Category Archives: Restaurants

2016/03/15-17 (T-F) Clermont Orlando Brakes Linner

2016/03/16 (T) Clermont & Orlando

We had coffee, grapefruit, and cinnamon raisin English muffins for breakfast and orange juice to wash down our vitamins.  We had not made any specific plans for today but Linda still had her list of six places to visit in Clermont.  We decided we would head that way after taking care of several important chores with the bus.

The first chore was checking the water level in the fresh water tank.  We still had 1/4 tank so I deferred filling it until tomorrow.  The next chore was checking the driver side tag axle/brake.  In order to do this I had to start the bus engine, air up the suspension, and lift the tag axles.  With the tag tires off the concrete pad (and the tire covers removed) I was able to freely spin the passenger side wheel but the driver side wheel would not budge.  I removed the other four tire covers, put the tag axles back down, and moved the coach back and forth about 12 inches a couple of times before returning it to its starting position.  I then lifted the tag axles and rechecked the wheel spin.  My hope, of course, was that the driver side tag would break free but it didn’t.  That strongly suggested that the disc brake was locked up although I won’t know for sure until the wheel is removed and the brake can be inspected.  I put the tag axles back down and shut the engine off.  After turning off the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply I put the tire covers back on.  I then texted Joe, our mobile mechanic, to let him know what I found and ask him to call me as soon as it was convenient.  Joe has been in the Florida Keys for the last month and was planning to move to Ft. Lauderdale today and then move in our direction towards the end of this week, so we were lucky to have him in the area.

The third and last chore was to check the drain lines for the bedroom air-conditioner.  I unscrewed the discharge register and removed it, giving me access to the front of the evaporator.  The evaporator has an integral drain pan and Royale Coach installed a second one under the unit.  The drain line for the integral pan comes straight out the center of the bottom, makes a quick 90 degree bend to the rear, and a couple inches beyond the rear of the extra pan makes another 90 degree bend down.  At that point the drain line from the extra pan, which runs out the center rear of the pan, T’s into the down drain, which runs straight down through the cabinet into the driver side of the engine compartment.  Just after entering the engine compartment the line turns 90 degrees to the rear until it is close to the rear hatch and then turns down 90 degrees and runs down close to the rear bumper where it ends.  If the line is not clogged, condensate from the evaporator drips into the integral pan, flies through the drain lines, and eventually drips onto the ground near the driver side rear corner of the bus.

We grabbed the Kenwood HT ham radios and went outside to open the rear engine hatch so we could inspect the drain line and Linda could observe it.  I went back in and poured a little water into the extra pan and noticed that there was some loose debris in the pan.  Linda radioed that water was trickling out so I cleaned out the pan and then poured in a larger quantity of water.  It came out onto the ground, so I knew the drain line was open at least from the T down.  I poured water into the integral pan and Linda reported that it also came out on the ground.  Well, alrighty then.  I replaced a piece of foam that seals the bottom of the opening and reinstalled the register.  I then closed the rear hatch.

The reason for all of this was that we have been running the rear A-C but not seeing any condensate on the ground.  I checked the temperature of the evaporator yesterday and it was 10 to 15 degrees below the ambient air temperature so I know the evaporator had to be producing condensate and I was curious about where it was going.  Of particular concern was any water overflowing the pans and dripping inside the cabinet as the main AC electrical panel is just below the evaporator and there are AC power relays, DC control switches, and lots of wiring just below that.

With all that taken care of we loaded the camera gear into the car and headed out of the resort and back west on CR-478 towards Webster where we picked up FL-471 south to FL-50 and headed east to Clermont.  At US-27 we went north one exit to Citrus Tower Blvd. where the Florida Citrus Tower is located.  The Tower was opened in 1956 as a monument (and tourist attraction) to the Florida Citrus industry, which was centered in this area at the time.  The citrus groves were decimated by three hard freezes in the 1980’s and the industry in this area never recovered.  We rode the elevator to the observation platform which is over 200 feet AGL, and just over 500 feet ASL.  It was quite a view even if it wasn’t of citrus groves.  The area has, in fact, “recovered” as there are at least 1,442 lakes within view of this tower and the area has become a Mecca for development with Orlando just 15 miles due east and Disney World  about 23 miles southeast.

We stopped at Publix across the street for lunch snacks/beverages.  Returning to FL-50, we continued east to Orlando to check out the route for Monday.  Traffic congestion has us rethinking how we should get to Jetty Park on Cape Canaveral.  We stopped at Bed-Bath-&-Beyond, but they do not carry the InstantPot.  We picked up FL-408 (Toll Road) back to FL-50 and headed west through Clermont.  On the way back to Webster we stopped at the Publix in Groveland.  We then continued west on FL-50 to CR-471.  I filled the fuel tank at the Shell station, which advertised $1.859 for Regular but had the pump set to $1.999.  Arrrgh.

I called Chuck while Linda fixed dinner and we discussed the tag axle brake problem.  I then called Butch but did not get an answer.  Dinner was salad and open-faced pan-seared BBQ tofu slices with caramelized onions.  We had fresh strawberries later for dessert.  We eat well regardless of bus problems.

We tried to watch NCIS, NCISNOLA, and Limitless but TV reception was spotty all night.  Butch called me back and we chatted about the brakes and battery charging.  I needed to be up early to call Prevost and then text Joe the names and phone numbers of RV parks in Webster and Bushnell where he might be able to stay.  As the name says, Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort does not accept pull-behinds.  For that matter, it does not accept anything other than “Class A” motorhomes.  Many of the units here are Prevost conversions, but certainly not all.

Linda checked the weather forecast for overnight and saw that there would be a period of about five hours with 100% humidity so we left the A-C units on all night.  We don’t care for the noise but we like high relative humidity even less, especially when it comes to sleeping.

HC View of Minneola Lake from the Florida Citrus Tower looking west.

2016/03/16 (W) Braking News

I did not sleep well last night knowing that I had to be up early to research the parts I needed to order and then call Prevost’s U. S. Parts office in Elgin, Illinois to place the order.  I got up at 5:30 AM and opened the Prevost CatBase Viewer software and found the diagrams and parts lists for the tag axles on our bus.  I also researched RV parks for Joe.  I found two in Webster, less than three miles away, and two in Bushnell, about nine miles away.

I ate one of the apricot bear claws and then called Prevost U. S. Parts and got connected to Gary.  He spent an hour and 15 minutes working with me trying to figure out what tag axle we actually had.  He also informed me that the disc brake calipers were no longer available; Prevost did not have any in stock and could not get any more as Meritor had discontinued production.  That was not what I expected when I got up this morning and set the stage and tone for the rest of the day.  I ended up ordering a “Left Side” major rebuild kit, a slide pin kit, and a set of brake pads, but not with complete confidence that they were the correct parts or that we would be able to use them.

I was on the phone when Linda got up so she made our morning coffee.  A little while later she blended frozen strawberries, bananas, oatmeal, flax seeds, vanilla almond milk creamer,  and a couple of other things into very thick smoothies and put them in the refrigerator.

In the course of the day I spent time online researching possible alternate sources and made phone calls to ABC Bus Co. in Oakland, Florida and American Frame and Axle in Tampa.  It was not a positive experience and by late morning decided to shift my attention and effort to other tasks.

First up was filling the fresh water tank.  The level appeared to be about 1/8th (15 gallons) and I decided to drain the tank before refilling it.  The last time I drained the tank was in November just before we left for the winter.  I have usually waited to refill the tank until it was down below the 1/3rd level, and usually down between 1/6th and 1/8th, but that means (hypothetically) that some of the water from the original fill up in November remained in the tank.  Being a hot, sunny day, and being parked on a concrete pad, I figured it was a good time/place to dump the tank.

I refilled the fresh water tank to the top with 120 gallons of softened water and checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener at the end.  As best I could read the test strip it was somewhere between 1.5 and 3.0 gpg.  That meant it was probably time to recharge the softener.  I entered the data into my spreadsheet and it confirmed that I have removed about 8,500 grains on the current charge.  The tank claims to be a 10,000 grain device.

Speaking of water softening, Mark Schumaker (from A-1 water Conditioning), was at the Webster Flea Market on Monday.  We bought our current portable water softener from him in Gillette, Wyoming in the summer of 2013.  I have always found this unit difficult/awkward to recharge, but he now has a newer system that involves a special valve assembly for the softening tank and uses a separate brine tank.  That is exactly what I am looking for, so I may have to give Mark a second chance.

My next task was doing the laundry.  As long as I had to go to the laundry room we decided to use the showers at the clubhouse.  I put in a call to Chuck but caught him on the golf course and we agreed to talk later.  I started two loads while Linda showered and then she kept an eye on the machines while I showered.  When I returned to the laundry room Linda was using the resort Wi-Fi to Facetime on her iPad with our daughter.  I added the towels to a third load of laundry and joined the conversation.  When we were done talking Linda walked back to our rig while I stayed to finish drying the laundry.  I called Pat Lintner to discuss the best route to get to Jetty Park.  He and Vickie suggested FL-91 to FL-528.  Both are tollroads, but it’s the easy/breezy route.  Joe called me in response to my earlier text messages.  He was wondering if the rebuild kit required any special tools and asked me to check on it.

When I got back to our coach I called Prevost Parts again and was connected to Eduardo.  He took my number, did some digging around, sent me a couple of e-mails, and then called me back.  Yes, it appeared that I might need a couple of specialized tools, and no, Prevost did not have them in stock anywhere.  He did, however, give me the name of the manufacturer (Kent-Moore) and manufacturer’s part numbers (J-34064-51 & J-34064-52) of the two tools.

I searched online for these tools but mostly found listings for the Kent-Moore J-34064-B Rockwell-Meritor Dura-Master Brake Tool Set – Complete.”  Many of the listings were on Ebay, were very used, and prices were all over the map.  By this time I was wishing it was Wednesday last week rather than Wednesday this week.  I had hoped to upload more blog posts today but that was clearly not going to happen.

I took a break for lunch, which was hummus, pretzels, and carrot slices.  We opened the caramelized onion hummus.  It reminds me of California Dip made from Lipton’s Onion Soup mix.  Yum.

I had a reply from ESET a couple of days ago with some additional suggestions about how to get Smart Security 9 to properly synchronize with Windows 10 Update.  We fiddled with ESET Windows 10 update notifications on Linda’s computer and realized that her machine is still running Smart Security 8 and needs to be upgraded.

Joe called back and I brought him up-to-date on what I had (not) accomplished today vis-a-vis the tag axle brake.  Chuck called back as well and we spent quite a bit of time going over the brake situation.  We did not necessarily resolve anything, but there is great comfort in being able to discuss such issues with friends who are fellow converted bus owners.  They get it, and their empathy is genuine and informed.

Around 4 PM I logged in to the FMCA website and went through the registration process for the FMCA GLAMARAMA 2016 rally.  At the very end the website said an error had occurred and to call the office.  So I did.  Bridgett took all of our info and passed it over to accounting for processing.  Linda noted a short time later that the credit card charge appeared to be pending twice.  Linda won’t know if that is actually the case until it posts to our account.  FMCA is a big enough organization that they should not be having these kinds of eCommerce issues with their website.

We got a couple of Yuengling beers out of the refrigerator and went outside to sit in the shade.  The midday sun was brutal today but as soon as it got lower in the western sky it was lovely outside with moderate breezes and comfortable humidity.  We were just getting ready to relax and enjoy our brew when Joan stopped by with her dog Toby.  Toby is a very friendly miniature Schnauzer and we appear to be his new best friends.  Joan had barely continued on her walk when a couple stopped at the end of the pad (by the street) and the man held up his right hand, Palm facing us, and pointed to it.  That is the universal sign of greeting between Michiganders (or Michiganians) and we was pointing to where they were from in the Lower Peninsula.  It took me a moment to realize that I recognized them from Williston Crossings where we were parked next to each other in December.  It was Ken and Pam from Grand Rapids.  They arrived yesterday after spending the winter at Williston Crossings.  We chatted for a while and then they continued their walk.  We got the impression from a distance that they were not very friendly and so we did not interact with them much at WCRVR.  Our loss; they were perfectly wonderful people.  I think Pam was just shy.  Shame on us for not reaching out; we certainly know better.

The light was fading and we were not hungry for dinner yet so we drove to the CVS store in Bushnell.  We bought a Florida SunPass transponder to use with the bus as our only good route from Webster to Cape Canaveral is via the Florida a Turnpike and another tollroad.  The transponder can be moved between vehicles and used with the car in tow behind the bus.

When we got back Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches with deli slices for dinner along with fresh strawberries.  We watched a PBS program on WW II British military intelligence.  Linda went to bed at 11 PM and I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose.  I then went to bed and worked on this blog for a short while before turning out the lights at 12:30 AM.  It had not been an easy day and I went to sleep tired and discouraged at the turn of events regarding our rag axle brakes.

The Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL.

2016/03/17 (R) Linner at Papa Joe’s

The last few days have been hot with daytime high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80’s.  The relative humidity has been moderate, leading to clear skies and intense sunshine, but there has been a persistent breeze which has helped keep things comfortable, especially in the shade.  The coach is not in the shade, however, and we have kept the awnings in because of the wind, so we have been running our air-conditioners all day.  By late afternoon, with the sun lower in the sky, the air temperature moderates just enough, without a significant rise in relative humidity, to be very pleasant; the kind of weather conditions that are perfect for just sitting outside with a cold beverage and relaxing.  As the temperature drops after sunset the relative humidity rises and approaches 100% for some period of hours before and during sunrise.  That does not make for good sleeping so we have also been keeping the air-conditioners on all night.

With the day I had yesterday I needed a good night’s sleep.  Still, I went to bed discouraged and frustrated and did not sleep that well even though I was very tired and fell asleep quickly.  I was up this morning at 7:30 AM and made coffee.  Linda was up by 8 AM.  We had cinnamon raisin English muffins for breakfast.  Linda’s focus this morning was tax returns.  I had a long list of things I wanted to get done and knew before I started that I would not accomplish all of them.

I started by putting a call in to Billy at American Frame and Axle regarding the brake caliper rebuild but had to leave my name and number.  I got a text from Joe and replied to it.  I heard back from Billy a short time later.  He does not have a mechanic working on Saturday mornings so the earliest he could rebuild the tag axle brake calipers would be Monday morning.  He seemed to think, however, that we would not have a problem doing the work ourselves.  I texted that information to Joe and then turned my attention to other things.

Linda texted Linda Whitney (K4YL) regarding getting together for dinner.  Linda W suggested we meet for linner (a late lunch / early dinner) at Papa Joe’s which is in between their house and our resort.  They agreed on 2:30 PM as the time, which avoids the lunch and dinner crowds.

The wind was light-to-calm today so we deployed the awnings on the coach to shade the windows.  We configured the water softener for a brief backflush and then set it up for recharging.  With that process underway, Linda went into work on tax returns while I dumped the waste tanks.  Once the waste tanks were drained I added TechRx to the toilet and sinks and updated the spreadsheet I use to track water usage and softener capacity.  I then settled in to work on updating the MS Outlook 2013 address book entries for our FMCA GLCC chapter.

Updating records like that is slow, tedious work.  I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes to check on the water softening process.  I did that repeatedly over a two hour period, so that further slowed my updating work.  The softening process was all done by 1:15 PM and I checked the hardness coming out of the softener.  It was higher than 1.5 gpg but closer to that number than to 3.0 gpg which is the next color patch on the scale.  That reading was both annoying and discouraging as it was essentially the same reading I had before I started the regeneration.  That is not the first time this has happened and it may be the case that the salt brine was not completely flushed out of the softener.  I will check it again after the next fresh water tank fill.

At 1:30 PM we started getting ready to go to linner at Papa Joe’s in Brooksville.  It was an easy 30 mile drive to the restaurant, which is just north of FL-50 (Cortez Blvd) on Spring Hill Highway.  We were there at 2:20 PM and got a table.  Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) Whitney arrived a few minutes later.  The food was good and we all ate too much.  We lingered past 4:30 and finally went our separate ways.

We were back by 5:15 PM and decided to go for a walk.  It turned out to be a long one as we followed the paved road that runs through the Phase 2 part of the property to the maintenance and construction building way back in the woods. In sight of the building we followed a wide path to the left that had been mowed through the grass.  It turned out to follow the road system for Phase 2 with all of the infrastructure clearly visible.  We were almost around the last dry “pond” when the mowed path ended.  Since we were wearing shorts and sandals we chose not to hike through the brush and had to turn around and walk back the way we came.

A fairly dense cloud cover had developed and the wind had come up from the NNW so when we got back to our coach we put all of the awnings back in.  Nick’s R.V. Detailing is supposed to be here tomorrow so Linda pulled all of the tire covers off, folded them up, and stored them in the car.  We will remove the new windshield covers tomorrow morning.

I had hoped to update my e-mail addresses for current GLCC members and create a set of new, smaller e-mail groups but I did not get that far.  (I also need to investigate creating an e-mail group in QTH cPanel.)  I need to have an efficient and accurate way to send information to the chapter members and my immediate need is to notify GLCC members to register through FMCA for GLAMARAMA16 and then let me know if they want to park with the chapter.

I had also hoped to take care of some computer update issues today but did not get them done.  These included upgrading ESET SS8 to SS9 on Linda’s computer and resolving update notification synchronization issues between ESET SS and the Windows 10 Update service on both of our laptops.  It’s also possible that we might have to manually update drivers on both computers.  I did manage to edit another blog post from December 2015 but did not get any posts uploaded.

Linda thinks she is coming down with a cold and but is running a fever and developed chills.  That did not sound like a cold to me.  She put on her denim shirt/jacket and got Juniper on her lap.  I put on the PBS NewsHour but she fell asleep before it ended.  She woke up later and stayed up until 10 PM to take more Tylenol and then went to bed.  I stayed up and watched a program on PBS about the Battle of Gettysburg followed by Charlie Rose and then went to bed.  I did not have any more communication with Joe this afternoon or evening so I presume he will not be here first thing in the morning.  Nick’s R.V. Detailing and Pressure Washing is scheduled to be here tomorrow, however, so we will have to be up and ready to go before they arrive.

 

2016/03/09-11 (W-F) Shop Eat Be Happy

2016/03/09 (W) Groveland, Publix, Updates

I was busy interacting with Bill and Brenda, and photographing their work, for much of the morning yesterday as well as diagnosing/fixing the problem with the charger section of the Magnum 4024.  The charger problem took me past lunchtime and a return call to John Palmer to let him know that it was resolved, at least for now.  We were sitting during the afternoon when Joan and Bill (from Boston) stopped by with their miniature schnauzer, Toby, and sat awhile to visit.  As a result I did not start working on yesterday’s blog post until after we had eaten dinner and gone for a walk.  I was up until The Late Show with Stephen Colbert ended at 12:30 AM (on Wednesday) but did not quite finish the post.

For the record, the Magnum 4024 appears to be working again (for now) and the house batteries were back up to full charge by last evening.  After much consternation yesterday the “fix” turned out to just be a reset of the unit.  The “trick” was following the directions in the manual.  Easy enough to do, and it doesn’t require very many words to describe, but it took a lot of time to get to that point and rule out other possible problems.

We were both feeling tired this morning, and perhaps a bit lazy, and did not get up until 8 AM.  While Linda made oatmeal from scratch with raisins, dates, and walnuts I fiddled with the rear TV and antenna trying to tune in stations.  I tried using the www.antennapoint.com website to locate TV transmitter towers but it said there weren’t any within 60 miles.  I knew that wasn’t true and I have had problems with this website the last few times I have tried to use it, so I’m done with it and used the TVFool.com website instead.  It found four dozen towers within 60 miles, but none closer than 53 miles.  Most of the stations were in three clusters, generally corresponding to Tampa (195 degrees), Ocala (350 degrees), and Orlando (90 degrees).

We have the front antenna at position ‘8’ which is approximate the 2 o’clock direction relative to the nose of the bus, which is the 12 o’clock position, and is currently pointing south of due west at 255 degrees.  That means the antenna is pointed in the general direction of the Ocala area stations, but we seem to only be picking up the Tampa area stations with signals that are strong enough to lock onto.

The rear TV/antenna is finding signals from both Tampa and Ocala but is unable to lock on to any of them.  I turned it to position ’14’, which is approximately the 6:30 orientation on the bus and corresponded to east, towards Orlando.  When I rescanned I was finally able to pick up some stations that the TV could lock onto.  The rear TV antenna, however, has been defective since the day I installed it which was, unfortunately, over a year after I purchased it.  Thus, it was out of warranty before I ever applied power to it.

When I was done playing with the TV I made our morning coffee and we sat down to breakfast while the coffee brewed.  After breakfast Linda played her morning word games while I finished yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  Linda made a grocery list and then got dressed and went for a walk while I continued to write.

Linda located a Publix supermarket on FL-50 in Groveland approximately 3/4 of the way to Clermont.  The city of Clermont is about 23 miles east of Webster and a few miles west of US-27.  It is the historic center of the Florida citrus industry and a place we plan to visit at least once while we are staying at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

US-27 is the highway we used to go to South Florida several times last month.  It runs northwest from Miami and then turns north, more or less paralleling the Atlantic coast of Florida some distance inland.  It passes along the west edge of Lake Okeechobee and passes near a string of towns that include Sebring, Frostproof, and Winter Haven before reaching the Clermont area.  From there it turns northwest and runs through Ocala and Williston, eventually reaching Branford where it turns more westerly towards Mayo and the Florida panhandle.  Having spent winter 2014 in Williston, traveled home by way of the panhandle, and then returned to Williston by way of Mayo for Dec 2015, we have probably traveled as many miles on US-27 in Florida as we have on I-75 or any other particular road.

We left at 10:15 AM to drive to the Publix.  We headed west back into Webster, dropped south on FL-471 about 5 miles to FL-50, and headed east.  It was a nice drive on FL-50 eastbound and the terrain became slightly hilly as we passed through Mascotte just before reaching the supermarket on the west side of Groveland.  We were back at our coach around 12:30 PM and split an apple for lunch.

We both had multiple updates pending for our iPad and smartphone apps, and numerous updates for the Windows 10 OS on our laptop computers, so we wanted to use the resort Wi-Fi to download and install the updates.  I shut down and packed up our computers and iPads and we drove over to the library room in the clubhouse.  I checked the Wi-Fi signal strength with my phone and it was strong enough to use so we set up all of our devices.

I did not count them all, but I estimated that we had between 60 and 70 updates across our six devices, requiring somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 GB of data.  Linda’s updates completed smoothly and more quickly than mine as my ASUS laptop appeared to hang up on the download of the OS update.  I ultimately shut down and restarted my computer to get things moving along again.

As we were getting near the end of the process the Internet connection went out.  We were still connected to the Wi-Fi but had no Internet access so I walked around to the office to see if they knew about it and needed to reset the gateway.  They did know about it because it affected them too, and Joann said it happens with some regularity, often around mid-afternoon.  By the time I returned to the library the connection had been restored.  Linda walked back to our coach at 3:30 PM but it took me until 4:30 PM to complete my computer updates.

After I got back to our coach and set up my computer we went for a walk around the resort.  Back at our coach I off-loaded the photos I took on Monday and Tuesday from my camera to my computer.  I processed one of Mara, Michael, Linda, and me (that was taken by someone at the RV park) and e-mailed it to Mara.  I processed three photos of our bus at our site at Florida Grande and five photos of the window covers that Bill and Brenda Phelan made for use yesterday.  I uploaded the photos to a couple of Dropbox folders and e-mailed the links to Brenda, Chuck Spera, and Ed Roelle.

For dinner Linda made a salad with a kale and arugula base, tomatoes, almonds, dried cranberries, and firm teriyaki tofu, and used an Asian sesame dressing.  So good.  Dessert was fresh strawberries, blueberries, and bananas.  After dinner we poured a couple of small glasses of white wine and sat outside enjoying the cool night breeze and looking at the stars.  We agreed that it was the first night since we arrived in Florida on December 1st that the weather conditions seemed perfect for just sitting outside after sunset.  We also agreed that our initial experience of FGMCR is very positive.

I texted Al Hesselbart to see if he is still at Breezy Oaks near Bushnell.  If he is we will probably drive over there tomorrow for the 2 PM music jam and then go to dinner.  I checked my e-mail and had replies from Ed Roelle and Brenda Phelan.  I also had one from Christy Budai letting me known that the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA GLCC chapter had finally been submitted.

We do not have the same TV stations here that we had in Arcadia and the PBS stations we can get do not carry the same programming.  That left us without our usual Wednesday evening science and nature shows.  Linda is tired most nights by 10 PM and headed off to bed before 10:30.  I stayed up working on this post and caught some news, weather, and the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

2016/03/10 (R) Coyote Rojo Redux

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda got up a few minutes later.  I did not start recharging the Verizon Mi-Fi soon enough last night, and did not leave it plugged in overnight, so the battery died and it went offline sometime before I got up.  I plugged the charger back in, got our network back online, and then made coffee.

Sometimes it takes a while but I eventually think of things.  It occurred to me this morning that I can cycle the charge on the house batteries while the coach is plugged in to an external source of AC power.  All I have to do to draw down the charge is turn off the charger section and let the DC loads run off the batteries.  Why this had never occurred to me before, and why it finally did this morning, I have no idea.  Perhaps it was because I finally had a problem in need of a solution.  I am not 100% confident about the charger section of the Magnum 4024 at this point and noticed yesterday that at Full Charge the indicated voltage was a bit higher than 25.2 VDC.  The weather forecast for today, however, is SE winds at 10-to-20 MPH with gusts to 30 and a high temperature of 87 degrees F; probably not the day to be playing with the house DC power system.

I had not gotten a reply to the text message I sent Al Hesselbart last night so I called him.  He picked up right away and reminded me that he does not send or receive text messages.  He was out fishing with a friend on Lake Panasoffkee and did not expect to be back in time for the 2 PM music jam.  He was open to having dinner and thought they would be back by 5 PM.  He agreed to call me when they were leaving the Lake and we would agree on a time to meet at the Mexican restaurant near Bushnell.

Al was the executive director of the RV&MH Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana for many years and then served as the museum’s historian for quite a while before retiring.  He full time RVs in a 1977 Newell that he moves back and forth between Breezy Oaks and Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana.

Linda moved the cats’ litter tray out of the shower and then went for a walk.  I took a shower, got dressed, and started processing more of the photos of Bill and Brenda Phelans’ RV Windshield Covers of Florida mobile workshop and the process they went through to measure, make, and install the external mesh window covers for the cockpit of our bus a few days ago.

The residents across the street and to the left had low decorative stone flower bed borders installed on Tuesday.  The five man crew was here all day so we had dust and noise from the saw, but they finished in one day and the result was very nice.  The husband, Pete, was out front this morning so I walked over to compliment him on how nice they looked and ended up chatting about the park.  He invited me to see their “villa’ (casita, coach house, etc.) so I went back to our rig and got Linda.  The wife, Eleanor, arrived a few minutes later in their golf cart.  We got a nice tour of their lovely villa and had a nice chat about the resort.

I was working on photos and Linda was reading when we decided that the wind was strong enough to warrant stowing the awnings.  In spite of the wind they were easy enough to roll up and it only took a few minutes.  We were concerned about heat gain through the uncovered windows on the south facing driver side of the coach so we pulled the opaque white MCD night shades down half way.  We opened all of the awning-style Windows wider than usual and turned on the roof vent exhaust fans.

Linda made teriyaki tofu and arugula pocket sandwiches for lunch, after which I continued to work on the photos.  I finally uploaded 40 image files to the Dropbox folder I created yesterday for this purpose and e-mailed Brenda to let her know they were there.

I also sent the folder link to Gary, at Bus Conversion Magazine, to see if he would be interested in an article about their converted EMS/ambulance that serves as a live-aboard mobile workshop for their business.  Bill and Brenda had converted a couple of buses before buying a Super C motorhome.  They also ran the Arcadia Bus Rally for the last five years, after assisting Jack and Paula Conrad for the first 11 years, so they know their way around conversions.  They are well known to the magazine and the bus conversion community and I think it would make a good article as Gary transitions BCM from being strictly bus conversions to encompass the broader concept of mobile dwelling conversions.

In spite of the 85 degree afternoon high temperature our rig stayed acceptably comfortable even with the awnings rolled up.  The wind was steady at 15 to 20 MPH out of the south with lots of puffy clouds and the relative humidity was 45%.  As a result we had good airflow through wide open windows and out the three roof vent exhaust fans, which I had running on speed 2 of 3.  The cockpit was still warm, but not like it was before we got the custom windshield and cockpit side window covers.

Juniper (our female cat) likes the heat and slept up on the co-pilot/navigator seat like she always has while Jasper slept on my swivel chair, then in his carrier on the floor, then on our bed, and finally tucked himself away on the tile floor on my side of the bed at the rear of the living area, which is the coolest place in the bus in the afternoon when we are parked facing west.  In the late afternoon we sat outside in the shade reading and it was incredibly pleasant.  Even though it is almost spring, this is why people go to Florida in the winter.

I called Al at 5:25 PM and they had just gotten back to the dock.  They needed to drive back to Breezy Oaks so Al could shower, change clothes, and get his car.  He said he would call when he was ready to head to the restaurant as we are approximately the same driving time away.  We agreed to meet at Coyote Roho, just west of Bushnell.

We decided to leave at 6 PM without waiting for Al to call so we could check out downtown Bushnell.  The restaurant was only a 9.6 mile drive, which our iPad Map app said would take 19 minutes, and Bushnell was a couple of miles short of that.  Driving north through Webster we found the Farmer’s and Flea Market site and farther up the road the site of the county fair.  The parking lot was full and the amusement rides lit up the area like it was Times Square.  There wasn’t much to Bushnell so we drove through to the Walmart parking lot to await Al’s call.  We were only there a short time and decided to go on to the restaurant and get a table and have a drink while we waited.  As we arrived at the restaurant Linda realized that I had two missed calls and a voice message from Al indicating that he was leaving at 6:15 PM.  I called him back and he answered as he was pulling into the parking lot.

We have only eaten at Coyote Rojo one other time, and that was back in December when we drove down from Williston to visit Al at Breezy Oaks and listen to the Thursday afternoon music jam.  Our recollection was that the food was good, so we were looking forward to dinner as well as conversation with Al.  Linda and I ordered the vegetarian fajitas and a vegetarian burrito and split them.  We were underwhelmed by our food but the server was attentive and we enjoyed spending time with Al.  We stayed at the restaurant talking long after we had finished our meals but all good things come to an end, or at least have to take a hiatus, and it been a long day for all of us.  Al is headed to the FMCA rally in Perry, Georgia all next week so we probably will not cross paths with him again for a while.

On the drive back to our resort the clouds had cleared off and the low humidity resulted in very bright stars.  This was the first time we had entered FGMCR at night and it was understated but grand with the street lights lining the curving entrance road and the main level of the clubhouse subtly illuminated.

Linda prepared fresh strawberries and blueberries for dessert and we watched our usual Thursday evening TV programs on CBS.  I put the finishing touches on today’s blog post and then went to bed.

2016/03/11 (F) FGMCR Happy Hour

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, made coffee, and cleaned the bean grinder.  Linda was up shortly thereafter and we had orange juice with our vitamins.  Breakfast was Publix Premium brand cinnamon raisin English Muffins, which are not really muffins at all.  Muffins are small cakes whereas English Muffins are bread.  We had them with vegan cream cheese and jam.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast.  I checked e-mail and corresponded with Brenda Phelan and Gary Hatt regarding a possible article for BCM on Bill and Brenda’s EMT/ambulance mobile workshop truck conversion.  I then settled in to upload blog posts for mid-November, starting with the one for the 13th, and worked on that task until time lunchtime.

For lunch Linda used whole wheat pita pockets to make sandwiches with vegan deli slices, vegan cheese, and lots of arugula.  We had red grapes and sweet-hot-garlic pickle slices to go with our sandwiches.  After lunch we went for a short walk.  Linda had a letter to mail and while we were at the mail room we took pictures of the cards listing sites for sale.

Back at our rig, Linda marked the sites on our resort map so we could check them out on one of our future walks.  I continued uploading blog posts and Linda decided to go swimming.  I was going to walk over at 3 PM to join her but I got a phone call from Bill Gerrie at 2:45 PM and was on the phone with him for about an hour.

Bill and Karen live in Limehouse, Ontario and are members of our FMCA GLCC chapter and the CCO group.  We talked about buses and rallies, of course, and a little bit about politics and food/health.  He and Karen are planning on attending the FMCA GLAMA rally (GLAMARAMA) in June along with Joe and Mia Temples and another couple who live near them.  Mike and Kathy will not be coming, however, as Mike is not well.

Linda called to see if I was coming to the pool but it was too late in the day by that point.  I finished uploading the blog post for November 17 and then got ready for the official resort happy hour.

Friday’s at 5 PM is FGMCR Happy Hour at the clubhouse; BYOB and a dish to share.  Linda uncorked and then stoppered our bottle of Moscato and packed it along with two of our polycarbonate wine glasses, a container of caramelized onion hummus, and our container of Snyder’s sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We put on our FMCA National Education Committee name badges and I grabbed my RVillage Ambassador hat and we started walking to the clubhouse.  We got as far as Bill and Joan’s rig just as they were backing out.  They offered us a lift and we accepted.

The happy hour turned out to be more of a “carry in” (pot luck) and the only thing we could eat, besides the stuff we brought, was fruit salad.  Even so, we had our fill.  We had not tried the caramelized onion hummus before.  It was very good and reminded me of the California dip we used to make with Lipton onion soup mix.  We sat with Bill and Joan and two other couples; Artie and Carol from Rochester Hills, Michigan, and Bob and Sandy from Valparaiso, Indiana.  After we were done eating one of the residents provided some comic entertainment.  Apparently entertainment is not usually part of the happy hour event.  We would not be regulars if it was.

Like the Wednesday morning “coffee” at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, the happy hour was not what I was expecting and did not give us a chance to mingle and meet people other than the folks at our table.  Happy hour was over by 6:15 PM and many of us returned to our coaches while some stuck around to play poker or hand-in-foot.

Back at our rig I checked the inside of the driver side tag axle wheel for signs of an oil leak by looking under the coach between the passenger side drive axle and tag axle tires with a flashlight.  The wheel appeared to me to be dry and there was no sign of oil on the concrete.

Since we did not have a lot to eat at happy hour Linda made a simple mixed fruit salad for us.  There wasn’t anything on TV that interested us, at least not on the stations we could receive at FGMCR.  We ended up watching a fundraiser presentation on PBS/Create about heart health that included food and fitness.  Most of the doctor’s advice about food was already known to us and some of it we disagreed with, based on what we have learned from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org, but we did find the five markers of metabolic syndrome interesting.  We were also reminded (confirmed) about the role of “white carbs” (simple sugars and highly processed carbohydrates like flours) in elevating triglycerides and cholesterol and contributing to the formation of plaque in the blood.  I was going to make popcorn, but after watching this program it did not feel right, somehow, and we went to bed popcornless.

 

2016/03/03 (R) Edison Ford Estates

Our plan for today was to visit two places in southwest Florida that we had not gotten to yet; the Edison Ford Estates in Fort Myers, and Sanibel/Captiva Islands.  As usual when we plan to leave early and be away from the coach for the day we did not make coffee or eat breakfast.  Linda walked down to Mara’s motorhome to tend to her cats while I took care of ours.  I then loaded the camera gear and a few other things in the car and drove down to Mara’s rig to pick up Linda.  We stopped at the local Bank of America ATM and then at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bagel for Linda.  (I had my vegan apricot bearclaw pastries from Publix.)  Suitably provisioned we headed down FL-31 to Fort Myers.

Linda stands by one of the many magnificent trees at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates.  Fort Myers, FL.

Linda stands by one of the many magnificent trees at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates. Fort Myers, FL.

The southern terminus of FL-31 is at FL-80.  From there it was about five miles (west) to the city limit of Ft. Myers.  We continued on FL-80 through downtown, which is an attractive and very upscale part of the city, to where it ends and turns into McGregor Boulevard.  Shortly after turning onto McGregor we pulled into the parking lot for the Edison Ford Estates complex at 9:30 AM.

The Edison & Ford Estates abound in botanical delights.  Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison & Ford Estates abound in botanical delights. Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison Ford Estates is a historical complex that preserves the winter estates of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford on the east bank of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Florida.  The Edison estate was named Seminole and the adjacent Ford Estate was named The Mangoes.  There are two identical houses on the Edison Estate and a more modest house on the Ford Estate.  Other buildings and structures include caretaker quarters, garages, a small office for Edison, a swimming pool, a cistern and water system, gardens, and lots of exotic trees.  When it was originally developed the Edison Estate included a pier that extended 1,500 feet out into the Caloosahatchee River.  It had trains and transport cars and was initially used to bring in all of the materials to build and landscape the Estate as these had to get to the site by ship.

Both men were workaholics and although they only used these estates for a few weeks in the winter they worked as well as socialized while here.  Indeed, Edison had a lab on the property where extensive work was done on trying to find a plant source of latex, the key material needed to make rubber, which could be quickly and easily grown in the U.S.  Edison and Ford, along with Harvey Firestone, formed a biological research company to finance this research, and presumably profit from any positive outcome.  Some 17,000 plants were tested and the one that emerged as most viable was Goldenrod.  Ford and Edison had almost 1,300 patents between them, and Edison is still the only person to have been awarded at least one U.S. patent every year for 65 contiguous years.  His greatest invention, however, could not be patented; the modern research and development laboratory.

Bruce poses by one of the large trees at the Edison Ford Estates.  Linda used this image for one of the weekly postcards she made and had sent to grand-daughter Madeline.  Fort Myers, FL.

Bruce poses by one of the large trees at the Edison Ford Estates. Linda used this image for one of the weekly postcards she made and had sent to grand-daughter Madeline. Fort Myers, FL.

We wrapped up our visit to the Edison and Ford winter estates at 2 PM and headed on down McGregor Boulevard, the boulevard of Royal Palms, towards Sanibel Island.  Our initial destination on the island was an organic vegan cafe named Sanibel Sprouts.  We did not have any trouble getting onto the island or getting to the restaurant but the traffic backed up to exit the island reminded us of our recent experience in the Florida Keys and was more than a bit concerning.

For lunch we split the Mexican salad.  The salad used a base of arugula, a dark leafy green with its own unique, slightly peppery taste that was very well suited to the dish.  A vegan “taco meat” mixed with ground walnuts added depth and texture, and a dressing with cumin tied it all together.  We then split an order of waffles which consisted of two waffles topped with strawberries and bananas and served with real maple syrup.  Both dishes were excellent and I asked the cook how the waffles were made.  She indicated that they used the King Arthur brand gluten-free general purpose baking flour (rice flour based), Earth Balance soy-based vegan butter substitute (5 scoops), almond milk, and vanilla flavored Stevia sweetener.  They were fluffy, light, crispy on the outside, and very tasty.  Yum.

The two Edison winter homes are mirror images of each other and joined by a covered walkway.  Edison Ford Estates, Fort Myers, FL.

The two Edison winter homes are mirror images of each other and joined by a covered walkway. Edison Ford Estates, Fort Myers, FL.

After lunch we continued deeper into Sanibel Island.  We saw a sign for the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and pulled in.  There was a one-way road through a section of the Refuge but it was a “U. S. Fee Area” ($6 per car).  We checked to see if Linda’s Golden Access Pass was valid for entry.  It was, so we went in.  Although the skies had become overcast the drive through the Refuge was an unplanned event and an unanticipated treat.  We got see a variety of birds but the highlight included two different opportunities to see White Pelicans, one of which also included Roseate Spoonbills and other birds.  White Pelicans are the second largest bird in the continental U. S. (Behind the California Condor) with a wingspan of nine (9) feet.  We also saw a couple of alligators which surprised us as the water here is connected to the Gulf of Mexico.  Indeed, the tide was coming in while we were there.

The Edison-Ford-Firestone partnership maintained an active, working laboratory on the Fort Myers estate that had year-round staff.  Edison and Ford only spent a few weeks each year at their winter homes, but worked whenever they were here.  Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison-Ford-Firestone partnership maintained an active, working laboratory on the Fort Myers estate that had year-round staff. Edison and Ford only spent a few weeks each year at their winter homes, but worked whenever they were here. Fort Myers, FL.

From the end of the drive through the NWR we continued on to the north end of Sanibel Island and drove over the short bridge to Captiva Island.  We drove to the end of the road, turned around, and drove back.  There is a lot of “island commerce” on Sanibel Island.  Captiva Island, by comparison, is mostly residential, vacation rental, and resort properties.  Many of the homes were massive, elaborately landscaped costal properties.  I estimated that houses of 3,000 to 4,000 square feet were common, 5,000 to 6,000 square feet were numerous, and some of them had to be 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.  We tend to think of the really expensive real estate in Florida being in places like Naples, Marco Island, Miami Beach, and West Palm Beach, but it’s hard to imagine that any of them are more expensive than the island mansions we saw on Captiva Island.

Rare White Pelicans at the J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island in Florida.  The White Pelicans are the second largest birds in North America, and the largest members of the pelican family.  This photograph does not do justice to their size, which includes a nine foot wingspan.  The pink birds (lower right) are Roseate Spoonbills.

Rare White Pelicans at the J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island in Florida. The White Pelicans are the second largest birds in North America, and the largest members of the pelican family. This photograph does not do justice to their size, which includes a nine foot wingspan. The pink birds (lower right) are Roseate Spoonbills.

The drive back down Captiva and Sanibel was smooth and flowed right along as far as the restaurant.  At that point we encountered the traffic backup we had seen coming in.  Traffic was not moving at all and people were pulling out of line and turning around.  Our map showed that there was an alternate way to get back to the causeway.  We suspected that the turn-arounds were locals who were headed that way so we decided to do that as well.  The traffic could not be worse and we would get to see a different part of the island.

That proved to be the case and we were only in a stop-and-go back up for about 10 minutes instead of the one-to-two hours I figured it would take if we stayed on Periwinkle Way.  We were off the island by 6:45 PM and headed back to the mainland on FL-867.  Fairly quickly we were on FL-865 headed more easterly but on a faster road.  We eventually got to US-41 (the Tamiami Trail) and headed north.  Not too far along I spotted a Panera and we stopped to get coffee.  We continued north as far as Colonial where we headed east to I-75.  From there it was five miles north to FL-80, three miles east to FL-31, and 36 miles north to our RV resort in Arcadia.

An alligator just shows its head (left center).  J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL

An alligator just shows its head (left center). J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL

We got back to our coach at 8:10 PM.  Linda grabbed a flashlight and the keys for Mara’s rig and walked down to take care of her cats.  I unloaded the car and then took care of our cats.  I planned to check my e-mail and then settle in to watch our usual Thursday evening TV programs, but my computer and the scheduled programs altered my plan.

This Ibis was a little farther behind this alligator than the photos makes it appear, but not that much.  Being behind an alligator is not necessarily any safer than being in front of one.  J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL.

This Ibis was a little farther behind this alligator than the photos makes it appear, but not that much. Being behind an alligator is not necessarily any safer than being in front of one. J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL.

Our e-mail servers were not responding so I shut down my computer and all of our network/comm equipment and restarted everything in a specific order.  Disaster!  My computer would not log in and claimed to have missing authentication components.  This is the second time my ASUS laptop has crapped out since I upgraded it to Windows 10, and I was pretty unhappy about it.  At this point I do not have any confidence its stability, especially its update process, and think it was clearly not ready for release.  Unfortunately not upgrading really wasn’t an option.

I watched Charlie Rose on PBS followed by Tavis Smiley and a program on Black artists.  That was followed by This Old House and Ask TOH.  I think I restarted my computer several times before it finally “healed” itself and allowed me to log in.  With all of those TV programs as background I finished most of this post, off-loaded photos, and backed them up to the NAS.  I tried my e-mail again and was finally able to access it.  It was 2 AM when I finally went to bed, which had not been my plan when I got up this morning.

 

2016/03/01–02 (T–W) Politics and Nutpods

2016/03/01 (T) Super Tuesday Nutpods

Today was officially our fifth month away from home this winter; not full months, of course, but the fifth month by name nonetheless.  I got up briefly at 6:45 AM to add food to the cats’ bowls and went back to bed.  With less pestering from the cats we slept in longer than usual and did not get up until just before 8 AM.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online.  We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online. We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

I made coffee and tried the new Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that arrived yesterday.  To our mutual disappointment, it separated almost immediately.  I was able to blend it back in by stirring, but it would just separate again if I let it sit.  We were both disappointed.  The reviews of this product sang its praises and made special note of it not separating like other non-dairy creamers.  We bought four containers of it for $3.50 each, so I will use them up, but we won’t be buying any more of them.  What we both find odd is that we do not recall having this problem at home where I have used unflavored soy-based creamers for a long time.  The only obvious difference between the bus and the house is that we have a dishwasher (machine) at home, but neither of us think this is related to the mugs not being clean on the bus as they are washed in soapy hot water.

Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and a small glass of juice to wash down our vitamins.  After breakfast Linda went to Mara’s motorhome to take care of the morning cat chores and I settled in to work at my computer.  I dealt with BCM- and SLAARC-related e-mails and investigated why the ES|ET Smart Security 8 software on my ASUS notebook computer was apparently not synchronizing with the Windows 10 update function.  I discovered in the process that there was a Smart Security 9 upgrade available so before requesting technical support I installed the upgrade.

While the upgrade was downloading and installing I called Ed and Betty Burns and arranged to meet them for linner at Sweet Tomatoes on University Parkway in Sarasota at 3 PM.  We needed to drive to Petco for cat food anyway and the restaurant is just across the street.  Since they now live in Florida, no longer work at the Middleton’s berry farm north of Detroit during the summer, and have given up RVing (at least for now), we probably will not see them again any time soon and wanted to visit with them one more time before we left south(west) Florida for the season.

When Linda got back I turned off the outside water and tested the fresh water pump.  It appeared to be working normally, so I left the outside water off and we resumed using the pump.

I proofread yet another draft of the April issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and marked up a few final corrections to my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  Soon enough it was 1 PM and time to leave.

We stopped at the Shell station on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch and filled up the tank.  Regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) was $1.79 per gallon.  A week ago I bought fuel at this same station for $1.56 per gallon.  We arrived at the Petco, in the massive University Town Center shopping district, at 2:20 PM.  They were out of the exact food we needed (Royal Canin Sensitive Digest Thin Slices) but had the loaf form of the same food so we bought all nine cans of that.  That will be enough to get us past Mara and Michael’s return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.

We were at Sweet Tomatoes by 2:50 PM and had just started to go for a walk when Ed and Betty drove by, so we turned around and met them at the front door.  We were at the restaurant for almost two hours and had a good meal and a nice chat.  We talked about our upcoming travel plans and Ed and Betty, who have taken care of some important medical issues, indicated that they are thinking about getting a Class B or B+ motorhome or possibly a pull-behind RV.  There is an outside possibility that we might cross paths with them in the Canadian Maritime provinces over the summer.  Towards the end of our meal Ed and Janet Roelle showed up with Nathan.  We chatted briefly with them, said “fair well for now” to everyone, and headed back to Arcadia.

We stopped at the Publix supermarket on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch for a few grocery items we cannot get in Arcadia.  (It should be noted, however, that Publix is building a supermarket in Arcadia.)  We got back to our coach just before 6 PM and spent a few minutes with our cats, both of whom were very glad to see us and wanted our attention.  At 6:20 Linda walked down to take care of Mara’s cats and I walked down about 30 minutes later.  Linda had the TV on and “Super Tuesday,” with 11 states holding presidential primary elections, dominated the news cycle.  We walked back to our rig at 7:45 PM under dark, clear skies and bright stars.

We watched NCIS and NCISNOLA but Limitless was preempted by Super Tuesday election coverage so we found a documentary on PBS about the Statue of Liberty and watched that.  Linda fell asleep before it was over but it was followed by an equally interesting documentary on the public health hospital on Ellis Island that operated for nearly 30 years in the early 20th Century.

2016/03/02 (W) Windshield Caulk

Our day started, as it usually does, with coffee, breakfast, and iPads.  While Linda tended to Mara’s cats I made a few changes to the ES|ET Smart Security 9 settings on my computer.  I then selected and processed three possible post card photos from last week and e-mailed them to Linda’s iPad.

When Linda got back from tending to Mara’s cats and motorhome she worked on creating this week’s photo post card for Madeline and uploaded it to the PhotoCardApp service in San Diego, California.  She then got to work on tax returns.  I finalized the bonus photo captions for the BCM featured bus article on Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion, uploaded everything to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the magazine staff to let them know it was there.

The motorhome that was next to us on the passenger side for most of the winter pulled out on Sunday.  On Monday the resort put another rig in that site.  It stayed for two nights and pulled out this morning.  We never even met the people.  Early this afternoon the resort brought in another rig, a 42 foot 5th-wheel being pulled by a suitably large pickup truck.  Phil, from the resort office, was the escort and parking attendant.  I popped out to see if I should move my car and Phil said it would help, so I backed deeper into our site and well out of the way.  It took some doing but Phil managed to get the rig backed into the site.

As long as I was outside I had several chores to take care of before we pull out of here on Monday and today seemed like a good day to take care of a couple of them.  I found some silicon spray lubricant and managed to pull the emergency breakaway key out of the lock on the front bumper of the car just far enough to spray some in.  I let it sit a minute and then wrapped what was left of the tethered cable around my hands and pulled hard enough to finally get it to come out.  With the key out I sprayed the inside of the lock and on the key and then inserted and removed the key several times.  I sprayed a bit more, put the key back in, and let it sit.

Our new neighbor was outside setting up their rig so we got to meet him.  His name was also Phil and his wife’s name was Marylou.  Phil was retired from the U. S. Army and they recently became full-time RVers.  We chatted briefly and met their two adorable Dachshunds.  We let them get back to the task of setting up camp and moved on to my second chore, which required Linda’s assistance.

The other day I pulled the caulking out from between the new passenger side lower windshield and the new windshield gasket.  I let it sit a couple days to see if the gasket would reform to the glass as a result of warm temperatures and hot sunshine.  It didn’t, so I got the tube of black caulk I found the other day and got it ready to use.  I used the small 3-step stool to get high enough to work and Linda prepared several wet paper shop towels.  I applied the caulk, which is designed for window trimming and should work with glass, to the gap between the windshield and the gasket.  Linda held the windshield wiper out of the way while I worked and handed me the wet paper towels as needed.  I did not do a very good job but hopefully it was good enough to keep the windshield from leaking water and prevent wind noise.  The caulk was water cleanup, so that made it easy to take care of putting everything away.

By 4 PM the outside air temperature was about 80 degrees F with a nice breeze, scattered clouds, and a hot sun.  That made for very pleasant conditions outside in the shade, but inside it was 85 in spite of having the windows open and the exhaust fans running.  Linda went outside to read and I was having a problem getting my laptop to connect to the NAS so I shut off my computer and the NAS and went outside to join her.

As we move towards spring we have the sun on our windshields for more of the day and are now getting the late afternoon sun on the passenger side of our motorcoach.  Linda commented that if we ever buy an RV lot somewhere she wants it oriented and/or landscaped so the passenger side of the coach is always in shade.  Duly noted and agreed.

I worked on this blog post for a while using the new MobiSystems OfficeSuites app.  Now that I have figured out how to use it with Dropbox, and have learned how to create folders and move files, I am satisfied with how it works and might go ahead and spend the $19.99 for the full-featured “Premium” version.  Not that I am using most of the features of the free version, but why limit myself.

We skipped lunch today and by 4:30 PM Linda was hungry so she went inside to prepare our dinner.  I played a few games on my iPad and when the sun dropped below our patio awning and obscured my screen I went inside.  Linda had just set our salads on the table so it was good timing.  She made large salads with a kale and spinach base and lots of yummy toppings including sliced fresh apples.  She put our monthly dose of four Brazil Nuts on the side and served still water with half of a Meyer lemon squeezed into each glass.  I eat faster than Linda does so I packed up our computers and iPads and loaded them in the car while she finished her dinner.

When Linda was done eating we grabbed our smartphones and drove over to the activity building.  Dominoes and pinochle are scheduled on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM in the main room, but the library was not scheduled for use so we set up our technology in there.  We got both computers, both iPads, and both smartphones connected to the resort Wi-Fi system and then connected through to the Internet.  I had ~300 MB of app updates for my iPad and Linda had ~425 MB of app updates for hers.  I had six app updates on my phone and Linda had three.  Those tend to be smaller than the iPad updates but probably totaled another 200 MB combined.  We both had critical updates for Windows 10 and have no idea how many MB they were since Windows 10 does not think that is information the end user needs to know.  People using limited data plans, however, probably differ with Microsoft on this point.

Folks started showing up for the games at 6 PM and they were underway by 6:30.  Linda’s devices were all up-to-date by then so she walked over to Mara’s motorhome for her evening cat chores.  I finished up with my updates by 6:45, packed up our tech toys (tools), and drove back to our rig.

Wednesday night is PBS nature and science night for us and the theme this evening was space exploration.  But first we had to get tuned in to the results of yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary elections.  After three hours of space exploration documentaries Linda went to bed while I watched Charlie Rose.  He had four guests, two from each end of the political spectrum, and they provided their analysis of the current presidential candidate race, to the extent that anyone understands what is going on.  Reassured that the world really is in chaos, and that the American electorate has crossed the boundary into collective insanity, I went to sleep.

 

2016/02/25-29 (R – M) Sand Castle Stallions Port

2016/02/25 (R) Siesta Key

We were up at 6:30 AM this morning and did not have coffee or breakfast.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 7 AM and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  Our destination was an endodontic office in Lakewood Ranch were Mara had an 8 AM appointment for a root canal procedure.  As we were coming into town Michael spotted a Dunkin Donuts.  Location duly noted.  I pulled up to the office building at 7:55 and we all went in.

The endodontist said the procedure would take about an hour.  Michael stayed to wait for Mara while Linda and I drove back to the DD for coffee and something to eat.  The DD was in a small shopping plaza next to a Shell station so I topped off the car’s fuel tank before we topped off ours’.  I bought regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $1.56 per gallon.  We were getting ready to leave DD when Mara texted Linda that she would be longer than originally thought.  The tooth needed a filling and the dental practice next door just had a cancellation and could take her right away.  That was fortunate for Mara as she and Michael are leaving on Saturday for a week long cruise.  She also wasn’t sure she could get in to see her dentist before July, which was much too long of a time to rely on the temporary filling the endodontist had put in place.

With Mara’s dental needs taken care of we headed west on FL-70 to I-75 south to Exit 207 and then west to US-41.  A short jog to the right (north) and back to the left and we were on Siesta Key Drive headed west to the island of Siesta Key.  We drove through the town, which was very quaint (upscale trendy, actually) and found a place to park with public access to the beach.  The Siesta Key beach is very fine white sands, reputed to be the finest and whitest of any beach in Florida.  We walked quite a ways south from our entry point past the main public entrance and numerous lifeguard stands, all of which were staffed.  The wind was strong and the waves were high and I took a few photos.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach.  Siesta Key, FL.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key, FL.

When we got back to the car we exited the island via the southern bridge and drove down US-41 to Venice.  We found a parking spot, which is not easy in Venice, and walked around the historic downtown area, which is now a mix of quaint and upscale shopping and lots of places to eat.  It is a very attractive area but there were a lot of people there.

We were just window shopping when we walked past the TableTop store.  As the name suggests, they sell a wide variety of products used to set a dining table.  We looked around to see if they had plastic wine glasses but did not see any.  We were just about to leave when we spotted one.  It was smaller than we wanted so we asked if they had others.  They did, we just did not see them!  They were not plastic, however, but were made of polycarbonate.  That’s the same material used for contact lens blanks and motorcycle visors.  It felt heavy duty and had a slight bluish cast.  The sales associate assured us that they could be cleaned in a dishwasher and would not discolor, craze, or crack, and will not break even if dropped on concrete (although we do not intend to test that claim).  We bought four of them at $15 each.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

When we had seen enough of Venice we returned to the car and drove a short distance to Cafe Evergreen in Nokomis for linner.  I had the veggie (vegan) burger and Linda had the vegan beet Rueben.  Mara had the stir-fry noodle dish, which both of us have had before, and Michael had the Chana Masala.  Our waiter, by his own admission, was having an off day but the food was good and we took our time enjoying it.

When we were done with our meal we were also done exploring for the day and I drove us back to Arcadia.  On the drive back we discussed plans for tomorrow, which included Solomon’s Castle in the late morning, Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in the mid-afternoon, some before and after errands, and a picnic lunch.  Back at the RV Resort we dropped Michael and Mara at her RV and then returned to ours.  We watched our Thursday night CBS TV programs and had some popcorn later in the evening.  We headed to bed at 11 PM, watched a few minutes of Charlie Rose, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/26 (F) Castle Stallions

Our two main attractions today were Solomon’s Castle, near Ono, Florida and Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions near Myakka City, Florida.  Both locations were within 25 miles of Arcadia and each other, so we did not have to endure an excessive amount of car travel.

We picked up Mara and Michael at 10:15 AM, stopped at the local Wells Fargo bank branch, and then headed west out of town.  At the edge of town we headed north on FL-661 towards Ono.  We turned onto CR-665 and five miles later turned off onto Salomon Road to the parking lot of Solomon’s Castle.  We had the address in the GPS, but there were occasional old hand-painted signs confirming the route.  We arrived just before 11 AM, when the “castle” opens for tours, but the parking lot was already crowded.  We bought our tickets for the 11:30 tour and then strolled around the part of the grounds between the parking lot and the castle while we waited.  Horse Creek runs through the property, much of which was wet.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

Solomon’s Castle was built by, and is still the home of, Henry Solomon and his wife.  Henry, who is about to turn 81, is an artist who has been creating art objects for 76 years.  Much of the main floor of the castle is an art museum, although the walking tour includes the living room and kitchen.  Other living spaces are on the second floor and were not part of the tour.  There is also a guest bedroom available to rent for $125 per night but I do not recall if an overnight stay included breakfast.  There is, however, a scale “replica” of the Santa Maria that houses part of the onsite cafe and is run by Solomon’s daughter and her husband, who live in a separate house on the property.

Solomon’s Castle and his art are quirky.  Although we did not get to meet him, we came away with an image of his sense of humor, and caught a glimpse of him in his workshop while we were walking the grounds after the tour.  Solomon works in a variety of materials but mostly metal and wood, and mostly with discarded scrap materials including food cans, beer cans, and parts/pieces of automobiles.  I took quite a few photos while we were there.  I don’t know what our son’s professional opinion of Solomon’s corpus would be, but some of his pieces were interesting and we had to respect the sheer quantity of work he has produced.  He seemed to have a particular interest in Picasso, copying several of the master’s works in wood montage.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

From the castle we continued north on CR-665 up to FL-64, the Florida Cracker Trail, and then west about five miles to Wauchula Road where we headed south to Myakka City.  At FL-70 in Myakka City we headed east about 1/2 mile and pulled in to a local park on the north side of the road that affronted the west bank of the Myakka River.  The picnic tables were all bolted to the concrete slabs that served as the floors of the open-sided shelters so we ate our lunch in the shade.  The air temperature was in the mid-60’s, and there was a breeze, so we ate with our jackets on.

After lunch we headed west on FL-70 to the other side of Myakka City were we turned south on Singletary Road.  About seven miles down we found the entrance to the Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School complex.  Hermann’s is the home of a group of Lipizzaner horses that tour North America.  The original horses were part of the 500 Austrian Royal Lipizzaner horses rescued by General George Patton at the end of World War II.  Gabby Hermann is the matriarch of the current operation and the original horses were brought to the USA by her father.  The Lipizzaner horse was first bred in Austria in 1565 from Arabian and Andalusian stock.  Six lines were produced and new Arabian and Andalusian stock have been included in the breeding since that time to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training.  Myakka City, FL.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training. Myakka City, FL.

Hermann’s has open rehearsals (performances) every Thursday and Friday at 3 PM and Saturday at 10 AM when they are not touring, weather permitting.  These are not “dress rehearsals” as the houses and riders are not fully costumed the way they would be for a show while on tour.  They do, however, put the horses through all of their maneuvers.  The rehearsals take place in an open air arena connected to the nearby stables with a pair of gated fences.  There are bleachers on the two long sides of the arena and visitors also bring lawn chairs and set them up on three sides of the arena.  We arrived around 2:15 PM and there were already people there.  Admission was a $5 “donation” per person, but it was not optional.  It was well worth the price, however, and we made an extra contribution at the end of the show.

We secured good seats in the last row of the one of the bleachers at the top of the stairs with our backs to the sun.  That allowed us an unobstructed view for photography with light from a good direction.  It was a good thing we got there early.  Six fully-loaded tour buses showed up after we got there along with lots of passenger cars.  The bleachers were packed and the lawn chairs were at least two deep around the fence.  After the show we walked over to see the 17 day old colt and walk through the stables.  I took photos and also snapped a few shots of the tour buses after chatting with the driver of a 2016 Prevost H3-45 with a beautiful deep purple paint scheme.  I would sure like to have one of those to convert.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School.  Myakka City, FL.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School. Myakka City, FL.

When we were done at Hermann’s we drove back to Arcadia and stopped at Walgreens before returning to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort.  We spent a little time at Mara’s motorhome so she could walk Linda through the various cat and RV chores that needed to be taken care off during the next week.  With that done we stopped at the mail room.  We had a slip in our mail slot that there was a package for us in the office but it was after 5 PM and the office was closed.  We figured it was the shipment of Nutpods vegan coffee creamer but we would not be able to pick it up until Monday as we would not be around during office hours on Saturday and the office is closed on Sundays.

For dinner Linda made lentil potato burritos using various leftover ingredients that we wanted/needed to use up.  I opened the bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine, using the cork puller that Mara gave us the other night, and we had some for dessert.  We were both tired so we watched some TV, including the first of three episodes of a new Masterpiece Mystery series named Silk about barristers in England.  We did not watch the second episode as we had to be up early in the morning and it was going to end too late.

2016/02/27 (S) Port Miami

We were up at 6:30 AM and left at 7 AM for Dunkin Donuts where we got something to eat and a couple of large half-caffe coffees.  As planned, we were back at Mara’s motorhome at 7:30 AM.  By 7:45 we had Michael, Mara, and their luggage onboard and were on our way to the cruise ship terminals at the Port of Miami some three plus hours distant.

The GPS wanted us to go south on FL-31 but we had already decided we would take FL-70 east to US-27 and then take that south/southeast as far as I-75.  We stopped at a Marathon station in South Bay to use the restrooms and let Mara and Michael get some coffee.  We headed east on I-75 to its end point at MM 0 and then followed whatever roads the GPS told us to use to get to Port Miami.  When we were almost to the Port we deviated from the GPS and took the tunnel under the water to get to the cruise ship terminals rather than exit the highway and use the bridge.  There was some temporary confusion, and minor tension, surrounding this but soon enough we ended up at Terminal F where the MSC Divina was docked.

Traffic was heavy and chaotic, but we found a spot at the curb and got them unloaded.  A quick handshake and a hug and we were on our way.  I never cease to be appalled at the incredibly pour traffic engineering we encounter at major transportation terminals.  We did get a stunning view of the skyscrapers that dominate the downtown Miami skyline, but after a bit of driving around we managed to escape the island via the bridge and I was glad to be clear of the area.

Linda had researched vegan friendly eateries last night and selected one called The Kitchen.  It was near Miami International Airport, not too far from Port Miami, and basically in the direction we needed to travel to return to Arcadia.  She put the address in the GPS and we enjoyed a slow, late Saturday morning, drive through downtown Miami.  We arrived around 11:30 and there were only a couple of other diners there.  As is often the case, it was a slightly funky little place, but it had an entirely vegan menu with lots of interesting options.

The Kitchen is, in fact, the prep facility for a chain of local eateries, and plenty of other customers showed up while we were there.  We had the tacos, which included plantains, and the nachos.  The tacos were good, especially the plantains, but the nachos were outstanding.  Both were made with vegan chorizo sausage.  The nachos had a base of blue corn chips with beans, tomatoes, salsa, and cashew cream.  It was also a big serving.  For dessert we each had a coconut date ball and a gobi berry chocolate brownie.  Yum.  The Kitchen was a bit pricey but most of the ingredients were organic and the food was fresh and very tasty so we felt it was good value for the money.

We left at 12:30 PM and I turned the wrong way leaving the parking lot.  It turned out we were on US-27 headed north so we stayed with that choice.  The GPS wanted to put us on the Interstate/Tollroads but we knew that eventually it would put us back on US-27.  There was a lot of traffic and frequent traffic signals, but we eventually got clear of the developed urban area.  Not too far out we stopped at a roadside park with an airboat operation and switched drivers.  Linda told me later that I napped for about an hour but my experience of the situation was that I nodded off and woke up repeatedly because of neck discomfort.

We got back to our RV resort around 3:45 PM and stopped at the mail room on the way in where I retrieved a box of magazines from BCM.  The 3 PM Mardi Gras parade had just ended but some of the decorated golf carts and masked participants were still hanging around the activity building.  I made a mental note that the Mardi Gras dinner started at 7:30 PM and we returned to our rig.

We turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got our local network online.  I opened the box of magazines to see what was inside and e-mailed Gary to let him know what I received.  Linda needed to attend to Mara’s cats, Maui and Sabra, and we both had several updates pending on our iPads and smartphones.  We packed up the iPads and walked to the activity building where I set up our technology in the library while Linda went on to Mara’s Bounder to tend to her cats.

I got both iPads and both smartphones connected to the Internet via the resort Wi-Fi system, which can only be picked up at/near the activity building (which includes the office, lanai, library, dining room/kitchen, card room, and laundry room).  The best reception is outside in front of the building, as the antenna is on the peak of the roof ridge at the front gable, but the reception in the lanai and library is very usable.  There was one other person there using the Wi-Fi but she left shortly after I arrived.

The updates for our iPads took 500 MB and the smartphone updates took at least another 250 MB, so it was at least a 0.75 GB update session.  Our 12 GB monthly Verizon data plan works out to about 0.4 GB per day, on average, so we are trying to do our updates using the park Wi-Fi and save our data plan for web searches, document/photo uploads/downloads, and other work we want and/or need to do from our motorcoach.

While I was updating our devices Linda got a text message from Mara and I was able to watch the latest OK Go video and play a few games.  Kate sent me the link a week ago and I was waiting for a chance to use the resort Wi-Fi when there were few, if any, other users.  I also downloaded the latest issue of The Gypsy Journal digital edition.

When I was done I packed up and walked over to Mara’s rig.  Linda exchanged text messages with Mara.  She and Michael are on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise for the first time.  They had finished the opening session with Jessica Porter and Neal Barnhard, M.D. and enjoyed it very much.  They had just sat down to dinner and we’re excited about that too.  We enjoyed their enthusiasm and recalled what it was like for us the first time we went on this cruise.  Linda packed up a few things to bring back to our coach.  Mara made Broccoli salad last night and there was a lot left over that she wanted us to eat.

It cooled off quickly after the sun set and the overnight low was forecast to be 42 degrees F.  We closed up the coach and then had some of Mara’s broccoli salad along with vegan Italian “sausage” for dinner.  We finished the Barefoot Moscato wine, had a few grapes for dessert, and settled in to watch some TV programs on the local PBS channels before going to bed.  We had spent 7 hours driving/riding in the car today and we were tired.

2016/02/28 (N) Cat Care

It was cool in the coach this morning and I stayed in bed, under the covers, with the electric heating pad on, until after 7:30 AM.  The cats were persistent, however, and I finally got up and took care of their needs.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the zone control thermostats for the bathroom and the kitchen/living area and the electric toe-kick heater for the front of the bus.  Linda got up at 8 AM as I was making coffee.

We had granola for breakfast, after which Linda packed up her laptop computer and gathered up papers related to work she needed to do.  She took the car and drove to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats and then work there.  She did not need to be online and figured the cats would appreciate the company, or at least get more accepting her presence and attention if she spent some quiet, extended time there.  I stayed at our rig to catch up on draft blog posts and attend to our cats.

Last week I downloaded the free version of an app called “OfficeSuite (Free) Mobile + PDF” and have been using it to write the drafts of my recent blog posts.  It works at least as well as the native iPad Notes app, better in my opinion (so far), and creates a native docx format Word document.  It also works with various cloud services.  Hypothetically that should save me the steps of e-mailing it to myself, selecting/copying the text from the e-mail, pasting it into a blank Word doc, and then cleaning up all of the junk caused by the Note app, which is considerable (numerous calendar hyperlinks).  I say hypothetically because I have not yet set up or tested the cloud sync feature.  That was on my “to do” list for today.

Around 11:30 AM it was getting warm in the coach under mostly sunny skies.  I opened windows and roof vents and then put out all of the awnings. I continued working on my blog posts from the last four days and was finally ready to upload one of them via a cloud service.  We have a Dropbox account but we also have OneDrive accounts as part of the Windows 10 OS on our notebook computers.  I don’t normally use OneDrive but I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it.

I set up the credentials to allow the app to connect to the OneDrive account attached to my OS login.  I then tried to move or copy the Word docx file for Wednesday’s blog post from “current files” to the OneDrive under Network locations but the OfficeSuites app would not give me the OneDrive account as an option.  I checked the Help screens for information to assist me but could not find anything pertaining to this specific problem.  The app has Pro and Premium upgrades available ($ and $$) but the feature chart indicated that interfacing to all five of the different cloud services was included in the Free version.  Rather than waste time on this I called David Aungier to let him know there was an updated version of his featured bus article in a folder in my Dropbox and then kept working on draft blog posts.

At 1 PM I was getting ready to walk over to Mara’s rig to get the shower supplies from Linda when she returned in the car.  We have been able to avoid removing the cats’ litter box from our shower by using the showers at the building by the swimming pool.  That also keeps the shower water out of our grey water tank, allowing us to go more days between dumps.  I got my towel and the soap from Linda and walked over to the shower house.

When I got back from my shower I trimmed my beard and shaved.  It had probably been at least a month since my last beard trim and I was starting to look a bit scruffy.  All cleaned up and feeling refreshed I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then returned to the issue of getting the OfficeSuites app to sync with one of my cloud services.  It appeared that Dropbox might be the best choice so I established the connection to that account.  Voilà!  I was finally able to copy a local Word file to the folder I had previously set up in my Dropbox for blog post documents.

I proceeded to finish each post in turn and copied it to the Dropbox folder which immediately uploaded it to the cloud server.  I checked my ASUS notebook computer to make sure the document had made it to the local hard drive.  It had, which meant I could move it to where I keep the draft posts and start editing it directly.  This was a big deal for me as I expect it to streamline the blogging process.

As I was working on all of this I realized that I had told Gary at BCM that I would review and comment on an article he had received from Lloyd DeGerald and would try to get it back to him by Sunday evening.  Lloyd is a highly experienced, factory-trained, Webasto / Aqua-Hot service and repair technician and has worked on our Aqua-Hot in the past.  His article was basically a terse service procedure consisting of a numbered list of steps.  There were some things that I was not clear about so I added comments and highlighted them in yellow.  I got the document e-mailed back to Gary, with answers to several questions he had asked, just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.

Dinner was an improvised dish of red beans and rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes, turmeric, and kale.  I added a little extra Tabasco hot sauce to mine and it was a very good dish.  After dinner Linda did the dishes and then we walked over to Mara’s motorhome, by way of the garbage trailer, to tend to the evening cat and rig chores.  Maui stayed out long enough to get up on the hassock and show some interest in me.  I let her smell my hand but when I tried to pet her head she swatted at me.  Too much, too soon.  She played with a cat toy that Linda shook around, ate her dinner, and disappeared into the bedroom.  Sabra stayed out the whole time we were there, ate her dinner, and chased feathers that Linda moved around.

We walked back to our rig before 8 PM and watched a special about the Manners of Downton Abby on PBS.  The overnight low was forecast at 54 degrees F so we closed the roof vents but did not close the coach windows all the way before turning in for the night.

2016/02/29 (M) Bonus Day

Last night was the Academy Awards but we did not watch the show.  We had not seen any of the films and were more interested in a pair of specials on the Manners of Downton Abby about the role of the show’s historical consultant whose job it has been to make sure all of the actors were as authentic as possible in their speech and mannerisms.

We got up this morning between 7:30 and 8 AM, which seems to have become our norm of late unless we have an outing planned that requires an early departure.  We had our usual coffee followed by granola with blueberries for breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a bit and I finished my blog post for yesterday and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  Linda noted that today was February 29th.  In a month that is usually two to three days shorter than all the others it was like having a bonus day.  I also enjoy the relative rarity of the event.

At 9:30 AM Linda packed up her computer and papers and walked over to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats.  She planned to stay and work a while and was expecting a call from Dave at the bakery around 10 AM.  I finished my coffee, got dressed, and settled in to work at my computer.

When Linda returned we walked to Walmart for a few grocery items before it got too warm outside.  When we got back and had the groceries put away, we reconfigured the back of the car.  After Mara’s arrival, but prior Michael’s arrival, we had reconfigured the back of the car.  We had removed one of the rear seats and put the other rear seat down so Mara could go places with us.  Most of the stuff went back in the car but in order to store the removed seat in the front bay of the bus and make room for some of the stuff from the car we had moved the air compressor and two of the four chassis stands to the passenger side engine bay.

Just prior to Michael’s arrival we reconfigured the back of the car again as we now needed four seats.  To keep our stuff out of sight and protect it from the weather we bought a small tent, set it up behind the bus, and put everything in it.

When Mara and Michael return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise on Saturday Michael is going to rent a car to and get them back to Arcadia from Miami.  He will be sticking around for another four weeks and they will need a car for most of that time as we are leaving Big Tree Carefree RV Resort a week from today.  So today we put both rear seats back up, emptied out the storage tent, reloaded the car, and repacked the front bay of the bus.

As long as we were working outside I stripped out the bad silicone caulk between the new passenger side lower windshield and the gasket.  I found a different product in one of our parts and supplies tubs and got it out.  I did not apply it, however, as I wanted to let the rubber gasket relax and hopefully reform to the glass.  In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that the Safelite installers did not know what they were doing.

It was a sunny day and by early afternoon the air temperature was 80 degrees F, so we put on our swimming suits and walked over to the pool.  We stopped at the office to retrieve our package of Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer and put it in the mail room until later.  After a nice soak and vitamin D treatment we showered, changed into dry clothes, and walked back to the mail room to retrieve our Nutpods package and other mail.  Being the last day of the month our electric bill was there along with an invitation to the Michigan reunion lunch scheduled for July 14 in Concord, Michigan.  The Resort does have a strong sense of community, and people take that back to their home states/provinces when the leave.

I had a text message from Kerry Fear requesting payment for snowplowing services for February.  Linda wrote a check and got it ready to mail.

For dinner Linda made stuffed poblano peppers and pan-grilled them.  (We do not travel with an outdoor grill, either propane or charcoal.)  The stuffing was rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan sour cream, cumin seeds, and Daiya vegan cheddar cheese.  So good.  We had some Barefoot Riesling wine after dinner and fresh mixed fruit salad (bananas, strawberries, and blueberries) for dessert.  I really like the way we eat.

After dinner we watched our usual PBS news programs followed by our usual CBS entertainment shows.  I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose’s interview with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.  I was getting ready for bed and turned on the fresh water pump.  It normally runs briefly to build up pressure and then shuts off.  This time it just kept running.  That meant one of two things: either there was an opening in the system (faucet or leak), or the demand pressure sensor was not working.  I shut it off, put my sweats and Crocs back on, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to investigate.

It was almost midnight but there was plenty of light from the resort street lamps.  I checked both sides of the utility bay and did not see any sign of a leak other than the small drip from the fill valve packing nut.  I turned on the shore water supply and opened the valves to allow it to flow through the softener to the coach.  Once the lines and softener were filled and pressurized I did not hear any further water flow, so I was somewhat confident that we did not have a leak in the system.  I left the outside water turned on so we could flush the toilet and run water to wash our hands.

Back inside I wrote a sticky note not to turn on the water pump and stuck it on the toilet seat.  Linda woke up right after I finally got to bed so I was able to tell her in person, but the note was still a good reminder.  I watched Tavis Smiley’s interview with Tom Waters of Pink Floyd and then went to sleep. February 2016 had been a very busy, but very satisfying month for us.

 

2016/02/16–20 (T–S) Friends, Food, and Good Times

[ Note:  There are no photos as part of this post. ]

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

Mara needed to get to a medical appointment in the Miami area today and stop at the veterinary clinic where Maui was being treated a few weeks ago.  We were going to let her borrow our car but Linda offered to accompany her on the rather long round trip and Mara gladly accepted.  She was not going to ask us to go along and thereby possibly inconvenience us, but she was glad to not have to make the trip by herself.  They worked out the arrangements yesterday and Linda was up, dressed, and gone this morning before I got up at 7:45 AM.

I made a smaller pot of coffee, had a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins, and had toast with apricot preserves for breakfast.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and e-mailed the postcard photo to Linda’s Gmail account and responded to an e-mail from Butch.  I also had a couple of e-mails back from Scott Neader at QTH.com in response to my support requests yesterday for the SLAARC account and WordPress website.  I then turned off the Mi-Fi.

Having to manage a limited data plan is a pain but the overage charges are worse.  The upside is that it allows (forces) me to do something else.  In this instance, I worked the rest of the morning on my iPad catching up on blog posts.  Linda texted me relative to the timing of their travels and asked me to send the postcard photo.  I already had, but it had obviously not gotten to her yet.  She expected to be back around 6 PM and we agreed to go out to dinner once she returned.

I had some hummus, sourdough pretzel nibblers, and grapes around 1:30 PM and then settled in to edit blog posts from the end of October and started working on the ones for November.  Linda texted me around 2 PM to let me know they were leaving and would be home around 5 PM.  I turned the Mi-Fi on and checked e-mail.  Mara had sent me a photo of Linda sitting in front of a very tasty looking plate of food but did not mention what restaurant they were at.

I continued editing blog posts and got a couple days into November (2015) by 4 PM.  I quit working and walked over to the swimming pool to use the showers.  There are only two stalls and they were both occupied so I had to wait.  Even so, I was done, back at the coach, and changed into nicer dinner clothes before Linda arrived.  We waited until 5:30 PM to drive to the Magnolia Street Seafood and Grill restaurant in downtown Arcadia.

We arrived at the restaurant early enough to get a good parking place and not have to wait for a table but late enough to be hungry.  We both had a large salad, minus the blue cheese crumbles, and shared a basket of French fries.  On the way back to our coach we stopped at the mail room and Linda connected her iPad to the resort Wi-Fi system to download e-mail.  The e-mail I sent her at 9 this morning had still not arrived.

We were back at our coach by 7 PM and turned on the PBS NewsHour.  I sent the post card photo again and it still did not arrive in her inbox.  We knew that both e-mails were sent because I cc:d one of our other accounts and received them there.  Linda finally checked her Junk folder and found it; twice.  She then created a post card for Madeline using the PostCardApp on her iPad.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs while working puzzles on our iPads.  Linda had a long day of driving and riding in the car and was tired.  With overnight lows forecast for the mid-50s and no rain (but some early morning fog) we left the windows and bathroom roof vent open.  We watched Limitless in bed, caught a little local news and weather, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

We did not get up until 8 AM this morning so, once again, we did not go to the weekly coffee/donut meeting at the activity building; not that we usually go anyway.  I made coffee and we wiled away the morning playing games and solving puzzles on our iPads.  I turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi long enough to check e-mail and send a few replies.  We eventually had toast and preserves for breakfast.

Bill and Brenda Phelan’s availability did not coincide with ours so I e-mailed her our shipping address here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and then called her with our credit card number.  I also arranged for us to meet Ed and Janet Roelle tomorrow afternoon at their winter home in Sarasota and then go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

The weather pattern for the next week was forecast to be dry and sunny with overnight lows in the mid-to-upper 50s and highs in the mid-to-upper 70s F.  That’s what I’m talking about! and that is why snowbirds come here in the winter.

Linda went for a morning walk and dropped off the trash.  She returned in time for lunch and made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also had some orange juice to wash down our vitamins, which we had not taken at breakfast.

Linda made arrangements to meet Mara at the pool today at 1 PM and then spend time with her afterwards showing her how to set up and use Quicken for her personal financial records.  I spent the first half of the afternoon editing blog posts from early November (2015).  Just before 3:30 PM I dialed in to the meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I was still engaged in that when Linda returned around 4:15 PM.  My meeting wrapped up around 4:45 after which Linda and I went for a walk.

We stopped by the activity building where Mara was in the library trying to get her computer online via the resort Wi-Fi and we were able to get her connected.  Linda and Mara had agreed to meet at 5:30 PM for a power walk but it was already 5:25 so they pushed the time out to 5:45 and we finished our stroll.

Dinner was an improvisation based on ingredients Linda had on hand.  Basically it was a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and kale, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano in EVOO and finished with some Egri Merlot.  Dessert was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We drank the rest of the bottle of wine before/during/after dinner.  Yummy.

Wednesday evening is PBS nature/science night, after which we were quickly to sleep.

2016/02/18 (R) Ed, Janet, & Nathan

We left the coach windows open last night and slept well until around 5:30 AM.  By then it was cool enough to need the extra blanket and the cats were fully awake and engaged in their usual morning routine dividing their attention between the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world and their persistent attempts to get us out of bed to feed them.  Our neighbors were also up early to take Ron’s mom to the airport for her flight back to Portage, Indiana.  Since the head of our bed is on their side of our coach we were aware of their departure conversation and preparations.  Even so, Linda was asleep last night before 11 PM and I was asleep by 11:15 so we got plenty of sleep.

I made our morning coffee while Linda turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got us connected.  We had used 11.2 GB of our 12.0 GB data plan with two days to go in our billing cycle.  We will get through the end of the cycle tomorrow at midnight without any overage charges, but the monitoring/management of our data usage for the last couple of weeks has been an unwelcome limitation and nuisance.  In particular I have been editing blog posts but not uploading them, which I very much need to do.

I did check my e-mail and respond to ones from Brenda Phelan and Ed Roelle.  We are going to Ed and Janet’s winter home in Sarasota this afternoon.  It turns out they are just down the road from our friends, Ed and Betty Burns.  Brenda had e-mailed us the UPS tracking number for our tire cover shipment.  She indicated that they could make/install our windshield covers the morning of March 8th at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster and we accepted the appointment.

I had an automated e-mail indicating that one of the websites I manage had been updated to WordPress version 4.4.2.  That meant all four websites had been updated and probably had plug-in updates available that needed to be processed.  As long as we were online I logged in to each site and initiated the updates.  The actual update process occurs between the web server and the WordPress server, so the only data usage for me is sending the update request and receiving back the status messages.

We eventually had our standard breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down our vitamins.  I have been having problems with my coffee “creamer.”  I know this is not a really big problem in the context of larger world events, but it is a problem nonetheless that is impacting my quality of life.  The problem is that my soy creamer has been curdling, and that just does not make for good eats.  To make matters worse, it does not happen all the time nor does it happen in a consistent way, at least not that I have been able to figure out.

For my first cup of the day I always add the creamer to the cup first and then swirl in the coffee as I pour.  This almost always results in the creamer blending smoothly with the coffee; almost, but not always.  Adding more coffee to the cup before it is empty, however, often produces the curdling; often, but not always.  Sometimes I can get the creamer to re-blend by adding a little more; sometimes, but not always.

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.

 

2016/02/11 (R) Key West and Back

We were up at 7 AM, showered, dressed, and went down to breakfast, which consisted of fruit and potatoes.  We went back to our room and gathered up the stuff we would need for the day.  We loaded the car and headed south on the Florida Toll Road to its terminus at US-1.  We headed south on US-1 and stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank before continuing our trip to the Florida Keys.  We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on the north end of Key Largo where we got a map of the Florida Keys and a few suggestions on what to see and do.  We continued south and found ourselves in a massive traffic jam.  The problem turned out to be construction work on the drawbridge.  Most of US-1 is a 2-lane road from the mainland all the way to Key West, and there are a few drawbridges along the way.  Anything that impedes traffic, be it a drawbridge, construction, or traffic accidents, can create huge traffic jams.

We stopped on Big Pine Key and found the National Key Deer Refugee Visitor Center.  We drove down Key Deer Lane and stopped at a small lake where we talked to a volunteer naturalist but did see any deer.  We decided to return to this spot on our way back north in the late afternoon and then drive out to No Name Key in the hope of seeing some of the small, unique deer.

We eventually got through the traffic congestion, continued south, and finally reached Key West, albeit a bit later than we had planned.  We drove along S. Roosevelt to the southernmost point in the Continental United States.  There was a long line of people waiting to go to the actual point, and no obvious place to park so we kept driving.  We finally found free street parking on Turner Avenue near the Catholic Church.

A rare photo of me taken by Linda.  Even rarer is that I am smiling.  But then, why not?  I’m at The Cafe in Key West, Florida with my bride of almost 45 years about to enjoy a wonderful vegan meal.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

A rare photo of me taken by Linda. Even rarer is that I am smiling. But then, why not? I’m at The Cafe in Key West, Florida with my bride of almost 45 years about to enjoy a wonderful vegan meal. It doesn’t get much better than that.

We walked part of Duval Street, found Southard St., went the wrong way, turned around, and walked the other way, and finally found The Café restaurant.  Linda had located The Café when looking for vegan dining options on Happy Cow.   Linda had the Udon noodle bowl and I had the Kung Pao Tofu.  Both were excellent vegan fare and the servings were huge.

We spent a couple more hours walking the historic part of town, walking past the Hemingway house, the lighthouse, and the Truman Community that includes The Little White House.  We did not pay admission fees and go in anything as we did not have enough time to really see them.

Linda at The Café in Key West, Florida right after our meals had come to the table.  The Café has the Key West look and feel, but was nicer than most of the vegan restaurants we find.  Vegan eateries tend to be near colleges and universities and cater to that clientele, so they do not waste a lot of money on fancy decor.

Linda at The Café in Key West, Florida right after our meals had come to the table. The Café has the Key West look and feel, but was nicer than most of the vegan restaurants we find. Vegan eateries tend to be near colleges and universities and cater to that clientele, so they do not waste a lot of money on fancy decor.

We were back in our car around 4 PM planning to return to Big Pine Key to see the Key Deer.  Traffic was very heavy getting out of Key West and did not get any better once we were headed north on US-1.  It turned out that there was an accident on US-1 about five miles before our turn on Big Key, which was 18 miles from where we first encountered stopped traffic.  It took us two hours to finally clear the reported accident location and be able to resume driving at posted speeds.

By the time we reached the Key Deer Habitat it was too dark to see anything and we kept on driving.  We stopped at a filling station in Florida City before returning to the hotel just before 9 PM.  Our round trip today put about 260 miles on the car.  It was a hard day, but we were glad we made the trip.  Even on our brief drive-through visit we found the Keys to be attractive and charming and someplace we would probably enjoy spending the month of January or February some year.  It is a very expensive place to stay, with nicer (not luxurious) RV parks running $100 per day, but the Keys are a unique place with unique things to see and do, and a very agreeable climate in January.  We will save our pennies and perhaps plan a month in the Keys into our winter 2017-18 travels.  As of now we plan to return to the southwest U. S. for winter 2016-17.

 

2016/01/21 (R) – 2016/01-25 (M) East and South

2016/01/21 (R) Lake Okeechobee

The weather forecast for today was for very nice conditions and we thought it would be a nice day to go for a ride in the car and explore the area of the state to our east, specifically Lake Okeechobee.  We were up a bit earlier than has been typical for us lately and did not make breakfast or coffee in favor of getting an early start.

The Defraggler disk defragmenter had finally completed its task.  I restarted my computer but it was not behaving correctly.  Besides the disk check and defrag I had also updated the NVIDIA graphics card driver, installed operating system updates, and updated Skype, which configured itself to auto-start on initial boot up.  I had to restart my machine again and suggested to Linda that we drive to the Shell station to top up the rank and then get coffee and bagels at the Dunkin Donuts next door.  I stopped back at our coach to check my e-mail and then shut my computer down.  I was looking for an e-mail from Herb, a member of the FMCA National Education Committee, about his visit to Lakeland, Florida today but he had not replied.  It was a long shot whether we would get to Lakeland today anyway.

We headed east on FL-70 as far as US-27 and then headed south towards Moore Haven and Clewiston.  Most of the drive was through the citrus groves, ranch lands, and fields of crops that make up most of this part of Florida.  The citrus groves eventually gave way to a tall plant with a wheat-like top that we did not recognize but thought might be wheat.  We passed a couple of fields that had been cleared and the organic matter mounded into burn piles.  When we saw large plumes of smoke later in our drive we assumed it was related to more land clearing.  Only later did Linda determine that the plants were sugar cane and the smoke was most likely from controlled burns of the cane fields which is the first step in harvesting the sugar cane.

We had not done a lot of research on Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding area.  What we did know was that it is the largest fresh water lake in the U. S. contained entirely within the borders of a single state.  What we did not know until we saw it was that the entire lake is surrounded by the Herbert Hoover Dike, a massive levy some 50 feet high with flood control gates and canals leading from it.  Construction was begun late in Herbert Hoover’s presidency as a result of a hurricane that pushed an enormous amount of water out of the lake to the southeast and killed thousands of people.

The first place on our drive where we were near the lakeshore was in Moore Haven but as a consequence of the dike there are only a few places where you can actually see the lake.  From Moore Haven to Clewiston US-27 ran right along the levy and we could see nesting boxes on top of tall poles.  All of them had nests and most of them had large birds roosting on them.  I presumed they were probably Osprey or possibly Eagles.

The first place we stopped was a county campground at South Bay, a small community at the southwest tip of the lake.  We were able to drive over the levy to a boat launch area, but the western and southwestern portions of the lake have extensive marshes and we could not see open water even from the top of the levy.  We also drove through the campground, which impressed us as a nice place to spend a couple of weeks to a month, depending on what else there was to do in the area.

We continued around the south end of the lake to Belle Grade, picking up US-441 to Pahokee where we drove over the dike to a marina that was part of a state park with an RV campground.  Before us was the lake and, like looking at a Great Lake or an ocean, it was indeed an endless expanse of water to the horizon.  Okeechobee is a big lake.

From Pahokee we continued up US-441 through Canal Point and along the edge of the levy up to the town of Okeechobee.  This stretch of highway was lined with RV parks, most of them small and not very nice looking.  We weren’t counting but I estimated somewhere between 18 and 24 “parks,” one right after another.  Many of them were full of old, closely spaced, rigs that appeared to be in very poor condition that was matched by the run down, trashy appearance of the properties themselves.

There were a few parks that looked OK and one of them was a park that Linda had called to inquire about openings and rates.  We always check out websites, Google Maps, and Google Earth, but they don’t always reveal the true appearance of a place or surrounding area.  Now that we were seeing this area first hand we were glad (relieved?) that we did not book a spot here.  At the risk of appearing snobbish, the east side of Lake Okeechobee did not impress us as a place we would stay or even need to visit again.  That said, we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and folks do the best they can.

Yes, we own a Prevost bus conversion, but we bought it very used and we do not think of ourselves as “those” kind of people; you know, snobbish towards those who own SOBs (some other brand).  But we are aware that we have a fairly negative reaction to places that are trashy.  Trashy and old are not the same thing; we have nothing against old.  We are old ourselves, and hope to get a lot older before our time is up.  Trashy suggests a lack of self-respect and a lack of respect for others.  We will take a pass on that.

By the time we reached the town of Okeechobee it was 2 PM and we were hungry.  Rather than continue on to Sebring we headed west on FL-70 where we found a Subway just before reaching the edge of town and stopped to have lunch.  After our meal we headed back to Arcadia 63 miles away on FL-70.  Along the way we saw more Osprey near the Kissimmee River and later on a group of Wood Storks and a few Sandhill Cranes along with the usual Egrets, Vultures, a Kingfisher, and other local birds.  Florida really is a great state for seeing birds.

Once we got back to our coach we relaxed for a while and then decided to go to the jam session at 7 PM.  The jam sessions here are different from what we have experienced other places.  We found out from talking to the attendees sitting around us that the four musicians (two guitars, bass guitar, and drums) are not from the park and are brought in (hired) for the jams.  People from the park took turns singing but no other musicians joined in during the hour we were there.  There were also a lot of people dancing, including singles and couples line dancing.  We left just before 8 PM and returned to our coach to watch our Thursday evening TV programs.

Another major storm was winding up across the south and taking aim on the mid-Atlantic and New England.  The worst effects of this storm were forecast to be ice and snow accumulations of 12″ to 36″ from northern Georgia north and east to the Canadian Maritimes.  As with the last few storms the impact on Florida was forecast to be strong storms associated a quickly moving cold front draped off of the low pressure system and extending far into the Gulf of Mexico.  Rain was expected in Arcadia starting around 4:30 AM.  Several bands were expected, with the strongest from late morning to early afternoon.  Behind the front would be strong winds and much cooler temperatures.  We left the awning style windows open an inch, closed the roof vents, and went to bed.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/22 (F) Desoto Veterinary Clinic

Heavy rain moved through our location starting at 4:30 AM, exactly when the weather forecasts said it would.  It arrived along with some wind and woke me up but it was not severe and I eventually fell back asleep.  The cats had their usual morning crazies starting around 5:30 AM so that woke me up again, and probably woke Linda up too, but they eventually calmed down and we all went back to sleep.

We finally got up at 8:15 AM and Linda got dressed right away.  It was cool enough that I put on my sweats but not cold enough to run the toe-kick heaters or the hydronic heating system.  I made our morning coffee and we had Linda’s yummy homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  I got dressed after breakfast and at 9:45 AM we put Jasper in his carrier and drove to the Desoto Veterinary Clinic for his 10 AM appointment.  There was a lull in the rain with the heaviest, potentially severe, weather expected between late morning and early afternoon so we got to the clinic and back without getting rained on.

We only had to wait a few minutes while Dr. McNulty finished up with another patient.  Jasper rarely goes in his carrier at the house or on the bus, even though we leave it out and accessible, but tends to stay in it at the vet’s office.  Dr. McNulty was a bit of an eccentric character but we liked him.  He spent as much time talking to Jasper as he did to us and checked him over to make sure he did not have other undetected health issues.  His diagnosis of Jasper’s fur loss was that he had been bitten by a flea.  He recommended a small corticosteroid injection to help relieve the itching and reduce Jasper’s need to scratch.  He also suggested that we discontinue the use of the Revolution medication while we are in Florida and switch both cats to Cheristin.  We agreed to all of his recommendations.

Unlike Revolution, which also prevents heartworm, Cheristin is a flea medication only.  Even though Florida is the flea and mosquito capitol of the U. S. Dr. McNulty said that heartworm, acquired from infected mosquitos, is extremely rare here while cats being affected by fleas is quite common.  His concern with Revolution is that the fleas have become resistant to it.  He quit prescribing Frontline and Advantage years ago and has now stopped prescribing Revolution for the same reason.  Jasper and Juniper are strictly inside cats so their exposure to mosquitos, fleas, and ticks is minimal as those critters can only gain entry to the coach via the front door when it’s open or hitch a ride in with one of us.  Still, they do not live in a hermetically sealed environment.

The rains resumed around 11 AM.  Linda complied a grocery list while I worked at my computer on some e-mails and did a little additional work on photos for my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  We had hummus and onion sandwiches for lunch around 12:30.  Linda waited for the rain to subside and finally headed to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket around 1:15 PM.

I had not worked on blog posts yesterday so I finished up the one from the 20th and worked on the ones for yesterday and today.  When Linda got back I helped get the groceries up into the coach.  I off-loaded the photos I took yesterday but was tired and did not feel like getting deeply into any computer-based work.  I laid down on the sofa instead and took a nap.  I like naps; naps are good.  While I was napping Linda went for a long walk.  I finally woke up as she was starting to prepare dinner.  The preparations were going to take a while so I went for a walk.

Dinner was butternut squash burritos and Mexican rice and was very tasty.  After dinner Linda applied the Cheristin to both cats.

PBS had back-to-back episodes of Endeavour, the series detailing the beginning of the career of the Inspector Morse character.  Linda slept through most of the second episode and went to bed as soon as it was over.  I stayed up and watched a show about the Neon Sign Museum in Las Vegas and two companies that are each restoring a sign for the museum.  I watched the weather for a few minutes and then went to bed.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/23 (S) Pelican Lake

It was a wild day today, wind wise.  Sustained winds of 25 to 35 MPH, with gusts 10 to 15 MPH higher than that, swept across southwest Florida behind the cold front that brought yesterday’s rain.  And it was a cold air mass, with temperatures this morning in the low 40’s F.  After getting up and putting on our sweats, which is what we do on chilly mornings, I made a pot of coffee, which is what I do almost every morning.  Linda decided it was a good morning for pancakes.  Vegan baking can be a bit tricky, but they turned out really well.

We did not have any plans for today.  We had thought about attending the Fort Myers RV Show, at the Lee County Expo Center on FL-31, but decided there would not be anything new to see after having been to the Tampa RV Supershow the previous weekend.

After breakfast I called Chuck to catch up on things generally, discuss leaky windshields in particular, and see if we could arrange a time to visit.  While we were talking a gust of wind opened our patio awning about 12″ and then let it slam shut.  I realized immediately that I had not latched the roller tube at either end when we retracted it a few days ago in advance of the latest round of storms.  I told Chuck I would call him right back and went outside to latch the tubes.  We always latch the roller tube when stowing it prior to moving the coach so I found it to be an interesting oversight on our part that we had not done this when stowing it while stationary.  We were lucky that we were home when this happened and that I was seated where I could see exactly what had happened and quickly figure out why.  You can be sure we will latch the roller tube from now on whenever it is retracted.

With yet another problem diagnosed and fixed I called Chuck back.  As it turned out there was also an RV show taking place at their motorcoach resort this weekend; mostly new and used Prevost conversions from Millennium, Marathon, Liberty, and Featherlight, with a few others and some high end motorhomes thrown in for good measure.  The show was open until 4 PM and Chuck was doing volunteer shuttle service with his golf cart from 2 – 4 PM.  It was a nice day, except for the wind, and we decided to drive down for a visit, look at some of the coaches, and then go out to dinner.

We left around 11:30 AM and stopped at the Shell station to top up the fuel tank.  We then headed down FL-31 to its terminus at FL-80 and headed west for a few miles where we picked up I-75 southbound.  We exited I-75 at exit 101 and drove another nine miles on Collier Blvd, finally crossing Tamiami Trail (US-41) before arriving at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort.  While we were stopped at the light at Tamiami Trail Linda called Chuck as requested.  When we got to the resort entrance he and Barbara were waiting for us in their golf cart.  Rather than parking with the other RV show attendees they led us back to their site and let us park there.  By the time we got to their site it was approaching 1:30 PM.  They gave us a tour and we sat outside in the sun chatting, their extensive landscaping sheltering us from most of the wind, which had blown us around on the drive down and was still blowing strongly.

At 2 PM Barbara took their car and headed to the grocery store and Chuck drove us to the coach display area in his golf cart.  While he performed his volunteer service we looked at all of the Prevost conversions but did not bother with the motorhomes other than the Newells.  The only coach we saw that would have tempted us to trade in our Royale Coach was a Featherlight that was done in walnut laminate (not real wood) with light wall and ceiling treatments and no mirrors on the ceiling.  It had a light, clean, modern feeling that appealed to us.  Being new, it was in better condition than ours and had a much newer technology Volvo 4-cycle engine.  It was also way out our price range, even if they gave us what we had invested in our coach in trade-in value.  New Prevost conversions are very expensive toys.

We did pay attention, however, to the induction cooktops that most of the coaches had and took pictures of the name plates for future reference.  Replacing our Gaggenau halogen cooktop with an induction unit is high on our list of future upgrades.  Ideally it will be a 120 VAC unit so we can use it on a 120 VAC / 30 Amp electrical service.  At least now we have some things to check out.

A few minutes before 4 PM we walked back to Chuck and Barbara’s site.  I paused long the way to take a few pictures as the resort really is visually stunning.  We sat at their patio table and enjoyed the setting in the late afternoon sun.  Chuck eventually called me on my cell phone to let me know he was done with his volunteer service and find out where we were so he could drive us back.  He was surprised we had walked, but then we are always amazed that people use their golf carts for short trips.

When Chuck returned we went inside to chat and he opened a bottle of Santos Sparkling Moscato (white).  Wow, that was a nice cocktail wine!  The buy it at Costco so that may finally be the reason we need to join.  Barbara returned with the groceries and after putting them away we had a second glass of wine.  After some research and discussion we determined that The Loving Hut restaurant, on the north side of downtown Naples, was, in fact, still open for business and was acceptable to all four of us.  The restaurant is just off of Tamiami Trail, so easy enough to find, but traffic in the Naples area is heavy all the time and it took a while to get there.  Once we arrived we settled in for a long meal with good conversation.

There are three things we like about The Loving Hut restaurants, not in any particular order.  For one, the menu is essentially Chinese and SE Asian cuisine.  Second, the menu is extensive with page after page of dishes to choose from.  Third, the entire menu is vegan; we can, literally, pick dishes at random and know that we can eat them and that we will like them.  As a bonus, they also have a nice assortment of European style vegan desserts.  It’s a chain, and we really wish we had one of these near our house, but it’s probably just as well that we do not.

We drove separate cars to the restaurant since it was in the direction we needed to go and neither of us had a car that would seat more than two people.  We said “farewell until next time” in the parking lot at 8:15 PM and headed our separate ways.  We only had a few miles to travel to the east to get back to I-75.  From there we retraced our route and finally arrived back at our coach around 9:40 PM.

We had left the windows cracked so it did not too hot inside for the cats but by the time we returned it was 66 degrees inside.  Not freezing cold, to be sure, but just chilly enough to warrant the application of heat for a while.  We changed into our sweats and watched some old British comedy programs on PBS/Create as there was nothing else on that looked interesting and I was too tired to start working on anything, including this post (which I deferred until Sunday).  I shut off the hydronic heating system and the electric toe-kick heaters, and turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, before turning in for the night.  Juniper (our female cat) very quickly got under the covers between us and spent the rest of the night there.  Jasper (our male cat) alternated between our pillows and the foot of the bed but never got under the covers.  Juniper likes the warmth and security but I think it’s too hot for Jasper and makes him feel trapped.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

2016/01/24 (N) Snowmagedon Exchange Rate

We woke to an outside air temperature of 38 degrees F, our coldest morning yet since we arrived in Florida, but we were not complaining.  We closed all of the windows before going to bed last night and the temperature only dropped to 59 degrees F in the coach, which is actually a nice temperature for sleeping.  We put on our sweats and turned on the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fan-coil heat exchangers for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, along with the front electric toe-kick heater.  The Aqua-Hot diesel burner was still “on” from yesterday when we showered but the electric heating element kept it from running so I turned the element off.

The strong, sustained winds yesterday had caused no more damage than a temporary power outage while we away from the coach, for which our house battery/inverter system took over as it is supposed to do.  Our weather related problems were few by comparison to what others’ experienced.  Just 200 miles north of us it was 28 degrees F in Williston and colder still Nashville, Tennessee with a low in the mid-teens.  Temperatures back home where around 20 degrees F, but that’s typical for SE Michigan this time of year, perhaps even a bit on the warm side of normal.

By far the worst weather, however, was the major snow/ice/wind storm that affected a large area from NW Mississippi up to Ohio and east across Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to the eastern seaboard from Georgia, through the Carolinas, Washington D. C., Philadelphia, New York City, and on into New England.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just west of Hershey and Annville, where Ron and Mary live, got 28″ of snow, and a small town in West Virginia got 40.5″, while places along the coast experienced significant flooding.  Thousands of flights were cancelled and transportation in D. C. and New York was at a standstill.  All things considered we felt like Arcadia was a really good choice for our winter base this year.

Linda checked in with Ron and Mary and they reported 30″ of snow at their house which they were in the process of clearing from their driveway.  Linda also checked in with Meghan, who reported no serious weather back home.  More importantly their male cat, Inches, had finished his round of medication and was doing much better.

Having visited Pelican Lake yesterday we were thinking about where we might go when we leave Big Tree RV Resort at the end of the first week in March.  Our thoughts drifted back to the conversation we had at the Tampa RV Supershow with the representatives from Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort.  Like Pelican Lake, Florida Grande is an ownership park.  It’s located near Webster, Florida about 100 miles north of Arcadia and a similar distance southeast of Williston.  The prices for lots there are more in our price range than Pelican Lake but we are a long way from buying an RV site anywhere.

Linda checked the website and saw that Florida Grande was offering a 2-for-1 special at the moment; pay for one week at the regular price (~$267) and get a second week free.  It also appeared that they had openings for the second and third week of March.  We were thinking of stopping there for a few days to check it out on our way to the FMCA national rally the third week of March in Perry, Georgia.  We have been reconsidering our attendance at that rally, however, as we really do not want to be that far north that early in March.  The 2-for-1 deal now has us thinking that Florida Grande might be a good place to spend the second and third weeks of March and then try to get into Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral for the last week of the month.

Linda took over the desk to work on some things for the bakery so I spent the late morning writing my blog post for yesterday and starting today’s post.  The high temperature today only reached 59 degrees but that was plenty warm enough to dump the holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank, which are on the sunny, southeast facing side of the coach.  Before I even got started, however, I ended up in a conversation with Dave whose 5th wheel trailer is across the street from us.  He and Barb are from New Hampshire and this is their 8th season at Big Tree RV Resort.

Dave said that the resort residents used to be about 60% from Quebec Province but the number has dropped to about 30% in recent years.  Most people “age out” of this lifestyle, whether mobile or stationary, due to declining health, strain on their financial resources, or loss of interest.  In the case of the folks from Quebec (and Ontario) the exchange rate to the U. S. dollar, which is currently 60%, is making it prohibitively expense for them to come south of the border for the winter.  When they exchange $1,000 CA they get $600 US.  That makes it really tough to come here and is one of the reasons our friends, Bill and Karen Gerrie, did not return to Florida, or anywhere else in the U. S., this winter.

All of the park models and permanent trailers here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort are owned by individuals, not the park, so beyond the nice climate and social connections the owners have a real monetary investment here.  Dave said that 17 to 24 units are typically for sale each year but so far people are buying them.  The largest contingent in the park now appears to be Michiganders (aka Michiganians). One of the couples we were talking to at the jam session on Thursday was from Jackson, Michigan and told me that in recent years they have been getting 75 attendees at the Michigan dinner, and that is probably not everyone in the park who calls Michigan home.

While I was out talking to Dave and tending to our tanks I took a closer look at our new windshield and discovered that the caulk the Safelite installers used was coming loose from everything, i.e., it was not adhering to the glass, the rubber gasket, or the body.  Chuck has had the same issue with his two windshields and has a “claim” in progress with Safelite.  He had e-mailed me all of his correspondence with the company so I e-mailed him back to let him know what I had just found.

When I tested the water coming out of the softener after filling the tank it indicated somewhere between 7 and 15 grains per gallon.  When I tested the water coming out of the park supply faucet on our arrival I estimated the hardness at 11 gpg.  If that was accurate, the water had not changed, and today’s test was accurate, it meant our 8,000 to 10,000 grain water softener was exhausted in less than 5,000 grains by my calculations.  That did not seem reasonable to me so I plan to retest the water and the output of the softener, but today’s reading suggested that the water might be harder than I thought and that the softener was exhausted and needed to be recharged.

My main focus today, however, was laundry.  For Linda’s part she wanted to clean the inside of the coach, take care of something for our FMCA GLCC chapter, and then work on something for the bakery.  I decided to take my laptop computer to the laundry room and try to download Windows 10.  It’s a 3 GB download so there was no way we were going to do this using our Verizon data plan.  I did not know, however, if the resort Wi-Fi system would allow me to download that much data or have a fast enough data rate to complete the download in a reasonable amount of time.  What I discovered was that the public Wi-Fi only downloaded 2.65 MB in 45 minutes and ultimately disconnected me from the Internet.  I turned off the Wi-Fi radio in my computer and looked to see if there was some way to cancel the download.  Unfortunately I did not find one.  Not good.  Shame on you, Microsoft (once again).  Stuff like that is an advertisement for Linux.

Linda put the NFL AFC championship game on our living room TV and Ron, on our driver side, set up one on a table under his patio awning, so I got to listen to the game in surround sound.  Yippee.  I was going to take a nap (in the bedroom) but decided to stay up and continue working on today’s blog post, which was getting quite lengthy.

Around 4 PM we had sourdough pretzel nibblers and hummus for lunch.  It’s going to be another week before Gary can have Stacy proofread the three articles I have in the queue for Bus Conversion Magazine so I decided so spend the later part of the afternoon editing my blog posts for October 2015 and get them ready to upload.  I only got a few of them done and decided to take a nap after all.  I was not feeling well, which made it hard to concentrate and made this work an unpleasant chore rather than something I enjoyed doing.

I napped for a couple of hours, which I really needed, but I still did not feel right when I got up.  The late afternoon and early evening disappeared without accomplishing much of anything and we finally had granola for dinner around 8 PM.  We watched Downton Abbey from 9 to 10 PM on PBS and then watched the first of six episodes of The X-Files on FOX once the NFL NFC championship game ended and the talking heads ran out of things to say afterwards.  In truth, they ran out of things to say before they ever got started.

We were in bed with the lights out by 11:45 PM.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and was toasty warm in spite of the dropping temperature outside and inside the coach.  Juniper (our female cat) immediately climbed under the covers between us with her head between our pillows and settled in for the night.

2016/01/25 (M) TV Dilemma

The forecasted low temperature for last night was 37 degrees F.  The low temperature usually occurs just before sunrise; around 7 AM this time of year in Arcadia.  We woke up around then and checked the current weather on our phones which reported the temperature as 40 degrees F.  The temperature inside our coach was 56, three degrees colder than I have seen so far this winter, so I suspected the outside temperature dropped down into the upper 30s overnight.

I was feeling a little “off” last evening and did not sleep well last night, but not for lack of warmth.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and I was comfortable enough that way.  I had taken a nap during the afternoon, so I wasn’t really tired at midnight, but mostly I was unable to find a comfortable position.  Juniper (our female cat) got under the covers between our heads as soon as we went to bed, so that constrained somewhat my ability to change positions, which I did almost constantly; at least that was my perception.

We got up and put on our sweats, which is our standard routine for cold mornings unless we are leaving early to go somewhere.  I turned the Aqua-Hot on, turned on the three zone controllers, and set the thermostats to 70 degrees.  I then made our morning coffee and checked my e-mail while it was brewing.  The FMCA National Education Committee meeting that was tentatively set for today or next Monday (February 1st) was being rescheduled for February 8th or 15th.  That was fine with me; I have other things to work on right now and I am not looking forward to our committee’s discussion of meaningless survey data.  It’s not that I enjoy bring a nay-sayer, but there’s a science (and art) to doing surveys and as best I can tell the survey was not distributed in a way that allows us to treat the responses as representative of the larger population of FMCA members.

While we were enjoying our first cup-a-Joe a crow landed on the power pole just north of our rig (two sites away except that there is only one more site north of us).  Juniper spied it right away and began chattering the way she does when she sees birds and gets excited.  The crow eventually left and was replaced by our resident Pileated Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was clinging to the side of the pole, rather than sitting on the wires, where the pole has been pecked away and reduced in diameter for a length of some 10 inches (estimated) all the way around.  Pileated Woodpeckers are large, magnificent birds and are always a treat to see.  It eventually left and was replaced by a smaller woodpecker or Flicker but I was not able to see it well enough to be sure which one it was.

We like something hot and substantial on a cold morning, and oatmeal is our go to choice, so that was what Linda made for breakfast.  We did not have plans to travel today so we stayed in our sweats for most of the morning.  I finished my blog post for yesterday, started on this one, and then settled in at my computer to edit posts for October 2015.

I took a break and tested the water from the tap and softener.  Both readings were once again between 7 and 15 gpg so the hardness of the tap water had not changed since my original test and the softener was definitely depleted.  I checked to see if the clear filter housings I bought at the Arcadia rally would fit the pre-filter.  They did, so I cleaned them and substituted one for the opaque housing.  I configured the pre-filter housing with the flow constrictor tube, added 26 ounces of table salt, and started the water flow, allowing the discharge to drain on the ground.

After a couple of hours most of the salt was still in the bottom of the housing and I could see the top of the flow diverter tube so I knew there was a problem and had a good idea what it was.  The tube was not sealed at the top allowing water to enter the filter housing and go right back out without being forced down through the salt and into the slots at the bottom of the flow diverter tube.  I added an O-ring under the bottom of the tube and a rubber flat washer at the top.  I recovered the washer from one of the old filter elements.

I added another 26 ounces of table salt to the housing and reassembled it.  When I turned on the water pressure it pushed about half of the salt into the softener even with the outlet valve closed.  This was probably the first time since I made the diverter tube that my regeneration system actually worked as intended and, because of the clear housing, the first time I was able to visually observe it.  Because so much salt got pushed into the softener I ran just a little more water and then shut it off to let the brine develop and exchange ions with the resin.

For dinner Linda made a couscous dish with grape tomatoes and other yummy ingredients.  I was still not feeling 100% right but this dish was light enough and tasty enough to be appetizing.

We had a TV dilemma this evening; X-Files vs. Supergirl.  After many years absence FOX brought back a 6-episode season of The X-Files.  Episode 1 was Sunday evening after the NFL NFC Championship game but episode 2 was this evening at 8 PM, placing it opposite Supergirl on CBS.  Episodes 3 through 6 will also air on Mondays at 8 PM.  Buggers.  Our other Monday evening shows were all repeats but we watched them anyway.

The low temperature for overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F with no storms.  That meant we could leave the windows open and the furnace/heaters off and get a good night’s sleep.

 

2016/01/06 (W) -10 (N) Websites, Woodwork, and Wildlife

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

The temperature dropped into the mid-50s last night and made for excellent sleeping conditions.  Never-the-less, Linda was up at 6:30 AM and read quietly until I got up at 8 AM.  I used the last of the current batch of coffee beans yesterday so I opened four fresh bags this morning, a half-pound each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (regular and decaffeinated), Seattle Blend (regular), and Sweet Dreams Blend (decaffeinated).  Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home roasted and vacuum packed the beans for us in 1/2 pound amounts so they would stay fresh through the winter.  I made a full pot of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (half-caffe) and Linda prepared toast and grapefruit for breakfast.  One of the things we bought yesterday at Joshua Citrus was orange marmalade so Linda opened it and we had some on our toast.  It was not as bitter as most orange marmalades I have tried and I liked it.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Tonight was the weekly Powerball lottery drawing and the amount was approaching 400 million dollars so we agreed that we should buy a few tickets.  Since there was a possibility of rain this afternoon Linda wanted to get her walk in early so she walked to the Winn-Dixie supermarket in search of lottery tickets.  The Winn- Dixie is in a shopping plaza with other stores on the same (south) side of US-70 as the Carefree Big Tree RV Resort about 1/2 mile west towards downtown.  There is a very wide sidewalk along the south side of US-70 that is used by walkers, bicyclists, and folks in golf carts, from our resort and the much larger adult community just to our east, to get to the shopping area just west of us.  The Walmart is immediately across the street, with a stop light and crosswalk, but golf carts cannot go there as far as we know.

I’ve needed to change the water filter under the kitchen sink for a while so today I finally did.  I installed the GX1S01R GE Drinking Water Filter housing in fall 2014 to replace the Everpure unit that gave me no end of difficulty whenever I tried to change the filter cartridge.  It turned out that neither of our two filter wrenches fit the housing and I had to get my large slip pliers out to get it off.  The inside of the housing was dirty so I boiled some water in the microwave, added a small amount of dish soap, cleaned it thoroughly, and rinsed it out.

The GE drinking water filter element is a Class I media (0.5 – 1.0 micron) that reduces or removes more things than most filters, including:  MTBE, VOCs, Chlorine (taste and odor), Lead, Cysts, Mercury, Turbidity, and Asbestos.  The capacity of the element is listed as 500 gallons* (*depending on water conditions) and the useful life is listed as 6 months.  The filter feeds a special drinking water faucet in the kitchen sink that is only used for cleaning food and cooking so I doubt that we run anywhere near 500 gallons of water through it in 6 months, or even in a year.  Given how we use our motorcoach, and the cost of the filter elements, I will probably change the filter once a year.  To that end I wrote the date on a piece of Frog Tape and attached it to the housing.

I continued to focus on my article for BCM about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourns’ 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I thought I might get it done by lunch but I did not get back to work on it until after 11 AM.  I worked on it most of the rest of the day and into the evening and still did not get it finished.  By 9 PM I had the photos selected and processed but deferred integrating them into the article until tomorrow.  I will then upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Diann that it is available for review.

Lunch was left over black-eyed peas, fresh fruit, and hummus with sourdough pretzels for dipping.  Dinner was salad and pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions in BBQ sauce with fresh strawberries for dessert.  We went for walks after both meals and Linda got in 10 miles today.

If we watch TV at all on Wednesday evening it is usually PBS and so it was tonight.  Nature was on cross-species animal bonding, Nova was on an archeological investigation of WWI trenches and tunnels, followed by a two hour program on the CERN LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the search for the Higgs bozon particle and other, possibly more elementary ones.  It was after midnight by the time I got bed.

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

We were both awake around 7 AM.  Linda read for a while and got up around 7:45.  I drifted back to a light sleep and finally got up at 8:15.  By the time the coffee was ready to drink it was 8:45 AM.  Linda washed off some blueberries and poured our cups of Joe.

Linda bought 10 tickets yesterday for the Powerball lottery.  Our $20 investment returned $4.  The good news was that no one won and Saturday’s drawing will likely approach $700 million.  I know the odds of winning are astronomically small, but any non-zero chance to win even a piece of that pot seems worth another $20.  After all, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

We had granola with fresh berries for breakfast.  I then e-mailed the Geeks on Tour to see if we could arrange a meetup.  That’s the name of Jim and Chris Guld’s business and they are currently just up the road at the Thousand Trails Preserve (RV park) in Zolfo Springs.  They are full-time RVers who do seminars and in-depth training classes on a wide range of technologies at RV rallies, parks, and other venues.  You can find them here:  http://www.geeksontour.com.  They also do a weekly podcast and have an extensive catalog of video tutorials.

I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing my BCM article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox for them e-mailed them the link and some instructions.  I also sent the link to BCM publisher Gary Hatt.

We had hummus with sourdough pretzel nibblers and fresh fruit for lunch around 1 PM.  Our plan for the afternoon was to go watch a practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions.  The U.S.-based stallions’ facility is just up the road in Myakka City and they have practice sessions open to the public at 3 PM on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 AM on Saturdays.  They ask (charge) a $5 donation per person.  The facility has bleachers but you can bring your own chair.  We had planned to go today because the forecast for this afternoon was pleasant.

We want to order some fresh citrus fruit from Joshua Citrus here in Arcadia and have it shipped to our children in Michigan.  It will be much more economical for us to have it shipped to one place and Meghan agreed to receive it and distribute it.  We were going to stop there on our way to see the Lipizzaners but at 1:15 PM it was still overcast.  I wanted to take photographs so we decided not to go and will visit the facility another time.

With the change in our plans we took a long walk around the resort.  I then had to figure out something else to do.  I was tired and decided to take a nap.  The sofa was not available as Linda was working on her counted cross-stitch project so I curled up on the bed next to Jasper (the cat) and dozed for a couple of hours.

For dinner Linda fixed a side of mixed grains, steamed some broccoli, and sautéed a package of Gardein Orange “Chicken.”  The orange chicken is a soy-based dish and it is very tasty.

After dinner we turned on the TV and I worked on the bonus content photographs for my article on the recent Arcadia converted bus rally.  Perhaps because of the distraction from the boob tube, was trying to clean up a slightly complicated situation I had created for myself, was just not in the humor, or some combination of the three, I found the work a bit tedious.  I stuck with it long enough to get it better organized and then stopped at a somewhat logical point and watched TV.

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

There was rain in the forecast for overnight and I heard the first few drops before I went to bed just before midnight.  The rains came in earnest sometime between 4 and 5 AM and it rained hard around 7 AM.  I was awake at that point and decided to get up and check for leaks.  Fortunately there was no sign of the leaks we had during the last rain event.  I fed the cats, plugged in the charger for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and made the coffee.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

After checking the user manual we determined that it is OK for the Mi-Fi to be plugged in and charging while it is turned on and operating.  The issue with the device is that it really wants to be unplugged from the charger once the battery is fully charged and can overheat if left connected.  Since we do not have a usable RV park Wi-Fi signal at our site it simplifies our online life if we can just leave the Mi-Fi on with the Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  The Mi-Fi battery is very slow to charge, especially when the device is turned on, but it eventually reaches full charge.  The battery will not even operate the device for 12 hours but it will operate long enough to get through the night.  What I am still trying to figure out is when to plug it in during the evening so that it is fully charged just before we go to bed.  That is a trial and process.  Once I have it figured out I need to make a habit of plugging it in when I get up in the morning and again at the right time during the evening.

After a little more discussion I e-mailed Jim Guld to confirm plans for a visit and dinner this afternoon.  We settled in with our coffee and iPads for a while and finally had breakfast at 9 AM.  Linda had two frozen toaster waffles she wanted to use up so we had those with peanut butter.  I also add a little apricot preserves on mine.  We split one of the Ruby Red grapefruits we bought at Joshua Citrus the other day.  Yum.

With company coming later today we took showers.   While Linda was getting her shower I copied recent photos from the Sony SLT- a99v to my ASUS laptop.  An updated version of the Play Memories Home software was available, so I downloaded and installed it.  After I showered, shaved, and got dressed Linda cut my hair.  We then cleaned the coach, putting away things that did not need to be out and sweeping/mopping the floor.

With the cleaning of ourselves and the coach completed, we went on an errand run.  After dropping off a small bag of trash our first stop was the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  We then drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off recyclable plastic.  We swung by El Pirata Mexican restaurant to check out the menu and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company.  While I picked out some Sugarbelle oranges and Ruby Red grapefruit Linda ordered a three tray box of mixed citrus fruit that included Honeybelle tangelos, Meyer lemons, Navel oranges, and Ruby Red grapefruit.  The box will be shipped to our daughter and she will divide up the fruit with our son.  That arrangement allowed us to send more fruit at a lower cost than shipping to two addresses.  Our final stop was at Walmart for a few food items we did not find at Winn-Dixie.

Back at our coach I spent some time updating the Participants Database for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter (FTH) website.  I also spent some more time trying to recall just how I set up the WP-Members plugin for the SLAARC website so I can recreate it for the FTH website.  I was not able to do that in the time I had available and I think that might be due, in part, to changes that have been made in newer versions of the plugin.  I set up a WordPress User for Linda using the WP-Members registration form and it did not work the way I remembered it in the SLAARC website.  Apparently I am going to have study the user manual in detail.

Christine Guld called at 2:30 PM to let me know that she and Jim were on their way to our resort.  They arrived around 3 PM and we quickly settled into an easy conversation covering a wide range of topics.  Jim and Chris are the “Geeks on Tour” and do technology training (edutainment) at RV rallies and other venues.  They have seen and done a lot of things and are interesting, fun folks with whom to share time.

At 4:30 PM Jim drove us to dinner at Magnolia Seafood and Grill in downtown Arcadia.  The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and we got a nice corner table by the front picture windows.  Today was Jim’s birthday and we enjoyed sharing it with him and Chris.  We lingered over dinner for almost two hours and by the time we left people were waiting in the lobby for a table.  I don’t like to wait for tables, but it’s usually a good sign when a restaurant is that popular.  Everyone said their meal was excellent.  Jim drove us back to our coach and dropped us off.  There was a music jam back at the Thousand Trails Peace River Preserve in Zolfo Springs starting at 7 PM. They wanted to cap off their evening there and we certainly understood.

We walked over to the resort office and picked up our mail.  My driver license renewal paperwork was there but nothing else.  Back at our coach we turned on the TV.  PBS/Create was airing the Las Vegas BeeGees concert from 20 years ago (again). With that as background we doodled on our iPads and eventually went to bed.

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

Our plan for today was once again to go watch the Royal Lipizzan Stallions practice session at their facility in Myakka City.  Fog moved in last night and was still thick by the time we finished breakfast at 9 AM.  That was when we needed to leave in order to get there and set up our chairs in time for the start of the session at 10 AM.  For the second time this week we decided to defer this event to a future date with better weather.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked for a while on photos for the BCM article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  No one won the Powerball lottery on Wednesday and by this morning the top prize had exceeded 800 million dollars, an all-time record for any lottery in the U. S.  Linda needed a few grocery items for our dinner and we wanted to buy a few more lottery tickets so we walked to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket to take care of those errands.  It was approximately a one mile round trip and on the walk back the cloud cover broke up into partly sunny skies.  Back at the coach we opened all three roof vents, turned on the exhaust fans, and opened the windows wider.

Linda settled back into her counted cross-stitch project and I turned my attention to our FMCA Freethinkers website.  I checked the SLAARC website (WordPress) to see how I set up the quick registration page through the WP-Members plug-in and then set up a similar (hidden) page for the FTH website.  I cleaned up a lot of other things on the website as well, including the member directory.  This work occupied the rest of the afternoon except for a lunch break and a brief walk.

Lunch was grilled “cheese” (non-dairy) and tomato sandwiches–very messy but very good–with grapes and orange slices.  The walk was brief because we stopped to visit with a couple from Ithaca, Michigan.  While we were chatting we watched low, thick white clouds moving towards us from the southwest against a dense, dark gray sky.  A couple of drops of rain was our early warning to return to the coach.

We got back before the rain started but once it did we closed the roof vents and reduced the window openings.  The forecast a few hours earlier had a chance of a thunderstorm at 9:15 PM but by 2 PM it was raining hard and an old leak around the bedroom exhaust vent/fan reappeared.  I also found a small leak at the lower outside corner of the new lower passenger side windshield.  We were both pretty discouraged at these continued leaks having hired people to fix them.  The heavy rain continued off and on for hours prompting Linda to track it in her iPad and eventually turn on the TV.  Lee County, which includes Fort Meyers about 45 miles due south of us, was under a tornado warning.  Arcadia is in Desoto County, which is the next one north, but the weather here was not severe, just wet.

While Linda was preparing dinner I e-mailed the members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter to let them know that the public portions of the chapter website were now open for viewing and that I would be e-mailing each of them a unique username and password for the Members Only area in the near future.

For dinner Linda made a quinoa dish with julienned carrots, diced green onions, grated ginger, edamame, diced cucumber, and diced bell pepper.  She served it at room temperature and it was another fabulous dish.

After dinner Linda put on the Bengals-Steelers NFL playoff game while I started generating the usernames and passwords for the Freethinkers website.  I finished that work in about 90 minutes with the process of creating users automatically sending an e-mail to each member with their login information.  With that done I settled on the sofa with my iPad to finish up blog posts while we continued to track the weather.  The frontal system responsible for the wet/severe weather stretched from out in the Gulf of Mexico ENE across the Florida peninsula and was drifting to the east as storm cells raced along it.  Fort Meyers got 3″ of rain and sustained some wind damage from a rare January tornado.  The system was due to pass over Naples between 9 and 9:30 PM.  Our friends, Barb and Chuck, are there so hopefully they will just get rain like we did.

We did not have any more rain after dinner so we opened the roof vents and turned the exhaust fans on.  The forecast for Arcadia kept changing through the evening with the probability of rain around midnight bouncing up and down.  By the time we went to bed it looked like we might be done with precipitation for the night.

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

We made it through the night without any further rain or threatening storms and got up around 7:30 AM this morning.  We got dressed right away but I did not make coffee.  Our main objective for today was a visit to the Florida Winter National Wood Art Expo and Competition (FWNWAEC) in Punta Gorda.  We gathered up raincoats, camera gear, and a list of addresses for places we might visit, and headed out around 8:15 AM.  We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then continued west into downtown where we picked up US-17 and headed south to Punta Gorda.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

We had a pleasant drive down and arrived at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda just after 9 AM.  The FWNWAEC opened at 9 AM so our timing was good.  The parking lot was mostly empty so I got a spot near the building and we finished our coffee before going inside.  Admission was $7 each and we got wristbands that allowed us to come and go all day if we wanted to.

We spent a couple of hours looking at all of the wood carvings on display and I photographed a few of them.  There were also lots of vendors selling tools, materials, supplies, and finished products.  At one of those tables we met John, who heads the woodcarving group at our RV resort, and learned that there will be woodcarving classes at the Turner Center February 8-11 and another exhibition there on February 20.  He invited us to stop by when the woodcarving group meets at the resort on Thursday mornings.

By 11 AM we had seen everything we wanted to see.  On our way out of the building the ladies at the entrance table were explaining to someone else some of the other things to do nearby and I heard mention of a Farmers Market.  I asked about its location and got directions.  Before leaving the event center area we walked the grounds around the Convention Center and Tiki Bar that is part of the Sheraton Four Points hotel next door.  We then headed south on Retta Esplanade through a nice area of wonderful homes on our left and waterfront parklands on our right.  There was a very large craft fair in progress but we passed it by in favor of finding the Farmers Market.

The market was inland a few blocks and was located in a smaller, but lovely, park where the vendor canopies were spread out along a winding pathway that led to a historic house which was open for visitors.  There was also a group of about eight musicians with guitars, fiddles, and such.  Linda bought a large Miatake mushroom after we sampled some and decided it was one of the best mushrooms we had ever tasted.  We found another vendor selling turmeric in root form.  She said it would keep for months so Linda bought a large piece.  At another vendor she bought sesame seeds and flax seeds, so the market turned out to be a good stop.

From the market we continued south in search of the Peace River Wildlife Center.  It was a small, private facility but had quite a collection of animals, mostly birds, that were being rehabilitated (if possible) for release back into the wild or living out their lives’ (if release was not possible).  A small donation was requested on entrance and willingly paid.  Most of the birds were in enclosures that made them difficult to photograph but the pelican area was open, and wild birds came and went, so I was able to get a few photos there.

From the Wildlife Center we drove back north into downtown Punta Gorda and the headed northwest on the Tamiami Trail across Charlotte Harbor towards Port Charlotte.  Our destination was the Earth Origins market in Port Charlotte which was, conveniently, located on the east side of the Tamiami Trail.  I say conveniently because the Trail was basically a 20 mile long strip mall.  It was six lanes divided plus left and right turn lanes, and choked with cars, so having the store on the side of the road we were already on was definitely convenient.

We were done with our shopping by 2:30 PM and realized that we were only 36 miles from Steve and Karen Limkemanns’ place in Nokomis (near Venice).  We called and got Karen on the phone.  Steve was out riding his bike but was due back soon.  They had no plans for the rest of the day so we headed their way.  We had been to their mobile home park (Bay Lake Estates) two years ago but had not been there since they bought their own place this past March.  It took about 45 minutes to get there, by which time Steve had returned from his bike ride.  We got a tour of their new place, which was one of the newer units in the complex and very nice.  We also walked up to see a unit that had caught fire and completely burned.  It was stunning to see how little of it was left.  The unit next door did not burn but the vinyl siding facing the fire melted and sagged.  Most RVs are built much the same way as mobile homes and park model trailers and they do not do well in fire situations.

Before going to dinner we decided to drive to the Venice Rookery.  We saw a sign for it driving up and wondered just what it was.  It turned out to be a large pond with an island that was a favorite resting and nesting area for egrets, herons, Anhingas, and other birds.  The island provide natural protection from land-based predators and locals told us that a large alligator protected them from any threat that might try to swim across.  I took what photos I could but had not planned on doing wildlife photography and did not have the correct lens(es) with me.

The temperature had been moderate during the day and our shorts had been appropriate clothing.  The best time to view the birds is apparently at sunset when large numbers of them return to the rookery.  As the sun sank towards the tree tops it got decidedly chilly and we finally had to call it a day.  We will be back on the 18th to see The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theater and made plans to return to the rookery with appropriate clothing and photo equipment.

From the Rookery we drove directly to Cafe Evergreen for dinner, an organic restaurant not far from Steve and Karen’s winter home.  The Café is not specifically vegan but always has some nice vegan selections.  Linda and I both had roasted beet Reuben sandwiches.  She had an edamame salad as a side and I had baked sweet potato “fries.”  We both had lots of decaffeinated coffee but no dessert as we were quite full by the time we finished our meals.

We went back to Steve and Karen’s place and visited a while longer before finally leaving a little before 8 PM.  Linda wanted to see Downton Abbey at 9 PM and we figured we had an hour drive to get back to our RV park in Arcadia.  The GPS wanted to take us south on I-75 but we went north 10 miles and took FL-70 due east through Myakka River State Park.  About half way to Arcadia we encountered an accident scene and had to wait for 15 minutes before we could continue our trip.  We got home a few minutes after 9 PM so we were still able to watch the show.  The Abominable Bride episode of Sherlock was rebroadcast following Downton Abbey so we watched it again.

The weather had cleared out behind the strong cold front that pushed through the area yesterday and temperatures overnight were forecast to drop into the upper 40’s.  We closed down all the windows before we went to bed.  I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before climbing in.  It had been a long day and neither of us felt like reading or writing so I turned off the lights and we went to sleep.

 

2015/12/23 (W) Satchel’s Trifecta

We were up by 8 AM and sat around drinking our coffee until 9 AM.  For breakfast we had fresh blueberries, bananas, oranges, and toast along with orange/grapefruit juice.  I had apricot preserves on my toast.  I like all kinds of fruit preserves, but apricot is my favorite.

We are here at Williston Crossings until the 28th but that means we only have five more days and are starting to think about leaving and what we have to do to be ready.  Today’s chores potentially included:

  • Recharging the water softener;
  • Tightening the toilet paper holder in the bathroom;
  • Adjusting the pressure in the tires;
  • Removing and reinstalling the screen material for the entry door awning window.

It’s always something.

Fixing the toilet paper holder requires an Allen wrench which means I would have to get out my tool boxes.  Fixing the screen requires a special tool for inserting the retaining rib, which I do not have, and thus requires a trip to the local ACE Hardware store.  Adjusting tire pressures requires me to get out the air compressor and air hose, which is a nuisance.  And recharging the water softener requires the installation of the plastic flow restriction tube in the pre-filter housing and the addition of table salt plus a couple of hours of fooling around with the whole setup.  All of which suggests that I was probably not in the mood to do chores today.

On my personal “to do” list was uploading more blog posts, editing the ITR Oasis Combi Installation article for Bus Conversion Magazine, and uploading it to my BCM Dropbox folder for proofreading.  Linda wanted to organize and store the music CDs we brought with us, and I wanted to get out the various accessories for my Sony a99v DSLT camera and get them working.  Those things were under the bed.

I want to refill our fresh water tank as close to our departure as possible so even though we still had over 1/3rd of a tank (40+ gallons) we decided to take showers at the laundry/bathroom building which includes shower stalls.  Linda walked down at 10:15 AM and I walked down at 10:40 AM when she got back.

The only bus chore I got done today was recharging the water softener, but that was an important one to get out of the way.  I started at 11:15 AM by fitting the filter holder with the flow restrictor tube and partially filling it with 26 oz. of table salt.  I connected a short hose to the output of the softener to direct the discharge water, ran a strong flow of water for 15 seconds to stir up and saturate the salt, and then reduced it to a trickle.  I tested it for saltiness and it seemed salty so I let it run for 90 minutes.

We had baby carrot slices, orange pepper slices, and apple slices with hummus for lunch around 12:45 PM.  At 1 PM I again ran a strong flow of water through the softener for 15 seconds and then returned it to a trickle for another 90 minutes.  At the end of that time I ran a strong flow for 30 seconds and then let it trickle for one more hour.  By 3:30 PM the discharge was no longer salty so I tested it and it indicated 1.5 grains per gallon, which is as low as I can usually get it.  (Only once did I get it down to zero.)  I probably let the water run longer than necessary but the only sure way to know the salt is used up is to remove the filter housing and check.  A clear housing would make it much easier to do this, and I intend to get one.

In the time it took to recharge the water softener I uploaded 13 blog posts for August 19th through August 31st, 2015.  That meant I had finally gained some small ground, having uploaded more posts (29) in December than I had written (22) up through yesterday.  I also spent a few minutes going through Butch’s edits of the draft BCM article on the installation of an ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic heating system in their MCI MC-9 NJT motorcoach and incorporating changes.  I did not, however, have/take the time to move the photos inline with text and reformat it in two columns.  I plan to do that tomorrow and then upload it to my BCM Dropbox folder for proofreading.

We arranged to go to Satchel’s with John and Ali for dinner this evening and meet them there at 5 PM.  We left at 4 PM for the drive into Gainesville and stopped at the Walmart near the restaurant.  Linda needed a rolling pin and pastry mat and found both.  On the way back to our car we crossed paths with John and Ali in the parking lot.  It’s just far enough into town from the RV resort that we all try to be efficient by making trips multi-purpose.

It was our third visit to Satchel’s since we arrived in Williston and probably our final one for this winter unless we decide to return to this area for a while in March.  Ali does not care for Satchel’s pizza, specifically their sauce, but agreed to go anyway for our sake.  We had the same meal we always get; small salad, medium hand-tossed pizza with Daiya non-dairy mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes, and a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie for dessert plus a ginger soda for me, made in-house.

For our money it is one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, vegan or not, and clearly the best vegan pizza we have ever tasted.  We lingered and talked but eventually paid the bill and left.  In our case we needed to stop at the Publix supermarket on the way back to Williston for an assortment of things Linda needed for our Christmas day meals.

It was almost 8 PM when we got home.  We put the groceries away, turned on the TV, and watched several programs on PBS before going to bed.

 

2015/12/20 (N) Brooksville Hams

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda was up shortly thereafter.  I left all three thermostats on last night but had them dialed back so I turned them up to approximately 70 degrees F.  I say approximately because the dials are marked in Celsius every five degrees.  I fed the cats, washed a few dishes, and made our morning coffee.  We lingered with our iPads longer than normal and delayed breakfast as we would be leaving before noon, skipping lunch, and having an early dinner.  Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice.

After breakfast we both took showers and got dressed.  Linda went for a long walk with her iPod (she listens to audiobooks).  I worked at my computer, taking a break to empty the catch bowl in the utility bay and spread some more Spectracide Fire Ant Killer on mounds around our coach.  Linda got back from her walk at 11:15 and we got ready to leave.

We left at 11:30 AM for Bruce and Linda Whitney’s new place southeast of Brooksville, Florida.  We drove down US-41 through Dunnellon, Hernando, and Inverness, stopping at a Publix in Inverness for house warming flowers and the adjacent Panera for a bagel and coffee.  We continued on US-41 to Brooksville at which point we let the GPS take over and route us through a series of back roads to their place.  We got there a little after 1:30 PM.

Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) are fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) from our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) back home.  Linda retired around the same time I did and although Bruce is still working they have, like many of us, grown weary of winter in the north.  They found a 24 acre place southeast of Brooksville with five good size towers already in place—a dream location for a serious ham—and decided to buy it.  (Three of the towers are 200 feet tall.)  Bruce successfully got his employer to agree to let him change his work location to Florida and work from home.  That’s a good deal if your employer considers you valuable enough to let you do it.  Bruce has deep knowledge of power transmission technology along with his equally deep knowledge of RF phenomena.  He also has a deep understanding of the power utility industry, and his employer (ITC) clearly recognizes that unique combination of knowledge sets.

We got a tour of the house and property and I got a thorough tour of the antenna farm and ham shack.  Bruce has plans to add on to the ham shack at the southeast corner of the house and to add a covered pool to the east side of the house.  He also plans to build a barn and put in an RV pad next to it with a 50 Amp electrical service.

The house was very nice and located in the center of the property, which is rectangular but close to being a square.  Except for the house, which is surrounded with plants, there are no trees or other plants, just a grass that can be harvested for hay.  Bruce has arranged with a neighbor to harvest the grass.  The neighbor will maintain the field in exchange for the harvested material.  It will be a good deal for both of them; Bruce won’t have to mow it and neighbor will clear at least $7K from each harvest, typically getting at least two per year.

We sat in the living room and chatted for a while.  Linda (K8LMF) wanted to see the various plants around the house so the ladies went outside to look at them.  Bruce (W8RA) and I went to the ham shack, which is a far cry from the setup he has back in Michigan, to operate.  Using his spotting software he noticed a station operating from Swaziland and decided to try contacting them.  He turned the stacked 40 M beam to 104 degrees and tuned in the station.  There was a huge pileup trying to work this guy and we noticed in his QRZ.com listing that he was one of only four licensed amateur radio operators in Swaziland.  That does not automatically mean that Swaziland is a rare contact—it depends on how active these four hams are—but it does mean that opportunities are more limited than with most countries where thousands of hams are active and dozens to hundreds might be on the air at any one time.

We wrapped up what we were doing at 4 PM and drove to Papa Joe’s for dinner.  Papa Joe’s was six miles NNE of their house, closer to I-75 and Williston, so we drove separately.  That worked out well as we left from there after dinner and headed back via Cortez Blvd to I-75 and they had to drive to the grocery store at Cortez and I-75.

We took our time with dinner and left the restaurant at 6:30 PM.  We arrived back at our rig about 7:45 PM, completing the 76 mile trip in 75 minutes.  We did not turn on the TV and spent the rest of the evening reading.  I did not feel like working on this post so I read the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal.  Linda headed off to bed around 11 PM and I turned in at 11:15.  I went right to sleep while she continued to read, a reversal of our normal pattern, but she was deeply engaged in a book.

 

2015/12/17 (R) Breezy Oaks

Today must be upside down day.  Linda got up first this morning, before 7 AM, and I slept until almost 8:30.  Yesterday I used up the last of our first batch of coffee beans so before I could make coffee this morning I opened four 1/2 pound packs and refilled our four coffee canisters.

We had breakfast of English muffins and grapefruit around 9:30.  I had still not heard back from Al regarding a visit to his campground in Bushnell today.  We checked the Breezy Oaks website and the Music Jam was scheduled from 2 – 4 PM today.  Our plan was to take our folding chairs, get there around 1 PM, visit with Al for an hour, take our chairs to the jam session and continue visiting there until it ended, and then go to dinner.  When we visited Al two years ago we did not come on a Thursday for the music went to a Chinese Buffet in Brooksville.  Linda found a Mexican Restaurant in Bushnell with some vegetarian items and 4.5 stars based on 49 reviews, so we wanted to try it.

I called Al at 10 AM and got his voice mail.  I left him a message and asked for a return call and/or a reply to my e-mail to confirm his availability before we drove to Breezy Oaks as it is over an hour away from us.  I worked at my computer selecting and processing photos for my September blog posts and had just about decided that we were not going to visit Al today when he called just before noon.  Linda had walked up to the recycling bins but as soon as she returned we made quick preparations to leave.  We took our two “bag chairs” (they fold up like a tent and go in carry bags) and the good camera.

We pulled out of our site at 12:24 PM and worked our way slowly out of the RV resort via the front entrance.  We headed southeast on US-27 towards Ocala past its familiar ranches and equestrian centers; our first time this season traveling down this road that we used frequently two years ago.  We took I-75 south to exit 309, headed east on CR-673 a short distance, and then turned north on CR-671 and followed it for about a mile until it ended at the entrance to Breezy Oaks RV Park.

Per Al’s suggestion we followed the signs to the office building and parked there as the music pavilion is adjacent to the office.  Al was already there with his chair set up so we got our chairs out of the car and set them next to his.  We chatted for about 15 minutes before the Music Jam started at 2 PM.

Linda and Al waiting for the music jam to start at Breezy Oaks RV Park.

Linda and Al waiting for the music jam to start at Breezy Oaks RV Park.

About 18 people participated in the jam session and about two dozen more, including us, provided an audience.  Each participant got to lead two songs of their choice and pick the key while everyone else backed them up.  Country and bluegrass seemed to be what most of them knew.  They played and sang for an hour and then took a 30 minute break during which ice cream was available in the office, three scoops for $1.25.  That’s a good price, if you eat ice cream.  The jam session resumed at 3:30 and went for another hour.

The musicians gather on stage for the Thursday afternoon jam session.

The musicians gather on stage for the Thursday afternoon jam session.

When the jam session was done we went back to Al’s motorhome and decided to go to Coyote Rojo Mexican Restaurant in Bushnell for dinner.  It was on FL-48 just east of I-75 right off exit 316 which put us that much closer to home after dinner.  We talked about going to the Chinese buffet near Brooksville, where we went two years ago, but it was 20 miles away to the west of the RV park and would not have positioned as well for the drive home.

Al Hesselbart takes the stage as part of a duet.  Al mostly does musical recitations as opposed to singing.

Al Hesselbart takes the stage as part of a duet. Al mostly does musical recitations as opposed to singing.

We had a tasty meal that included a salad and a veggie burrito, both of which we shared, and Al had shrimp fajitas.  We lingered at the restaurant way past the end of our meal chatting about what we had been up to since we had last crossed paths.  Al will be running a booth at the Tampa RV Supershow for the Florida RV Dealers Association so we might see him again at the show.  We did not go to the show two years ago but from our base in Arcadia it will be a reasonable distance away.

Al and his “singing” partner front and center at the jam session.

Al and his “singing” partner front and center at the jam session.

We returned to Williston via the same route we came and encountered intermittent light rain the farther north we drove.  About half way up US-27 we finally drove into a heavy, steady rain.  By the time we got to Williston the rain had abated, at least temporarily, but it had obviously rained before we got there.  We stopped at the Kangaroo/Citgo Station and I filled the gas tank.

We were back at our rig by 7:30 PM.  Linda checked the weather on her iPad and showed me the radar.  A long narrow line of thunderstorms was stretching from far out in the Gulf of Mexico to the northeast into Florida west of Williston.  The storms were moving along the line as it drifted slowly east and the forecast said we might get an inch of rain.  I closed the roof vents in the bathroom and kitchen and closed the awning-style windows to where they were only open an inch or so at the bottom.  We turned on the TV and settled in to watch our Thursday evening programs.

The heavy rain eventually started and around 9:10 PM the lights in the RV resort flickered several times and then the electricity failed.  Our inverter immediately switched over to batteries and kept everything running, which was comforting.  For as much money and time as we’ve spent upgrading these systems it nice when they actually work as intended.  I turned off a few lights and the laser printer to conserve energy just in case it turned out to be a long outage.  The Amped Wireless router and the NAS are both plugged into a backup power supply so they will not suffer any loss of power even if the inverter does not come on.  The Wi-Fi Ranger, however, is not on the UPS and this event reminded me that I need to do something about that.  From one point of view it didn’t matter, as the resort Wi-Fi went out with the loss of power, but the WFR is also the main router for the coach and as such is the DHCP server for our private network.

We continued watching our TV programs and I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it so we could continue doodling on our iPads.  Linda felt she had eaten too much for dinner and was a bit uncomfortable so she went to bed a little after 10 PM.  I stayed up and watched the local evening news at 11 PM, something I almost never do, and then went to bed.

 

2015/12/16 (W) More Blog Stuff

I was awake before 7 AM but did not get up until 7:15.  I removed and cleaned my nighttime bite guard, as I do every morning.  I then cleaned the cats’ food bowls and filled them with fresh food.  Linda was still sound asleep so I worked at my computer for a while selecting and processing photographs for blog posts.  I finished my selections for August and was part way through September when Linda got up so I put that work aside and made our morning coffee.

We both worked on our iPads for an hour doing our usual morning things.  Linda texted John (Smitty) regarding going to Satchel’s this evening for dinner and I messaged our daughter regarding Facetiming with everyone on Friday, which is grand-daughter Madeline’s 3rd birthday.  Linda proofread our 2015 Year in Review holiday letter and found a few things that needed to be corrected.

For breakfast we had granola with fresh blueberries, orange/grapefruit juice, and split a banana.  After breakfast Linda got dressed and I took a quick shower (she took one yesterday.)  I was going to use the bathhouse but decided to shower in our coach to use up more of the remaining fresh water and get it into our gray tank.  The fresh water level dropped below 1/3rd yesterday which meant we still had 40 gallons, easily enough for two more days with a little reserve.  I got dressed and we dealt with a few chores.  Linda vacuumed the inside of the coach, which she had not done since we left Michigan.  I dumped our holding tanks and filled our fresh water tank and updated our water usage spreadsheet.

I calculated our fresh water usage and waste water generation for this past winter.  Over 128 days we averaged just over 13 gallons of fresh water per day and over 120 days generated an average of just over 15 gallons per day of waste.  Those numbers suggest that a 130 gallon fresh water tank and a single 150 gallon waste tank would be well balanced and allow us to boondock for 10 days with some reserve.  That’s only 280 gallons total, 40 gallons less than the 320 gallons (approximately) of the three tanks currently in the bus, so tanks that size would create the space I need in the bay for a water softener, filters, and fresh hose reel, and possibly a shorepower cord reel.  When we pay more careful attention to water management and conservation we can reduce our fresh water usage to 10 gallons per day with a corresponding reduction in waste generation.  That would allow us to boondock for 13 days.  With slightly larger tanks we could stay out 14 days and still have room for the things I want to get into the bay.  Final decisions will depend on more precise calculations and the actual dimensions of possible equipment.

With the chores done (for now) Linda started addressing envelopes and putting postage on them while I made final changes to our holiday letter and started printing copies.  She folded the letters, stuffed them into the envelopes, and sealed them.  It took about two hours to get 34 letters ready to mail.  We skipped lunch and just had a few pretzels.  We wanted to stop at Walmart on our way to Satchel’s so we left at 2:45 PM and drove to the Williston post office, sent the letters on their way, and headed to Gainesville.  John and Ali followed later in their own car.

At Walmart we found Christmas cards for mailing checks to immediate family members.  I got two pairs of shorts, as I forgot to pack mine when we left home, and we picked up two bags of Snyder`s sourdough pretzel nibblers.  I also got a call from Pat Lintner.  We chatted briefly and I said I would call him back when we got hone after dinner.

We were at Satchel’s by 5 PM and sat inside.  We had the same selections as last time: small salad and medium pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese, onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes.  We only ate half the pizza and brought the rest home. This pizza is soooo good.  It’s one of the best we have ever had, including all of the non-vegan pizzas we have eaten over our lifetime.  Only the original Luigi’s Pizza from St. Louis in the 1960’s stands taller in our memories, although the current Imo’s chain makes a similar and very good pizza.

We were back at our coach by 6:45 PM and went for an evening stroll to help settle our dinner.  It was cool but humid and the clouds had cleared out so a pleasant enough evening for a walk.  When we got back to our coach I called Pat and we talked for about 40 minutes with Vickie occasionally joining in on the other end of the call.  They are not leaving Indiana until after Christmas and will spend New Year’s Eve at an RV park near Ocala, Florida as they have every year for many years.  They will be less than 40 miles from Williston at that point but we will already be in Arcadia by then.  Timing is everything.

Some nights I just do not feel like working at my computer, or iPad, or reading, and tonight was one of those nights.  Unfortunately Wednesday evening is a bit of a TV wasteland, even on PBS, which is to say there wasn’t anything on that interested me.  The best thing on was a Big Band retrospective on PBS but it was also part of the 24/7 fundraising that has become the network’s defining characteristic.  Whatever the reason, the music did not grab me the way it normally would.  CBS had a 3-hour Survivor finale.  Nope, not going to watch that.  Linda read and I scrolled through channels hoping something interesting would pop up but eventually I zoned out.  Even Ask This Old House (AskTOH) was less interesting than usual.  I guess I just wasn’t in the mood.  It happens sometimes.

 

2015/12/09 (W) Return to Satchel’s

I was up at 7 AM.  It was 66 in the coach; cool but tolerable.  I put on my sweats, fed the cats, and cleaned their litter tray, but did not turn on the heaters.  Linda was up by 7:15.  I made coffee and we delayed breakfast until later.  We are going to Satchel’s for dinner with John and Ali this evening so we decided to have brunch instead of breakfast and lunch.  Satchel’s has some of the best vegan pizza we have ever had, including a choice of vegan cheeses, so it will be a big meal for us.

Linda used her iPad to do some holiday shopping.  I checked my e-mail and was then going to play a few games on my iPad but the iOS 9.2 update was available so I started the installation process and set it aside.  Once the updated OS was installed I had five app updates available so I initiated those, one at a time, and started working on this post.  The updates downloaded fast enough to be reasonable.  Either the Resort has made significant improvements in the Wi-Fi and Internet connection bandwidths or very few people are using the system at the moment, or both.

I got the BCM boxes out from under the bed and integrated in the issues I received on Monday.  Everything was there so the three sets of issues are ready to give out as door prizes in at the Arcadia Rally 2016.  I worked on the photo tips article for BCM for a while and then decided to do some more work on the BCM page on our website.  I had a detailed e-mail from Gary at BCM with suggestions, and I find it easier to use that kind of information when it is printed out, but when I tried to print it my computer said the printer was offline.  The printer display said it was “Ready” so I had a problem to investigate and resolve.

This was the first time we tried to use the HP Color LaserJet 3600 printer since we put it on board the bus and it was the first time we had connected it via the Amped|Wireless SR20000G network extender / router.  I had expected it to plug-and-play as this trip was also the first time we have used the newer/larger NAS on the bus with this particular router and it worked without me having to do anything to configure it.

I downloaded an updated version of Advanced IP Scanner and ran it.  It could not find the printer and claimed that both of our computers and the NAS were “dead” connections, even though they were communicating with each other and the Internet.  All of the evidence suggested that the problem was somehow related to network addresses.  I went into the printer configuration menu via the front panel and changed two settings, turning on IP Release and IP Renew.  I turned the printer off and back on but that did not cause it to connect.

I went in and out of the control panel in my computer looking at the various screens related to devices and drivers, specifically printers.  I also went into the web interface for the SR20000G where some settings and context dependent help screens caught my attention.  In particular, the SR20000G appeared to be set up as a DHCP client rather than a server and the help screen suggested that it was getting IP addresses from the primary router, i.e., the one connecting our “home” network to the Internet.  In our motorcoach, that is our Wi-Fi Ranger, and the Wi-Fi Ranger operates on a different range of locally routed IP addresses (10.139.1.nnn) than most home networks (192.168.17.nnn).  I opened the Advanced IP Scanner again and figured out how to get it to scan the local address range served by the Wi-Fi Ranger and voilà, there was the printer, the NAS, our computers, and the SR2000G.

The final step was to revisit something that caught my eye earlier.  In the printer driver configuration there is a Port screen and the printer was configured with a Standard TCP/IP Port in the 192.168.1.nnn range.  I created one in the 10.139.17.nnn range to match the address that Advanced IP Scanner indicated had been assigned to the printer.  I tried printing a printer test page and voilà (again) I heard the familiar sound of the printer indexing a sheet of paper and shortly thereafter had the test page in my hands.  I went into my e-mail and printed the one from Gary.  This was not what I expected to be doing today but it was satisfying to get it resolved and not have it take any longer than I did to get it done.

One of our tasks for today was reinstalling the awning style window in the living room.  I happened to notice this morning that one of the lever pins on the other driver side window was coming out, indicating that the C-clip was missing.  Closer examination revealed that the lever pins on the four windows we had repaired in April 2014 were all reinstalled with pins put in backwards.

I took a break from my other work at 1 PM and drove to the local NAPA store to buy new C-clips.  The clerk at the store had a kit of clips and a paper template for matching style and sizes.  He said our existing clips are actually E-clips, not C-clips, and the size I needed was a 1007.  He did not have any in stock but ordered them from another store and said they would be in at 4 PM.  We would be on our way to dinner by then so I indicated I would pick them up in the morning.

Back at the motorcoach John stopped by to let us know that he and Ali were going to do some shopping before dinner and to figure out a time to meet us at the restaurant.  We agreed on 5 PM.  As long as he was here I gave him the bag of Fire Ant Killer I bought for him on Monday.

We decided that we would also do some shopping before dinner.  We left at 3:15 PM and headed up FL-121 towards Gainesville.  When we got to I-75 we headed north to the next exit at Archer Road (FL-24) and made our way slowly through the traffic, into the outdoor mega-mall, and to Walmart.  We needed a small hassock (that would double as a storage cube), a small table (that we could put between the two captains chairs), a non-slip shelf liner (to put under the printer), a seat cushion (for the card table chair at the desk), a small mat (to put on the floor outside the shower to catch cat litter), batteries (for our bathroom scale), and high quality 8.5×14 paper (to print our holiday letter).  We found all of those items except the last one, but did not buy the hassock as the store only had them in gray.  We then worked our way to the Office Max store at the center of the mall.  They only had one (open) ream of 8.5×14 paper and it was regular copy paper.  Useless for our needs.

We put the address of Satchel’s pizzeria/restaurant into the GPS and worked our way over to the east side of town through rush hour traffic.  We pulled into the restaurant parking lot at 4:41 PM just as John and Ali were stepping out of their Tahoe two spots down.  Satchel’s is a very popular place but at quarter to five it was mostly empty.  It was a lovely late afternoon but the sun was already setting and the air would being cooling off quickly so we asked for an inside booth, which also happen to have padded seats.

We started with a small salad that was still big enough to share with Ali and John.  They had pizza slices but we ordered a medium (13″) pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese, onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Soooo good.  John and Ali split a bottle of Cabernet, Linda had water, and I had ginger ale.  Satchel’s makes their own soda pop and it is very tasty (but contains sugar).

By the time we left the restaurant at 6 PM it was full of people, inside and out, and the noise level had risen to where Linda and Ali were starting to have difficulty with conversation.  We settled our bill and went on our way.  John and Ali had more shopping to do but we headed straight for Williston.  As we were approaching the intersection at I-75 I noticed that I was getting low on fuel.  I probably could have made it to Williston, but why chance running out of gas.  There are five filling stations near this intersection but the Mobil station was the first one on the right so I pulled in.  A few minutes later we were on our way again and we arrived back at our motorcoach at 7 PM.

I put the cushion on the desk chair while Linda put the placemat in the bathroom.  We opened the folding table and adjusted the height so the cats’ scratching post just fit under it and put it in place between the two captains chairs.  Having a table in that spot has been the plan from the beginning of the remodeling.  Although the folding table is temporary, it immediately increased the functionality of the interior.  It also allowed us to better visualize how the living room will look/feel when we finally install the permanent table.

Linda spent much of the rest of the evening shopping for holiday gifts and domestic necessities on Amazon.  She got presents ordered for everyone except her sister, with all of them being drop shipped directly to the recipients.  She also ordered a 15″x15″ brown storage hassock and a pair of washable floor towels (for the bathroom).  We definitely get our money’s worth out of Amazon Prime.

 

2015/11/14 (S) Tiling the Cockpit, #1

I was up at 6:30 AM and got a shower.  Linda got up closer to 7 and we were on our way to our ham radio club breakfast by 7:20; but not before I released two more mice.  Either we have a significant colony living nearby or the same few animals are finding their way back into the house.  We find it hard to believe, however, that if they are returning they would re-enter the trap.

We had a good showing for breakfast, minus a few regulars due to the ham fest in Ft. Wayne, Indiana today and tomorrow.  We were the second two people to arrive so we got to sit across from the other Bruce and Linda.  They are leaving for their new place in Florida before the next breakfast so the next time we see them will be in the Sunshine State.  We had a lot of work to do on the bus this weekend so we did not linger over breakfast and were on our way home by 9:15 AM.

The seat cushions and spacer cushion for the built-in sofa in the bus.

The seat cushions and spacer cushion for the built-in sofa in the bus.

By 10 AM we were working on the floor tile for the front of our motorcoach, which I often refer to here as the “cockpit” as a convenient shorthand.  In a sense the cockpit consists of several sub-areas.  I think of the “entry” as consisting of the stairs and the first landing.  At the same level as the landing is the “driver’s area.”  I sometimes refer to this as the pilot’s seat as most of the controls for operating the bus when it is in motion are located here.  The dashboard, however, extends into the landing area and contains controls for some of the house systems.

One step up from the landing level is the “front passenger seat platform” which I often refer to as  “the platform” as a convenient shorthand.  The portion of the platform closest to the entry door side of the bus is where the front passenger seat is located, which I sometimes refer to as the co-pilot and/or navigator seat.  It’s really not a co-pilot seat as you cannot operate the bus from there, so navigator is really the more appropriate term.  In the center of the platform, and extending towards the driver’s side of the bus, is a step which gets you up to the main floor level.

Because the pilot and navigator seats are on different levels from the main floor those seats are not usable as part of the living room, making the front portion of the interior a distinct and dedicated space with its own character, much like a cockpit in an airplane or ship.  Nonetheless, we used the same fabric on the these two seats as we did on all of the other living room furniture and we are using the same tile on the floors and walls as we used on the main floor.

Bruce uses the heat gun to soften a piece of the floor tile so he can cut it.  (Photo by Linda. )

Bruce uses the heat gun to soften a piece of the floor tile so he can cut it. (Photo by Linda. )

We worked from 10 AM until almost 4 PM measuring, cutting, and dry fitting the tiles for the landing and driver’s area.  The driver’s area in particular took a lot of time as every tile had to have something special done to it.  Intricate curves had to be cut to fit around the steering column, brake pedal, and the perimeter of the area and holes had to be drilled for the seat base bolts.  All of this intricate trimming was done by heating the back side of the tiles with a heat gun (much hotter than a hair dryer) and cutting the softened tile with a razor knife.

We quit working for the day at 3:45 PM and changed clothes.  By 4:15 we were on our way to meet John and Diane Rauch at the Livonia 20 Cineplex on Seven Mile Road just west of I-275 for a 5 PM movie.  Ever since Daniel Craig started playing the role of James Bond in the 007 movies we have gone to see them with John and Diane not long after opening day.  After the movie we went to the Macaroni Grill, which is walking distance from the theater on the northeast corner of the intersection of Seven Mile Road and Haggerty Road.

We had to wait awhile for a table but we had plenty to talk about and the time passed quickly enough.  We were seated by 8:20 PM and finally left our table at 10:20.  We started with bread, olive oil, and wine.  We split a two liter bottle of the Chianti house red wine.  It was priced the same as five glasses, but we each had more than two glasses, so it was a good deal.  All four of us had a “make your own pasta” dish with a salad, and each one of us chose a different pasta and add-ins.  I had linguine with a garlic olive oil sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, and fresh spinach.  Linda had farfalle (bow tie) pasta with arrabiata (spicy tomato) sauce, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach.  Both dishes were well prepared and tasty, and they were vegan!

I stopped at our local Shell station to fill the fuel tank in Linda’s car and it was a little after 11 PM when we got home.  We had another mouse in the trap so I took the trap to woods on the southwest part of our property and released it.  Back inside I went straight to bed.  It had been a long but productive and enjoyable day that ended with too much food and too much wine too late in the evening but we were glad to have had a wonderful conversation with our longest standing Michigan friends.

 

2015/11/09 (M) Clever Mouse

Madeline coughed quite a bit last night and we were up several times to check on her, so we did not have the best possible night’s sleep.  We got up to stay at 7:30 AM and Madeline got up about 15 minutes later.  I made our morning coffee while Madeline helped her grandma wash blueberries and make vegan blueberry pancakes.  We had a lovely breakfast with orange juice, pancakes with real maple syrup, and blueberries, raspberries, and bananas on the side.

I check the mouse traps in the pantry every morning.  A couple of days ago I found one of them broken with the food gone and some mouse poop left in its place.  The pantry doors had been left open overnight so I figured one of the cats had discovered the trap (we use live traps) and tossed it around until the door fell open and the mouse escaped.  I threw it away since it was broken.  This morning I discovered that the food in the other trap had been replaced by mouse poop but the trap was upright with the door closed and was not broken.  The pantry had been closed all night so I knew the cats had nothing to do with it.  Apparently we have a mouse that has figured out how to defeat the traps.  We are not going to set kill traps so we will have to see what else we can find.

We lingered in the living room for a while enjoying our coffee by the fireplace, listening to Madeline play (with) the organ, and watching her play with some of her toys.  She made her futon into a car and took her two “bunnies” for a ride.  By 9:30 AM I had finished my coffee and changed into my work clothes.  It was just below freezing when we got up this morning, but it was a bright, sunny day with no wind, so it would be a comfortable enough day for working on the bus once I turned up the thermostats and warmed up the interior a bit.

My focus today was to get the SurePly underlayment installed on the floor of the passenger seat platform and maybe the two walls.  I also wanted to get the outside wall panel trimmed off so it will fit around the tile and needed to build a new step with an open front, but I did not expect to get to those tasks today.  First up, however, was getting the small patch I worked on yesterday to fit better and be secure.

I trimmed both ends of the underside of the main patch and recut the side/support panel.  I trimmed the side panel several times before I was satisfied with the fit.  I used heavy-duty double-sided tape to hold the top patch and side panel to the metal structure underneath.  I used a 1-1/2″ stainless steel self-drilling wood screw to secure the top to the vertical piece of 3/4″ plywood that forms the face of the passenger seat platform, and a shorter screw to secure the side panel to the same piece of plywood.  I then attached a temporary plate of SurePly over the side panel to the edge of the top plate to hold the side in alignment with the top.

The metal under this patch is rounded leaving a small space between the top and side pieces where they meet.  The vertical plywood front face is also beveled leaving a void.  I used Door and Window Trim Spray Foam Insulation to fill these areas.  This foam has a lower expansion than most spray foam insulation.  I did not overfill the voids but put enough in that it expanded out past the edge.  I will trim it off flush tomorrow when it is cured.  The foam adheres to anything it touches and is rigid enough to be somewhat structural so it should stabilize and secure the patch.  Once I trim it and cover it with underlayment it should be good as new.

Madeline’s Aunt Meghan, who is also her buddy, came to visit and play with her today.  She arrived at noon and I took a break to visit and have lunch.  After lunch Madeline, Meghan, and Linda went to the Brighton Mill Pond Playscape and I resumed working on the bus.  They were gone for several hours.

Floor patching compound being applied to the co-pilot/navigator platform.

Floor patching compound being applied to the co-pilot/navigator platform.

Before I could put a layer of underlayment on the passenger seat platform I needed to use floor patching compound to fill in some low spots and create a smooth taper from the plywood to some metal edging.  But first I removed all of the screws that secure this edging and counter-bored the holes so the screw heads would be flush.  As often seems to happen when I am working on something like this some of the screws were rusted and I did not have appropriate replacements.  I then have to make a trip to Lowe’s, which is what I did, and bought a small quantity of three different size flathead wood screws.  I stopped at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts to see if they had the large metal or nylon washers that are used with the swivel base for the front chairs.  They didn’t, but once again suggested that I try Howell Hardware in downtown Howell.  I have received that suggestion from people at several different stores so guess I need to check the place out.

When I got back home I finished installing the new screws.  The floor patch compound takes a minimum of three to four hours to dry, sometimes much longer, but after two hours it was dry enough for me to use a sanding sponge to smooth out some ridges and feather some edges that needed it.  It was clear, however, that I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish what I set out to do today.  And so it goes; I need to do the work correctly which means doing all the things that need to be done in the order that they need to occur.  Everything takes time and things that have to dry, set, or cure do so on their own schedule, not mine.

Phil had shown up around 3 PM so I went out to chat briefly with him and then went inside to change clothes.  He had a partial load of topsoil left from a job earlier today and dumped it on the other side of the street by the 3rd driveway culvert.  He used his front loader to place it along the south side of the new pull-through driveway extension and moved the small pile from the west end of the property to the north side of the driveway.

I still had plenty of daylight and wanted to make some good use of my time so I started thinking ahead to the layout of the tile in the cockpit.  I measured various parts of the cockpit and although the number of square feet is small compared to the main floor the layout will be more difficult.  As with all tile layouts it needs to be “balanced” while avoiding small pieces.  Linda and I agreed that the pattern in the cockpit does not need to match the main floor, which is laid out diagonally, so that opens up options for how to lay out the tile.

The main landing is less than two tiles wide (front-to-back) so the best layout for that area is with a grout line dividing it in half, but that might not work well in the driver’s area.  The driver’s area presents the additional problem of a steering column, brake pedal/valve, an accelerator pedal with its electrical cable that goes through the floor.  The “holes” in the tile to accommodate these things have to be created using two notched pieces so they can be installed around the protrusions.  I also need holes for the seat base mounting bolts and power cable for the 6-way power base.  Those can be actual holes but I do not want grout lines to fall at the edges of the base.  I also have to be cognizant of the walls, which are getting tiled.  The distance along the face of the passenger seat platform is close to 65″.  The tiles are 16″ squares so four tiles with three 1/8th” grout spaces is only 64-3/8″.  See, it’s complicated.

The other thing I pondered and measured was the new step between the passenger seat platform and the main floor.  Again there are several parameters:  (1) We want the finished (tiled) height to split the distance from the tiled platform to the tiled main floor exactly in half; (2) we want the finished depth to be half the finished depth of the platform, and; (3) we want an open front so we can store shoes under the step.  The total rise will be just under 14″ so the step rise will be a little less than 7″.  Subtracting about an inch for wood and tile will leave a 6″ high space for shoes.  The platform is 29″ deep so splitting that in half results in two treads of 14-1/2″, plenty deep for shoe storage.  I considered having the step angle across the platform, being deeper by the driver seat and shallower by the passenger seat.  While it would add an element of aesthetic interest it would greatly complicate the construction without adding any practical utility, so I rejected that idea.

As I considered the construction of the new step I was also thinking about the fact that there is a hole in the front end of the passenger side HVAC duct.  The hole opens into the space behind the switch panel on the wall next to the passenger seat and just aft of the entry door but there is nowhere for the air to go from there.  The hole is easy to see but not easy to reach so I estimated it to be three inches in diameter which is approximately seven square inches in area.

One possibility is to install a 4″ diameter circular louvered duct in the switch panel.  It would be large enough in area, could be rotated to direct the flow in any desired direction, and has internal shutters that could be closed down to reduce or cut off the air flow.  The main downside is lack of space behind the panel but I could cut off the tube behind the locking tabs.  Another downside is that the cats sleep under the passenger chair while the bus is moving and the direct airflow might be uncomfortable and/or annoying for them.

Another possibility is to create a narrow duct along the back wall of the platform the same height as the new step and tie it in to the inside of the step, allowing the conditioned air to come out the open front.  That will involve a bit more woodworking and complicate the tile installation, but could be added later, so I will probably opt for the round louvered register for now, if I do anything.

When I was done pondering the HVAC possibilities I put the seat pedestals back on the landing, locked up the bus, and went inside to change clothes.  Meghan left while I was changing clothes so I did not get to say goodbye.  Apparently Linda thought I was taking a shower and would be a while.  Since we needed to get Madeline back to her house well before her bedtime we decided to head to Ann Arbor and have dinner there.  I deflated and rolled up her portable toddler bed while Linda and Madeline gathered up her clothes, books, toys, and other things.  I loaded the car while Linda got her dressed to travel.  I checked in with Phil to get a status update and let him know we were leaving.  We were on our way at 4:45 PM.

The drive down was OK as the really heavy traffic was headed north out of Ann Arbor.  We tried to keep Madeline awake by reviewing all the fun things she had done since she got to our house late Friday afternoon but we were not successful.  As I exited M-14 eastbound onto US-23 southbound I could see that traffic was stopped not far after the Plymouth Road exit so I left the highway and headed west on Plymouth Road to Huron Parkway.  From there I headed south, paralleling US-23 to the west.  At Washtenaw Avenue I turned east, and after a short distance turned left into the small shopping plaza where Elevation Burger was located.

I order a grilled cheese sandwich and Mandarin oranges for Madeline.  Linda and I had vegan burgers and fries and Linda shared her fries with Ms. M.  Madeline was slow to wake up but perked up when her food arrived.  That girl likes to eat!  🙂  After dinner we made the short trip to Madeline’s house and arrived at 6:30 PM.  Linda got Madeline into her pajamas while I brought all of the stuff in from the car and turned up the thermostat.

Madeline was wide awake and full of energy so she played with her kitchen toys and tools and had Grandma Linda read her four stories.  I dozed off for a little while and then spent some quality time with Gus the cat.  Gus loves people but tends to keep his distance from Madeline who is just a bit too energetic and enthusiastic for him.

Brendan and Shawna’s flight was due in to Metro Airport at 6:50 PM and he texted Linda at 6:51 that they had landed.  They were home before 8 PM and got to spend time with their very awake, excited, and active daughter.  We left at 8:30 and stopped at Biggby Coffee on Washtenaw Avenue.  Rain was moving into our area from the south but had not yet arrived and the drive home was uneventful.  We were home by 9:15 PM and headed straight to bed where we watched Scorpion and NCIS-LA.  Linda came down with a cold while Madeline was here and went to sleep as soon as NCIS was over.  I watched Travelscope on the Create channel and left the TV on while I worked on this post.  It was another long, busy day during which I made forward progress on the bus.

 

2015/10/30 (F) 21AA

Linda was up and out the door at 6:15 AM.  I got up an hour later, got dressed to work, and had the last banana-nut muffin and a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins.  I turned on the fireplace and settled in to do a search for Chevron Delo 100 conventional SAE 40 motor oil.  O’Reilly’s Auto Parts had it listed online and available in some of their stores locally but not the ones closest to me.  I called the store in Howell and Ron checked the warehouse.  The inventory showed 32 ‘units’ but he said they were packaged with three one-gallon bottles to a box.  I needed 8 gallons to change the oil in the bus’s DD8V92TA engine so I ordered 3 boxes.

I thought I had heard a heavy truck earlier as I was getting dressed but did not investigate.  Around 8:30 AM I heard another one and eventually the gravel hauler pulled into sight.  That meant Phil was already here so I put on my coat and hat (it was chilly outside) and grabbed my camera.  Phil had already spread out some of the construction fabric and the gravel hauler was backing in to the third driveway entrance to dump a load of 21AA road gravel.  He pulled out, unhooked the rear trailer, backed in with the front trailer, and dumped a second load.  The sun was up but low in the sky.  It was brilliant, lighting up the fall colors against darker gray skies to the west but blue skies and white clouds overhead, so I snapped a few photos.

Construction fabric in place on the upper and lower portions of the driveway extension.

Construction fabric in place on the upper and lower portions of the driveway extension.

The gravel hauler reconnected his rear trailer, drove down the street, and turned around by backing his double trailer into the road that leads to the court.  Phil had told me the driver was incredibly skilled but I was impressed watching me maneuver his tractor-trailer train.  After he was gone I helped Phil (a little bit) position some of the construction fabric.  The gravel train was due back in an hour with another load so Phil started up his Takeuchi front loader and started moving the large pile of gravel into place.  I took a couple more photographs and then went inside to have granola for breakfast.  I did not feel like making coffee so I had some Stash China Black tea with soy creamer.  While the water was heating I turned up the thermostats in the bus and the garage.

While I was chatting with Phil he mentioned that he gets all of the things he needs to maintain his Peterbuilt truck and other equipment from Southwest Brake on Haas Lake Road off of Grand River Avenue.  That is certainly closer than driving to W. W. Williams in Dearborn so I checked it out.  I talked to Jack but he could not tell me if they had the filters I needed without part numbers to cross reference.  While I was at it I Googled W. W. Williams and checked the distance to their Dearborn and Saginaw locations, which were 53 and 63 miles respectively.  I also checked the website for A & L Systems in Redford, which is where I get the replacement elements for the Racor fuel filter / water separators.  Before I went to any of these places, however, I checked my existing supply of filters as I try to keep these on hand.

The gravel train returned at 10:05 AM and unloaded two more trailer loads of material.  I checked my stock of filters and appeared to have an oil filter, a spin on fuel filter, and two filter elements for the Racor fuel filter / water separator, but I wasn’t sure.  I spent the rest of the morning checking websites and making phone calls to track down the ones that I needed.

W. W. Williams in Dearborn had the oil filter and secondary fuel filter based on our engine serial number.  That’s pretty cool, and I have confidence that these relatively inexpensive, but critical, parts are the right ones for our engine and the best quality available. They could not identify the spin on coolant filter or the air filter, however.  The air cleaner assembly is apparently determined by the vehicle manufacturer and the two coolant filters on our bus are threaded on to a manifold that is not part of the engine.  I let Chuck know that I might be going to W. W. Williams this afternoon and he asked me to pick up 8 gallons of Detroit Diesel PowerGuard 40 weight oil for him, which I agreed to do.

I had a box in the tub where the filters were stored for a NAPA 4070 Coolant Filter / Conditioner.  I found it on NAPA’s online store but it turns out that Brighton Ford is also a NAPA store so I ordered it from them for pickup tomorrow morning.  They did not have the 6623 (546623) air filter and could not get one for pickup tomorrow.  Their price was higher than I recalled paying for the last one, and I did not need it right away, so I did not order it.

My last call was to A & L Systems, a small company that carries specialty products for heavy trucks and construction equipment.  I got our T. F. Hudgins Spinner II centrifugal oil cleaner from them but they are also a Racor dealer so I get the Racor fuel filter / water separator products from them as well.  John helped me figure out what I already had, which included two replacement elements for the large water separator on the main engine that also serves as the primary fuel filter.  The NAPA 2276 turned out to be the air filter for the generator.  I did not ask about the filter / separator for the Aqua-Hot as I am not going to have Joe change it (I can do it myself when I have time).

At 12:30 PM I chatted briefly with Phil to let him know I was leaving.  He figured he would be done placing and compacting the stone before I got back.  I think he was also going to level out some of the sand he placed at the west end of the yard but I wasn’t sure about that.  He still needs to bring in topsoil to fill in and grade both sides of the driveway and the low areas at the west end of the yard, but he needs the west end to dry out first.

I drove to W. W. Williams in southeast Dearborn.  I bought two secondary fuel filters and two oil filters for me, and eight gallons of Detroit Diesel PowerGuard SAE 40 oil for Chuck.  I then drove home.  It was just under an hour each way plus my time there, so it was a big chunk out of my day, but I did not have a choice as I needed to have the filters on hand by the time Joe got here.

Phil was, in fact, gone when I got back around 3 PM.  It appeared that he had finished spreading the gravel out, leveled the parking area, and driven over it with his track loader to compact it.  The track loader leaves ruts from the tracks so I drove up and down the driveway many times with my car to compact them and even out the surface.  It was mostly for cosmetic purposes, but it looked better and that made me feel better.  I took the filters into the garage and then used one of our metal toothed rakes to even out a few remaining ridges in the gravel.  When I was done I texted Chuck that I had his oil.

Linda called a little before 4 PM while I was working with the rake to let me know she had left the bakery and was stopping at Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner.  I suggested we go out to dinner instead and she quickly agreed.  I figured she would be at least an hour getting home with Friday rush hour traffic so I took a shower and put on my going-out clothes.  Traffic was heavy, as I expected, and she was tired, so it was long, hard drive home for her, as I expected.  We spent over half an hour considering our limited restaurant options without coming to a decision when Linda got a text message from Diane about walking tomorrow morning.  Linda texted back to see if they wanted to have dinner at Camelia’s, the little Mexican place near their house.  It took a phone call to confirm and finalize the arrangements but we agreed to meet them there at 7:30 PM.

Camelia’s is a nice little Mexican restaurant and we had a good meal over good conversation with old (long-time) friends.  Linda and Diane had Margaritas while John and I had draft beers (Dos Equis, of course).  Linda and I split an order of vegetarian fajitas.  They were smoking hot, literally, when they came to the table and very tasty.  We lingered at the restaurant until 9:30 PM.  John and Diane invited us to their house, which is near the restaurant, for tea but we deferred as we were tired, had a half hour drive to get home, and had to be up at 7 AM to drive to South Lyon for breakfast with our fellow amateur radio operators.

We got home a little after 10 PM and went straight to bed.  We caught a few minutes of weather and then went to sleep.

 

2015/10/25 (N) Bus Dinner

It was 44 degrees outside when we got up this morning but cozy in the house.  We were out of Linda’s homemade granola so we had oatmeal for breakfast.  It’s a nice change of pace on occasion and was a hot, hardy start on a chilly day.  I made a pot of Sweet Seattle Dreams coffee and we had a quiet morning in the living room.  We talked about going to the Howell Farmers Market, as today is the last day of the 2015 outdoor season, but did not need anything and given the temperatures decided not to go.  I changed into my work clothes at 10:30, went out to the bus, and turned up the thermostats to raise the interior temperature.

My focus in the bus today was tasks that I could not do alone.  I got my 15/16ths closed-end ratcheting wrench and removed the main retaining nut from the driver’s seat and from the front passenger seat.  Each of these nuts threads over a vertical stud that is fixed to the pedestal/riser which is in turn bolted to the floor.  In between the top of the riser and the bottom of the 6-way power base is a ball-bearing swivel plate which is centered on the mounting stud.  To get to these nuts I had to move the seats forward using the motorized bases and reach in from behind but I had good access and the nuts were not hard to loosen and remove.  I bought this closed end ratcheting wrench specifically for removing/installing these seat mounting nuts and it was worth every penny I paid for it.

With the nuts removed I unplugged the 12V DC power supply wires to each seat.  Linda and I were then able to lift the seats off of the pedestals without too much difficulty, carry them back into the kitchen (of the bus), and lay them down on their backs on the floor, which was protected with blankets.

The reason for removing the seats was two-fold:

  1. We were going to hang wallpaper on the living room walls where they merged into the cockpit and needed better access to those areas, and
  2. I plan to tile the floor and walls in the cockpit and entry this coming week and needed these seats out of the way in order to be able to do that.

Our next task, preparatory to hanging wallpaper, was to remove the walnut cover (half box) from the front eight feet of the passenger side OTR HVAC duct and wiring chase.  We set it across the two seats we had just removed to get it out of the way.

Bruce marks a piece of wallpaper on the dining room table in the house before cutting it.

Bruce marks a piece of wallpaper on the dining room table in the house before cutting it.

When we were finally ready to start wallpapering we needed three relatively short pieces; two to finish the driver side and one to finish the passenger side, at least as far as we intended to go.  I made a sketch for the shape of each piece, took measurements, and added them to the sketches.  The wallpaper is 26.5″ wide on the roll and the longest piece we needed was only 24″.  I got the 3′ and 6′ rulers from the shop while Linda got the roll of wallpaper.  We used the dining room table in the house to measure, mark, and cut each piece.  Although relatively small these pieces took some additional, careful, attention because they had to fit over, under, and around cabinets and window trim.  To make the installation easier I trimmed away as much of the waste material as possible before hanging the piece.

Linda partially filled two 5-gallon buckets with water, added soap to one of them, and brought them out to the bus while I retrieved the paint tray and liner and the 6″ pasting brush.  We laid out all of the wallpaper tools, put a towel on the floor, and set the paint tray/liner on the towel.  I poured the amount of wallpaper paste I thought we would need into the tray and started with the piece of wallpaper at the right end of the built-in sofa (towards the front of the bus).

As we had done previously everywhere else in the bus I applied the paste to the wall rather than to the back of the wallpaper.  The wall behind the sofa had been primed but the small strip above/behind the end cabinet and around into the cockpit had not been, so I used more paste in the unprinted areas.  This first piece required a lot of trimming so it took a while to hang but it looked good when we were done.  As I got each piece installed, with Linda’s help, she rolled the seams and then washed off the excess paste with a large sponge using the soapy water followed by a second sponge with clean water.

We continued along that wall towards the front of the bus with the second piece.  It did not require as much trimming as the first piece and went in a little faster and easier.  I overlapped the thin strip above/behind the cabinet with the first piece and cut through both of them to create a clean, tight seam.  When we hung wallpaper in our house many years ago all of the seams were done by overlapping adjacent panels and cutting through both pieces.  The paper we are using in the bus, which is actually vinyl, is installed by butting the factory edges together.  This certainly simplifies installation, and speeds it up a bit, but it is harder to get a perfect seam.  Still, it was the right choice for our motorcoach as it is washable and scrubbable and goes very well with the interior.

On the passenger side of the coach I pasted up the last section of the living room wall and part of the small section of wall under the trim on the window next to the front passenger seat.  I ended up cutting off a small part of this piece and installing in separately as the trimming required was intricate and awkward to do.

After installing the two parts of this third piece we decided to go ahead and paper a small triangular section of wall above the bottom window trim.  I got a scrap of wallpaper from the house that was big enough to cover the right triangle shape and cut it approximately to size.  I pasted the wall, set the bottom edge flush to the sill, pressed the back edge into its vertical corner, and trimmed off the excess.  This little section of wall was capped by a piece of walnut that ran at an angle along the bottom edge of the glass.  I trimmed off the paper at the bottom edge of the wood trimmed and tucked the paper in under the walnut.

The reason we did not wallpaper all of the small wall section below the window is that part of the plywood wall is severely water damaged and a piece of it rotted and is missing.  There is no practical way to replace the plywood and the only practical way to repair this area is to panel over it.  We could use thin plywood and wallpaper it but we have enough of the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood that we salvaged from the old refrigerator to panel this area.

We were done with the wallpapering by 2:30 PM.  Linda cleaned off most of the tools and then took the two buckets of water out of the bus to pour them out and clean them.  I took the paint tray/liner, pasting brush, and some of the tools to the laundry room and cleaned them.  There was very little paste left in the tray liner so I had estimated quite closely on the amount I needed for today’s work.

The swivel mechanisms for the two front seats consist of two rings separated by ball bearings and interlocked around the inside edge.  They have an ‘A’ side and a ‘B’ side and one of them was installed ‘A’ side up and the other ‘B’ side up.  They also have a large washer.  The driver seat was installed with the washer between the swivel bearing and the power base.  The passenger seat had the washer directly beneath the retaining nut inside the power base.  Given these differences I could not tell the correct orientation and order of assembly by casual inspection of the pieces involved.  It is possible that the swivel plates are, in fact, symmetrical and thus can go in either way, but one of the washers had to be in the wrong place.

My interest in all of this was motivated, in part, by the fact that both of these seats have always wobbled since we bought the coach.  The new seats are firmly attached to the power bases which seem tight but may have some play.  I was suspicious of the swivels, however, as the main source of the play.  I studied the design for a while and came to some tentative conclusions.

When the swivel plates are installed the ring on the bottom (that sits on the pedestal) is not going to move as the pedestal is bolted to the floor.  The top ring, which will be in contact with the power base, is going to move relative to the fixed bottom ring when the seat is tuned.  I decided that the larger ring, which wraps around the inside edge of the smaller ring, should go on the bottom.  With regards to the washer it seemed to me that it should go directly under the retaining nut, allowing the power base to swivel relative to the nut without loosening it.  Further, placing it between the swivel plates and the power base would potentially prevent the base from fully resting on the swivel plate and allow the whole seat to wobble.

I will examine all of this again more carefully when we are ready to reinstall the seats.  For now, I took the two swivel bearings to the garage to clean and lubricate them.  After wiping them off I sprayed them with WD-40, worked them around, and wiped them off again.  I then sprayed them with garage door lubricant, worked then around again, and wiped them off.  Finally, I worked Red Tack ‘grease’ into the ball bearing race, spun the rings to distribute it evenly, and the wiped the outer surfaces clean.  After cleaning the grease off of my hands I took the swivel plates back to the bus, wiped the pedestal plates clean, and set them back in place.

We quit working around 3 PM so Linda could cut my hair and beard.  I then shaved, showered, and got dressed for dinner.  Linda showered after me but was dressed and ready to go before I was.  We made plans yesterday to meet Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) at Carrabba’s in Novi at 5 PM for dinner.  We left at 4:30 and arrived in Carrabba’s parking lot just after 5.

The parking lot was not full so we knew there would not be a wait for a table.  Bruce and Linda were already there and had opted for a booth.  The booths will seat six adults so they have more table space than a table for four. They also offer a bit more privacy for conversation in an otherwise not very private setting.

Carrabba’s had changed its menu since we were last here.  The one dish they had before, Tag Pic Pak (seriously), was no longer on the menu.  It was Linda’s favorite dish and one of only two that we could eat.  They had something with a different name that the waitress said was the same but it included chicken.  She said they could leave the chicken out but the price would still be $14.95.  The Tag Pik Pak was $10.95 as I recall.  We have come to resent paying for animal products that we don’t eat.  Linda ended up getting whole grain spaghetti with Pomodoro sauce and I got whole grain spaghetti with olive oil and garlic.  Linda said the sauce lacked flavor.  My dish was “off menu” and was unimpressive.  Our salads, dressed with vinegar and oil, were OK and the bread was very tasty.  Linda had a glass of wine and I had blackberry sangria.  Sangria is Spanish, not Italian, but it was good.  The meal overall was disappointing but we had a great time chatting with Bruce and Linda over dinner.  The manager stopped by to ask how our meal was (as a courtesy) and ended up having to talk to us for 20 minutes.

Back home Linda made vegan banana nut muffins.  The organic bananas we bought at Meijer’s two days ago must have been bruised because they were going bad very quickly.  Banana bread or muffins was a great way to salvage what we could.  While she made the muffins I went to my office, checked e-mail, and off-loaded the photos we took today.

At 8 PM I turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 ham radio and participated in the SLAARC Info Net.  When the net was over I came back upstairs, reviewed the items in my B&H Photo shopping cart, and placed the order.  I then spent a little time researching DC distribution panels on the DX Engineering website and doing a Google search for cantilevered table supports and legs.  We each had a muffin for dessert and went to bed at 10 PM.  I put on the Detroit PBS Create channel, turned down the volume, and worked on this post for a while before finally going to sleep.

 

2015/10/20 (T) Pop-X Pickle

It’s a good thing there are still five weeks until we depart for Florida; there are a lot of unfinished items that need to be taken care of on the bus and around the house/property before we go.

When Phil is here my attention tends to be on what he is doing.  He really knows his stuff, and is an excellent contractor to work with, but since he is not working from drawn plans there are inevitably questions and discussions about just exactly what it is I want and whether that is the best idea or even doable.

Phil had ordered a load of sandy soil for delivery first thing this morning and the “train” (double trailer) showed up not long after he did.  The sandy soil he wanted was not available so he got clean sand instead.  The train driver of the backed it over our third culvert and into the part of our yard were Phil wanted the material dumped.  That took a lot of skill and was impressive to watch.  I took a few photographs but video was really required to capture what was happening.  The Sony SLT-a99v does video in several different modes but I am just beginning to learn how to use it as a still camera and did not want to mess around with shooting video.  Besides, I am not a videographer; it’s a completely different way of thinking than being a still photographer.

Phil digs the trench for the electrical conduit from the SW corner of the garage to the far side of the driveway extension where he also dug a hole for the post that will support the RV outlet box.

Phil digs the trench for the electrical conduit from the SW corner of the garage to the far side of the driveway extension where he also dug a hole for the post that will support the RV outlet box.

With the material on site Phil was at the point where he needed to dig the trench for the RV electrical feed.  That meant I had to quickly make some final decisions.  I had an 8 foot 4″x4″ treated post and the PVC conduit pieces I needed to go from the post under the driveway to the other side but not enough to go all the way to the garage.  If I only put conduit under the driveway I could cap it, let Phil bury it, and then dig it up later and finish trenching from there to the garage.  I would not do that by hand, however, so it would mean having Phil come back next year just to dig this little trench.  Although I could have him dig the foundation hole for the ham radio tower at the same time that still did not make any sense to me.  Among other considerations I would have to fill the trench in by hand after I ran the cable.

Another option was to still use conduit just under the driveway but go ahead and run direct burial cable like we did two years ago for the pull-through driveway in front of the house.  I would need three (120VAC) or four (240/120VAC) large wires (or equivalent service entrance cable, each at least 80 feet long to get from the outlet box location in the post to the riser pipe on the garage and through the wall into a circuit breaker box.  Not only would I have to get the wire, which would be expensive, I did not have the outdoor outlet box or other parts I needed, so it would take me quite a while to go buy everything.  I also did not know exactly where/how I would feed the circuit.  (I had some ideas about that but they depended on just what the electricians do tomorrow.)

The most expeditious, and least expensive, option was to get more conduit and additional fittings and run the conduit all the way from the post to the southwest corner of the garage.  I left at 9:30 AM for Lowe’s as Phil started digging the trench and the hole for the post.

At Lowe’s I picked up five more 10′ pieces of 2″ PVC conduit, a 45 degree elbow, another 90 degree elbow, a right angle entry box, and a bag of 2″ conduit clamps.  By the time I got back to the house Phil had the post set in place and most of the trench dug.  I got all of the conduit pieces laid out on the ground and got the PVC cement, a hack saw, and the rope and weight.

Since Phil could not do anything else on the driveway until the conduit was installed he helped me install it (or vice-versa).  We joined 10′ sections to both ends of one of the 90 degree elbows and then dropped the weighted rope through it.  We then set the elbow and one of the straight sections in the trench with the elbow at the base of the post and the other straight section going straight up the post where I secured it with two clamps.  We proceeded to drop the weighted rope through additional straight sections of conduit, applied PVC cement to the ends, and put them together.  The conduit had to be inserted about 3″ into the mating piece and twisted as it went in.  I was glad Phil was there to help with this as I did not have the grip strength to do it by myself.  (I don’t have a lot of physical limitations but the arthritis in the base of my thumbs makes itself known in specific situations.)

When we got near the southwest corner of the garage we measured and cut a section of straight pipe to get us to a turn in the trench.  Because of a decorative grass plant the trench could not go directly to the desired location on the west side of the garage and had to go between the grass plant and a nearby small evergreen bush and then turned towards the garage.  We installed a 45 degree elbow to get around the corner and it ended up in the center of the trench.  When I said Phil knew what he was doing I meant it.  We again measured carefully and cut a short section of straight pipe to get us to a 90 degree elbow that would turn up and bring the conduit out of the trench and up the side of the garage.  I measured and cut the vertical riser section and we cemented it into the elbow.  We now had a complete run with conduit coming out of the trench vertically on both ends.

Phil back fills the trench for the electrical conduit from the corner of the garage to the RV electrical post.

Phil back fills the trench for the electrical conduit from the corner of the garage to the RV electrical post.

While Phil used his excavator to scoop and push dirt back into the trench and tamp it down I closed off both ends of the conduit.  At the garage end I removed the gasketed cover from the entry box, cut a short piece of 2″ conduit, and put it in the fitting hole on the back side.  Next I brought the weighted rope up through the bottom fitting hole of the box and used Gorilla tape to secure it inside the short back pipe.  I put a cap on the other end of the short back pipe and then put the entry box on top of the riser sideway.   I coiled up the extra rope, taped it inside the box, and put the gasketed cover back on.   I did not cement any of these connections.  When permanently installed the gasketed cover will point away from the wall and the hole in the back will have a longer piece of paper 2″ conduit cemented in and going through a hole into the wall of the garage.

At the post I used a Rigid brand pipe cutter, designed specifically for cutting large plastic pipe and conduit, to cut off the vertical riser at a convenient height above the top of the post.  I threaded the rope through a 3/8″ hole in the center of a 4″ disc of 3/4″ plywood and tied a big knot in it.  I modified the 2″ cap by drilling three adjacent holes lengthwise from the bottom up and cutting out material with a hacksaw to make a slot.  With the rope hanging over the edge of the conduit I lined up the slot in the cap with the rope and put the cap over the end of the conduit.

Since I decided to not have Phil build the area leading up to the planned barn location I wanted to pull all of the unneeded yellow plastic stakes out of the yard and put them away.  Re-staking the layout, however, is a time-consuming task so I put 10″ metal (iron) spikes at the locations of the front corners of the barn and the center point for the curved transition into the driveway.  I drove them flush with the soil so Keith would not hit them with his mower but we can find them later with a metal detector.

With the conduit installed and the trench filled and tamped, Phil filled started building the “curbs” for the driveway.  He had excavated parts of the driveway path and filled in other areas to create a base for the construction fabric and road gravel that was eight inches below the finish grade.  The construction fabric is 12’6″ wide and Phil likes to wrap it up on the sides about 8″ so when he staked out the driveway to be 11′ 2″ wide.  Phil used the sand to build up the areas along both sides of the driveway so that it looked like he had cut the driveway out, but that is not, in fact, what he had done.

My main bus project today was cleaning up the kitchen and living room, which mostly involved moving tools back to the garage.  It is a confined workspace and tends to get cluttered over time as we fetch tools for this and that.  I also wanted to be able to see the desk and its Corian countertop.

Two of the three sets of cushions in place on the new built-in custom walnut sofa/storage base.

Two of the three sets of cushions in place on the new built-in custom walnut sofa/storage base.

I called Butch in Quartzsite, AZ regarding the distributor tester.  He suggested that I send him an e-mail requesting Bill’s e-mail address and he would send it in his reply.  We then discussed the refrigerator and he suggested that I set the freezer to a colder setting, leave the fresh compartment setting as is, and monitor it for a while to see if it changes.  I did that and reset the min/max memory for both compartments.

Phil is not done with the French drain yet and spent part of the afternoon working on that instead of the driveway.  He made lots of trips back and forth with the front loader to take the topsoil he had removed to create the driveway, spread it out along on top of the pea gravel that fills the drain trench, and grade it off to blend with the undisturbed yard along either side of the drain.  Before he is all done with these two separate, but inter-related projects, he will have to bring in several truckloads of topsoil.  It will be used to fill low spots, especially at the west end of the property, and to cover everything that has been disturbed.  All of the topsoil will be finish graded to blend into the existing contours of the property and then seeded with grass seed.

The view from the living room looking towards the hallway.  The new built-in custom walnut desk has its Corian countertop in place and the new refrigerator is in place next to the built-in custom pull-out pantry.

The view from the living room looking towards the hallway. The new built-in custom walnut desk has its Corian countertop in place and the new refrigerator is in place next to the built-in custom pull-out pantry.

I did not want to get involved in any complex or time-consuming projects so I hung out on the west half of our yard where Phil was working and took lots of pictures with the new camera.  Actually, I had been doing that all day trying to document the work as it progressed.  When I wasn’t taking photos I gathered up broken branches and larger deadfall and carried or dragged it to the brush pile on the west side of the line of large fir trees that separate the east and west halves of our five acres.

Linda called around 3:30 and asked me to see if her wallet was on her desk.  She thought she had it with her but could not find it.  She finally located it in her car where it had been since falling out of her case this morning.  She was on her way home by 3:50 PM.

I had a final chat with Phil, who won’t be back until Saturday, and then closed up the bus and the garage.  We were headed to Ann Arbor this evening and I needed to get cleaned up and put on nicer, more appropriate clothes for our evening out.  I used to wear Oxford shirts and nicer pants every day for work, and sometimes a sport coat and tie or even a suit.  These days it’s mostly polo shirts and blue jeans or sometimes REI ripstop nylon convertible cargo pants.  And this summer it has mostly been my work jeans and work shirts.

We left around 5:15 PM and were parked in Ann Arbor before 6 PM.  We agreed to meet Kate at the Lab Cafe which was just around the corner from the Thompson Street parking garage.  (This garage is behind the former Border’s book store #1 which also housed the company’s corporate headquarters.  Our daughter started with Border’s as a cashier at this store and within four years was a regional manager for their PaperChase product line before the company imploded and went bankrupt.)

Kate was sending Linda text message updates on her travel status and ETA so we ordered a couple of decaf coffees to go.  At $3.75 each they were pricier than we are used to paying for coffee but they were “hand-crafted” and the coffee was very good.  It took the barista at least 10 minutes to make our cups, grinding the beans just before brewing and then slowly pouring hot water through individual filter holders after pre-wetting the filters.  In the time it took to make our coffee I would have been on my second cup at Panera.

Linda (front) and Kate (behind) take in the interior of one of the Pop-X art exhibit sheds.

Linda (front) and Kate (behind) take in the interior of one of the Pop-X art exhibit sheds.

The music was too loud and really awful, a bad combination in our opinion, so we sat outside in spite of the occasional attempt to rain.  When Kate showed up we walked the short distance to Liberty Park to see the Pop-X Art Exhibit.  Organized by the Ann Arbor Art Center, all of the art was displayed in “sheds” designed by an architect, one artist per shed.  The sheds were approximately 10 feet square with steep pitched roofs.  The roofs, and the two sides they pitched down to, were covered in clear wavy plastic panels to let in a lot of natural light.  The back end was solid and the front had a pair of sliding “barn style” doors hung from tracks.  There was a solid floor that was elevated relative to ground level and provision for electrical power.  They were designed to be sold as potting sheds after the exhibit was removed at the end of the week.  Although the light was fading I was still able to get some decent shots with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.  It has much greater light sensitivity than the Sony alpha 100 it is replacing as my primary camera and this was my first opportunity to take advantage of that since getting it.

Our main reason for coming to Ann Arbor was to have dinner with Kate but Pop-X was a nice bonus.  Ann Arbor has a LOT of dining options; hundreds I would guess just in the very walkable downtown area.  We decided to try the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company after Linda confirmed that they had some things on the menu we could eat.  It was a bit of a walk but the rain held off and it was an otherwise pleasant evening.

Linda had a dark Porter with definite chocolate tones and I had a hard cider with distinct cinnamon/vanilla tones.  It was also supposed to have roasted pecan notes but I did not detect that.  Kate had a red beer that was not hoppy and thought I might have liked it.  I had a sip of Linda’s Porter and it was very agreeable.  We both had small couscous and greens dinner salads, which were very nice, and both had wild mushroom burgers, which were excellent.  Linda said her chips were also very good and my French fries were tasty and generously portioned.  Kate had a burger and all of our meals came with pickles.  Kate does not care for pickles, which I knew, and does not care for vinegar in general, which I did not know, so Linda and I split her pickle rather than have it go to waste.  The waiter was very attentive and a good sport when I asked for a gallon of ketchup for my fries.  He brought two very full bottles for the table and a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce.  We tipped him accordingly.

At 9:30 PM we started a slow stroll back to the parking garage and chatted a while longer by our cars, which coincidentally were parked very close together.  It was 10:40 PM by the time we got home.  I fed the cats and we went straight to bed.  I was up later than I wanted to be trying to outline this post but I had not had much opportunity to work on it throughout the day.

 

2015/10/14 (W) Frankenmuth Friends

The forecast for today was for cloudy conditions in the morning changing to partly sunny in the afternoon with seasonally cool temperatures; a perfect fall day for our afternoon visit with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Catherine at the Jellystone Park Campground Resort in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

After our usual morning routine of feeding the cats, eating breakfast, and drinking our coffee while reading and writing, we showered and dressed for the day.  We were going to work in the bus on the installation of the desk but decided we did not have enough time and did not want to feel rushed.  We want the installation to be just right the first/only time.

I used some of the morning to continue studying the manual for the new Sony a99v DSLT camera and some of it to put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter roster and e-mail it to the other officers and members of the nominating committee.  I also got a text message from Chuck inquiring about local service options for the Cruise-Air air-conditioners we have in our buses.  I replied that ours have only been serviced by Butch Williams who is five hours away in Twelve Mile, Indiana when he and Fonda are not in the desert southwest.

We left at 11:15 for Frankenmuth.  We took Linda’s car so she drove.  We stopped at the new Meijer’s in Birch Run for bottled water, grapes, and pretzels.  M-83 was down to one lane and we had a bit of a wait at the temporary traffic signal.  I called Bill to let him know we were there and he was waiting for us out by the road when we arrived at the park at 12:15 PM.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion.  They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion. They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Karen had found peanut butter pretzels and had a nice platter of fresh fruit that included sliced kiwi, strawberries, orange segments, and grapes.  She made tea for both of us and we settled in to chat.  Bill and I took up stations at the dinette while Linda and Karen sat on the “Chesterfield.”  We chatted away until 2:30 PM, and somewhere in there Karen made cups of hot coffee.  It was a cool day outside but warm and cozy in their rig.  Bill and Karen have a mid-60s GM transit bus that they acquired and converted in the mid-80s.  They have been coming to the Frankenmuth Jellystone Park from their home in Ontario, Canada for as long as they have had the bus.  It is 50 years old this year and Bill figures it has traveled a million miles between its commercial service and life as a motorhome.  Bill did a nice job with the conversion and it has held up very well over the years

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

At 2:30 PM we drove over to the River Place outdoor mall and walked around”.  River Place is one of the newer developments in Frankenmuth but stayed with the “fantasy Bavarian village” theme of the town in a really nice way.  It is compact complex of buildings arranged with narrow, winding pedestrian corridors that occasionally open up into small plazas.  The façades are all faux Bavarian with the appearance of being two or three stories tall, increasing the sense of being “in” the village.

After checking out River Place, and buying a small bag of jalapeño flavored popcorn, we ambled all the way to the other end of the Main Street shopping district and back.  Along the way we stopped in lots of stores and bought a few things at the health food store that we cannot usually find locally.  The light was wonderful and I captured a few images with my old Sony a100.  I did not bring the new Sony a99v as I was not ready to use it.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back.  The cascading waterfall is man-made.  The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back. The cascading waterfall is man-made. The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

We got back to Bill and Karen’s bus at 5:15 PM and sat for a while before going to dinner at 6 PM.  Mike and Catherine joined us for dinner and we walked next door to the Black Forest restaurant.  Our dinner choices were very limited but they had a flatbread pizza on the menu so we tried that with mushrooms and onions, hold the cheese.  The tomato sauce was surprisingly spicy and it made for a decent vegan pizza.  Our side salads were simple but the ingredients were fresh and the whole meal was quite acceptable, made better by the company of friends.

By the time we walked back to Jellystone Park it was 8 PM.  We visited with Bill and Karen until 9 PM and then took our leave.  We probably won’t see them again until the 2016 GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, Indiana.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Birch Run to fill the fuel tank and were still home by 10 PM.  Although I would normally handle night driving I was sleepy so Linda drove us home.

 

 

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

When we entered the house we were not greeted by our two cats.  We called but they did not come.  This is unusual behavior for them and usually means they are up to something, with the odds highly in favor of something having to do with a mouse.  We found Juniper in the basement “guarding” the folded up corner of one of the throw rugs and I spotted a small, motionless mouse partially concealed by the rug.  It was dead, which is why she wasn’t carrying it around in her mouth playing keep-away with me.  Linda got a small plastic zip lock sandwich bag and I used it to pick up the mouse and seal it inside before putting it in the garbage.

Jasper was nowhere to be found.  In looking around the basement a second time Linda noticed that one of the boxes we keep on the window sills behind the sofa in the recreation room had fallen on the couch.  That was a sure sign that Jasper was up in the suspended ceiling.  He has gotten up there before via that window sill and the boxes were there to keep him from gaining access to that space.  Apparently they were not the deterrent we thought/hoped they were.  We called for him and eventually he responded verbally.  He then stuck his head around the edge of the ceiling and looked at us upside down.  He eventually decided it was safe to come down but seemed unsure of how to accomplish that.  I moved the other box on that window sill, stepped up onto the arm if the sofa, and helped him down onto the sill, into my arms, and then onto the sofa.  In some was he is just a big baby.

We had no way of determining whether he stayed up there because he wanted to or because he wasn’t sure how to get down but regardless was rather insistent on getting attention from us.  That desire for contact and comfort followed us into bed until he finally gave himself a bath and then curled up next to me to go to sleep.  I worked on this post for a while and then turned the lights out.

 

2015/10/13 (T) Desk Alignment

I got up at 8 AM, put on my robe, made coffee, fed the cats, and refreshed their water fountain while Linda got dressed and washed blueberries to put in our granola.  We took our coffee to the living room where I turned on the fireplace and we were joined by our feline friends.  I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s post and e-mailed it to myself while Linda pulled up the latest video post from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org.

Linda left at 9:30 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark for their weekly walk.  As this will probably be their last walk together until spring they planned to go to lunch afterwards.  While there was some work I could do by myself on the (permanent) installation of the desk there were other aspects of the job that would definitely require two people.  I needed to finish updating the roster for the FMCA Freethinkers chapter so I spent about 30 minutes reading the manual for the new Sony SLT-a99v camera and then got dressed and worked in my office for the rest of morning.

After a short lunch break I resumed working on the roster until Linda got home.  She and Diane had lunch at Baker’s in Milford as it is close to the Metropark parking lot where they meet.  We removed most of the things from the bus we were not currently using, many of which were stored in the sofa storage box.  We got the sofa seat off of the desk pedestals and set it back in place on the sofa base.

I wanted to use pieces of a 24″ X 30″ furnace filter to cover the various air inlets in the desk bases and the air outlets in the OTR HVAC duct.  The best way to hold the filter material in place appeared to be with some very strong tape.  We did not have any such tape on hand so Linda went to Lowe’s and bought a roll of Gorilla Tape while I cut pieces of filter material to fit the various openings.

The left desk base and passenger side OTR HVAC duct showing the pieces of furnace filter material used to seal these openings while permitting filtered airflow.

The left desk base and passenger side OTR HVAC duct showing the pieces of furnace filter material used to seal these openings while permitting filtered airflow.

We got all of the openings taped up but I still needed to fabricate two tongue and groove alignment devices between the pedestals and the center connector/cover.  I make these out of flat mending plates, one on the pedestal (tongue), and two on the connector/cover (groove).  The tongue is flat against the back side of the pedestal vertical board and protrudes about 1/2″ beyond the edge.  The groove is made from two plates, one stacked on top of the other, attached to the back side of the vertical connector/cover board.  The upper plate is just back from the edge of the board and the lower one (next to the wood) is offset from the edge a little more than 1/2”, just enough to create a space for the tongue.  The tongue and groove devices match two others lower down on the connector/cover.  All four of them are oriented vertically allowing the connector/cover to drop into place and force it to align with the matching pieces of the pedestals.  A pair of horizontal plates, one on each pedestal, provide a resting surface for the connector/cover that aligns it horizontally.

With the devices fabricated we were finally able to set the pedestals on the bases, drop the connector/cover in place, and align everything as if the entire desk was a single unit.  We then got the Corian desktop out of my car, brought it into the coach, and set it in place.  It will require some careful adjustments before we screw everything down but it basically fit properly and looked good.  Final positioning of the left pedestal and base, however, would require us to put the front HVAC duct cover in position.

We got the cover out of the library and into the bus for the first time since we brought it home from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana.  The length was perfect but the bump out where the heater hoses were originally going to loop through was too deep.    I suspect the mistake was in my design/drawings.  Jarel knew this piece was supposed to line up with the left pedestal and base but I no longer recall if he even had the desk pieces in his possession when he was building the cover.  At this point it didn’t matter anyway.  The misalignment is with the base and is not very visible.  Also, the bump out is screwed on to the main cover so it can eventually be removed and trimmed or replaced with one that has the correct dimensions.

Once we had the cover in place I realized that I also needed to fabricate and install alignment plates between the cover and the left pedestal.  I had not planned on this and did not have enough mending plates so we went to Lowe’s to buy more.  While we were there I bought another can of 40:1 premixed fuel and a bottle of bar and chain oil for the new Poulan Pro 18” chainsaw.  We stopped at Walmart to see if they stocked a particular folding chair made by Stakmore that we have seen online, but they did not.  We think it would work nicely as a desk chair, and go well with the interior materials and colors in our bus, but we would like to see one in the round before buying it.

Back home I worked on the alignment plates while Linda prepared dinner.  We had leftover lentil loaf, microwaved sweet potatoes, and a mix of steamed broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  She added a little water to the lentil loaf before reheating it to moisten it a bit.  We both like ketchup on our lentil loaf and I added some Pick-a-Poo sauce to mine.  All three dishes were served hot, which was comforting on a cool evening, and everything was very tasty including the cup of hot tea.

I returned to the bus after dinner and finished installing the mending plates on the HVAC duct cover.  I was not able to put it in place by myself, and there was no reason to have Linda come out and help at this hour, so I set the thermostats back and locked up the bus.

I called Butch and this time the call went through.  I updated him on the installation and testing of the fan-coil heat exchangers and asked him about the operation of our new refrigerator.  He suggested that I isolate the remote temperature sensors by using pieces of the furnace filter material to keep them from touching an objects or surfaces directly.  He and Fonda are wrapping up at the RV Park in Bouse and moving to Quartzsite on Thursday.  After we were done talking I worked on this post while we watched a few TV programs and then went to bed.

 

2015/10/01 (R) New Month, Same Project

For various reasons we have not worked on the bus the last two days.  For one, Linda is still recovering from a cold and/or seasonal allergies that may have been triggered by some weeding she did over the weekend.  August and September are the time of year for ragweed in Michigan.  For another, I was tied up most of Tuesday with the bus windshield replacement and yesterday we both had our annual physical exams, mine in the morning and Linda’s in the afternoon.  Throw in an unexpected problem with the driver door lock on my car and a lawn tractor that wouldn’t start and that took care of most of the day.  Since I wasn’t working on the bus I used some of my time to edit drafts of blog posts and started selecting and processing a few photos to go with them.

I got a call from Philip Jarrell around 8 PM last night letting me know that a last minute project came up that required his attention today.  If all goes well he plans to start on our French drain and driveway extension project tomorrow.  Our project is a relatively small job for Phil and I accept that he has to fit it in around larger projects for long-term customers who give him a lot of repeat business.  Still, I think he likes working with us and does his best to fit us in.

I had hoped to get back to work on the bus today, specifically working on priming the walls and hanging the new wallpaper, but Linda had another annual medical appointment this afternoon.  Neither of us likes to get into our work clothes and get involved in physical tasks for just a small portion of the day so after breakfast, and a leisurely morning in the living room enjoying coffee to the glow and warmth of our fireplace, she settled in to work at her desk for a while before going on a walk.

Our whole house generator threw a code 34 on Tuesday afternoon indicating that it required maintenance but would still operate if needed.  I called Bratcher Electric to see what was needed and spoke with Karen.  I think she and Mike own the business, but it’s possible she is Mike’s daughter.  Whichever, I’m certain that she is family.  Our generator was last serviced one year ago on the same date (29th) and the 34 was the total number of hours it has run since being installed in May 2013.  I set up the service appointment for Friday October 9th.

While I had Karen on the phone I asked about the project Mike had come out to look at a year ago.  I need his electricians to run a 4-wire, 100 Amp service entrance cable (SEC) from the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage, through the garage attic, and into the secondary distribution panel in the HVAC closet in the northeast corner of the garage, making it a main panel instead of subpanel.  Karen said she would leave a note for Mike to follow up with me.

It was going on noon when I finally got back to work on the bus.  It is a gorgeous fall day, chilly and breezy but with abundant sunshine, and I just could not let it slip away without getting something done on our interior remodeling project.  I was at least 60% done with rebuilding the landing where the stepwell slide cover used to be and that seemed like the logical thing to get finished.  It was 52 degrees F in the bus so I turned on the front electric toe-kick heater and set up the small Broan portable electric heater in the kitchen blowing forward towards the cockpit.  I also noticed that the refrigerator thermometer indicated 43.5 degrees F.  We do not have any food in the fridge but we do have freezer packs and containers of water for mass.  43.5 is warmer than I want so I checked the freezer reading and it was 28 degrees F.  Yikes!  That was way too warm.

Frame and center support for the new landing platform. Air lines crimped and secured.

Frame and center support for the new landing platform. Air lines crimped and secured.

The 31″ X 27.5″ piece of 3/4″ thick plywood for the landing platform flexed slightly when I stepped in the middle.  I’m not sure anyone would notice it when stepping on it but we do not want the tile that will be on there to crack from the deflection.  My solution was to cut an appropriate length of the 2.5″ wide 3/4″ thick poplar and install it on edge running long ways to support the middle of the plywood.  I had to use an angle bracket at the back edge (by the driver’s seat) and place shins under it at several places to get it to fit just right.

About this time Linda came out to let me know lunch was ready.  We each had a half sandwich of hummus and raw onion on rye bread and some black grapes.  She left for her doctor’s appointment and I made a big cup of Constant Comment decaffeinated tea.  I called Chuck to see if he knew where his powered metal shears (nibbler) were and if I could borrow it.  The answers were ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’  I decided to take his suggestion of cutting two new access openings in the passenger side HVAC duct to allow the two existing heater hoses to come out and go directly to the fan-coil heat exchangers with minimal bending.  It will simplify the installation, eliminate soldered copper parts and connections that would restrict flow and be a potential leakage point.  Since my car is in the shop for the next several days I will have meet up with him when Linda’s car is available.

Back in the bus I checked the refrigerator and the fresh food compartment was at 39 degrees F and the freezer was At 6 degrees F.  Those are the sort of temperatures I expect to see.  I had the freezer set to cycle between about 0 and 10 but occasionally saw it go as high as 17.  I figured it had something to do with an automatic defrost cycle, but anything over 20 is troubling.  Linda had suggested earlier that perhaps we need to replace the batteries in the remote sensors and the base unit.  She may well be right and it won’t hurt to do that anyway.

When I got back to work on the landing I folded over the ends of the two air lines and put cable ties on them to close them off.  The air supply for the solenoid valve that controls these two lines has a shut off valve which I intend to keep closed, but if it gets opened accidentally it could drain the auxiliary air tank through one or the other line if they were not crimped closed.  I may eventually disconnect the supply line at the valve and cap it, but for now this will at least prevent an open line leak.

New landing platform structure with sound/thermal insulation.

New landing platform structure with sound/thermal insulation.

After screwing down and cutting off the shims I plugged the hole where the air lines come through the floor with steel wool and secured the lines to the floor with cable clamps.  I then cut fiberglass insulation to fit the two spaces in the floor.  I used the same John’s Manville Sound & Thermal insulation that we used in my office and ham shack as I had some left.  I put the plywood floor piece in place, evened it up along the front edge, and screwed it down but ran out of screws before I had it completely secured.  Projects are like that.

I was walking towards the garage when I saw a car coming very slowly from west of our house headed east.  The drive pulled past our third drive and stopped but I could not see what the driver was doing.  The car eventually continued on, followed closely by a second vehicle and I thought the flashed me a somewhat dirty look, but they did not stop and were too far away to be sue.  Still, I thought that was odd.  I did not give any further thought to it until I went out to get the mail and noticed a lot of debris in the road and a large, dead tree in the ditch.  It had been windy all morning and at one point I thought I heard the crack of a falling tree but it sounded farther away than where this one lay.  The driver had obviously stopped to move it and was probably a little bit annoyed that they had to do that because I had not taken care of it.  Hey, I didn’t know!

I moved it a little more and then got a metal toothed rake and pulled all of the small debris out of the road.  There were limbs on the other side of the road that were 1″ to 2″ in diameter so the tree had obviously fallen all the way across the road.  The property on the other side of the road is part of our yard but I would have cleaned up the branches regardless since the tree clearly fell from our yard.

Linda stopped for groceries on the way back from her doctor appointment and did not get home until almost 4 PM.  We got a pruning saw and cutter and she helped me cut up some of the upper part of the tree and get the pieces farther from the road.  We noticed another dead tree in the same area that looked like it would eventually fall over across the road.  I can cut it down safely but will need the chain saw to do so.  I was not in the humor to get it out and try to get it started at that exact moment but noted to myself that I needed to do this sooner rather than later.

We were not going to start any messy bus work at that hour so I changed into nicer clothes to go out to dinner.  Before we left I texted Josh at Coach Supply Direct to clarify an earlier e-mail and let him know that two of the MCD shades were not staying attached to one of their clips.  We left at 5 PM for the La Marsa in Brighton and stopped at the bank on the way.  For dinner we split an order of Moussaka and got two salads as our sides along with the warm pocket bread and garlic spread.  The food was good and we had a tasty, filling meal for under $14 plus tip.  It is our best/favorite restaurant option within reasonable driving distance of our house.

After dinner we stopped at The Home Depot in Brighton but they did not have the screws I wanted.  When we came back out I noticed that the tires on Linda’s car were under-inflated and on closer inspection that the side walls were badly checked.  We drove to Discount Tire in Howell but they were closed.  We stopped at Lowe’s and bought the screws I needed, some furnace filter material, and Lithium batteries (AA and AAA) for our TempMinder base/remote thermometers as we keep the two remotes in the bus freezer and fresh food compartment and the base station on the bus kitchen counter.

Back at the house I worked in my office for a while selecting/processing photos to go with blog posts but I did not feel like putting in a long, sustained effort on the task.  I got a call from Phil at Precision Grading.  His other job did not get finished today and he will have to return to that job site tomorrow.  He hopes to start our French drain and driveway work on Monday but that may not happen.  I am anxious for him to get started but I have no control over that.  I appreciate, however, that he keeps me informed as it allows me to plan my own time.

We watched The Woodwright’s Shop, Rick Steves’ Europe, and Travel in the Americas on DPTV (WTVS) and then went to sleep.

 

2015/09/29 (T) Bus Windshields

Today was windshield day.  A week or so ago Chuck made appointments for both us to have windshields replaced on our buses by the local Safelite franchise.  Chuck knows Scott, who now has a management position with the company, and arranged the work through him.  The appointment was nominally from 8 AM to noon so Chuck was at his shop before 8.  We figured it would take a while for the crew to do his two lower windshields so I got up around 7 AM but did not have coffee or breakfast.  I finished yesterday’s blog post and then went through my final departure tasks starting at 8:30 AM.  I texted Chuck at 8:45 AM and pulled out of our driveway at 8:50 AM, figuring that was late enough to miss most of the morning traffic headed into the northwest corner of the Detroit metropolitan area.  Chuck texted back that I could take my time as the crew had not shown up yet.

The first raindrops came as I was pulling out of our driveway.  As I pulled out onto Hacker Road I had a clear view of dark clouds to the northwest.  Although my destination was 20+ miles to the southeast I headed north towards M-59.  The shortest route would have been south, and gotten me quickly onto pavement, but there are some low branches before the road ends at Grand River Avenue so I do not go that way.  From Hacker and M-59 the shorter route would have been east to US-23 and then south to I-96 but that interchange is a left exit, left entrance in the middle of an extensive construction zone; not the sort of thing I wanted to deal with in the bus.  So I waited patiently for a break in the traffic and then headed west on M-59 towards the storm clouds.  A guy heading east had to slow down while I pulled out a flipped me off as he went by.  I hope he had a nice day.

I encountered heavier rain as I traveled west for about four miles.  I turned south onto Latson Road and drove away from the rain, reaching I-96 about four miles later.  I headed east on the I-96 and had an easy drive all the way to Beck Road with only an occasional raindrop.  Even at this hour of the morning there were traffic slowdowns along the way but no parking lot traffic jams.  The Beck Road exit was easy to navigate going south and it was equally easy to position myself for the left turn onto Grand River Avenue.  About a mile and a half later I pulled into the parking lot for Chuck’s shop and phoned Chuck to let him known I was there.

I knew in advance how he wanted me to position my motorcoach but there were enough vehicles parked in various places that I wanted him to spot for me.  I lifted the tag axles, pulled up to the building, and then turned hard to the right.  I backed around to the driver’s side to get somewhat parallel to the building and then started angling towards the passenger side.  There is space next to the building in front of Chuck’s shop directly across from his large (bus size) overhead door.  My objective was to back around into that space and then pull forward steering hard to the left to get lined up with the door.  I have done this before and managed to do it again with Chuck’s assistance.  Our Prevost H3-40 VIP conversion is surprisingly maneuverable with the tag axle lifted off the ground.

There were two Safelite vans there when I arrived and Charlie and Eric were already busy working on Chuck’s lower windshields.  Chuck had backed his coach into the shop so I could pull in nose first and get the front end out of the rain if needed.  Since there were only two guys, and the removal and installation of one of these windshields is a two man job, I just parked my bus outside and shut it off.

I called Linda at home but did not get her so I tried her cell phone.  She was at Kensington Metropark walking with Diane.  She said we had heavy rain at home before she left and that it was moving towards the shop.  I could see the dark clouds to the WNW and it eventually rained bucketfuls, albeit for only a brief time.

A couple of years ago Chuck and I went together and bought five lower windshields from Prevost for our H3-40 VIP coaches, two for him and three for me, for the ridiculously low price of $125 each.  They were shipped to his shop in a big triple set of cardboard boxes with foam spacers on a pallet and have been sitting there waiting for us to find someone to install them.  Chuck decided to use both of his, in part because there were stone chips in the current ones, and in part because he is vacating his shop and needed to reduce the amount of stuff that has to be moved and stored.

The existing windshields on Chuck’s coach both cracked rather badly when they were removed, as in multiple dozens of fractures, but did not shatter.  Safety glass is a wonderful thing.  He was not planning on keeping the old ones but it was obvious that removing a windshield in order to install a new gasket with the idea of reinstalling the glass was probably not possible.  Charlie and Eric removed the old gaskets and then cleaned off the frames.  Chuck’s old gaskets had been slit at the corners by a previous installer, probably to make it easier to get the gaskets over the glass, but should not have been altered in that way.

Chuck had new gaskets and spline material so the guys got one of the new gaskets installed on the frame.  It looked like it would be too big but by the time they got it pressed fully into place it was a perfect fit.  They lubricated the gasket and set the new windshield in place.  After working the top of the gasket over the top edge of the glass they slid the windshield from the outside edge all the way towards the center pillar.

Chuck and I were both hungry and thirsty.  Since Charlie and Eric were working on his coach I took Chuck’s suburban to Panera for coffee, a muffin (for Chuck) and a bagel (for me).  I made the trip twice.  I was almost there when I realized that I did not have my wallet and went back to get it.

The guys finished installing Chuck’s windshields and went to lunch.  We did not leave as we had no idea how long they would be gone.  It turned out to be about an hour.  When they got back I had Charlie look at my two lower windshields.  The passenger side was cracked and definitely needed to be replaced.  The driver side had two small rock dings but they were not directly in front of the driver’s seat and not near an edge so I decided to only replace the passenger side lower windshield at this time.

I started up the bus, pulled the nose into the shop, and lowered the suspension to make it easier for the guys to work on it from the outside.  I pulled in far enough to make sure the front part of the roof was completely inside the building as it is lower than the rest of the roof and slopes forward.  I lowered the rear more than the front to make sure any rain that hit the portion of the roof that was outside the building ran to the sides and rear rather than forward and down the windshields.

To remove my windshield they removed the spline that locks the glass into the gasket and then managed to get the glass and gasket out as one assembly.  The glass already had a 10″ crack when they started and was fractured in 100 places by the time it came out.  They cleaned off the frame, which had a lot of crud on it, and then put the new gasket on.  The gasket for the lower windshields is reversible and is used on either side.  It is not rectangular, however, with the vertical edge by the center pillar being longer than outside edge where the glass wraps around into the A pillar.

With the gasket in place they installed the windshield by using large suction cups to pick it up, front and back side, and setting the bottom edge into the gasket with the right edge about four inches from the center pillar.  The passenger side mirror was in the way so I had to loosen one of the set screws and swing it out of the way.  They used a hard plastic stick with a rounded tip and edges to get the gasket over the outside of the top edge of the glass.  Using glass cleaner as a lubricant they then slid the glass towards the center and into the gasket channel.  The glass did not slide easily but Charlie and Eric were big, strong guys and it eventually was in place.  They then used the plastic sticks to get the gasket out from behind the glass and over the edge all the way around.  The last step in the installation was to put Sikaflex adhesive caulk between the frame and the gasket and between the gasket and the glass, all from the outside.  They masked off the frame to protect the paint but did not mask off the glass.  Gasketed glass installation was not something I knew anything about so it was informative to be able to watch every detail of this process.

They had our invoices with them but had to have the office redo mine and e-mail it since I only had one windshield replaced instead of the two we originally scheduled.  Chuck and I each wrote them a check.  Eric had us sign on his Note tablet and printed our receipts on a portable wireless printer.  It had been six hours since they arrived and they had spent five of those working pretty hard.  We gave each of them a $20 tip.

Charlie and Eric loaded up our three old broken windshields and left.  I then backed my bus out and parked it.  Charlie wanted it to sit for at least an hour before driving it to let the Sikaflex cure a bit.  Chuck locked up the shop and we went to Panera (again) for a late lunch.  We both had Black Bean Soup and Chuck had a half sandwich.  Barb called as we were finishing our meal and said she was her way to the shop so we headed back.  She arrived at the shop just ahead of us and inspected the new windshields on their coach.  I then showed her the work we have done on the interior of our coach.  We sat around in the shop talking while I waited for the worst of the rush hour traffic to pass before driving the bus back to our house.

I called Linda around 5 PM and then left for the drive home, reversing my route from this morning.  Traffic was heavy but moved along.  Linda heard me pull in the driveway and helped get me positioned.  It’s hard to sneak up on someone with a Detroit Diesel 8V92 engine.  Once I was parked I shut off the accessory air to the engine bay, disconnected the chassis batteries, and plugged in the electrical shorepower line.  Back in the coach I noticed that the refrigerator had come out of the alcove about 12 inches.  It had not budged on the drive to/from Edwardsburg and Elkhart but I will obviously have to secure it after all.

Dinner was reheated chili and Saltine crackers.  When Linda makes chili she always makes extra and freezes it to have on hand for easy heat and serve meals.  It is a one pot meal the way she makes it and is as good, or better, left over as it is fresh.

Ferman had called while I was gone and let Linda know that he had the Sandstone Corian he needed to build the small table for the bus so after dinner I texted Josh to let him know.  I then checked e-mail but did not respond to any.  We watched NCIS and NCISNOLA on the big TV in the basement and then went to bed.

 

2015/09/19 (S) Rally Wrap Up

Today was the last full day of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) annual Surplus and Salvage Rally.  It started with strong storms overnight but they had dissipated by breakfast time.  The skies eventually cleared on brisk winds with a chilly northerly component and the high was forecasted to be 67 with some clouds.  The clouds turned out to be white, scattered, and fast moving and it turned out to be a lovely late summer day with a hint of fall in the air.

The breakfast provided as part of the rally was pancakes and sausage but Linda and I had our granola and finished up the berries.  We decided to stay around the campground and have an easy day.  Initially, however, we had some post-breakfast excitement.

Juniper caught another mouse.  It was another very small dark gray house mouse, obviously very young but old enough to wander away from a nest in search of food and water.  I got it away from her and into the paper cup that we kept for this purpose and put the paper bowl on top.  Linda took it back to the woods and set it free.

Even after catching two mice in the last 16 hours the cats continued to show great interest in the base of the bathroom sink cabinet.  The front of the toe kick space has one of the many brass colored expanded metal screens for the OTR HVAC ducts and several things were becoming clear to me at this point.  1) We had a nest somewhere in the bus; 2) the nest was likely in the base of this cabinet, or accessible from there, and 3) the baby mice were apparently small enough to get through the expanded metal grate.  I also suspected that something had happened to the mother mouse which is why the babies were leaving the nest.

Some of this was confirmed when I got down on the bathroom floor with a flashlight and was looking through the grate when a small mouse came out of the 4″ flexible duct.  I tapped on the grate and got it to turn around and go back.  I measured the rectangular opening.  Linda cut a piece of cardboard about 1″ larger in width and length and I taped it over the opening.

We were away from the coach visiting with Scott Crosby of http://BusGreaseMonkey.com and others before Scott left for home.  Scott and Tami Bruner came over too, followed by their friends/neighbors Misty and Gary who brought their GM3751 Silversides to the rally.  When we returned to our motorcoach it was immediately obvious that Juniper had caught, or at least cornered, something, probably another mouse.  Her posture and vocalizations are distinctive in the presence of prey.  What was odd was she was by the front of the new built-in sofa rather than in the bathroom.

I shushed her away and she left the area without much protest.  I did not see a mouse and walked to the bathroom to make sure our cardboard cover was still in place.  It was, so if there was another mouse it must have gotten into the living area of the bus through some other opening, perhaps the OTR HVAC air return under the sofa.  When I returned to the living room the mouse was climbing up onto the top edge of my slippers.  I did not see exactly where it came from but it could have been inside one of them to escape the cats.  I got the paper cup and bowl and caught it fairly easily.

I put on my Crocs, which we use as easy on/off camp shoes, walked back to the woods at the southern boundary of the campground, and set the mouse free.  It scampered under some leaves but its odds of survival were probably as small as it was.  The temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 40’s tonight and I heard a Great Horned Owl off in the distance.  Still, its survival odds in the bus were probably worse.  We had live trapped an adult house mouse under the kitchen sink when the bus was still at home, but that was a couple of weeks ago so there is no way it could have been the mother of these current juvenile mice unless it found its way back into the bus.  My assumption was that the mother was not around and the young mice were desperately trying to find food and water.  These circumstances made me a bit sad, but we simply cannot have mice getting into the living area and becoming play toys for our cats.  Ultimately we need to find a way to keep them out of the bus altogether but so far a solution to that problem has proven to be elusive.

The official rally lunch was leftovers after which folks divided up whatever was left.  Linda split the remaining salad lettuce with Vickie and took some bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and bottled water.  I grabbed a mostly full 2 L bottle of diet Coke.

Marty Caverly stopped by to see the bus remodeling and stayed to chat a while.  Marty had spent the better part of a day at the Back-to-the-Bricks Rally last month getting Pat and Vickie’s cruise control to finally work reliably.  He spent most of this morning getting their air leveling system to work reliably.  Marty is an electrician who did a lot of work with electronics in his 40 years with General Motors and is the “go to” guy in our club for most electrical issues.

There was a lull in our social activities and Linda settled in to read while I worked at my computer transferring drafts of blog posts from e-mail to Word.  I edited a week’s worth from the third week of July and got them ready to upload but did not post them.  I will do that when we get home.  I used the MCD day shade while sitting at the desk to cut down the light while still affording me a view.  Linda forgot her iPad and was using mine to read one of the latest novels in Nick Russell’s Big Lake series.  She went for a walk which gave me an opportunity to work on this post as I write them using the Note app on my iPad.

We saw Pat and Vickie walking towards the office and figured they were making arrangements for next year’s Surplus and Salvage Rally.  They stopped at our coach on the way back with the signed contract.  The dates are September 21 to 25, 2016 and the nightly camping rate is $35 plus tax for 50A full hookup sites.  It’s pricey, but the campground is conveniently located in the heart of the Elkhart area with convenient access to many RV surplus businesses.  We also get the exclusive use of a meeting room with a full kitchen, and they always reserve sites for us that are close to the meeting room.  It should be a lovely time of year to have the rally, being the first five days of fall.  Unfortunately we will probably not be attending as we do not plan to be back from New England by then.

Meals for this rally usually include dinner on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Friday also being a business meeting, and breakfast on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  The only lunch is the “must goes” on Saturday.  Saturday dinner is traditionally out at a restaurant and the choice this year was McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk.  The Elkhart River splits as it comes into the city, joins back up with itself and eventually flows into the much larger St. Joseph River at two points.  McCarthy’s features some very interesting Irish fare but the ambiance is slightly upscale restaurant rather than an Irish pub feel.  Our food choices were very limited, of course, but we knew that before signed up to go.

We rode over with Pat and Vickie and sat with them at one end of the table.  I think we had 13 of the 23 attendees at dinner.  Linda had a Guinness and I had a lighter beer that had “cider” in the name.  We each had a house salad with a very nice balsamic vinegar dressing but no cheese and an order of French fries.  The service was OK but not outstanding.  I asked for Tabasco sauce and Vickie had to remind the waitress to get it.  I was over half done with my fries by the time it arrived.  The serving was small but the fries were good and we did not leave hungry.

Most of us went for a walk along the river after dinner.  The sun was already below the downtown skyline, however, and it was chilly.  None of us brought jackets so it was a shorter walk than it might otherwise have been.

Back at the campground Scott and Tami started a campfire in the fire pit by their rig.  Linda and I brought over our chairs, blankets, a bowl of grapes, and our glasses of wine.  Vickie brought her chair, popcorn, and a popcorn skillet designed for popping corn over an open fire.  Dan brought his chair and joined us.  It was a clear, crisp evening but the fire (and blankets) made it comfortable, the popcorn and grapes made it yummy, and company made it worthwhile.

Although relaxing in some ways, rallies are intense in other ways.  We have only been here 3-1/2 days but we arrived tired, ran around taking care of things, and when we finally relaxed the tiredness washed over us.  We gathered up our things and went back to the coach at 10 PM where we watched an episode of Grantchester on the local PBS affiliate, went to bed, and fell asleep.

 

2015/09/13 (N) Club Business

Linda is still fighting her cold and I was up way too late last night so we slept until 9 AM this morning.  Because we were getting a late start, and neither of us was hungry, I made coffee but we skipped breakfast.

It was 51 degrees F in the bus so I turned on all three electric toe kick heaters and put on my zip front sweatshirt that I use to work in cool situations.  We took all of the freezer packs out of the house refrigerator freezer compartment and moved them to the freezer compartment in the bus fridge.  Linda also filled four large containers with water and snapped the lids on.  We put those in the refrigerator compartment on the bus, turned on the power, and put the wireless remote thermometer in the freezer compartment.

I was going to raise the front of the refrigerator until the top hinge for the freezer door just touched the ceiling of the alcove but our relatively inexpensive model apparently lacks that adjustment.  Linda was also concerned about how we will latch the doors for travel.  She remembered seeing a very clever latch for a fridge with doors like ours at the GLAMARAMA rally in early June and found a picture of it on her phone.  It is actually fairly simple and if custom made could be installed using the holes for the center hinge (between the doors) on the handle side (right side) of the fridge.

(I still like Scott Bruner’s solution best.  He devised an electromagnet system that is activated by turning the ignition on but has an override switch.  He and Tami have a cafe door, bottom freezer drawer unit.  One electromagnet holds plates on top of the cafe doors where they meet at the center of the fridge.  A second electromagnet is mounted on the right side of the lower case and holds a plate on the side edge of the freezer drawer front.  Very clever, and very fail safe.)

Bruce installs the fixed side of the piano hinge to the top of the wiring chase above the OTR HVAC duct.

Bruce installs the fixed side of the piano hinge to the top of the wiring chase above the OTR HVAC duct.

Our first construction task for today was to finish installing the built-in sofa.  This was a semi-permanent installation with everything in its final place and screwed in.  We will have to disassemble it once to finish cutting it and screening off the openings in the OTR HVAC duct and to drill the 4″ diameter holes in the vertical front panel for the circular registers.  We also need to find a pair of suitable length lifts to support the seat in the open position.  Finally, we need to find and mount some 12V DC LED lights and replace the momentary contact switches in the aft end cabinet with on-off versions.

It took us until 12:25 PM to finish the sofa (for now).  We took a brief break and had an apple for a snack.  Our next task was to put the plywood bed platform back in the coach.  That sounds simple enough but we knew from taking it out that it would be difficult to put back in.  The platform is the size of a queen size mattress, in two sections joined by a piano hinge.  It’s big, bulky, and very heavy, with no good handholds but we managed to get it into the bedroom and setting flat on the storage box base.

The physically hard part was behind us but now we had to get the fixed part of the platform screwed back down to the base, requiring us to put 18 screws back in the holes they came out of.  I rewired the aisle lights before we did that as I was easier to get to the wires.  We used two screws to index the location, checked the reveal along the length of each side, and screwed it down.  I then reconnected the two gas springs while Linda held the platform up.  I also connected the wiring for the two cargo lights but they did not come on.  I will have to change the bulbs and see if that’s the problem but for now we had more pressing tasks.

A view from near the co-pilot/navigator seat of the built-in sofa with the hinged seat base lifted up to reveal internal pieces and storage space.

A view from near the co-pilot/navigator seat of the built-in sofa with the hinged seat base lifted up to reveal internal pieces and storage space.

We went inside, each had an apple, and then returned to the bus.  I had planned to temporarily mount two 12V DC switches but did not have time to fabricate a temporary mounting plate.  We needed the switches hooked up so I just reconnected the female spade connectors on the cable to the spade lugs on the switches and draped the wires over the arm of the passenger chair.

Our next task was to temporarily install the desk.  The installation was only temporary in the sense that we would need to disassemble it to get the Aqua-Hot fan-coil heat exchangers installed in the bases.  My preference was to get the heating system configured as part of the desk installation but we ran out of time before our appointment at Coach Supply Direct.

Our first sub-task was to cut the 1/4″ Baltic birch plywood spacer to fit on the right side of the right pedestal/base.  I cut it to be shorter than the desk and not as deep as the base, which is recessed at the front to create a toe kick space.  I cut the lower back corner out so the space would fit around the HVAC duct / wiring chase.  We peeled off some clear tape from the mirrors in the right rear corner down below the level of the top of the desk and set the spacer in place.

Our next task was to redo some AC wiring to get power to the space between the pedestals and reconnect the passenger side front duplex outlet.  To get power to the interpedestal space I decided to run 2C+G (Romex) cable from the wiring chase through a hole in the bottom of the pedestal, up the inside rear left, and out through a hole in the upper rear left side.  This hole and cable will not be visible unless someone crawls under the center of the desk.

In order to get the cover/shelf in the foot well aligned with the left and right pedestal/base components I decided to use mending plates attached to the back side of the bases and pedestals.  We started with the right hand components.  I attached a plate to the back side of the left rear base projection and one to the underside of the left end of the upper bottom section of the pedestal.  We set the base in place, put the pedestal on top of it, and set the cover/shelf in place.

We carefully shifted the components until we had them aligned the way we wanted.  I then secured the pedestal to the wall (which is 5/8” or 3/4″ plywood not sure which) with a single screw through the back panel centered from side-to-side and a couple of inches down from the top edge.  We double-checked the alignment of the pieces and then secured the pedestal to the base with three screws.  The base is not screwed to the floor or anything else except the pedestal.

We set the left base and pedestal in place and fussed with the alignment for but it was already 4:15 PM.  We had planned to quit working at 4 PM to get cleaned up for our SLAARC meeting and have dinner.  We still have a lot to do tomorrow for me to be ready to leave on Tuesday morning, but it should be manageable.

We went to Panera in Brighton for dinner and both had the Edamame Soba Noodle Bowl.  It was a generous serving that was tasty and filling even though it was only 390 calories.  It was very high in sodium, a common but unfortunate problem with most of Panera’s food, so not something we would eat often.

We arrived at the South Lyon Witches Hat Depot Freight House at 6:30 PM for the monthly meeting of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC).  We had a larger group than usual, at least 30 people.  The business meeting was brief and followed by a program by Steve (N8AR) on the Yaesu Fusion technology.  Steve and several other club members brought different radios to demonstrate and let the attendees try.

We left in time to get home by 9 PM and watch an episode of Sherlock on Detroit PBS, followed by Rick Steve’s Europe and then Music Voyager.  We’ve been working long, hard hours and it was nice to take an evening to relax and do something other than work on the bus.

 

2015/09/05 (S) Building the Built-in

We set the alarm for 7 AM as we had to return the 100 pound floor roller to The Home Depot by 8:08 AM.  We got the roller out of the bus, reattached the transport wheels, and loaded it into the back of my car.  We positioned it so that Linda could hold on to the handle while I drove.  One-hundred pounds that is designed to roll is not something you want loose in your car.  We got to the store at 7:40 AM but the associate was busy renting a ditch digging machine to someone.  We had to wait 15 minutes but that was OK.  After returning the roller we drove back to the house so Linda could get her car and our iPads and then drove separately to Panera in Brighton.

Linda had her usual Everything bagel and I had my usual Cinnamon Swirl & Raisin bagel, both sliced and toasted with nothing on them.  Two large coffees rounded out the order.  The coffee was hot and did not have grounds in it (for a change).  For some reason we got an extra Everything bagel that we did not order so which we split it.

Linda left at 9 AM to drive to Ann Arbor to pick up grand-daughter Madeline who will be with us until sometime on Monday.  Her mom and dad are attending a wedding on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin so they are driving over today and driving back on Monday.  I stayed at Panera getting my money’s worth of coffee while finishing yesterday’s blog post and starting on today’s missive.

I left Panera at 9:45 and stopped for gasoline at the Shell station on the way home.  $2.29/gallon.  I would love to see $2/gallon gasoline again.  Better yet, I would love to see $2/gallon diesel fuel.  Linda planned to stop at the grocery store on the way back but I wanted to start a load of laundry and be home when Linda got back to the house with Madeline.

I got the laundry sorted and the first load started and then spent a little time at my desk.  I had to reset a password for someone on the SLAARC website and I logged in I was reminded that WordPress 4.3 was now available.  There were seven other updates available as well; three plug-ins and four themes.  I don’t use any of those themes and should probably delete them, but for now I just updated WP and then updated everything else.  I then logged in to our personal website, the FMCA-GLCC website, and the FMCA Freethinkers website and did the same updates.

While I was in our personal website I cleared out the 104 spam comments that had accumulated since my last house cleaning.  In the Freethinkers website I activated all of the plug-ins except Wordfence.  I have problems with this website and tech support at iPower says it is the Wordfence plug-in that is at fault.  They ask for permission to deactivate it and I give them permission but ask that they only disable that one plug-in.  Instead they disable ALL of them; every time.  I would really like to move this website to QTH.com and I may just do that as an add-on domain to our account.  Unfortunately our e-mail reflectors are set up on through the iPower account and I doubt that the club will want to pay for two different web hosting services.

It was a nicer day than we have had for most of the week, cooler with clearer skies and a nice breeze, so I opened up the windows in the motorcoach and turned on all three ceiling exhaust fans to air out the interior and get rid of the lingering smell from the floor tile adhesive.  (Yes, that is one, long sentence, but since I have added this one, it is now a proper paragraph rather than a single sentence paragraph.)

Linda and Madeline stopped at the Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, which is not far from our son and daughter-in-law’s house, and got to our house at 11 AM.  Madeline and I helped Grandma Linda unload the groceries and put them away.  I moved a few things from the front hallway into the library where Linda put most of the bus drawers last night (three of them are in our bedroom).  Madeline wanted her inflatable porta-bed set up so Linda took care of that.  Once her bedroom was arranged we got out her toy box and started playing with things.  She also had a couple of bags of things she brought with her and got a small soccer ball out of one of them.  We had a great time throwing and rolling it around the living room.  It is always wonderful to see the pure joy of a young child at play doing something as simple as this.

By 12:30 PM Madeline was ready for lunch so Linda made a PB&J sandwich and washed some green grapes.  She washed some black organic grapes for us and I had a few pretzels dipped I Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  It’s my favorite hummus from them, or pretty much anyone else.

After Madeline laid down for her afternoon nap at 1 PM Linda and I both got busy with chores.  As much as I would like to have taken today off, at least from hands and knees work, we only had eight days left to get some significant tasks accomplished on the bus.  In terms of a critical path view of the overall project the critical task is grouting the floor tile that we finished installing at 9 PM last night.  Not only will it take some time to do but once it is done it cannot be walked on for 24 hours.  As much as it needed to be done, however, I needed a day of not being on my hands and knees.  If I get it done on Sunday I can resume work inside the coach on Monday.

While Linda made a batch of granola I worked on assembling some of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  My plan was to fully assemble the two plenum boxes that will support the ends of the plywood seat, and I intended to do that by gluing and screwing the four pieces together for each.  In order to do that I needed screws of the appropriate type (#6 SR) and length (1-1/4″) so I went to Lowe’s to get them.  While I was there I looked at continuous hinges and angle brackets but did not buy any.  I need a 72″ hinge but all they had were 48″, 30″, and 12″.  I may be able to use two 30″ and one 12″ but I need to check the actual dimension.  I also needed a #6 drill but with an integral countersink but Lowe’s did not seem to have what I needed so I went to The Home Depot and found something there.

I think this marking scribe belonged to my mother’s father.

I think this marking scribe belonged to my mother’s father and is at least 100 years old.

Back home I was getting all of my tools and supplies ready when I realized that I would not be able to attach the plenum/support boxes to the adjacent cabinets if they were fully assembled.  This was an example of incomplete design; either I have forgotten how I planned to anchor these boxes, changed my thinking about this in the time since I did the design work, or never figured out this detail in the first place.

Ideally I could anchor them in a way that does not destroy the cabinets or the floor.  One way to accomplish that would be to attach them to the HVAC plenum at the back and the vertical front support board using angle brackets, and to the top of the wiring chase above the HVAC plenum via the two filler strips on either side of the seat.  If I do that I can fully assemble the two plenum/support boxes before installing them.

For now I only assembled half-boxes with one side piece attached to the bottom piece and the other side piece attached to the top piece.  I built one of them for the left end and the other one for the right end. What this leaves open as an option is screwing the side/bottom assembly to its adjacent cabinet and then screwing the other assembly to the first one without using any glue.  The dry assembly would allow everything to be disassembled later if needed.

Madeline was up by this time and helped Grandma Linda put the new seed block in the bird feeder.  They then walked around to the front of the garage to see what Grandpa Bruce was doing.  I showed them my tools and the pieces of wood and explained how everything was going to work and fit together.

Two pieces of one of the plenum boxes held at right angles for gluing and screwing.

Two pieces of one of the plenum boxes held at right angles for gluing and screwing.

I aligned the pieces being joined, which are all 3/4″ cabinet grade 13 ply plywood, using two corner clamps.  I then scribed a line 3/8″ from the edge of the piece that was sitting on the edge of the other piece.  I marked screw locations every two inches with the spacing centered along the line.  I drilled pilot holes with countersinking to ensure the screw heads would be below the surface of the wood.  I disassembled the two pieces, leaving the piece that the screws would go in first in the clamps, and sanded off any rough edges.  I ran screws part way into each hole so the tips protruded just enough to put the two pieces back into alignment when they were rejoined.  I applied Titebond II wood glue to the edge piece spread it out, and wiped off my finger with a wet cloth.  I inserted the edge piece back into the clamps, used the screws to make sure it was aligned, tightened the clamps, and ran the screws most of the way down.  I then loosened the clamps holding the edge piece and drew it up tight by running the screws all the way down.  I used a wet towel to wipe off the excess glue that was squeezed from the joint and set it aside to dry.  I took a lot of pictures too.

The center portion of the storage space under the seat will have an elevated platform with closed ends to create a plenum for the OTR HVAC return air.  I assembled the two end pieces to the ends of the platform using the same method I used for the plenum/support boxes.  There is also a support piece for the middle of the platform but I cannot use the clamps to hold it in position relative to the platform so I will have to do something else.  I was thinking that I did not feel like tackling that task when Linda and Madeline came back to the garage to let me know it was almost time for dinner.  Saved by the food bell, I closed up the garage and went inside to eat.

Linda set out some carrot slivers, diced peaches, and home grown cherry tomatoes.  She cooked some mock chicken patties and heated up some vegan gravy to go with them as a main course.  For sides she heated black beans, edamame, and vegan Mac-n-cheese.  We all enjoyed our meal.

Madeline really enjoys the swings at the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.

Madeline really enjoys the swings at the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.

Our son let Linda know that Madeline had not been sleeping through the night recently and had developed a sensitivity to noises.  Linda figured Madeline might sleep better if she engaged in some vigorous play after dinner and suggested that we go to the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.  Ms. M liked the idea but wanted to make sure I was coming too.  I found a reasonably good parking spot and pushed her over in the stroller because she does not like to walk for the sake of walking.  But once we got to the playscape she was in “go mode.”  As the sun set and the light faded we strollered her over to Jack’s for a scoop of vanilla ice cream with sprinklers.  We then strollered her back to the car and drove home.

Linda had promised Madeline that she could watch a video before she went to bed.  She had selected an episode of Daniel Tiger, an animated children’s program based on the Daniel Striped Tiger character from the old Mr. Rogers TV program.  We had Shawna’s iPad with access to her Netflix account but the program was downloading slower than molasses poured on a cold day.  We had problems with video, then audio, but eventually got it to work after I turned off the Wi-Fi transceiver on my smartphone.  Linda got Madeline ready for bed while fiddled with the technology.

After the video Grandma Linda carried Ms. M around to look at all her favorite artwork, a bedtime ritual that goes back to the first time she ever stayed at our house overnight.

 

2015/08/23 The West Side

Today was not an ordinary day for us in the sense of our usual routines of chores and projects.  We were up at 7:45 AM, got dressed up more than usual, and had our usual granola breakfast but I did not make coffee.  We left at 8:45 AM and drove to our daughter’s house near Dexter.  We arrived at 9:30 and Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline pulled in right behind us.  We visited for about 20 minutes which gave Madeline time to get into the flow of being at Aunt Meghan and Uncle Chris’s house.  She was sitting on the couch with Meghan watching an animated video on Shawna’s iPad when we left.

We rode with Brendan and Shawna in their Subaru Outback.  Our destination was the Waldorf Pub Ballroom in Hastings, Michigan.  The reason for our trip was a Celebration of Life for Shawna’s father, Michael (Mick) James Lee, who passed away a little over a week ago from a non-cancerous but malignant brain tumor.

The quickest route to Hastings from Dexter is south to I-94 and then west to M-37, which runs northwest up to Hastings.  We stopped at the Panera in Jackson where Linda and I both got coffee and I got an “everything” bagel to go.  We arrived at the Waldorf at noon.

The gathering did not start until 2 PM but Shawna had agreed to come early to help with setup.  That left us with some time so we went for a walk up and down the main street before returning to the ballroom.  Shawna’s sister, Tracy, brother Rob, their mom, Carol, and Mick’s wife, Carol were there and we had a chance to visit briefly with them before everyone else started showing up.  I did not try to do a head count but there were at least 100 people there, and possibly 150.  Mick was a teamster and a lot of his social life involved his fellow truck drivers and was centered on their union local.  I think a lot of them were there.

Tracy had assembled a slide show with 180 images and put together a mix of Mick and Carol’s favorite tunes.  At 2 PM she read an honest, heartfelt, and warm remembrance of Mick.  Mick’s lifelong friend gave a similar reflection, followed by Mary Kay, the sister of Mick’s wife Carol.  A nice buffet was set out that included fresh fruit, vegetables, and small slices of toasted bread, so we had plenty to eat.  There was a full bar available but hot coffee (regular and decaf) and cold lemonade met our needs.

Heavy rains moved in just after 2 PM but moved through before we left at 4:30.  We went back down M-37 to I-94 and headed east.  Shawna and Linda were following our progress using the GPS feature of their phones.  There was an accident at the interchange with US-127 so Brendan exited at Airport Road and Linda navigated him through Jackson and back on to I-94 at Copper Road.  Shawna noticed a rainbow ahead of us and then Linda spotted a second, fainter one, with a larger diameter than the first.  We were able to see at least the main one, and usually both of them, all the way to the Dexter Road exit and part of the way to Dexter.  It was quite a sight.

We got back to Meghan and Chris’s house around 6:30 PM.  Madeline had a great day with her buddy Aunt Meghan but was keeping watch for our return and was excited to see her mom and dad and her Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.  We left at 6:50 and on the way home decided to go the Los Tres Amigos restaurant on Grand River Avenue just east of Latson Road, arriving at 7:30 PM.  We had the vegetarian fajitas, and they were OK, but dining out allowed us to eat a little sooner without Linda having to cook.

After dinner we drove to the Shell station in Brighton and topped off the tank in Linda’s Honda Civic so she would not have to stop in the morning on her way to walk with Diane.  At home we watched an episode of Sherlock on PBS and then an episode of Rick Steve’s Europe.

 

2015/08/12 (W) Back to Indiana (Again)

Today was early arrival day for the annual Back-to-the-Bricks converted bus rally in Clio, Michigan.  This joint rally of the Converted Coach Owners (CCO) and the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter has become an annual event that typically draws 20 to 30 rigs.  Most of them are converted highway buses and many of those were converted or re-modeled by the owners.  Many of them are works in progress but such is the nature of the bus conversion hobby and the true bus nut.  But that is not where we were headed today.  Our bus is unusable at the moment as the toilet is disconnected, the bed platform has been removed, and all of the cabinet drawers have been taken out.  But the main reason was that we had multiple commitments in Indiana today.

Our first appointment was with Josh Leach of Coach Supply Direct.  Although CSD is located in Edwardsburg, Michigan we had arranged to meet him in the parking lot of the Martin’s Supermarket at SR-19 (IN) and CR-4 on the north side of Elkhart, Indiana at 9:30 AM to take delivery of 15 yards of upholstery fabric.  We picked that location, rather than his shop in Edwardsburg, for several reasons.  He had to be at the Forest River Owners Group (FROG) rally at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds at 10 AM so that location got him half way to his destination at a good time of day.  For us, Elkhart is a 3-1/2 hour drive.  That meant we had to be up at 5:00 AM and on the road not later than 5:45 AM to be there on time, allowing for coffee, fuel, and bathroom stops.  Had we met him at his shop we would have had to be there by 9 AM requiring us to get up even earlier.  You have to draw a line somewhere.

I took the wheel for the start of the trip.  It was still dark but the faint glow of the impending sunrise was visible as we pulled out onto Hacker Road facing a rising crescent moon.  At M-59 we headed west to I-96.  I reset one of the trip odometers before we left and verified that it was 13 miles from our driveway to the end of the entrance ramp from M-59 onto I-96W.  We skirted the southern edge of Lansing on I-96 and took Lansing Road to I-69 south.

Nineteen miles south of Lansing, and about an hour into our trip, we stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee in Charlotte for coffee and bagels.  Biggby’s is not my favorite coffee but this particular store is in just the right location.  Linda checked the M-DOT website and it appeared that the bridge work on M-60 in Mendon was completed, so we exited I-69S and headed west on M-60.  Unfortunately the bridge was still closed so we had to follow the detour to the south toward Sturgis.  Unlike our previous trip in early July, when we continued on to Sturgis, we followed the complete detour through Nottawa and Centreville and back to M-60 in Three Rivers.  We had never driven through Nottawa or Centreville before so that provided some new scenery for the trip.

As we have done many times before we continued our trip on M-60 as far as Jones where we stopped at the Shell station for fuel.  We then took M-40 south to US-12.  This seven mile stretch of M-40 traverses steeply rolling hills and is both beautiful and fun to drive.  We took US-12, running west just north of the Michigan-Indiana border, and eventually exited onto Old 205 (M-205?) which turns 90 degrees to the left a mile later and drops straight south into Indiana where it becomes SR-19.  A few miles later we arrived at the Martin’s Supermarket at CR-4 just after 9 AM.

Josh was not there yet so we went inside to use the restrooms and get some coffee.  This particular Martin’s has a nice salad bar with a beverage station, a Starbucks Coffee outlet, and a seating area with Wi-Fi.  Josh showed up right on time and parked next to us.  I met him outside and we transferred the roll of upholstery fabric from his car to ours and then went inside to visit for a few minutes before he had to leave for Goshen.

When we left Linda took over the driving.  Our next planned stop was A1-Upholstery in Elkhart to order the cushions for our built-in sofa.  Continuing south on SR-19 we stopped at Factory RV Surplus to look for battery cable end covers but the ones they had were too expensive.  I think they now sell more retail-packaged merchandise than they do true surplus material, and even less salvaged parts.

Lou (mom) and Terry (daughter) own and operate A-1 Upholstery and were recommended to us by Josh.  We discussed the project with Terry, who I had previously spoken to on the phone.  We reviewed my dimensioned scale drawings, which were on one sheet of 11″x17″ 1/4″ grid-square paper, and agreed on how the cushions would be made.  Terry thought she would have them done by the end of the month but noted on the order form that we needed them by September 14th.  We noticed that she had a lot of sample books from which we could have selected a fabric but we like the Lambright Notion Linen, and Terry thought it was a very good fabric that should look good and wear well in our application.  We left the fabric and drawing with her and wrote a check for the deposit.

All of our stops were important today, but our primary reason for the trip was to pick up the pieces of the custom desk and built-in sofa for our bus from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana.  We continued our trip south on SR-19 to US-20, took that west to US-31, and went south, exiting at Rochester onto IN-25 for the final 22 miles to Logansport.  This is a route I have driven many times but Linda had the wheel this time so I provided some occasional guidance.  I called Jarel to let him know we were making better time than we had anticipated and would be there between noon and 12:25 PM.  I then called Butch to give him a status update.

This was the first time Linda and Jarel had met and so it was also the first time Linda had met Mya, Jarel and Georgette’s sweet little dog.  Mya came up to me, sat, stared up at me like we were long lost friends, and waited patiently for me to give her the attention she was seeking.  I was happy to oblige.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.  Panorama taken from the entrance door.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.  Panorama from the center of the shop.  Entrance door is far left.

As I have previously described in this blog, the desk consists of nine pieces (if you count the four drawers as separate parts):  two pedestals with separate bases, a cover that goes between them, and four drawers.  The left pedestal has a fold up work surface with two support wings, and a fold down fake drawer front, so technically those are four more pieces, but they are attached to the pedestal with hinges so I am not counting them as separate parts.  The bottoms of each pedestal have been cut out to provide access to the fan-coil heat exchangers that will be installed in the bases, so those are really two separate pieces now, put I am not counting them as such.  I am also ignoring screws, drawer slides, blocking, and other assembly items in my parts count as they are all “installed components.”  With the drawers installed we only had five major pieces to load plus the two access plates.  Jarel also had the pieces ready for the built-in sofa so we loaded those as well.  I took pictures of his shop and the pull-out pantry, which was mostly assembled but not quite finished.

The installed desk will have more pieces than just described but these are the pieces that Jarel made.  The finished desk will have five grills that we have to cut and install, at least four drawer pulls that we have to install, a plywood top that will span the two pedestals and leg space, and a Sandstone Corian countertop that will go on top of the plywood.  While not actually part of the desk there will also be a large cover for the passenger-side living room HVAC duct and wiring chase and a small hose cover at the desk end both of which align with the left end of the desk and will look like they are part of it.  Jarel will make the chase cover later after the desk is installed and we can get a final, accurate measurement for its length.

As long as we were in the neighborhood we naturally stopped to visit with our friends, Butch and Fonda, in Twelve Mile, Indiana.  While we were at their house we loaded a dozen 4-foot army surplus fiberglass mast sections in the car.  Butch had bought these at a swap for me some time ago.  We will use them for ham radio antenna projects.  Butch gave me his old, non-functioning, Vanner battery equalizer to see if I can figure out how it does what it does.  He also lent me his air-powered brad nailer which can also drive 1/4″ crown staples and gave me a box of 5,000 staples to go with it.  Fonda found a scrap piece of resilient underlayment designed for free-floating wood floors.  Butch though it might work well under the 1/4″ plywood underlayment to fill in the gaps and irregularities so we took it with us.

When we were done loading stuff into our car we went to see their new property on SR-25.  They have already had a new roof put on the barn and new doors put in the house.  They have bought themselves a BIG project, but it will be a much more appropriate and manageable place for them going forward than the building complex in Twelve Mile that has housed their business operations for the last 20 years.  It’s an old GM dealership from the 1940s and they have approximately 11,000 feet under roof including a 2-bay service garage with a functioning in-ground lift.

We drove to Rochester and had dinner at Pizza Hut.  Linda and I split a medium specialty veggie pizza and had the salad bar with it.  We might have had a few more restaurant choices in Logansport, but Rochester was 22 miles closer to home.  With the 19 hours we were gone today, and over 525 miles we had to travel, 22 miles and 30 minutes was significant for us.

We got back on the road at 6:30 PM with Linda at the wheel and headed back up US-31N to US-20 and headed east.  We decided to stay on US-20 all the way to I-69, stopping in Lagrange to use the restroom at the Marathon complex.  We stopped again at the Shell station on M-60 in Michigan for fuel.  It was getting dark and I had been able to rest while Linda drove, so I took over the driving duties.  From this point on we were just reversing our route from this morning.  We got home at 10:30 PM, unloaded everything from the car, and then went straight to bed.

 

2015/07/29 (W) Drive Shaft

I had had a 9:30 AM appointment at Brighton Honda to have a drive shaft replaced and suggested that we just continue on to the Brighton Panera a half mile down the road for bagels and coffee.  Linda never refuses to go to Panera so that is what we did.  The Wi-Fi was out of service but we both bought things to read so we did not care.  We sat in the two comfy armchairs by the fireplace, which was turned on, because the temperature inside was very cool, a frequent problem with this particular Panera store.  We each had a bagel and many refills of our coffee cups and stayed long enough that Brighton Honda called to let me know my car was ready to be picked up.  We left at 12:30 PM and Linda dropped me off to retrieve the ca.

Back home we had the leftover couscous with caramelized onions and the rest of the kiwis for lunch.  Linda finalized her grocery list and headed off in search of food.  I spent the rest of the day and most of the evening working on the design/drawings for the built-in sofa.

Through the course of the day I had QSOs with Jim (N8KUE) on the Novi 440 repeater and with Chris (K8VJ), Steve (N8AR), and Mike (W8XH) on the South Lyon 2m repeater. I also installed an updated driver for the NVIDIA GPU in my ASUS laptop, installed updates on the older Sony VAIO workstation (which still has Windows XP Pro), installed updates on the Linux box, and took time out for dinner (a delicious red lentil potato curry) and dessert (very sweet watermelon).

I went back to work in my office and sent an e-mail to Mike (W8XH) concerning Windows 10.  He replied via the South Lyon 2m repeater.  We had a long chat from 10:10 PM to just after 11 PM that was joined briefly by Steve (N8AR).  There was also a group QSO taking place on the Novi 440 repeater that I listened to in the background.  After I turned the radio off and came upstairs Linda said it appeared that my ham radio transmissions were interfering with our OTA TV signals.  The antennas are on the same tower but the OTA TV antenna is mounted below the Diamond X-50N 2m/70cm vertical ham antenna so I was a little surprised that it would be causing interference.  The vertical antenna has an omnidirectional radiation pattern which resembles a donut sitting on a horizontal surface, so the location directly under the base of the antenna should be a region with very little signal.  Apparently that is not the case and I will eventually have to do something to remedy the situation.  For now, however, the solution will be to not use the radio when someone s watching television.

 

2015/07/15 (W) Prime Wednesday

It was brisk when we got up this morning, with the temperature in the upper 40’s (F), light breezes, lower humidity, and clear, blue skies.  When the weather in Michigan is at its best it is near perfect.

After our usual coffee and granola we spent a little time browsing Amazon.com looking at their “Prime Wednesday” sale.  Neither of us are compulsive shoppers or impulse buyers and scrolling through thousands of items on a slow Internet connection looking for something we can’t live without at a price we can’t pass up is not our idea of fun.  I have things I need to order, like the multiple monitor mounting system for the ham shack, but it quickly became obvious that I was not going to find those items for sale as part of Amazon’s special July 15 Prime Sale.

Mara was up and took her garbage to our trash to can and returned to her rig.  Linda then took our garbage out and moved the can to the street.  By 10:30 AM Mara had not yet emerged from her rig, so I went to my basement office and resumed work on the custom desk design for our bus.  I still need to design the pull-out pantry but I finally ordered the Fulterer top/bottom slide mount from Rockler and had it shipped directly to Jarel in Logansport, Indiana.  It is a serious piece of hardware that will support 450 pounds, so it should be more than adequate for the task.

Mara eventually emerged from her rig and the ladies left for 12 Oaks Mall and Mara’s first ever appointment with Renee in the J. C. Penney’s Salon.  They were gone quite a while, tacking on several stops at pet and food stores before returning home.

I received a second quote for a wall-mounted monitor mounting system from AFC Industries.  It included itemized pricing and an offer of a 15% discount but was still way too expensive.  Though more expensive than a desk-mounted pole system I decided I to order the ZioTek wall-mounted monitor mounting system from CyberGuys.  Being wall-mounted it will get my monitors completely off the desks, leaving room for ham radio equipment to slide underneath and all the way to the back edge of the desk (and beyond).  It will also isolate the monitors from the desk so they won’t move if the desks are bumped.  Another bonus is that I can move the desks to get to the cables at the back of the radios without having to move the monitors.

The monitor mounting system is a significant purchase so I wanted to make sure the components would work the way I need them to.  I measured the three monitors that will initially be mounted using the system and then made a scale drawing to see how they would fit.  I added all of the items to the shopping cart and was getting ready to complete the purchase when I noticed that a 5% discount was available if I joined their e-mail club.  I signed up, received an e-mail, and confirmed my intention to join but the 5% discount did not show up in my shopping cart.  I called the 800 number and was told it would take 24 hours for the discount to be available so I cleared all of the items out of the cart and will re-enter them tomorrow.

I finally settled in to my design work but took several breaks to talk to friends on the Novi and South Lyon repeaters.  The Morgan Manufacturing VHF/UHF lightning arrestor was once again degrading my signal to an unusable level/quality so I once again disconnected the antenna and radio coax and joined them together with an N-female to N-female barrel adapter.  Once I did that I was able to transmit and receive to/from both repeaters full-quieting.

I exchanged a couple of e-mail updates with Jarel Beatty, the cabinet maker in Logansport, and finally quit working around 5 PM.  I came upstairs and found that the weBoost cellular booster systems had arrived from Amazon so I unpacked the shipping box and opened them.  I had not realized when we ordered them that they were designed for use in a car with an inside antenna that requires the phone or other cellular device to be 18 – 36 inches away.  That is not very far and it is a fairly small range.  As the name implies, however, it is designed for use while in motion which is what both we and Mara need/want.  I decided to temporarily install one of them in Linda’s car to test it.

Sitting in the driveway in a relatively bad location my phone was in 3G mode with a weak, but usable, signal that hovered around -115 to -118 dBm.  With the booster turned on my phone switched to 4G-LTE and the signal strength improved to anywhere between -103 to -94 dBm.  (The less negative the signal strength in dBm the stronger the signal.)  That may not appear impressive on the surface, and it was certainly not the 50 dBm gain that is claimed for this device, but it was actually a significant improvement.

“dB” is the abbreviation for “decibels” which is a logarithmic scale.  Logarithmic scales are useful for representing quantities that vary over a large range, like cellular signal strengths.  A change of 3 dB represents a factor of two, i.e., a doubling or halving of the quantity.  Thus a change from -118 dBm to -115 dBm (decibels to a millivolt) represents a doubling of the received power.  It is still a weak signal, but it is twice as strong.  Going from -118 to -103 is a change of +15 dBm and is five doublings (-118 to -115 to -112 to -109 to -106 to -103) which is an increase of 2x2x2x2x2 = 32 times.  Continuing from -103 to -94 is another +9 dB change representing three more doublings (-103 to -100 to -97 to -94) for a total gain of 32x2x2x2 = 32×8 = 256 times.  Starting from a signal in the -118 to -127 dBm range that is potentially the difference between useable and not useable.  (BTW:  a change of 10 dB is a factor of 10, so going from -115 dBm to -105 dBm and then to -95 dBm represents an increase of 100 times.)

We had decided at dinner last night that we wanted to go to The Blue Nile restaurant while Mara was here.  The best time to go turned out to be this evening, so Linda made an online reservation for 7:30 PM at the Ann Arbor location (there is also one in Ferndale).  We tested the weBoost Drive 4G-X cellular booster on the drive to/from Ann Arbor and it definitely made a difference in the signal strength we saw on our phones.

It wasn’t until we got part way down Main Street that we realized that today was the opening day of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  The last place I wanted to be driving, parking, or walking was at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, not because I dislike art (we love art), and not because I dislike art fairs, but because I dislike congested traffic and crowds, which the AAAF has in abundance.  Surprisingly, we were able to park in one of the parking structures a couple of blocks from the restaurant.  After fighting our way through the pedestrian traffic I was even more surprised to find the restaurant essentially empty.  The Blue Nile is slightly outside the portion of Main Street where the AAAF takes place and streets to either side that are closed off to vehicles during the AAAF.  All of the restaurants and the beer/burger joints in and around the AAAF venue were doing a brisk business, especially if they had outside seating (it was a very pleasant evening), but the restaurant was open and the host was very gracious.

The Blue Nile serves Ethiopian cuisine.  Some of the tables are upside down rope baskets with four chairs and two side tables.  We always ask to be seated at one of these because we always order the Vegetarian Feast which is, in fact, vegan.  The Feast comes on a large round tray covered with a layer of Ethiopian sponge bread (made from teff flour) with small piles of the seven different vegetable-based dishes on the menu surrounding a pile of (optional) salad in the center.  Beverages and platters of rolled up sponge bread are placed on the two side tables (we had water and Ethiopian spiced tea).  The meal is eaten by tearing off suitable sized pieces of sponge bread and picking up the eight different selections from the tray.  Before the food was brought to the table we were given hot, moist towels to wash our hands.  Nice touch.

The food was amazing and the experience somewhat more communal than sitting at a standard American table and eating with utensils.  The waitstaff was gracious and attentive and it was a wonderful experience for all three of us.  Mara asked one of the waitstaff to take a picture of the three of us, which they gladly did.  She then uploaded it to her Facebook page along with a brief description of her visit and meal.  One the drive home she already had 12 “likes.”  This is the side of Facebook, and other social media, that is fun.

It was getting dark by the time we got back to the house but we took the time to unload Mara’s kayak from its special mount on the rear of her motorhome that is installed in the tow receiver.  The kayak mounts diagonally from the lower driver side up past the roof on the passenger side and the tip is about 13′ 2″ above the ground.  She was leaving at 6:30 AM the next morning to drive to Cummins Bridgeway to have her main engine and genset serviced and would be traveling south on Hacker Road to Grand River Avenue.  The last time we did this we clipped a branch in the southbound lane on Hacker just north of Bendix Drive not far from Grand River Avenue.  I was concerned that she would catch the same branch and damage her kayak which is why we took it off the rig.

Once the kayak was off the back of her rig and sitting in our yard we said a quick “good night” and all trundled off to bed as 6 AM would come all too soon.  I wrote for a while in bed but was too tired, and full of food, to stay awake.

 

2015/07/09 (R) Graduation Celebration

My main focus this morning was my dentist appointment at 10:30 AM.  I wanted to leave the house at 9 AM so I had plenty of time to get there and actually left at 9:15.  Once I was on I-96 eastbound and clear of the construction at US-23 I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back to my call.  I-96 was very slow as I approached Wixom Road so I exited at Beck Road and dropped down onto Grand River Avenue (GRA).  I got off GRA at M-5 in Farmington Hills and took that to where it ended and rejoined GRA.  I continued to Telegraph Road and headed south.  My QSO with Steve lasted until there by which point there was too much noise and not enough signal for a pleasant conversation.  In spite of the change from my intended route I was still at the dentist’s office by 10:10 AM and they were able to take me in early.

On the way home I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Mike (W8XH) responded to the call.  As a result of differing weekend plans I decided to head to his QTH and pick up his climbing harness.  While I was there I took a few minutes to look at his reconfigured ham shack and his Canon EOS D7 Mark II DSLR.  To say that I am unhappy about Sony’s failure to release the alpha 99 II FF DSLT would be a gross understatement and I am not alone in the sentiment.

Back at the house we had a light lunch of sourdough pretzel nibblers and roasted red pepper hummus.  I then went to my office to continue working on the custom desk design for our bus.  But first I was taking care of e-mails when Williston Crossings RV Resort called back and said they had a spot for us for December.  We had not heard back from Suncoast Designers regarding an appointment to have a fogged window repaired so I called them.  They said they had replied to my e-mail letting us know that we were scheduled for December 7 but the e-mail had not come through, so I need to check the spam filter.

Linda called back and accepted the spot at Williston starting December 1st.  We will have to leave for one to three days to have the window taken care of and we will depart on the 26th for the Arcadia Bus Rally but the monthly rate will still be cheaper than paying for three weeks at the weekly rate.  Besides, they did not have a two or three week opening.

I did get a couple of hours of work done on the desk design and then had to quit.  A month ago our elder grand-daughter, Katie, missed her high school graduation due to a sudden illness.  Meghan and Chris (Katie’s dad) made reservations at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for 5:45 PM today and we gathered to celebrate this milestone in Katie’s life.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline also joined us and we all enjoyed quizzing (and teasing) Katie about her upcoming college experience at Northern Michigan University where she plans to major in Wildlife and Fisheries within the larger biology program.

Linda and I had the black bean burger with fresh, hand-cut fries.  Although it was tasty, and vegan, it did not have any binders and completely fell apart when I tried to assemble it as a sandwich.  We ordered them on sourdough bread as the buns had an egg wash.  Zingerman’s has excellent bread, but it is the rustic style with crusts that are so tough you cannot cut them with a knife (or a chainsaw).  Thus the “burger” was difficult to eat even as an open faced sandwich and was basically a messy pile of “stuff” on my plate.  Linda seemed to enjoy hers but I regretted ordering it even though I ate the whole thing.  I did, however, have a glass of Schramm’s Raspberry Mead made by my friend, and former colleague, Ken Schramm.  It was excellent.  The hand-cut fries were also good and the waitress was delightful, which is always a plus.

Back home I worked for a couple more hours in my office and then worked on this post.  I put my new N.T.I. dental appliance on my lower front teeth just before going to bed.  It obviously felt a little strange but did not keep me from falling asleep.