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The attached RV adventure travel article PDF for download first appeared in the March / April edition of Escapees Magazine.

Escapees is the world’s largest RVer club and provides resources and support for living the mobile lifestyle.

The article begins:

“Few people realize that the RVing lifestyle isn’t exclusively reserved for the rich or retired grown-ups. When we tell them that anyone can travel the country and live on the road at any age, they’re puzzled until we enlighten them about cost-saving measures like “work-camping.

Workamping is a terrific way to offset the expense of traveling while getting to know a region. It’s also one of the main ways we can afford to enjoy life on the road, decades before retirement.”

Download the entire work-camping tips article to read more about this unique live / work arrangement.

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The following article appeared in the July edition of GoColorado.com, a travel site dedicated to exploring the best of Colorado’s attractions, lodging and adventures.

Colorado dude ranch vacations can be as simple or luxurious as you want them to be. From airy mountaintop cabin rentals with four-star gourmet meals and spa treatments to rigorous cowboy camping excursions, guest ranch proprietors are ready to make your Old West lifestyle vacation a reality. Adventurous travelers with a yearning for days gone by will find their perfect getaway somewhere in the middle at Vickers Dude Ranch, a beloved family vacation spot in the heart of Western Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

Few things in Colorado have remained the same since the Vickers family opened their property to the public in the early 1900s. But the minute you arrive at their family-oriented resort you’ll see this is one place where the frontier spirit is alive and well. About the only thing that’s changed since J.W. Vickers purchased the 1,800-acre property in 1920 is that beginning this year, guests can own a piece of Western Colorado paradise by purchasing their own vacation cabin in the new Vickers Horse River Ranch, a 66-acre property on the family homestead.

Vickers Ranch is one of the oldest family businesses in Colorado. The property is an easy 4 ½-hour drive west from Denver to Lake City, a historic community founded by prospectors and ranchers in the mid-1800s. This town of just 500 year-round residents is nestled at the foot of the Slumgullion Earthflow, a spectacular landslide that created Lake San Cristobal, the second-largest natural lake in Colorado which today provides endless fishing, camping and exploring opportunities.

The Vickers family, 100 years after welcoming their first guest, remains an integral part of this remote and wild territory. What makes this place extra special is that the Vickers are not only hospitable hosts, but they’re dedicated land stewards, too. The Vickers partner with the Nature Conservancy to keep their property undeveloped and wild, using it for the family’s agricultural and wood harvesting needs, as well as for guest activities, such as hunting, outfitting, fishing and cowboy-style cookouts.

Vickers Ranch is perfect for vacationers who prefer to create their own adventure. Guests of the ranch check in at the early-1900s-era log cabin office. This authentic homestead, originally hand built by the Vickers family in the upper hay meadow, was later disassembled and relocated for easy access to what later became Colorado Highway 149. Upon check-in, you’re certain to meet one if not all of them at the office, since every family member plays a key role in making sure guests have a good time.

The property is managed by head honcho Larry, his son Paul, wife Paulette and daughter Faith. Occasionally the grandkids will be there, along with the resident herd of ranch dogs. One or all of the Vickers family will explain the ins and outs of enjoying the property, which includes four private fishing ponds, guest access to 1.5 miles of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and numerous alpine lakes. Nearly 2,000 acres with heart-stopping views of the Uncompahgre, Weminuche and Powderhorn wilderness areas provide access to the Rio Grande and San Juan national forests.

Whether you enjoy riding horses or jeeps, the Vickers have a fleet of both available at reasonable rates. Group trail rides are offered several days a week, including a popular early-morning breakfast ride where guests dine on cowboy coffee and biscuits and gravy in the backcountry.

The weekly steak fry is a social event.
The weekly steak fry is a social event.

One of the best ways to explore the surrounding wilderness — some of the most remote in Colorado — is by jeeping the Alpine Loop Byway, a technically challenging, epic four-wheel-drive journey that traverses the awe-inspiring San Juan Mountains between Silverton, Lake City and Ouray. This summer Vickers is adding four-door jeeps to their touring fleet so larger parties can enjoy the 65-mile ride together. The ranch is just five minutes away from the Alpine Loop gateway.

The following technology-themed article appeared as part of my regular guest column contribution to the Eureka Times Standard Newspaper. In this 4/30/09 column, I discuss the trend of bandwidth limitations imposed upon users by broadband companies.

Coming soon: Pay-to-Play Internet Plans

It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the road for two years now. What started out as a one-year road trip has morphed into a lifestyle, mostly because of our ability to stay connected with the world through our satellite internet connection.

But it’s not perfect. We’ve had a few gripes, especially lately, when something on our network was calling out to the Internet, and we couldn’t diagnose the problem. We had a mystery virus eating up our bandwidth, and subjecting us to a “Fair Access Policy”, that our ISP, HugesNet, inflicts on subscribers.

For satellite users, the HughesNet Fair Access Policy (FAP) states that:

Hughes has established a download threshold for each of the HughesNet service plans that is well above the typical usage rates. Subscribers who exceed that threshold will experience reduced download speeds for approximately 24 hours.

In the satellite internet world, this situation is known as “getting FAPed.” Lots of things can set it off. Watch a movie online? FAP! Videoconference on Skype for too long? FAP! You don’t get charged a fee, but it’s a horribly painful affliction, giving you speeds akin to dial-up for 24 hours from the time you exceeded your limit.

Until now, FAP policies and bandwidth limitations like this have only been the problem of satellite users and others who rely on connectivity through wireless internet “air cards” provided by their cell phone company. But now, DSL and cable subscribers will start to feel the pain of “bandwidth caps” too.

The San Antonio Express-News reported on April 2, 2009, that Time Warner cable has tapped San Antonio (TX) as one of its first markets to charge varying rates depending on how much data you use, instead of a flat fee.

Time Warner claims that 5 percent of its customers use up to 50 percent of their total bandwidth. They claim they are looking out for the Honest Joes and Janes who don’t hog up the pipeline by frivolously using it for downloading movies or gaming. The company plans to implement this new pricing structure in Austin, Greensboro, North Carolina, and Rochester, New York.

AT&T isn’t far behind. Subscribers in Humboldt should also be on the lookout for the same kind of new pay-to-play system. Late last year, the company began testing bandwidth caps of 60 – 150 gigabytes per month in Reno, Nevada. Other providers following suit include Comcast and Charter Communications.

Users do get a warning if they approach their limit. But once they do, are charged anywhere from $1 per gigabyte over the cap, up to an extra $20 a month on their bills.

The implications of bandwidth caps are profound, and in this economic climate, will have far reaching consequences on businesses as well as individual users.

This pay-to-play scheme by communications giants is nothing new. Other providers have attempted policies like this before. Back in 1986, Ma Bell tried to get rid of its longstanding flat rate charge. They began charging users in Rochester, New York, fees based on how many phone calls they made or how far they were located from the exchange box.

But guess what? Consumers revolted, some even forming their own cooperatives to provide alternative services. Ma Bell eventually threw in the towel when enough of its users switched to the newly formed Rochester phone company.

Over 100 years later, it’s happening again, and we still can’t afford to let our access to the world be at the mercy of these companies. I encourage you to help the Humboldt tech community spread the word about this issue, by bringing it up for discussion with the Redwood Technology Consortium membership base. You can also read about the actions that consumers are taking, by visiting StopTheCap.com, or UsageCaps.com.

As for my satellite internet connection, next time we get FAPed, I guess that as long as we aren’t being charged extra, I won’t scream as loudly as I used to.

# # # #

Copyright 2009, Eureka Times Standard Newspaper.The print edition of this article first appeared in the 4/30/09 edition of the Times Standard.

This article appeared as part of my regular guest column contribution to the Eureka Times Standard Newspaper. In this 07/10/01 column, I discuss the variety of self-employed entrepreneurs in rural Northern California’s Humboldt County.

The Possibilities are Endless
in Free Agent Nation

California has more “Free Agent” independent workers and micro-business owners than any other state in the nation, according to Dan Pink, author of the fascinating new book “Free Agent Nation.”

According to Pink, two out of three Californians don’t hold a traditional job with a single employer. Our state’s free agents are breaking new ground and achieving a new type of  “job security” through diversification, and investing their human capital in several clients or projects, rather than devoting it all to a single company and living in the shadow of their next pink slip.

The Redwood Technology Consortium is Humboldt’s best vehicle to further diversify a free agent’s opportunities. Once a month, we all pry our hands away from our keyboards, and head out to the Eureka RREDC office to exchange business advice, learn how to participate in promoting clean industry locally, and simply network with other free agents, micro-enterprise and larger business owners. Between us, we demonstrate the possibilities available to anyone wanting to make the free agent leap, with as little as a phone line, fax and FedEx.

Here’s a few world class projects we are implementing from our spare bedrooms, garages, and sometimes while camped out at the local coffee house:

Ennis Web Design, run by Sean Ennis, specializes in ADA compliant web design, foreign language translation and digitally mastered audio for websites. In addition, if your ISP goes belly-up and you’re suddenly found without a web presence, Sean will help you move your site to a new host: something your old ISP won’t do.

www.YourEka.org is a Eureka citizen’s website created by Carl Birks, a College of the Redwoods Multimedia Student. Eurekans are encouraged to express their perspectives on our urban environment when visiting the site. By using written, visual, musical and other creative expressions, YourEka promotes innovation in urban planning and architecture for a more people-friendly, ever-improving, more livable Eureka.

Planwest Partners, owned by George Williamson, AICP, is a planning and environmental consulting firm. Planwest offers land use, resource, community, and environmental planning; feasibility studies; and grant-writing services. George has over twenty years of experience in both public agency and private sector planning, primarily in the West.

Gold Dog Design, developer of the acclaimed RTC website, specializes in the development and implementation of web-based intranets and extranets for the virtual office. Specializing in ColdFusion programming, Carter Fleming offers database integration and B2B solutions with integrated portal capabilities.

Peggy Martinez, an Assistive Technology Consultant and Trainer specializing in equipment for people with impaired sight. Peggy arranges everything from system installations with speech & Braille output, to awareness training, to accessible computer lab coordination for conventions and conferences.

Kevin Savetz is a freelance computer and technology writer specializing in the Internet. Kevin is a regular contributor to Computer Shopper, MacAddict, Byte.com’s WebTools, Sesame Street Parents, AuctionWatch.com, Access Magazine, and other publications.

www.BuyVeteran.com, is a nationwide directory of veteran owned businesses. Webmaster Doug Sapp is in the process of compiling information from around the country on veteran businesses in a variety of industry sectors, such as servicing, manufacturing, and construction.

Tina Nerat, a newly transplanted San Diegan, runs NERATech from her office in Eureka, which specializes in building systems infrastructure, such as networking, help desk, system administration, desktop support and LAN/WAN configurations. In addition, Tina works with businesses to assess their use of technology within their organization. Mike Nerat, her husband, is a prototype machinist and CNC programmer, and is currently seeking a high-end machine shop with appropriate tools and CAD/CAM software, to partner on various projects.

This is just a sampling of the creative endeavors underway in our region’s stealth tech industry, and proof that our livelihoods don’t have to be at the mercy of industry-wide economic downturns and structural reorganizations of large employers.

To get inspired or find out what others are doing to live the free agent lifestyle, join us at the next RTC meeting on Wednesday, July 11.

Rene Agredano sits on the RTC board of directors (www.redwoodtech.org) and is a principal of Agreda Communications, a full-service marketing communications firm.

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