Category Archives: Computers

Posts that have something to do with our computers and networking technology.

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

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.

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

2016/02/22 (M) Myakka River State Park

Our destination today was Myakka River State Park (MRSP).  We agreed yesterday to pick up Mara and Michael at 10 AM.  That allowed us to sleep until 8 AM, have coffee and breakfast at our rig, and take showers before leaving for the day.

MRSP is only 25 miles from Arcadia so we did not stop for fuel or coffee.  We stopped at the visitor center near the main entrance to study the maps and displays before heading deeper into the park.  As on previous visits, our first stop was the bridge over the stretch of the Myakka River that runs south from Upper Myakka Lake to Lower Myakka Lake.  We hiked south along the east edge of the river for quite some distance.  Unlike previous visits we did not see the quantity or diversity of wildlife that we expected.  Absent from our visit today were Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills.  We saw alligators, but only one somewhat up close.

We stopped at the Forest Canopy towers and suspension bridge which is one of the special treats of this park.  After that stop we drove to the vendor area on the southeast shore of the Upper Lake to have our picnic lunch.  The parking lot was full but our timing was lucky and we waited as someone backed out and then took that spot.  This area has a boat launch, restaurant, pontoon boat tour, wheeled vehicle train, gift shop, and restrooms.  After lunch we walked out to the weir across the outflow of the Upper Lake, which maintains it at a slightly higher level.  We saw a few more alligators and birds there.

We drove to the end of the road at the north gate and checked out the other picnic area that someone at lunch told us was there.  On the way back we stopped at the Birdwalk, a boardwalk that goes out through a marsh to a point near the eastern edge of the Upper Lake.  We saw a few more alligators from a distance and got a close up view of a couple of birds.

By the time we were done at the Birdwalk it was approaching 4 PM.  We drove slowly back to the Visitor Center to use the restrooms and then exited the park and headed back to Arcadia.  On the way back Linda and Mara decided that, in spite of a nice weather forecast, we would stick around the RV Resort tomorrow and have dinner together.  Not only will that give them time to plan/prepare the meal, it will give us time to do laundry and relax at the swimming pool.  It will also allow me to finish proofreading and correcting articles for BCM.  The forecast for Wednesday has an 80% chance of rain so that was already planned as a stay-at-home day.    My hope is that I will be able to upload the rest of my blog posts for October 2015.  I do not like being this far behind.

For dinner Linda made a dish with vegan Italian sausage on a bed of angel hair pasta with onion, garlic, and broccoli sautéed in EVOO.  Yum, yum.  After dinner I off-loaded the photos I took today.  We then watched the Nightly Business Report and NewsHour on PBS followed by the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX, NCIS Los Angeles on CBS, a few minutes of news and weather, and then Charlie Rose’s interview with Bill Gates on PBS.

So many shades of green.  A view to the south from the observation platform atop the north tower of the Forest Canopy Skywalk.  Myakka River SP, FL.

So many shades of green. A view to the south from the observation platform atop the north tower of the Forest Canopy Skywalk. Myakka River SP, FL.

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

It rained briefly last evening and more rain was forecast starting later this afternoon and extending through-tomorrow.  Today and-tomorrow were planned as stay-at-home (S-A-H) days so we got up just before 8-AM and had coffee, juice, and granola with bananas.  My plan was to take care of our fresh- and waste-water tanks and do the laundry before settling in to work on computer-based tasks.  Linda received a package yesterday of year-end accounting documents from the bakery and planned to work on those today.

The skies had clouded up late yesterday and gotten darker and thicker by sunset.  We had dark clouds to our west this morning and had just finished breakfast (granola, bananas, fruit juice) when it started to rain lightly.  I had no sooner closed the bathroom vent/fan when the rain came down hard.  I closed down the awning style windows until they were only open about an inch at the bottom.  We planned to roll up the patio awning before the rain came today but now had to wait for it to dry off, assuming the rains let up and the sun came out for a while.

We dropped below 1/3rd tank of fresh water yesterday.  When the rain stopped I went out to check the level visually.  It was barely below the 1/3rd sensor so I decided to forego dumping and filling for a couple of more days.  I might even run off the city water for a day or so to push the whole dump/fill/recharge routine off until the weekend.

I moved my laptop computer to the dining table so Linda could on work at hers on the desk.  The accounting work she had to do for the bakery required space to spread out the paperwork she got from Dave (the controller) yesterday.  I decided to just keep editing blog posts from November 2015 in preparation for eventually uploading them.

At 12:45 PM I started sorting the soiled clothes and linens.  Linda quite working on the accounting and made sandwiches for our lunch.  She made a grocery list and then walked to the supermarket.  At 1:30 I loaded the laundry and my iPad into the car and drove over to the laundry room.  By 1:45 I had four washing machines in operation.

I connected my iPad to the Resort’s public Wi-Fi signal at the activity building and connected through to the Internet, which always takes some doing.  The problem is that the various browsers load cached versions of the tabs that are open and I have to go to a new webpage in other to trigger the filter and connect to the Internet.  Until I have done that successfully I cannot check e-mail or update apps.

By 2:25 I had transferred all of the wash to three dryers and started them.  I had six apps with updates available totaling just over 400 MB (0.4 GB) and initiated those.  On our 12 GB Verizon data plan that is more than a whole day’s average data usage for a typical month (0.4 x 30 = 12.0).  I also noticed that I had two new updates for apps on my phone but when I looked more carefully I discovered that I had 22 app updates pending.  I had been deferring them until I could use the resort (or other) free Wi-Fi.  When the last iPad app update downloaded and installed I connected my phone to the Resort Wi-Fi and initiated the app updates.

I worked on the draft of today’s blog post and played a few games until the laundry was dry and then folded it and put it in the car.  It was 4 PM at that point and only 10 of the 22 apps had updated, so I pulled the car around in front of the activity building with a clear, short path to the antenna on the roof.  I had a much stronger signal in that location and the updates progressed much more quickly.  23 apps were updated and the process finished at 4:18 PM.  I noticed that my phone had somehow gotten set to show Homestead, Florida as my “home” location so I enabled Location Services, changed it to Arcadia, Florida, and then disabled Location Services.  I checked to see if we had any snail mail and then drove back to our coach and put the clean laundry away.

When I got back to our coach Linda was cooking her part of this evening’s meal.  We would be dining with Mara and Michael at Mara’s rig having “green taco wraps.”  Linda made a crumbled meat substitute from brown lentils, walnuts, sautéed onions, and peppers.  She also supplied the tortillas, lettuce, and vegan sour cream.  Mara made salsa and avocado cream and a side salad with cauliflower, tomatoes, and lemon juice.  We brought a bottle of Chardonnay and Mara had a bottle of Spanish Rioja, a very dry red wine.

We walked over with our contributions just before 6 PM and were greeted by Michael.  Mara had walked to Walmart for some tomatoes and other last minute items and returned not long after we arrived.  Good wine, good food, and good friends made for a great meal.  We were still there at 8 PM and it turned out that we like to watch the same TV programs, so we all watched NCIS.  Linda and I walked back to our coach when the show ended and watched NCISNOLA and Limitless before going to bed.  I watched most of Charlie Rose before falling asleep.

An Egret tries to swallow a fish that it caught near the Myakka River.  Myakka River SP, FL.

An Egret tries to swallow a fish that it caught near the Myakka River. Myakka River SP, FL.

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

Today was planned as a stay-at-home day.  The forecast was for wind and rain with a marginal risk of severe weather.  I was up a little before 7:30 AM and thought about going to the Wednesday coffee “social” but decided against it.  I began preparing our morning coffee but waited until Linda was awake to grind the beans and finish the process.  Linda got our Verizon Mi-Fi and Wi-Fi Ranger online and checked the current weather, which we compared to what was being reported on the local TV news.  Wind and rain were expected in our part of southwest Florida by 10 AM and the Wundermap app radar showed a large storm front drooped from southwest to northeast in advance of a cold front and moving our way.

I finished my first cup of coffee and then went outside and put up the two window awnings on the driver side of our coach.  While I was out there I drained the auxiliary air filter / water separator and stored the two folding bag chairs in the front bay.

We had granola and blueberries for breakfast and it started raining while we finished our coffee.  We both had computer-based work to do today but Linda needed to update some things first.  The rain stopped, at least temporarily, so we packed up our mobile technology and drove over to the activity building to use the RV resort’s public Wi-Fi system.

We set up our tech toys in the library and connected them to the resort’s public Wi-Fi system; two laptop computers, two iPads, and two smartphones.  I had three app updates on my phone and Linda had 14.  She had eight app updates on her iPad and I had one OS-related update on my computer.  Linda downloaded a new audio book.  I downloaded/installed the OfficeSuites Free – Mobile + PDF app on my iPad and the 2016 U. S. RVers Edition (PDF) of The Mobile Internet Handbook by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard from the Mobile Internet Aficionados membership website.  We also checked our e-mail while we were there.  Between our six devices we greatly exceeded our average daily data allocation of 0.4 GB that our 10+2 GB Verizon data plan provides.  Our normal 10 GB plan averages out to about 0.3 GB per day, and it is not sufficient for our needs when traveling in the motorcoach.

As we were packing up at 1:30 PM to return to our coach the skies opened up and heavy rains poured forth.  Moments later both of our phones notified us that a tornado warning was in effect for our location until 2 PM.  Our car was parked near the front door of the activity building so we decided not to wait for a lull in the rain.  It was raining even harder by the time we got back to our coach but we had our technology in ballistic nylon travel bags and got them inside without getting them wet.

Linda set up her computer on the desk and I set up mine on the dining room table.  We did not need to be online so we left the Verizon Mi-Fi turned off.  Linda worked on accounting for the bakery while I proofread and annotated corrections for two BCM articles.  When she was done for today I moved my computer to the desk, plugged in the power supply, and spent some time reading and responding to e-mails.

By 3 PM the severe weather threat had passed but densely overcast skies continued with occasional lighter rain.  All of this was, once again, in advance of a cold front that will bring high temperatures only in the upper 60’s for the next four to five days.

For dinner Linda improvised a sauté of onion, garlic, kale, and turmeric with boiled red potatoes.  It was a hardy dish; perfect for a cool, dreary evening.  We watched a PBS Nature episode on Emperor Penguins, a Nova episode on rescue robots, and another program on Big Data.  We then went to bed as we had to be up early in the morning.

 

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.

 

2016/02/12-15 (F–M) Everglades Update

2016/02/12 (F) Full Circle

We got up, showered, got dressed, and went down to breakfast around 8 AM.  We were packed, checked out, and had the car loaded by 9 AM.  We headed north on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, exited at some miles later, and headed west.  FL-94 ended at FL-997 where we headed north.  In looking at a map later, we would probably have been better off to get on FL-997 right from the hotel.  There was major road construction on FL-997 all the way to US-41, but traffic moved along at the 50 MPH posted speed limit.

At US-41 we headed west.  This is Miccosukee Indian territory, as indicated by the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming facility (Casino) at the NW corner of Fl-997 and US-41.  A short way to the west this stretch of US-41 (the Tamiami Highway between Tampa and Miami) is bordered by Everglades National Park on the south and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area on the north.  It eventually leaves both of these and runs through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

We pulled in to the ENP entrance for the Shark Valley Visitor Center and immediately and got stuck in the line of cars waiting to get in.  The parking lot had filled a few cars ahead of us and it was now a one car out, one car in situation.

Once we were in we checked out the tram ride to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower seven miles one way due south into the Everglades.  It was a two (2) hour narrated round-trip and cost $24 per person ($19 for seniors).  You can hike or bike out to the tower for free (after gaining admission to the NP).  We did not have that much time so we walked part way down the road along an open channel of water about 15 feet wide and found lots of wildlife photo opportunities, including birds, a large turtle, and alligators.  The most interesting thing we saw was a cluster of at least a dozen young alligators, ranging from one to two feet in length, piled up on top of one another.

A little farther west we left US-41 and drove a small 2-lane road for 38 miles.  The first half was paved and the second half was good gravel.  It was a lovely, slow drive with a maximum speed limit of 30 MPH and a few nature photo opportunities along the way.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

After rejoining US-41 we continued west through the Big Cypress National Preserve as far as FL-29 with Everglades NP once again on our left.  We then headed south through Everglades City and re-entered the park.  The Gulf Coast Visitor Center was very small and did not have the ENP shirts we had seen at the Flamingo Visitor Center and were now hoping to buy.  The vendor operated gift store did not have them either.  The only things you can do from this point in the park are explore the NW coastal portions by canoe, kayak, or pontoon boat.  We did not have time for any of that on this quick visit so we pulled up the address for our RV park in the GPS unit and pushed on.

We had a better look at Everglades City on the way out of town and decided that it was an interesting looking little place.  A traveling carnival of some considerable size was setting up in the middle of town, literally.

Back at US-41 we continued west as we were still somewhat east of the north-south line through Arcadia.  The only other route home from here would take us north on FL-29 and then back east on I-75 and eventually back through LaBelle and up the west side of Lake Okeechobee.  That would be a much longer trip and it was already starting to feel like it had been a long day.

We left US-41 at Collier Blvd. and traveled north about seven miles to I-75 north.  Traffic was heavy, congested, and stop-n-go initially but eventually freed up.  We traveled about 39 miles to exit 141 at Ft. Myers and headed east a few miles to FL-31.  Our final 38 miles were straight north to Arcadia where FL-31 ends at FL-70 just west of our RV resort.

From the Shell station in Arcadia on Tuesday morning to our coach at 5:45 PM today we put 919.4 miles on the car’s trip odometer.  The speedometer on the car reads slightly high, probably because the tires are not factory original specifications, so our actual mileage may have been slightly less by about one mile for every 60 miles traveled.  That would be approximately 15 miles for our trip, making the actual mileage perhaps 905 for the four days, for an average of 225 to 230 miles per day.  That’s a lot of driving, but the purpose of our trip was to get a first glimpse at a lot of south Florida that we had not seen before.

We brought a few things in from the car, spent some time with our cats, and then visited with Ron and Vera (who did not even realize we were gone), before walking over to Mara’ rig for dinner.  Mara made a pot of vegan chili and a wonderful salad which we enjoyed with a glass of her favorite Malbec.  We talked about our trip, how the kitties did in our absence, and discussed the logistics of Michael’s upcoming visit.  We returned to our coach around 9:15 PM, finished unloading the car, unpacked a few things, adored our cats, and relaxed with our iPads for an hour before going to bed.

2016/02/13 (S) Yard Sale

I was up at 7:30 AM, partially prepped the coffee, and then unpacked clothes and hung them up or put them in the laundry hamper.  Linda got up sometime after, after which I ground the coffee beans and finished making our morning coffee.

We noticed last night that a few folks had things sitting out in their front yards suggestive of a garage sale.  This morning there was quite a bit of commotion outside and we noticed several yards just from our rig with lots of stuff sitting out on tables and/or the ground.  Clearly Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was having an official yard sale event today.

We had granola for breakfast and then strolled through the resort.  Based on one comment we overheard we got the impression that the yard sale might have started yesterday but there was still lots of stuff available.  We are not yard sale people, as a rule, and our real destination was the laundry room.  Most of the parking spaces were taken but the room was empty and none of the machines were in use.  We walked back to our coach, loaded our laundry, computers, and iPads in the car, and drove over to the laundry room.

I got the laundry into a washing machine while Linda got her computer going and connected to the park Wi-Fi system.  I then started my computer and got online.  Her computer screen came up dark.  It has done this many times in the past, but not recently.  We think it may be related to the battery, but we are not sure.

Our main reason for bringing our computers over was to download our e-mails from the last four days.  BCM, in particular, has a habit of sending me large files as e-mail attachments or links to large files in a Dropbox, which I prefer.  I had at least 118 e-mails but no large attachments.  I did not get a count from Linda.  Both of our computers are also set up to automatically sync our Dropbox account, and one of the things it does is automatically backup four WordPress websites.  We only had 2.5 GB of data left on our Verizon account to get us through February 19th, so we wanted to transfer as much data as possible via the park Wi-Fi system.

Once the laundry was dry, folded, and hung, we returned to our coach where Linda put on her swimsuit and then joined Mara at the pool.  After putting the clean clothes away I rebooted and reconnected our computers and iPads to our local network and turned on the NAS.  Once everything was up and running I connected the camera and off-loaded all of the photos from the last four days; just over 400 total.  I got a bite to eat and then put on my swimsuit, gathered up my towel and a pair of dry shorts, and went over to the pool to join the ladies.

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A Purple Gallinule near the Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

When I arrived Linda and Mara were sunbathing.  The pool was cool even though it is heated but once I was in and swimming gently I generated enough heat from muscle activity to be comfortable.  I swam for about 1/2 hour and then sat in the hot tub with the whirlpool turned on and positioned myself to vigorously message my lower back.  Linda had taken the soap when she went so I took that along with my towel and shorts and used to shower to rinse off the chlorine and get cleaned up.  I returned the soap to Linda and walked back to our coach.

I doodled on my iPad while Linda read a book when she returned to the coach.  She left at 4 PM to walk to the grocery store with Mara while I laid down on the sofa to take a nap and Jasper curled up next to me.  I was aware of Linda’s return, gradually woke up, and finally got up.

Linda invited Mara to come for dinner.  While she busied herself with the preparations, I went through all of the photos from our trip to Everglades National Park and Key West and backed them up to our NAS.

While I was looking at photos ESET Smart Security kept popping up messages letting me know that it needed my attention.  I opened it and it presented me with a loooong list of critical and recommended updates.  Given our data situation this month I deferred those until I can take my computer back to the office/laundry/activity building and use the resort Wi-Fi system.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a “pasta” dish using an edamame and mung bean fettuccine style noodle.  Mara came to our coach around 6:45 PM and brought a vegan chocolate mousse for dessert.  It was based on blended avocados and it was a delicious finale to a scrumptious meal.  There was a nice orange glow in the western sky but it was too dark by then to eat outside.  It was also getting chilly following sunset so we ate inside and polished off a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio between the three of us.

Mara left a little before 9 PM and we turned on the TV to see if anything interesting was on.  One of the PBS stations was showing a three part drama titled Arthur & George based on a true life event in the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and starting Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as Doyle.  Linda went to bed part way through the third episode but I stayed up to watch it as it was very well done.  I flipped channels for a while after that but nothing else held my attention and I finally went to bed sometime after midnight.

2016/02/14 (N) Valentine’s Day

We were still tired from out whirlwind trip to south Florida and slept in this morning.  When we finally got up Linda made pancakes for breakfast, this being Sunday and all.

It’s a good thing we have our 2 GB of bonus data for the next couple of billing cycles.  Between the Windows 10 upgrade on two computers (most of which we did using the RV resort Wi-Fi), the upgrades to the iOS on both iPads, the inevitable updates to applications on all four devices, and quite a bit of work on BCM articles as well as our personal website/blog, we have had to monitor/manage our data usage very carefully for the January 20 through February 19 billing cycle.  Even with being gone for four days to the Everglades and Keys, and taking our devices to the activity building to use the Wi-Fi, we will be very close to our limit by this Friday, which is the 19th.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

My computer was indicating that I had 22 updates available which meant that Linda’s computer probably had a similar number.  One of them was a Windows 10 cumulative update which I knew would be large so I took both computers to the library and did the updates there.  I then spent part of the day processing and backing up photos before turning my attention to blog posts.  Even with our data situation I uploaded several from mid-October and prepared several more.

We had a relatively easy day otherwise and I did not record all of the details which are now mostly lost to me.  Brenda Phelan called around 5:15 PM to let me know our tire and windshield covers were ready but she and Bill were headed out for a couple of days on windshield cover appointments.  They would be back on Wednesday and we deferred dealing with delivery until then.

For dinner Linda made a mushroom bourginione with macaroni.  She used a Lindeman’s 2014 Shiraz to make it and we also drank some before/with our meal.  She bought a pint of Soy Delicious Cookie Dough non-dairy “ice cream” the other day and we had that for dessert.  After dinner we settled in to watch our Sunday evening TV programs, including Downton Abby.

2016/02/15 (M) Ready, Set, No

We had our usual morning of coffee, juice, and granola for breakfast.  Our fresh water tank had dropped below the 1/3 level yesterday or the day before.  The monitor only indicates Empty, 1/3, 2/3, and Full so once it drops below 1/3rd I have to check it visually.  Fortunately the tank is translucent polyethylene and is located behind a door such that I can see the water level when the lighting is right.  Given how we are parked, facing southwest, the light is best in the morning as access to the tank is from the driver side of the bay.

The tank was down to the 1/8th level, which is about 15 gallons.  We might have gotten one more day’s use but there was no reason to run the tank dry and the pump works better with a full tank.  I dumped both waste tanks and refilled the fresh water tank.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after the tank was full and it was indicating somewhere between 0 and 1.5 gpg.  I updated my Excel spreadsheet accordingly.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

Linda had work to do today on family tax returns and set up her computer on the temporary dining table while I continued to work at my computer on the desk.  I selected and processed a couple of photos from our visit to Everglades National Park for Linda’s weekly postcard to Madeline.  I then selected and processed photos to include in the blog posts for the dates of our visit to the Everglades and Keys.

Brenda Phelan had also sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding our tire covers.  I replied to that and indicated that we might pick them up on Wednesday when she and Bill are back at their shop in Lakeland.  With that done I started preparing for a 3:30 PM telecom meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I printed off six documents:  meeting notice, agenda/notes, short survey results and sampling information, and the long survey results and sampling information.  All told it was 55 sheets of paper, but I wanted/needed to see the survey results printed out.

At 3:29 I dialed in and was the first caller, which I though was odd.  I doubled checked the meeting notice and realized the meeting was Wednesday the 17th.  I knew that, but historically we have always met on Monday afternoons and I just had it in my head that we were meeting today.  The upside us that I have more time to digest the data and think about how I want to handle the fact that the sample/response was too small (in my expert opinion) for the results to be considered representative of the FMCA population.

We had leftovers for dinner, after which we settled in to watch the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX as our usual Monday evening programs on CBS were preempted by the Grammy Awards, which did not interest us.  At 10 PM we switched to PBS and watched a documentary on Stephen Hawking, followed Charlie Rose.  Rose’s show was focused on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scilia, who passed away over the weekend.

 

2016/02/05–09 (F–T) Super Windows Roadtrip

2016/02/05 (F) Windows 10 Upgrade

We had a long day yesterday and even though we were in bed before 11 PM we still slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as we were picking up Mara at 8:50.  We shut down our computers and iPads and packed them for travel.  We set the windows in the bus so the cats would be comfortable.  At 8:45 AM we loaded the car and drove over to get Mara.  We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then headed west on FL-70 for Ed and Betty Burns’ place in Bradenton.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

The main purpose of our visit today was to upgrade Linda’s Samsung laptop computer and my ASUS notebook computer to Windows 10 using Ed and Betty’s unlimited broadband data.  A secondary objective was for Linda to purchase/download the latest version of Turbo Tax.  Our tertiary goal was to update iPad and smartphone apps.

We got to Ed and Betty’s a little after 10 AM, introduced them to Mara, and got busy setting up our computers.  We had a bit of a false start but finally had the Windows 10 installation process launched by 11 AM.  After quite a bit of conversation, Linda and Betty busied themselves making lunch and Mara settled in to go through her mail.  Once the files for Windows 10 appeared to be downloaded I initiated the update process for eight apps on my iPad2.  Betty washed off a bag of red grapes and set them out for all of us to enjoy.

At 12:30 PM we moved our technology to a coffee table in the living room to clear the dining room table for lunch.  Betty made a large pot of vegan chili mac and we had sliced avocado, tortillas, and potato chips to go with it, along with grapes and slices of Meyer lemons for our water.  Florida really is a good place to be if you want to “eat fresh.”

The ladies left around 1:45 PM to go for a walk while Ed and I stayed behind.  I connected my phone to their Wi-Fi and updated a dozen apps.  My computer was finally ready to configure Windows 10 at 2 PM and I went through the customized personalization rather than accepting the Express Setup defaults.  My iPad was up-to-date so I started working on this post while I waited for the Windows 10 process to finally finish.

It took until 2:30 PM for my computer to be fully booted up and usable.  About that same time Linda’s computer was finally ready to configure.  I wanted Linda here for the configuration choices so I waited for her return.  The ladies got back at 2:45 PM and Linda resumed configuring her machine.  We had originally planned to go see the 3 PM practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions in Myakka City, but we would have had to leave at 2 PM to get there.  We will definitely go seem them, but for now this was, once again, deferred to a future day.

Linda purchased, downloaded, and installed the latest version of TurboTax and was done installing updates by 4:20 PM.  Her update process went smoothly, if slowly, and without any apparent hitches.  When the initial Windows 10 upgrade finished on my machine I did not have any of the quick start or system tray icons which concerned me greatly.  After rebooting my computer, more than once, the icons eventually returned.  I installed an undated driver for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU).  I also had a problem with the sound but was able to resolve it using the audio troubleshooter.

I rebooted my machine for what I hoped was the last time at 4:45 PM.  It took 15 minutes to fully boot up and I made one more check for updates.  It appeared that the operating system updates were all done but there were still updates to install for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which are large and tend to take a long time to download.

By this point Betty had opened a couple of bottles of wine and convinced all of us that the collect best option for dinner was to order pizza and eat at their house.  Linda coordinated the pizzas and ordered them from Vertoris’ where we ate last night and which was only seven miles away.  While she and Ed were in transit to get the pizza and salad I updated Photoshop and Lightroom.  I started each program and Photoshop indicated that it had a problem with the video card driver and had disabled some of its enhancement features.  That was not an immediate problem as I do not presently make any use of Photoshop, but the incompatibility was distressing nonetheless.

I had done what I could in the way of updates for today so I shut down my computer and packed it away to clear the table for dinner.  Betty set the table and Linda and Ed returned a short time later with the food.  We sat down to a wonderful meal with friends that finally concluded around 7:30 PM.  It had been a wonderful day with friends and we had gotten a lot accomplished thanks to the use of their technology, but by 7:45 PM we were all tired and the three of us were on our way back to Arcadia.  We dropped Mara back at her motorhome at 8:45 PM and were back at our coach by 8:50 PM.  We watched the end of an episode of Endeavor and then watched another complete episode.  By then we were sleepy tired and went to bed.

2016/02/06 (S) Article Uploads

We slept in this morning until after 8 AM and so did the cats.  We lounged around in our sweats drinking coffee and eventually had granola for breakfast.  It was cloudy with rain coming and we considered spending the day in the bus in our sweats when we remembered that it was the first Saturday of the month.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp.  Swamps involve stagnant water.  The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river.  Everglades NP, FL.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp. Swamps involve stagnant water. The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river. Everglades NP, FL.

The Arcadia Farmers Market takes place on the first and third Saturday of each month so Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go.  She did, so we got dressed, picked her up in the car, and drove downtown.  To our disappointment there were only four vendors there and only two of them were selling food.  One was a local farm that had freshly picked Napa cabbage and locally produced honey.  Linda bought a head of the cabbage and Mara bought a cabbage and a jar of honey.  We took a short walk around downtown and then drove to Joshua Citrus Co.

At Joshua Citrus we bought a few Ruby Red grapefruit and a few Honeybelle tangelos.  Mara also bought a variety of citrus including Meyer lemons.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for cat litter and a few sundry items while Mara picked up some groceries.  We dropped her at her motorhome and took a minute to meet another couple from Howell, Michigan who were just getting ready to pull out.  We then returned to our rig around 1 PM.

Linda made rollup sandwiches with soft tortillas, Napa cabbage, dark greens, and hummus.  At 1:30 PM she phoned Mara to see if she wanted to go for a walk and headed over to rendezvous with her.  I had a call earlier from Dave Aungier and called him back.  He had downloaded his BCM article from my Dropbox and reviewed it.  We went over a few minor changes, which I made to the Word doc, and discussed the process of submitting it to the magazine and working it through to publication.

Dave and I were done talking by 2 PM and it had started to rain lightly.  Linda had worn her raincoat but returned around 2:30.  By that time I had turned my attention to the three articles that Stacy had finished proofreading and returned to me.  I went through each one and accepted most of the changes.  I then went through each one and made sure I had all of the image files properly identified and organized.  I backed up all of the files, moved them to the READY folder, and then uploaded them to my Dropbox.  Once everything had transferred I e-mailed Gary (BCM publisher) and Jorge (layout) and let them know the files were there.  I had a few more e-mails back and forth with Gary and had to redo a panoramic photo that had discontinuities in it that I had not noticed.

Mara came to our rig to discuss some logistics related to the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise that she and her friend, Michael, are going on at the end of the month.  As it turns out we will take them to Miami and pick them up when they return and take care of Mara’s two cats while they are away.  Mara waited for a lull in the rain and returned to her rig a little before 6 PM.  For dinner Linda prepared a salad with diced Napa cabbage and honey roasted peanuts and a homemade dressing made with rice wine vinegar, sesame and vegetable oils, Dijon mustard, fresh grated ginger, salt, and pepper.  It was very good.  She then reheated the leftover pizza from the last two nights.  The pizza was exceptional when it was fresh and, although it lost its crisp crust on reheating, it was still tasty as leftovers.

While Mara was visiting the leak around the bedroom ceiling vent/fan reappeared.  The lower outside corner of the lower passenger side windshield also leaked, but we expect that to happen every time until we do something to fix it.

After dinner we watched a couple episodes of Endeavor and then a couple of episodes of As Time Goes By.  After that we watched a PBS documentary on Jason Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter.  We caught a few minutes of news and weather and went to bed.

2016/02/07 (N) Super Sunday

Today was just one of those days.  It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, but that’s another story.  As we do most days we started our morning with coffee.”  As she often does on Sunday mornings, Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  We split a ruby red grapefruit as well.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout.  This one had a “face.”  Everglades NP, FL.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout. This one had a “face.” Everglades NP, FL.

Linda walked to Winn-Dixie with Mara while I settled in to work at my computer.  My plan was to edit and upload blog posts but in the end I only got two more posts ready to go and did not get them uploaded.  Not that I was goofing off; I was busy all day but ended up taking care of other things.

For starters, I downloaded an updated version of the Logitech SetPoint software for my Logitech UltraThin Touch Mouse and then reconfigured the settings.  The mouse is capable of a variety of things with just subtle movements but seemed to be less stable than before the Windows 10 upgrade.  I was also having problems with my cursor jumping around while typing.  I initially noticed it while typing e-mails but noticed it later while working in Word.  Linda had the presence of mind to suggest that it might be the touchpad.  Sure enough, the touchpad was active.  That had not occurred to me because it wasn’t active under Windows 8.1.  Apparently the upgrade to Windows 10 activated it.  So much for maintaining my existing settings.

I had additional e-mails back and forth with Gary and Jorge at BCM, as result of which I updated the BCM page on our website.  I also e-mailed Brenda Phelan to check on the status of our tire covers.  When I finally got to work on blog posts I selected and processed several photos from our visit on Thursday to the Ringling Estate.  I then edited the two posts mentioned previously.

When Linda got back from Winn-Dixie she made rollup sandwiches for lunch with dark leafy greens and garlic hummus in soft tortillas.  We had red grapes to go with the sandwiches.  After lunch she walked up to the mail room.  I got a happy birthday card from our daughter and son-in-law, which was nice.  The eight pounds of coffee we ordered from Teeko’s back home had also arrived.  I checked the order to make sure it was correct.  It was, so I stored the box as we won’t need it for another couple of weeks.  I exchanged a couple of text messages with my daughter and decided it would be easier to just call her.  We had a nice chat.

Mara walked down to our coach mid-late afternoon and the three of us went for a vigorous walk through the entire RV resort.  We all returned to our bus and visited long enough for me to demonstrate the mapped location history feature in RVillage.  Mara headed back to her rig around 5:30 PM and Linda started fixing our dinner.  She made vegan Sloppy Joe’s with TVP and baked sweet potato fries.  Yum.

Eventually it was time for Super Bowl L (50).  I had intended to continue working at my computer all evening but my enthusiasm had waned and I found the game distracting.  We kept the volume down and played games until 9 PM and then switched the TV to PBS and watched Downton Abbey.  When it was over we switched back to the game.  It looked like the Denver Broncos were going to beat the Carolina Panthers so we watched a documentary on PBS/World about a family in Japan.  Linda went to bed when it was over but I switched to PBS/Create and watched a tribute concert to American film composer John Williams.  Jasper curled up with me for a while and then indicated it was time to go to bed.

2016/02/08 (M) Travel Prep

It got down to 40 degrees F outside last night and dropped into the upper 50’s in the coach.  Juniper stayed close to us for most of the night and snuggled up next to my head around 4:30 AM.  The cats must have eaten most of their food during the night as by 7 AM Juniper was most insistent that I get up.  I finally did at 7:15 AM, fed them, turned on the furnace, and made our morning coffee.  Linda was up by 7:30, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and was playing word games by the time the coffee was ready.  That girl really likes her word games

An Anhinga pruning its feathers.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga pruning its feathers. Everglades NP, FL.

Linda checked our Verizon account via her iPad and we had used 7.03 of our 10 GB of monthly data plus the 2 GB of extra allocation we got for downloading and installing the Verizon go90 app on our phones.  The data usage function on the Mi-Fi device (Novatel 5510L) showed 9.03 out of 12 GB as it combines all available data, so they were in agreement.  It’s a good thing we have the extra 2 GB each month for the next few billing cycles.  This current cycle (January 20 through February 19) has included iOS and app updates for both of our iPads, app updates for our Android phones, uploading of four BCM articles to our Dropbox (with lots of photos), numerous e-mails with large attachments, and upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 on both of our computers.  Even though we made some use of the resort Wi-Fi while at the laundry room, and did the Windows OS and some iPad/smartphone upgrades at Ed and Betty Burns’ place using their unlimited broadband connection, it has been a heavy period of data usage for our Verizon account.  Twelve gigabytes is not enough data to get us through a typical month while we are away from home.

We had granola for breakfast with fresh fruit and juice and then settled in to finish our coffee and doodle on our iPads.  I e-mailed my blog posts for the last five days to myself and then download/installed the Gmail app on my iPad2.  We took showers, got dressed, straightened up the bathroom, and got on with our chores.  I turned on the electric block heater for the engine to warm it up for a maintenance start later today.

We are headed to Homestead and the Florida Keys tomorrow for four days so today was, in part, a travel preparation day.  Linda’s first task was a trip to the post office to mail the book she bought at The Ringling estate for Madeline’s Valentine’s Day present.

We are taking the car and leaving the cats behind in Mara’s care so Linda wanted to clean up the bus a bit.  We also both needed haircuts.  Linda made a 1 PM appointment at a place near the Winn-Dixie.  One of my tasks was doing laundry which I took care of at 11 AM.  Linda finally got hold of a real, live person at the Florida Toll Road Sunpass system but the account is in my name and they would not talk to her.  She found me in the laundry room and worked her way through the phone menu until she got back to an actual person and then put me on the phone.  The woman was very nice and very efficient and it only took about 10 minutes to get our account reconfigured so we could access it.  We logged in and confirmed that we still have a credit balance and updated our credit card information.

When I was done with the laundry I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  When Linda got back from her appointment she cut my hair.  Another task was giving Mara a key to our coach and going over the care and feeding of our feline friends.  Linda took care of that.

A few days ago our Progressive Industries EMS threw another PE2 error code, which indicates an open ground.  The current error code is 0 (zero), indicating that everything is OK, so it is/was obviously a momentary problem.  Presumably the problem is in the resort wiring as that is what the PI EMS is designed to monitor and protect against.  I wanted to do done things with the bus chassis today so I took care of this at the same time.  Unlike last time, I shut off the circuit breaker at the power pole, unplugged the shorepower cable, cycled the breaker a couple of times to wipe the contacts, cleaned the contacts on the plug, inserted and removed it several times to clean the contacts in the outlet, plugged it back in, and turned the breaker back on.  All of that was designed to clean electrical contacts and remove a possible marginal connection.

Another thing I did today was start the bus engine, let it warm up, moved the bus aft and for slightly to make sure the brakes were not frozen, and re-leveled the coach before shutting the engine down.  I shut of the block heater and Aqua-Hot burner before starting the engine.  We are a little over half way through our stay here at Big Tree RV Resort and given the often humid, rainy conditions I wanted to make sure the brakes were not rusted closed.  I also wanted to check the fuel gauge as we have been running the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system on cold mornings and it uses about 1/4 gallon of diesel fuel per hour when operating.  When I was done with this process I turned on the fuel polishing pump so it could run while we were away.

We still had enough gallons of fresh water on board that I decided not to dump and fill the tanks today.  With the engine/chassis stuff taken care of my main focus today, when not preparing for our trip, doing laundry, eating meals, going for walks, and dealing with e-mails, was working on my blog.  It may be the thing I want to do, but it is often not the thing I need to do, or in some cases, the thing I have to do.

I failed to record what we had for dinner but I’m sure it was tasty.  We watched TV for a while and then went to bed.

2016/02/09 (T) Road Trip

My night was interrupted around 1:30 AM by very strong wind gusts.  All of the awnings were out except the large patio awning and were perfectly capable of being damaged by the gusts.  I put on my sweats, slipped into my Crocs, and went outside to stow the awnings.  The two bedroom window awnings and the driver side living room awning are held open by straps with a loop on the end that slips over a hook mounted on the side of the coach.  The roller tubes are spring loaded and self-retract when the straps are released.  While retracting they have to be controlled, using a long metal rod with a right angle bend on one end and a semi-circle handle on the other, but are otherwise easy to deploy and stow.  Besides the possibility of the fabric tearing where it mounts to the body or the roller tube, we had the front end of the driver side front awning flipped up by a strong wind gust in Sheridan, Wyoming.  I would not have believed that was possible unless I had seen it happen, but we were not about to risk having it happen again.

An Egret stalks its prey.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Egret stalks its prey. Everglades NP, FL.

I spite of my sleep being interrupted I was up at 7 AM.  As we do every morning, we fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  We finished packing, adjusted the windows, loaded the car, pulled out as of our site a little before 8 AM, and stopped at the dumpster to drop off a bag of kitchen trash.  We drove to the local Shell station to fill the fuel tank and stopped next door at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  We then headed east on FL-70.

Our destination was Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park.  Our route was FL-70 east to US-27 south to FL-821 south (which is part of the Florida Toll Road system) to its terminus at US-1 in Florida City just south of Homestead.  From there we headed west through Florida City and on to Everglades National Park.  This part of Florida is very flat but it was still an interesting drive.  It was cloudy and cool for the whole drive down.

We stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and stamp our National Parks “Passport.”  We entered the park using Linda’s Senior Access Pass and a few miles in stopped at the Anhinga and Limbo Gumbo trails area.  We walked both trails, each about 1/2 mile in length, and I took quite a few photos.  By the time we got back to our car it was 1:30 PM.  We were hungry and wanted to get more information about boat tours so we drove the 34 miles to Flamingo.  We had lunch at the Buttonwood Cafe and went over to the Marina to check on buying fuel.  They wanted over $5 per gallon so I passed.

We also checked on the pontoon boat tours.  Two different tours were available, one into Florida Bay and the other into the Mangroves.  Both tours left on the hour starting at 9 AM with the last one departing at 4 PM.  The tours lasted just under two hours, and cost $35.  They did not take reservations and tickets could only be purchased the same day.  We decided to return to the park tomorrow and deferred any decision about the boats until then.

By this time, it was late enough in the day that we decided to start back towards the entrance 34 miles away.  We stopped at Pa-Hay-Okee and hiked the boardwalk before leaving the park for the day.  On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a Shell station in Florida City and filled the fuel tank for a more reasonable price per gallon.  We found the hotel, a Hampton Inn just off exit #2 of the Florida Toll Road between Florida City and Homestead, and checked in.  We had lunch rather later and were undecided about what to do for dinner, or when.  We drove across the street to the Publix supermarket, bought snacks for tomorrow, and bought red grapes, hummus, and sourdough pretzel nibblers to have for dinner in our room.

We had Direct TV in our room but eventually found PBS and CBS and watched our usual Tuesday night programs.  We also found The Weather Channel and Weather Nation and checked the current weather and forecast for the next few days with great interest.  Some of the coldest weather of the year was dropping down through the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, affecting the Northeast, mid-South, mid-Atlantic, and Deep South past our location and all the way to Key West. We had brought a variety of clothing, so we were prepared.

 

2016/02/01 (M) – 2016/02/04 (R) Southwest Florida

2016/02/01 (M) Tabbed

We had coffee and then granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  After breakfast we gave Jasper his nose drops.  Linda then went for a walk that took her to Walmart where she picked up a few grocery items.  I continued working on photos for Dave Aungier’s BCM article.

When Linda got back I decided to put the new tabs on the license plates (car and bus).  We were able to renew the registration/tabs online and have them mailed directly to the RV resort.  Putting the new tabs on was a bit more work than just peel and stick as I keep protective plastic covers over the license plates and secure them with “tamper proof” bolts and Nylok nuts.  That required special tools which I had to get out.

Once I got the plates off the vehicles and separated from the covers I washed them and stood them up to dry.  While they were drying I washed off the areas of the vehicles where the plates mount.  I peeled four layers of old tabs off of each plate so I could put the new tabs directly on the plates.  I reassembled the protective covers on the plates, mounted them back on the vehicles, and put the tools away.  The final step was to remove the expired registrations from our wallets and replace them with the new ones.  The whole process took about an hour but it felt good to have it done.

While I was outside I drained the auxiliary air system water separator (which I do every few days).  I also opened the drain on the auxiliary air tank but it was dry.  That was good, and meant the water separator is doing its job.

Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  She read for a half hour and I continued working on photos while we digested our lunch before changing into our swim suits and walking over to the pool.  There were quite a few people in the pool so we stayed in the shallow end, walking and swimming from side to side.  When we were done exercising we spent a few minutes in the spa (hot tub / whirlpool) and then showered and changed into dry clothes that we brought with us.

We stopped at the mail room and found our electric bill for January in our mailbox.  Linda walked back later and paid the bill and also our rental fee for February but realized later that they did not charge us enough.  She thought they might have charged us for someone else’s campsite.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Gary at BCM.  He forwarded one from Jorge with a Dropbox link to a draft of the March 2016 issue and a request to proofread both of my articles and provide any needed corrections ASAP.  I finished the task before dinner, uploaded the PDF file, and e-mailed them back.

For dinner Linda made Farro with dried cranberries, onions, garlic, greens, and hot pepper flakes.  We finally finished the Franzia Crisp White boxed wine, which went well enough with the dish.  After dinner I washed some of the grapes that Linda bought today and we settled in to watch the PBS Newshour, the X-Files, Lucifer, and NCIS Los Angeles.  We went to bed and tuned in PBS for coverage of the Iowa Caucuses before going to sleep.  I don’t recommend political coverage as a way to fall asleep peacefully.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

2016/02/02 (T) Mara Arrives

The humidity rose sharply as the temperature dropped last night.  That made for cool, but sticky, conditions at bedtime; the one combination that we do not have a way to counteract.  We woke around 7:30 AM to dense fog and were less than fully rested, but a nice pot of coffee at least cleared away the cobwebs.  The fog disappeared soon enough to reveal partly cloudy skies.  The sun was bright and hot but there was a mild breeze, making the morning feel somewhat tropical.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with our usual orange-grapefruit juice.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast and stopped at the office to correct our rental payment for February.  While she was walking I resumed my work on Dave Aungier’s article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  I finished selecting, processing, and inserting photos for the print version of the article and then set it aside.  It had been nine days since I dumped the waste tanks and filled the fresh water tank and we were down to 1/6th of a tank of fresh water.  That’s about 20 gallons so we could have gone one more day, but we are not boondocking and do not have any reason to run the tank all the way to empty.  Besides, the water pump works a lot better when the tank is full.

Linda stopped at Walmart on her walk and returned carrying four small bags of groceries while I was servicing the tanks.  She also got a text from Mara indicating that she was about to pull out and head our way.  Once the fresh water tank was full I left the water hose turned on and added the tank treatment to the toilet and sinks while Linda did the dishes.  Once we were done I shut off the shore water and we returned to operating off of the fresh water tank using the onboard pump.

As long as I was doing chores I cut the power to the coach, waited 30 seconds, and turned it back on to reset the Progressive Industries EMS Previous Error (PE) Code 2 (open ground).  This error occurred during the last storm while we’re away from the coach.

With our chores done Linda thought we should go for a swim so we changed into our suits and walked over to the pool.  Some of the Quebec residents were playing Petanque (pronounced “p’tunk”) and there was a shuffleboard tournament about to commence.  I gathered from the instructions being given to the teams that Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was hosting teams from another RV park.  There was no one else at the pool when we arrived and we had it to ourselves for about 10 minutes.  A woman showed up and asked if it was OK with us if she put on her water aerobics music and did her exercises.  Sure!  Why not.  Linda joined in and eventually a third woman joined them.  I went to the deeper end of the pool and swam back and forth from side to side.

I got out of the pool while the ladies were still exercising, took a quick dip in the hot tub, and then showered.  I changed into my other pair of swim trunks (XXL) and cinched them tight.  They make a very comfortable pair of shorts for warm days and it doesn’t matter if they get wet

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We were back at our coach by 2:30 PM and Barb, across the street, invited us to hang our suits and towels on their clothesline, which we did.  Linda made roll up sandwiches with garlic hummus, onion, and lots of dark, leafy greens for a later-than-usual lunch.  After lunch she sat outside and read while I updated my water usage spreadsheet.  Linda got another text from Mara that she had arrived so we moseyed over to her site behind the swimming pool.  Mara passed us in her motorhome going the other way as she was being led away from the office to her site.  We stopped at the office on the way to make sure they had cleared up our February billing correctly and to check our mailbox.  They had; no mail.  The Québécois were done playing Petanque for the day but the shuffleboard tournament was in full swing.  The parking volunteer was just getting Mara backed in as we arrived at her site.  We left her alone while she blocked and leveled her motorhome, extended the slides, shut down the engine, plugged in the shorepower cord, and deployed the awnings and windshield sunshades.  Good RV etiquette is to not bother people while they make/break camp.

We visited briefly but did not stay.  Mara had stopped at the Walmart for groceries before entering the resort and needed to put them away and then have something to eat.  Linda invited her to come down for dinner and she accepted.

When we got back to our coach the inside thermometer read 89 degrees F.  That was just a bit too hot for my comfort, and for the cats too.  I turned off the electric heating element for the domestic hot water.  We closed up the coach and turned on the front and center air-conditioners, but not the one in the bedroom.  The front and center units are on separate legs of the 240/120 VAC system.  Even before I turned the units on the voltage was 115 VAC on L1 and 112 VAC on L2 with very little current draw.  With A-C units on these voltages dropped to 112 and 109 respectively.  That is very marginal for our PI EMS, especially the L2 voltage.  This was the first situation we have been in where I wished I had a Hughes Autoformer boosting transformer.

I opened the bottle of Beringer Red Moscato that we have had in the refrigerator for a while and Linda and I had a glass while we waited for Mara.  Linda called Mara at 7 PM and she was not sure how to find our coach in the dark so I walked over to the activity building at 7 PM to meet her and we walked back together.  We gave Mara the grand tour of our remodeling efforts and then poured some more wine.  Both cats allowed Mara to interact with them, which was unusual and perhaps a sign that Jasper’s health was finally improving.

For dinner Linda made a salad, seitan stroganoff, and fresh strawberries for dessert.  We chatted before, during, and after dinner about where we had each been and what we had been doing since we last crossed paths in July and what our plans were for 2016 and beyond.  By 8:45 PM we had covered a lot of ground but had not been for our after dinner walk.

It had been a long day for Mara and she was ready to get back to her cats so we walked back to her rig with her and extended our walk through the Resort before returning to our coach.  We watched a fascinating program on the assassination of President James Garfield and then turned off the air-conditioners, opened a couple of bedroom windows, opened the roof vent-fan in the bathroom, and turned the fan on in exhaust mode.  We went to bed and watched Charlie Rose before finally turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2016/02/03 (W) Laundry Swimming

 

Jasper woke me up early with his sniffles and sneezing and I had trouble falling back asleep.  Our little guy is obviously uncomfortable with whatever it is that he has and I stroked his back and scratched his chin for quite a while.  I finally got up a little after 7 AM and walked over to the Wednesday morning coffee, as much out of curiosity and to have something to do as anything else.  I noticed as I was leaving that the gasket in the rear vertical edge of the entry door window was coming out at the top again and made a mental note to fix it later today.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

While I was gone Linda got up, got dressed, stripped the bed, and decided to go for an early morning walk.  I know, because I met her about half way back to our coach.  I ground the coffee beans and prepped the coffee pot.  When I saw her walking down Front Street towards our site I started brewing the coffee so it would be ready shortly after she arrived.  We had granola with blueberries for breakfast but did not have fruit juice or take our pills.  Later.

It was already 72 degrees F outside and anywhere from 75 to 79 degrees F inside, depending on which thermometer or thermostat I looked at.  I don’t believe any of them anymore but I figured collectively it was somewhere between 74 and 80 degrees F in the coach.  The forecasted high for today was 86 degrees F and based on the low level clouds streaming in from the south looked to be a humid day as well.  It’s always better to keep a space cool and dry than it is to try to cool it off and dehumidify it after the fact.  I turned off the bathroom ceiling exhaust fan and closed the roof vent and closed the two open windows in the bedroom.  I noticed that the bottom horizontal gaskets on these windows are not staying in their mounting grooves.  Ugh.  I love our old bus, but there are some aspects of it that I seem to have to keep fixing, which is not my most favorite thing to do.  Oh well, at this point we are definitely “in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

We doodled on our iPads until it was time for Linda to walk to the swimming pool for the 10 AM water aerobics class.  While she was exercising I selected and processed a couple of photos for her to use with her weekly postcard to Madeline.  She normally takes care of this on Tuesday.

We will be away from the coach and Resort the next two days so I needed to do laundry today.  While I was gathering up the soiled clothes and linens I got a call from Dave Aungier.  He was following up to see that I got the draft of his article from Bonnie.  I brought him up to date on the status of the work, which I hope to have finished before I go to bed this evening.

I also had an e-mail from Jorge with the correct Dropbox link for the final version of the March 2016 issue of BCM.  I needed to do a final proofread on my two articles and get back to him by the end of the day.

Linda got back from exercising and swimming just as I was getting ready to leave for the laundry room.  The washers and dryers were all in use and I had to wait a while for washing machines to open up.  Linda texted to see if I needed help and walked over to assist.  I brought my computer and continued working on Dave Aungier’s BCM article while our clothes were being washed and dried.  I got all of the digital edition bonus photos selected and processed, so I should be able to wrap the article up tonight and make it available for Dave to proofread.  I also got two small Windows 8.1 updates downloaded and installed, but the Internet connection was not fast so that’s all I was able to do.

 Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We folded and hung all the dry clothes and loaded them in the car, which I drove back while Linda walked (no room to ride).  We were back at our coach by 2:45 PM, three hours and 15 minutes after I left to take care of this chore.  After putting the clean clothes away Linda walked back to the pool to look for her Tilley hat.  While she was gone I checked the level of the kitchen counter.  It was level, so starting the engine and re-leveling the coach was not something I had to do today.  Linda returned, hat on head, so we avoided the inevitable sadness of a lost Tilley hat.

The two front air conditioners were not able to keep up with the heat, in large part because the middle unit is not working very well.  Presumably it needs to be charged, but Butch has done that before so the root cause has to be something that needs to be repaired, such as a refrigerant leak and/or a bad seal that is reducing the pumping effectiveness of the compressor.  A secondary problem is that we cannot run the bedroom A-C unit at the same time as the front one since they are on the same leg (L1) and the voltage at our coach is already too low with just the one unit running.

At 4 PM we walked to the pool for an afternoon swim.  When we returned to our coach I retrieved the latest, and hopefully final, draft of the March 2016 issue of BCM and proofread my two articles.  I had one minor correction for each article and e-mailed them back to the publisher and layout person.  While I was working on this I got an e-mail from Kristine Gullen with a question for Linda which resulted in a group text message conversation.  We received a “hold the date” notice at our house, which our daughter let us know about, for the October 22 wedding of Kristine’s son Nickolas.  We will make a point of being back by October 15 from our trip to the Canadian Maritimes and New England.

For dinner we had a salad and the left over Farro with cranberries and seitan stroganoff.  After dinner we retracted the large patio awning as a precaution in advance of rain and possible thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow in association with a cold front approaching from the northwest.  We then emptied out the back of the car and removed the passenger side rear seat and the wooden storage structure to allow the driver side rear seat to be lowered into position and secured.  We rearranged the things stored in the front bay of the bus to make room for the car seat, and several other things that were stored in the car, moving a few things to the passenger side engine bay.  We should have done this earlier in the day when it was light but doing it in the morning would have been a disaster.  We should have done this as soon as we got settled at Big Tree RV Resort but it wasn’t pressing then and we got busy with other things.

We went for a stroll around the resort and dropped off the trash along the way.  Back at our coach we had a glass of Beringer Red Moscato wine and watched Nova on PBS.  Mara sent Linda a text indicating that Sabra (one of her cats) was still having issues and she had decided not to go with us tomorrow to the Ringling Brothers museum in Sarasota.

After Nova we put the linens back on the bed.  I then converted Dave Aungier’s article from Word to PDF, uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox, and sent him an e-mail with the link.  I caught some news, weather, and Charlie Rose and then went to sleep.

2016/02/04 (R) A Ringling Birthday

We were up by 7:15 AM this morning but I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast.  We got dressed for a day away from our coach and I repacked the camera bag.  We left at 8:30 AM and stopped at the local Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bite to eat.  We were on our way to Sarasota a little before 9 AM.  We took FL-70 west to I-75 and headed south to the University Blvd. exit.  We headed west to the end of the road at Bayshore Drive, and arrived at the John and Mabel Ringling Estate at 10 AM.  Steve and Karen arrived just ahead of us and we parked right next to them.NOko

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The 66 acre estate was the location of John and Mabel Ringlings’ winter home, Ca’ D’Zan, starting in 1926 when it was finished.  Mabel died three years later and John continued to use the house until 1936 when he passed away.  John was one of the seven Ringling brothers of circus fame.  In addition to their 36,000 square foot home the estate includes an amazing art museum to house their extensive collection.  There is also a circus museum and a building that houses the Tibbels scale model circus that Howard Tibbels spent 60 years creating.  John and Mabel did not have any children and the entire estate was left to the people (State) of Florida when John died.  The entire estate is now part of The Florida State University and the Ringling Art Museum is the official art museum of the State of Florida.

Ca’ D’Zan sits on Sarasota Bay and is a wonderful home in the Venetian Gothic style.  We went on one of the longer, guided tours, so we got to see more of the house than we would have on a self-guided tour but not as much as the even longer (and more expensive) “behind-the-scenes” tour.

The Tibbels circus model is 1/16th scale, i.e., 3/4″ to the foot.  The model covers a large area and illustrates every facet of an early 20th century major circus of the type that traveled from town to town by rail.  Not only is the model an amazing thing to see, and an amazing thing for one man to have created, but it gave us an understanding of how a major circus of this period functioned.  The logistics involved were impressive to say the least.

We finished our day at the Ringling Museums complex around 4:30 PM with a visit to the gift shop where Linda bought a book for Madeline for Valentine’s Day.  Back at our cars we drove north on US-41 (Tamiami Trail) about three miles to Vertoris’ Pizzeria for my birthday dinner.  Vertoris’ turned out to be a small, unassuming place with seating for maybe 24 people.  They offered quite a variety of pizzas, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free, but had lots of other Italian dishes.  I had vegan butternut squash ravioli, Linda had a vegan pizza, Karen had baked ziti, and Steve had the largest piece of lasagna I have ever seen.  Karen and I had a glass of Chianti, and Linda had a different Italian red (but did not recall the name when we got home).  The restaurant had vegan cupcakes so Linda, Karen, and I each had one while Steve had a cannoli.

 Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Our son called last night to wish me happy birthday and our daughter texted me at 3:40 PM today to do the same.  I saw the text at 5 PM after we were at the restaurant and texted her back.  My phone battery was depleted, which is unusual for my phone, so I turned it off.

We were done with our meal by 6:30 PM, made arrangements for our next get-together, and went our separate ways.  Steve and Karen headed south on Tamiami Trail 28 miles back to Nokomis and we headed north three miles to FL-70.  Three tenths of a mile shy of FL-70 we encountered a serious traffic backup and I could see a large assemblage of emergency vehicles up ahead.  We were already in the right hand lane and eventually got to FL-70 (53rd St.) and made the turn.  US-41 beyond the intersection was blocked by the police.  We did not slow down to gawk, which I find really annoying, and all we saw were emergency vehicles; lots of emergency vehicles.

It was raining when we left Vertoris’ and it got a lot heavier as we traveled east on FL-70.  Somewhere east of Myakka City we drove out of the rain and did not encounter any more the rest of the way home.  We arrived around 7:45 PM to find the grass at our RV site was wet, so we knew it had rained at some point.  After bringing our stuff in from the car we started our Verizon Mi-Fi, started up our various technology devices, and I plugged in my phone to charge.  Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go with us to Ed and Betty’s tomorrow morning.  Mara replied that she did so Linda communicated the plans and timing for the morning.

Linda checked the weather and the rain was moving our way from whence we had just come.  It was forecast to arrive around 9 PM, which it did, and be done by 11, which it was.  In between in oscillated between heavy and light.

 

2016/01/16 (S) – 2016/01/20 (W) A Capitol Experience

2016/01/16 (S) Fort Myers Beach Marilyn

I got up at 8:15 AM, cleaned the cats’ food bowls, fed them, and then made coffee.  I replied to an e-mail from BCM publisher Gary Hatt regarding which article he planned to run in March and which one in April.  I then downloaded my photos from the last two days from my camera to my computer.  Linda slept in and did not get up until 9:10.  We both felt like we have had too much less-than-ideal food to eat the last few days and split a grapefruit for breakfast.

Our plans for the day revolved around meeting Linda’s sister, Sr. Marilyn, at noon at the Diamond Head Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Myers Beach where she is attending an educational conference and taking CPE courses to maintain her counseling license.  The conference was being put on by her religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet.  Marilyn told us the resort parking was outside but the entrance had a relatively low bar over it so I took the ham radio antenna off of our car before we left at 10 AM for the drive to Fort Myers Beach.

Two hours should have been plenty of time to get there but we finally discovered the downstate traffic congestion that many fellow RV/snowbirds have mentioned to us.  The trip down FL-31 south was an easy, pleasant drive through citrus groves and ranches.  It ended at FL-80 where we headed west towards Ft. Myers.  We had the GPS set for “shortest route” so it took us through town instead of putting us on I-75 but it was an interesting route and we got to see different parts of the city including downtown and McGreger Avenue, which is lined with large Royal Palms.  It was also the location of the adjacent Henry Ford and Thomas Edison estates.  In spite of the traffic we will probably venture back there at some point to see the estates.

Apparently everyone was headed to Ft. Myers Beach today as the last few miles to get onto the island took one hour.  It was the worst traffic I seen in years.  There is only one bridge connecting the north end of the island to the mainland and there are two lanes of traffic that funnel down into one.  The lanes have a divider between them and are controlled by separate stop lights.  We had never seen anything like it before.  Linda texted Marilyn with a revised ETA.

Marilyn and Linda at the Diamond Head Beach Resort & Spa, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

Marilyn and Linda at the Diamond Head Beach Resort & Spa, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot of the hotel at 12:30 PM Marilyn was waiting for us.  We paid for parking ($10), parked the car, and went directly to Cabana’s, the hotel’s beachfront bar/restaurant.  Linda had a margarita and I had a frozen strawberry daiquiri.  What can I say?  I like fruit drinks.

For lunch Linda and I both had veggie burgers and Marilyn had the Portobello mushroom burger.  The veggie burgers were mushy, as they often are, but the French fries were coated with something before being fried, probably flour, and were excellent.  After we were done eating Linda and Marilyn walked out onto the beach where Linda took her shoes off and walked in the ocean.  Our $10 parking fee got us a voucher for the same amount which we applied to the lunch bill.

We spent the next 90 minutes strolling a portion of Estero Boulevard, the main/only street that runs the length of the island.  I took a few photographs and we wandered into a few shops but did not buy anything.  We also walked out on the pier where we got a close up look at two Pelicans and a great view of the very crowded beach to the north and south.  This place definitely had that upscale but slightly funky, seaside resort, winter getaway vibe that is one of the reasons people flock to such places.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

We were back at the hotel at 3:30 PM.  Marilyn had something to do at 4 PM so we took our leave and got back into the bumper-to-bumper traffic that was now moving slowly towards the bridge and off the island.  But at least it was moving, and once we cleared the bridge traffic moved along much better.  I changed the GPS to “fastest route” and it took us over different roads to I-75 and then north five miles to FL-80 where we retraced our earlier route (in reverse) to get back to Arcadia.  At the intersection of FL-80 and FL-31 we stopped at a Publix supermarket and bought a couple of bottled drinks.

It had been a long day and I did not feel like working at my computer.  We tuned in a program on PBS at 8 PM and doodled on our iPads.  Linda was checking the weather and the forecast for overnight was starting to look ominous.  When the program ended at 9:30 we went outside to retract our awnings and put our folding chairs and table away.  We stowed the big patio awning last and it started to rain lightly as we completed that task.  We left the TV on and watched the weather situation closely.  I finally went to bed at midnight knowing that we would not got a full, restful night’s sleep.

2016/01/17 (N) Bad Weather

The cold front that swept across the Florida peninsula overnight was draped off of an intense low pressure system that moved from Texas along the Gulf coast shore into the Florida panhandle and eventually along the Florida/Georgia border and off into the Atlantic.  The front, combined with a low level jetstream, raced across the area at 50 to 60 miles per hour triggering numerous thunderstorms and spawning a few tornados.

We had followed the development of the system closely before going to bed at midnight as both channel 11 and 20 had continuous storm team coverage.  At 4:30 AM we received severe weather alerts on our phones.  Linda’s phone has a loud klaxon warning sound associated with these alerts and we were instantly wide awake.  We put on our sweats, so that we would at least be dressed in case we had to leave the rig, and turned on the TV.

Arcadia, including our Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, was in the northeast corner of a tornado warning box.  It had started raining, off and on, well before midnight but as the storm front moved into our area thunderstorms came with it, one with Doppler radar indicated rotation.  There was lightning and thunder, of course, and the rain became steady and very heavy.  The wind really picked up but never became tornadic.  We stayed up until 5:30 AM by which time the main storm front had passed.  There were a few lingering cells behind it but the meteorologists gave the “all clear” for our area and we went back to bed.

The temperature was in the upper 60’s when we got up at 8:30 AM, rose slightly to about 70, and then dropped throughout the day as the front that triggered the storms raced off into the Atlantic opening the door for much colder air to flow in behind it, courtesy of the Polar Vortex that was plunging most of the Eastern U. S. and Canada into a deep freeze.

The rest of the day was uneventful with pleasant weather.  My focus was selecting and processing photos from the recent Arcadia Rally 2016 for the bonus content section of the digital edition of the March 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and went for several walks.  I joined her for brief strolls after lunch and dinner.  For dinner Linda made vegan chili from scratch.  It was very good.  We watched Downton Abbey on PBS after which Linda went to bed while I continued to work on photos.

2016/01/18 (M) The Capitol Steps

The air mass behind the cold front that swept out of the Gulf of Mexico, across Florida, and out into the Atlantic Ocean yesterday was noticeably colder and drier than normal for southwest Florida.  The temperature overnight dropped to 47 degrees, so we slept well and woke to clear skies and crisp air.

Our day revolved around the 3 PM performance at the Venice Theater of the political comedy musical group The Capitol Steps.  Venice is over an hour’s drive from Arcadia so we arranged with Steve and Karen Limkemann to make a day of it that would include lunch, photography at the Venice Rookery, the show, and dinner.

We skipped breakfast, showered, and dressed up enough to be presentable for the theater.  We gathered up several layers of outerwear and I put the 100-300 mm zoom lens on the Sony a99v.  We left at 10 AM and stopped at the Shell station in Arcadia to top up the fuel tank. Dunkin Donuts was right next door so we each got coffee and a blueberry bagel to split.  I got a frozen coffee drink made with almond milk and mocha.  I had never had one of these from DD and it was pretty good.

I had the GPS set for fastest route.  It took us out FL-72 towards Myakka State Park, which I expected, but then took us south on County Road 769.  Along the way we saw the usual assortment of citrus groves, ranches, and birds but also saw a Bald Eagle.  CR-769 turned southwest and eventually intersected I-75 where we headed “north.”  Although it was another 25 miles to the Nokomis exit, I-75 ran mostly east-west for this stretch so this route actually made a lot of sense.  It was only a couple of miles from the exit to Steve and Karen’s place and there was a Publix supermarket along the way, so we stopped and bought them a bag of M&M’s to replace ones we had eaten on our last visit and were going to eat on this one.  Not vegan, but a small indulgence.

We got to Steve and Karen’s place at Bay Lake Estates at 11:30 AM.  At 11:45 we walked to Cafe Evergreen about 1.5 miles away, an easy walk on a sidewalk without having to cross any major streets.  Cafe Evergreen is a small, all organic, restaurant with a good selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes.  We both had salads for lunch and they were very good.  Everything we have had to eat here has been excellent and the service has always been on a par with the quality of the food.

We walked back to Steve and Karen’s and visited until we left at 2:15 PM to drive to the Venice Theatre.  Parking can be a problem in downtown Venice but Steve found a parking space on a side street near the theatre.  We have enjoyed The Capitol Steps every time we have seen them and this show was as good as any.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

Herons and Egrets at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

Herons and Egrets at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The show was done around 5 PM.  By the time we made our way to the restrooms and out of the theatre it was 5:15 PM.  Steve drove us to the Venice Rookery where we bundled up against the chilly air and Steve and I got out our cameras.  The sky was clear except for some thin clouds to the west and I took quite a few photos in the quickly changing light.  Sunset was just before 6 PM and we stayed until 6:30 to watch bats emerge from their purpose-built houses atop tall, slender poles.  We headed back to Cafe Evergreen where we had 7 PM dinner reservations.

Linda, Karen, and I drank lots of coffee, which was smooth and warm.  Linda and I had stir-fried kelp noodles with vegetables served over a bed of couscous with an Asian style sauce.  It was delicious and had a wonderful texture.  We each had a vegan indulgence for dessert; cranberry pecan for me and chocolate peanut butter for Linda.  It was a very satisfying meal.

We got back to Steve and Karen’s at 8:45 PM and decided to head for home.  We reversed our earlier route and were back at our coach before 10 PM.  We watched NCIS Los Angeles and went to bed, tired from a long, but very satisfying day.

2016/01/19 (T) VZW Data Usage

We left the windows open about inch yesterday, along with the kitchen ceiling vent (but no fan), so it would not get too warm inside from the sun while we were away.  It was cool inside when we got home at 10 PM and we closed up the coach in anticipation of the outside temperature overnight dropping into the low 40’s.  Last night was another cool one, literally.

Herons and Cranes at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

Herons and Cranes at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

There are only a few hot dishes that Linda makes for breakfast and most of them are a lot of work.  The one dish that is relatively easy is oatmeal, and it is a great choice for a cool/cold morning.  It stays warm long enough to eat it before it gets cold, is a hearty (and heart healthy) dish, and stays with you for quite a while.

Linda stopped at the resort office yesterday to see if they could cut the grass around our site while we were gone for the day.  The awnings were up and our chairs/table were still put away from the weekend storms, so the site was clear.  The office said they probably would not get to it on Monday as the ground and grass was too wet but when we finally left the coach today we saw that they had, in fact, mowed the area.

We have been on the go more than sitting still for the last week and needed some time at the coach to do things.  I needed to wrap up work on two articles for BCM and settled in today to do that.  Today (the 19th of the month) is also the end of our Verizon Wireless billing cycle.  We do not have park Wi-Fi at our site in Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and have been leaving our Verizon Mi-Fi on continuously.  We managed to use almost all of our 11 GB of data during the current billing cycle so I wanted to spend today working on photos for the articles and defer uploading them until tomorrow.

Before getting back into my BCM rally article I copied all of the photos that I took yesterday at the Venice Rookery from the camera to my computer.  Linda tries to create a new postcard for Madeline every Tuesday and wanted a picture from the Rookery.  My best photos were of individual birds or small groups but she wanted something that would give Madeline a better visual understanding of just what a rookery is.

 

I finally selected a photo with lots of different birds in lots of different positions, including some in flight.  Linda logged into the PhotoCardApp on her iPad and determined that the post cards the company creates and mails out are 8.25″ by 5.5″, which is a 3:2 aspect ratio.  That is also the native format of my Sony SLT-a99v.  Using Faststone Image Viewer (FIV) I was able to resize the image to the exact size of the postcard.  I then e-mailed it to Linda’s Gmail account which, in spite of our local area network in the bus, is the easy (only?) way to get it from my computer to her iPad.

While I was processing the image Linda looked up the term “rookery” and discovered that its meaning is more specific than we thought.  While it is, indeed, a place where birds roost and build nests (typically in trees) it is actually specific to rooks, which are a crow-like bird.  It has, however, become the generic term for a place where one or more species of bird roost, breed, nest, and raise their young.

Besides the main post card photo the PhotoCardApp allows you to create your own stamps.  Creating a stamp costs two credits but once it’s created you can use it over and over for just the cost of the postage.  (You get 30 credits for $25 and each card costs 2 credits to create, produce, and mail.)  We do not have a lot of photos of the two of us together as one of us (usually me) is typically behind the camera.  We have a nice head and shoulders photo that our son took that I use at the end of my BCM articles.  I e-mailed that to Linda and she used it to create a personalized stamp.  I found a second photo of us that someone took at the 2014 GLAMARAMA Rally so I processed it and e-mailed it to Linda to use for a second stamp if she wanted.  We are both wearing our bright yellow GLCC dress shirts, so it is very RV specific.

We tried Facetiming with Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline Sunday evening but the connection was too slow so we talked on the phone.  They were in Washington D. C. for a conference related to Shawna’s research and Madeline got to visit the Natural History Museum and see dinosaur skeletons.  The PhotoCardApp also has a large collection of “stickers” that can be added to a post card, so Linda added an electronic dinosaur “sticker” to the one she was working on.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The last couple of days there was some confusion between BCM owner/publisher Gary Hatt, the layout person (Jorge Escobar, in Columbia), and myself regarding which article they were running in the March 2016 issue.  Gary cleared that up in favor of my article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  That, in turn, allowed me to move ahead with finishing that article today, which I finally did around dinner time.  My only breaks were to eat lunch and go for short walks.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project but took time out to go on several longer walks, including one to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket.  She planned to make a bean soup for dinner and needed a few ingredients.  The soup was based on a package of mixed beans and lentils she bought at a health food store in Frankenmuth, Michigan back in October.  She added water, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, greens, chili powder, and turmeric.  By the time we sat down to dinner the sun had set and the temperature was dropping so the hot soup was not only delicious but really hit the spot.

We walked over to the mail room after dinner.  My new driver’s license had arrived.  The registrations and tabs for the bus and car arrived a few days ago so as of now we are not expecting any more mail.

Back at the coach I turned on the electric toe-kick heaters and plugged in the Broan portable cube heater rather than run the Aqua-Hot.  We put on our Tuesday evening TV programs but I was in a groove and turned my attention to selecting and processing photos to go with blog posts.  I got through my images for November and December and the first few days of January by 11 PM when the last show ended and Linda headed off to bed.

We still had 1.5 GB of data left in our current billing cycle, which ended at midnight, although I was not sure in what time zone.  I knew the data for my BCM Arcadia rally article was not more than 0.5 GB so I uploaded it before our data allocation reset.  It’s expensive to exceed our allocation but there is also a “cost” associated with not using what we have paid for.

I turned the thermostats on the toe-kick heaters back and turned off the Broan cube heater.  I turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, set it to 4, and activated the pre-heat function.  I finally got to bed around 12:30 AM and snuggled in under the blankets.

2016/01/20 (W) Cellular Options

I don’t know if the outside temperature got into the upper 30’s last night but even with the coach closed up the temperature inside dropped to 59 degrees F.  Linda got up first this morning and turned up the thermostats on the electric toe-kick heaters.  I got up a few minutes later and turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fans on the heat exchangers in the house portion of the bus.

We had slept in a bit and were sitting around in our sweats while the coach warmed up when we realized at 7:55 that the Wednesday coffee was starting in five minutes.  We did not feel like going over in our sweats or changing clothes so I made coffee in our coach like I do almost every morning.  The problems (for us) with the Wednesday morning coffee, based on having been one time, is that there is no opportunity to socialize and it takes too long.  It was well attended the one time we went so it apparently serves the needs of the resort management and most of the residents.

Linda used her iPad2 to check in on the world and I used mine to finish up my blog posts for the last few days.  We eventually had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast, which is always a treat.  Linda walked our kitchen trash over to the dumpster and then continued walking the park for her first walk of the day.

My original objective for today was to upload image and document files for my Arcadia Rally 2016 article to my BCM Dropbox folder, but I got that done before I went to bed last night.  Although I have a lot work to do on several websites, including ours, I wanted to put the finishing touches on my featured bus article about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion and move two technical articles from “proofreading” to “ready” status.  Gary has not had Kathy proofread/edit any of them yet so that had to wait for another day.  I also wanted to continue selecting/processing photos for my January blog posts but got distracted with system updates for my ASUS laptop computer.

I ran the CCleaner program and then ran the Windows 8.1 disk check utility.  I ran it because MS Outlook keeps “encountering a problem and has to close” or stops responding.  The check disk utility did not find any errors so I downloaded a new version of Defraggler and started it.  I probably should have run it overnight as it ran all day and through the evening.  I think I could have worked while it was running but I have always preferred to let disk defragmenters run without anything else tasking the system.

With my computer tied up and my blog post drafts up-to-date I had a little time on my hands.  Linda is always up for another walk so we walked over to the CellularSales store, an Authorized Verizon Retailer located on an out lot of the Walmart shopping center.  The shopping center is on the other side of Highway 70 so we used the crosswalk at the traffic signal for the shopping center entrance.  This stoplight also serves the entrance to the 55+ community immediately to the east of our RV resort and is where we make our U-turn when headed east to head back west to the entrance to our resort.

The reason for our visit was that we became eligible for device upgrades back in April and wanted to check out what was available in smartphones and data plans.  We were also looking for a new Mi-Fi device that Chris and Cherie (Technomadia) reported on in their Mobile Internet Aficionados (MIA) site.  We usually work with Verizon corporate stores but there isn’t one in Arcadia.  The store was large, spacious, very nice, and not busy so Toby was able to spend some relaxed time answering our questions.

The Mi-Fi device we wanted to see was the new Netgear AC791L but CellularSales did not have one and Toby was not familiar with it.  They did not even have the Novatel 6620L and were still selling the Novatel 5510L which is what we have now and want to replace.  We got our 5510L in June 2013 from a Verizon retailer in Gillette, Wyoming and our friends at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (MIA) consider it obsolete and no longer even report on it.

We also looked at new phones and learned that the Samsung Note 4 and Note 5, along with the Galaxy VI smartphone, do not have removable batteries.  Toby viewed that as a negative and we agreed.  The Galaxy V smartphone, which does have a removable battery, would still be an upgrade over our Galaxy III phones.  It has a larger screen but not as large as the Note devices, which are almost too large to hold up to your ear.  Toby also showed us the new LG phone which was very nice but again did not have a removable battery.  It’s the newest competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S VI.  We will do more research before deciding what, if anything, to do.  The AC791L, in particular, appears to be available online without a contract and at a better price than in a retail outlet.

As long as we were on the other side of the highway we stopped at Walmart and bought a loaf of Italian bread to go with our soup for dinner.  When we got back to our coach the disk defragmenter on my computer was still only part way through the disk and indicating the time remaining as “> 1 day.”  The temperature outside was near perfect, not too warm or cool, so Linda got out one of our chairs and sat outside reading while I stayed inside and took a nap.

I got up a couple of hours later and wiled away what was left of the afternoon.  We have been keeping an eye on our male cat, Jasper, who has lost little patches of fur from several spots on his back, and finally decided that we should get him in to see a vet.  The closest one is on FL-31 less than a mile from our RV resort and is the one that folks in the resort recommended.  Linda was looking for reviews online but could not find the clinic so she drove over in the car to get the name and phone number.  It turned out that she had found the veterinarian’s name but he used to work out of his house at a different location.  We plan to drive out towards Lake Okeechobee tomorrow but will call the veterinary clinic first and make an appointment for Friday.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

As the sun sank in the western sky the temperature cooled off quickly and we closed up the coach.  Linda heated the rest of the soup she made yesterday and we sat down at 7 PM to a simple but delicious dinner of soup and bread.  We turned on the TV after dinner, watched Jeopardy, and then switched to PBS to watch the Wednesday night nature/science programs.

The last 10 days have been very busy and somewhat intense for us.  We had been to the woodcarvers expo in Punta Gorda, visited with Steve and Karen, met Ron and Mary at Myakka State Park, visited with them again at our RV resort, attended the Tampa RV Supershow in conjunction with strong weather, visited Marilyn in Fort Myers Beach, dealt with severe weather again, followed by a long day of working on photos for my BCM rally article, had a long day visiting Steve and Karen in Nokomis again and seeing The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theatre, eating at Cafe Evergreen twice and then visiting the Venice Rookery to take photographs before returning home, had finally had another really long day yesterday selecting/processing photos and placing them in my BCM article.  Looking back at all of that we were probably due for an easy, low activity day, and one of the nice things about retirement is that we can usually have “do nothing” days whenever we want.

When I checked my computer it was still showing 17 hours to complete the defragmentation so I went to bed.

 

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.

 

2015/12/18 (F) MEF3 @ 3

It rained off and on all night with a heavy downpour around 5:30 AM.  Once again we did not close up the coach and run the air-conditioners so the bedding was a bit damp, but we slept through the night and did not get up until after 8 AM.

I took care of the cat chores and then made a full pot of coffee.  We used our iPads, as we do almost every morning, while we enjoyed our morning brew and finally had half of a grapefruit (each) for breakfast around 9:30.  It was in the upper 60’s when I got up but was forecast to drop to 55 degrees F by dinner time and into the upper 30’s overnight.  Burrr.

I took a few pictures yesterday at the Breezy Oaks Music Jam so my first task today was to copy those to my computer and back them up to the NAS.  I then continued working on selecting and processing photos for blog posts and spent most of the rest of the day doing just that except for some time out for lunch, a mid-afternoon stroll, and dinner.

Today was our younger grand-daughter’s third birthday.  Our daughter and son-in-law went to our son and daughter-in-law’s house this evening for Madeline’s birthday and Linda arranged for us to Facetime while they were all there.  We initiated the call at 6:35 PM and Facetimed for almost 30 minutes.  We got to see Madeline open the gifts we bought for her and interact with her and everyone else.

We had closed up the windows and changed into warmer clothes for the fire circle before we made the Facetime call so as soon as we were done with “happy birthday” we got our sweatshirts and wine supplies and headed for the firepit.  There were already folks there but there were also empty seats, the cooler weather keeping some folks away (which made no sense to us; it’s a FIREpit after all).  John was tending the fire but Ali was not there yet.  Tom and Cindy were there and I took the open chair next to Tom.

We were at the campfire until 10 PM when John had to go lock up and Ali was ready to go in for the night.  I spread out the remaining fire logs and then we walked back to our bus in the cool night air.  The temperature in the coach was 74 when we left and had dropped to 70 by the time we returned.  We both changed into our warmer lounging clothes (sweats), turned on the TV, and nibbled on pretzels and hummus.  Linda trundled off to bed around 11:30 PM but I stayed up a bit longer.

I checked e-mail and had one from Technomadia about their latest Mobile Internet Aficionados report on mobile cellular boosters.  I logged in to read it and discovered that our MIA membership had expired in August so I renewed it online.  I read the report and then went to bed where I wrote briefly on my iPad.

The outside temperature had already dropped to 45 degrees F but Linda had turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before going to sleep so it was nice and toasty.  The overnight low was forecast to drop to 36 degrees which meant the inside temperature would drop to around 60; not freezing cold, but chilly enough that we would need the furnace for a while in the morning.  I went to sleep around 12:30 AM.

 

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.

 

2015/12/14 (M) Christmas Stocking

I was up just before 7 AM to feed the cats, who were crying rather than using their usual technique of circling the mattress, and decided to just stay up.  I tried connecting my iPad to one of the nearby RV resort Wi-Fi access points but was still unable to connect to the Internet.  I tried to connect our WiFi Ranger to the access point but it was unable to acquire an IP address.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, connected the Wi-Fi Ranger to it, and started up my computer.  Linda was also up by this time and played a few word games on her iPad while I made coffee.

It was heavily overcast, but not foggy, and the sky glowed briefly with the rising sun before turning to a muted gray.  It was 71 degrees F outside, as dense cloud cover had prevented the temperature from dropping overnight, and 78 inside.  We left windows and the roof vents open last night with the bathroom exhaust fan on, so we had airflow but the humidity was higher than we like.  Still, we slept OK.

We had granola for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda drove to the Publix at the southwest corner of Gainesville to buy groceries.  I updated the other three WordPress websites that I manage and then got back to work on the HFH article for BCM which I did not finish yesterday.

I finished selecting and inserting photos for Part 2 of the article.  I then selected and organized the remaining photos for the digital edition Bonus Content sections for Part 1 and Part 2.  The penultimate step was to upload all of this to our Dropbox in a way that reflected the two-part organization of the article.  The final step was to e-mail Gary and let him know it was done.  Unfortunately this is at least the third time I have been “done” with this article so I won’t know if I am really, finally done until I see it in print.

We had a mock turkey sandwich for lunch and split an apple.  After lunch I sent e-mails to three friends who live south of our RV resort to try and arrange get-togethers before we leave at the end of the month.  I heard back from Bruce and Linda Whitney (really) right away.  They are members of our ham radio club back home and are in the process of relocating to their new home near Brooksville, Florida.  We agreed to get together this coming Sunday.  I eventually heard back from John and Marian Hogan and they were also interested in getting together.  By dinner time I had not heard back from Al Hesselbart, but I will.

Linda finished the needlepoint part of her project and walked to the sewing room by the office where she was able to use one of the sewing machines to attach the needlepoint matrix to a piece of white felt to make Madeline’s holiday stocking.  Our Verizon Mi-Fi had shut down when the battery drained so I plugged it in to recharge it.  I tried connecting our WiFi Ranger to the RV resort Wi-Fi and this time it worked.  There was obviously a problem with the system and it took until this afternoon for the office to get a technician out to fix it.

Gary Hatt at BCM had Kathy proofread the draft of my article on servicing the Webasto burner in our Aqua-Hot and sent it back to me.  I accepted all of her edits except one and then reformatted the article in two columns with the photos for the print edition inserted in-line.  I uploaded it to our Dropbox and e-mailed Gary.

We had both spent a long day mostly sitting so we went for a long stroll around the RV resort.  When we got back to the coach Linda started preparing dinner.  She added Halo orange slices to the salad, which included dried cranberries, walnuts, and sun-dried tomato dressing.  Yum.  The main course was couscous and black beans with corn, onion, and garlic.  Double yum.  We went for another walk after dinner.

When we got back we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs and had a small glass of wine.

 

2015/12/13 (N) Test Print

We were up at 7:45 AM this morning.  We were still unable to acquire the Internet via the resort Wi-Fi system so I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  I made the coffee and fed the cats while Linda cleaned the litter tray.

Sunday is pancakes-for-breakfast day but we had some coffee first.  Linda played word games while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  The pancakes were yummy if a bit too much quantity wise.  Linda said I complain if she makes a smaller batch, which is probably true.  I suggested that we should have grapefruit with our pancakes to make up the difference.

At the fire circle last night we met Tom and Cindy.  We have seen them there the last three times but not had a chance to introduce ourselves.  Tom sat down next to me so we finally had a chance to chat.  They are newly retired and less than one year into their RVing adventure.  Like us, they are only here for the month but expressed an interest in getting together to discuss motorhomes and RVing.  Absolutely!

My main focus today was finishing our 2015 Year in Review holiday letter, which is actually a photo essay.  I spent some time looking for a few additional photos that met my criteria and constraints and found one to fill available spaces.  I also replaced several images with better (sharper) versions.  By noon I was finally ready to print a test copy but had to mess around with printer settings for half an hour to get it to print.  It finally did, and looked good, so I should not have to make any further adjustments unless Linda finds something when she proofreads it.  Linda won’t have time to address envelopes until the middle of next week so there was no need to print them at this time.  We will print, fold, address, stamp, and stuff them in one continuous process and then get them out of the rig and to the post office the same day.  Space is at a premium in an RV, even a 40 foot converted highway coach.

With the holiday letter done I decided to make some minor updates to our website having to do with Bus Conversion Magazine.  WordPress 4.4 was available so I installed it.  There were eight updates—three plugins and five themes—so I installed those too.  I did not take the time to update the other three WordPress sites but I need to do that and thought I might get to it after dinner.

We were both focused on our work and decided to skip lunch save for a few pretzels dipped in hummus.  At 1 PM I decided to it was finally time to install the window.  It was a warm, sunny day, which was fine for a short, light-duty maintenance task.  Linda informed me that the weather forecast for the upcoming week had a significant chance of rain, so getting the window reinstalled today was probably a good thing.

It was a simple enough thing to install but I had to get out the Little Giant stepladder and a tool box for a pair of needle-nose pliers.  I cleaned the hinge part of the frame and sprayed it with a dry lube.  With me outside on the ladder and Linda inside I got the window hung and she got the lever mechanism adjusted so we could get the lever pins inserted in the correct direction.  I then installed the E-clips on the ends of the pins.  I noticed that the front pin on the other driver side living room window was missing its E-clip so we installed one there.  At that point we checked the other six windows for missing clips.  They were all good.  I was going to change the pins around on the other three windows that had them in backwards but it was warm with a hot sun on the driver’s side of the bus so I deferred this minor project to another time.

Not having the window in place was starting to bug me so it was good to have it done.  With that minor weight off my shoulders I returned to working on the Habitat For Humanity article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  Although Part 1 will run in February and Part 2 in March I really want to put it to bed in the next 48 hours.  As with Part 1, I reformatted Part 2 in two columns and started selecting and inserting photos in-line with the text for the print edition.  With Jorge doing the magazine layout, and not being a bus person, placing the photos approximately where I think they should go seems to streamline the process.

By 4 PM we were both ready to go for a walk.  We were back before 5 PM and sat outside for 45 minutes using our iPads until we felt a few rain drops and then a few more.  The day had started with fog which gave way to mostly sunny skies that were gradually replaced with clouds and became a dense overcast by the time we went for our walk.  The winds were out of the SSE and darker ones moved in just ahead of the rain drops.  I put our outdoor chairs away and went inside just in case we had an unexpected downpour.

For dinner Linda heated up a couple of cans of Amy’s vegan chili with saltine crackers on the side and the last of the broccoli Cole slaw.  After dinner we tuned in PBS and watched the 1981 Simon and Garfunkel Central Park reunion concert followed by a documentary on The Carpenters.  The resort Wi-Fi was still not providing Internet access so I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and spent the better part of the evening copying blog posts from e-mails into Word docs.  Linda played word games and eventually went to bed to read.  I switched to my iPad to finish up this post and turned in for the evening at midnight.

 

2015/12/07 (M) Not on Vacation

I set my iPad alarm clock last night for 5:30 AM.  As soon as the alarm went off Jasper got up next to me on the outside edge of my side of the bed, snuggled in by chest, and wanted to be petted at great length.  I obliged him for as long as I could and was rewarded with his loud, resonant purring, which I could feel as much as hear.  I still managed to get out of bed by 5:45, feed the cats, get dressed, and be on my way by 6:08.

It’s only 75 miles from Williston to Suncoast Designers in Hudson, but the first few miles were a slow roll through the RV resort to the front gate followed by the short trip through downtown with a 35 MPH speed limit and several stop lights.  After a short distance on US-41 south I picked up FL-115 heading west.  A few miles past the airport it made a large sweeping turn to the south and continued on that heading for about 17 miles at 60 MPH until it joined up with to US-19.  I continued south on US-19 at 65 MPH for another 20 miles.  At that point it felt like I was making good time but I knew what was ahead as I had driven this route several times when we were here in 2014.

US-19 gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico the farther south you go, and with that closeness comes an increasing presence of people.  The first population center I came to was the charming little “Suncoast” town of Crystal River, followed by Ingless, Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachi, and then finally Hudson.  These towns all have much lower speed limits and stop lights, and they get larger and closer together the farther south you go.  The side of the road changes from forest and farm to intermittent small businesses, then continuous shall businesses, and then suburban commerce that extends back from the main road until you reach Hudson which is a far northern suburb in the greater Tampa / St. Petersburg metropolitan area.  From Weeki Wachi on south US-19 is six lanes with a median, is lined with commercial properties, and has lots of traffic.

I arrived at Suncoast Designers a little before 8 AM so the trip took about an hour and 45 minutes.  I checked in at the office and they had someone meet me at the factory door to take the window and label it with my name.  We had this thermopane window repaired in April 2014 but the new seal did not hold.  Getting it repaired was one of our reasons for returning to Florida this winter.  Not the main reason, of course, but a factor in our decision.  I was back in my car and on the way home by 8:20 AM.  I will have to come back tomorrow to pick it up.

On the drive down I spotted a Dunkin Donuts about 10 miles north of Hudson on the west side of US-19 so I stopped there on the way back for a large coffee.  I had also seen quite a few filling stations between Crystal River and Hudson, many of them Shell stations, so I picked one that had easy access and regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $2.03 per gallon, cash or credit.

I remembered seeing an Office Max and pulled in when I spotted it.  By now it was well after 9 AM and businesses were open.  They had several different weights of expensive color laser photo paper but nothing like that in 8.5×14 (legal) size.  I did not need to have the paper today so I did not buy any.  I really do not want to redo our Holiday Letter for 8.5×11 paper so I will check online and see what I can get.  There was a Rural King at the same mall complex as the Office Max so I bought two bags of Spectracide Fire Ant Killer.  I also got a bag of free popcorn, which is available at all Rural King stores.  More places should do that, I think.

It was going on 11 AM by the time I got back to the coach.  Linda had been up since 7 AM and was ready to set her cross-stitch project aside and go for a walk.  I had been sitting for the better part of five hours so that sounded good to me.  We went for a vigorous stroll through the resort and arrived back at our coach ready for lunch.  Linda heated up a couple of vegan hot dogs and served them on the large whole wheat buns with mustard and relish.

After lunch I installed updates on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter website, the FMCA GLCC chapter website, and our personal website.  I then took snapshots in Adobe Reader CC of the covers of the BCM issues for July through December 2015, post-processed the covers, and uploaded them to the BCM page on our website along with brief descriptions of my articles that appeared in each issue.  I finished inserting photos into the OASIS Combi article I’ve been working on for BCM and will upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Butch this evening.

It was a gorgeous day so we sat outside for a while and I worked on this post.  That is one of the things I really like about my iPad.  An earlier e-mail from Gary indicated that my package was out for delivery today.  I was about to get in my car and drive to the office when Joe and Teresa from Brighton, Michigan stopped in their golf cart to chat.  When they went on their way I dropped off the recyclables on my way to the office, picked up the box of magazines (which was heavy), and returned to the coach.

I worked some more on this post on my iPad but by 5:30 PM I had been up for 12 hours on too little sleep so I took a nap until 6:15 PM when Linda woke me up to have dinner.  For dinner Linda made a green salad with fresh blueberries and strawberries and made black bean smothered sweet potatoes.  Besides the black beans, the topping had tomatoes, scallions, cumin, and coriander and was finished off with a dollop of vegan sour cream.  Yum, yum, yum.

We watched the PBS NewsHour, another thing we typically never do, but then we do a lot of things differently when we are away from home.  We then watched our usual Monday night TV programs on CBS.  Even when we are away some things don’t change.  We are not “on vacation” after all.  We don’t go on vacation to get bus windows repaired.  In fact, we no longer go on vacation, we simply blend new experiences into our everyday lives.  Such is the nature of retirement as extended-time RVers in a converted bus.

 

2015/11/06 (F) MEF3

Rain was forecast for overnight with the highest probability between 4 and 7 AM.  I think we had some light rain starting a little after midnight but around 6:45 AM a front moved through with intense thunderstorms.  The heavy rain lasted at most 15 minutes, but while it was coming down I could not see past the railing on our deck.  The winds were also very intense judging by the sound and movement of the Crimson King Maple Tree next to the deck.

When we finally got up Linda checked the weather.  The storm front had already pushed into Ontario, Canada and it looked like we were done with the rain.  Temperatures will drop during the day and we have some below freezing lows coming up the next few nights, but it’s November so we can’t claim to be surprised and have no basis to complain.

Linda left around 9:45 AM to go to the supermarket.  While she was gone I worked on my iPad finishing my posts from Wednesday and yesterday.  I made a few phone calls and sent several e-mails before getting to work on the bus.

One call was to SLOAN’s in Linden to see about having the lawn tractor repaired.  The service tech said the normal turnaround this time of year is about two weeks depending what is needed and whether they have the parts on hand.  He said that if I brought it in soon and they did not get it finished before Thanksgiving they would store it for us until spring.  Given the limited space in our garage and the need to get Linda’s car in there for the winter having them store it would be a real bonus but would require the better part of day to borrow Mike’s trailer, haul the lawn tractor up there, and return the trailer to Mike.

The second call was to A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana.  Terry said the fabric was sewn for our spacer cushion and she was expecting the foam today or Monday.  Once the foam was stuffed into the fabric she would have to stitch the seam closed.  She figured it should be ready by Wednesday.

My last call was to Pat Lintner from our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter.  He and Vickie live just outside of Elkhart, Indiana and found several pieces for an old Nutone kitchen counter mounted multi-function appliance.  We have a Nutone power base in our bus that works and got a few accessories from Pat and Vickie at the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  They subsequently found more, and were going to bring them to Florida, but I let them know I would very likely be passing through Elkhart late next week and could pick them up.  Pat offered me the use of the guest room, as he always does, and I may take him up on it this time.  Given the number of places I have to stop it will likely be a very long day.

One of my e-mails was to our cabinet maker, Jarel Beatty, to update him on when I might be coming to Logansport and to see if he could/would get a 60″x60″ sheet of Baltic Birch plywood and cut it into four 30″x 30″ pieces for me.  I then e-mailed Bill Tharpe to let him know I would be in his part of Indiana late next week and would drop off the antique SUN Distributor Tester at his place in Mexico, Indiana.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat.  Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating.  Seat mounting rails (center) are visible.  Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat. Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating. Seat mounting rails (center) are visible. Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Linda got back around 11 AM and we finally got to work on bus-related projects at 11:15.  The POR-15 and black spray-on rubberized undercoating paint seemed to have dried adequately overnight but the wood I treated with Thompson’s Water Seal was still tacky.  The directions said it took 48 hours to dry but we don’t have that kind of time to wait.

We removed all of the painter’s plastic and painter’s tape from the cockpit of the bus and put it in a trash bag.  I then drilled a 1/4″ drain hole in the bottom of each tray area where water had accumulated.  The one under the passenger seat opened into a dark space but I was fairly certain it was outside the body behind the plastic wheel well trim.  I could see the driveway gravel through the driver side hole so I knew it was outside the body.

The next task was putting spray foam insulation in a few critical spots.  We did not need much for the bus so I sealed two holes in the floor of the bedroom in our house (under a couple of the baseboard radiators) and then added some around the back door frame of the garage.  Once I start using a can of this spray foam insulation I find it best to use it up.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Patching the floor under the passenger seat involved three pieces of wood.  The tray area under the plywood floor between the seat mounting channels is slightly raised along the inside edges of the channels.  I had cut a piece of 3/16″ SurePly to fit between the raised edges and slide under the existing floor towards the center of the bus.  I set it in place and slid it under the old floor while Linda and I help it up slightly with pry bars.  Because of the geometry of the situation I had to cut about six inches off of the end of this piece towards the outside of the bus.  I had notched this piece to fit around the drain line for the front AC evaporator, so it slipped in behind the first piece just right.  The third part of the patch was a piece of recycled 3/4″ plywood that I had cut yesterday to just fit between the mounting channels.  With that in place I screwed through the old wood into SurePly and screwed through the 3/4″ plywood into the SurePly and pulled it up tight.

By this time it was 1:15 PM and I was ready for lunch.  Linda made hummus and onion sandwiches and served them with tangerine halves.  A simple but delicious mid-day meal.

After lunch we worked on the driver side floor patch.  The driver side was trickier because the patch has to rest on and span structural members.  As with the passenger side I am trying to replace 1″ thick plywood without having access to material of that thickness.  The plywood sold as 3/4″ actually measures from 0.707″ to 0.717 inches in thickness.  As it turned out the combination of so-called 3/4″ plywood with the SurePly underlayment plywood was just thick enough to match the old 1″ stuff.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

I had to trim the piece of SurePly several times and drill holes for the seat mounting bolts.  The holes were not quite in the right place but I was able to trim it to my satisfaction and it was generally a good fit.  We then used it as a template for laying out the same shape on a piece of 3/4″ oak veneered plywood.

Hardwood veneered plywood is more expensive than regular fir plywood but it has more layers and is dimensionally more stable.  I had a piece that was flat and big enough to cut out the part we needed so I used it.  After some minor trimming it fit properly and lined up with the SurePly layer.  I turned them upside down, aligned them carefully, and screwed the SurePly to the underside of the 3/4″ piece.  I then installed them back into the open area.

We now needed another piece of SurePly, but it needed to be larger and a different shape.  It would be one of two pieces that would replace the 1/2″ thick top layer of plywood.  I removed the old piece from the bus after feeding two wires back through a hole.  We used the old piece as a template to outline the new piece and mark the four holes for the mounting bolts and the one for the wires.  I cut out the new piece and drilled the holes and then put it in place.  I was surprised by how much it was off.  It needed to be wider and longer and the holes were not as well aligned with the holes in the plywood below it as they needed to be.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment.  The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment. The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

SurePly is not expensive but it’s not free either.  It is relatively easy to work with, however, so making a second piece was not a big deal.  What was a big deal was the cloud cover, dropping temperature, wind, and diminishing light, all of which were making outside work more difficult and less enjoyable with each passing minute.  But we took our time and got it cut, and after some minor trimming it fit very nicely.  I did not, however, secure it, or the 1″ plywood sandwich under it, as I needed the top piece to use as a template for the final piece.  This last piece will not only cover the area under the driver’s seat, it will extend out towards the door and cover the landing.  Once I have that cut correctly I will secure the bottom sandwich and then use floor leveling compound to fill in gaps.  I will then install the last two layers of SurePly.  At that point I will need to go to Lowe’s for another sheet of SurePly to finish the passenger seat platform and will probably get two sheets just to make sure I have enough.  As much as I like going to Lowe’s and The Home Depot, each trip takes time away from actually working on the bus.

We quit working at 4:30 PM to get the tools put away before Brendan and Madeline arrived.  They got here at 5:15 PM and she was very excited to see us and be at our house.  Linda and Brendan got all of Ms. M’s stuff from the car to the house and Brendan transferred the car seat to Linda’s car.  Brendan entertained Madeline while Linda got the inflatable toddler bed set up.  Madeline went immediately for the cabinet under the sink in the hall bathroom where we keep the bandages and found one to put on.  She likes cartoon character bandages.

Brendan hung around until 6 PM and left just as Linda put dinner on the table.  He and Shawna are headed to Ajo, Arizona this weekend for a wedding.  Their flight to Phoenix leaves tomorrow morning so Madeline will be with us until Monday afternoon when Linda takes her back to her house in Ann Arbor.  Her parents’ flight is due in at 7 PM so Linda won’t be home before 9 PM that evening.

For dinner Linda made roasted potatoes and mock chicken tenders.  She and Ms. M had broccoli and peas but she was kind enough to only serve me broccoli.  I don’t think I will ever develop a taste for green peas.

By the time we finished dinner Madeline was a little tired and had a brief crying episode when I told her she could not use our bed as a trampoline.  Linda offered to let her watch an episode of Daniel Stripped Tiger and that seemed to ease her distress at having been told ‘no’ which is a very traumatic experience for her at this age.  She wanted to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth first, so Linda helped her with that.  The two of them climbed into our bed and watched the video on Shawna’s iPad while I stayed in the living room and wrote this blog post.

When the video was over Madeline wished me ‘good night’ and went quietly off to bed.  Linda and I lingered in the living room and I texted Chuck to inquire about their travels yesterday and today.  I then went to my office for a while where I updated our WordPress site, off-loaded photos from today’s work, logged in to RVillage and checked the forums of various groups, and dealt with a few e-mails.  I came back upstairs at 9:45 PM and we were in bed by 10 PM where I finished the draft of this post.

 

2015/11/01 (N) Brunch with Kathi, Farewell to Uncle Bob

We switched from Eastern Daylight Time back to Eastern Standard Time overnight.  It was 11:30 PM when I turned off the lights and 7:30 AM when I got up, and since I had not reset my nightstand clock I got my eight hours of beauty rest.  I put my robe on and started setting all of the clocks back one hour.  We have a LOT of clocks.

My cell phone adjusts automatically, as do the computers and satellite linked thermometers.  I reset the clocks in the microwave, range, and coffee maker, and stopped the grandfather clock, which is only supposed to be advanced, to let the time catch up to the setting.  I reset the clock on our phone system, the clock on my night stand, and on two of our thermostats.  The Wi-Fi thermostat already had the correct time so it may have adjusted automatically or perhaps was never changed to EDT last spring.  We have three battery powered clocks that I did not reset as I wanted to change the batteries and the incorrect time would serve as a reminder that I had not yet done that.  I still need to check the clocks in the two digital cameras, as I like to have correct time stamps on my photos, and there are five clocks in the motorcoach that need to be reset.  We have a lot of clocks, but I quit wearing a wrist watch when I retired.  I always have my phone with me anyway, and it usually knows what time it is in whatever time zone I happen to be in.

While I was in the basement I checked e-mail, replied to one from Gary at BCM, and then cleaned the cats’ litter tray.  Linda was up by then so I made coffee.  I turned on the fireplace and we settled in the living room to read, write, and savor our morning brew.

Kathi Slater, a long-time friend who Linda hired on at the bakery some years ago, came to our house today for brunch.  I think it was only her second visit since we moved to this house but then most of our friends have been here at most once, if at all.  Family members visit more often, of course, but that does not mean frequently.  John/Dianne Rauch and Steve/Karen Limkemann have been here the most, along with Mike Sharpe (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group.  Philip Jarrell of Precision Grading, and Keith Kish of Kish Lawn Care, have been the most frequent people here on business, along with Kerry Fear, who does our snow plowing, and Darryl Mech of DMC Heating and Cooling, who did a lot of work for us when we converted from propane to natural gas.  We do not, however, feel isolated here.  We are getting to know a few of our neighbors and we are only minutes away from three communities full of people and shopping options.  Both of our children and their families are only 30 to 45 minutes away as are the northwest suburbs of Detroit where some of our friends still live.  But most days we live quiet, undisturbed lives at our home in the country, and we like it that way.

Linda and Kathi had “things” to discuss that did not involve or concern me, so after brunch I busied myself with other things.  After checking e-mail I started downloading an update to Adobe Photoshop CC (2015).  These downloads are huge and very slow so I left it to run.  Chuck texted me and arranged to pick up his eight gallons of oil around noon.  We chatted briefly when he arrived and he took a second look at our water intrusion problem.  After he left I went to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store in Howell to buy grease.  Joe told me to get two tubes of the best stuff I could find, synthetic if possible.  O’Reilly’s had Mobil 1 synthetic grease for almost twice the price of anything else on the shelf so I bought three tubes and used my $5 off reward card.  Lowe’s was right across the street so I popped in there and got three boxes of Scott blue paper shop towels.  I use a lot of these when working on the bus.

When I got home I changed into my work clothes and got to work on the bus.  I stayed on that task the rest of the afternoon except for a few short breaks.  The first break was for linner.  The second break was to start the bus engine, raise the body, put the stands under it, set the body on the stands, and dump the air from the suspension.  The third break was to say “goodbye” to Kathi and the forth break was for another brief visit from Chuck to pick up a bus engine oil filter from me.

In the course of the afternoon I managed to cut out most the rotten water-damaged wood from the floor in the driver’s area of the bus cockpit.  Cleaning up the metal and protecting it, providing a drain for the water, and then patching in the floor is going to take several days.  Finding and plugging the entry point may not happen.  It’s November 1st and I only have about three (3) weeks to get the bus put back together to the point where we can use it this winter.  The reservations are made, winter is coming, and we are out of here before the calendar turns to December.

When I wrapped up work in the bus around 5:30 PM I had been using a two-tube fluorescent work light for an hour.  By the time I set the thermostats back, and changed the time on the microwave and the battery powered clock in the living room, it was approaching 6 PM and it was dark outside.

Linda made broccoli soup from scratch for dinner.  It was a mild, subtle dish and we both had seconds along with a few crackers and strawberry preserves.  I called Butch after dinner to update him on the floor situation in the bus and get his opinion on my idea of filling the “tray” with expanding foam.  After talking it through I decided it might be the best idea I ever had.

While I was talking to Butch I got a call from Joe and handed the house phone off to Linda.  Joe was northbound on I-275 in Michigan.  He was at most an hour from our house but getting ready to stop for the night.  He wanted to be close enough to Chuck’s house to get there easily by 7 AM and did not want to backtrack the 20 miles from our place.  As we say in ham radio “QSL” (I understand).

I got the phone back from Linda and was continuing my conversation with Butch when I got a call from a 405 area code number that showed up as “unavailable.”  I don’t usually answer those calls but they left a message and called back about 12 minutes later.  I had not even checked the message yet but figured it was someone actually trying to reach me so I gave the house phone back to Linda and took the call.  It was my nephew (by marriage), Philip Pelton, calling to let me know that my Uncle Bob had passed away a couple of hours earlier.  He was also looking for a phone number for my dad.

Bob was my dad’s younger brother by two years, his only sibling and my only Uncle, my mother having been an only child.  Bob was 88.  Linda and I saw him in April on our way home from our winter in the desert southwest.  Bob had Parkinson’s disease and was in a rehab center near his home fighting an infection.  He did not look at all well to us at the time so I was not really surprised by Philip’s call.  According to Philip, Bob had developed pneumonia in both lungs shortly after we were there and the doctors were never able to cure it.  He was at home when his blood oxygen dropped, he lapsed into unconsciousness, and expired.

Uncle Bob was an interesting and unusual guy.  He had a Ph.D. in micropaleontology and was a brilliant geologist.  Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, he moved to Oklahoma and spent his entire career studying the geology of that state.  He developed an interest in genealogy somewhere along the way, and did some significant research on the various branches of our family.  He married Helen Pelton, second marriages for both, but never had children of his own.  Helen had one son, Scott, who passed away some years ago, survived by his mother, ex-wife Linda, two children, Tiffany and Philip, Tiffany’s three daughters, and Philip’s son and daughter.  He was known to all of them as Papa (PawPaw) and they obviously adored each other.  We only had a few visits with him over the years but they were always very interesting.

We wrapped up the call with Butch and I called my sister.  Philip had already reached her but we had a long chat.  She reported that our father is doing better and has recovered somewhat from his stroke of a couple of months ago.  My grand-niece, Lilly, is having short seizures again, which is concerning to say the least.  The doctor has adjusted her medication but it will take a week to see if the higher dose is effective or they need to move to a different drug.  Lilly is six weeks younger than Madeline and just the sweetest little girl you can imagine.  It is most unfair to her, and her parents, to have to deal with these seizures.

I went to my office and downloaded e-mails (which were painfully slow).  I had two in our general contact account, which I do not check every day.  They were both from BCM readers letting me know that they enjoyed my articles and actually found them useful.  I replied to both and answered their questions as best I could.  I then logged into RVillage.  We had one message, which I responded to, and 153 notifications.  The vast majority were from the Comic Relief group and I think I will have to turn off notifications for that, and perhaps other, groups.  In retrospect I should have created a separate e-mail account for RVillage, but I didn’t.

 

2015/10/31 (S) Boo!

We overslept a bit this morning and did not get up until 7:20 AM.  We dressed quickly and drove to breakfast separately as we had to go to separate places afterwards.  We got there at 8 AM and had a nice chat with the folks at our end of the table.  It was a big group this week, at least 24 people, maybe more.

Linda left breakfast at 9:15 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark at 9:30 and go walking.  I lingered at the restaurant until after 9:30.  I drove back to I-96 and Grand River Avenue in Brighton, where I filled my fuel tank at the Shell station, and had a nice QSO with Mike (W8XH) while driving.  I then drove across the street to Brighton Ford to pick up the four spin-on coolant filter/conditioners I ordered yesterday.

Brighton Ford’s parts department is a NAPA outlet but they do not have any signs to that effect as Ford Motor Company won’t allow it.  My next stop was up Grand River Avenue towards Howell at the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store where I picked up the nine (9) gallons of Chevron Delo 100 SAE 40 engine oil I ordered yesterday morning.  I drove home and chatted a bit more with Mike on the way.  I found out that he gets his Lawn tractor serviced at/by Sloan’s in Linden and is very pleased with them.  He has a trailer for transporting his lawn tractor and is willing to let me borrow it to transport ours when I am ready.

When I got home I unloaded the oil and filters and then emptied the dishwasher, refilled it, and started it.  I then went to my office to work.  I had an e-mail reply from Byron Pigg with information I needed to finish the article for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM) about his 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion.  I incorporated the new info into the Word docx and then called Byron on the phone.  We spent at least an hour going over the article and chatting about bus conversions.  After we wrapped up our conversation I worked a bit longer on the article making the last few edits and removing blemishes from two of photos.  I uploaded the article (Word docs) and all of the photo files (jpgs) to my BCM Dropbox folder at 2:15 PM and then e-mailed Gary (publisher), Mike (editor), and Jorge (layout).

Shawna gets Madeline into her Bumblebee costume for Halloween Trick-or-Treat in their neighborhood.

Shawna (back to camera) gets Madeline into her Bumblebee costume for Halloween Trick-or-Treat in their neighborhood.

While I was doing all of that Linda firmed up our Halloween plans with our son.  We left the house at 2:45 PM and drove to Ann Arbor, arriving at their house around 3:30.  Shawna got Madeline into her bumblebee costume and Linda gave her a Halloween gift bag with a rag doll, some candy, and a card.  At 4:15 we walked over to a neighbor’s house for a gathering that included snacks/dinner.  We talked to host Laurel’s parents, Tom and Kendra, who were there from San Diego, California.  All of the kids and most of the adults left at 5:15 to go door-to-door trick-or-treating on Granger Street.  Granger was closed off to vehicles for several blocks with policeman at each barricade and there were hundreds of people out and about.  Many of the adults were in costume, some quite elaborate, and it was quite a sight.

Madeline caught on very quickly to her role in all of this and would often walk past other, larger children right to the front of the line to get her treat.  She is just shy of three years old so it was cute.  One of the houses had two large pumpkins out front, appropriately carved.  They were real pumpkins and each weighed about 1,500 pounds when they were delivered by a truck.  Madeline is above average height for her age but these pumpkins towered over her.  The homeowners are well known in the neighborhood for having these giant pumpkins each year and bring in mind-boggling large quantities of candy in crates.  You gotta love neighbors like that.

The rain held off for most of the prime trick-or-treat window from 5 – 6 PM but I was cold and went back to the house a little ahead of everyone else.  It started to drizzle around the same time Madeline’s endurance was waning and they got back to the house at 6:30 with the umbrella deployed.  Madeline was eager to take stock of her Halloween “loot”.  We enjoyed watching her excitement at having different items to choose from and then “negotiating” with her parents over having to select just one item for this evening.  Halloween trick-or-treat is perhaps best appreciated while watching a three year old experience it.

We left around 7 PM and stopped at the nearby Whole Foods Market for soy creamer.  We picked up two bottles of Frey brand wine, a white and a red, and two pieces of vegan cake.  Frey makes organic wines without the use of animal products and are a sponsor of “Cooking School” with Christina Perillo on the PBS Create channel.

I got a call from Joe as we were getting ready to leave Whole Foods.  He was packed and ready to hit the road first thing in the morning.  He wasn’t sure if he would make it all the way to our house on Sunday or finish the trip early Monday morning.

It rained on the drive home and I took the wheel as Linda has a hard time with dark/wet roads.  We were reminded, once again, of the poor condition of Michigan’s roads, many of which need to be repainted and have reflectors installed such as the ones we saw in Florida the winter before last.  (I suspect that the reason Michigan does not use them is because of snow plows, but they really make it safer to drive dark roads at night.)  We got home sometime after 8 PM and had dessert.  I checked the bus for leaks buy did not find any new water.  I texted Joe our address, checked e-mail, and then opened the package from Rockler Woodworking that our postal carrier had delivered earlier in the day.

The maple veneer from Rockler was a bit darker than I had hoped, but it will still be a nice contrast to the walnut trim when suitably finished.  The two shelf brackets were certainly substantial enough but it remains to be seen if the wall of our coach is adequate to support the table without a leg to the floor.  The main issue will be the fasteners near the top which will be in tension and trying to pull out of the wall.  Of secondary concern will be the lower tip of the brackets, which will be in compression, trying to push through the wall and possibly puncturing it.  I may have to use expanding bolts or toggles rather than screws for the upper (tension) fasteners.

We had some hot tea and went to bed.  Although I did not get to work on the bus today I got a lot accomplished and we had a great time watching our younger grand-daughter experience Halloween.

 

2015/10/29 (R) A Setback

Linda turned off her alarm and slept a few extra minutes before getting up at 6 AM.  I watched the weather on TV while she got ready to go to the bakery.  She left at 6:25, about 10 minutes later than usual.  I am always amazed at how quickly she can get showered, dressed, and out the door.

The temperature across our area was 37 degrees F, more or less, and the wind was blowing, which we could see just by looking at our trees.  The winds were forecast at 15 – 25 MPH out of the SW gusting to 40 and strengthening into the morning hours as they shifted out of the west in advance of a second cold front.

Last night I shut off the color laser printer, the two NAS units, and the Linux box as a precaution against losing power but left my laptop on since it runs on its own internal battery.  Even though all of our devices with hard disk drives are plugged into uninterruptible power supplies, and we have an auto-start whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch, I decided to leave all of these computing devices turned off until the wind subsided later today.  Morning showers were forecast as likely, with the possibility of a few snowflakes, but never materialized.  Overnight lows tonight are forecast in the mid-to-lower 30’s.  The bus is not winterized, and I have been working in it almost every day, so I have had the heat turned on in the bus for most of October.  I do, however, set the thermostats back to approximately 55 degrees F when I am done working for the day.

I got up, put on my robe, fed the cats, and made a half pot of coffee (Sweet Seattle Dreams).  While the coffee was brewing I heated up a banana-nut muffin, poured a small glass of orange-grapefruit juice, washed the last of the blueberries, and fixed a bowl of granola.  I was done with breakfast by 7:15, took my coffee to the living room, and enjoyed it by the warm glow of the fireplace as I worked on my iPad with Juniper on my lap and watched the night yield to the orange glow of sunrise.

New photo accessories from B&H Photo Video in New York, NY.

New photo accessories from B&H Photo Video in New York, NY., photographed with the new Sony a99v-DSLT camera.

My main focus today was the cockpit of the bus, specifically the floor/wall tile, but first I got dressed, turned up the heat in the bus and the garage, and then opened the boxes that arrived yesterday from B&H Photo.  I managed to do that at 8:30 AM; well ahead of my usual getting started time of 10 to 10:30 AM.  Most of the items were in one large box but two small items were in a separate box that must have been shipped from a different location.  The shipping boxes were in good shape and the B&H sealing tape was intact.  I removed everything from the shipping boxes and then checked them off on the packing slip.  Again, all of the individual product boxes and other packaging were undamaged.  I opened each item, carefully removing all of the pieces and manuals/paperwork.  I arranged everything on the dining room table and took a few photos to document what was there.

I had been pondering the damaged plywood under the driver’s seat ever since I removed the old vinyl tile.  The exposed plywood was screwed down in lots of places so I figured it was not the original floor of the bus.  I could also see many additional plywood layers in the holes for the seat mounting bolts.  Closer inspection revealed that the top layer of plywood in the driver’s area was in two pieces, fore and aft, and that only the aft piece was damaged.  Based on all of that information I decided to try removing the aft piece.

All of the screws came out except for two and they just spun in their holes so I figured the wood around them was bad.  It took a little prying but the piece popped loose.  I pushed the two power wires for the motorized seat back through a hole and the board was free.  What I found made my heart sink.

First look at the water damage in the aft portion of the driver’s floor area.

First look at the water damage in the aft portion of the driver’s floor area.

The underside of the plywood was much more damaged than the top side and it was moist.  The original bus floor was even worse.  Part of it was missing and I was able to crumble much of what was still there from the rear mounting holes back.  It was obvious that there had been considerable long-term exposure to water but it was not obvious how this had occurred and was, apparently, still occurring.  I texted Linda and Chuck with a photo of the damage and heard back from both of them fairly quickly.  This was clearly an unanticipated setback but long term it was better that I discovered it, and had a chance to fix it, rather than having covered it up.

Speaking of covering things up, the top layer of plywood must have already been damaged when we bought the coach in late 2009.  One of the things we had Creative Mobile Interiors (CMI) do to the coach between September 2009 and April 2010 was pull the carpet out of the entry and cockpit and replace it with the gray vinyl tile that I just removed.  The tile was under the swivel pedestal base of the driver’s seat so whoever installed the tile must have removed the base and must have seen the obvious signs of damage.  They should have stopped right there and let someone know and CMI should have contacted us to discuss a course of action.  The obvious course of action would have been to pull up the top layer of plywood and see what was going on.  We would not have been happy about it at the time as we were already spending more money on fixing things than we anticipated, but we could have discovered and fixed this six years ago.

The floor directly under the base of the seat is the ceiling of the first bay on the driver’s side of the bus.  It was very chilly outside so I put on my hooded sweatshirt and had a look from below.  I could see that the four threaded holes for the seat mounting bolts were part of two large steel angles running fore and aft that were welded to two square tubular steel cross members.  From that observation I decided on how to proceed.

My plan was to cut out the bad plywood by cutting between the centers of the holes.  That would leave half of each angle to support a new piece of filler plywood.  I got the Porter-Cable oscillating saw and started cutting out the really rotten wood aft of the rear seat mounting holes.  I was not prepared for what I found when I finally got that piece out.

The damaged bus sub-floor cut away.  I could see through into the bay below the driver’s seat.  The blue to the left is paper shop towels soaking up the water and rotted plywood in a small tray area.

The damaged bus sub-floor cut away. I could see through into the bay below the driver’s seat. The blue to the left is paper shop towels soaking up the water and rotted plywood in a small tray area.

What I found was water; not dampness, but standing water.  And debris, lots of mucky debris.  We had a lot rain starting late Tuesday evening, all through the day yesterday, and overnight into early this morning so I suspected that this water might be “fresh” as in recently arrived in this location.

The cross member aft of the rear pair of seat mounting holes is the top of the rear wall of the compartment under the driver’s seat.  All of the water was in the area aft of the cross member in what appeared to be a kind of tray about two inches deep below the level of the driver’s floor.  It was almost full of disintegrated plywood, and other stuff, and obviously did not have a natural drain.  I sent a second  text message to Linda and Chuck with a photo of the water/debris-filled pan aft of the rear mounting holes for the driver seat pedestal.  Some things you just have to share, and some things you just have to see to believe.

It took me a little longer to realize what was going on as my immediate concern was cleaning up the mess.  I put on a disposable glove to pick up all the detritus in the tray and put it in a trash bag.  The tray extended under the floor towards the outside of the coach so I reached back in there and just kept pulling out more and more wet junk.  At this point I started to analyze what was in front of me.

It was now obvious to me that the damage to the floor under the driver’s seat was caused by water filling this tray and coming in contact with the bottom of the plywood bus floor.  With nowhere for the water to drain it was able to stay in contact with the plywood for very long periods of time allowing it to penetrate the plies, soften them, and destroy the (water soluble) glue between them.

Clearly I needed to figure out where this water is coming from and stop it, but that was not going to happen today.  I did, however, go back outside and check the front electrical bay.  Sure enough, there was a little water on the floor of that compartment, so it was possible that the water might be coming from there somehow.  If so, I need to find the breach and seal it.  That, however, just pushes the problem down the road as I will still need to figure out how water is getting into the electrical bay in the first place and stop that.

The more I studied the way the bus was built the clearer it became that the original plywood bus floor extends under the left console into the first bay and separates the small upper compartment from the larger one below.  But this tray-like area was below the floor and farther back which meant it was under the front electrical bay and above the driver side steer tire.  I will have to check again but it appeared that this piece of plywood must be the floor of the electrical bay.

With a better, but still incomplete, understanding of the situation I resumed cutting out plywood.  My oscillating saw went through the rotten wood like a hot knife through butter, but did not cut the undamaged plywood very well.  I figured the blade was dull so I opened the Bosch replacement blade I had on hand only to discover that it did not fit my Porter-Cable tool.  Arrrgh.

It was probably a good time for a break anyway, so I went to Lowe’s to get a couple of extra blades.  I had good QSOs with Mike (W8XH) going to and from the store.  The weather is supposed to be very pleasant all next week, with afternoon highs in the upper 60’s, so we are going to try to find a day to work on my antennas and the small tower next to the house.  Bus or no bus, I also have to make time for our amateur radio hobby.  When I got home I made popcorn for lunch and then got back to work.  It’s a good thing I don’t have to fix most of my meals.

Linda called at 3:15 PM to see if she needed to come home and pick me up before going to Ann Arbor.  Given what I was dealing with I was tempted to say ‘yes’ but I knew that this was a situation where I needed to stay on task until it was fixed.  Brendan and Shawna both had work-related obligations this evening and asked Linda if she could watch Madeline for a while.  Rather than have her cut her work day short to come home she left the bakery and drove directly to Ann Arbor while I continued to work on repairing the floor.

I called Chuck to see if he had time to consult with me about all of this.  He called me back and we talked it through.  He thinks the entry point for the water could be the frame on the large piece of fixed glass just aft of the driver’s position.  I know we have a leak near the front of the large window assembly just aft of that one and the forward edge of the window panel may also be above the front electrical bay.

As soon as I was done talking with Chuck I removed the reading light on the vertical walnut chase by the driver’s left shoulder and then removed the nine screws that hold the cover in place and took it off.  I have known for a long time that there was a lot of stuff running through that chase but I had never removed the cover to look inside.  It is crammed full of AC and DC wires, coaxial cables, air lines, and residential air-conditioning refrigerant lines.  My immediate interest was evidence of water, and I did find the same stains that were similar to ones we have found elsewhere in the coach, but I did not see anything that looked or felt wet.

With the new blade for my oscillating saw I managed to cut out the piece of plywood between the four mounting holes but it wasn’t easy.  With that piece out, however, I could use my inspection mirror to see the underside of the floor and reach into the space below to determine distances to various structural members with my carpenter’s tape measure.

I still had more wood to cut out but by 4:15 PM I’d had enough for today.  I set the top layer of plywood back in place and covered all of the larger holes with painter’s tape in a feeble effort to keep critters and cold air out of the coach overnight.  I also used two pieces of felt and painter’s tape to seal the hole where the steering column goes through the floor.  I took a few more photos, which I had been doing all along today.  Tomorrow I think I will use the circular saw and/or the cutoff tool and try to make quicker work of this.

Before quitting for real I decided to unscrew the 3-sided bump out from the passenger side HVAC duct cover and measure the left desk base and pedestal to see what the correct distance needs to be.  The bump out protrudes about four inches but it should only be three inches.  As I suspected it is too big by the width of the wood, but I will take more careful measurements before I take it to Jarel to have it cut down.  I also discovered, however, that the filter material we used to cover the hole where the heater hoses previously came out of the HVAC duct was interfering with the fit of the duct cover, including the bump out.  While I was thinking about it I pulled out the two filler strips that go on either end of the plywood sofa seat.  Jarel is going to remake them longer and out of solid walnut.  Since we moved the seat board out almost five inches one side of each strip is now exposed and visible and the stained plywood edge is just not the look we want.

We had a heavy overcast most of the day and by 5 PM the light was fading.  I dialed back the thermostats, grabbed the camera and the house phone, locked up the bus and went inside.  I changed into my robe and then fixed dinner.  I did not want to spend a lot of time preparing and eating a meal by myself so I had a can of Amy’s Chili with Vegetables.  I added crackers, Smoked Tabasco Sauce, and shredded Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese.  Some strawberry preserves on crackers added a touch of sweetness and Stash Raspberry Pomegranate Green Tea added its own warmth.  Given a little more time I can make a better meal for myself but ever since Linda retired and took over preparing our whole-food plant-based (vegan) cuisine I am no longer as comfortable/confident in the kitchen as I once was.  This way of eating involves ingredients and techniques with which I am simply not familiar.

After dinner I sat on the living room couch in the same spot, and in the same robe, as I did at the beginning of the day and worked on this post.  I like the sense of things coming full circle, but mostly it is a comfortable place to sit and use my iPad.  Linda and I texted for a while after she had put Madeline to bed.  At 9:07 PM she indicated that she was leaving Ann Arbor and heading home.  She got home a little before 10 and we sat in the living room for a while and finally turned in at 11.  It had been a long day for both of us.

 

2015/10/28 (W) Inside Flash

Linda’s iPad alarm went off at 5:45 AM but she did not get up until after 6.  I got up at the same time she did but she was dressed and out the door by 6:15 while I was still stumbling around.  I put on my warm robe, fed the cats, made coffee, and had a banana nut muffin.  After enjoying my coffee by the fireplace I had my orange juice and granola with blueberries.

It started raining overnight and was still raining this morning as the remnants of hurricane Patricia pulled up from the lower Mississippi River and moved north between the river and the western side of the Appalachian Mountains towards the Great Lakes.  The forecast was for the rain to continue through the day and then off and on into tomorrow.  It was a good day to work in the house so that is mostly what I did.  But first I gathered up the trash from the house and rolled the large container to the street for pickup.

The first thing on my self-imposed to-do list was finalizing an order with DX Engineering.  I had already placed multi-packs of two different sized snap-on ferrite beads in my cart but needed to spend slightly more money to get free shipping.  I am not, however, one of those people who is drawn into buying something I do not need just because it is a BOGO item.

I have been planning for quite some time to install a multi-outlet fused DC distribution panel in the front of the bus to provide Anderson PowerPole connections for the various 12V DC accessories such as the GPS.  I had just never made it a priority, which is to say, never taken the time to figure out exactly which product to buy.  I had to go out to the bus to assess the size and feasibility of available areas for mounting.  After looking at all of the options I selected an 8-port unit from West Mountain Radio.  I really wanted a unit with USB charging ports but the only such model they make only has four PowerPole connections, which is not enough.

My next task was to order a couple of items from the Rockler Woodworking and Hardware website.  I have been considering their black, powder-coated shelf brackets for a while.  I made another trip to the bus to determine how much space I had on the wall where the table will go.  It looked like I will have 14 inches of wall space for mounting brackets so I selected the middle of three sizes, which is 12″ high by 18″ deep.  The brackets will support 1,000 pounds each so a pair of them will certainly support the weight of the Corian-topped dining table.  The table is 38″ long and fully supported by 3/4″ plywood underneath, but it remains to be seen if the wall is strong enough to support the table in a cantilevered installation.  If not, we will have to add a leg or an angled support.

The other thing I needed was hardwood veneer to build the three panels that will replace the strip mirrors that were on the lower portion of the outside hallway wall.  I decided to go with the Allwood 2-ply maple and put a 24″ wide by 96″ long roll in the cart.  The three panels will have a finished size of about 22-1/2″ by 28″ so the 8′ long piece should work out just right.  I placed the order and moved on the next thing which was entering account information into our password program.

Our password app is wonderful but frustrating at times as it tries to synchronize via the cloud every time you open it, edit an entry, or create a new one.  By design it keeps our passwords up-to-date on multiple devices, which is why we have it, but it is slow to sync and sometimes appears to hang up.  When it is trying to sync it won’t let me do anything else, so I sit and wait (or make another cup of tea).

Phil called around 12:15 PM, returning my phone message from yesterday, and we chatted for 20 minutes or so.  With any luck he will have stone delivered here on Friday or Saturday and get the driveway put in before Joe gets here next week with his trailer.  Phil, however, is at the mercy of Wayne County inspectors on another job and was not able to work anywhere today due to the rain.  Most of his work is weather and bureaucrat dependent.

I had the leftover squash and quinoa/lentil pilaf for lunch at 12:45 PM.  While I was eating a lone buck wandered through the back yard with what appeared to be a 6-point rack.  It is the first buck (with antlers) that I have seen this year.

I worked on this post for a while and then went to my office.  As much as I needed to work on getting posts uploaded to my blog there were other unfinished tasks weighing more heavily on my mind.  At the top of the list was an article for Bus Conversion Magazine on a 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion that I saw and photographed at the Eagles International converted coach rally in Quartzsite, Arizona back in January of this year.  I met the owners at that time and subsequently interacted with them a bit but then got really busy with my own projects and had to set the article on the back burner.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the article was farther along than I remembered.  I also had a short narrative and eight photos from the owners that I had not yet incorporated into the article so that gave me additional material to work with.  With only a few short breaks to interrupt my work I pulled together a first complete draft by 6 PM and e-mailed it to the owners and the publisher of the magazine.  Gary (at BCM) wants to run this article as the feature/cover story in the January 2016 issue so the editor needs it before the end of November.  Personally, I need to be done with it at least a week before Thanksgiving.

While working on the article I had quite a few e-mails back and forth with Gary, one of which inquired about my article on The Desert Bar / Nellie E. Saloon outside of Parker, Arizona.  A draft of that article also exists but it is not even a full page of text and I have not yet selected and processed any photos.  I wrote a little bit on The Desert Bar in a March 2016 overview article about our time in Quartzsite.  For a standalone article I will need to say something more/different than I said there.  If the weather continues to be crummy tomorrow I may use that as an excuse to sequester myself in my office, hunker down at my computer, and crank this article out.

One of my afternoon breaks was in response to the doorbell.  It was UPS delivering my order from B&H Photo.  I did not open it right away as I wanted to stay on my BCM article task.  Linda texted me at 3:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery and arrived home about an hour later.  Even though she left the house at 6:15 AM this morning it took her 90 minutes to get to the bakery in Hamtramck.  Wet roads with poor lane markings in marginal early morning light will do that.  Michigan does not do a good job of maintaining its roads.

For dinner Linda made a simple salad of power greens with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing, roasted the white asparagus we bought the other day, and reheated the leftover risotto.  The risotto held up well to being served as leftovers but the white asparagus, which was fresh, was disappointing.  It was tough and we ended up microwaving it.  Linda thought it was bitter, and did not like it, but I think that is a characteristic of asparagus.  We both agreed, however, that it did not taste like much of anything.

While we were relaxing in the living room after dinner I did a search on white asparagus.  Asparagus is a spring vegetable so the stuff we bought probably came from a long way south of the border.  It is grown “underground” by keeping dirt around the stalks; a process known as etiolation, or light deprivation.  It is supposed to be milder than regular (green) asparagus but with a tough, bitter outer skin than needs to be removed before cooking.  The classic German method of preparation is immersion in simmering water with salt and butter until tender.  Now we know.  Eating things out of season may be one of the “benefits” of being globally interconnected but there is a lot to be said for eating local in-season whenever possible.

The power flickered once during dinner and several more times during the evening.  Winds were forecast at 15 – 25 MPH out of the SW gusting to 40 and strengthening into the morning hours as the wind shifted out of the W in advance of a second cold front.  I shut off the color laser printer, the two NAS units, and the Linux box as a precaution but left my laptop on since it runs on its own internal battery.

 

2015/10/16 (F) Desk Installation

We were up at 8 AM, fed the cats, made coffee, and had breakfast.  Phil showed up around 8:30 AM, unloaded his front loader, dropped his flatbed trailer, and left in his dump truck.  I turned on the fireplace and we enjoyed our coffee while iPading until 10:15 AM.

Our first task today was to cut up several large limbs that I pulled out of the woods last evening to get them out of Phil’s way.  I cut them up with the chain saw and then we stacked them on the disposal pile for Phil to haul away.

Phil returned at 10:30 and moved his Caterpillar 305C excavator into the woods across the street by the culvert.  I went down to chat with him briefly to make sure I understood what he was going to work on.  There were a lot of small trees (3″ diameter), saplings, and bushes scattered around the site.  Some of them had been dead for years and some had just been knocked over by Phil.  I decided to work in that area with my chain saw cutting everything up into five foot lengths so Phil could use his front loader to get them into his dump truck.  I worked at this until 11:30 AM and then turned my attention to the bus.  Linda worked on her needlepoint while I cut wood.

Before getting started on construction tasks I took two pieces of filter material and set them on the wire shelf in the freezer compartment of the new refrigerator, one on top of the other.  I then set the two remote thermometer sensors on the filter material.  Butch had suggested the other night that I set the sensor on a sponge to get it off of the floor of the freezer compartment as it was likely responding to the automatic defroster heat strips when they come on.  I figured the filter material would work just as well and that placing the sensors on the shelf would definitely get them away from the floor.

Linda brought out a bag of ice from the house fridge and put it in the bus freezer.  She also filled several 1/2 gallon juice and milk cartons with water, put the caps on, and put them in the fresh food compartment.  The purpose of all of this was to add thermal mass to the compartments to cause the refrigerator to run less often and reduce large swings in temperature.

Inside the bus our first sub-project was installing the desk, which included putting the front passenger side HVAC duct cover in place even though it is not finished.  It took us quite a while to get everything positioned just right.  With Linda holding things in position I screwed the right pedestal to the wall, adjusted the position of the base and screwed the pedestal to the base.  We then repeated that process for the left pedestal and base.

Linda removes the backing from the double-sided tape on the back side of the air grate in the center connector/cover for the desk.

Linda removes the backing from the double-sided tape on the back side of the air grate in the center connector/cover for the desk.

At this point we had several things to do with, and under, the center connector/cover so I removed it and took it into the garage/shop.  We cut a piece of the decorative brass colored metal grate and secured it to the back of the air opening with small screws every few inches.  Next we cut a piece of black plastic mesh to fit over the grate.  We then cut pieces of 3M Extreme Mounting Tape (double-sided) and attached them to the back side of the grate in between the screws.  Linda peeled off the protective layer and we carefully placed the plastic mesh.  Using one of the scrap pieces of the protective layer I rolled the plastic into the take with our wallpaper seam roller.  Finally, we had a piece of filter material already cut to cover this air intake opening so we set that on top of the mesh, pressed it down to take advantage of the tape, and then secured it with Gorilla Tape on all four edges, rolling it with the seam roller to get good bonding.

A detailed view of one of the homebrewed tongue and groove alignment assemblies made from flat mending plates.

A detailed view of one of the homebrewed tongue and groove alignment assemblies made from flat mending plates.

Back in the coach I had to tie in the outlet strip to the 120VAC power feed.  I shut off the breaker for this circuit and checked with my tester to make sure it was not live.  The hot and neutral wires were accessible but the ground wires were back under the left pedestal where they were not easy to reach and manipulate.  It took a while, certainly longer than it should have, but I got the three ground wires tied together with a grounding clamp.  I connected the hot and neutral wires (three each) relatively easily using wire nuts.  I turned the circuit breaker back on and checked that the outlet strip had power between the correct terminals and did have power between any other terminal pairs.

I went to the garage to get a four foot long piece of 1″X1″ aluminum angle that I bought weeks ago to use as a support bracket for the upper rear edge of the center connector/cover.  I was going to cut off a 26″ long piece and then drill countersunk holes but I noticed a piece of 1/2″X1/2″ light gage angle that was about 26″ long and already had holes in it.  It was long enough to span the space between the pedestals and go under each one about an inch.  That was sufficient to position it correctly so Linda held it there while I secured it to the wall with four round (pan) head screws.  I then put the center connector/cover back in place.

Phil has cleared all of the organic debris from the area where the driveway extension and RV pad will be located.

Phil has cleared all of the organic debris from the area where the driveway extension and RV pad will be located.

Phil starts trenching and placing the plastic drain tile tubing for the French drain.

Phil starts trenching and placing the plastic drain tile tubing for the French drain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil had long since left in his truck to dump all of the wood debris.  We had a light lunch of Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup and fresh organic grapes.  While we were eating a group of three deer came to our back yard and eventually ended up eating apples that had fallen from our tree onto the ground.  These same deer, along with two others, were here yesterday at twilight and were very frisky.  We saw them later in our neighbor’s yard across the street.

Another view of Phil’s smaller excavator with the 12” bucket being used to trench the French drain in the southwest portion of our property.

Another view of Phil’s smaller excavator with the 12” bucket being used to trench the French drain in the southwest portion of our property.

Phil returned around 3 PM and started working on the French drain.  He replaced the 30″ wide toothed bucket with the 12″ one and started at the high end if the culvert on this side of the road.

The grand finale was the installation of the Corian desktop, which has been sitting on a blanket in the middle of the living area floor since Tuesday.  I drilled countersunk holes through the four corner plates in each desk pedestal from underneath.  I then inserted 1-1/4″ #8 self-drilling outdoor wood screws into each hole, again from underneath, until they just protruded above the corner blocks and then backed them off until the tips were just below the surface.  We set the desktop across the pedestals and pushed it as tight to the back and right end wall as we could.  Linda put her weight on it and I ran the screws home, pulling the top tight to the pedestals.  We reinstalled the four drawers in the right pedestal, finally getting them off the floor in the hallway where they have been since Tuesday.  We stepped back to admire the desk and agreed it was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.  Linda also marveled, once again, at how much space she now has to work in the kitchen.

A wider shot showing the excavator and drain tile.  The laser level is at the left edge of the frame.  The main arm of the excavator (with the bucket attached) has a laser sensor on it that tells Phil exactly where the lower edge of the bucket is relative to the laser level.

A wider shot showing the excavator and drain tile. The laser level is at the left edge of the frame. The main arm of the excavator (with the bucket attached) has a laser sensor on it that tells Phil exactly where the lower edge of the bucket is relative to the laser level.

The “denouement” was mounting the outlet strip and adding felt pads to the two fake drawer fronts on the left pedestal and then adjusting the magnetic catches.  I originally had the outlet strip (temporarily) mounted to the wall between the two pedestals with two screws a few inches below the cord notch in the center of the back edge of the desktop.  Rather than put it back there I decided to mount it on the underside of the desktop just in front of the cord notch.

The underside location will work just as well as the wall mount location for regular 2- and 3-prong plugs but probably not as well for small AC adapters.  The added pluses of this location, however, are: 1) it will not interfere with cords coming through the notch, 2) it will be up out of the way of the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that will sit on the shelf at the top of the center connector/cover, and 3) if liquids are accidentally spilled and run over through the notch they will not run into the outlet strip.  Besides, devices with an AC adapter will probably be plugged into the UPS so this was a better overall approach.

Our next task was to adjust the sofa seat until it was deep enough to be comfortable.  We slide the plywood seat out a couple of inches and then got the seat and back cushions (three each) from the house where they have been stored since September 21st.  We put the cushions in place and sat down.  We pulled the cushions out and pulled the seat board out until it was five inches farther out than originally designed and put the cushions back in.

The front edge of the seat cushions were out farther than I liked but we both agreed the sofa was now comfortable to sit on.  The distance from the bottom front edge of the back cushions to the front edge of the seat cushions was originally only 16 inches and that turned out to just be too short.  With the seat board moved out it will now be 21 inches.

In order for the sofa to work correctly, both as a sofa and as a bed, we will need a cushion that is 5″ wide by 6″ high, by ~76″ long to fill in the space behind the seat cushions and below the back cushions.  The height and foam makeup will be such that it is level with the tops of the seat cushions and have the same firmness and feel.  Would that I had designed the sofa for this depth to begin with and had the seat cushions made accordingly, but we were trying to open up the living room by not having the sofa protrude into the aisle any more than absolutely necessary.

Next up was reinstalling the wood trim in hallway.  We have an interesting plan for the lower half of the hallway but in case we do not get it finished before we leave for the winter we wanted the trim off the bed and back on the wall.

The lower outside hallway wall.  There were originally three framed panels of vertical strip mirrors here.  We will replace them with wood panels, probably in a lighter color to contrast with the walnut trim.

The lower outside hallway wall. There were originally three framed panels of vertical strip mirrors here. We will replace them with wood panels, probably in a lighter color to contrast with the walnut trim.

This trim originally framed three panels of vertical strip mirrors.  We were able to remove the mirrors as they were glued to wallpaper.  In the process we discovered that the left and right panels were the same width but the center panel was wider.  The trim consisted of six pieces of wood; a long upper and lower horizontal piece and four vertical pieces.  The six pieces were screwed to the lower half of the outer wall but not attached to each other.  The left and right vertical pieces were tight to adjacent woodwork, but the two intermediate pieces were free to be repositioned.

We reattached the upper horizontal piece first making sure the mounting screws went back in the same holes.  Next we pushed the lower horizontal piece into place but did not screw it to the wall.  We then attached the left and right verticals.  The horizontal distance between the inside edges of the left and right verticals was 75 inches.  The two intermediate verticals were each 4-1/2″ wide so the distance between verticals needed to be 22″ (75 minus 9 = 66 divided by 3 = 22).  We carefully positioned and secured the two intermediate verticals to achieve this spacing.

The trim boards all have rabbited edges on the back side.  I need to measure them carefully, but they are ~3/16″ deep by 3/8″ wide.  Our current plan is to use 3/16″ underlayment or other 3/16″ high quality plywood to make three panels that will fit within these rabbits with a little room to spare.  The panels will either have a hardwood face or we will cover them with a hardwood veneer of a wood that contrasts with the walnut trim.  We can get the veneer from Rockler once we decide what we want.

Linda spread out several towels on the new desktop and we moved tools and supplies from the A-V cabinet, behind the driver’s seat, to the new desk.  I then removed the Corian top of the A-V cabinet and put in on the bed.  We still have a small amount of wallpaper to install in the front of the living room and into the cockpit on the driver side, but it will not be easy to do.

These areas, such as the one behind the A-V cabinet, are small with limited access so most of my sanders cannot be used.  The only one that might work is the Porter-Cable oscillating tool but I did not get it out today.  I got some sanding sponges instead and tried those on the wall under the passenger side window trim next to the co-pilot seat.  When I sanded a dark area about 6″ long by 3″ wide the wood in the center crumbled and I ended up with a hole 3″ long by an inch and a half wide.  I could see one of the stainless steel structural members through the hole.  Given what was obviously water damage I was glad we bought a bus with welded stainless steel as the main structural material.

Based on what I could see, the walls in the bus appear to be 1/2″ plywood although I did not measure the thickness.  This area had obviously gotten very wet over a long period of time and some of the wood has rotted.  It is the only spot we have discovered that is this damaged and we immediately realized that we will not be able to wallpaper this area.  We will probably panel over it, similar to what we plan to do with the veneered panels in the hallway, but today was not the day to figure that out.

It was going on 5 PM and we decided we were done for the day.  I turned off all of the electric heaters, turned on the Aqua-Hot, turned on all three thermostats, and set the temperature to 20 degrees C.  The refrigerator was also indicating much colder freezer temperatures than it had been before I moved/isolated the remote sensors so I reset the freezer and fresh food controls to their “normal” center positions.  Tomorrow we will replace the alkaline batteries with the Lithium batteries we bought specifically for the TempMinder thermometer system, reset the min/max data, and monitor it for a few days.

I walked down to see what Phil was doing.  He was making good progress with the French drain but did not have enough of the plastic drain tile to finish it today.  He plans to work tomorrow and will have the additional tile he needs to finish the drain.  I left him to his work and took photos of the fall colors in our yard as I worked my way back to the house.

I spent an hour at my computer dealing with e-mail and transferring photos from the Sony a100 to my laptop.  Linda called me to dinner at 7 PM.  It was a simple meal of vegan Coney dogs with mustard, onion, and beans served open-faced on a whole wheat hotdog bun.  As a side dish Linda steamed Opo squash.  It was the first time either of us had this particular squash.  It was very mild with a hint of cucumber.  It is available all over the world and widely consumed as it is relatively inexpensive.  It was OK, but I thought it might work better as an ingredient rather than a stand-alone side dish.

I exchanged a couple of text messages with Chuck and confirmed that we would be at his shop tomorrow after breakfast to retrieve our two bus windshields.  The rest of the evening was spent in the living room by the fireplace reading and writing on our iPads before turning in and watching episodes of Rick Steeves’ Europe and Joseph Rezendo’s Travelscope on Detroit PBS (WTVS).

 

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.

 

2015/10/10 (S) The New Camera

Madeline was awake before 7 AM and coughing loose a bit of nasal/chest congestion.  A little after 7 Linda put on her robe and went to check on her.  I put my robe on too and Linda brought her to bed with us.  She lay quietly between us for a half hour, as dawn gradually illuminated the outside world, but never fell back asleep.  I needed to change position and offered to hold her on the sofa in the living room, which she accepted.  I turned on the fireplace and she climbed up in my lap and snuggled up.  Linda joined us a little while later and the three of us cuddled in the dancing light and warmth of the fire for another 20 minutes.  These are the special moments.

Madeline wanted to see the last part of the Curious George video we watched last night so Linda did video duty while I made a pot of coffee.  By the time the cartoon was done Madeline was awake enough to help make breakfast; vegan pancakes with blueberries incorporated into the batter.  Madeline helped mix all of the ingredients but Linda handled the cooking.  Madeline is only 34 months old after all, and not ready to work with sharp objects or heat.  We had hot real maple syrup and mixed berries on the side with orange juice (not from concentrate).

The whole morning was accomplished in our robes and pajamas and it felt like it was Sunday.  Madeline even got to see a half dozen very large wild turkeys in the street in front of our house.  The cats seem to know when Madeline is seated at the table and often emerge long enough to get a few kibbles and a drink of water.  Madeline got some berry stains on her pajamas so Linda got her undressed to get them out.  Madeline took that as an opportunity to enjoy the freedom of running around in her birthday suit for a few minutes.  You can get away with that when you are not yet three years old.

Everyone got dressed and then took up their stations in the living room.  Linda and Madeline played with Legos and played (with) the organ.  Ms. M and I then played “soccer,” throwing, catching, and kicking a large beach type ball and a small soccer type ball.  Madeline was still a little tired so Linda sat with her while she played an iPad game that involved taking care of a dog.

Yesterday the UPS truck delivered a package from B&H Photo in New York.  Inside was a Sony alpha 99 camera body, specifically an SLT-A99V, which included an infoLithium (Lithium ion) battery and charger, a camera strap, a hot shoe flash adapter, Getting Started instructions, a CD-ROM with software and manuals, and various pieces of paper that included warranties and special offers.  Also in the box was a vertical battery grip (VG-C99AM), five additional infoLithium batteries, a belt-mount battery holder, and two 64 GB SDXC memory cards.

Linda suggested that this was my Christmas and birthday present for the next five years, but the reality is that the old Sony alpha 100 body was an increasingly unsatisfactory camera and needed to be replaced.  I bought the a100 in 2007 or 2008 and have not spent hardly any money on photographic equipment since then.  The a99 has been around for a few years now but is still Sony’s top-of-the-line full-frame (36mm x 24mm) sensor, A-mount lens body, which means it is compatible with all of my old existing A-mount Minolta lenses.  As it turns out, I can also use A-mount lenses designed for smaller sensors, such as the lens that came with the a100.  The a99 detects the lens format and adjusts the use of the sensor accordingly.  The a100 zoom lens, however, was an inexpensive “kit” lens that turned out not to be very sharp, especially around the edges, so it is unlikely that I will ever use it with the a99.

At 24 MP (mega pixels) the a99v is not a state-of-the-art camera by comparison to the newest offerings from Canon and Nikon, or even Sony’s own E-mount product line, but it is double the pixel count of the 12 MP a100, and has many features that the a100 does not have, including much better auto-focus and much better sensitivity to low light.  The maximum effective ISO speed on the a100 is 1600 whereas the a99v is 25600 and can be set even higher if needed.  The a99v also includes a built-in GPS receiver that enables it to geotag images.  It includes a hot shoe flash adapter, as well as a PC flash connection, so I have some hope that I will be able to use my old flash equipment, something I have not been able to do with my much older Sony alpha 100.

The old a100 holds one Lithium ion battery and one Compact Flash card, 4 GB maximum.  It also has an adapter so it can use SD memory cards, but the maximum usable capacity is still 4 GB.  The a99v also holds one Lithium ion battery in the camera body but holds two additional batteries in the vertical grip accessory.  Not only will the vertical grip be handy for shooting in portrait orientation, the two additional batteries should allow for extended shooting time even when using flash.  The body also has two memory card slots both of which can accept SD memory cards up to 64 GB.  Slot one can also accept a Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo.

Digital cameras are sophisticated combinations of mechanical, optical, electronic, and computer technologies.  Compared to film cameras of yesteryear prosumer and professional cameras, both single lens reflex (SLR) and single lens translucent (SLT) like the a99v, are feature-rich devices designed to give photographers complete control of the images that are produced.  That also means they are complicated devices with significant learning curves.  Throw in the fact that cameras like the a99v can shoot HD movies with sound and it takes considerable practice over an extended period of time to really master their use.  But I am retired, and photography is one of my three hobbies, so I have, and will take, the time to learn to use this new camera competently.  Competence in this case means the ability to quickly and intuitively select modes and adjust settings to allow me to capture (create) the images I envision.

Brendan called to see how Madeline was doing and arranged to pick up her up later in the afternoon, after the 3:30 PM start time of the U of M football game.  Unless you are attending the game you do not want to drive in, or anywhere near, Ann Arbor for the four or five hours preceding the opening kickoff.  It’s not a great place to be after the game ends either, especially as regards getting in to a restaurant or pub, unless you specifically want to be part of the pre/post game experience.

Madeline wanted to go outside and swing so we put on our shoes and got her into a light jacket.  She is just learning to pump her feet.  She understands the concept but does not yet having the timing.  When she was done with the swing we collected branches and twigs that were lying in the yard and added them to the burn pile.  We then walked around part of the back yard but her shoes got wet from the grass and she wanted to go back inside.

I checked our apple tree and was surprised to see damage that looked similar to that caused by the Emerald Ash Borer.  It’s possible that deer have been chewing at the bark but whatever the cause there are some very large limbs that are now dead.  What concerned me is that I do not recall them being in that condition the last time I looked.  The tree is very old, very large, and has not been properly pruned for a very long time.  We may end up losing it in the end, which would be a shame, but the time to prune is late winter to very early spring and we have not been here at that time of year the last two seasons.  I have my eye on a portion of the western 2/3rds of our yard, however, as prime real estate for some new trees, including some fruit trees.  But not this year, and probably not next year either.

Madeline was hungry after her backyard adventure.  She had soy yogurt and pistachios for lunch and found the pistachios very much to her liking.  She and Linda watched a Daniel Stripped Tiger cartoon and then she laid down for a nap at 1:30 PM.  I snuck off to my office to check e-mail, install the software that came with my new camera, and start downloading updates for the Linux box.  Completing the installation of the Sony Play Memories Home software required the camera to be connected to the computer, so I installed the two SDXC memory cards and one of the fully charged batteries.  On first power up I had to set the date and time.  I then connected it to the computer with the provided USB cable and completed the software installation.

One of the things the PMH software does is go through the PICTURES folder and catalog all of the images it finds by date and makes them accessible through a calendar view.  The camera also came with the Image Data Converter program for dealing with RAW format image files and Remote Control software that allows the camera to be tethered to a computer and controlled from there.  I will eventually have to figure out if/how Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop deal with Sony RAW files.

I quit working at 3 PM, Linda got Madeline up at 3:30, and Brendan arrived at 3:35.  Madeline had been sleeping pretty soundly and did not wake up easily.  She was initially upset that her mom did not come with her dad to get her and got herself worked up enough that she took quite a while to settle down.  To make matters worse she really wanted to stay another night at our house and was resisting going home even though she wanted to see her mommy.  When you are not yet 3 years of age it’s hard to understand that you cannot have mutually contradictory things at the same time, although I suppose in this case that had Shawna come to the house and stayed overnight Madeline could have had everything she wanted.

Linda got Madeline’s toddler bed deflated and packed for travel and rolled up her sleeping bag.  She and Brendan then gathered up all of the things that had to go back to Ann Arbor.  Madeline does not travel light; the clothes, books, toys, stuffed animals, and other accoutrements filled four carry bags in addition to the bed and sleeping bag.

After Brendan and Madeline left I checked my e-mail and replied to several having to do with my duties as secretary of the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  We will be holding our annual meeting by teleconference in the next three to six weeks and I have to update the roster and prepare financial statements.

I transferred the complete User’s Manual for the Sony a99v from the CD-ROM to my laptop, backed it up to the NAS units, and then e-mailed it to my iPad.  I downloaded it to my iPad and spent much of the evening reading it.  We headed off to bed a little after 9 PM.  I tuned into the Create channel on Detroit PBS (WTVS) and watched a series of back-to-back episodes of Cooking with Nick Stellino while I worked on this post.  Nick’s show is charming and he is the poster boy for unapologetic high self-esteem but with no hint of arrogance.  His love of food and passion for cooking is infectious and I enjoy his show.

 

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.

 

2015/20/04 (N) Family Trees

I was awake at 7 AM and got up at 7:20, showered, shaved, and dressed for the upcoming visit by our son, daughter-in-law, and younger grand-daughter.  We did not have breakfast, as they were bringing bagels with them, but I did make a small pot of coffee to get the day started.  While it was brewing I gathered up a load of laundry and put it in the washing machine.

We finally turned the furnace on a couple of days ago so the house was cool but comfortable.  Even so we turned on the fireplace and enjoyed our coffee while we awaited our visitors.  Brendan sent a text message indicating a 9:30 AM arrival and it was only a few minutes later than that when they showed up.  Today’s visit was the result of specific request by Madeline yesterday to see her Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.  She will be coming back on Friday after pre-school/day-care and spending the night.  She is then going to go see her Grandma B and Cliff in Denver while her mom attends a conference.

Brendan and Shawna brought five bagels, one for each of us, with cream cheese and lox for them and hummus for us.  They also brought sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.  We provided our Melt non-dairy butter substitute, a large pot of Kenya AA (single origin) coffee, orange juice, a bowl of mixed fruit, and a bowl of honeydew melon.  It was a wonderful mid-morning breakfast.

After breakfast the adults took turns playing with Madeline.  At one point Brendan reminded her to ask me something and what followed was a request to take a tour of the bus.  So we did!  Madeline is not yet 3 years old, and the bus does not really mean anything to her yet, but Brendan and Shawna wanted to see the work we had done.  We are looking forward to taking Madeline with us for short trips when she is a little older.

Madeline normally takes a nap at 1 PM and Shawna was a bit tired too so they packed up and left around 12:30 PM and drove back to Ann Arbor.  There was a “block party” taking place later this afternoon for their block and they wanted to rest before it started.

We needed to get some yard work done yet today so we changed into our work clothes.  I moved the laundry to the dryer and then got busy figuring out how to start and operate the new Poulan Pro 18″ chain saw.  The quick start guide had 10 steps, numbered and clearly illustrated.  I followed the steps carefully and it started right up.  We gathered up our rake, hand saw, wheelbarrow, and compound pruning shears along with a face shield, safety glasses, hearing protector, and heavy canvas work gloves and headed down to where the dead tree fell across the road a few days ago.

The tree fell across the road and had been moved out of the road by a neighbor shortly after it fell.  I had gone out a little while after that and cleaned up the limbs on the other side of the road and the small debris that was still in the road.  The tree, however, was still in the ditch along the side of the road and need to be cut up and moved.  Phil said he would take it and dispose of it if we cut it into pieces not longer than five feet and piled it by all the other timber and yard debris.

This turned out to be just the first of five trees that we cut up this afternoon.  Once the first tree was done we cut down a second one that was still standing but very dead and leaning out towards the road.  Better to take it down now than have it fall during the winter.  This tree was only 20 feet from the first one and not quite as tall, the top having broken off some time long ago.  These were both ash trees, killed by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.  It saddened me that all of this wonderful ash timber was going to a landfill instead of a sawmill, but we had no practical way to turn it into usable lumber.

While Linda acted as spotter for cars I made a “V” cut about three feet above the ground on the side where it was going to fall and then made a relief cut on the back side until it toppled under its own weight.  Once it was down I quickly cut it into shorter pieces and Linda got them off the road.

As long as we were working along the edge of the road I decided to prune or remove a few other saplings, bushes, vines, and deadfall so that Keith could mow the grass in the drainage ditch.  That turned out to be quite a bit of extra work but it needed to be done.  We encountered two different bushes with serious thorns and had to work carefully.  Without gloves, eye protection, and heavy weight long sleeve clothing and blue jeans it would have been dangerous and painful.

There is a complex of vines that runs all through this stand of trees.  We cut a lot of smaller runners and pulled them free form the other growth but I cut several at ground level that were at least 3″ in diameter.  A thorough cleaning and restoration of this particular stand of trees will take more time than we have to spend right now, but perhaps we can get some of this kind of work done next spring and early summer along with finishing the interior of the bus and redoing the water bay.

We have had a large tree down at the west end of our property for quite a while, and Keith has just been mowing around it, so we moved all of our equipment down there and worked on that area of the yard.  There were a lot of other small limbs scattered about and dead/broken branches hanging in several trees.  We gathered up the smaller stuff and cut it into manageable lengths and wheelbarrowed it to the disposal pile.  I then used the chain saw to remove the larger limbs and cut the tree up into four foot lengths.  It was 10 inches in diameter at the base and 30 feet long before we cut it up.  There is also a lot of pruning that needs to be done to the trees in this part of the yard, and some of it will require the pole saw and/or a ladder, and/or some careful climbing; but not today.

With that area cleaned up we moved our gear to the firepit (burn pile).  We have had a conifer tree on the ground next to the firepit for the entire summer and, once again, Keith has had to mow around it.  This tree was about 6 inches in diameter at the base and 20 feet long.  Linda found a second, smaller, tree and dragged it over.  I pruned all of the smaller limbs with the compound shears and then used the chain saw to cut off the larger branches and cut the trunk up into four foot lengths.  Rather than transport all of this material to the disposal pile we added it to the burn pile.  The pile is now about eight feet in diameter and four feet high so it should make quite a fire when we finally light it up.  I think we will wait for a chilly fall day to do that, if we get to it at all this year.  The longer the pile sits here the more of a problem it will be, however, as small animals will undoubtedly use it for shelter and to build nests.

It was 4 PM when we quit and we had only worked for three hours but it was very physical work and we were tired, or at least tired enough that we were not going to start working in the bus at that point.  By the time I cleaned off the chainsaw and we put all of the tools away it was 4:30 PM.  We changed out of our work clothes and I added them to my second load of laundry for the day.  We sat in the living room reading and writing for an hour or so until Linda pulled together our dinner.  In the interest of time she microwaved a couple of sweet potatoes (yams), steamed some Brussels sprouts, heated the last two mock chicken scaloppini, and poured a couple of glasses of Franzia Moscato.

After dinner I tended to the laundry and then settled in to work at my desk for a while.  I logged in to RVillage and saw that Curtis had posted in the Stakeholders group that he was holding Go To Meeting sessions today at 9 AM and 5 PM PDT.  That was noon and 8 PM EDT.  We had obviously missed the noon meeting, and would have anyway with company here but as it was only 7 PM we could still participate in the evening meeting.  We had an hour to wait so I decided to start uploading blog posts starting with August 1st.

I uploaded the posts for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, including a few photos, but something did not seem right as the photos did not corresponded to the posts.  I checked more carefully and observed that I had renamed photos from early September with early August dates.  I quickly edited the two posts that included photos and deleted the images from the posts.  I am two months behind again uploading posts and having to go back and select/process photos for my August posts will only delay the uploading further.  Ugh.

I launched Go To Meeting at 7:55 PM EDT and let Linda know it was time for the meeting.  Curtis was already online and we eventually had eight stakeholders checked in, some of which were individuals and some of which were couples.  Curtis, the founder and CEO of RVillage, gave us an update on recent development work, new features to be released next week, monetization of the site, and the progress of the current round of investor financing.  The meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

I was glad I caught the error with the photos for my blog but I was not in the humor to spend hours working on fixing it this evening.  Linda cut a couple of pieces of the vegan frozen chocolate torte that she made last weekend and that was reason enough to quit working at my computer for the evening.  We spent an hour relaxing in the living room eating our torte while reading and writing.  Yesterday Phil said he would call this evening and let us know whether he would be here tomorrow or at another 2-day job, but he did not call.

When we finally turned in a little before 10 PM we watched TV for a while before turning out the lights.  We caught the last half of a program on the glass blowing school at Pilchuck and “A Woman in Battle” about a Cuban born woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Civil War on the Confederate side but ultimately became a Union spy.  Tomorrow we hang wallpaper in the bus and we will need to be well rested so it was lights out by 11 PM.

 

2015/09/09 (W) Move In Day

We had a slow start to our morning.  I was up at 7:30 AM, finished loading the dishwasher, and made a cup of organic English Breakfast tea.  I fed the cats and then settled in to continue reading Oystein Ore’s Number Theory and Its History.  Jasper wanted attention and sat on my lap until Linda got up at 8:30 AM.  I made a cup of tea for her and brewed a second cup for me.

Linda developed a sore throat yesterday and did not feel like working last night so we deferred final cleanup of the grout on the new floor tiles in the bus until this morning.  She was obviously still not feeling well and was tired from not having slept well last night but she was willing to help with cleaning the grout reside off of the new tiles.  Before jumping into that task, however, we stripped the bed so I could launder the sheets and pillow cases.  We needed a mop for the floor cleaning so Linda went to Meijer’s and got one and picked up some blue Scotch Brite sponge pads.  While she was gone I went to the garage, smoothed the top surface of the return air shelf for the built-in sofa with 4/0 steel wool, and applied a second coat of polyurethane.  I had just enough to finish it.  I then started preparing for the tile cleaning.

I filled two 5-gallon pails half full of warm water and added 1-1/2 capfuls of Armstrong Once & Done concentrate.  The other pail was clean water for rinsing.  Cleaning the grout residue off of the tiles in the bus involved lightly scrubbing along and across the grout lines as well as the center of each tile.  I then went over the area with the square edged sponge side of the pad.  I went on to the next set of tiles while Linda trailed along behind mopping the area.  It took us a couple of hours to do the entire floor.

Part of the kitchen and living room floor after being cleaned as viewed from the hallway looking towards the built-in sofa.

Part of the kitchen and living room floor after being cleaned as viewed from the hallway looking towards the built-in sofa.

We moved all eight pieces of the built-in sofa into the bus and set them in place.  They all fit nicely and I was especially pleased that the vertical front panel, which is walnut veneered plywood, would not have to be trimmed.

We needed to strip the wallpaper behind the sofa but could do that later.  We also needed to strip the wallpaper behind the desk and really needed to do that before installing the desk.  Ideally we would have the new wallpaper installed too but we do not have it in our possession yet.  Linda also wants/needs to get back to work on cleaning/waxing the woodwork as we wanted that done before we put the drawers back in the cabinets.  She was very tired by this point, however, and took a much needed nap.

The built-in sofa with the plywood seat raised to reveal the plenum/support boxes on both ends and the center shelf that forms the air return duct for the OTR HVAC.  The empty space will be used for storage.

The built-in sofa with the plywood seat raised to reveal the plenum/support boxes on both ends and the center shelf that forms the air return duct for the OTR HVAC. The empty space will be used for storage.

I had some electrical things to take care of before we could assembly and secure the desk so I worked on those.  There was a 120V AC duplex outlet in a metal box on the wall where the left desk pedestal will go.  There was also a flexible plastic split loom conduit with 11 wires in it that ran from the panel next to the passenger seat to the four switches in the triangular panel and to the first of two door chimes.  This conduit was originally on the floor behind the furniture where it could not be seen but was now very visible and something needed to be done with it.  I started with the AC outlet.

I shut off the power to the AC outlet, tested it to make sure it was off, unwired the receptacle, unscrewed the box from the wall, and got the wires out of it.  I reenergized the circuit and verified which wire pair was the line (source, supply) and which was the load (power was fed from this box to another outlet by the passenger seat).  I was thinking about where to relocate the box so I would have power available under the center of the desk when I realized I had not made any provision in the design of the desk for getting power to that location.  I sat and thought about that for a while but an obvious solution did not present itself so I worked on the other wiring.

I made a diagram of the connections to the four switches so I could remove the wires and be able to put them back in the right place if needed.  All of the connections were spade lugs, male on the switch and female on the wire ends, so they were easy to remove.  The two switches with the most wiring originally controlled a motorized drawer and a motorized table.  The two DC power supply wires also had spade lugs as did the cabling from the switches to the motor connectors so I was able to remove all of that wiring and set it aside after labeling it to match my diagram.

The two wires from the doorbell switch also ran through the flexible plastic conduit to the first door chime.  Another pair of wires was spliced into the first pair and ran back to the bedroom where a second door chime was installed at the junction of the HVAC duct and dresser cabinet.  I cut all the wires at the splice, labeled the pair from the switch, and wrapped the end of each wire.  I wrapped the wires for the front chime around the box.  I then determined that I could pull the wires for the bedroom chime from the bedroom end, after disconnecting them from the chime, and remove them along with the chime box.  I coiled and taped the wires and set them aside with the box.

I now had all of the extra wires out of the way but still did not have a good solution to my electrical issues.  Two of the four switches were still functional, so the switches needed to be installed somewhere, but it was not obvious to me where they could/should go or how to mount them.  I also had two AC cables to relocate.  I decided to go inside and work at my desk.

When Linda got up she wasn’t feeling any better but she was at least somewhat rested.  We had simple, easy, but tasty meal of vegan riblets and corn-on-the-cob for dinner.  I was anxious to see how the desk was going to fit so we moved the nine pieces from the library into the bus.  It was getting near sunset by this time and we had a few moments of spectacular color before the world turned to gray and faded into night.

I folded the two AC cables down so they would be out of the way temporarily (they were still de-energized).  We set the two bases in approximately the right locations and put the two pedestal boxes on top of them.  I need to install a panel to cover the vertical mirror tiles before permanently installing the desk so I left an appropriate space for now.  I need to make a decision about the panel, however, so I can give Jarel the final dimensions for the HVAC duct / wiring chase cover.  With everything snugged up we put the drawers back in the right pedestal and sat on the sofa contemplating the new look and functionality of our bus.

I was also contemplating how I might “force” the pieces into alignment.  My first thought is to use metal or wood plates attached to the back/underside of the two pedestals to position the knee space connector piece.  I will probably also put a piece of 1×1 or a metal angle bracket on the wall to hold the back edge of the connector shelf as it will have a heavy UPS on it along with a NAS.

The installation of the new custom walnut desk may be temporary in that I may not be able to get the fan-coil heat exchangers for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system installed until after the upcoming GLCC rally.  I need to attach some sort of screen material to the back of the air inlet and outlet openings.  I also need to install new pieces of heater hose of the correct length and rig up some things to help get the hoses around tight corners.  This, however, will require draining and then opening some of the coolant lines.

Linda was surprised both by how big the desk is but also by how much extra room she will have in the kitchen.  I think that speaks to the inefficiency/inappropriateness of what was there before.  We were discussing the problem of getting AC electrical power to the wall area between the pedestals when the solution presented itself.  There is space at the inside rear of the right pedestal box so I can bring AC wiring from the chase through the bottom of the box, up the inside the left rear corner, and out through a hole just below the counter top and wire it to an outlet strip.  It will be completely invisible unless you get down on the floor and look up in the knee space of the desk.  It will also be conveniently located just below the notch in the center back of the countertop where power and data cables will drop through.

Linda went off to bed a little earlier than normal as she has to go to the bakery tomorrow.  I went back to my office to deal with computer updates, e-mails, and off-loading photos from my camera to my computer and the NAS units.

 

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.

 

2015/09/01 (T) Tiling Kate

We both slept until 8 AM this morning and even then got up slowly and reluctantly.  We probably need a day off to rest, relax, and catch up on some not-so-physical tasks, but now is not the time.  There is too much to do and time is slipping by.  The fact that hot weather, muggy weather is forecast for the rest of the week probably had some effect on our enthusiasm for getting back to work.  We should probably get up at 6 AM and quit working by early afternoon, but I am not on a sleep schedule that accommodates those hours.

We had our usual homemade granola with blueberries, split a banana, and had OJ/GFJ to wash down our vitamins.  I made Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff coffee, but not as much as usual.  We enjoyed our coffee in the living room with our cats and finally got back to work at 10 AM.

Dry fit of Armstrong Alterna floor tiles.  The starting point was where the kitchen was where the kitchen transitions into the hallway.

Dry fit of Armstrong Alterna floor tiles.  The starting point was where the kitchen was where the kitchen transitions into the hallway.

Today was one of the milestone days we have been working towards all summer; we (finally) started laying out (dry fitting) the new floor tiles.  I had done two layouts on 1/4″ grid paper back in early June; one with the sides of the tiles parallel and perpendicular to the centerline of the bus floor, the other with the sides turned 45 degrees.  We both liked the turned layout better so I used it to estimate the number of tiles we needed and placed the order back in mid-June.  They took a few weeks to arrive but they have been sitting flat in their boxes since early July waiting to be installed.

My original drawing has tiles lined up with opposite corners on the centerline of the floor, although it looks good on paper there was no way I could draw it at a scale that allowed me to accurately account for the 1/8″ grout spacing.  The drawing was just a “proof of concept” and a starting point for the actual layout.

We laid tiles out according to the plan from a starting point in front of the refrigerator that would allow one of the grout lines to go down the center of the hallway in front of the pantry.  Unfortunately that did not allow the tiles to reach the front edge of the floor by the cockpit or work out well for the toe kick space under the kitchen base cabinets or hallway running back to the bathroom and bedroom.

A famous problem in mathematics is finding convex polygons that can “tile the plane.” What this means is that the polygon can fit together with itself perfectly so that there are no gaps.  Some of Escher’s artwork was based on the use of such polygons and that is the context in which most people would be familiar with this concept.  Among “regular” polygons, which are equilateral and equiangular, triangles, squares, and pentagons can tile the plane.  So can right triangles and parallelograms, which includes the rhombus.  Beyond that it gets a bit tricky and someone just recently discovered a previously unknown irregular pentagon using a computer program to systematically examine a very large number of possibilities.

What does that have to do with our bus remodeling project?  Not much, really, beyond the obvious fact that the new vinyl floor tiles for our motorcoach are squares with an edge length of 16 inches.  Floor tiles are almost universally square in shape because they are easy to manufacture and can be laid out on a floor in several different ways. Finding a way that fits a particular space in a balanced way is the tricky part, however, and more so in this case because the tiles need to form a continuous pattern of grout lines (if possible) while working their way down the hall and into the bathroom and bedroom.

We shifted the string of tiles running down the centerline towards the kitchen cabinets on the driver’s side of the bus so the corners just reached the recessed base.  We then shifted them towards the rear of the coach to get reasonable size pieces at the front edge by the cockpit.  We filled in some tiles to either side of the main fore-aft string to make sure they would make it to the edges with reasonable size pieces.  When it was clear that this positioning was going to provide a balanced installation in the kitchen and living room we started working our way down the hallway and into the bathroom.

The tiles continued to fall into place and fit well in the bathroom but did not flow into the bedroom quite the way we wanted.  We may have to offset a grout line as we transition from the hallway to the bedroom but were otherwise satisfied with our dry fitting.  We returned to the front of the coach and placed every full tile that we could.  We then started trimming tiles to fill in smaller pieces.  We limited ourselves to pieces that had one or two straight cuts and no notches or tabs.

It was 4:30 PM by the time we got to the door of the bathroom and bedroom threshold, where a critical decision would need to be made regarding the offsetting of a grout line.  We have learned that the end of the work day is not a good time to make critical decisions.  With company coming in a couple of hours we quit working and got cleaned up.

I sat in the living room and worked on this post.  Kate sent a text message at 5:30 PM that she was leaving Wayne RESA and heading our way.  We figured she would get here at 6:30 and that is when she arrived.  She brought a dip that she made from cannelloni beans, garlic, and lemon juice, some baby carrots, and some pretzel chips.  We enjoyed the appetizers with some Bell’s Oberon beer while we chatted about work, travel, and family.  Kate travels every chance she gets, usually with her S.O. Brian but sometimes by herself.  Europe is a favorite destination but she frequently visits family members all across the U.S.A. and sometimes overseas.

After catching up a bit we gave Kate a tour of the bus interior.  She liked the new floor tiles and our choice of seat fabric but was suitably impressed with the pull-out pantry which pleased us.  I turned off the three residential air-conditioners as we exited the bus.  Linda then got busy preparing dinner while I showed Kate the pieces of the custom desk and built-in sofa.  I turned on the A-C in the library (where the desk and sofa pieces are stored) to cool it off and lower the humidity.  It had been off all day since we were running the main house A-C plus the three A-C units in the coach.

Dinner was ready at 8:30 PM, a simple but tasty meal of burgers and fries with a second round of Bell’s Oberon beer.  (Linda bought a real beef patty and got a slice of real cheddar cheese for Kate.)  We had fresh strawberries and Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream for dessert and then continued to chat about photography, cameras, travel, and the low power Radio station, AM 1700, that Brian runs in Ypsilanti.  A local blogger does a weekly interview show that Brian then podcasts.  The most recent one was an interview with a professor from U of M Ann Arbor who wrote a book that was recently made into a movie (Diary of a Young Girl).  The podcast was “liked” by Sarah Vowel, who is sometimes featured on “This American Life.”  Very cool.

Kate had to go to work in the morning and left around 10:15 PM.  Linda went straight to bed but I had a couple of things to take care of first.  I had initiated the download of an updated NVidia GeForce driver for my ASUS laptop computer.  I e-mailed several documents to my sister Patty, and then downloaded the final draft of the August/September Bus Conversion Magazine, proofread my two articles, and e-mailed a couple corrections to the publisher.   I installed the driver update and then went to bed.  I wrote for a while and finally turned out the light at midnight and fell asleep.

 

2015/08/16 (N) A Send Off For Katie

We had a light breakfast and enjoyed our morning coffee.  With company due at noon we were not inclined to do any overly physical work this morning.  Linda made a quick run to the supermarket and then spent the late morning finishing food preparations.  I worked in my office installing operating system updates, updating the BCM page on our website, and editing/uploading blog posts.

Our step-granddaughter, Katie Bortz, is leaving for college in a few days so Linda arranged to have her over for lunch along with our daughter, Meghan, and son-in-law, Chris (Katie’s dad).  They arrived around noon and stayed until almost 5 PM, a longer visit than usual.  For lunch we had chickpea salad, corn-on-the-cob, collard greens cole slaw, and potato salad.  Meghan made two desserts at home and brought them: cheesecake and vegan oatmeal bars.

Grand-daughter Katie (L) waiting for a slice of cake baked by her step-mom (our daughter, Meghan, on right).

Grand-daughter Katie (L) waiting for a slice of cake baked by her step-mom (our daughter, Meghan, on right).

Katie got a head start on college while still in high school and took several AP classes.  She also tested out of some basic classes so she will hit the ground running with at least some courses that are directly related to her interests (biology, specifically animals), and major (wildlife and fisheries).  She will be moving into one of the dorms and paired up with another freshman girl during orientation.  They have the room arrangement worked out, at least on paper, and I expect that everything will fall into place.

For dinner we had leftovers from yesterday’s meal after which I chatted with Chuck for a while on the phone about refrigerators in buses.  I worked on blog posts after that and was going to participate in the SLAARC info net at 8 PM.  Linda noticed that there was a program about the Real Scotland Yard on Lansing PBS at that time, followed by an episode (rerun) of Sherlock.  Harvey (AC8NO) was the net control operator for the info net and as soon as he called for check-ins I did an “in and out.”  Once he acknowledged that he had received my check-in I settled in to watch the programs.  After that it was off to bed to play a few iPad games before going to sleep.

 

2015/08/14 (F) Back-to-the-Bricks (Again)

I was up late last night and thought I would sleep in this morning but the alarm on Linda’s iPad had other ideas and woke me up at 7:15 AM.  I got dressed and while Linda was getting ready I started downloading an update for Photoshop CC 2015 on my ASUS laptop.  These Adobe downloads are very large and very slow so I left it to run.

We did not have breakfast or coffee at home.  Linda made PB&J sandwiches and packed a bag of pretzel crackers, some fresh fruit, and some water in a cooler bag with some freezer packs.  The forecast was for very warm, very humid conditions so we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning.  We loaded the camera, raincoats, hats, folding camp chairs, an iPad, and some GLCC T-shirts and flags into the car and left around 8 AM for the GLCC/CCO Back-to-the-Bricks rally at the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan.

We took Hacker Road to M-59 east to Old US-23 and stopped at the Kahuna Coffee shop.  We had seen the sign for this place but had never been there.  The owner was there and she was very nice.  She has a smaller version of the JavaMaster hot air coffee bean roaster that Jeff has at Teeko’s.  Her selection of green beans, however, was very different from Teeko’s with lots of flavored beans but none of the ones we usually buy.  Knowing that she gets her beans from the same place as Jeff, however, means we could probably order the ones we like if Teeko’s disappears.  She is friends with Jeff and is well aware of the probable impact of the Panera opening up across the intersection from Teeko’s.  But I digress.

This morning we were interested in coffee and bagels to go.  Kahuna had a better selection of bagels than Teeko’s but we got our usual choices; “everything” for Linda and cinnamon raisin for me, toasted with nothing on them.  They had Swiss Chocolate Almond coffee brewed so we tasted a sample.  It was very smooth, with no bitterness and just a hint of the named flavors, so we got two large ones to go.

We got back on M-59 eastbound and 100 yards later took the entrance ramp to northbound US-23.  US-23 merges with I-75 at the southwest corner of Flint and we continued north on the combined road until we exited at M-57 and headed east through Clio to M-54 and turned south.  A few miles later we turned into the Fireman’s Park on the east side of the highway.  It was 9:15 AM as I parked the car.

When I talked to rally co-host Marty Caverly last week only 14 rigs had RSVP’d for the rally.  There were over 20 rigs there when we arrived and five more showed up during the day.  A guy also brought a Country Coach Prevost XL conversion down from Saginaw for the afternoon.  He is trying to sell it and wanted to let the rally attendees check it out.

We made the rounds and said our “hello”s to everyone.  As has happened at past rallies where we have dropped in for a day many of the ladies took off to check out local garage sales.  Bill and Karen Gerrie were just pulling out but stopped to chat briefly.  Frank and Sandy Griswold’s Featherlite H3-45 conversion has windows that slide open rather than swing out like our awning windows so I asked Frank and several other people about screens for these.  Everyone had the same suggestion; that any local window and door business should be able to make them.  I was trying to get useful information for someone who had e-mailed me as a result of an article in BCM.

The roundtable discussion started at 2 PM and most of the rally attendees were back by then.  Pat Lintner, our GLCC national director, gave a pitch for the FMCAssist program, which is included as part of the annual FMCA membership and more than worth the annual cost of $40.  I announced that we had GLCC T-shirts and a few flags with us if anyone wanted to buy them.  I also announced that the Arcadia Rally website had disappeared but that Bill and Brenda Phelan are working to fix the problem and the rally is still on for December 26-31, 2015 with departure on January 1, 2016.

Ed Roelle had two topics for the roundtable:  1) “towing insurance” for our bus conversions, and;  2) causes and cures for hard water deposit buildup in the fresh water plumbing associated with an Aqua-Hot (Webasto diesel burner) heating and domestic hot water systems.  Most of us use, or have used, Coach-Net for our “emergency roadside assistance” coverage.  The plan includes towing but many of our members have switched to one of the three Good Sam ERS plans.  The top (platinum) plan is ~$140/year.

A couple of years ago Coach-Net decided they would not cover bus conversions more than 40 years old and alienated quite a few folks in the converted coach community.  They eventually reversed that position but the damage was done.  Others who stayed with them have had issues getting service or being charged ridiculous sums of money for simple things.  Coach-Net was officially endorsed by FMCA until recently, and is still endorsed by The Escapees RV Club, but FMCA has found a different provider for this important service.

We stuck around after the roundtable and continued chatting with folks in constantly shifting groupings.  The dinner meal was planned for 6 PM, and by 5:30 preparations were well under way, so we started saying our “goodbyes.”  We finally got our chairs back in the car at 5:50 PM and pulled out at 5:55.  There were very ominous clouds moving towards the rally site from the north as we started for home and a severe weather watch had been posted.

To get home we reversed our route taking M-54 north to M-57 west through Clio to I-75/US-23 south.  We stayed on southbound US-23 at the split with I-75 southwest of Flint and eventually exited onto M-59.  Instead of going west towards home we headed east and pulled into the Hartland Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner and get fresh ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner with Steve and Karen.

The weather we saw approaching Clio from the north was just moving into Hartland as we left the Meijer’s, so it was a rapidly moving system.  The storm clouds were very dramatic but we got back to the house and got the car unloaded before the rain came.  The wind gusted strongly for a while but in the end we did not get as much precipitation as we needed or thought we would.

For dinner we had vegan burgers with all the fixin’s, oven-baked French fries, and fresh strawberries.  It was 9 PM by the time we were done eating.  We were both tired from our long, but very enjoyable, day so we went to bed earlier than usual.