Connectivity off the grid is hard to maintain. If you think your device will stay connected while bicycle touring, hiking, or camping in the most scenic, tranquil, important, and distant reaches you are mistaken. If you venture far enough away from it all you will drop connectivity during your adventure. This is not a problem it is a ‘feature’ of adventuring.
On my last tour I had a snappy new smartphone that dropped it’s connection when I pedaled out of Phoenix, AZ all the way to the outskirts of Denver, CO. The coverage map showed that I was within cellular coverage.
My plan of using my phone as a GPS and updating my site and social networks as I rode were dashed. The funny part was that the phone’s readout stated ‘roaming’ which was exactly my goal on this tour. I was prepared with the equipment to charge my devices off the grid but why did I count on and expect a cellular connection?
That coverage map your wireless carrier promotes is for advertisements and sale pages. It’s not real. Do not look at a coverage map and count on coverage. If you disagree have a look at your carriers terms and conditions and search for the word “coverage”: T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint.
If you are depending on coverage to make your trip a success this could be a deal killer.
While I was disappointed about not being connected the realization that having no connectivity off the grid was a thrill. I had truly escaped. I overcame any connectivity issues by falling back on a paper map, notebook, and pencil.
I enjoyed a full eight days of splendor across the desert, through Monument Valley, and up and away into the Rocky Mountains with nary a beep, buzz, or vibration to get in my way. Most of the places I desire to travel via my bicycle share this ‘feature’.
Why is connectivity off the grid an issue?
I saw a guy running in NYC’s Central Park yesterday with a bluetooth headset talking on the phone. I was quite impressed with his pace, a smooth stride that did not jar the headset loose, and his ability to carry on a conversation at said pace; however, part of me wanted to scream. Can’t we do anything without being connected? I would suggest that you need to unbridle yourself from the connection to truly get away.
My next tour will be free of a cellular connection. I will publish as I stumble across WIFI networks from place to place. They are everywhere there is enough people to justify a Library, Coffee shop, McDonald’s, Internet cafe, Kinkos, etc. I accept and embrace this.
This is how I grew up adventuring. This is the reason I adventure. This is how I will adventure moving forward. This is what I call ‘getting away’.
Since smart phones have become ubiquitous I have not enjoyed too many ‘real days off’ sans the eight days I spent between Phoenix and Denver. Don’t stress about not having connectivity off the grid. Embrace it. Revel in it. Soon the grid will take over our lives and we will never get unconnected.
“But what if there is an emergency” you might ask? I will gut it out like I did in the pre cell phone days. I think that is a ‘feature’ of adventuring too.