Nicole and I left Centerville on Monday, Oct1, 2018 to travel around New England with our friends Flash and Lisa. Our plan is to pick up Flash and Lisa at the airport in Boston, MA on Friday. We’ll be taking them to an RV rental place where they are getting a Class B RV to convoy with us for 10 days. We don’t know what we are going to do for 10 days, but I’m sure we won’t run out of things to see.
After our friends head back to Iowa, we are going to head south to stay out of the snow. We’ll probably be gone for 4-6 months living on the road. I’ll try to keep the blog updated with what we are up to.
Nicole wanted a map to track which states we have been to. We stuck the map on our refrigerator as you can see below.
So far on this trip we have been to the Volo Auto Museum, in Illinois, and Niagra Falls. I’ll post separate blog posts for each of those. We’ve been driving for 3 days now, so the Northeast United States is getting filled out.
We are currently in a Walmart parking lot in Westborough, MA for the night. The sign when you enter this Walmart says “No Overnight Parking”, so we’ll see if we get over looked or not. We purposefully built the van to not look like someone is sleeping in it for this kind of situation. We’ve done multiple nights in Walmarts that banned parking before, so I don’t expect any problems. I’ll let you know if we get rousted. :-)
I just ordered a new iPhone. I’ve been using the same iPhone 6 Plus for 4 years now and am tired of it not fitting in my jeans pocket when riding a motorcycle. If I didn’t want a smaller phone, I probably wouldn’t have upgraded. More on that later...
I ordered a silver iPhone Xs and a green leather case for it. I think it looks pretty sharp. With the camera bump on the back, I think that the case is required equipment. The total cost was over $1200, but Apple is giving my $100 for my old phone.
Although it is a lot of money, I feel really good about the purchase, especially after watching the September Keynote address. In it Apple stated the making phones last longer is a specific business strategy for them. Horace Dediu has a great right up on it, Lasts Longer.
Essentially, without the carrier subsidies, people aren’t upgrading their phones as much. I used to update mine every 2 years. Back then it wasn’t like they were going to make your monthly bill smaller after paying for 2 years, so everyone always got a new phone. That was awesome for the companies selling you phones.
Now that the subsidies are gone, that incentive to upgrade every two years is gone. My wife and I held on to our phones for 4 years and she still doesn’t want to upgrade hers. So what are these companies to do? I think Apple’s approach is to be known as the company that makes phones that last the longest and charge more for that. What they are willing to do is sell you a phone that lasts 2-3 times as long for 1.5-2 times the price.
I think they are really serious about this. I’ve been running the test version of iOS 12, the version that comes out this month and it is impressive. It made my old iPhone 6 Plus run faster than the day I bought it. That is great, considering that most operating system releases try to take advantage of the new phone hardware to add new features. That makes the older phones run slower. Not this time. It sped up and it sped up a lot. And iOS 12 supports some really old phones. It supports the iPhone 5s that came out 5 years ago.
My advice is this. If you are in the market for a new phone then take into consideration that you will hold on to that phone for 3-5 years now. Does your phone get regular software updates? Will it be getting software updates after 2 years? And if you have an iPhone that is feeling slow and think it is time to upgrade, wait a minute. The new iOS 12 is coming out soon and your old phone might feel brand new again.
Apple has a winner with Xcode 10. With macOS Majave it gained Dark Mode which many of you have seen in other IDE’s and pro level tools. Not only does it make it look futuristic and cool, it is actually reduces eye strain by reducing how much brightness is pushed at you.
Beyond that, I’m having trouble putting my finger on what is so much better about Xcode 10. It feels like I am fighting it less often. Maybe it is because I have gotten more experience with it over the years, but I think something is different. It’s like the searches are more accurate and navigation takes you where you expect it too. Autocomplete seems to work better too. It is certainly more stable than Xcode 9, even while still in beta.
I’m not quite sure I would say that Apple has caught up to Jet Brains or Microsoft for IDE’s, but I think they are closing the gap.
I started the blog and a couple others in early 2017. My thought was that I would write posts about IT and Vanlife and keep them separate. That was way too ambitious for me. At the time I wasn’t very interested in the IT world and the Vanlife posts seemed to take too much effort.
I ended up settling on using Instagram to post Vanlife pictures. It had a simple interface and made it easy to crosspost to Facebook. The icing on the cake was using an Instagram plugin for my Wordpress site that automatically pulled Instagram content and integrated it. It worked pretty well. For a while.
One day the Instagram integration stopped working because they made their API more restrictive. Pretty irritating, but I got it back up and working. Then Twitter began shutting developer API’s and it got me thinking more seriously. Then Facebook shut down the ability to do cross posting through its API. Twitter did it to try to make more money and Facebook needed to do it to stop the Russian troll bot farms. Regardless it got me thinking.
It is just a matter of time before Instagram shuts down the API I am using to integrate it with my site completely. They don’t make any money off of it and it doesn’t drive much traffic to their site. When that happens, all my content is locked up there.
So to clean everything up, I merged all the content from my different blogs and Instagram into this one blog. My strategy from here on out is to only post content to my own server and then crosspost links back here from Facebook, Twitter, and/or Linkedin so that people can find what I have been posting.
I also am using a pretty nice piece of blog posting software, MarsEdit 4. Now with the right tools and the right strategy, you’ll start hearing more out of me.
We lived just outside Yellowstone and The Grand Teton parks for over a week. The West Yellowstone campsite was our favorite. It was right next to a babbling brook where I could set up my hammock and read all day. There was also plenty of fallen deadwood to use for the fire. It was pretty much everything you wanted in an off-the-grid campsite.
This is shot I took while trying to cook foil dinners in the rain. Nic is hiding inside and all the furniture is stuffed under the front of the van to keep it dry. I was determined to keep the fire going for the 40 or so minutes it took to cook dinner. It was close, but we campfire dinner that night.
Big Sur and Yosemite we some highlights from when we left LA this spring (2018). We stayed at some pretty amazing spots, but they rarely had cell service. To get cell service, we stealth camped in Woodland, CA. After that we head to Napa Valley to check out the wineries.
Here is one advantage to having a low top van. I was able to park it in a friends parking garage in LA when we were visiting California this spring (2018). Unfortunately, most parking garages are still too short especially now that the van has been lifted and has solar on the roof.
There is a saying in the #vanlife world. “You can live in your van or out of your van.” My original intent was that we would be living out of the van and mostly just spend time in it when sleeping. That didn’t exactly work out how I had intended. We spend much more time than I had expected cooking inside, working there, and hanging out inside to escape bugs. Still, besides having to put my pants on bent in half, I haven’t missed having a hightop. The way the van is set up on the inside almost everything can be done from the sitting position including cooking.
Some nice advantages to having a low top van are that it is more stealthy. That is, it looks more like a contractor’s panel van than a camper. This is handy if you are sleeping somewhere that you aren’t supposed to. The low top also allows for more square footage on the roof. This means that more solar can be fit on the roof than some other vans.
For now the low top van works great, but I wonder about 15 years from now. Will I still be flexible enough to get my pants on?
Lake Havasu was too hot for us, so we went to the Mojave Desert. Really. It was much cooler in the Mojave due to being farther north and, I think, a higher elevation.
This spot was one of my favorites. We were by ourselves a good distance from the highway. There was a town 30 minutes away and we had excellent cell phone data reception. I think that this might be a place to spend an extended amount of time in the winter.
Here we are camping near Lake Havasu, AZ. On top of the roof rack, you can see our 400 watts of solar panels. This powers all our accessories in the van including our halogen hot plate for cooking.
This is another shot of the solar panels at our home in Iowa. Next to the solar panels are the sand ladders. If I get stuck in sand, mud, or snow, I can place those under the rear wheels to (hopefully) drive myself out of any holes I’m in. They also serve as a platform to walk on the roof to check out the view or to clean the solar panels.
Here’s is the family enjoying the Grand Canyon. We didn’t spend much time there. We basically looked at it, found a campsite for the night and took off the next morning. Maybe next time we will take a hike down into the canyon, but this time we didn’t feel much like fighting the crowds.
Here are a couple of pictures of the van with the new suspension from Weldtech Designs. I had it installed in San Diego, CA when we were out there this spring (2018).
They lifted the front 3” and the rear 1.5”. Previously the back sat higher than the front, so the van is pretty much perfectly level now. It is amazing how the van rides and handles. Better in every way, both on the highway and off the beaten path.
Here are a couple shots I took while driving to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in 2017.
Making a successful app takes a lot more than just writing good code. Here I write about what I did outside of Xcode to make Bind It.
Bookmarks or leaving tabs open didn’t really work so well. Eventually, I ended up with a mess of bookmarks that I considered non-permanent and cluttered up my bookmarking system or I lost the tab I’d kept open for weeks.
My brother lives in a cellular dead zone and if I was watching his kids for him, I had an opportunity to catch up on some reading, but no internet. Besides, articles disappear. They get deleted or moved behind a paywall on the internet. I didn’t know how soon I would get to an article and didn’t want to lose it if I took too long. I needed a solution that didn’t require a constant internet connection, kept my articles organized, and kept them perminantly.
My wife had different needs that I wrote Bind It for. She likes to read amateur horror stories from a subreddit called Nosleep. Some of them are long and she would often lose track of ones she wanted to finish. She also uses the Reddit iPhone app to read them and the text in it is small and hard on the eyes.
eBooks are packages of text and images that are portable. eBook readers, like iBooks, allow you to store these eBooks, manage them, and view them. The reader will scale the text for you and even allow for different viewing themes that work better for day vs. night. eBook readers work to reduce eye strain.
What we needed was an app that created an eBook on the fly from a web page. It needed to figure out which images and text were important. It needed to search for and throw away ads and user comments at the bottom of articles.
My software companies name also needed to be updated. Vineyard Enterprise Software, Inc worked well enough for the name of the staff augmentation company I started in the 90’s, but didn’t really stand up well now that I focus on web and mobile development. Vincode is shorter and easier to remember, so I trademarked it. It fits the modern web and mobile world better. Apple doesn’t allow you to use tradenames, so until I formally change the name of the company it will show up as the longer, older name for now.
My current plan is to run a trial advertising campaign on the amateur story subreddits, like Nosleep, to target them specifically. The readers of these subreddits are one of the main two use cases for Bind It, so hopefully conversions will be decent. At $1 per 1000 impressions, it should be affordable too. Based on the initial trial marketing campaign on Reddit, I might roll the campaign out to other short story sites on the web. If anyone has a site that they think would work well with Bind It, let me know. I’ll make sure Bind It works for it and may help support it with advertising.
I registered vincode.io since it is common to use the “io” top level domain for tech companies these days and vincode.com was already registered.
This article will also appear on LinkedIn. I’m hopeful that posting on LinkedIn will get a handful of early adopters during the initial soft rollout. This will find more bugs before I start advertising could head off some negative reviews when I ramp up marketing. I’ve already put out two revisions of the app based on early testing.
If any significant social activity springs up around Bind It, it will most likely be on Reddit since I plan on advertising there. I created a Bind It subreddit where I can get feedback from people. Hopefully participation will be higher there since the people I advertise to will likely already have a Reddit account to post under.
The social game for Bind It is a little weak. This is an area that I plan to continue to work on.
There is now a soft launch of Bind It in the App Store. Version 1.0 is up now and version 1.0.1 with a couple UI tweaks and bug fixes is in app review and coming soon. Only $.99 to save that story or article you don’t want to loose.
As a child of the 70’s, Elvis was everywhere. He was on the movies that Channel 13 played in the afternoons on summer vacation. His music was all over the radio. His cool blue vinyl record was spinning on my grandmother’s record player when she would baby sit my brother and I.
When I woke up cold in Wisconsin and saw that directly south of me was Memphis, TN, I knew where I was going next. With Nicole and the cats snuggled together under layers of blankets, I started up van, turned on the heater and hit the road.
I forgive you for thinking that I am an straight up idiot for being in Wisconsin in November without an auxiliary heat source in the van. I just haven’t gotten to that yet and you will think me an idiot for other reasons.
I was using one of those small ceramic heaters that you can pick up at Walmart for $20. They worked great in my condo and I had a really beefy inverter to power it, so I should have been fine. Unfortunately, the heater cut itself off after a few minutes of working. The heater was rather old and these things die periodically, so I trashed it and replaced it with a newer model from a Wisconson Walmart.
It was about 4:30 in the morning when I finally had to stop for gas. The gas station was out in the middle of nowhere and was mostly abandoned except for a single clerk. This was one of those dirty gas stations that has a diesel and oil soaked gravel parking lot out back. My luck kicked in while I was putting gas in the van. I heard a hissing noise. I must have ran over something in the parking lot of this shit hole station.
Since I was stuck until a tire shop opened, I figured I’d wait until morning to call AAA. I got the new heater out and plugged in. It didn’t work at all. Figuring that the inverter wasn’t strong enough, I set up the generator and plugged the heater directly into it. The heater immediately cut out.
I was cold, tired, and feeling inadequate because I couldn’t keep my weird little family warm. Now, I’m not the type that misdirects my anger at inanimate objects. I don’t slam doors or break dishes. Something snapped in me and smashed the shit out of that heater all over that gas station parking lot.
Finally Nic talked me into trying to go back to sleep. I did so reluctantly and in defeat.
When we got up later in the morning, I was thinking more clearly. I realized the leak in the tire wasn’t that bad and that I could air up the tire and drive 5 miles back up the road to a tire shop that opened early. I didn’t need to wait on a tow truck or change a tire in the cold on oil covered rocks. Once we got the tire fixed, we were back on the road to Graceland. The patch in the tire didn’t take and we had to stop in tire shops two more times before we finally got it done right, but we took it in stride.
Social media makes everyone’s life seem more glamourous than it actually is. Generally people don’t post embarrassing or boring photos or stories about themselves. The various #vanlife Instagram accounts always show people waking up next to the ocean or a mountain lake. Nobody posts how they woke up in a Walmart parking lot again or in a shithole Illinois gas station with a flat tire.
Bind It is an new iOS and macOS application from Vincode. See the About sidebar to see what it does. This will a $.99 application in the Apple App Store when released.
The app is currently in Beta testing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a tester.
With all the drama from this car getting stolen, I thought I would let everyone know why I bought a 1974 VW Beetle when I am downsizing and planning on living in a van.
For those who missed it or aren’t Facebook friends with me, about a week ago I bought a classic VW Bug. The doors didn’t have any keys, but I only paid $3,700 for the car so I didn’t expect anyone to risk going to jail to steal it. It is probably about the cheapest car in my apartment parking lot, so I figured a different car would be targeted first. Wrong. I got home from having lunch with my friend Jerry and it was gone.
I should have realized that the car stood out and may be worth more than I paid for it. The first time I bought gas, I was approached by someone who wanted to talk about it. My apartment manager half-jokingly offered to trade me her ’06 black Beetle for it. I parked in front of Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee. The girl who got me a cream donut and coffee had that glitter in her eye and flirty welcoming smile that could melt any man’s heart. I half expected the bug to wink back at her and for them to leave together. Everyone loves that car.
I put a post on Facebook and asked everyone to share it so that if someone saw it they could call 911 and report it. A good friend, Vicky, posted it to her neighborhood group. Vicky and I both live in the Little Italy district in Omaha and someone in her group saw that it was only a few blocks from my house. Luckily I was able to retrieve car with only minor damage to the ignition lock. It is now securely in a garage awaiting an electronic alarm.
Now it is time for me to come clean. My plan for the car is to turn it into a bugeye Baja Bug. Like this one:
This is where the conflict comes in. I hadn’t expected to buy such a nice Beetle. The car I bought only has only minor surface rust on the pan. The interior is in better shape than my Corvette’s. It has 65,000 miles on the odometer, that I naturally disregarded for a car that old. After closely inspecting the car, there is a good chance that number is accurate. Replacing the engine, transmission, suspension and about half of the bodywork and interior feels… just wrong. When I told my brother, the plan he had an open look of disgust on his face that mirrored my own gut feeling.
If you try hard enough, you can justify any bad behavior to yourself. I just keep telling myself that by “donating” the parts I remove on eBay, that there will be many more complete bugs in the world for it. In fact, by putting more bugs in the world, I’m doing God’s own work. Or is that Hitler’s own work? Uh… This isn’t working.
The idea to make a Baja Bug came to me in Quartzsite, AZ while there for the big RV show and RTR. Several people I saw there were driving around in Sport UTV’s that were licensed as motorcycles and legal to drive on the roads there. The Sport UTV’s were so small, that people parked them in the strangest places and got away with it.
The usefulness of crossing an ATV with a golf cart are immediately obvious if you are staying on BLM land near Quartzsite or some other area of the Southwest. You can tear across the desert and get to places that your van or RV can’t get to. You can also set up camp with your rig’s awning and exterior furniture and not have to take it down to go and get water, food, and other supplies in town. The major downside is that you need a motorcycle license for them, which Nic doesn’t have. They also aren’t legal to drive on the streets in most state that we would be visiting. The cons ultimately outweigh the pros, so no go for the Sport UTV.
But hey, no worries. Previous generations had a better solution anyway.
Update 02/07/18: I didn’t ever get to finish this project. It was a situation where I needed to focus on finishing out the van build and stop getting distracted with side projects. I ended up selling the little Beetle for what I had in it. I still believe in having a Baja Bug if you are driving around a full size RV, but it really isn’t necessary when you are using a smaller Class B like I have.
I still want a Baja Bug and may still get one, but I will probably buy a finished one. It doesn’t seem like anyone gets their money back out of the conversion and it is just cheaper to let someone else take that hit.
Dad and I had had just about enough of trying make this 2014 Ford E-250 into the perfect cross between a stealth camper and a Sportsmobile. My struggles with depression had already delayed this project months beyond where it should have taken. It was already the beginning of November 2015 without having my vision of what the van should be fulfilled.
My mom has an eloquent way with words. As she would say, “It’s time to shit or get off the pot”. It was time for Nic and I to finally hit the road. We finally just decided to throw the cats what we thought we would need into the Van and get going without much of an itinerary. The only place we really knew we were going was The House on the Rock. After that, it was just the open road.
The House on the Rock was a destination because Nic had been there on a family vacation as a child and had fond memories of the trip. I had never been there and anywhere besides Omaha, NE was good by me at this point.
It is easy to see why the House on the Rock would be awesome to see as a kid. It is pretty awesome to see as an adult. I won’t ruin the experience for you, but the whole thing is basically an eclectic collection put together by a nutty 1970’s free bird. Right up Nic’s alley.
It doesn’t matter how much the SSRI’s impact my libido. I’m not giving this a try.
There was only a couple problems with the House on the Rock. It was in Wisconsin, it was November 2015, our little space heater wasn’t working, and no one in my little family has much body hair except me. Nobody was having much fun that first night sleeping in Wisconsin.
I woke up in the middle of the night and made a decision. I looked at what was straight south of us on the map, got behind the steering wheel and, started driving while everyone else slept. We were on our way to Graceland.
For those who don’t know, I lost my mind in the summer of 2015. As I told a friend who asked if this came suddenly, “No, this was a long time coming.” I had been trying to fight off anxiety and depression using alcohol and willpower for quite a while, but that only works for so long. At the time, I didn’t know that I had limits to the amount of stress that I could handle and I piled it on recklessly. In the end, I burned out and had a mental breakdown that left me unable and unwilling to work in my profession as a Software Architect.
A contributing factor may have been my age, at the time 43 in years. Was it a midlife crisis? Couldn't be right? After all I didn’t have difficult children, crippling debt, or a loveless marriage. I already had a motorcycle, a red corvette, and a hot younger woman. I should have been safe. Regardless, I still wanted to run away and live a life of solitude as many men do at this age. In the end I chalked my breakdown to hereditary major depressive disorder. There is something of a history of this on my maternal side of the family, so the theory is plausible. Don't worry, I'm medicated now and doing fine.
More and more I’m coming to realize that many of those who wander aren’t necessarily looking for something, but trying to avoid the world and all that comes with it. At the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous one woman stood at a group meeting and said that she no longer needed anxiety medication since hitting the road. Several heads started nodding in agreement at this comment. I know when Nic and I travelled it helped me tremendously.
I heard another long woman traveler speak about nature deficit disorder, where not being in nature enough can cause personal distress. I think there is something to this. We watch the movie Blackfish and and are horrified at how we keep orcas in constrained captivity. Then we go and sit at the same desk in front of a computer most of our waking hours, stuck in our own Westworld loops. All this completely without sense of irony.
My brother reads a favorite blog, Bowman Odessey, where the author is clearly struggling with this very subject. Or maybe I’m coloring it with my own experiences. You decide. Regardless it is well written and worth killing a couple minutes here and there. Check it out.
Hi. My name is Maurice C. Parker and I am the sole founder, President, and head janitor of Vincode. Vincode is the new trade name for Vineyard Enterprise Software, Inc. Welcome to my company rebranding and rebooting.
I started Vineyard as a company for me to develop that did staff augmentation for Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies. Since that time, my career has had many twists and turns. In short, I never did grow the company into a staff augmentation company and used it over the years for mostly tax purposes. The new plan is to use it is a vehicle to release mobile apps and do freelance consulting.
Back in the 90’s the name Vineyard Enterprise Software, Inc was pretty good. There were lots of three word company names that got shortened to their acronyms. Domain names weren’t a primary concern when naming your company back then either. If so, I wouldn’t have spent the last 20 years typing (or spelling over the phone) a 30 character email address, email@example.com. The old name doesn’t represent what I do now or the industry that I work in. Vincode is shorter, more contemporary, and my new email address is only 13 characters now, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the interests of self-promotion, I will be writing regular articles for this site. I have over 20 years of industry experience as a consultant and many of those experiences are very unique. I think sharing them will help enlighten others out there that don’t have the same number of battle scars that I do. I will be cross-posting them to both Medium and Linkedin, so if you already like those platforms, you can find them there as well. The topics will be about Software Architecture, SDLC, Project Management, Change Management, Quality Assurance, Ops/DevOps and other IT disciplines. More importantly, I will write about the interactions between these disciplines and how that can impact overall project productivity.
I hope you’ll stick around.
I'm at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous or RTR for short. For those not familiar with the term rubber tramp, a rubber tramp is basically a hobo on wheels. The wheels can be anything from the largest RV or bus to a motorcycle. All types of person are rubber tramps from all different socio-economic classes. On one side of me is a retired circuit board designer from Intel. Across from me are hippies selling barley and beet juice shots.
I'm here because my wife Nicole and I are in the process of becoming full-time vandwellers, a subclass of rubber tramp I guess. I came down here to learn more about the lifestyle from the people who live it all the time.
In the photo above is my rig, the white cargo van. I'll put up detailed posts about the different modifications made to it to make it into a stealth camper van. Stay tuned. Behind my white van you can see a blue-black van owned by Youtube blogger Dave2d. Check out Dave's channel and others if you are curious about the lifestyle.
While, I am fairly new vandwelling, I do have some experience. Nicole, the cats, and I lived out of the van for 2-3 months total last year to see if living this way suited us. It did and now we are working toward becoming full-timers ourselves.
This process for us is well underway. In this blog I will document how over the next year or so we prepare for finally going full-time. I will also do flashbacks to fill you in on the journey thus far.