I tend to have unrealistic expectations when I make a life change. In law school I participated in a commercial weight-loss program. In my mind the new Tammy would not only be thinner, but she would be five inches taller and able to grow long, thick and luxurious hair. I lost the weight and learned to love my body for what it was.
And so it went with many notions when I moved into Nellie. Take cable: I imagined a life so full of sightseeing and meeting people and writing that I would have no time to watch television.
After a month in the RV, I called DirecTV.
I watch television with purpose. I have never been a channel surfer, and I rarely have the TV on for background noise. Once I start a series, I see it through to the end, and it is often a bitter end with the way shows go downhill after about season three. I got HBO after watching the first two seasons of “The Sopranos” on DVD. The same thing happened with Showtime and “Dexter.” For that month in the RV without television service, I missed my shows. I grew tired of watching free digital channels.
And let’s talk about those free digital channels for a moment. When I move to a new area I get excited to program the television for local broadcasting. The counter has gone up as high as 30 hits! Nine channels are infomercials, eight are religious, seven are non-English-speaking, three show nothing but old sitcoms, and the other three freeze up and pixelate so much that they are unwatchable.
Before signing up for satellite service, I tried watching television on the Internet. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, and all the major networks have on-demand viewing on their websites as well. The problems with that are many-fold. I am writing another article about surfing the Internet and data usage while on the road, but suffice it to say that streaming takes up a lot of bandwidth and chews up a lot of data without Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi in RV Parks is almost nonexistent.
Nellie was already equipped with a satellite receiver on the roof and wired for DirecTV, so I did not do any research on Dish Network. I just called DirecTV and they sent me a box. For a one-year introductory rate of $100 per month I get all major channels and Showtime and HBO.
I no longer have a DVR. I miss that feature, but if I set a recording for 2 PM, at the appointed time I might be traveling down the road with the receiver folded down for transport. With DirecTV I am able to order on-demand movies, which I have done on many occasions, as long as I have good reception and no storms are scheduled to pass through.
The satellite receiver is a bit touchy and requires a direct line of sight to the satellite. One little leaf or limb will screw it all up. Because the receiver can be so sensitive, before completely setting up by connecting the rig, opening the slides, and putting down the stabilizers, I always check that I have television reception. Pulling forward or backward by just a few inches can make all the difference, even if it does not appear there are any obstructions.
In particularly hot and sunny locations, I trade satellite reception for shade. When trees make reception impossible and I feel like watching the big television in the rig, I keep DVD sets of a few series on hand to binge watch. Maria and I watched a lot of “The Twilight Zone” and “Breaking Bad” when we were in Mexico with no service.
It took me a while to figure out why I was not getting local channels and why the time of day was always screwed up on my receiver box. When I make a move of more than a few hundred miles, or if I drive into a new time zone, I call customer service and give them the address of my current location. Then I am able to get local channels and the local time is correct.
I learned the hard way about storing other items in the cabinet where the satellite box is located. The coaxial cables are somewhat fragile and come loose easily, especially when items shift in the cabinet while moving down the road. I hired techs on three different occasions before I realized I was just packing too much stuff in the cabinet.
As the cabinet is located above the driver seat at the front top of the rig, it draws a lot of heat in sunny locales. I keep the satellite box and a DVD player up there, so on sunny days I open the cabinet and use a small fan to keep the air circulating.
I am sure there are a lot of full-time RVers who could care less about watching television or having satellite service, but for me the $100 per month is worth every penny.