Putting satellite in my orbit

July 4, 2005

If you were here with me now, you’d see pieces of my Honda Element scattered around the floor, wires pulled in all directions and my glovebox gaping open. But I wouldn’t seem upset, because it was all part of the plan.

After a few weeks of shopping around, I decided on the best way to get DirecTV in my car through my new satellite system. Of course, it would have been easier, had I decided so more than two days before I leave on a two-and-a-half-week trip across country and back.

But some interesting things about the KVH TracVision A5 package and my car made the trip a circuitous one. Much as I’d like a screen right in the dash where a head-up display should be, the law thinks otherwise. And yet, at every big-box retailer I went to—Best Buy, Circuit City and Hi-Fi Buys—the guys in the service bay “knew people” who could take care of that for me.

Then there’s the Element’s unique interior package. The headliner is shallow and curved slightly, so it’s not easy to install a video system up there. Headrests are an expensive way to go, and in my experience the ride in the back seat of the Honda is a little pitchy to enjoy TV back there. The Element’s flip-up rear seats makes hiding the DirecTV tuner box an issue, too. And though KVH makes a kit specifically to install the TracVision’s roughly 16-inch-square antenna on roof racks, the Element’s fixed-position racks need a little aftermarket help (about $100 worth) to fit snugly and securely.

At first I selected a new JVC Exad head unit with a 3-inch display in the faceplate, DVD and MP3 capability and a detachable faceplate. But in a moment of hesitation (I have a lot of them), and wanting to keep the stock factory radio, I decided to install a Clarion 7-inch screen near the front passenger. Which explains the panoply of wires and pieces all around my feet.

So now, leaning against the counter at Hi-Fi Buys, I’m watching the TracVision package go atop the roof, and the screen being mounted. And tomorrow, my Element and my satellite TV and I hit the road for an extended drive through America. Wish me luck – and maybe a little more HGTV than usual.

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