Staying in touch on the road.

Trip update: The presentation last Saturday at Florida International University went well, in my humble opinion. The crowd was small, so with all day to cover the topic of running a freelance business, we could answer everyone’s questions in depth without giving up any of the planned material.

ATIF-2014 Management Accounting

These classmates are now also friends.

Sunday, I sang my last service with the choir at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church. Tim Lester and my friends at that church made feel truly welcome. Public worship, especially with music, restores my soul and recalibrates everything for the coming week.

On Monday, I rode to Boca Raton via Fort Lauderdale. An excellent Italian lunch with Rosanna and Tommaso preceded my checking in with Ruth and Robin, who hosted me for two days while I waited for a front to pass. The time allowed me to send out estimates that I had promised, and to start this article. Wednesday, I rode the 146 km to Stuart, almost all on US Route 1, with bike lanes almost the entire distance, a warm sun balanced by cool air.

I am still in the Stuart/Fort Pierce area, hanging with world traveler Josh. For three weeks, I enjoyed warm sunshine. It is turning colder now, but worse is yet to come.

A smartphone and a lightweight computer (laptop or tablet) are all the Freewheelng Freelancer needs to keep his customers happy.

A smartphone and a lightweight computer (laptop or tablet) are all the Freewheelng Freelancer needs to keep his customers happy.

This week, let’s consider communications on the road. This has become easier as communications and computing devices have become more powerful, smaller, and more rugged.

At the core of my communications support in the smartphone. I happen to have a Samsung SIII Galaxy® smartphone, but an iPhone® or other Android® or Windows® phone would do as well. It provides me with texting, voice, email, GPS, PDA, and browsing while my computer (Microsoft Surface 2 Pro® tablet) is packed in the pannier.

A good bracket to hold the phone on my handlebars is essential. So it physical protection. I am not crazy about the Bracketron® smartphone holder, because it is bulky and not heavy-duty enough. However, it is the only model I have found that will hold a smartphone with an Otter Box® protective cover. Considering how often my phone has skidded across the pavement after I hit a pothole, I would not consider keeping my phone in anything but an Otter Box®. The smartphone holder by Delta is top notch and easy to use with any size phone (without an Otter Box® on it).

Smartphone bracket and solar panel

The Bracketron bracket and the solar panel for the smartphone, on the handlebars of the Bianchi bicycle.

Keeping the phone charged up all day is a challenge. Naturally, I have a plug-in charger in the handlebar bag. I get it out when I stop to have lunch or work. I also have a small solar panel made by Blackburn Designs to charge their Flea® headlight. It won’t charge my phone, but on a sunny day, it will keep the phone battery from running down as quickly as it might.

Most smartphones have an “airplane mode.” This disables the radio and the WiFi (which used to interfere with airplane navigation systems, hence the name). In airplane mode, the smartphone stops hunting for cell towers and WiFi routers, greatly extending battery life. The GPS continues to work (it is a receiver only, not a receiver-transmitter, like WiFi or the cell phone). One cannot send or receive phone calls, texts or data while in airplane mode, so I switch the airplane mode OFF once an hour, when I take my stretch breaks, to clear any message traffic or voicemail that may have come in. I can’t answer the phone safely while I am riding, so it is just as well that I remove the temptation.

Another important thing to remember with a smartphone on the road is to turn it OFF at least once a day. Not standby, not vibrate, not airplane mode, but POWER OFF. When you turn it back on, the phone reboots, downloads any updates, resets any parameters that may have gone wonky, and cleans out bugs. The cell phone company cannot install security updates and software fixes until you reboot the phone.

Another communications reality is email, both for staying in touch with friends and for work. My computer is the main processor here, but I can read my email on my phone, answer urgent ones quickly, and go into more depth the next time I pull out my computer.

20140212 Thank you card

Essential communications in any age.

Finally, a small but important communications device is the pen. I try to remember to send my mother and my son a post card from each major city I visit, and a thank-you note to my hosts after I leave. Even with social media and instant texting, a personal note or a card in the mail can brighten anyone’s day.

Smooth roads & tailwinds,


2 thoughts on “Staying in touch on the road.

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