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Coffee Shops are so 2005

Westie 1

It’s over. Word’s out: you can get online at a coffee shop for real cheap – lots cheaper than paying an office rent, and the drinks are better anyway. There are dozens of people with laptops in almost every place with a free wifi connection. Students downloading torrents, guys in suits tethered to their slogging, bandwidth hogging exchange servers, hipsters making music, yoga moms surfing web. I’ve seen homeless-looking guys seem pulling out beaten up old laptops and getting online. Yeah, our local shop Lulu’s is still fun, but you better bring your own cellular internet access if you want to do any real work – the network is too busy. If you can even get a table…

But there are better places to work.

Twenty six miles north of Lulu’s is an empty beach: Waddell Creek. Empty until 2pm when the wind comes up that is. Then dozens of kiteboarders and windsurfers appear, taking advantage of one of the best wind and wave combinations in the world. Work – here?

Westie 2

Someone at Sprint must be a kiteboarder (surfer, slacker, something), because for some reason, at isolated Waddell Creek beach, Sprint has 5-bar EVDO service. There are no people up here – 5 hippies living in the trees maybe, so I never could figure this out. Screaming data speeds of 800 – 1200 kbps, quite comparable to home DSL connection. And with a PDA phone plan Sprint only charges $15 a month for unlimited EVDO access (shhh… don’t tell corporate). Rather affordable.

I’ve been ducking into my camper van for years to check email and return calls, often in my wetsuit. Sometimes I show up before it picks up, get some work done with the stereo cranked, and chat with my buddies when they get there. There’s another guy, an executive at a San Jose chipmaker, that does the same thing. We’ll call him Tim… don’t want to get him in trouble or anything. You see him running to his car with his wetsuit on trying to dry off his hands before grabbing his cell phone and hopping on a call. Closing deals. From Waddell… and then killing a wave to celebrate… This guys is up there every day – EARLY. And late too.

Not bad.

Optional, but helpful ingredients: 1987 Volkswagon Syncro Westfalia camper, with 2nd battery, cellular amplifier and 1200 watt inverter. And an iPhone. Plenty of room and table space in the camper – it’s not hard to find a good one under $8K. The cellular amp (about $350) means you get signal at the edge of coverage – where I frequently seem to find myself. The inverter gives 120 volt juice and the iPhone means a second phone so you can be online while joining a conference call. Plus if Sprint fails, you can still get and reply to email on the AT&T network, which actually is pretty much everywhere there is anything at all (and that iPhone is damn cool anyway, so I can keep coming up with excuses to have it…).

Westie 3

I added a week to my honeymoon recently – a working week, touring around the southwest with my wife, Melissa. Melissa works in real estate, so having a phone and email for a few hours a day is a big plus. We would work mornings and a bit in the evenings. No problem working at Bryce, Zion, around Sedona, Flagstaff and even near the Grand Canyon. It’s amazing, there is service just about everywhere. We’ve often taken working vacation days in Big Sur, and we’ll be looking for new spots soon. Waiting for Google Earth to add cellular coverage layer… then we might not have to pay rent anymore…