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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Getting My Dongle On!! Laptop Arm For Motorhome

Yep, I got my dongle on!

What's a dongle?

It's a little USB device that hangs off the laptop that has a GPS signal receiver on the end of it.

After our last trip, I realized I was severely lacking in my GPS navigation abilities by just using the Google Maps on the phone and the Rand McNally RV GPS unit on the dash. I was really really missing my Microsoft Streets and Trips on my laptop!

It has a dongle which is a cord that plugs into the USB slot and at the end of the cord is a little Microsoft GPS device that pulls in the signals from the satellites as you are in motion driving down the road. 

With the big screen on the laptop, it's so much easier to use, to plan ahead, and look things up. It leaves a track or a  "mouse trail" of where you've been and it allows you to put push points at various spots on the map. Each of the push points can have a label attached to it with three or four lines of information or internet links or even just numbers. And then they get closed down so you don't see all the information unless you click on it.

By downloading POI's, (points of interest), I can have access to all different types of categories of campgrounds, gas stations that carry diesel, Walmart's, Cracker barrels etc. They are all loaded into my maps so they pop up when the GPS car symbol gets near to them. 

Best of all, it does NOT need an internet signal to operate!!!! Just a clear line of sight to the sky to reach the satellites. 

But.... if I tether my laptop to our cell phones' hotspot, I can even look things up while we go along down the road. It is such an easy way to navigate and I'm used to it. It doesn't pay to teach this Old Dog any more new tricks if I can still keep using this. I know Microsoft has discontinued supporting it, but it still lets me update the maps via satellite and I just uploaded brand new points of interest so everything is current.

Now back to our newest modification---- the laptop stand itself:

The only problem is, in our last motorhome I had a wonderful roll out desk that the laptop could sit on and stow away when not needed. It just rolled into the dash and latched into place. It was perfect to bring along the laptop for navigation.

Not so on this new-to-us Winnebago View. But after looking and configuring and thinking and researching... Steve and I together came up with this bright idea!

For $39.95 and free shipping from Amazon, we got this wonderful heavy duty metal strong laptop stand. 

It actually comes with two arms, a second one to put a monitor screen on. That 2nd arm is identical to the 1st arm for the laptop, other than the tray. That's great because now we have a second arm in case something ever happens to the first. LOL So that extra one will get stowed away in the "Things We Never Will Use, But Keep Just In Case" closet! 

We figured out that there was a spot on the frame underneath the passenger seat that we could securely bolt it onto. We chose the model with the tallest post for leg clearance - 17 inches tall. Plus where it bolts onto the seat frame, it is also now part of the swiveling mechanism. When we swivel the seat around to face the rear it can also be used as a computer workstation when we are parked. 

Even though it was miserable and hot outside yesterday up into the mid-90s, Steve wanted to try and get this mounted early in the morning before it got too hot. The windshield is covered with our sunscreen shade panel from the outside, so that's why it looks dark.


From the inside, there is plenty of room to swivel it out of the way or up towards the dash and to still get into the seat. The bar on the right side does prevent me from getting in and out of the passenger door easily. But I find that I usually get up from the passenger seat and exit in between the cockpit seats. I either grab my purse or get the dog leash anytime I'm ready to exit the vehicle anyhow.  I go out the actual side camper door by the kitchen cabinets rather than the passenger door. In our last motorhome, we always had to use the side door, because we never had drivers or passenger seat doors. That is what we are used to. 

There is still plenty of leg room and knee room and space for the airbag from underneath. The seat can retract back all the way and come forward easily up as far as the bracket arm.

It can be swiveled around to face the rear if we ever want to use it as a computer workstation when we are parked. Now I can face into the living room and kitchen of the motorhome if I want. The entire mechanism swivels with the seat base.

There's even room to set my little ottoman in front of the seat when it's swiveled. We use these ottomans for shoe storage. They double up as extra seating or footrests if we are sitting in the swiveled cockpit seats.

The laptop tray swings away to get in and out of the seat easily. All of the joints seem to be well made and strong, and there are three points of articulation to adjust it to whatever position works the best. 

To secure the laptop down to the tray so it doesn't bounce off while driving, I have two of these wide strips of Velcro that go completely around the tray and the laptop. The lid can still close with the velcro in place. There are little clips on the arm for cord management to  keep the tangles out of the way.

They think of everything! The three different size Allen hex wrenches that are needed to tighten or loosen any of the joints or connections are stored right on the upright arm bracket in this cute little nifty holder! 

Here is the GPS device from Microsoft 
that attaches to my laptop 
via a USB dongle cord. 

There is a little tilt plastic base piece that I use to aim it up through the front windshield. The cord will be bound up better later and attached to the cord keeping clips on the laptop arm once I get it all settled into place. 

Steve felt it might be a little wobbly when we're driving down the road, due to vibration. When it's parked it seems to be just perfect when I type on it. But Steve had this extra metal arm from when we had installed our recliner chairs. It was already painted with a nice black finish matching the seat mechanism.

He bolted it up into place with some self-tapping screws just to see how it would work. He's going to grind off the sharp edges and instead add wing nuts to be able to easily remove it if we need to. 

Here's an example of one of our GPS maps from Microsoft Street and Trips. This is a trip that we took around Lake Superior. At any time I can go back and open up one of these maps because they are all saved by date and place in my files. I can see where we've been or double check where a certain campground is. Sometimes when we are talking with people we like to relay different places we've been and what the best site was. If we go that way again we can look ahead and see which site was better and if we make reservations, we know what is what. 

The 17-inch monitor on my laptop is a big display that lets us zoom in or zoom out and see exactly where we are. It gives us speed and elevation as well as distances and directions. It will show us upcoming things like gas stations and campgrounds. This is an older photo with my old laptop that had a glossy screen. My current laptop has the matte screen which reduces the glare. 

Even though we didn't have it along for our last trip, I was able to go in and create a new map of our entire route. I was able to make notations and mark each stop. Now I have this one in the files even though the laptop wasn't actually with us for the trip. 


Okay, enough about laptops.

In my last blog I showed where the grandchildren had made tie-dyed shirts.  I had a solid white sweatshirt and managed to grab one blue bottle of dye from the grandkids the other day. I decided to try and do some up and down stripes. It came out kind of cool, don't you think?

My tomatoes are appearing by leaps and bounds on the vines. I have so many and I keep canning up a few jars at a time. We are eating the littlest Juliette grape tomatoes like candy. Put them out in a dish on the counter and grab a couple each time we walk by. Healthy snack!

It was the first day of school for the grandkids on Tuesday. They were all excited to get back to school and see their friends again after a long summer.

Here are Chelsea Clayton and Claire getting ready for 8th grade, 6th grade and 1st grade. 

Here are Jameson and Whitney all ready to go!. Jameson is now a sophomore! Where did time go? And Whitney is in third grade. 

On the school website, someone had taken a photo of little cousins Whitney and Claire, who found each other on the playground. They're so cute holding hands along with their neighbor Elias. 

Thinking back in my own memories of those first days of school. 

A mix of







  1. What a great modification for computer and GPS with Microsoft. My passenger seat swivels but it is really hard to do so I rarely do it. I have a large storage space under one of the twin beds which is where my two folding lawn chairs are stored. At night when parked, they fit right in front of the passenger seat when folded up. Keeps them safe, dry, and easy to pull out when needed.
    I wish I had a Steve to do all this neat stuff. Instead I have a Dave that doesn't like to RV. On the plus side, he doesn't mind when I go.

    1. Yes, ours is still to swivel, works better if we open side door and swivel from outside. Great idea on your chairs! We store them in an outside bin that is under our bed slide, a bit more difficult. Gotta duck our heads to get them in there. Nice to put them away each night, I think they last longer and dont get damp overnight or if it rains.

  2. Replies
    1. It sure is handy... Wish Microsoft still supported Streets and Trips. I suppose one day in the future it will stop working altogether. sigh.

  3. I tie dyed circles by placing marbles under the fabric and securing them with rubber bands. Actually I tie bleached rather than dyed. Did you know velvet always bleaches to gold? I made lovely throw pillows for all extended family members one year--a separate color for each family with all different sizes and shapes depending on what velvet fabric I could buy and how many people were in that family.

  4. Sorry, forgot to sign my pillow post.
    Linda Sand

  5. Greetings, I came across your blog while researching an issue with our 2016 G View. and have enjoyed reading back through many of the post. We have been traveling for 10 months of the year for the past three years and find the View to meet all our needs. It has been a wonderful blessing. Thanks for sharing your journey. Look forward to continuing to read of your adventures.


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