Desperately Seeking Signal

With nowhere left to stay in Yakima, it was time to head back to the National Forest to try to find a campsite with enough cellular data for me to work the rest of the week. I left in the early afternoon. Days are long enough now that even if this went quite badly, I’d still have enough daylight to find somewhere to camp.

Second Verse, Same As the First

I went back the way I came out US 12 through Naches. My first thought was to return to the campsite I rushed out of Sunday to see if T-Mobile recognized me as not roaming. Perhaps a few days out of the area would reset whatever triggered that after a few days of excellent service. But three miles short of there, I saw a nice, big campsite a bit back from the road, next to the river, and Verizon was still showing two bars of LTE service. I managed to stop, pull in, and set up my hotspots to see what would happen. While the signal was there, the data was extremely slow. I’ve written about this before. I could read email and send instant messages, but when I opened my laptop and tried to use the online resources I need for work, they wouldn’t load. This campsite wasn’t going to work. So I put away the laptop, loaded up an unhappy Lister, and got back on the road.

Three miles down the road, I knew where I was going, back to where I stayed last weekend. As I’d suspected, nobody was camped there, so the place was all mine if I wanted it. But how was the internet? Sadly, T-Mobile still showed me as roaming, and the data rate was unusable. Verizon still had no coverage. So no camp for me. However, back at the first campsite I’d planned for this contingency, and loaded my route to Packwood into Google Maps while I had a marginal signal. As long as I didn’t exit the app, I should be all set. I continued west. I was feeling less stressed this time because although I was desperately seeking a signal, I’d planned for it this time. It wasn’t an emergency like Sunday night.

A Fighter Escort

My route took me back over White Pass, with a climb to a maximum elevation of 4,500 feet. This wouldn’t put me back into the snow like my drive through Mt. Rainier National Park last week. It was slow, though, as my van really didn’t enjoy the climbs. I didn’t push it hard, allowing myself to slow to 45 mph in a 55 mph zone. This lasted a little while until I caught up to a tanker truck with its flashers on going about 20 mph, probably the very best it could do. It wasn’t the pace I wanted, but there was nothing I could do about it, and I wasn’t in a rush, so I just sat there admiring the scenery. We soon collected a few cars behind us, just as stuck as we were. The Honda Pilot right behind me seemed extremely eager to pass, but with a double yellow line and a Washington State Patrol cruiser a few cars back, nobody tried any shenanigans.

Our slow climb continued along the north side of the canyon. The view was beautiful, and at 20 mph I actually had time to look around and enjoy it. Then I heard the sound of a jet engine. It quickly got much louder. The next thing I know, I’m looking at an F-22 Raptor flying through the canyon, going the same direction as us, at the same altitude as us! Obviously, it was flying much faster and soon made a very hard bank into the curve ahead of us. A second Raptor followed close behind, also banking hard into the turn. Then they were gone, just as suddenly as they’d arrived. Although I’d missed stopping at the famous Star Wars Canyon during my drive across Death Valley, I’d just gotten a similar air show here, in a lush forest instead of a dry desert.

Not long after, we reached White Pass. The road widened, and the tanker truck pulled over to let the line of traffic by. I knew I was going to be slow, too, so I pulled in behind the truck and let everyone else pass, then took the opportunity to pass the truck myself. I went by the turn to Mt. Rainier National Park and soon arrived in Packwood, taking the turn to the Packwood Community Park where we’ll be meeting Saturday morning. This seemed a good place to get my bearings and figure out a plan to find a place to stay nearby. Verizon and T-Mobile service was excellent at the park.

Packwood Pondering

My first try was a place I found on, an abandoned gravel pit with plenty of space. I’d need to be able to turn the van and trailer around, plus I’ve had thoughts of hosting a hangout after the ride on Saturday. I made the turn onto the road there, only to find it narrow and muddy. Fortunately, there was enough room to pull over right after the turn. I decided to scout the area on the KLR before taking the van and trailer up there.

I’m glad I did. I found the place just fine, but the gravel road had some washouts that were no problem on the bike but could’ve given the van problems. The gravel pit itself was fine but looked like an extremely popular place to use as a firing range. Signs at the beginning of the gravel road said the only restrictions were no ATVs and to clean up after yourself, including spent brass. The gravel pit is a great place to do this, with a natural backstop. But that meant I didn’t want to camp here. It would be fine for an overnight, but I’m sure lots of people would go plinking out here this weekend, and I didn’t want to leave my van and trailer unattended with so many strangers around. I rode back to the van.

I tried to load the bike into the trailer, but one of the two cables for the back door popped off its pulley. Fortunately, it’s a simple system, and I was able to put it back together with the tools I had in the trailer. I strapped down the bike, turned around, and tried the next spot down the road. At this point, Lister was sick of driving and began yowling his head off. This made it a lot harder for me to drive and navigate. The next stop was from iOverlander, a “very large pull out along the river.” It looked promising. But as I got closer, my cell signal on both carriers disappeared completely. This wasn’t going to work, either.

At this point, I’m going to leave out the specifics about where I ended up. I’m going to be parked here for a few days, so for safety reasons, I’ll be vague. I will say that I finally did find a place, big enough for the van, and that has adequate data service. I may not be watching videos out here, but I can work, and I can write this post. It’ll get me through the meetup, and buy me enough time to figure out where I’m going next.

Wishing Upon a Starlink

I wouldn’t have had any of these hassles if I had Starlink. I would’ve set up camp last weekend, gotten online, and not had to move at all for two weeks if I didn’t want to. Instead, I’ve had many stressful hours this week trying to find places to stay where I could get online. While I had some good times and got things done in Yakima, it wasn’t a particularly thrilling stay, either. I would’ve much rather stayed out in the National Forest, and picked up supplies when I needed them. I’m seriously considering it.


  1. We have AT&T and Verizon (well, *will* have AT&T in the next couple of days, again). That redundancy is critical for us. Right now I’m getting shite-mbps down with Verizon. I’m considering turning on my T-Mobile phone hotspot. It’s better, but I heavily “reserve” it, even though I pay extra for another 50gb. I, too, am wishing on a Starlink. I’m really, really eager to get my hands on it, but there are some “logistical” problems (I tend to overengineer), and I’m not sure how I’m going to wire it to the inside, though however I do it, their router will be my WAN connection on my Pepwave Max Transit Duo. Do I want to mount it on the roof? How will I protect the cable? How do I keep it from blowing away in high wind?
    What if I’m under trees and need it away from the rig some? Under Lucinda’s name, I wrote this article for RVLife: The section near the end of “Where to place the Dishy” is sort of what I’m referring to. Gotta plan. Oof. Plus, “real” work has got me super-busy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, redundancy is absolutely critical! That’s why I have Verizon and T-Mobile hotspots, plus the ability to connect my router to another WiFi network to put all my devices online instantly. I even subscribed to a local ISP in Quartzsite, since during the winter the cellular networks get overloaded to the point of being unusable. It’ll be interesting to figure out all the tips and tricks for Starlink. Stay tuned for more… 😉


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