Category Archives: Automobiles

2016/02/21 (N) Punta Gorda

Our destination today was Punta Gorda.  We arranged last night to pick up Mara and Michael at 9 AM and stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  As a result we slept in a bit and did not make coffee or have breakfast.  I stopped at the Shell Station to top off the fuel tank and then pulled into the DD next door.  Coffee and food in hand we headed to downtown Arcadia on FL-70 and then headed south on US-17 to Punta Gorda.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Mara had researched things to see and do and entered them into the “Map My Plans” app on her iPad.  The app can arrange them in the best order (shortest driving distance) to visit.  Our first stop was an historic train station from 1928 that is now a local history museum.  It was closed on Sunday’s, but we got to see the outside.  Our next stop was an open air arts and crafts market near the Convention Center.  We saw this market last month, when we visited the Woodcarvers Expo at the Convention Center, and it was there again today so we stopped.  Mara bought some earrings and Linda bought an apron.  There was also a husband-wife guitar group playing some very interesting original music that seemed to be of derivative Spanish influence.  They were selling CDs, and I am always tempted to buy one from groups like this as I would likely never find them anywhere else again.  But I didn’t.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station.  Punta Gorda, FL.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station. Punta Gorda, FL.

From the arts and crafts market we drove to the farmers’ market.  We also visited this market in January and really liked it.  The same vendors were there so we were able to buy some more Miatake mushrooms and some Sweet Hot pickles.  Linda also bought a selection of fruits and vegetables.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

From the farmers market we drove to Ponce de Leon Park and visited the Peace River Wildlife Refuge.  This was also our second visit to this facility, which has an interesting collection of injured birds who are at least living out their lives in comfort and safety.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL.  Most of the cars were General Motors products.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL. Most of the cars were General Motors products.

After our visit to the refuge we drove to an alligator preserve but it was closed.  We back-tracked a short distance to the Muscle Car Museum.  Though not free, we paid the nominal admission charge and spent a couple hours examining a very large and very nice collection of Chevy cars and trucks.  Among others they had a couple of 1957 Belairs and a couple of 1967 Cameros.

 

 

 Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair.  He had one very similar to this when he was in high school.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair. He had one very similar to this when he was in high school. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Neither of us are particularly nostalgic about our youth, or any other part of our past for that matter, but I had a 1957 Belair my last three years in high school (in the late 60s) that I customized.  It was not a muscle car but it was candy apple red and it was mine.  Linda’s first car after she graduated from high school and started working was a 1967 Camero.  It was a white convertible with a red interior and a 327 cubic inch V8 under the hood.  It had an automatic transmission, and was not a muscle car, but it was powerful and we took it to from St. Louis, Missouri to Colorado and back on our two-week camping honeymoon right after we got married.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero.  It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero. It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

We discussed finding a restaurant in Punta Gorda for linner but Mara and Linda did not turn up anything promising.  I set the GPS and started back to our RV resort.  In less than an hour we were back and dropped Mara and Michael at her rig before returning to ours.

Back at the coach we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and checked our e-mail.  Gary had sent the first draft of the April 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine for me to proofread.  I went through my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion and started annotating corrections.  I will need to go through it again with the original open for comparison but I was too tired to do that today.

For dinner Linda sautéed the Miatake mushrooms in EVOO with garlic, onion, and Egri Merlot.  She also cooked a spaghetti squash, set out some black grapes, and poured out the remainder of the Merlot, which was left over from last night’s dinner.  This was only the second time we have had Miatake mushrooms and it is difficult to describe in words how exquisitely good they are in terms of taste, texture, sight, and smell.  We agreed that they were the best mushrooms we have ever had.

After dinner I connected the Sony a99v-DSLT to my computer and off-loaded the 105 pictures I took today.  I looked through them quickly but did not see anything that I thought would make a good postcard for Madeline.  My computer seemed to be working again so I backed up photos, blog posts, BCM files, and other files to our NAS.  I tried to access the Backup and Security components in Windows 10 and it appeared they had been restored to proper operation.  I checked for updates and the system said it was up-to-date.  ES|ET Smart Security is still telling me I have 17 updates and most of them appear to be drivers related to the computer hardware and low level system functions.  I need to contact ES|ET and ask them about what this actually means and how to resolve it.

We were going to walk over after dinner and visit with Mara and Michael but all four of us were tired and took a pass.  We watched Father Brown on PBS, the Simpsons and something else on FOX, and then Downton Abbey on PBS.  Linda headed off to bed after Downton Abbey and I watched the end of CSI: Cyber.

 

2015/11/23 (M) Elemental Errand Run

I got up a little after 7 AM.  Juniper was prowling around the bed which is her way of letting us know she wants to be fed.  If one of us does not get up and put food in their dishes Juniper starts chewing on the charger cords on our night stands and/or pushing things off onto the floor.  I needed to get up anyway.  The Tylenol PM had worn off and I was having difficulty finding a comfortable position.  To my surprise and consternation, my back was much worse than when I went to bed.  I could not find a comfortable standing position and was barely able to walk.  I managed to get my robe and slippers on and make it to the bathroom to get my bite guard out, clean it, and put it back in its case.  I made my way to the kitchen where I took three Ibuprofen with some orange juice and had a couple of cherry strudel bites (vegan).  I then sat in the living room with the heater pad against my lower right back and set on high.

Linda got up at 8:15 AM.  At 9 we had fresh grapefruit and cherry mini-strudels (vegan) for breakfast with orange juice and the last of the Ethiopian Yiracheffe coffee.  We drank most of the coffee in the living room where I lingered until 10 with the heater pad on my right lower back.

I called Brighton Honda and the service department confirmed that they rotated my tires at my last service visit so they did not need to be rotated today.  I called Discount Tire in Howell and cancelled my 10 appointment.  That took some pressure off of our morning.

A clean bus is a happy bus, or at least makes for a happy bus owner.  Although we have kept it vacuumed as we worked it needed a good interior cleaning.  The insides of the cabinets needed to be vacuumed, the wood work need to be dusted, and the counters and mirrors needed to be cleaned.  Linda did most of that yesterday.  We also wanted to wash the floor but decided to do that after everything was loaded on board.

I did not get all of the tool boxes repacked last night so I continued working on that today as best I could.  I also needed to go through all of the tubs that we keep in the front bay, decide what really needed to travel with us, and repack the tubs.  The situation with my back, however, made for slow and uncomfortable work.

We took a break at 12:30 PM to have lunch.  Linda has been using up frozen food to clear out the refrigerator so she made vegan “hamburgers.”  The packing and loading work was further interrupted by several things we had to do away from the house and bus.

I dropped off my Honda Element at Brighton Honda for a 1:30 PM oil change appointment.  Linda followed me in her car and picked me up.  We went to Staples in Brighton and bought a pack of 9x12x4 inch boxes.  I needed three of them to hold the complete sets of BCM issues (37 magazines each) that will be given away as door prizes at the Arcadia Bus Rally.  I called Teeko’s to see if our coffee order was ready to pick up.  It was.  I called Brighton Ford’s NAPA parts department to see if the air filter had arrived.  It had, but the parts guy wasn’t sure where it was and thought it might take a little while to find.  No problem.

We drove to Teeko’s first to pick up our coffee and visited for a while with Mary.  We then drove to Brighton Ford, which is next door to Brighton Honda, to pick up the air filter.  The Honda dealership called to let me know my car was ready to pick up, so the timing was really good.  Linda dropped me off at the Honda dealer and went on to Meijer’s.  I got my car and headed home.  In total the errand run took about two hours.

There was a USPS Priority Mail package waiting for me on the porch when I got home.    It was a set of the BCM issues I need to make a complete set to use as a door prize at the Arcadia Bus Rally at the end of December.  In my correspondence with Gary (owner/publisher) he agreed to send three sets and to ship them next week to the RV resort in Williston, Florida.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother spending time and effort communicating carefully and in detail.

I continued working in the garage and Linda started cleaning the house.  We worked until 6 PM and called it a day.  We did not accomplish as much today as we wanted to but we got a lot done and felt good about that.  Our original plan was to have the bus loaded by the end of the day tomorrow.  As things stand we plan to finish loading it on Wednesday.  As of now we are still committed to leaving Friday morning and should be able to do that.

Linda picked up a couple of Amy’s frozen enchilada dinners which, along with some fresh black grapes, made for an easy but tasty meal.  After dinner I integrated the magazines I received today with the issues I already had to make one compete set which I boxed up and labeled.  At 8 PM we settled in to watch our Monday night TV shows before taking some more Tylenol PM and going to bed.

 

2015/10/08 (R) A Mighty Hose

Linda was up before 6 AM to drive to the bakery ahead of the worst of the morning rush hour traffic.  I was aware of her getting up but fell back asleep.  She is very quiet as she goes about her preparations on such mornings, which I appreciate.

I got up around 8AM, fed the cats, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made half as much coffee as usual and measured out a bowl of granola, probably a little more than usual.  I took my coffee to the living room and turned on the fireplace, expecting to settle in with my cats and work on my iPad, but the iOS 9.0.2 update was available so I started the installation and read the last few pages of Number Theory and Its History by Oystein Ore.  I read from screens more than from paper these days, but I still like to curl up with a printed book.

Jasper used to sit next to me on the sofa in the morning but seems to prefer sleeping on top of one of the back cushions these days.  Juniper, who never used to pay much attention to me, has taken his place.  She has always sought out warm places to curl up but has always preferred Linda’s lap to mine.

My bus project for today was reassembling the plumbing to the two fan-coil heat exchangers that go in the bases under the two desk pedestals.  Yesterday I cut new holes for the supply and return hoses.  My first task was to remove the hoses from the bleeder valves and install barbed plastic plugs in the ends to prevent coolant from coming out.  I then pulled the hoses back and out through the new openings.

The area behind the desk where the heater hoses emerge from the passenger side OTR HVAC duct.

The area behind the desk where the heater hoses emerge from the passenger side OTR HVAC duct.

I worked on the hose for the right hand (rear most) heat exchanger first.  I positioned the base, routed the hose to the lower fitting, and marked where to cut it.  I put a plastic paint tray liner under the hose before I cut it but more coolant came out than I expected.  I got as much of it in the liner as I could and grabbed a bunch of paper shop towels.  I got the liner outside without spilling any antifreeze and poured the used antifreeze in a one gallon jug that I keep for just this purpose.  I used a funnel that is also reserved for use with antifreeze.

I took the cut off piece of heater hose outside, plugged end down, and set the open end in the tray liner.  We already had a bucket of soapy water in the bus as we had planned on hanging wallpaper yesterday.  I wrung out the sponge and then squeezed some of the soapy water on the floor and cleaned it up with paper shop towels.

The left and right desk bases and center cover/spacer set in place.  The heater hoses are not yet connected.

The left and right desk bases and center cover/spacer set in place. The heater hoses are not yet connected.

With the mess cleaned up I slipped two hose clamps over the end of the hose and worked it onto the lower fitting on the heat exchanger.  If only it had been as easy to do as that description!  The 3/4″ i.d. rubber heater hose did not just “slip” over the 3/4″ o.d. copper pipe even with some residual antifreeze lubricating the inside of the hose and the outside of the pipe.  Indeed, it took considerable and simultaneous pushing and twisting to get the hose on.  It was also a lot harder than I expected to work with the heat exchangers installed in the bases, even without the desk pedestals in place.

I was interrupting my work as needed to take photographs and as I finished up the first hose the camera refused to trigger the shutter.  The LCD screen indicated that the compact flash memory card was full so I went to my office to offload the images from the last few days.  My other CF card was empty so I put that in the camera and set it aside.  I had not backed up my photos to the Network Attached Storage units in quite a while so I decided to take the time to do that.  While I was at it I backed up my blog posts from December of 2014 through July of this year along with several issues of The Gypsy Journal.

As long as I was at my computer I checked my e-mail accounts, logged into RVillage, and logged into my account at B&H Photo.  My new Sony alpha 99 and accessories were on their way from New York and due to be delivered by the end of the day tomorrow.  I am excited to finally be getting a new digital camera with a full frame (35mm) sensor that will work correctly with all of my old Minolta A-mount lenses.

By this point it was lunchtime so I cleaned up (antifreeze is definitely NOT good eats) and scrounged around the kitchen for something tasty but easy to fix.  My “go to” meal is usually roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We had a little hummus left, which I finished, but I was still hungry so I made a bowl of popcorn.  I would probably not make a good bachelor.

I went back to the coach and contemplated attaching the other hose to the left heat exchanger.  While I was thinking about it Linda called to let me know she was on her way home.  It was 1 PM so I decided to wait for her to get home to help me install the second hose.  I had some phone calls to make and used the time for that.

I called Karen at Bratcher Electric to schedule the upgrading of our 60 Amp sub-panel in the garage to a 100 Amp main panel.  While I had her on the phone I asked if Mike would itemize the quote.  I also mentioned that they had picked up two or three whole house generator customers through my referrals and perhaps Mike could provide some consideration for that in the pricing.  Next I called Ferman Miller at Countertop Plus in Shipshewana, Indiana to check on the Corian desk top and table.  Ferman answered the phone and said he had called Josh this morning to let him know the pieces were ready for pickup.  I then called Josh to see what his plans were.

We originally agreed that he would pick them up and bring them to our house on his way to visit relatives in the northeast side of the Detroit metropolitan area.  His plans had changed and he won’t be visiting his relatives anytime soon.  He is leaving on Tuesday for a FMCA area rally in the Carolinas and will be gone for a week.  Before he leaves he needs to get something to a customer in Cleveland in addition to getting our stuff to us or deciding that we will have to drive to Shipshewana to get it ourselves.  One option is that we meet him somewhere on Sunday.  Ann Arbor is a possibility but Toledo or Defiance (Ohio) are more likely rendezvous points.

Linda got home around 2 PM and changed into her work clothes.  With Linda’s help I was able to avoid the mess I had with the first hose.  The second hose was even harder to get on than the first one but we managed to do it.  In part because of the arthritis in the joints at the base of my thumbs I do not have as much grip strength as I would like and often need.  The twisting and pushing was hard on my hands and the confines of the base and proximity of crisp wooden edges resulted in lots of small cuts.  This was not something I anticipated in the design and construction of the bases and the installation of the heat exchangers.

I took a break and drove to Northwest Plumbing Supply to see if they had a bleeder valve like the ones in our bus system.  They did not and had never do seen anything like it before.  The showed me a couple of things they did have but I did not buy anything.  I got a call from Brighton Honda that my car was ready for pickup so I headed home to get Linda.  She drove me to the dealership and then went on to Meijer’s for a few grocery items.

I drove to Lowe’s in Howell and was fortunate to find Lars in the plumbing department.  The store was not very busy and he took an interest in showing me various plumbing options that might allow me to replace the bleeder valve with something that would do the same thing while also giving me a way to add antifreeze to the system.  What I ended up with was 3/4″x3/4″X1/2″ copper sweat T and a 1/2″ sweat ball valve with a waste port.

Bruce works on attaching the heater hoses to the fill/bleeder valve T assembly he built.

Bruce works on attaching the heater hoses to the fill/bleeder valve T assembly he built.  (Photo by Linda.)

Back home I cleaned some 3/4″ and 1/2″ copper pipe with 120 grit plumbers sandpaper.  I cut two pieces of the 3/4″ pipe about 3″ long and one piece of the 1/2″ pipe about 1-1/2″ long.  I brushed the inside of all the fittings and test fit the pieces.  I then applied flux to all of the surfaces to be soldered, inserted the two 3/4″ stubs into the run fittings, inserted the 1/2″ stud into the bull fitting, and put the ball valve on the other end of the 1/2″ pipe.  I used the lever on the ball valve to mount the assembly in my bench vise.  I removed the waste port cap to protect the neoprene seal and opened the ball valve so as not to trap heat inside.  I then heated the T and the end of the valve and applied the solder.

I figured there had to be an easier way to get heater hose onto the heat exchanger and that Butch was the guy who would know what it was.  I called and he said antifreeze can obviously be used and works fairly well but that a small amount of dish soap would also work as a lubricant and not harm the antifreeze or the Aqua-Hot and its components.  As long as we were on the phone I caught up on their activities.

They were still there at the RV Park in Bouse, Arizona but only until the 15th of this month.  The terms and conditions of their employment as managers of the park had not turned out to be as described during the interview process and they are wrapping up after only a month on the job.  They will move their bus back to Quartzsite and spend at least part of the winter at Joe and Connie’s place where we both spent last winter.  I know it was a big disappointment to them that the situation in Bouse did not work out, but their situation in Q will be familiar, comfortable, and inexpensive, as well as convenient to the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club which they joined this past winter.

For dinner Linda made a blend of onions, garlic, mushrooms, and power greens and served it over a baked potato topped with Daiya cheese.  It was very yummy, and the potatoes kept the dish warm all the way to the end.  The weather had turned cloudy through the afternoon and we got the first raindrops during dinner.

The fill/bleeder valve T assembly with the heater hoses connected.  The assembly is located between the bases at the floor and will be hidden by the center connector/cover.

The fill/bleeder valve T assembly with the heater hoses connected. The assembly is located between the bases at the floor and will be hidden by the center connector/cover.

I had really hoped to have the hydronic heating system reassembled today so we went back out to bus after dinner to hook up the heater hose that runs between the two heat exchangers.  This was actually two pieces of hose with my homemade bleeder/fill valve half way between the two exchangers.  Even with dish soap the two hoses were very difficult to get onto the heat exchanger fittings and the bleeder/fill stubs, but I got them on.  Linda took pictures while I grunted, groaned, and moaned and I took a few more when I was done.

It was 8:45 PM when we finally quit working, secured the bus, and went inside.  I cleaned my hands as best I could but I could not get all of the black from the rubber hoses to come off.  We sat for a while in the living room and had the last of the frozen chocolate torte that Linda made a couple of weeks ago.  We finally turned in around 10 PM and watched Rick Steve’s Europe, Travel in the Americas, and a couple of cooking shows while I worked on this post.

 

2015/10/02 (F) Tire Nibblers

It dropped into the mid-40s last night and the house cooled off proportionally.  It starts getting light at 7 AM these days and cool mornings are just another reason to stay under the covers a little longer.  I finally got up at 7:30 AM, got dressed to work, and made our morning coffee.  After our breakfast of fresh mixed berries and homemade granola I turned on the fireplace and we enjoyed our coffee to its dancing light and warmth.

Chuck called to let me know he had set out one of his sheet metal nibblers for me to pick up at the shop.  I left around 10:30 AM and drove Linda’s Honda Civic to Discount Tire in Howell.  (My Honda Element is tied up at Brighton Honda until the middle of next week to get a broken driver-side door lock replaced.)  I noticed last night while we were out that several tires on the Civic were under-inflated and the sidewalls were badly weather-checked.  They still had plenty of tread but the paperwork indicated they were put on five years and 80,000 miles ago.  Time for a change.

At Discount Tire the sales associate confirmed that the date code was from 2009 and corroborated my observations.  The tread was probably good for another 20,000 miles but I do not mess around with old tires with cracked sidewalls.  Michelin no longer makes the Defender, at least not in the P195/65R15 size, so I bought a set of four Continentals that should perform equally well and last for 90,000 miles.  That means they will age out before the wear out, which is fine with me.  It was going to be a two hour turnaround time so I texted Linda and Chuck and settled in to wait.  Thank goodness for iPad games.

The technician pulled the car in at noon and a few minutes later asked me if I had the key for the wheel locks.  I had looked for it earlier and not found it.  He wasn’t sure he could get them off at all and would certainly ruin them in the attempt.  That sounded like a bad situation getting worse so I had them set the tires aside while I took the car to Brighton Honda and had them remove the special lug nut from each wheel using their master key set.  I bought a new set at the Honda dealership (so any Honda dealer can remove them in the future) and had them put those on and made sure I had the key when I left.

While I was there Rob gave me a quote on four Continental tires.  The installed price, including a rebate in the form of a Visa gift card, was 30% lower than the price I paid at Discount Tire so I showed the quote to the guy at the counter when I got back.  He said the quote was for a different, less expensive, discontinued tire.  I had no way of knowing if that was true or not but he also asked if the guy who wrote me up gave me the rebate form for the tires I bought.  I said ‘no’ so this guy printed out an extra receipt and gave it to me with the rebate form.  That narrowed the price difference to 20% and I was satisfied with that.  I liked the tires I had purchased and did not want to undo and then redo the sale.  I have also had good experiences over the years with Discount Tire, including their nationwide free rotation and balancing policy.

When the tires were finally mounted, balanced, and installed I headed for Chuck’s shop in Novi.  He was there when I arrived and had three different metal cutting tools laid out to show me.  One was manual, one was electric, and one was powered by a drill.  We decided that the manual one and the drill powered one were most likely to work for what I needed to do.  He put them in a cardboard box along with cans of three different chemicals he was getting rid of.  His trash, my treasurers.

On the way back to the house I stopped at the Shell station at Beck and Grand River Avenue to top up the fuel tank.  I texted Linda and then headed for home.  I arrived home at 3 PM to find lunch on the table.  That was a nice surprise.

After lunch we uninstalled the desk in the bus and set the pedestals on part of a large blanket in the center of the kitchen floor.  We draped the blanket over them and then uninstalled the hinged sofa seat and set it across the pedestals.  We folded the blanket back over the seat and set the desk bases on top of it.  We now had clear access to the wall behind the desk and the wall behind the sofa.

I got a 3″ brush from the basement and then got the Zinzer 123 Primer, opened it, and stirred it.  It was still in good shape as it has been in the library since last fall when we repaired and repainted the west wall after Darryl was done installing the new HVAC system.  Rather than pour it into another container I found a lid from a copy paper box to put it under the one gallon can.  Linda finished masking off the woodwork and counters in the bus and then helped me spread painter’s plastic to protect the floor.  We spread out an old bathroom towel, put the box lid on that, and then put the can inside the (upside down) box lid.  I set the can lid aside and worked directly out of the can.

I started in the back of the hallway and primed the upper half of the outside wall as I worked towards the front.  The lower half of this wall has vertical mirror tile wainscoting.  We wanted to remove it but assumed the pieces were glued directly to the plywood wall, as they are elsewhere in the coach, in which case removing them would have done a lot of damage.  We repositioned the plastic, towel, and paint and I continued up the passenger side priming the plywood next to and (mostly) under the windows.  Completing that side up to the cockpit required one more repositioning of all the stuff.  I was working in close proximity to the new living room captain’s chairs so we wrapped those in painter’s plastic as well.

Bruce primes the bare plywood behind the sofa and under the driver side living room window.

Bruce primes the bare plywood behind the sofa and under the driver side living room window.

I moved to the driver’s side and primed the area under the window and up the left side.  Even though Linda had masked off all of the woodwork with painter’s tape I worked carefully and stayed away from the tape.  We are not sure that the priming is even necessary and I did not want to risk getting any on the woodwork.

By the time we finished it was 5:30 PM and we were done working on the bus for the day.  We had only worked for a couple of hours, and only accomplished a small task, but it was a critical path task that stood in the way of getting a whole chain of other important things done.  Tomorrow we will sand the primer with 220 grit paper using the palm sander and try hanging the new wallpaper.

Linda made a pizza for dinner using the gluten-free almond meal recipe she got from Mara.  She topped it with greens, onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and Daiya non-dairy cheese.  There is also cheese in the crust along with garlic and other good things.  We had a nice salad first with walnuts, beets, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.  The salad was very good and the pizza was outstanding.

Philip Jarrell called to let us know he would be here at 8 AM tomorrow to start our French drain and driveway project, weather permitting.  Detroit Public Television shows classic movies at 8 PM on Fridays and tonight’s selection was “Bullit” starring Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset.  We watched This Old House and a couple of travel shows after that and then went to sleep.

 

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.

 

2015/06/25 (R) The Mouse

Brighton Honda called yesterday in the afternoon to get permission to do additional work on my car.  Since we plan to keep the car for a while, and then perhaps give it to our son, it was the kind of work that needed to be done regardless of the costs.  They called back later to indicate that they would not have it aligned before closing time.  That was fine with us as it would have been inconvenient to impossible for us to get there by 6 PM to pick it up.  Linda told them to call in the morning when it was ready.

The top of the 40-foot tower from the WNW showing all of the antennas and the pulley with the haul rope.  The weather had definitely deteriorated from the day before.

The top of the 40-foot tower from the WNW showing all of the antennas and the pulley with the haul rope. The weather had definitely deteriorated from the day before.

It is amazing how attuned we become to routine sounds and how sensitive we are to non-routine ones, even (especially?) while sleeping.  So it was last night that I was suddenly aware that one of our cats was making a repetitive sound that was unusual.  I turned on my flashlight, hoping to not disturb Linda, and got out of bed.  Both cats were hunched down on the floor on Linda’s side of the bed with Jasper in front.  He was the one responsible for the sound and the reason was next to his head and about 3 inches away; a little dark gray mouse.

My first thought when I see one or both of the cats with a mouse next to them rather than in their mouth is that it is dead but that was not the case.  This mouse was alive and apparently not injured.  I have seen this behavior before in which the mouse basically “plays dead” and the cats leave it alone but watch it carefully.  Mice seem to know that cats are triggered by movement and that if they sit very still the cats just sit there and guard them.  It was 4:30 AM and I was not fully awake so I do not recall the exact sequence of events, but the mouse somehow ended up in our master bathroom.   I do not recall what I did with the cats but I think I went and got a box with high sides and tried to get the mouse to go in it and it made a run for it towards the bathroom.  Linda was awake by this point so she got a towel for me.  I went in the bathroom and used the towel to block the gap under the door and prevent the little critter from getting back into the bedroom while I tried to get it into the box.  I was unsuccessful and it managed to find a place to hide in the hot water baseboard radiator.

Linda got one of the live traps we recently purchased and baited it with the recommended saltine and peanut butter.  We set the trap near the radiator, turned out the bathroom light, shut the door, and tried to plug the gap with the towel from the outside, figuring we would deal with the mouse in the morning.  Juniper kept pawing at the towel and pulling it back from the door so we put both cats out of the bedroom and shut the door.  They found that confusing as they sleep with us and generally have the run of the house.  One or both of them pawed at the door meowing to get back in for quite a while.  It wasn’t the best night’s sleep we have had and the timing was unfortunate given the hard day of tower work.

Brighton Honda called at 8:01 AM to let us know the car was ready.  Hello, I’m awake now!  I checked on the mouse and it was now safely tucked away on top of the radiator fins inside the housing where neither the cats nor I could get to it.  We decided to leave the live trap in place, sealed the gap under the door, and kept the bedroom door shut to keep the cats out.

I had planned to drive to Isringhausen’s U.S. headquarters in Galesburg, Michigan today but first we had to get my car.  As long as we were headed that way we decided to go to the Brighton Panera for coffee, but had toast and juice for breakfast at home before we left.

The 100,000 mile service is extensive and includes changing the spark plugs.  Beyond the routine service items the Element needed a new ball joint and tie rod and had a stuck brake caliper pin that had to be repaired.  Given the front end work I also had them align it.  Butch and I rebuilt the front brakes last year so I was surprised that there was an issue with them, but the car has been towed and driven in some harsh environments since then so that may have been a factor.

The Panera at Grand River Avenue and I-96 is not one of our favorites.  More often than not we end up with coffee grounds in our cups and the bathrooms are not maintained as they should be.  Today was not the first time we have been to this location that the men’s restroom was out of toilet paper.  It is also often freezing cold inside the restaurant and today was no exception.  The weather was overcast and a bit gloomy but the outside temperature, while not warm, was much more comfortable than inside.  We were also unable to connect to their Wi-Fi signal, which is generally useable.  That’s pretty basic stuff to not be able to get right and falls squarely on local management in my opinion.

While we drank our coffee I called Rick Short at ISRI to make sure he would be in but I got his voice mail again.  I asked for a call back but never got one so I did not make the trip to Galesburg.  Apparently they have better things to do than be of assistance to me.  I only want to buy one chair, not a fleet of chairs, so I understand my relative unimportance, but I don’t like it just the same.  We decided to spend the day at home completing the work from yesterday, which had made a mess throughout the house.

One of the things we needed to do was register our cellular booster system.  Given that it is a five band device I was not clear on whether we had to register it only with Verizon or with all of the carriers.  I called the company we bought it from, Cellular Solutions, and talked to Judy who said we only had to register it with the carriers we personally use.  For us that is Verizon Wireless.  Registration was via the Verizon Website and was simple enough.  It did, however, require me to log in to our My Verizon account and navigate through a couple of screens to a page where we could enter the information from the label on the box.  The serial number was on two peel off tags, so one of those went on the booster and the other one went in the manual.

With the unit registered I turned the power switch on and watched the ‘Alert’ lights all go solid yellow.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post solid yellow lights are not described anywhere in the manual.  I called Cellular Solutions back and said I had a technical support question.  The woman on the phone took my name and number and said someone would call me back.

Since I was apparently taking care of phone chores I decided to call Universal Towers and inquire about their B-30 base.  The woman who answered the phone never gave her name but was able to answer some questions.  She indicated that their base might or might not be compatible with older Heights Tower products, depending on exactly which product I had, and that I would have to talk to the owner, Bill, who wasn’t there at the moment.  She did know that the outside-to-outside measurement of the legs on a B-30 base was 30 inches and the base cost $290.  She also told me that the larger bases, like the B-30, consisted only of the three rods with the mounting yokes on top; the three rods were not otherwise connected together in any way.  She also confirmed that the ‘U’ shaped yokes at the top of the base rods were welded on and not adjustable.  The normal installation procedure involved connecting them to the bottom of the legs of the first section of the tower, setting them in the hole as the concrete is poured, and adjusting them by moving them around until the legs of the tower were plumb.  That sounded to me like a process where a lot could go wrong and not be repairable.

I pulled a 75 ohm coax out of the ceiling of the basement yesterday.  We laid it out in the basement to see how long it was and it looked to be at least 60 feet.  Linda suggested we test it before running it through the basement ceiling which was a very sensible idea.  I unplugged the power adapter for the TV amplifier power inserter, detached the coax that feeds the TV in the bedroom, attached the downstairs cable, and connected the other end to the basement TV set.  Linda set up the TV for Antenna input, did an All Channels scan, and got the same stations we got yesterday, minus a couple.

In spite of what appeared to be acceptable performance I decided I wanted a new coax cable and Linda wanted to return three of the ropes I bought at Lowe’s but never used.  She found the receipt and we went to Lowe’s.  They had a good quality RG-6 quad-shield coax (75 ohm) in various lengths including 50 feet, which is what I needed.  At the register I decided to buy two more 40 pound bags of solar salt.  I am not an impulse shopper as a rule but their supply of Morton Solar Salt was very low and stocking up seemed like a good idea.

We stopped at Teeko’s to order coffee.  Mary took our order and rang it up; one pound each of the three different half-caff blends that have become our standard.  We took note of the fact that the Bennigan’s restaurant building on the northwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Latson Road was gone and a sign said a Panera would be coming soon to that location.  We didn’t say anything to Mary, but that cannot be good news for Teeko’s.  We will continue to buy our custom roasted beans at Teeko’s as long as they are open but it is going to be difficult for them to compete with a $2.25 cup of bottomless coffee, free Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a bakery, drive through service, and ample parking with great access to I-96.

When we got home I checked the live trap in our master bathroom and we had captured the mouse.  We took the trap to the northeast corner of the property, towards our neighbor’s pond, and set it free.  It did not want to leave the trap and I had to encourage it to go.  Once it hit the ground, however, it scampered away looking for a place to hide.

We then worked on running the new coax from the basement TV to the sump pump room above the suspended ceiling.  I disconnected the power inserter for the amplifier and disconnected the old coax we had tested earlier.  I notched a ceiling panel at the corner of a boxed support column behind the basement TV to allow the ceiling tile to go back into place around the coax.  We then installed one of the wire channels to contain and hide the coax from the ceiling down to the TV set and connected it to the back of the set.

In the sump pump room I attached the coax from the cable entry box (CEB) to the input of the new 1-to-2 signal splitter.  I attached the coax for the bedroom TV to one output from the splitter and the coax we just ran to the other output.  I mounted the splitter on the wall of the sump pump room and secured the cable coming from the CEB to the ceiling.  I then plugged the power supply for the power inserter back in to an AC outlet.  Linda scanned for channels and verified that everything was working correctly.  We then installed the other wire channel alongside the trim on the bedroom doorwall to route and hide the cable coming up from the basement.

I continued to fuss with the cell phone booster gain settings.  We had not gotten the promised return phone call from Cellular Solutions Technical Support so I called them.  I got Judy again and explained what I was seeing with the solid yellow lights.  She checked with her tech support people and they said the manufacturer (SureCall) told them the solid yellow was the same as the blinking yellow; that the booster was adjusting the gain and it was “normal.”  The manual says that normal is when the light is off, so I’m not sure I buy this explanation, but based on that I left the booster turned on.

With all of that done we started cleaning up the tools and materials we had scattered over two floors of the house.  I decided that was also a good time to start a load of laundry, although it was actually rather late in day for that.  I did three loads by the time I was done and it was sometime after 10:30 PM before the last load was dry.  I needed to be up at 7 AM to be at breakfast in South Lyon at 8 AM as our SLAARC group would start setting up for the ARRL Field Day event at 9 AM.

 

2015/06/12 (F) Forms and Family

I was awake at 6 AM but not fully rested so I stayed in bed.  I got up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, cleaned their litter tray, and then settled in at my desk to continue editing blog posts.  I had edited four more posts by 9 AM when I heard footsteps and running water, signaling that people were up and about.  I wrapped up my work and went upstairs to make coffee.

We sat around drinking coffee and tea and visiting.  Both cats have gotten more comfortable with Ron and Mary being here, but especially Juniper, who is seeking their attention and sleeping on the living room sofas while we sit and talk.

Ron and Mary were expecting a package today but found out late yesterday that it had not been sent.  As a result they needed to have documents e-mailed to us so they could deal with them and return them before they leave tomorrow for a week-long bicycle ride in northwest Illinois.  The e-mails came through and all of the documents were PDFs so they were easy to save and print.  I restarted my old Dell Precision Workstation in Windows 2000 Pro mode as that is where the scanner is installed and we would need it later to scan the signature pages, save them as PDFs and e-mail them back to the sender.  (I normally use this computer to run Linux.)

I left at noon for a 12:15 PM appointment at the Honda dealer to have the oil changed in my Element.  My car has just under 99,000 miles and really needed its 100,000 mile service, but I did not have time for that today so I had them change the oil and scheduled a return visit for Wednesday June 24 at 10 AM.  It has a torn driveshaft boot on the driver side front and the mechanic thinks the drive shaft should be replaced as water and dirt have certainly gotten in there and there is probably rust.  Ron tended to concur with that opinion.

Linda gave me a short grocery list before I left and I went to the Brighton Meijer’s after my car appointment.  By the time I got back Ron and Mary had finished reviewing documents.  I was going to scan the signature pages but it turned out that one of the signatures had to be notarized and the documents had to be faxed back in their entirety.  Linda researched places to get all of that done and they were headed out to take care of that as I returned home.  While I was out UPS dropped off a package from Prevost Parts with the window panel seal I ordered earlier in the week.  That’s two UPS deliveries to this week so my confidence is restored.

While Ron and Mary were out Linda made potato salad and I worked in my office.  I restarted my Dell Workstation in Linux mode (Ubuntu 14 point something) and installed about 45 updates.  While that was happening I edited a few more blog posts and got caught up.  Now all I have to do is post them.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline drove up after Madeline got up from her afternoon nap.  They arrived around 4 PM.  I quit working at my desk just before that and came upstairs.  Madeline is always excited to visit Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce but having Ron and Mary here was a bonus for everyone.

For dinner Linda served the potato salad, baked beans, and vegan cheese burgers with all the fixin’s.  We had a break in the rain and she cooked the burgers outside on the grill.  We had fresh strawberries and non-dairy “ice cream” for dessert.  Ron and Mary picked up an apple pie from the Grand Traverse Pie Company store in Brighton so everyone else tried some of that as well.  Conversation was about family, work, and travel.

By 7 PM Madeline was showing signs of being tired so Brendan and Shawna gathered up their things and headed back to Ann Arbor.  We stayed up until 10 PM talking, but did not play Mexican Train, and then turned in for the night.