Using a Home Style Dish

Here are a few things I’ve learned about satellite TV, specifically, about using Dish Network with a home style dish as we travel.

Here’s a bit of background: we started off using an automatic dish. When it worked it was pretty good. When it didn’t work it was a real pain with no feedback as to why it wasn’t working. Here’s review 1 and review 2 on it.

When the automatic dish began to have issues I was faced with the decision of either sending it back to the factory for repairs or moving on to something else. I decided to go with a home style dish.

The reasons for the move were these: (1) financial (the home style dish is much less expensive), and (2) the home style dish gives me a home style TV watching experience (HDTV and ability to watch/record multiple channels at the same time).


So, I bought the dish and used it with an inexpensive tripod. I used a cheaper meter for aiming the dish. Honestly, it wasn’t a very happy experience. The manual I downloaded for my 1000.2 dish has an index where you can look up the setup based on zip code. I would set the skew, elevation, and azimuth (direction) based on that manual’s figures. Using that inexpensive analog meter and a compass I tried to aim the dish.

I would slowly move the dish side to side. When the meter started screaming, I would lock it down, go to the rear window of the camper and look at the satellite setup screen on the TV. Sometimes it would show that I had dialed in the satellites, sometimes it would show that I was on the wrong satellite, and sometimes, in spite of what the meter was saying, there was nothing.

I used this method with varying degrees of success for a bit over two years. However, I was learning as I went. As I learned I made some changes that have made setting up the satellite easier.

Eastern arc LNBs.

Upgrade #1: Dish actually has two sets of satellites called the eastern and western arcs. In a good part of the country you can use either one (the more northeast or northwest you go the more you are limited to just one or the other). Also, if you want local channels in HD, you want the eastern arc when in the eastern part of the US and the western arc in the western part of the US. I bought the second set of LNB’s for the eastern arc. I use the same dish, just swap out the LNB’s as I move east. However, in some parts of the country you can swap out when you can’t see the southern sky for one set of satellites. This is a pretty nifty work-around for tree filled campgrounds.

This is an actual working set up in a difficult location.

Upgrade #2: I bought the Dishpointer Pro app for my Android phone. It superimposes the location of the satellites on the camera screen. Using this app I can use the phone to see where I need to set up the dish where it has a clear view of the satellites. I’ve been known to hop out of the truck and use the app when selecting a campsite, knowing ahead of time that the satellites are in clear view from the campsite. I know there are other apps that supposedly do the same thing, but after trying a few of them I settled on this one, in spite of the higher cost. I think it was worth it.


Upgrade #3: I bought a TV4RV tripod for the dish. Having the dish perfectly level is vital for aiming at the satellite. The legs on this tripod are individually adjustable which makes leveling easy. The tripod is also height adjustable. Fairly often getting just another foot higher means seeing the satellites or aiming at a tree limb. This tripod isn’t cheap, but it makes a huge difference when aiming the dish.

Upgrade #4: I got bluetooth headphones and stopped using the old analog meter. When the TV is on the satellite aiming screen, it makes a tone that changes in pitch depending on the strength of the satellite signal. With the headphones I can adjust the dish while listening to the tone from the TV. Some people spend a lot of money on meters that identify the satellite – I admit that would be better, but for the money, the headphones work great.

Using the above setup my home style dish setup time has decreased considerably. If you have a bit of technical ability, this approach might be for you. If you are a “plug and play” kind of person it is very unlikely you are still reading at this point, but if this describes you, you’ll probably want to spend the cash and get an automatic dish of some sort.

Comparing a 5th Wheel and a Diesel Pusher Motorhome

After 6 years in a 2007 34′ 5th wheel we moved to a 2005 39′ Diesel Pusher. Since the two rigs are from the same general timeframe I think they make for good comparisons. However, please understand that some observations are specific to these rigs – because of that our experience might be different than that of others. Both rigs were gently used by their previous owners. The motorhome only had 34,000 miles on it and the 5th wheel had been garaged and well cared for. The 5th wheel was a Hitchhiker II LS – a mid-level unit from a first class manufacturer. The motorhome is a Safari Cheetah, basically an industrial twin to a Monaco Knight – another mid-level unit. The 5th wheel was pulled by a 2008 Ford F350 with a 6.4 engine. As you read, remember that I am comparing our experience in these two specific rigs. Here are some observations on the two rigs.

Liveability: 5th Wheel
The 5th wheel has more storage and a better living layout. We did move the motorhome TV from over the driver’s area to over a couch on the side. It helped a lot. We originally thought the motorhome would have more storage but that didn’t prove to be true. It has less room inside and the bays don’t offer as much space as the big basement did in the 5th wheel. Things like heating and cooling are pretty much the same with either one.

On the road: tie
The motorhome is more comfortable and the big window up front offers the best view. When towing the car the motorhome can’t be backed up. Generally, this isn’t a problem, but if you make the wrong turn somewhere the car has to be disconnected, the motorhome moved, and then the car reconnected. Not a huge deal, but a negative when it happens. Some people said that the ride would be much smoother, but we haven’t found that to be true with this motorhome, even with new shocks. Getting fuel was better with the pickup simply because it could be filled up when not towing the camper.

Landing in a campground: tie
The motorhome is easy to park. The backup camera makes backing into a site a snap. Also, since the motorhome doesn’t bend in the middle it is easier to situate. However, in an unlevel site the 5th wheel wins. It doesn’t care how high you have to crank the landing gear. With the motorhome, you can easily end up with the front wheels off the ground. Some people say that doesn’t matter, but in the manual that came with our rig it clearly says not to do that. Getting level can be a challenge even with the hydraulic levelers.

Local Transportation: Motorhome
With the 5th wheel, the daily driver is a big pickup – poor mileage and challenging to park in tighter spaces. We now pull a small car with the motorhome. A much better daily driver.  Not only that, it can be a real plus to scout a campground in the smaller car before driving the rig to the campsite – especially in pick-your-own-site situations.

Maintenance – Repairs (engine/chassis side): 5th Wheel
If the pickup needed work, we could take it to most any shop that worked on diesel pickups while the 5th wheel was comfortably parked in a campground. When the motorhome needs work, we have to find a shop that works on big trucks that will also work on a motorhome. You see, some truck and trailer shops will work on motorhomes, some won’t. Then, while the work is being done the house is in the shop too. If that work includes an overnight stay arraignments have to be made for accommodations (although it should be noted that depending on the type of work, many shops will let you stay in the motorhome overnight in their parking lot). In addition: work on the motorhome is almost always more costly than on the pickup.

Maintenance – Repairs (camper side): tie
Getting camper stuff worked on (or doing it yourself) is about the same on either one. Refrigerators, water heaters, awnings, etc. are pretty much the same. It is much easier to get work done by mobile techs on the camper side of the motorhome than on the engine side.

Cost of routine operation: motorhome
The motorhome gets about the same mileage as did the pickup when towing the camper. However, once in the campground, we drive a small car that gets much better mileage. Oil changes, etc. cost a lot more on the motorhome, but only have to be done yearly, making the annual cost about the same. Also, remember, the motorhome is only run when actually changing campsites, keeping mileage low compared to the pickup which is also a daily driver.

Storage accessibility: 5th wheel
I’ve already touched on this, but looking at it only from ease of access, the 5th wheel bay is much easier to use. All the bays of the motorhome are under the 4 slide outs. I wear knee pads and have to get down on my knees to reach into the bays. It is harder to get things in and out of the motorhome bays.

Propane: tie
The 5th wheel had two big removable propane tanks. A bit heavy, but taking them out and getting them filled was a reasonable amount of effort. On the motorhome the tank is built in. You either have to take the rig to a station and have it filled or you have to see if anyone is delivering (not all that uncommon in larger parks with long term residents).

Dry camping: motorhome
This is only about our specific rigs but I have the idea is it more common than not. The motorhome has a big diesel generator, an inverter, and 4 6-volt house batteries. It has larger holding tanks too. There are ways to do all the above with a 5th wheel, but the motorhome is pretty much ready to go without any special add-ons (neither had solar of any kind).

In-motion convenience: motorhome (but not as much as you might think)
Prior to getting the motorhome we were told how great it would be for the passenger to be able to get up and move around while in motion. We haven’t found that to be the case. It is downright dangerous for anyone to be up and moving around while on the road. Sometimes we take advantage of a stoplight or a nice straight stretch of open interstate to get up and do something, but most of the time the passenger needs to stay strapped in.

Getting in and out: 5th wheel (but not as much as you might think)
There are more steps getting into the motorhome and they have to be navigated every time you go in or out whether on the road and traveling or stationary in the campground. On the other hand getting in and out of the pickup is just a bit harder than getting in and out of a car. Then, in the campground, there are fewer steps coming and going from the 5th wheel. However, this advantage is somewhat diminished by the additional steps going up to the bedroom and bathroom. I’m giving the 5th wheel the win here, but not by much.

Cost: 5th Wheel
Bear in mind that I’m talking about used rigs here. The cost of a big late model diesel pickup plus good 5th wheel is at least in the same neighborhood as a used low mileage diesel pusher motorhome of similar vintage. However, you have to then add in the cost of a small towed vehicle. Then, chassis-engine repairs will cost more on the motorhome. The price difference is offset a bit by the better motorhome resale value. The results are mixed – but I give a slight plus to the 5th wheel. Frankly, the startup on our motorhome has been very expensive for us as we found issues that had to be fixed. I’m counting those costs in with the purchase price – hopefully, these expenses will come to an end very soon.

Prestige: Motorhome
If you like compliments on your rig (and who doesn’t) the motorhome is the hands-down winner. I’ve had guys in a pickup truck pull up beside me in traffic and give me a thumbs up (never had that happen with the 5ver!). It isn’t unusual for people in campgrounds to complement us on our rig. Honestly, the first thing that got our attention about this motorhome was how good it looks. Apparently, a lot of people agree. This kind of stuff is no big deal to us, but it has happened often enough to convince us that it is more than a coincidence.

So the jury is still out
As you can see, at this point it’s a mixed bag. It would be untrue for us to say we haven’t missed our 5th wheel. Of course, after living in it for six years we knew all of its quirks – we are still learning the motorhome. At this time the thing we like best about the motorhome is the small car we tow – making it a pleasure to go sightseeing or just to run to the store. The thing we like least is how much more difficult it is to get work done on the chassis side of it. It is a much more difficult thing to find a shop to work on it and then to take it there as opposed to taking the pickup into the Ford dealer.

Note: this article is a work in progress. I’ll likely be back to add/edit items as things become apparent to me.

2019 – Daisy Barn Campground, Wilson, NY


Daisy Barn Campground is located near Wilson, NY, right on Lake Ontario and not far from Niagara Falls. This campground is out of the primary tourism area but just barely, making it a quiet alternative if you are willing to drive 30 minutes or so to the Falls. Old Fort Niagara is just 10 miles away. Just down the road to the east is a nice state park and then the Wilson Marina.

Daisy Barn is a smaller campground with mostly long timers, many paying an annual fee and leaving their camper on their site even as they head south for the winter. The folks we met were friendly and used to travelers like us passing through their neighborhood.

We enjoyed the campground WiFi and had no problem getting satellite TV. My Verizon signal was about 2 bars and usable but not great. Daisy Barn Campground is the turn around point in our 2019 Adventure. Up to this point our moves have been in the east-north direction. From this point on they are in the west-south direction.

Most evenings people gather at the pavilion that overlooks the Lake to enjoy the spectacular sunsets. Honestly, that view is our favorite thing about Daisy Barn.

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2019 – Sightseeing Niagara Falls and vicinity


Niagara Gorge and Falls
We wanted to spend the week of our 50th Anniversary in a beautiful area with lots to see and do. We picked Niagara Falls and vicinity. Some of the attractions added a romantic flavor to the week while others were just interesting and fun.

Early in the week we focused on the Niagara Gorge – a stunning area below the Falls and out to Lake Ontario. The Robert Moses Niagara Power Project Visitors Center is an impressive place with great views of the Gorge and an interesting overview of the area. As we entered we were handed “swipe badges” that allow visitors to play a wide variety of interactive exhibits. Kids enjoy collecting stickers while learning about hydroelectric power and energy efficiency. I enjoyed the movie telling about the plant, how it works and interacts with surrounding power grids. I particularly enjoyed seeing Mr. Tesla come to life in a picture frame to explain AC vs DC electricity. One hall is dedicated to the Native American people of the era and their civilization. The best part of the visit was standing on the observation deck overlooking the Niagara Gorge, watching the water flow and the tour boats speed through the Niagara Gorge.

Nearby is Whirlpool State Park with a stunning view of the whirlpool in the Niagara River. It is mesmerizing to watch the water flow and spin. Up above people were riding the Gondola that takes people high above the giant whirlpool.

We enjoyed stopping off for an ice cream treat in Lewiston at the Silo Caboose. The soft serve chocolate ice cream was amazing! The only problem was it was a hot day and I had to eat it faster than I wanted.

Although we were here 7 years ago Niagara Falls was the highlight of this week and we saved visiting it for our 50th Wedding Anniversary! We drove in found a good parking spot and bought our tickets to visit the Observation Tower and then ride the Maid of the Mist! I enjoyed every minute of the ride with the spectacular falls above and then around us I was reminded what an Amazing God we serve who made things like this for our pleasure.

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Historic Erie Canal locks
We really enjoyed our ride on the Erie Canal. Construction of the canal was started in 1817 and it opened in 1825. It carried commerce from New York Harbor to Lake Erie and transformed the region. Our ride on the Canal took us through Locks 34 and 35, the “Upside Down Bridge” and under a lift bridge used for normal street traffic. We could see traces of the old foot path that was used by the animals towing the barges as well as many historic buildings as we rode along. As we passed through the locks our Captain explained how the locks worked, allowing the water to raise and lower our boat as we moved along the canal. It was a fun ride that let me experience a little of the history I learned so long ago.

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Old Fort Niagara
Just a short drive from us is Old Fort Niagara. This Fort has a history of over 300 years. It has been controlled by the French, English and the finally the Americans. It was critical in the French and Indian War, The American Revolution and the War of 1812. The visitor’s center provides historic information and artifacts including the original American flag of the War of 1812 (the twin of the Star Spangled Banner) which is kept in a climate controlled room. I enjoyed going into the buildings and talking with several re-enactors as well as seeing demonstrations of musket fire and military field demonstrations.

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2019 – Tompkins CoE Campground – Lawrenceburg, PA


We were at Tompkins CoE Campground at Lawrenceburg, PA in 2013 and were glad for an opportunity to visit this beautiful campground again. Since I reviewed the campground then, I’ll just do a brief review and post a few new photos.

It wasn’t especially by design, but we ended up in the same campsite as we were in when we were here six years ago. It is, though, a great campsite. No doubt, the spots along the lake are great sites, if you can’t get one of them, Knoll 17 is a good one. For one thing, it is one of the few sites that offers a clear shot at the Dish network eastern arc satellites. I’m guessing that the spots along the lake have a view of the sky, but aside from that, there aren’t many sites that do.

About half the sites are full hookup – the rest are water/electric only.
The campground is in a bit of a black hole for cell service. We had a 1X signal. That meant that a text message might get through and that’s about it. We found that if we walked along the lake to a spot closest to the dam that we got a usable 3G signal. Needless to say, if internet is important to you it might be better to find a different campground.

However, if you are looking for great Corps campground in a beautiful setting you’ll love this campground.

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2019 – Sightseeing Watkins Glen, NY State Park


When we last visited Watkins Glen, NY State Park we were blown away by its beauty. As we planned our trip through this area again a return visit was on our “must-do” list. We had a great day for this visit and it is just as beautiful as I remember. We opted to purchase tickets to take the park shuttle to the top of the trail, making the mile and a half hike through the gorge almost all downhill. We saw many people hiking up and were glad we were taking the route of least resistance! The trail is made up of stairs and winding pathways along the river with many waterfalls along the way. The bridges and safety walls are well kept but the pathway is narrow in some places. There are beautiful stone arch bridges and in a couple of places the trail takes you under waterfalls. We were able to find a wider spot where we could sit on the wall and enjoy a picnic lunch in as beautiful a setting as you’ve ever seen. The high rock walls and overhanging trees add to the beauty of it. We think this NY York State Park is a world class attraction and apparently many agree as we heard a wide variety of languages being spoken by our fellow hikers.

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2019 – Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails – Dover, PA (take 2)


We are just finishing up our second stay in as many months at Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails near Dover, PA. Since I have done a couple of recent reviews of this nice campground there’s no need for me to do another at this time.

The main reason we returned here was that we needed a base of operations to attend a wedding 100 miles from here. I was graciously given permission to leave the camper unoccupied for a couple of days (something not normally allowed for traveling members of Thousand Trails).

This stay is, though, part of a bit of an experiment for us this summer. During our previous years a stay of longer than 11 days was unusual for us. We “land” for the winters and travel throughout the summer. This year we returned to south-central Pennsylvania, bouncing between the various Thousand Trails for just over six weeks. Considering that we enjoyed a couple of visits from family and then attended a wedding it worked out. However, one outcome of our experiment is that we think we’d rather, in general, keep to less-than-two-week stays. There’s no right or wrong in any of this. We’ve known some folks who move nightly or close to it. For me that would be like having a job. Touring fulltimers have to find the approach that suits them best. For us, 10-11 days gives us the right mix of sightseeing and “just-living” days.