Monthly Archives: March 2014

2014/03/31 (M) T Minus 7

The last day of March marked the beginning of the final week countdown to our departure from Williston Crossings RV Resort.  On a drive into the Gainesville Publix supermarket we wondered which was stranger, leaving here after being in one place for just over three months, or returning home after being away for more than four months?  Linda was back home for three weeks in late February and early March, so it does not feel quite as strange to her.

I got a callback from AALL*Brite letting me know that would be back at Williston Crossings on Friday to wash our rig and polish our wheels.  Having that appointment confirmed allowed us to plan the rest of our week, which will include a visit to Weeki Wachi SP, and getting into the WCRVR swimming pool (finally).  We have seen AALL*Brite in the past at rallies in Michigan.  They do a nice job on aluminum wheels for a very reasonable price.  Their price to wash and spotless rinse the rig is also very reasonable.  We are not going to have them wax it, which is much more expensive, as we have never had wax or other such products on the coach since we had it repainted and don’t feel we need them.

We finally have a string of days this week with forecasted highs in the mid-80s; lovely days to be outside reading and crafting on the patio of our well-shaded site.  We have also been spending time with our RV resort friends with whom we will shortly no longer be able to visit.  While some of them live here year-round, others are winter seasonal residents like us and are also preparing to leave.

Monday is pizza double-punch day and half-price drink day at the Micanopy Blue Highway Pizzeria, so going there for dinner is a routine part of John and Ali’s week.  We have gone with them the last few weeks as it is a good opportunity to just sit and talk.  This time we were joined by John and Ann who we have seen at the fire pit and said “hello” to while walking, but not really talked with at length.

When we got back to WCRVR we gathered at John and Ali’s rig with our glasses of wine to continue the conversation.  We were joined by Charles and Sandy who we have also seen and chatted with at the fire pit.  They are currently living at WCRVR while they look for a business to purchase in the area.  They had a business in Texas (Houston area) that they sold and have been traveling around the central and eastern U. S. looking for one to buy.  They are in their late 40’s and are not ready to be retired.  In spite of a high temperature in the 80s, it got very cool after the sun went down and we retreated to the comfort of our coach.

 

Red Lentil Loaf

This recipe is from Christina Pirello's "Cooking the Whole Foods Way". It's a very tasty 'meat' loaf and a great base for the ketchup that Bruce just loves to put on it!

2014/03/29 (S) Walking In The Rain

“Welcome to Lake Williston.”  We had a LOT of rain starting around 7:00 PM last evening.  It continued through the night and into today, with an occasional rumble of thunder and periods of heavy downpour.  We also had a tornado watch until 5 PM.

The drainage at Williston Crossings RV Resort is generally good, but there are always going to be low spots that collect water.  The road in front of our site becomes a shallow river during moderate rain and a lake when the rain is heavy, so we had waterfront property for a while today.  🙂  The rain was like a tropical monsoon at times.

We took care of shopping and outside chores yesterday and did not have to leave the rig today if we did not want to, so we spent the morning inside our small but cozy home away from home.  OK, it’s not that small, but it is a lot smaller than a house, and Linda gets cabin fever much more easily than I do.  By mid-late morning she needed to go for a walk.  There was a lull in the rain so she put on her raincoat and headed out.  The rain resumed before she could get back to the coach, but she enjoyed it just the same.

I was so pleased the other day with the Imsanity image resizing plug-in that I decided to test the Image Watermark plug-in today.  This plug-in is used to add a custom watermark to images uploaded to a WordPress site, and one of its key features is the ability to watermark images that have already been uploaded to the WP Media Library.  I configured the settings for the plug-in and tried to add a watermark image to one of my recently uploaded photos, but it didn’t work.

I went to the support forum at www.dfactory.eu looking for some documentation.  The documentation was very thin but it is a fairly simple plug-in to use, at least conceptually, so that was not a complete surprise.  I checked the “bugs” forum and found that I was not the first or only person to have this exact problem.  The plug-in author provided guidance on how to get this feature to work but following his advice to the letter did not work.  The plug-in was recommended to me by Technomadia, who use it successfully on all their website/blog images.  Based on the info in the support forum, it apparently works just fine when the watermark is applied as the image is uploaded into WordPress, but not after it is already in the WP Media Library.

By mid-afternoon the clouds broke up, revealing blue skies above and allowing sunshine to penetrate all the way to the ground, so we went for a walk around the RV resort.  I guess we were not the only ones who felt cooped up by the weather as there were a lot of people out walking.  There is a Carriage owners rally here starting on Monday and participants have been dribbling in since Thursday.  They will reportedly have 60 – 70 5th Wheel RVs attending.  More arrived today and the bulk of them will arrive tomorrow with last minute arrivals on Monday.

Approximately 35 seasonal residents left on March 1st.  A few others have left during the month and quite a few more are pulling out just ahead of the new arrivals.  As a result we are seeing new faces in noticeable numbers for the first time since we got here.  We are also seeing an increase in young children in the park.  During the winter season this is an “adult” park, although no one seems to object to grand-parents having their grand-children visit.  But from approximately April 1 to November 1 it functions more like a normal RV park, allowing families with children and hosting rally groups like most RV parks and campgrounds.  Business is business, after all.  The carriage rally goes all week and they will have the exclusive use of the clubhouse for their activities.  By the time we pull out of here on Monday, April 7, the resort will likely have a very different look and feel.

It wouldn’t be Saturday night at Williston Crossings RV Resort without the fire pit and “Smitty” on guitar and vocals.  Jeff brought his guitar too and they played and sang a lot of songs together as well as each ding solo numbers.  A much larger group gathered this evening, with over 40 people at one time, and 50 or more total.  The group included a number of children and young adults, the first time we have seen that many at the campfire.  Winter is definitely turning into spring here.

 

2014/03/28 (F) Singing In The Rain

Here’s a synopsis of our day in list form:

  • Fresh ground Ethiopian Yirgacheffe 1/2 -1/2 coffee from Teeko’s in Howell, MI Read blog posts on Feedly
  • Breakfast:  Homemade granola
  • Shopping:  Winn-Dixie, ACE Hardware, and CVS Counted cross-stitch Dump and flush black water tank Dump grey water tank Fill fresh water tank Mix tank treatment solution and add to waste tanks
  • Lunch:  Chickpea salad
  • RVillage website and e-mail (SKP BoF – Photographers and SKP BOF – HFH) Visit Lazydays RV display at WCRVR
  • Dinner:  Kale with cannellini beans, macaroni, onions, garlic and hot pepper flakes
  • A small group gathers at the WCRVR fire pit (Forecasted rain keeps the crowd small) John “Smitty” Smith plays guitar and sings (He does a lot of Peter, Paul, and Mary songs this evening, and we all sing along)
  • 7:00 PM tropical deluge begins; John sings anyway (The small group pulls the rocking chairs in to hear Smitty and avoid the rain)
  • We stay at the fire pit until almost 11PM.
  • The Fan-Tastic vent fan in the bedroom ceiling is NOT leaking.  Score!
  • Upload blog post for Mar 26 while Linda reads Sleep to the ever-present sound of rain on the roof of coach.

As the saying goes “just another day in paradise.”

 

2014/03/27 (R) Cover Up

With the return of high temperatures in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s Williston Crossings’ maintenance crews have been busy pruning trees and bushes, clearing undergrowth, cutting grass, and painting the white light poles at all of the sites in the older/south section of the resort.  Many long-term residents have also been busy tending to the landscaping improvements they have made to their sites, including shrubs, flowers, herbs, and grass.  With an overnight low of 34 degrees F two nights ago, many residents were also bringing plants inside or trying to cover them up.  Even in north central Florida this winter seems determined to extend its influence well into spring.

Paper towel holder installed above kitchen sink behind fluorescent light fixture.

Paper towel holder installed above kitchen sink behind fluorescent light fixture.

Single-end mounting of paper towel holder.

Single-end mounting of paper towel holder.

This morning dawned heavily overcast and the forecast was for rain.  No matter; we had our morning coffee, read, worked on e-mails and websites, and finally had breakfast.  We had a couple of projects to tend to so we did those next.  First we installed the new paper towel holder in the kitchen.  We mounted it to the underside of the cabinet over the sink, behind the small fluorescent light fixture.  It is convenient to reach, even with wet hands, and definitely off the counter and out if the way.

 

 

 

 

Very little of the paper towel holder is visible.

Very little of the paper towel holder is visible.

Next up was the cover for the Fan-Tastic Vent motor.  The manual operation knob slides over a splined shaft on the motor and is retained by a small machine screw.  The knob has to be removed to allow the old cover to come off and the new one to go on.  It did not come off easily, but I coaxed it off without breaking anything.  When the two mounting screws that hold the cover were removed the whole motor assembly just fell out and dangled from the two power wires.  The drive shaft is also a splined connection that slips over the lift mechanism shaft and the power wires are attached with insulated spade connectors.  This design makes it easy to replace the motor if it fails.

The new motor cover for the Fan-Tastic ven fan in the bedroom.  We left the knob off.

The new motor cover for the Fan-Tastic ven fan in the bedroom. We left the knob off.

The biggest challenge in this little project, besides standing on a dual chamber air mattress to do the work, was simultaneously getting the drive shafts re-engaged, the cover plate holes lined up, and the mounting screws re-installed.  All of this alignment is done ‘blind’ as the mating parts are inside the unit where they cannot be seen.  But we got it back together without too much swearing.  The other difficulty was the walnut trim that surrounds the opening.  The way it is constructed it actually interferes with the knob.  We decided not to re-install the knob so I put the retaining screw back in the shaft and we stored the knob in one of the small bedroom storage cubbies.

Workers enclosing the rusted iron on the Pullman cars with wood.

Workers enclosing the rusted iron on the Pullman cars with wood.

The Lazydays RV dealership in Seffner, Florida (just east of Tampa /St. Pete) has been staging units in the new/north section of Williston Crossings RV Resort for the last couple of days.  The rain never materialized today and the clouds thinned as the day progressed.  We walked over to see any new units they had brought in since we were there yesterday.  On the way over I grabbed a couple of photos of the work being done on the old train cars that will eventually be rental cabins.  As you can see in these photos, they are reinforcing (encasing) all of the old structural iron, which is heavily rusted, with wood.

A wider view of the restoration work on the Pullman cars.

A wider view of the restoration work on the Pullman cars.

Lazydays had their entrance structure erected, a tent to shade the sales associates, and tables with chairs where folks could sit and relax.  All of the motorhomes were Class A’s and most of them had hitch-mounted telescoping flag poles flying Lazydays flags.  There were at least six additional motorhomes and another 5th Wheel trailer.  We looked at all of them and I photographed a few “features” that I thought were interesting.

The LazyDays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

The LazyDays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

Door latch for side-by-side residential refrigerator doors.

Door latch for side-by-side residential refrigerator doors.

One unit had a residential refrigerator with upper side-by-side doors and a bottom pull out freezer drawer.  There was nothing unusual about that; what caught my eye were the aftermarket latches Tiffin had installed to lock the upper doors together and lock the freezer drawer to the surrounding cabinet.  Very cool.  By evening we heard that both of the 2014 Tiffin Allegro Open Road motorhomes had been sold.  I suspect that made the whole “mini-show” worthwhile for Lazydays.

 

 

 

 

 

Same latch design used to lock freezer drawer.

Same latch design used to lock freezer drawer.

The other thing we finally did today was register for the 2014 Escapade, which is back at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds May 12 – 17.  Our first Escapade was there in September 2010 and we were back there for GLAMARAMA13 in September 2013.  As I have written in this blog previously, it is an excellent facility for rallies of 500 – 1,000 rigs.  We will be back there again in June for GLAMARAMA14.

 

2014/03/26 (W) Coffee And A Bagel

That can only mean one thing; we went to Panera today.  The temperature dropped to 34 degrees F just before sunrise and we slept in longer than normal because we did not have any pressing reason to leave the warmth of our covers (and I had the electric heater pad turned on).  We needed to do a little shopping today so once we got up we decided to forego coffee and breakfast at home and head to the shopping district on US-24 (SW Archer Road) in Gainesville.  The 3/4 mile stretch of this road from I-75 east to FL-121 (SW 34th St) is all shopping, and most of the stores are recognized national chains.  There is a Lowe’s, a Walmart, a Best Buy, JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s crafts, a Trader Joe’s and two Publix supermarkets in addition to lots of smaller stores.  Fuel, of course.  And restaurants, lots of restaurants; I’m guessing as many as 50.

Linda at the Lazydays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

Linda at the Lazydays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

Our first stop?  Panera.  Good coffee, good bagels, and good WiFi.  Over the last couple of days I finally figured out how to subscribe to blog feeds using Feedly and helped Linda set it up on her iPad2.  We filled our coffee cups several times while reading and only decided to leave as the restaurant filled up with lunch customers.

Kevin (one of the lead volunteers at the resort) at the Lazydays RV display.

Kevin (one of the lead volunteers at the resort) at the Lazydays RV display.

We have been looking for a paper towel holder for the bus galley to get the paper towel roll up off the counter.  Kitchen counter space is premium real estate in any RV, and ours is no exception.  We wanted one with a brass finish to match all of the other hardware in the coach, but brass finishes are out of style and almost impossible to find at typical stores.  Linda could not even find one online.  White plastic holders are common, and inexpensive, but not a viable option for our interior.  We found a holder we liked at Lowe’s.  It has a brushed nickel finish and mounts to a wall, or under a cabinet, from one end only and should be mostly invisible once it is installed and has a roll of paper towels on it.  It is also substantial enough that we should not have to replace it every year like the plastic ones; hopefully never.

Fisher & Paykel drawer style dishwasher in one fo the Lazydays RV display motorhomes.

Fisher & Paykel drawer style dishwasher in one of the Lazydays RV display motorhomes.

While we were at Lowe’s we picked up a 2-pack of 5 micron sediment filters for our water softener pre-filter housing.  Five microns might be a tad small for operating directly from the water supply, but we always fill our fresh water tank and then use our on board pump to take water from there.  The pump provides good flow and this keeps the water in the tank from going stale.  As a result we can tolerate a slower flow rate when filling the tank in exchange for finer filtering.

Fireplace electric heater

Fireplace electric heater

We also saw some flooring material that looked very interesting for our interior remodeling project.  It’s a slightly rubbery material about 1/4 inch thick that comes in 20 inch squares with interlocking tabs on all four sides.  It gets installed without adhesive (free floating), so it can be taken up later if need be.  It comes in a variety of textures and colors/patterns, including a “white marble” that would look good with our medium walnut woodwork, beige furniture, and beige Corian counters, dining table, and end tables.  After living in the bus for two months this past summer and three months this winter the interior remodeling project has moved from “it would be nice someday” status to “we need to do this as soon as possible” status.  My immediate focus is still on “systems,” but we may attack the interior remodeling yet this year.

Kathy, Jack, Silvia, and John at Jeff and Kathy's Bounder.

Kathy, Jack, Silvia, and John at Jeff and Kathy’s Bounder.

Linda needed a fabric hoop for doing cross-stitch so we stopped at JoAnn Fabrics.  Hoop in hand, we walked next door to Publix and picked up hummus, a variety of chips, and some fresh fruit.  We were due at Jeff and Kathy’s rig at 4:00 PM for happy hour followed by a potluck dinner and had volunteered to bring munchies (so that we would have something we could eat).

Linda, Spencer, and Ali at Jeff and Kathy's Bounder.

Kevin, Linda, Spencer, Ali and Jeff at Jeff and Kathy’s Bounder.

We hooked the Epson Stylus Photo R800 printer up to Linda’s computer yesterday. Being an ink jet printer that rarely gets used, it rarely works well when we do try to use it because the cartridge nozzles dry up and clog from lack of use.  I wanted to print a test pattern and run the head cleaning utility, but we did not have the right driver/utility software installed to do this or to see which cartridges were low or out.  Etc.  But we did manage to print the thread number index and the first few pattern sheets for her next counted cross-stitch project which allowed her to get to work wrapping, numbering, and storing all of the different thread colors that are involved.  She ordered the threads and a storage/organizer box the other day through our Amazon Prime account and had them two days later.

Spencer, Ali, Jeff, and Sharon at Jeff and Kathy's Bounder.

Spencer, Ali, Jeff, and Sharon at Jeff and Kathy’s Bounder.

While drying out the bedroom ceiling after the heavy rain early last week I noticed that one of the mounting tabs for the Fan-Tastic Vent Fan motor cover was broken.  I searched online for the company and got the website for Atwood products.  Atwood bought Fan-Tastic and moved all of the operations from Imlay City, Michigan to Elkhart, Indiana about a year or so ago.  Fan-Tastic is well-known among RVers for their fabulous warranty and factory support, so the purchase by Atwood was not necessarily welcomed by RVers.  I called and got a voice message system: “press 1 for this, 2 for that…” Etc.  Ugh. I left a message and was frankly surprised when I got a quick call back from Sharon.  I described my problem and she determined the part we needed and processed the order.  We had it five days later, no charge for the part or shipping.  They are still Fan-Tastic in my book.

We walked over to the Lazydays RV display mid-afternoon and looked at the motorhomes and 5th wheel trailers they had on display.  Six to eight years ago medium cherry wood tones with nickel (or stainless steel) hardware were being used in lots of RV interiors.  This combination happens to be a favorite of ours, but now appears to be a bit out of fashion.  Most of the units on display were somewhat newer than that and really dark wood tones appeared to be the order of the day.  Purpose built motorhomes often do not have skylights and the side windows are much smaller than on our bus.  The combination leads to interiors that feel dark and confining to me, even with the slideouts extended.  Put out the awnings and it gets even worse.  We did not see anything we would trade for.

We headed over to Jeff and Kathy’s at the appointed hour with our chairs, snacks, and Yuengling lager.  Jeff is quite the cook with a real talent for bar-b-que, Creole, and other southern foods.  He makes his own sauces and devotes a lot of time to preparation and cooking.  He made a vegan pasta salad with garlic, olive oil, and some spices so we would have something to eat.  It was excellent and we probably ate more than our share of it.

 

2014/03/25 (T) That Is Imsane

No; that is not a typo.  Today I learned about a WordPress plug-in named “imsanity,” and yes, that is how it is spelled.  Imsanity is not a well-kept secret—it has been downloaded over 45,000 times—but I had never heard of it until this morning.

I got an e-mail overnight letting me know that we had reached 80% of our disk storage quota on our QTH.com web-hosting account and asking me to delete files or contact the administrator to request an increase in our quota.  I figured I would do both so I started by contacting QTH.com to make the request.  I had been thinking for a while that I should go back and resize the photo files I uploaded to the website and blog, so the disk quota issue spurred me to action.

When we started the website/blog last year I was not familiar with digital image manipulation software and did not know how to resize an image for the web.  I do now, of course, but I had uploaded some 300 high resolution JPEG files before I learned how.  At 3.0+ MB each, our website/blog swelled to almost 1.0 GB of disk storage after only two months.  Clearly that was not going to be sustainable, but going back and fixing it was going to be a big job, and deleting them was not an option I was willing to entertain.

I was pondering the prospect of spending several weeks re-sizing images, uploading the image files, inserting them into old blog posts, deleting the original images from the blog posts, and finally deleting the old, large image files, all without making a mistake.  My guess is that I would never have accomplished this task, if I ever started.  I am, frankly, fairly busy with projects going forward and really had no interest in spending that kind of time fixing archival material.

And then a pair of e-mail replies arrived from Scott at QTH.com; my disk allocation had been bumped up, giving me some breathing room, followed by a recommendation to check out the “imsanity” plug-in for WordPress.  Not only do the QTH web-servers run extremely well, their technical support is second to none.

Imsanity is an insanely simple, but incredibly useful plug-in.  It can be used to retroactively re-size images in a WordPress site, which is exactly what I needed to do.  A few simple parameters establish the maximum horizontal and vertical image size for several categories of image use and the quality of JPEG to be created.  A simple search function identifies up to 250 image files that exceed the maximum limits.  You can select all of them at once or select individual files to process (as many as you want).  Click a button and it works its way through the list.  I accomplished in an hour what I thought would never get done, with no visible change in the old blog posts since the displayed size of the images is always smaller than the file size.  The only difference is that now when someone clicks on one of the images the largest it will appear is 1024 pixels horizontally or vertically.  The resized image files s are less than 1/6th the size of the originals, a significant savings in the use of disk space.  It also means that web pages and blog posts will load more quickly.   The other use of imsanity is to resize image files as they are uploaded if they exceed the maximum dimensions set in the plug-in’s parameters.  I am now resizing all of our photos before I upload them, so I should have less need of that capability.

Linda made a Swiss Chard with quinoa (instead of couscous).  Magnificent.  She has entered the recipe into the recipe section of our website.

2014/03/24 (M) Count Down

As of today we are down to our final two weeks here at Williston Crossings RV Resort.  We were very busy going places and doing things in January and February.  We have continued to be busy in March, but limited our travels away from the RV resort.  That is due to a combination of factors.  For one, we have used our Florida State Parks annual pass enough to have gotten our monies worth out of it, so we are not feeling as pressed to get out there and see things.  For another, we have gotten busy with the new RVillage social networking website and other projects that are most easily accomplished in or near our coach.  A third factor is that the weather has gotten just enough warmer and drier (most of the time) that people are finally out and about here at the RV Resort.  That means more opportunity to socialize with our neighbors, who have invited use to happy hour gatherings and pot luck meals.

Bitter sweet.  As I have described in blog posts and articles it is always hard to leave friends, even after a 5-day rally or a 2-week HFH build.  We have been here for almost three months.  Folks are asking if we are coming back next year and we have had to tell them “no.”  That deserves an explanation.  It’s our first snowbird season and there is a lot of North America that we still need to see.  We simply cannot decide to return to the first place we have spent the winter away from Michigan.

We finally met Allen, one of the RV Resort owners, the other day and arranged to demonstrate RVillage for him this morning.  I set up an account for him and walked him through the main functions to highlight the purpose behind the website.  He seemed excited about it, and tasked someone in the office to arrange a day/time/place for me to demonstrate it to anyone in the park who might be interested.  He wanted it publicized on the resort cable system.  So far that has not happened, and time is running out, so it may not.

John and Ali like to go to The Blue Highway Pizzeria in Micanopy on Mondays; half-price drinks and double-punch on their free pizza card.  Linda and I went with them, split a nice salad, and then split a medium pizza; vegan sauce, no cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Lots of sun-dried tomatoes.  It was good, although I prefer the pizza at Satchel’s in Gainesville.  The restaurant gave them our “punches” since we don’t have a card.

 

2014/03/23 (N) Once A Teacher…

Once a teacher…always a teacher.  After spending the first part of the day at our coach reading and working on computer-based tasks, like RVillage and our blog, we decided to go for a walk.  We had just dropped off a bag of trash and were about to start our stroll through the RV resort in earnest when Jeff came by in his car and stopped to ask us if we could help him with something.  Kathy’s grandson, Spencer, was staying with them during spring break and they had just bought him an Android-based tablet but were having difficulty setting it up.  Spencer is 9 years old and was eager to download some game apps.  We headed to their site, which isn’t far from ours, and arrived about the same time John and Ali did.  Kathy had called them for help too.

To use the Play Store on an Android device you have to have an account, and to have an account you have to have an e-mail address.  Google generally makes it easy to accomplish both but when we tried creating these for Spencer we could not do it.  We decide to restore the factory default settings on his tablet and were then able to set up his Play Store account, including a Gmail e-mail address.  I had him send e-mails to his grandma (Kathy) and his mom.  He got replies from both and sent replies back, so that verified it was working.  We also set up a PIN to unlock his tablet.

I helped him navigate the tablet to learn how it works and then we opened the Play Store and started searching for FREE games he might like.  He downloaded several games but seemed intent on getting Minecraft (sp?).  We found a lot of Minecraft-related apps in the FREE section, but not the game itself.  I am not familiar with game but it appeared that the base app was not free.

We went back to Jeff and Kathy’s rig later for happy hour and a potluck meal.  We brought some fresh fruit so we would have something to eat too.  Later we went to John and Ali’s and sat around a small campfire late into the evening.  Jim joined us for a while.

 

2014/03/22 (S) WiFi Ants

No, not WiFi Antennas; WiFi and ants, which I will get to later.

Saturday morning the refrigerator temperature was 40 degrees F.  I moved the remote wireless thermometer to the freezer compartment and left it until it settled in around 5 degrees F.  The refrigeration system, including the controls, appeared to be working.  Linda retrieved most of our frozen food and a few fresh things.  We partially restocked the fridge and I set the thermostat a bit lower.  Linda made a tofu scramble to use up some of the fresh ingredients, in case the problem returned.  Yum.

I checked my e-mail and found several dozen post replies and a few messages from RVillage.  We both played with RVillage for a while and I reported another bug.  I also had a message from the WiFi Ranger technical support team indicating that they had successfully uploaded a patch to our WFR MobileTi and switched it to a PRO feature set.  They wanted me to try logging in to the resort WiFi system and let them know if it worked.  I followed their instructions, and it did!  Finally, success!!!  I got back on their support forum to let them know and thanked them for their persistence in identifying and correcting the problem.

As best I understand it, the problem was not a bug in their firmware but rather a design assumption they made that an RV park WiFi system would never be a class 2 network.  Based on that assumption they were doing using IP addresses to connect to other WFR devices (WFR Go) in a way that conflicted with the class 2 network operating in our RV resort. WiFi Ranger thinks the chance of us running into this again is very small (unless we come back here, in which case it’s 100%).  This may, in fact, be the only RV park where we will ever encounter this.

I do not understand all of the details, but essentially a class 2 network has 2^16 (65,536) available IP addresses. That’s a LOT of IP addresses and made me wonder if the resort WiFi system is actually part of a much larger network, perhaps for the city of Williston or even for all of Levy County.  The “explanation” the network technician gave me some weeks ago was that our WiFi Ranger, being a repeater/router, was simply “not a supported device” as a matter of park policy and he was unable (unwilling) to give me any assistance with it even though he admitted knowing what it was and having  set them up before.  He could have just told me they were running a class 2 network and that it might have something to do with my problem, but he withheld that information.

The “logic” behind his explanation of the park policy was that we could “hide” data-intensive devices behind our system, such as streaming-video, gaming consoles, or even a web-server.  That was nonsense, of course.  If the concern was data-transfer, the network could simply monitor and control that at an IP address level.  When I indicated that one of the reasons for our router was to put our devices (and data transfers) behind an encrypted hardware firewall, he told me the WiFi system connection to the Internet was encrypted, as if that was somehow equivalent.  It’s not.  The connection between the resort WiFi system and the WiFi client devices is NOT encrypted, and thus open and viewable to someone intent on doing so.  Unless people are using secure applications, such as most banking software, their WiFi connection is vulnerable.  This is true of any system that does not require you to enter a WPA or other “key,” including the free WiFi at places like Panera Bread.

We have had good Verizon 4G/LTE service here, so getting online has not been a problem, but if that had not been the case we would have been in a really bad situation.  I was anxious to get this resolved while we were still here so they could test possible solutions on a network known to have this problem.

With computer tasks taken care of, we turned our attention to fixing the roof leak.  As we were setting up the Little Giant folding step/extension ladder we noticed ants traveling up and down the cable TV wire.  Yikes!  The cable runs into the bus through a small window by the driver’s seat.  We had used Frog Tape to seal up the opening against the weather, but it was not ant proof.  We checked inside but did not see any ants where the cable came in.  Closer inspection outside revealed them moving up and down along a body seam and horizontally along the floor line just above the bay doors on the driver side of the coach.  We quickly disconnected the TV cable (we don’t use it anyway because the analog signal in the park is not very good) and closed the little window.  Dealing with the ants, however, would have to wait.

Linda packed all of the tools and supplies I needed for the roof repair into a bag that I carried up with me.  The repair was simple enough; use the small caulk gun to apply Dicor self-leveling lap sealant around and up onto all four sides of the Fan-Tastic vent fan base.  This Dicor product is universally used in the RV industry for just this purpose.  It is not “runny” like water but it does flow, especially when warm, just enough to do what its name suggests, flowing into cracks, crevices, and small holes as it smooths out.  It eventually sets up and forms a skin, but remain pliable.  Rain is forecast starting late Sunday and running through the coming week, so we will find out then if I have fixed the problem.  The real problem, of course, is that the fan base is probably not installed properly.  The correct fix would be to remove it and reinstall it, but that was not going to happen sitting here in the RV resort.

Now for the Ants!  These were, thankfully, small black ants and not fire ants, which are a widespread and serious problem here in Florida.  We hooked up a spray nozzle and tried to flush as many of them away as we could.  It’s not that we wanted to harm even these tiny creatures, but we are not willing to share our home on wheels with them.  They are tenacious, and hung on tight or hunkered down in the nearest available crack.  Linda walked to the Grocery Depot and bought a can of ant spray that I applied to the concrete pad around the bus tires as best I could and on/around the electrical and water shorelines and the waste water drain hose.  Later I went to ACE Hardware, bought a couple of boxes of Borax, and used them to establish a defensive perimeter around the coach.  This is a treatment for ants that we have come across in numerous different forums.  The coming rains will wash it away so it will have to be reapplied.

We had a light/early dinner of hummus and pita chips, went for a walk, and then eventually headed to the fire pit with our customary glasses of wine.  John played the guitar and sang for hours, often joined by the group that had gathered.  We were they again until quiet time at 10 PM, at which time John stopped playing and we turned off the lights.  We still had a small fire and I continued to coax flames out of it for a while longer.  Kevin builds the initial fire and lights it, and John was the backup fire tender, but since he is usually playing his guitar I have assumed responsibility for tending the fire.

 

2014/03/21(F) Roofs And Reefers

It had rained hard on Monday and we had a small leak around the bedroom fan.  After drawing the water out of the headliner with towels, we aimed a fan at the area to dry it out.  It wasn’t a huge leak compared to the torrential rainfall we had, but any leak is too much.  We only had one tube of Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant with us so this morning we decided to drive to the Ocala Camping World store to get some more.  Before we left we noticed that the store was not in Ocala but rather in Summerfield, which is somewhat south of Ocala on US-441 and is the northern gateway to The Villages.  Part of the drive was on I-75 where we noticed a LOT of RV’s on the road.  They were headed in both directions with the majority headed north.

After we got back Linda went for a walk while I fiddled with the refrigerator thermostat and discovered that it apparently had quit working.  I could hear the contacts “click” but the compressor was not coming on.  Not good, especially with a freshly stocked refrigerator.  The best/only short-term course of action was to get the food out of the refrigerator and someplace cold before it spoiled.  When Linda got back from her walk she checked to see if our neighbor, Sharon, had a cooler we could borrow.  She did not, but she had Linda phone Bob, the resort manager, and he offered the use of the refrigerator in the Activities Building.  We accepted, bagged up our food, and Linda took it over and stored it.  I don’t think very many RV parks would do that for a customer even if they could.

I called Butch, who was a commercial HVAC & refrigeration guy at one time, because that’s what I do when we encounter an unexpected problem.  I had to call him back later, but in between calls I found the model number for our refrigerator, searched for it online, and found several websites where I could order parts.  RepairClinic.com had helpful videos as well, so by the time I talked to Butch again I had a rough idea of how the refrigerator worked and what the problem might be and several possible causes.

The freezer was holding 5 to 8 degrees F, so the refrigeration system was working.  The condenser fan was working as I could feel cool air being drawn in the bottom left and air exhausted out the bottom right.  The evaporator air-circulation fan also appeared to be working.  The damper between the freezer and refrigerator compartments was also working correctly and not blocked.  It is a simple manual mechanical device, so not a lot can go wrong there.  The thermostat was clicking, but that did not guarantee it was passing power.

The leading hypothesis was that the evaporator coils had frosted over, reducing cooling effectiveness of the refrigeration unit.  The most likely cause of that condition was a failure of the auto-defrost controller and/or the defrost heaters.  Butch explained that the auto-defrost controller prevents the compressor from running while the defrost heater is working, which could explain why the compressor would not turn on.  It is possible that this controller and/or the heater itself is intermittent or defective, which could lead to frost build up on the coils.  It has been warmer and a bit more humid here the past week which could also have contributed to the coils freezing up.  Once we had the food out and safely stored I shut off the power to the refrigerator and we left it to defrost.

We had our leftover salad and pizza for lunch.  We were not very hungry at dinner time, but joined a small group of residents at John and Ali’s 5th wheel.  Linda had kept peanut butter in the rig and used some dinner rolls that had been in the freezer to make peanut butter sandwiches.  Later we took our pretzels and wine and went to the fire pit for the evening.  John played, as usual, and Jeff joined him for a while.  A nice crowd gathered for a while, but by 10 PM there were only a few of us left.  As much as we like meeting and talking to people, this is our favorite time around the campfire.

Before we went to bed I checked the drip tray on the refrigerator.  There was some water in it, but not an excessive amount.   We loaded containers with water, placed them in the freezer and refrigerator, set the controls, closed up the appliance and applied power.  It came on and we let it run all night to see what it would do.

 

2014/03/20 (R) The Spring Equinox

Winter officially yielded to spring today but we did not really notice.  Today was another beautiful day here in north central Florida, just like yesterday and just as tomorrow was forecast to be.  We hung around the RV resort and did quiet things.

We went to Satchel’s in Gainesville, Florida for dinner with John and Ali.  Linda had leftover pizza from there after she returned from Michigan, but this was her first visit to the place.  She agreed that it was uniquely charming.  The service was excellent once again.  We split part of a salad and ate half of a pizza, saving the leftovers for another meal.  The pesto base pizza with Daiya vegan cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes was excellent.  The crust is the best I’ve had since we quit eating St. Louis style pizza from Imo’s, which is unfortunately not vegan.  Their brownies are vegan and we split one for dessert; no leftovers for this item.

We drove separately from John and Ali as we both had shopping to do, but not the same kind.  We stopped at Publix on our way back to Williston and stocked up on fresh fruits and greens.  We put everything in the refrigerator when we got back and I noticed during the evening that the refrigerator compartment was a bit warmer than normal.  Adjusting the thermostat was not having the desired effect.

Here are a few more photos from Satchel’s, all  taken on my Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone and post-processed using Faststone Image Viewer software:

Rear parking lot art at Satchel's in Gainesville, FL.

Rear parking lot art at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL.

Ever wondered what to do with old CDs?  Now you know.

Ever wondered what to do with old CDs? Now you know.

Remember 3.5 inch floppy disks?  Now they are wall art.

Remember 3.5 inch floppy disks? Now they are wall art.

Part of the tile work at Satche''s in Gainesville, FL.  Linda studying the bulletin board.

Part of the tile work at Satche”s in Gainesville, FL. Linda studying the bulletin board.

Yes, you can be seated here for your meal at Satchel's in  Gainesville, FL.  It's actually a difficult table to get.

Yes, you can be seated here for your meal at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL. It’s actually a difficult table to get.

Part of the front outdoor seating area at Satchel's in Gainesville, FL.

Part of the front outdoor seating area at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014/03/19 (W) Items Of Interest

One the best things I was involved in during my 12 years at the Wayne County Regional Educational Services Agency (Wayne RESA) was a project with the Michigan Assessment Consortium (MAC), which I helped found and on whose Board of Directors I served until shortly before my retirement.  The project was a comprehensive professional development series for K-12 educators on how to develop and use “common assessments” (CAD).  It was developed by a team of seven experts from five agencies and in its final form it had 25 modules consisting of PowerPoint presentations with supporting materials and activities.  The modules were then scripted and presented to a pilot group of about 60 educators in a series of workshops.  Based on feedback from the pilot group, revisions were made and the modules were then videotaped and made available through Wayne RESA’s video streaming service.  While these modules have seen the most use in Michigan, they have been used as far away as Alaska.

Wayne RESA recently approached the MAC with an offer to convert the CAD modules into Lectora lessons that would qualify for continuing education credits under newly revised requirements for online learning.  These requirements included the use of assessment items to demonstrate that learners had actually engaged with the content and understood it.  Lectora, on which I had some training before I retired, is an excellent platform for this type of work with the ability to register students, enroll them in lessons, track their progress through a lesson, administer and score test questions, and report the results.  What was missing, and thus what was needed, were the test items.

Kathy, the MAC Executive Director and a member of the CAD project team, contacted the other project team members (including me) to see what we thought and ask if we would be willing to develop the needed items.  The team said “yes,” because that’s the kind of people they are, and the work began.  Today I received items for review for at least six modules from two different team members.  After providing feedback on those items I wrote items for the four modules I had developed and sent them out for review.  A good day’s work, and satisfying to have my head “back in the game” for a few hours.

 

2014/03/17 (N) St. Patrick’s Day

By Sunday we were not so much tired as we were relaxed and enjoying low key days with wonderful weather at the RV resort.  The temperature made it into the low 80’s and, even with the windows open and the ceiling vent fans running, it got a bit warmer than that in the coach.  No matter; it was a relatively light day for RVillage website interactions and e-mail and we spent much of the day sitting outside reading.  We can only sit for so long at a time, however, so we went for a few walks and raked some leaves using a rake we borrowed from John next door.

Between 5:50 PM and 7:05 PM we got six e-mails from our whole house generator.  The first three let us know that the utility power had failed and the generator was running and supplying power to the house.  The last three let us know that utility power had been restored, that the generator was no longer supplying power to the house, and finally that the generator had shut down in an orderly fashion and was back in stand-by mode.  Sweet.  With sub-zero winter temperatures giving way to highs in the 40’s and above over the next five weeks we cannot afford to be without heat or a sump pump, both of which depend on electrical power.  Ditto for the AT&T Internet gateway that allows us to remotely monitor and control the whole-house generator and WiFi thermostat.  Technology really is cool when it works.

Williston Crossings RV Resort had a St. Patrick’s Day dinner (a day early) but we did not go, the menu having little-to-nothing we could eat.  The day was feeling a bit summery, so we had veggie burgers with cold green bean kale salad and fresh strawberries for dessert.  At dusk John and Ali decided to have a small campfire at their site next door and we joined them along with neighbors Doug and Paulette (from North Bay, ON) and Jim (“Sonny Fox”).  Glasses of white wine in hand we had our version of a “cocktail party” here at Williston Crossings.  Our bus conversion notwithstanding, we are still “campers” at heart and love to sit around a campfire in the evening.

Rain was forecast for overnight and through the next day, so we closed up the rig before turning in for the night.  The radar showed a heavy band of showers training slightly north of east off the Gulf and slowly drifting south over time towards our part of north central Florida.  We got the first raindrops sometime after midnight and by 4 AM had a full blown thunderstorm in progress.  Awake or asleep we are always aware of, and in close contact with, the weather when we are living in the bus and do not sleep as well as on calmer nights.

St. Patrick’s Day dawned wet and overcast with no discernible sunrise; just a gradual, slight lightening of the sky.  The clouds remained thick and dark all day and the rain was almost continuous until mid-afternoon, with torrential downpours at times, so we hunkered down and worked on computer-based tasks and did some reading.  By late afternoon the rain stopped but a heavy cloud layer continued to move over us from the southwest and the high temperature only reached 67 degrees F.

Soup (or stew) is always a welcome counterpoint to a cool, dreary day.  Linda found a recipe for kale, white bean, and potato stew.  The base was onions, carrots, and celery.  She used black beans instead of white, russet potatoes instead of Yukon Gold, and substituted balsamic vinegar for red wine vinegar.  She cut back on the quantity of water and ended up with a delicious, hearty soup.

We got a short walk in after dinner before the rain resumed around 8:00 PM.  PBS has been fund-raising for what seems like weeks now.  In recognition of St. Patrick’s Day they aired a concert by Celtic Women, followed by a concert by Judy Collins, all of which provided some entertainment for the evening.  Thunderstorms were again forecast for the early morning hours, but Tuesday promised clearer weather.

 

2014/03/15 (S) The Ides Of March

On Thursday I spent time on the RVillage website and doing e-mail related to the public launch that occurred on Wednesday.  I also did some last minute housekeeping chores in preparation for Linda’s return from the great white frozen north.

The back parking lot at Satchel's in Gainesville, FL.

The back parking lot at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL.

At 4 PM John, Ali, and I went to Satchel’s in Gainesville, Florida for dinner.  The word “funky” was probably invented to describe this place; it was unique, charming, and very bohemian.  The service was excellent and the pizza was the best I have had at a restaurant since we went vegan in 2011.  The crust was thin and cooked to a nice crisp.  They had a pesto sauce option, a first for me, and a choice of three vegan cheeses!  I selected the Daiya cheese because Linda has used it in her cooking and I knew it would melt well and taste good.  Mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes topped it off.  The vegan pizza only came in a “medium” size, and it would have been pricey at $20 if it had not been so large.  Two pieces made a meal and I took the other four slices back to the coach.

Satchel's twin-engine fuselage. Most restaurants do not have one of these.

Satchel’s twin-engine fuselage. Most restaurants do not have one of these.

Satchel’s also makes their soda beverages from scratch.  I had their ginger soda and it was outstanding.  Made with real ginger, it reminded me very much of a “ginger beer” I had many years ago at an Ethiopian restaurant in Detroit, Michigan.  I have wanted a repeat of that experience ever since but never found it until now.  They also had a choice of two vegan cookies.  I had the oatmeal raisin cookie.  It was huge and very tasty.  I saved half for Linda to have on the drive back from the airport.

The back entrance to the bar at Satchel's in Gainesville, FL.

The back entrance to the bar at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL.

Linda sent a text message at 8:15 PM that they were shutting the doors on her plane and by 8:30 PM I was headed for the Orlando International Airport.  The drive took two hours and I had just pulled into the cell phone parking lot when she called to let me know that she had just de-planed (15 minutes ahead of schedule).  Ten minutes later she was in the car and we were headed back to Williston.  We arrived back at the RV resort just after 12:30 AM (Friday).

The main bar entrance at Satchel's in Gainesville FL.

The main bar entrance at Satchel’s in Gainesville FL.

We slept in Friday morning and when we finally arose decided to have an easy day and stick around the RV resort.  The weather was picture perfect but I did not make any pictures.  We went for a couple of walks, something we have both missed these last few weeks.  We went to the fire pit that evening, as we usually do if we are here on a Friday or Saturday night.  There was a big crowd initially, but it thinned out between 8 and 9 PM leaving us to chat with a core group of friends who tend to stick around.

Ali and John headed for the restraurant entrance at Satchel's.

Ali and John headed for the restraurant entrance at Satchel’s.

Saturday we stayed “local” as well.  We did some grocery shopping at the local fruit and veggie stand and then went to the Winn-Dixie.  W-D had several things on sale or BOGO, so we finally got our own W-D card.  Up until now we have used the card of whoever was in line in front of or behind us.  I spent much of the afternoon working on the roster and dues records for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter, of which I am the VP and Secretary.  The positions do not take a lot time over the course of a year, but when they need my attention they can take up all or part of a day or two.

Now that Linda is back we are both eating better.  She made a green bean quinoa salad and a lemony kale salad; both served cold and very refreshing on a lovely, slightly warm, late-winter evening.

John capturing some information about an upcoming live performance at Satchel's.

John capturing some information about an upcoming live performance at Satchel’s.

With the change to Daylight Savings Time and the advancing season it does not get dark here until closer to 8 PM.  The resort still has the fire pit scheduled from 6:30 – 10:00 PM, however, and there is a full group by 6:45 PM.  We prefer our campfires in the dark and delayed going over for a while.  We met a very charming couple from Quebec and another very nice couple with whom we shared mutual friends in Ed and Janet Roelle, the GLCC members who recommended Williston Crossings RV Resort to us in the first place.

By 8:00 PM the early arrivals start to leave the fire pit and a smaller group settled in for the duration of the evening.  One of the friends we have made here, Meg, is getting ready to leave on Monday and head to Flint, Michigan to visit her grand-daughter who will be home from school on break.  Meg stayed longer at the fire pit than usual and she and Ali spent time catching up with Linda.  Meg got involved in rescuing dogs from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and taking them back to Canada for veterinary care and adoption.  A whole network grew up around her and she was interviewed by CNN.  One of the things we like about RVing is that everyone has a story, and some of them are very different from our own, and truly fascinating.

 

2014/03/12 (W) Welcome To RVillage

Today was a big day.  The new RVillage social networking website was publicly unveiled and I am now free to talk about it online; encouraged to, actually.  We have been privately beta-testing the website for some weeks now and think it is going to be a “must have” tool for RVers looking to connect with old and new friends while on the road.  RVillage is not about making virtual “friends”; it is about creating real community with real people with whom you share real interests.

Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia have been coordinating the private beta-testing and are playing a key role in the public launch.  They posted a very comprehensive description of RVillage today and I recommend it as the best starting point.  There is a link to the website at the end for their post, or you can go directly to the website at RVillage.

My whole day was not taken up with the RVillage launch.  The RV Resort held a golf cart rodeo starting at noon.  A 2-person team had to navigate a course around traffic cones, including backing between two cones.  Easy?  Not if the driver is blind-folded!  I photographed the event for a while and then returned to the coach, photographing some of the first blooms of the impending spring.

I took advantage of afternoon high temperatures in the mid-70s, partly sunny skies, and a nice breeze to clean the outside of all the bus windows, no small task.  There is a lot of glass on this bus and most of the windows are between 6 and 12 feet above the ground so this required many trips up and down our 7 foot Little Giant folding/telescoping step/extension ladder.  Although it takes up valuable space in our front cargo bay this ladder is an essential tool in our traveling RV toolkit, and the only way we can get on the roof.

Here are some pictures from today:

Our bus on site 439, at WC RV Resort.

Our bus on site 439, at WC RV Resort.

Golf Cart Rodeo spectators and waiting contestants.

Golf Cart Rodeo spectators and waiting contestants.

Golf cart rodeo spectators at WC RV Resort.

Golf cart rodeo spectators at WC RV Resort.

Sharon (driving blind-folded) and Kevin navigating the course.

Sharon (driving blind-folded) and Kevin navigating the course.

Kevn & Sharon coming in to the finish line of the golf cart rodeo course.

Kevn & Sharon coming in to the finish line of the golf cart rodeo course.

Sharon being congratulated by Allen, one of the WCRVR owners.

Sharon being congratulated by Allen, one of the WCRVR owners.

Bob and Allen getting ready to try the course.

Bob and Allen getting ready to try the course.

Some of the first blooms in the RV park.

Some of the first blooms in the RV park.

 

2014/03/11 (T) End Of Palm?

I was up early for no particular reason.  I worked on blog posts for a while and then decided to search for a User’s Manual for our Sharp Carousel II Convection Microwave oven.  We had looked before and not found one.  It is not available from Sharp’s website.  This time I searched by model number, R-1820, and bingo!, there it was.  Someone had scanned it and made it into a PDF, but it was all there and all completely legible.  Today was starting to feel like a lucky day.

I do not use my Palm Tungsten T3 much anymore since the Passwords Plus application got corrupted, and as a result I have gotten less attentive about keeping it charged.  At home I keep it in a docking cradle so it is always charged, but I have not done this in the bus. I still use the Palm Desktop software for my calendar and name/address/phone records, but mostly because I have not found an easy way to move them to MS Outlook and have not wanted to take the time to do it manually.  Besides, I like my Palm.  I’ve had it a long time and it has served me well, providing a convenient and portable place to back up my information.  I even replaced the battery a couple of years ago—which was no easy feat—to extend its life and uptime.

I checked it today and it was dead so I plugged it in to charge it up as I have done many times before.  This time, however, it asked me to install the Palm software from the CD and then configure the device.  I checked my calendar and my appointments were all gone.  Ditto for the N/A/P records.  The Passwords Plus app had also disappeared.  It was a new day with a clean device.  I pondered whether to set the Hotsync Manager to “desktop overwrites handheld” for all functions and see if it would restore the information to the handheld and decided to defer this project until later.

The dishwasher water leak at home was unexpected, but a conversation with Linda gave me confidence that the source of the problem had been identified and the situation was under control.  At the bus I had dumped our waste tanks on Sunday as the gray water tank was indicating full.  I had also topped off our fresh water tank.  Later I noticed a wet spot on the concrete pad under the center of the water bay.  Further investigation revealed a drip.  Ugh.

We have two water valves on our coach where the fresh water hose gets connected.  Our valves leak around the stems when the fresh water system is pressurized.  When the first valve is opened it allows water to flow into the on board fresh water tank.  The second valve connects an air hose fitting to the fresh water plumbing.  This allows the use of compressed air to “blow out” the water pipes when winterizing the coach.  These are the same kind of multi-turn gate valves used for shutoff valves on sinks and toilets.  They have a packing nut that tightens around the valve stem and compresses a packing material around the stem to keep water from leaking out.  They always need to be re-packed at some point.  Ours have needed to be re-packed for a while, and seem to be getting worse of late, so I decided to play plumber today.

I bought some Teflon packing material at ACE Hardware.  It is like a long piece of angel hair pasta.  ACE also had the more traditional graphite rope, but the guy who helped me recommended the stuff I bought.

The handles have a center hole that is fluted to match corresponding flutes on the valve stem.  The handle slips onto the stem and is retained by a small center screw.  To remove the packing nut you must first remove handle.  Easy in concept; impossible in fact.  They probably have not been removed since the bus was converted in 1990/91, and they were not interested in coming off today.  I think there is a special tool for pulling these handles, and I think I have one back at the house, but I don’t think it is going to help in this case.  When working on a bus conversion away from its home base follow the physician’s credo, “First, do no harm.”  This was a repair that did not have to be made at this time, and should not be made in this place, so I put my tools away and found something else to do.

We also have a 1.5″ knife valve on our fresh water tank to drain it rapidly.  These valves, in various sizes, are normally used to drain RV waste tanks.  They eventually develop leaks and need to be serviced or replaced, and that is the case with ours.  With a mostly full fresh water tank, however, that was also not a task for this time and place.

John knocked on the door around 4 PM to let me know that folks were gathering at Jack and Shirley’s rig for happy hour followed by a pot luck dinner.  There were 10 people there and we had a nice conversation.  Jeff had prepared his highly acclaimed pork ribs and they were very popular with everyone (but me, of course).  I had a chopped vegetable salad that Ali made the other day and set aside a portion for me.  It was quite good, and very refreshing on a slightly warm, sunny afternoon.

When I returned to the coach I dealt with some e-mail and then uploaded my featured bus article on Frank and Phyfi Morrison’s Cool Cruiser to Bus Conversions Magazine.  I put on PBS and watched a special fund-raiser concert featuring Steve Martin playing the banjo with the Steve Canyon bluegrass group.  My Palm Tungsten T3 was fully charged, so I set the Hotsync Manager to have the Desktop Overwrite The Handheld.  It took quite a while but it restored all of my applications and databases except for the old version of Passwords Plus.  That was an acceptable outcome as we migrated our passwords some weeks ago to a newer application that automatically syncs multiple devices via the “cloud.”  My anti-virus program notified me that my operating system was not up to date so I ran Microsoft Update.  Even though support for Windows XP ends on April 8th there were a half dozen updates just released.

 

2014/03/10 (M) And All Of That

Overnight from Saturday into Sunday we switched to Daylight Savings Time, so my personal biological clock is off by an hour but slowly resetting.  One of the nice things about retirement, however, is that it really doesn’t matter what time is on the clock when the sun rises and sets.  The sun rose this morning through clear skies and flooded our passenger side bedroom window with lovely warm light.  That’s how I knew it was time to get up.

There is comfort in my morning routine: feed the cats, refresh their water, and clean their litter tray.  (They insist that these things be taken care of before I do anything else.)  Grind the coffee beans and start the brewing process.  Some orange/grapefruit juice to wash down an allergy pill and a multi-vitamin, and then a decision about what to have for breakfast.  It is usually granola, but not always.  Turn on the Verizon MiFi, start the computer, get connected and check my e-mail accounts.  No one from the African sub-continent wants to give me millions of dollars for helping them launder billions in stolen U.S. Foreign aid, and we have not won a free cruise, so it looks like I will have a fairly normal day and get to do whatever it was I planned to do, if I feel like it.

I had not yet written blog posts for Saturday and Sunday, so I did that first.  I find the Notepad app on my iPad2 particularly convenient for this purpose.  I can sit anywhere and work, including outside or away from the bus.  This morning our female cat, Juniper, was feeling a bit needy (she is more bonded to Linda than me and really misses her) so I sat on the couch writing blog posts with her on my lap.  A pair of cardinals was busy in the trees around our rig gathering pieces of Spanish moss for what I could only presume was the building of a nest somewhere nearby.  Juniper has a very strong hunting instinct, so this really got her attention, and provided here with kitty entertainment for quite some time.

A group had planned to go to Satchel’s in Gainesville for pizza around 3 PM.  It turned out that they were not open on Mondays, so we went to the Micanopy Blue Highway instead.  We went early because some of the group had to be back before 6 PM to work or play bingo.  I knew it would be an early dinner and just had a piece of fruit for lunch.  The first time Linda and I went to the Blue Highway we had them veganize one of their standard roasted vegetable pizzas.  It was OK.  I have been back twice while Linda has been away and had salad both times.  Most pizzas are not very good without the cheese.

Linda called while we were driving to the restaurant to update me on the leak.  Our son (Brendan) had come over to lend a hand.  When he inspected the area under the dishwasher he found the fresh water supply line dripping at the connector and shut off the water to the dishwasher.  Assuming that was the only source of the leak it was actually relatively good news. An ice dam on roof would have meant water running down the inside of the wall.  Linda is flying back to Florida late Thursday, so she will have a few days to make sure this was the only problem.  The fact that I will have to repair this leak when we get home just added insult to injury.  I installed the new dishwasher last year and had trouble getting that very connection to not leak.  Instead of Teflon thread tape I will be using PTFE pipe thread compound next time.

John and Ali decided to have another campfire at their site this evening.  I made some popcorn to take over, the first time I’ve made any since Linda flew back to Michigan.  Meg joined us for a while.  It was another quiet evening at the RV resort.  As the sun set the air temperature dropped back into the low 60’s, just cool enough to make the fire an enjoyable necessity without feeling chilled.

 

2014/03/09 (N) Delayed

Even though the weather forecast for today was for near perfect conditions with sun, no rain, and a high temperature in the upper 70’s—and as much as I would have liked to have John and Marian return and help me with bus projects—I decided not to work on the bus.  Linda was scheduled to fly back to Florida Monday afternoon and I needed to devote some time and energy to housekeeping chores.  I have been keeping up with doing the dishes, laundry, and the litter tray, but the bus needed to be vacuumed, and the floors, counters, shower, mirrors, and windows cleaned.  I would probably not make a good bachelor, or at least not a really tidy one.

Mid-morning I got a call from Linda letting me know that we had water damaged suspended ceiling tiles in the northwest corner of the basement near the electrical panel.  She sent pictures with her smartphone and then we talked and tried to problem solve as best we could.  She had not yet checked in for her afternoon flight the next day and we decided she should re-book for later in the week to give her time to figure out what was happening and try to deal with it.

She called our good friend, John Rauch, because that’s what we do when we have house issues.  John thought it was most likely an ice dam on the roof causing water to run down the inside of the wall, or at least behind the siding.  Linda was able to find a roof rake and calcium chloride pellets at a small, local hardware store.  (The big box stores were out and probably busy stocking their shelves with garden supplies even though we are still experiencing single-digit temperatures and have feet of snow on the ground with more likely to fall before winter finally yields to spring in Michigan.)  The rake allowed her to safely remove snow from the first few feet of the bottom edge of the roof.  The pellets are like hockey pucks and are designed to be tossed onto the roof ice and cause it to melt.

Later in the day Linda joined the rest of our immediate family at our daughter’s house for a slightly belated birthday celebration for our son-in-law, Chris.  I finished some, but not all, of my housekeeping chores as I want to do some them just before Linda returns so the bus is as clean as possible.  I worked on the Cool Cruiser article until early evening when John and Ali invited me next door for a small campfire.  Jim and Janet came down for a while and we all had a nice chat.

 

2014/03/08 (S) Let There Be Light

The overnight low temperature was forecast to dip into the upper 30’s last night and only rise to 55 by 10 AM, finally making it to 64 by noon and eventually reaching 71 before dropping back to the mid 60’s by 6 PM.  A sunny day was in store with little-to-no wind—a perfect afternoon for working on the bus—so I called John and he agreed that he and Marian would arrive around noon to help with bus projects.  The forecast held true and the Hagan’s arrived right on time.  We discussed bus projects over lunch and decided to go after the cargo bay lights.

I had pulled out my various manuals, found the one with the wiring diagrams, and located the wiring diagram for the Interior Lighting, so John and I started there.  The diagram indicated that all of the bay lights were on 24 VDC circuits/breakers, and all of the cargo bays were powered from a single circuit/breaker.  The light for the auxiliary air compressor bay was on a separate/circuit breaker and the lights for the engine bay were on their own circuit/breaker.  The light in the aux air compressor bay did not work and none of the engine bay lights worked, but some of the cargo bay lights did work indicating that the circuit breaker was good and the wiring was OK at least up to some point.  The reason(s) the aux air compressor bay and engine bay lights didn’t work were unknown and need to be diagnosed.

The larger bays, which go all the way through the bus, have two light fixtures on each side.  The smaller bays (over the rear tires) typically have one light fixture.  The front aux air compressor bay also has one light fixture.  There are at least six light fixtures in the engine bay, none of which work, but that was not our focus for today.  These fixtures are all clearly indicated in the wiring diagram, along with the switches, connectors, and wire numbers.

All of the cargo bay fixtures are present but most of them are badly corroded.  Each fixture uses two 24 VDC bulbs wired in parallel.  Some had only one bulb and some had none.  We cleaned up one of the existing bulbs and determined that they are T635’s, a small bayonet mount 24 VDC incandescent bulb.

(Perhaps I should try to find an LED replacement for these?  Actually, I plan to replace all of the fixtures with LED’s, but that’s a project, and a story, for another day.  When I upgrade the fixtures to LED’s I will probably re-wire the front cargo bay so all of the lights come on when either door is opened.  This is our only real cargo bay; all of the other bays are full of installed systems.  It has a bi-directional slide, and it would be nice to have it fully illuminated.  I am also considering feeding the bay lighting circuits from the 24 VDC battery system through a fuse, relay, and diode so power would only be supplied when the chassis batteries are turned off, which is the normal situation when we are parked.)

According to the wiring diagram there are two branches to the cargo bay circuit, one for the driver side lights and one for the passenger side lights, except for the large front bay where all of the lights are powered from the driver side branch.  Each bay door has a micro switch that turns the lights by that door on/off when the door is opened/closed; at least that is what is supposed to happen.

I made a rough diagram of the bus bays with all of the fixtures and micro switches indicated.  I turned on the chassis batteries, opened all of the bays, and we started documenting what did and did not work.  We checked each fixture that did not come on to see if voltage was present.  If not, we checked the micro switch both for a supply voltage and for proper switch function.  We found one micro switch that was bad in the DS rear electrical bay.  We found another micro switch in the water bay that had one of the wires cut, but determined that there was 24 VDC present.  The only fixtures that were not receiving voltage were the PS front cargo bay and the aux air compressor bay.  We did not check the engine bay lighting circuit.  The engine bay is a messier place to work, and that will be a project for another time.

I had two new micro switches in my parts box so we replaced the bad one in the DS rear electrical bay.  The micro switch in the water bay did not have a spring/roller actuator.  We did not know if that was by design or if it had broken off but decided to remove it regardless as it was mounted in a location where it was difficult to work on.  We had to fashion a new wire for it that was long enough that we could splice it to the wire in the bay.  John was able to remove the switch at which point we could see that that the actuator spring/roller was broken off.  The switch tested OK, so we removed the actuator from the defective switch we had just replaced and put it on the existing switch.  We made our new wire, attached it to the switch, and spliced the other end to the existing wire in the bay.  We reattached the other wire to the switch and turned the chassis batteries on.  Voila, let there be light!  We cycled the switch to make sure the lights would go off and on.  They did, so we re-installed the switch.  We then gently lowered the bay door almost to closure but the lights did not turn off.

Examination of the switches on some of the other doors revealed that the spring/roller actuators had been “custom bent” to cause the door hinges to contact them “just right.”  We tried to bend the actuator without removing the switch, but spring steel by its very nature does not like to have its shape permanently changed and we risked breaking it.  Since these lights are powered by the chassis batteries there would not be any harm in just leaving them on as the chassis batteries are generally only on when we are going to start the engine.  I decided to look for a different solution (on another day) and removed the bulbs from the two fixtures for the time being.

24 VDC was not present at the micro switch for the front PS cargo bay and we could not trace the wiring as the converter (Royale Coach) had “buried” it behind a decorative carpeted ceiling.  We ran a jumper wire from one of the fixtures on the other side of the bay and determined that the switch was OK and so was the wiring from there to the light fixtures.  The solution in this case will be to disconnect the original supply wire from the switch and from the other side of the bay where it originates, cap them, and run a new wire; but that will be a project for another day.  My primary focus for today was diagnostics, with easy repairs where possible.

There was no 24 VDC present at the micro switch for the aux air compressor bay light so we used the jumper wire to supply power and determined that the switch, the  ground wire, and the fixture, including the bulbs, where OK.  This was the first power supply problem we had found.  The wires to the switch were numbered and the numbers corresponded to the wiring diagram.  We eventually found the other end of the supply wire, and the circuit breaker where it was attached, in the DS front electrical bay.  The breaker was OK and supplying 24 VDC to the wire so we had a wiring problem, specifically an open circuit.  This wire does not supply power to any other components (according to the wiring diagram) so the fix in this case will be to disconnect the wire from the circuit breaker and the switch, cap it at both ends, and run a new wire; but that will also be a project for another day.

By the time we got all of this done it was 5 PM so we decided we were finished for the day.  We cleaned up a bit and went to Pizza Hut for dinner.  There are only two chain restaurants in town; the other one is a McDonald’s.  Angelina Mia is OK, but we had already been there a couple of times.  The Ivy House is reputed to be the best restaurant in town, but when Linda and I checked their menu we did see anything we could eat even with ingredients left out.

John and Marian dropped me back at the coach at 7 PM and headed for home.  I wandered over to the fire pit with a glass of Moscato white wine around 8 PM and relaxed for a couple of hours.  The fire eventually died down and the air got cool so I returned to the coach and worked for a while on the Cool Cruiser article before turning in for the night.

 

2014/03/07 (F) Housekeeping

The weather forecast for the weekend was near perfect and John and Marian agreed to come back on Saturday (and Sunday, if needed) to help me with some more bus projects.  With Linda returning on Monday, today was the day for doing some housekeeping chores, specifically laundry and shopping.  Sunday evening will be vacuuming carpets and cleaning tile floors.

With the Friday night fire circle starting at 6:30 PM, I got an early start on my chores and work.  I worked on the Cool Cruiser article for BCM in between trips to the resort laundry building.  By 1:00 PM I was on my way to Ocala for cat food, with a stop at the Publix supermarket on US-27 for a few things.  I was back by 3:30 PM and spent the rest of the afternoon working on the article and dealing with e-mails.  I had a nice salad for dinner and at 6:30 PM was off to the fire circle.

There were 12 of us there initially, including John with his guitar.  There are other activities at the resort on Friday nights and the fire circle tends to be smaller and more intimate than on Saturdays.  The high temperature only reached 51 degrees today, so it was cool even with the fire, and got cooler as the evening progressed.  I tended the fire while John played and sang.  The small crowd was especially appreciative of John’s music this evening.  By 10 PM there was only John and Ali and me.  I left them to knock down the fire and turned in for the evening to enjoy some fresh strawberries I had prepared yesterday and upload some blog posts.

 

2014/03/06 (R) A Change of Plans

Our coach has eight awing style windows, four in the living room and four in the bedroom.  Two of the living room windows and two of the bedroom windows are fogged, and one of the living room windows has standing water in it as a result of very heavy rain today.  I finally got around to calling Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida this morning.  They manufacture windows and repair/rebuild RV windows.  They have been recommended to us by several different friends as THE place to have our fogged thermopane bus windows fixed.  I had also been told that they might not work on our windows because it is a Prevost.

It took a few minutes on the phone, but they eventually concluded that they could repair our windows due to age of the bus, i.e., it was old enough that they could work on it.  This was one of those rare cases where older was better.  The first available appointment was April 8, so I took it.  I was told to plan for 3 – 5 days to complete the work on the four windows.  We have to arrive on the 7th so they can start first thing the next morning.  They have water/electric hookups and a dump station provided at no (additional) charge for customers having work done.  If I had called in January (like I should have) we could probably have gotten an April 1 appointment; no fooling.

My main focus for today was to wrap up my article for Bus Conversions Magazine on the Cool Cruiser, a 1957 GM PD4106 that belongs to Frank and Phyfi Morrison.  Of course there was a constant flow of e-mail as well as breaks for food and games.  I can focus for a long time on a task if have to (and want to).  One of the nicest things about retirement is that I rarely have to, and I am learning not to want to, at least not all of the time.  But I am enjoying writing for BCM, so for now this is something I want to do. The article I finished yesterday on the Iron Horse was the first one I have written about someone else’s bus.  The one I worked on today was the second.  I have a third one in the queue and several offers out to help other friends.  I also have a dozen articles in process or planned on our various bus projects, places we have been (Harvest Hosts), and things we have done (Habitat For Humanity build).

Hudson, Florida is approximately 2 hours SSW of Williston, so it only made sense for us to stay here until April 7th if possible.  By early afternoon there was a lull in the rain so I went to the Resort office to see if we could extend our stay for six nights through the night of April 6th.  The answer was “yes” and we will be able to stay in our current site.  They charged us the daily rate equivalent of our 3-month rate; about half the normal daily rate.  Williston Crossings RV Resort continues to be a very nice place to stay.

The Cool Cruiser article still needed a lot of work as I had not yet selected, processed, inserted, and captioned the photographs.  I worked on that, off and on, the rest of the day and late into evening, but did not finish the job.  Oh well, tomorrow’s another day.

 

2014/03/05 (W) Rainy Day Work

The weather turned cool and wet and was forecast to stay that way through Friday.  The cloud cover must have been thick as the light level was very subdued all day.  I do not, however, find such days to be dreary.  They are good days for hunkering down and working, and the bus is a good place to do that.

The coach is a more intimate place to work than most houses.  We live in close contact with the outdoors.  When it rains you see it and hear it. When the wind blows you see it, hear it, and feel it.  The bus has a lot of front and side window area and we are rarely more than four feet from one (the coach is only eight feet wide inside).  It also has four translucent skylights and three ceiling vent/fans with clear covers, so there is plenty of light even on overcast days.  There is also always a view; all we have to do is look.  A bonus is that the subdued, low contrast light is actually better for working at a computer, being easier on the eyes with less glare.

I have been working on a couple of “featured bus” articles for Bus Conversions Magazine and today seemed like a good day to start wrapping them up.  The article on the Iron Horse, Jimmy and Sadie Clay’s Model 10 Eagle conversion, the Iron, was nearest to completion so I worked on that one.  It took the whole day and evening but I tied up all the loose ends and uploaded everything to the Dropbox folder I use for the magazine and still got to bed at a reasonable hour (for me).

 

2014/03/02 (N) Dashboard Wiring Photos

A few photos from the dashboard wiring repair work today we did today.  Click each thumbnail to enlarge.  Maximum dimension is 400 pixels.

2014/03/02 (N) Dashboard Wiring

(Photos of this work are in the gallery post for this date.)

John and Marian returned at 10 AM today.  I unpacked all of the tools again, shut off the power to the pressure switch for the auxiliary air compressor, and removed the cover.  Sure enough, the diagram was right there.  The pressure switch was a Connor designed for air systems.  It was not a water well pump control switch although externally you would not know the difference.  It was designed to allow adjustment for a cut-in pressure as low as 40 PSI and a cut-out pressure as high as 160 PSI with an adjustable pressure difference between cut-in and cut-out of 20 to 50 PSI.  The two large spring-loaded shafts moved the operating range up and down while the smaller single shaft adjusted the differential.  It presumably had the two large springs, instead of the usual single one found in a water well switch, because of the higher operating pressures.

After figuring out a combination of tools that allowed me to turn the adjustment nuts, I backed off (CCW) the two nuts on the large spring shafts equal numbers of turns.  The adjustment rate appeared to be approximately 3.0 to 3.5 PSI per full revolution. I lowered the cut-in pressure, turned the power back on, and bled the auxiliary air tank until the compressor came on.  A little more adjustment and I had the cut-in pressure set to 65 PSI.  That put the cut-out pressure at approximately 90 PSI.  I decided to raise the cut-off pressure to about 95 PSI, a 30 PSI differential, in order to get a slightly longer off-time.  I checked the time with my stopwatch and the compressor was coming on about every 2 hours and running for about 3 minutes.  Not bad compared to the 20 – 25 minute cycle we were seeing before the old compressor died.  In subsequent tests it has stayed off as long as 2 hours 15 minutes if I did not use any air powered accessories.

The 65 PSI cut-in pressure was selected to keep the overall system pressure above 65 PSI.  There is a pressure regulator / water separator that takes air from the auxiliary air manifold and supplies it to the house accessories, specifically the toilet, pocket door, and waste tank dump valves.  The toilet, in particular, wants to see 60 PSI to operate properly.  The auxiliary air compressor also maintains the pressure in the suspension/brake systems, and I like to keep that pressure above 60 PSI.  If not for these minimum pressure requirements I would set the pressure control switch to cycle between 45 and 95 PSI and extend the off-time to 3 or more hours.

With the compressor project wrapped up for now I got out my Pro-Link ECM diagnostic instrument.  The ECM for our DD8V92TA is a DDEC II.  I turned on the chassis batteries and we plugged the Pro-Link power cord into the 12VDC outlet (cigarette lighter) in the driver’s area and plugged the data cable into the diagnostic port in the outside bay under the driver’s seat.  (Note to self:  Install a 12VDC outlet next to the data port for future use.)  After referring to the manual, we were able to examine the data in the DDEC II.

There was one Inactive code set as follows:

MID: 128  Engine  |  Fuel Temp Sensor  |  Input Voltage High  |  I1   PID: 174   FMI: 3

We did not check for active codes as that required the engine to be running and I don’t like to start unless I am going to run it long enough to bring it up to operating temperature.

This was the same code that Bill and I saw in Arcadia and then cleared, so it must have reappeared on the drive back to Williston on January 1st.  I had purchased a new fuel temperature sensor early last year and had our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, install it last spring.  It is possible, though unlikely, that this new sensor was bad.  I also do not think I that the bus has a fuel temperature issue.  That leaves wiring or the DDEC II as possible culprits, but not necessarily the only ones.  The fuel temp sensor is mounted in a dry pocket on top of the engine underneath the DDEC II.  I believe the wires go directly from the sensor through a connector to the computer, so the wires and/or connector are obvious places to look for a problem.  More importantly for us today, it appeared that the check engine light has been coming on for a reason, not at random, displaying an active code while driving and coming on and going off as the error condition appeared and disappeared.

Now for the dashboard.  The cover just lifts off, exposing the top and back side of all the gauges, switches, indicator lights, dash lights, rotary controls, and wiring; lots of wiring.  The area behind the dashboard is not very deep—12 inches at most—and it is easier to see this area from outside through the driver side lower windshield than from inside and above.  Extensive work behind the dashboard would require the removal of the driver side lower windshield.

John and Marian studied the wiring through the windshield and spotted some issues.  We followed the wires coming out of the back of the speedometer into a large bundle that went to a large circular connector with a twist-latch to hold it together.  There are several of these connectors to accommodate all of the dashboard wiring, plus smaller connectors for the dashboard lights and miscellaneous power feeds.  (Except for two small air lines for the primary and secondary air system gauges, and some mechanical connections for the front HVAC system, it appears that undoing these wiring connectors would allow the dashboard panels to be removed intact.  That would provide an alternate way to work on the wiring.)

The insulation on several of the wires was abraded or had been chewed off.  (Mice are known to chew insulation off of wires.)  We taped the damaged wires to prevent any further deterioration.  We also noticed a wire that came out of the connector that contained the speedometer wires and looped back into the connector.  It was approximately 6 inches long and the insulation was missing from one side of the middle four inches, exposing the stranded copper conductor.  Not only was that a potential short circuit, the conductor was not in good shape.  It was slightly corroded due to atmospheric exposure and it was frayed in several places with only a few strands providing continuity.  This in turn would look like a resistance to the circuit, causing a voltage drop and reduced current flow.  We clipped out the bad section and spliced in a new piece if wire.

(As a side note, there are only two obvious reasons to loop a wire back through a connector like that: 1) It was intended to go to something that was not installed and then continue on to something else, or 2) It was being used to detect that the cable was plugged in.)

We separated the two halves of the connector and sprayed them with contact cleaner.  While they dried we checked for ground connection problems, but did not see any obvious ones.  The ground on the speedometer mounting bracket looked sound and all of the other speedometer wires were shielded pairs; the instrument itself did not use chassis ground for its signals.

While we had the dashboard exposed I decided to remove the radar detector.  I have never used radar detectors, but it was already installed in the coach when we bought it.  I had never used it and did not intend to.  It was taking up space and making access to things more difficult.  (I had previously removed an electronic compass that did not work and I still need to remove the “musical horn” which we don’t use because it’s annoying.)

With the dashboard work completed we opened up the electrical service bay above the driver side steer tire.  This bay contains a lot of chassis electrical components such as relays, circuit breakers, terminal strips, diodes, and the anti-lock brake computer.  What we were looking for, however, was the Speed Limit Switch (SLS).

The SLS is used on seated coaches to disable the kneeling feature of the suspension when the coach is moving.  In order to do that, the speedometer wires pass through the SLS enroute to the dashboard gauge.  The Prevost national service advisor for conversion shells, Bill Jensen, told me back in January that this switch might be installed in our coach even though it was not used, and that it was a possible point of failure that might cause our intermittent speedometer problem.

The Speed Limit Switch was not present, but there was a DB-15 connector at that location that could have plugged in to it.  The connector was plugged in to a mating connector that did not have any wires coming out of it.  Looking in the cable access hole on the end we could see wires inside.  It was a loop back terminator.  We separated the two connectors and sprayed them with contact cleaner but we did not open them to check the integrity of the wiring inside.

We buttoned everything up and called it a day around 2:30 PM.  I won’t know if any of the work we did today fixed our speedometer problem until we depart Williston Crossings RV Resort in April.

 

2014/03/01 (S) Compressor Install Photos

A gallery of photos of the auxiliary air compressor replacement project.  Click thumbnail image to open.  Maximum dimension is 400 pixels.  Photos by Marian Hagan marked (MH).

2014/03/01 (S) Installing The Compressor

John and Marian arrived at 10 AM as I was getting ready to unload all of my tools and materials from their storage locations.  Marian brought her camera and took pictures of us working and I took photos of the details of the work as it progressed.  I have placed the photos in a separate gallery post with today’s date.

We looked at the old compressor and figured out what we had to do to remove it.  The auxiliary air compressor is mounted to the floor of the bay under the driver’s seat.  It is not a large bay, but it is big enough to allow access to the things that are installed there, especially after the plastic 5 gallon windshield washer fluid tank is removed.  (Yes, it holds 5 gallons of washer fluid; it’s a bus and everything on it is super-sized.)

I tried applying AC power to the compressor one last time with zero pressure in the auxiliary air system, but it was still seized.  I shut the circuit breaker off so we could work safely on the electrical aspects of the project.

With the washer fluid tank out of the way we could see that the compressor was mounted on four rubber isolation mounts.  These mounts were ~1″ thick with bolts protruding from either end.  One end was bolted to the air compressor mounting flange.  The other end went through a hole in the floor and was secured with a Nylok nut from under the bus.  The compressor was installed with the length oriented front-to-rear (buswise) so we could get to the interior nuts on the side of the compressor facing us, but not the ones on the other side.  We could hardly see those nuts even with the inspection mirror.  Fortunately the bottom bolts were close enough to both the driver side and front of the bus that I could reach them without having to get under the bus.  With the auxiliary air system bled completely down the suspension was holding, so we did not put the bus up on stands for this work.  I do not get under the bus under those conditions.

We disconnected the air line from the compressor while it was still mounted and then disconnected the other end from the T-fitting and removed it from the bay.  We then unbolted the air compressor and turned it 90 degrees so we could get to the electrical connections on the end of the motor.  With the electrical connections undone we were able to lift the old unit out.  It weighed about 30 pounds.

Butch had alerted me to the possibility that the check valve I bought from Prevost might not be exactly what I need.  He said that air compressors usual have an unloader valve or mechanism in the air line ahead of the check valve.  The purpose of the unloader mechanism is to bleed the pressure off of the air pump when it stops running so the next tine it starts it is initially working against zero pressure.  We examined the old check valve and sure enough, it had an “extra” piece with a small port in the side.  We tested it and verified that the check valve was, in fact, leaking but the pressure relief valve was working.  We also discovered that all of the fittings were compression rather than pipe thread like my new check valve.

After studying the situation for a while John and I agreed that the best course of action was to reuse the old check valve and unloader and put the new check valve in the air line downstream from them.  The new check valve would prevent backflow to the new auxiliary air compressor, and protect it from the higher pressures generated by huge main engine air compressor, while the unloader would relieve the pressure on the auxiliary air pump when it stopped running.

This was the point at which we realized that I did not have all of the necessary fittings to reassemble the air line with the new components.  John got on his phone and found that there was a NAPA auto store not far from the RV Resort.  It’s always something.  This is why jobs that should only take “a few hours” end up taking all day (or longer).  Two trips later and we had everything we needed.

We assembled the air line in two pieces using old and new fittings.  We used PTFE pipe thread compound on all of the threads.  As I do not travel with a vise it was very helpful having four hands to hold things and another pair (Marian) to help as needed.  (Our mechanic would like me to mount a vise to trailer hitch so I can slide it into the receiver on the back of the bus or the car.  That would have been handy for this project.)  We attached one piece of the air line to the compressor and the other piece to the T-fitting.  John had previously attached the two isolation mounts that came out with the old compressor.  We set the new compressor in the compartment with the motor pointing out and reconnected the AC electrical power.  We then turned the compressor 90 degrees and dropped the rear mounting bolts through the two holes in the floor.  John had put the mounts in just the right place and it was a perfect fit!  We put all the nuts on and snugged them up.  The final step was to join the two pieces of the air line together and test it.

I turned on the AC power and it purred like a kitten.  Well, maybe like a really big, loud cat.  We watched the pressure gauge in the auxiliary air manifold and although we could hear air being pumped the pressure was not coming up.  I quickly realized that the primary and secondary tanks had bled down to about 40 PSI and the auxiliary air compressor had to fill them to 70 PSI before the auxiliary air tank/system would fill.  The auxiliary air compressor is not intended to fill the entire chassis system, although it does maintain the pressure at its cut-out setting, so I shut it off.

I had asked John to bring his portable air compressor and he did.  We connected it to the fill connector/valve back by the main engine and used it to fill the primary, secondary, and auxiliary air systems to about 110 PSI.  I then turned the power back on for the auxiliary air compressor and opened the drain valve on the auxiliary air tank.  At 80 PSI the auxiliary air compressor came on.  I shut the drain valve and the pressure came back up to about 104 PSI.  The system was back in operation! I started the stopwatch on my smartphone to time how long it would take to leak down to the cut-in pressure while I cleaned up and put away tools.

The only issue at this point was that the auxiliary air compressor was rated for 100 PSI maximum pressure so the pressure control switch needed to be adjusted.  I turned the power off, removed the cover from the pressure switch, and discovered that it had three spring-loaded adjustments rather than the two I expected to see.  I put the cover back on, restored the power, and suggested that the three of us go out to dinner at Angelina Mia.

At the restaurant I made a special request for pasta in olive oil.  The owner was there and she came to the table to clarify what I wanted.  She said she could do spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, some hot pepper flakes, and spinach.  Winner!  I also found out that Angelina and Mia are her daughter’s names.  We did not get around to working on dashboard wiring issues today, so John and Marian agreed to come back tomorrow.

After dinner I got online to research how to adjust the pressure switch, but everything I found was for a unit with two adjustments, not three.  The key, however, was that the diagram for the unit was probably inside the cover.  I had not thought to look there earlier.  That would be the first task for tomorrow, and then on to wiring issues.