace Lily, Lemon Button Fern. Not pictured is a kitchen herb garden, which consists of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, cilantro, oregano, mint, chives, and dill. ??????~B #LifeAmongPlants #PhileasRemodel

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Other fun activities included Brendan’s brief trip to the local skate park, where Luna and I watched while he busted some moves. Our custom camper cushions also arrived in Ridgecrest, fully completing the interior RV remodel we had been working on (more on that later). We also were able to put in good work on our own two businesses (Quarry Design Group and MugsySupplyHouse), since there was not much else around to do.

Finally, it was here that we celebrated one full month on the road. We celebrated with a mini-Thanksgiving meal, an experience that was both fun and delicious. ?

So today marks exactly 30 days on the road for us. To celebrate we made a mini-thanksgiving dinner because thanksgiving food is awesome and because we really are so thankful. Thankful to be able to live like we do. Thankful to be able to travel. Thankful to be able to spend everyday with each other. Thankful to be able to do what we love, at home, everyday. We're so thankful for where the last month has brought us and so excited to see what lies ahead. ????? ~ S&B • (Side note: This is also in keeping up with a family tradition. Growing up, my mom made an awesome and fancy dinner every single Sunday. Now that we're away and on our own, Bren and I want to keep that tradition up. Each Sunday we plan to make something yummy and fancy-ish. So expect to see many more Sunday dinner pics. ? ~S) #PhileasRemodel

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When the hotspot dispute was finally settled, we learned that the seller had dropped off of EBay entirely and that we would be receiving a full refund for the device for which we had not received a replacement. We were then back to the drawing board to find a new Hotspot, and we were able to find another for relatively inexpensive. We then waited another three days for this new device to be shipped out to us, and, once we received it, we were finally able to leave Ridgecrest and continue onward with our adventure. And so it was, that the morning of January 23rd, we headed towards Joshua Tree National Park, ready to explore our first ever national park and the surrounding areas.

Have you ever visited the little California town of Ridgecrest? Feel free to share in the comments below!

About Samantha Binger

Samantha BingerSam is one-half of the Life Among Pines crew. She is an animal-loving bookworm, an avid photographer and an amateur chef/wanna-be foodie. Travel and adventure are two of her biggest passions in life, and she loves living life on the road, where she can explore new places on the daily. When not writing a new blog post, you can find her sipping tea, hiking with her dogs, sampling a local brewery, or fulfilling orders for her Etsy shop, MugsySupplyHouse. Feel free to reach out and say hi!