Category Archives: Projects

2015/11/25 (W) T Minus 2 Days

We both got up at 7:45 AM.  My back felt OK when I went to sleep last night but it was not good by morning.  I don’t know if that is a result of being immobile and supine or just the Ibuprofen wearing off.  As painful as it is to get up it feels better once I do.  We both got dressed to work.  Linda prepared raisin toast and tea for breakfast while I positioned myself on the heater pad.  Linda was busy by a little after 9 AM and I was up and about by 9:30.

The first thing Linda did was take out the trash.  She called yesterday and stopped our pickups starting next week.  It took me an hour to finish organizing tools and supplies in the garage.  At that point I turned off the garage furnace and opened the overhead doors.  I started my car and turned it around with the back end facing the garage.  We moved all of the things that were going in the bus outside the larger door.  We then loaded a lot of the stuff into the car.  This is not a permanent arrangement but was merely for the convenience of getting packed for traveling.

I helped get the recycling tubs into Linda’s car.  Late morning she took them to the recycling center and stopped at two different banks to make club deposits.  I took care of some computer-based tasks while she was gone.  I finally got a reply from DataViz regarding a sync problem with Passwords Plus and sent the tech support person (Colin) a copy of the sync log from my computer.  I also managed to register the Sony flash and accessories I bought a month ago.  When Linda got back she made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and served them with fresh apple slices.  The cheese was Tomato Cayenne from Field Roast and it made for a tasty sandwich on rye bread from Metropolitan Baking Company.  I had a couple of Ibuprofen for dessert.

We disassembled the temporary work table in the garage and stored the sawhorses out of the way.  We shook out the floor mats (as best we could) and Linda used the ShopVac to vacuum the floor of the larger bay.  We finally had enough room to store her Honda Civic inside for the winter.  That will be the first time it has been stored inside since she bought it in 2007.

[ Photo 1 of 1 – HC – The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter.  This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house. ]

The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter.  This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house.

The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter. This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house.

We rearranged some things in the front of the smaller garage bay to make room for the large trash container, the wheelbarrow, several 10′ lengths of 1-1/4″ plastic conduit, 10 large paver blocks, and the mower deck for the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  With those things stowed inside the concrete driveway was now free of objects that Kerry could have hit with his snowplow.

The tractor and 18 cubic foot trailer will remain in the yard alongside the driveway where we park the bus.  The tractor won’t start and we had no interest in pushing it uphill through snow.  We found our large plastic tarp the other day so we unrolled it, covered the tractor and trailer, folded the edges under, and weighed the edges down with landscape blocks.  Hopefully it will stay put through the winter.

With sunny skies and the temperature hovering around 50 degrees F I opened the house electrical bay on the bus.  We loaded the four toolboxes onto a hand truck, two at a time, and rolled them over to the bay where Linda got them stacked and pushed in.  We then loaded the two drill cases in front of the toolboxes and I closed up the bay.

Next we opened the passenger side engine bay door and replaced the main engine air filter.  It did not look that dirty but the new one was obviously very clean by comparison.  This air filter is a bit pricey at $130 plus tax but it is so critical to good engine performance that it does not make sense to try and save a few cents by not replacing it or trying to clean a used one and reuse it.

With the air filter changed we then pulled out the chassis battery tray.  It holds four Group 31 lead acid batteries and is very heavy.  It has a very heavy duty slide out tray but the tray is worn and lets the leading edge drop a little bit as it comes out.  That means we had to lift it as well as push it to get it back in.

We applied a 14″ strip of black Gorilla Tape to the horizontal frame member at the top of the compartment opening to prevent metal tools from coming in contact with the chassis, which is tied to the battery ground.  I got this idea from Chuck when I saw that he had done this to their coach.  There was some fine rust on top of the batteries but the connections were all tight and did not show signs of corrosion.  I should probably have cleaned them anyway but we had too much else to do.  I did notice, however, that one of the batteries was from 2009 and the other three were from 2010 so they may be due to replaced.

I opened the doors on both sides of the front bus bay and climbed in.  Linda carried stuff over from the driveway and the living room (of the house) and I figured out how to fit them into the space.  We have less stuff in the front bay then the last two winters but more stuff in the car.  The problem for the bay is that we have things in open topped cardboard boxes so I could not stack things the way I have in the past.

We were done with this phase of the loading process by 3 PM.  I had turned on the main engine block heater and the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop at 1 PM.  I started the main engine to air up the suspension, leveled the coach, and then turned on the auxiliary air compressor to maintain it at level.  I was getting ready to pull my car around behind the bus so we could hook it up when I realized I should probably move the bus a little bit first to make sure the brakes were not locked up.  I backed it up a few feet and turn pulled it forward a little farther than where it started.  Linda checked the floor and it was level so I switched the suspension back to Level Low to help minimize leaks and hold the pressure.

I continued to let the bus run on high idle while we hooked up the car.  With all of the connections made I opened the air valve that supplies air to the auxiliary braking system in the car and went to the cockpit to activate the various lights while Linda checked them.  Everything checked out as OK.

With the bus still idling we carried the HP Color LaserJet network printer from my office in the basement upstairs and into the bus.  It was heavy and awkward but we got in into the bus.  I had to remove the center cover from between the desk pedestals and we had to get it into its alcove in the left pedestal from the knee space between the pedestals.  I was pleased, however, that it fit very comfortably in that space as the space was designed to hold this particular printer.

Once the printer was in we found the replacement black toner cartridge and put it on board.  Linda also carried the smaller APC UPS up from the rec room to the bus and I put it on the connector cover shelf.  I think there will also be room on the shelf for one of the NAS units.  The newer one is physically smaller but has more storage capacity and is faster but my plan us to take the larger/older/slower one.

We were done with this phase of the loading process at 4 PM.  Our next task was to replace the screen insert from the front door of the house with the storm door insert.  Linda turned her attention to preparing food for our family gathering tomorrow and I stripped the bed, took all of the laundry to the laundry room, and started a load of whites.

My back was making me aware that I had worked it harder today than it would have liked so I took a few more Ibuprofen and settled in on the sofa with the heater pad.  Juniper found my lap almost immediately and stayed there until just before 6:30 PM when I had to get up for dinner.

Linda heated up a couple of Amy’s curry and rice frozen dinners and served them with the remaining kale/almond/raisin salad.  After dinner Linda started packing non-refrigerated food items in paper grocery bags for moving to the bus.  I brought all of my photography equipment upstairs to repack but left that for later.  I went downstairs and pulled two additional sets of BCM issues plus extra copies of some of the issues in which I have had articles.  I boxed the sets, labeled them, and brought them upstairs.

By the time I replied to a few e-mails it was after 9 PM.  We could have worked until midnight but we had both had enough for the day.  I settled in on the living room sofa with the heater pad on my back.  In spite of wearing a knee brace Linda’s right knee was bothering her all day so she took some Ibuprofen and we both went to bed.  We watched Weather Nation for a while and then went to sleep.

Tomorrow will be a long day but of a different sort.  In the morning we will finish loading the bus and I will check/adjust the pressures in all of the bus and car tires.  We are due at our daughter’s house at noon for Thanksgiving dinner and will probably stay until 7 PM. That evening, after we get home, we will winterize the plumbing in the house and spend the night on the bus in final preparation for our departure for Florida the following morning.

 

2015/11/22 (N) Repackaging

My lower back bothered me all night, so I did not sleep well, but we both got up at 8:15 AM, took showers, and got dressed.  My right lower back seemed to have gotten worse overnight.  I pulled a muscle yesterday and they tend to take quite a while to heal.  Not good.

The view of our rear deck from our dining room the morning after our major snowstorm.  It’s pretty if you don’t have to go outside to pack a bus or drive in it.

The view of our rear deck from our dining room the morning after our major snowstorm. It’s pretty if you don’t have to go outside to pack a bus or drive in it.

According to the National Weather Service newsfeed on The Weather Channel iPad app Howell, Michigan got 16.5 inches of snow from yesterday’s winter storm, the highest in Michigan.  The highest accumulation in the country was 18 inches somewhere in South Dakota, so we were very close to that.  The official amount was no doubt recorded at the Livingston County Airport about 11 miles west of us on the west side of Howell, but based on what we see on our deck we got at least a foot of snow here at the house.  It was sunny but only 25 degrees F when we got up.  The high temperature was forecast to only reach 30 and the low tonight is forecast to be 18.

Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  She cooked blueberries into hers but I had mine on the side.  I think the blueberries add additional liquid to the batter and keep the pancakes from cooking properly, but Linda likes the way they turn out.  I made a pot of coffee with the last of our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans.  I took some Ibuprofen along with my usual morning pills.  Linda got the heating pad out and I sat with it against my lower right back on the living room sofa while we drank our coffee.  In spite of having a lot to do between now and Thanksgiving Day, we got a slow start to our day.

Linda cleared our front sidewalk so she could get to the front door of the bus.  She also shoveled a path to my car, which I parked behind the bus yesterday, and cleared the snow off of it.  She checked the snow depth with a ruler at several places on our rear deck.  It was 13 inches.  Not 16.5 inches, but it’s still a lot of snow, and it could certainly have been deeper out in the yard.

Her agenda for the day was to vacuum the inside of all the cabinets in the bus, dust the woodwork, and clean the counters and mirrors.  I exchanged some text messages with Chuck including a couple of photos.  I sent one of our bus buried in snow and he sent one of the palm trees and lush vegetation on the unoccupied lot next to theirs at Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort.  Chuck said it has been too warm to play golf.  I did not know that was even possible but I did not feel too sorry for him.  I sent an e-mail to Butch to let him know I had delivered the antique SUN Electric distributor tester to Bill a week ago Friday.

I resumed working in the garage and spent most of the day repacking my tool boxes.  My objective was to reduce the number of boxes from five to four while maintaining some sort of reasonable logic to how they were organized.  I took short breaks throughout the day to get off my feet and had a few pretzels with hummus for lunch.

Sometime during the afternoon Kerry showed up and plowed as much of the concrete driveway as he could.  Linda must have been vacuuming in the back of the bus and I was working in the garage (with doors closed) so neither of us realized he was there until after he was gone.

I decided that I needed some additional storage boxes for organizing small parts so I drove to Lowe’s hoping to find the Stanley boxes I already have.  They had similar boxes from a different manufacturer but not the exact ones.  I tried The Home Depot but liked the boxes at Lowe’s better so I went back there and bought six, three with 10 deep bins and three with 17 medium bins.  I stopped at Meijer’s for orange juice and picked up a few other things.

When Linda was done cleaning the bus she started loading the things onboard that she had ready.  She got almost everything on board that was staged in the middle bedroom and the kitchen.  She then made three more batches of granola.  That made nine batches since Friday evening, eight of which are in the freezer.  Linda thinks a batch will last at least two weeks if have granola every other day.  If that proves to be true we should have enough granola with us in the bus to get through the end of March.

By 5:30 PM we were both ready to stop for the day.  I changed into my robe and sat on the living room sofa with the heating pad on my lower right back.  We spent 45 minutes considering possible waypoints between here and Williston, Florida.  We did not come a decision but it is very likely we will stop at two of the same places we used two years ago, the Oh Kentucky campground in Berea, Kentucky and the KOA near Cartersville, Georgia.

The Oh Kentucky RV Park in Berea is just west of I-75 at an interchange.  It wasn’t fancy but provided easy in/out access and would allow us to plug in for the night.  Just east of the Interstate at the same exit is a Walmart where our friends, Chuck and Barbara, stayed on their way south a few weeks ago.  The RV park options north of Atlanta, Georgia are surprisingly limited.  The Cartersville Castle-White KOA is convenient to an exit off of I-75 and also provided easy in/out access.  Staying there Saturday night means we can drive around Atlanta on I-285 on Sunday morning, our favorite time to bypass major cities.

Our final waypoint before going into Williston Crossings on Tuesday, December 1st will probably be Mayo, Florida where we can boondocks for two nights at John Palmer’s place.  This itinerary would have us traveling about 400 miles on Friday, 300 miles on Saturday, 340 miles on Sunday, and 75 miles on Tuesday.  Friday would be a longer drive by about 2 hours than we normally plan, but very doable.  Also, this time of year we like to get as far south as quickly as possible.

Linda opened a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Mixed Berry Winter White wine to have before, during, and after dinner.  For dinner Linda cooked a squash and heated up some frozen corn and mock chicken tenders (vegan).  After dinner I tried to check my e-mail but our Internet connection had slowed to an unusably slow speed.  At 8 PM I participated in the SLAARC Information Net and then came back upstairs and went to bed.  We both took some Tylenol PM at 11:30 and then turned out the lights.

 

2015/11/21 (S) Not Quite As Planned

The weather forecast for today had snow moving into the area starting at 4 AM, increasing in intensity by 8 AM, and continuing through the day and into the evening.  The initial forecast was that we would get 4 – 6 inches of accumulation with temperatures hovering just below freezing.  We overslept this morning and did not get up until 7:30 AM but decided to go to our weekly ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon anyway.  I have had Mike’s (W8XH) climbing harness for a while and wanted to return it before we left for the winter.

There was already some accumulation on grassy areas when we left at 7:45 AM but the drive was not a problem and we arrived at 8:10.  We were the last ones there, of course, but someone had to be.  We had a nice chat with Harvey (AC8NO) and Diane, who are usually close to the last to arrive.  I called Mike, who did not make it to breakfast, and let him know I was transferring the harness to Harvey.

On the drive home we stopped at Meijer’s in Brighton so Linda could get some additional ingredients to make more granola.  By the time we got home at 10:30 the snow was starting to pile up.  I had four text messages from Kristine Gullen in quick succession which turned out to be four parts of one message.  She wanted to pin down our dinner plans for this evening.  I texted her back once I got home and after a couple of exchanges we came to the mutual conclusion that the weather was going to interfere with our get-together.  Sadly, that meant we would not see her and Jim again until May 2016 as they were probably headed to Frankenmuth for the Fall MERA conference and then on north to their cottage at Crystal Mountain for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Snow piling up around the bus less than a week before our planned departure for Florida.

Snow piling up around the bus less than a week before our planned departure for Florida.

Our original plan for today was to clean the inside of the motorcoach and then start cleaning up the garage/shop.  With the snow piling up we decided to defer cleaning the rig and concentrate on cleaning up the garage and staging things that we will eventually load on board.  I worked in the garage most of the day although that included moving things into the library and house.  Linda concentrated on making granola, preparing a billing statement for the bakery, and organizing/staging kitchen-related things for the bus.  She also came out and helped me when I needed assistance.

My objective for today was to get one of the temporary workbenches cleared off and disassembled.  I also wanted to get all of unused plywood stored flat.  By 5:30 PM we had accomplished those two goals, gotten most of the power tools put away, moved quite a few things to the library, and stored or thrown away quite a few other things.  I had also managed to strain my lower right back.  That is never a good thing, but it was especially bad given what we have to accomplish in the next three to four days.  We will continue the process tomorrow and I will try to get my tool boxes reorganized before I quit working for the day.  A critical piece of the cleanup will be getting everything that should be protected from freezing out of the garage and into the library as we do not heat the garage while we are away even though it has a furnace.  From there some of it may get moved to the laundry room in the basement, or not; it just depends on time and energy.

We need to clean up the garage enough to get the Honda Civic inside and also the (non-functioning) lawn tractor.  Optionally we can leave the tractor where it is and put a tarp over it or I can borrow Mike’s trailer and take it to Sloan’s in Linden to have it repaired and stored for the winter.  I like the last option best but I doubt that I will have the time to take it there before we leave.  It would have to be on Wednesday, assuming they are even open the day before Thanksgiving.

Snowstorm in progress.  Lots of snow on the rear deck and still coming down.

Snowstorm in progress. Lots of snow on the rear deck and still coming down.

For dinner, Linda sautéed an onion with some mushrooms and heated some frozen broccoli and peas.  She used all of that as toppings for two baked potatoes.  We watched the snow fall as we ate and estimated the accumulation on the railing of our rear deck to be at least a foot.

By 7 PM Howell had officially recorded 14.5 inches of snow and it was still coming down.  I decided to text Kerry Fear, who does our snowplowing, to let him know that I staked the driveway yesterday but we still have a mower deck, wheelbarrow, paving blocks, and plastic conduit in the northwest corner of the drive that we have not yet had a chance to remove.  He texted back that he was “up north” and would be back Sunday afternoon.

We went to bed before 9 PM, watched a few minutes of weather on TV, and caught a bit of a Cirque du Soleil holiday show on Detroit PBS.  I was going to call Butch and text Chuck but it was after 10 PM so I went to sleep instead.

 

2015/11/19 (R) FTH Annual Meeting

I was up at 7:45 AM and got dressed right away to work.  I folded the towels and blankets I laundered yesterday and then made coffee and had a bowl of granola for breakfast.  I sat in the living room for most of the morning finishing my blog post about yesterday, having decided that I would probably not work in the bus today.  The only thing I really have left to do is install the metal edging where the floor tiles meet the top of the wall tiles in the front passenger platform and secure the old step on the platform.

I finally inventoried my issues of BCM and sent the list to Gary of the ones I need to make three complete sets for door prizes for the Arcadia Rally.  We had some additional e-mails back and forth regarding the rally.

Part of getting ready to leave is getting the house ready for us to be gone.  I shut the off the water to the three outside spigots and then opened them to let them drain.  I added insulation around the top of the foundation in the sump pump closet and put the piece of insulation back in the window.  I topped off the battery for the backup sump pump with distilled water.  I left the light on to act as a heater and put a note on the outside of the door to that effect.  I also noted the date the battery had been topped off. Once the cats are on board the bus we will leave the sump pump closet door open to let heat get in there.

At 3:15 PM I printed off the documents for the FMCA Freethinkers meeting.  I got a bowl of nuts and made a cup of hot tea.  Linda texted me at 3:30 that she was leaving the office.  At 3:55 PM I dialed into the meeting.  Bob, the chapter president and organizer of the teleconference, was already checked in.  By 4:05 we had 11 F#’s represented, exceeding the eight we needed for a quorum, and he called the meeting to order.

The meeting was routine but necessary.  I edited the minutes from last year as the meeting progressed.  We approved the minutes of last year’s annual meeting, presented the financial statements, received the report of the nominating committee, and elected people to the offices of president, vice-president, and Treasurer.  We also elected five members to serve on the nominations committee for the coming year.  The meeting concluded with a discussion about how to let FMCA members know about our chapter, which resulted in a member volunteering to set up a public Facebook page for our chapter.  Linda got home as the meeting was concluding.

We both got comfy in our robes and spent 45 minutes relaxing in the living room.  For dinner Linda made green salads with dried cranberries and slivered almonds and heated up some mock (vegan) riblets in barbecue sauce and some vegan baked beans.  We finished off the bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine for dessert.

I finished editing the minutes of this year’s meeting, converted them to a PDF, uploaded them to our Dropbox, and e-mailed the members.  I got that done before 8 PM so I could relax and watch a few Thursday evening TV programs with Linda.

 

2015/11/18 (W) Fuel Run

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I was up at 7:45 AM and skipped breakfast and coffee.  I put on Weather Nation and took stock of the forecast while I folded the clean laundry.  I took a shower, got dressed, made a cup of tea, and had a small glass of orange juice to wash down my pills.

My main objective for today was to get the bus fueled which would also serve as a test run.  The forecast had the chance of rain increasing through the morning and heading towards certainty by early afternoon, albeit intermittent and not very intense.  I wanted to take care of the fueling before the rain settled in but wanted to wait long enough for the temperature to rise so I set 11 AM as my target departure time.  Before I moved the bus, however, several things had to be done.

First on the list was turning on the electric block heater for the main engine.  It wasn’t cold enough for this to be necessary but having the oil warmed up a bit never hurts, especially with the straight 40 weight oil.  It helps the engine crank over and get oil to the bearings more quickly.

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

Next was simply cleaning up the interior so the coach could be safely moved and nothing would get broken.  I gathered up all of the tools and materials that I no longer needed and moved them into the house and garage.  I then installed the solid brass door stop on the bottom of the pull-out pantry.  Finally I mounted the two aluminum angles to the inside of the refrigerator alcove, one by the freezer door and the other by the fresh food door.

The angles were 1/2″x3/4″ with holes drilled in the 3/4″ flange for #6 SR self-drilling wood screws.  I had carefully countersunk (chamfered) each hole so the screw head would be close to flush with the surface of the flange.  The aluminum was only 1/16″ thick so I had to be careful not to overdo it.  With the freezer door open I set the 1/2″ flange against the face of the refrigerator case (on the side opposite the hinges) and held the 3/4″ flange square to the side of the alcove.  I used a #5-6 self-centering VIX drill bit to drill three holes about 3/8″ deep and installed the 5/8″ #6 screws with a manual screwdriver so as not to over torque them.  I repeated the procedure for the second angle which was longer and had five mounting holes.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

I had a little spare time so I drove my car up and down the new driveway to compact the gravel.  I won’t drive the bus on this new driveway until next year but it already supports the cars very nicely and the weight of the Honda Element was sufficient to knock down some of ridges and compact the surface.

I checked all of the tire pressures and they were OK so I did not have to get out an air compressor and adjust them.  I will have to do this next week before we leave, however, as the temperatures will have cooled off significantly by then.

Around 11 AM I turned on the coach batteries and opened the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  I turned off all of the electric heating elements and made sure the inverter was turned on and then started the main engine.  I let it run for one minute and then switched it go high idle.  While the engine was warming up and the air pressure was building I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the power cord, and stowed it.

I pulled out at 11:15 AM and headed for the Mobile Truck Stop at exit 122 on I-96, approximately 22 miles from the house.  While there are a couple of closer places I could get fuel this truck stop has very good egress and is fairly busy, which means the fuel is being turned over frequently and is thus relatively fresh.  The drive is a mix of Interstate and Michigan Highways with a few stoplights and a couple of miles of dirt road, so the bus has to run up and down through its gears.  It is also a long enough round trip to get the engine up to normal operating temperature under load.

I estimated that the tank would take on about 120 gallons of diesel fuel so I added two bottles of Stanadyne Performance Formula and one bottle of Stanadyne Lubricity Formula.  The tank started whistling at 112 gallons, which meant it was getting full.  I added the last few gallons by controlling the flow manually and stopped at 119.990 gallons, so my 120 gallon estimate was pretty good.  I paid for the fuel and got a free beverage to go with it.

I had some occasional light rain on the drive out and on the drive back but the trip was otherwise uneventful.  I was back at 12:45 PM, parked the coach, and started the auxiliary generator, which I had not done for several months.  To load the generator I turned on all three electric toe-kick heaters, the engine block heater, the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and front bay electric heater.  I let it run for 90 minutes with an average current draw of 25 Amperes on each leg, which is about 35% of its full load capability.

I got the shorepower cord out and connected it but did not turn it on.  As long as I had water and air pressure I flushed the toilet and then ran a little water through the various faucets in the coach.  I set a rubber door mat under the drain for the fresh water tank to keep the water from drilling a hole in the driveway and then let the tank drain slowly.  While it was draining I got the long fresh water hose out and connected it to the spigot on the front of the house and the water port for the coach.  With the fresh water tank empty I checked that the outside water spigot was configured to provide filtered/softened water.  I closed the drain valve, opened the fill valve, and opened the valve at the house.  I then went in the house, set a timer, and had a bite of lunch.

I had a phone call while I was driving back from the truck stop but did not answer it.  The caller left a message so I listened to it and then called him back.  Kevin Stufflebeam, from the southwest part of Michigan, had a 1995 Marathon Prevost conversion with a non-functioning Webasto system.  It turned out that he had the system worked on by a company in that area and the guy from the company had called me during the summer.  They got my name and contact information from Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct, with my permission.

The fresh water tank has an overflow tube so that is how I knew it was full.  I closed the fill valve on the bus, closed the spigot valve at the house, and then opened the fill valve to relieve the pressure in the hose.  Sure, it was a lot of back-n-forth, but it eliminated the spray that occurs when unscrewing a fitting on a pressurized hose.  It also makes the fitting easier to unscrew.  I removed the hose from the coach and then from the house.  The spigot is about four feet higher than the driveway so I pulled the hose up towards the spigot, allowing it to drain as I coiled it up.  Once it was coiled I connected the two ends together, put it back in its storage tub, and put the tub back in the front bay.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to say she was on her way home.  It had been raining, off and on, all afternoon so I took about 45 minutes to drive on the new driveway with my Honda Element and compact it even more.  But first I got the metal toothed rake and evened out the few remaining ridges and valleys.  Besides going up and down the driveway I drove across it at various angles at both ends.  Most of the driveway has fresh topsoil along both edges, which is soft and has grass seed and straw on top of it, so I stayed off of those areas as they definitely should not be compacted.  The end of the new driveway by the house ties into our concrete driveway and some solid, undisturbed lawn with a flare.  The far end, which ties into the street at our third culvert, is much wider (to allow the bus to make the turn), relatively flat, and ties in to solid, undisturbed lawn.  The concrete, road, and undisturbed lawn allowed me to drive beyond the edges of the driveway in these areas and go across them at various angles.

Any kind of weather always slows commuter traffic and Linda did not get home until 6 PM.  It had been a long day for both of us and she just wanted to relax for a while.  She opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and poured each of us a glass.  For dinner we had mock oriental orange chicken with reheated frozen broccoli and white rice with soy sauce.  It was an easy but very tasty meal.

After dinner I finally settled in at my desk to finish updating the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter roster, financial statements, and minutes from the 2014 annual meeting.  Linda reviewed the financial statements and helped me reconcile them to the bank statements.  Once we were satisfied they were accurate I saved everything as PDFs, uploaded them to our Dropbox, and sent the folder link to the members via e-mail.  We then headed to bed and watched the last episode of The Brain on Detroit PBS.  Linda went to sleep and I wrote for a while, finally turning the light out at 11:30 PM.

 

2015/11/16 (M) Tiling the Cockpit, #3

Linda planned to go to the bakery today but decided yesterday to stay home and help me instead.  Based on the 10-day forecast this looks like our last decent weather day to work on the bus and we wanted/needed to make the most of it.

We had breakfast at 8 AM (granola with blueberries and a banana) and had a cup of Stash China Black tea.  I had a text message from Kristine Gullen regarding getting together with her and Jim on Saturday and replied in the affirmative.  We finished our tea by 8:30 and got to work.

I really wanted to finish tiling the cockpit of the bus, or at least as much of it as we could.  That meant cutting and fitting tiles for the stair treads and risers and the two side walls of the entry steps, gluing them in place, and then grouting all of them.  We needed to mount the table if possible and I also needed to build a new step for the platform.  That was a lot to get done in one day and even before we started I doubted that we would get it all done.

When we opened the bus we were surprised to find that the tiles on the walls of the platform had slipped all the way down to the floor tiles.  Obviously I should not have removed the spacers right after installing the tiles and should have to left them in place for any horizontal grout spaces on vertical surfaces.  Oh well, not much to do about it now.

Keith called to see if he should come and mulch the leaves one last time.  The weather the last few days had been very nice, unseasonably warm and dry.  Today was also a beautiful day but the forecast going forward was for much cooler and wetter conditions, so this was an ideal day for our last lawn mowing of the 2015 season.

We measured and cut the tiles for the face of the platform and out to the door.  At that point I evaluated what I needed to do to complete the job.  Basically, I needed to cut all of the tiles for the entry steps and walls and then install them from the bottom up.  Every piece of tile was going to be smaller than a full 16″x 16″ tile and custom cut so even though the square footage was not that much there would be more pieces than usual and it was obviously going to take quite a bit of time to get all of the pieces ready to install.  I thought we could be ready for adhesive in two hours but Linda figured it would be at least three.  It also meant working with the door open which would make it difficult to keep the interior as warm as we needed.

Phil showed up with his excavator and a dozen bales of straw.  I knew the excavator was for a different job as he did not have anything left to do at our place that required it.  He was here to finish covering the topsoil and grass seed with the straw.  We took a break to go talk to him and confirmed that he was done with the driveway and French drain projects except for the straw.  He staged the bales where he needed them but said he had to leave to dig a perk test hole at 1:30 PM and would be back mid-afternoon to finish spreading the straw around.

Linda suggested that we go ahead a grout all of the tile we had already installed.  I was more emotionally invested in completing the tile work than Linda but had to agree that this was the prudent thing to do.  Until the tile was grouted we could not reinstall the accelerator, the steering column shroud, the seat bases, and the seats, so grouting the tile was clearly a critical path item and that is what we did.  It was after noon by the time we finished so we took a break for lunch.  Phil had taken off by this time to go dig the test pit.

Lunch was grilled vegan Italian sausage on a bun with mustard and relish and black grapes on the side.  Keith finished up mowing the yard while we were enjoying a cup of Rooibos tea.  We paid him and chatted about next year.  I gave him our approximate timeframe for returning home from Florida and asked him to go ahead and start mowing next spring whether or not we were here.  We have had Keith take care of our lawn since we bought our house in the country and he has been very good about doing that when we are away and allowing us to catch up with him when we get back.

By the time we got back to work on the bus it was after 1 PM and I had to concede that we were done working on the tile until next spring except for cleaning them, which had to wait until tomorrow as the grout has to cure for 24 hours before final cleaning.  With that decision made we considered what else needed to be done and in what order.

The first order of business was painting the two front seat bases black.  We spread out painter’s plastic on the driveway and taped it down.  We set the bases there and then masked off the top portion with the swivel bearings and mounting bolt.  We wire brushed the bases to remove rust and then went over them with a sanding sponge.  I used a cleaner/degreaser and water to clean them and then gave them a coat of black rubberized undercoating paint.

The next order of business was getting all of the tools and materials that we no longer needed out of the bus to give us room to work on other things.  On Saturday I re-installed the bump out on the walnut cover for the passenger side HVAC duct.  The duct needed to have two 4″ holes drilled in it to match the holes in the metal duct, so that was the next task.  I measured very carefully and transferred the measurements to the face of the cover with equal care.  Even so, I was off slightly and had to use the sheet metal nibbler to enlarge the bottom of each hole.  At least I had a relatively straightforward way to fix this problem; I am not always so lucky.

With the holes enlarged we put the cover in place.  The 4″ round plastic registers fit through the wood into the duct but not all the way due to two tabs.  I trimmed the tabs off using the Porter-Cable oscillating saw and trimmed a little bit off of one of the outer mounting flanges to make it fit flush.  I drilled holes through the two mounting holes on each register using the #5-6 self-centering drill bit and secured them with #6-5/8″ SR screws.  We then removed the two temporary black plastic registers from the front of the built in sofa.  I trimmed the tabs off of two new brown ones and installed them using the same procedure as the first two.

In the grand scheme of things getting the cover in place and the four registers installed was a small task but it needed to be done and stood in the way of other things.  The cover has been stored on top of the two front seats, which have been lying on their backs on the kitchen floor of the bus for weeks.  We plan to re-install the seats late tomorrow afternoon.

Two more small, but critical, tasks were securing the pull-out pantry and the refrigerator.  I have assumed for quite a while that we would secure the pantry for travel with some form of sliding latch but had not thought about it in any detail.  We also needed to secure the refrigerator but I had not thought about this in any detail either.  As we pondered the pantry latch it slowly became obvious that we did not have enough wood for a strike plate to receive a pin and we did not have two unobstructed surfaces that were in the same plane, which would be required for the kind of latch I had been thinking about.

As for the refrigerator, one of our bus nut friends secured their unit by running mounting bolts (machine screws) through the floor of the cabinet above the fridge and threading them into the unused tapped holes provided for the upper door hinge (if it was reversed) .  After looking at it for a while we realized that we could attach a section of small angle to the inside of the right alcove wall with the other side just against the face of the fridge case but not over so far as to interfere with the door gasket.  My measurements indicated that a 1/2″x3/4″ angle would be just right.  It looked to me like two 12″ pieces, one by the freezer door and one by the bottom of the fresh food compartment door, would be more than adequate to keep the refrigerator from rolling out as it cannot shift sideways or twist due to the aluminum angle on the left/hinge side at the floor.

About this time Phil returned in a red pickup truck.  He finished distributing the straw and loaded three unused bales into the back of his truck.  He pulled up in the main drive and we invited him into the bus to see what we had been working on all summer.    It is always a pleasure working with Phil.  If/when we build a barn we will have him do all of the site prep and finish grading.  He will figure out the final cost for the driveway extension and French drain and send us an invoice.

Linda prepared an easy but tasty dinner consisting of a nice green salad, mixed frozen vegetables (corn, peas, and carrots) suitably reheated, and mac-n-cheese that was both dairy-free and gluten-free.  After dinner we went to Lowe’s and The Home Depot.  At Lowe’s we bought a 1/16″ thick 1/2″x 3/4″ aluminum angle and three 8 foot lengths of brass colored nose edging but did not find a latch that we liked.  At The Home Depot we bought some screws for securing the handle on the front of the pull-out pantry and a solid brass door stop to keep the pantry in place.  The door stop folds up when not in use and should work to keep the pantry closed while traveling.

Although the new Panera on the southwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Latson Road was finally open for business we stopped at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea on the northeast corner of that intersection.  Jeff was there and took our order for eight pounds of coffee beans.  We got two pounds each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, regular and decaffeinated, the Seattle Blend (regular), and the Sweet Dreams blend (decaffeinated).  They will roast the beans and then let them outgas for a few days before vacuum sealing them in half-pound portions.  This allows us to take them with us in the bus and keep them very fresh until we are ready to use them and to change what we are drinking more often.

We got home just after 8 PM and took our iPads downstairs to use while we watched our Monday evening CBS TV programs.  We caught the weather forecast and then headed to bed.  It looks like we will have two more days with unseasonably high temperatures near 60 degrees F but with intermittent rain and then a serious cooling trend with highs this weekend barely above freezing.  Our time for working on the bus and being in Michigan is definitely running out.

 

2015/11/13 (F) Road Trip

I set my alarm for 5:30 AM and got up when it went off.  I got dressed quietly, fed the cats, refilled their water fountain, and took my allergy pill and B-12 vitamin.  I used a plastic bag to pack a change of underwear and socks, a basic oral hygiene kit, my iPad, my checkbook, and my phone charger cable.  I loaded my travel bag and walnut pieces into the car and then checked the mousetraps in the pantry.  One of them had two mice in it.  It was still pitch dark outside so I drove to the end of the new driveway, parked with my headlights pointing across the road, took the trap to other side of the road, and released them.  They went scurrying off into the thick undergrowth of the woods and I drove back to the house.  I left the trap on the front porch and went inside to wash my hands.

I finally left on my road trip to Indiana at 6:20 AM.  I needed fuel so I headed south on Hacker Road and stopped at the Shell Station on Grand River Avenue at I-96.  There is a Dunkin Donuts co-located with the station so I got an extra-large coffee and was on my way.  I decided to head east a couple of miles on I-96 and then south on US-23 to Ann Arbor where I picked up I-94 west.  I took I-94 as far as I-69 and then headed south.  Somewhere along this segment I realized I had forgotten the box with the two swivel ring bearings.  That meant I would not be stopping at Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan to return them, which would save me time but necessitate getting them back to Josh another time and/or another way.

The change in plans would loosen up my schedule a bit but I still had four stops to make and was anxious to make time.  I stayed on I-69 south into Indiana and then took the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90) west.  Traveling west there is one travel plaza between I-69 and the SR-19 exit.  I stopped there to use the restroom and get another cup of coffee.  Back in my car I called Josh to let him know I would not be stopping by his shop today in Edwardsburg.  I then called Linda to update her on my whereabouts and change in plans.  She said she would take care of getting the box with the swivel ring bearings ready to mail.

The weather was overcast, drizzly, cool, and windy when I left this morning.  The winds were out of the west so I had a crosswind or a headwind for the entire trip down.  By the time I reached Indiana I had driven out from under the cloud cover.  The temperature remained very cool but the sunshine was refreshing.

My first stop was A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana.  Much to my surprise Terry had used the exact same fabric for the filler cushion that we had her use for all of the other ones, so it was a perfect match!  I got a call from Josh while I was there and called him back as soon as I left, but got his voice mail.

My next stop was at Pat and Vickie Lintners’ house, about three miles from A-1 Upholstery, to pick up a critical accessory piece for the built-in Nutone multi-function kitchen appliance.  We have a functional power base built in to our kitchen counter in the bus but only had the blender attachment.  Vickie gave us a number of other attachments at a rally back in September but many of them required a right angle tower adapter.  She had found the adapter a few weeks after the rally.

From Pat and Vickie’s I backtracked to the main north-south road, went south back over the St. Joseph River, and headed west on Old US-33 (Lincolnway).  I got a call back from Josh and he said to stay on my current road all the way to the Mishawaka bypass and then head south to US-20.  From there I was on familiar road as I headed west to US-31 south.  Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint had called while I was at Pat and Vickie’s and I let it go to voice mail.  I called her back when I was done talking to Josh.  They had both called me with some recent scuttlebutt about a service facility in Elkhart where friends of ours had some major remodeling work done on their vintage bus, but it was also a chance to catch up on things in general and helped pass the time as I drove.

I stopped in Argos for fuel and called Bill Tharpe with an ETA of 12:30 PM.  I then called Jarel to let him know I would be there by 1:30 PM.  Butch had driven me past Bill’s place once some time ago so I had a fairly good understanding of where it was and what it looked like; not that I needed it.  Given the address my Garmin 465T GPS unit took me right to Bill’s place on Mexico Road south of Mexico and north of Peru.  Sounds like I was in Central America.

Bill was outside waiting for me and we unloaded the antique SUN Electric Distributor Tester from my car and into Butch’s truck, which Bill had for the winter.  He was headed to his building in Wabash, where he has a paint booth, to repaint the truck so we did not chat for very long.  Besides, I still had one more stop and it would take at least a couple of hours.

A couple of miles on down Mexico Road I headed west on US-24 towards Logansport and arrived at Jarel Beatty’s cabinet shop at 1 PM.  Jarel was not expecting me until 1:30 so he was in the middle of cutting dados in side panels for a tall cabinet.  When he finished that task he switched to a regular blade in his table saw to work on my pieces.

We selected the most suitable pieces of walnut from among the ones I brought.  He ripped two pieces, one 2″ wide and the other 2-1/16″ wide, and crosscut them to 19-11/16″ long.  He then ran them through his shaper to round off the edges.  He changed the blade on his table saw, reset the depth of cut, and set the fence to cut off the amount of material I had marked with blue painter’s tape on the bump out for the passenger side HVAC duct cover.  With the sawing done he sanded the two new pieces and then sprayed them with a Sherwin-Williams pre-catalyzed lacquer.  He let the first coat dry for 15 minutes and then lightly sanded it with 220 grit paper to knock down tiny bubbles and splatters.  He then applied a second coat.  It was remarkable to see how it changed the appearance of the wood.  Jarel described it as being like “putting water on a rock” and I thought that was an apt description.

After another 15 minutes the pieces were dry enough to be transported without damaging them.  I wrapped things up with Jarel, including finally remembering to get all of my drawings back, and was ready to leave at 3 PM.  The GPS said I would be home by 7 PM, quite a bit earlier than I expected when I left this morning.

I had smooth sailing until I encountered a major traffic jam on I-96 eastbound just east of US-127 on the southeast corner of Lansing, Michigan.  It took 45 minutes to go three miles and I was sitting at about 1/8 tank of fuel.  Ugh.  There turned out to be multi-car accidents in two separate locations about a mile apart plus a car stopped in the right lane that appeared to have run out of fuel.  What a mess.

Once I was clear of the accident area it was clear sailing once again.  I stopped at the Marathon station at the Fowlerville exit (#127) for fuel and checked out the truck pumps.  Although there were lots of semi’s parked there for the night I was disappointed to find that the back lot was in as bad a shape as the Mobil Truck Stop at exit 117.  Still, the round trip from our house would be 20 minutes shorter and it was an alternative place to get fuel.  The closest place to our house where we can fuel the bus is actually the Marathon station on Grand River Avenue at I-96 in Brighton, which has truck pumps around back, but we have some low branches in the southbound lane of Hacker Road just before we get to Grand River Avenue, so we tend to avoid that route and that stretch of Grand River Avenue is often very busy and not someplace I want to be with the bus unless it is later at night.

I checked the mousetrap in the pantry when I got home and we had caught yet another mouse.  I unloaded the car and then took the mouse trap to the end of the new driveway and released it across the road as I had done with the previous four.  As I walked down the driveway it was obvious that Phil had been here with his bulldozer, which Linda confirmed over dinner.

The “parking pad” area is now presumably level but it was definitely not flat as it had deep marks from the bulldozer treads and ridges where the gravel had not been completely smoothed out.  The top inch or so also seemed very loose.  I don’t think Phil is done working on the project as he still needs to spread straw over all of the topsoil that he placed, graded, and seeded the other day.  I suspect that he still needs to compact the gravel one last time with his track loader but I won’t know for sure until I can talk to him.

Dinner was chili and crackers; simple but delicious.  It had been a long day but I had taken care of four things in one trip, three of which were directly related to the bus and two of those of a somewhat critical nature.  We were both off to bed not long after dinner.  Tomorrow was our weekly ham radio breakfast so we would have to be up early to get there on time.

 

2015/11/11 (W) Two for One

We had late morning dentist/hygiene appointments today so Linda did not get up early to go to the bakery and we slept in and got up at 8:30 AM.  We showered and dressed and finally had granola for breakfast at 9:15.  She made this batch of granola yesterday and it was very yummy.

Since the mice have recently been defeating our simple live traps I cleaned our more complicated one yesterday and set it up last night with a broken open peanut butter pretzel for bait.  When I checked the trap this morning it had two brown field mice inside.  They were anxious to get out and I was glad to oblige.  I set them free in the southwest part of our property on the other side of the road.  The last I saw of them they were headed south into dense cover and away from the house.

Our appointments were at 11 AM in Dearborn.  Linda left at 9:45 and I followed about five minutes later.  We took separate cars since she had to go to the bakery following her appointment.  Before I left I checked on the state of charge of the house batteries in the bus.  There were at 95% SOC.  I turned the charger off last night to let the battery bank drain down a little.  I turned off the Broan cube heater and the three toe-kick heaters and then shutoff the AC power coming into the coach.  I checked that the inverter was working, which it was, and left for my appointment.

We both had good checkups but Linda will need a crown in the spring.  A tooth with an old filling had weakened and needs to be capped.  The dental assistants/hygienists have started taking blood pressure readings as part of modern dentistry’s role in monitoring and promoting overall health.  I don’t know how accurate the wrist cuff machines are but my blood pressure was 121/59 and Linda’s was 128/67, which are excellent readings if they are even close to being correct.

On the way home I stopped at the new Menard’s on Wixom Road just north of I-96.  I was looking for 1/2×2″ fine thread carriage bolts but all they had were coarse thread in longer lengths.  As long as I was there I picked up a 6-pack of work socks and two more of the good live traps like the one we already have.

Back at the house I called Terry at A-1 Upholstery to confirm that our spacer cushion for the bus sofa was ready and that she would be there Friday morning.  Her response was affirmative on both counts.  I then called Josh to verify that he would be at his shop on Friday morning and he said he would.  I need to stop there on the way to A-1 Upholstery and return two swivel seat ring bearings.

The new gravel driveway extension and RV parking pad.  Phil, on the left side of the driveway by the nearer utility pole, rakes out the topsoil he placed along both sides of the driveway.

The new gravel driveway extension and RV parking pad. Phil, on the left side of the driveway by the nearer utility pole, rakes out the topsoil he placed along both sides of the driveway.

Philip Jarrell from Precision Grading was here working on the driveway extension when I got home.  After my phone calls I changed into my work clothes and went out to chat with him for a few minutes.  Phil had brought another load of screened topsoil and was using his track loader to place it along the sides of the driveway extension and at the west end of the property where the French drain begins.  He rough graded it with the track loader and then raked it out by hand and spread grass seed.  He will bring straw bales with him on a subsequent trip to cover the soil/seed but he wanted to get the seed down before he left as we have rain and wind forecast starting late this evening and through tomorrow into Friday.

I finally got to work in the bus at 2 PM.  My objective was to get the SurePly underlayment installed on the passenger seat platform floor.  I lightly sanded the floor patch compound I spread around last night and vacuumed up the particles.  I then mounted the head of each of the new carriage bolts to a thick plastic washer using 3M Heavy Duty (double-sided) Mounting Tape.  I slid the heads into the two mounting channels with the washers under them so the washers held the bolts up off of the bottom of the channel and forced the square collars up in the open slot of the channel where they could not turn when a nut was tightened on them.  This was a critical step because once the underlayment and tile are down I will not be able to get to the heads of these bolts.

With the bolts in position I got the piece of SurePly from the garage.  I was starting to slip it into position when I remembered that I installed an angle bracket yesterday but had not cut out a small piece of the underlayment to fit around it.  So I took the piece back to the garage, cut out the necessary space, and took it back to the coach.  I am starting to wonder how many hours I would have saved by having a proper shop set up right outside the front door of the bus.

[ Photo 2 of 2 – HR – The SurePly underlayment on the co-pilot/navigator platform floor showing how it fits under the outside wall panel and over the four mounting bolts for the seat. ]

The SurePly underlayment on the co-pilot/navigator platform floor showing how it fits under the outside wall panel and over the four mounting bolts for the seat.

The SurePly underlayment on the co-pilot/navigator platform floor showing how it fits under the outside wall panel and over the four mounting bolts for the seat.

The underlayment slipped under the switch panel by the outside wall and dropped over the four mounting bolts just like I planned it, so taking most of yesterday to carefully cut and drill the piece paid off in the end.  That felt good, especially in comparison to how yesterday felt.

The weather today was lovely, reaching a high of 58 degrees F with sunny skies and I am sure that added to by general sense of well-being.  Our part of Michigan is under a high wind warning starting this evening, however, with maximum gusts of 55 to 60 MPH possible.  It’s a good thing we have a whole house generator because those kinds of winds cause power outages.

I decided to screw the underlayment to the bus floor rather than use staples.  Again, I did not want to get the big air-compressor and staple gun out, but I also wanted to use the screws to pull the underlayment down tight to the bus sub-floor.  I was about 50% done when I saw that Phil was putting his track loader back on the trailer.  I thought he was packing up to leave so I went out to talk to him briefly.  I went back to the bus and got another 25% of the piece screwed down before I ran out of screws.  I was using primarily 1″ #6-SR self-drilling screws with some 1-1/4″ of the same kind.  Once again my work was halted short of completion by the lack of some small part.

Phil was finished and on his way at 4:15 PM and by 4:30 I was headed to Lowe’s.  Linda texted me that she was leaving the bakery and I had a nice QSO with Tom (K8TAF) while running my errand.  Lowe’s only had one pack of the 1″ screws, quantity 100, but I thought that might be enough to get me through tomorrow.  I also bought a pack of 100 1-1/4″ screws.

For dinner Linda cooked a couple of yams, heated up a couple of vegan sausages with sautéed onions and red peppers, and steamed some fresh green beans. Yum, yum, yum.  After dinner we sat in the living room for a while using our iPads.  At 8 PM we watched a few nature and science programs on PBS.  Jarel called to confirm when I was coming down to Logansport, Indiana and said that Friday would work.  Linda is headed back to the bakery in the morning so she went right to sleep after we were done watching TV.

 

2015/11/09 (M) Clever Mouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/05 (R) POR-15

Linda was back at the bakery today, so she was up early and gone before I even thought about getting out of bed.  Having her homemade granola as our standard breakfast means I can feed myself under such circumstances with very little time spent on preparation and cleanup.  I made a cup of Stash China Black tea instead of coffee; it’s quicker and cleaner.  I like tea, and only started drinking coffee at age 50, but this morning the choice was motivated by ease and quickness of preparation and minimal cleanup as I was anxious to get busy working on the bus.

My focus today was getting the areas in the cockpit where I cut out the old water-damaged plywood ready for the installation of new wood.  That meant getting POR-15 applied to the areas of rusted metal in the cockpit and spray painting over it with black rubberized undercoating paint.  I also wanted to start cutting and fitting the wood pieces that I will use to patch the floor.  I finished building a pair of sawhorses and set them up in the driveway just outside the large garage door so I could measure, mark, and cut wood at waist height.  I was working on one of the pieces when the whole house generator came on at noon, ran its exercise cycle, and shut down 20 minutes later.  Shortly thereafter I heard the rumble of a big truck coming down the road and a few seconds after that Phil’s truck and trailer drove past.

Phil drove to the west end of the property, turned around, and parked down there.  He brought his Takeuchi front loader and used it to spread the large pile of topsoil around the part of our yard where the French drain starts.  He filled in low spots and graded everything off to blend in nicely.  He then worked his way up the drain line towards the culvert that goes under the road.  When Phil was done moving dirt around he spread grass seed and loosely distributed three bales of straw.  That gave him a good idea of how much more straw he would need.

I eventually took a break and walked down to chat with him in the middle of all that work.  He finished moving some dirt and also took a break for lunch.  He will have a load of screened topsoil delivered as soon as he can to use on both sides of the new gravel driveway.  He also clarified that the 40 foot parking pad portion of the driveway is probably not flat/level as it is not finished yet.  When he places and grades the topsoil his equipment will tear up the driveway a bit.  He will then use his bulldozer to finish the driveway, making sure the pad is flat and level.  That was a relief as I thought he was done and I was fairly certain the pad was not flat or level.

By 2:30 PM I finally had the areas of rusted metal prepared and masked off with painter’s plastic.  I applied the POR-15 with a foam brush.  In spite of being careful I got some on my hands and in retrospect should have worn disposable gloves.  The only way to get this product off of things, including skin, is with the POR-15 solvent, which I had failed to purchase.  Once dry it is permanent, so my right hand is going to look like I just changed the oil on the bus until the old skin gets replaced with new.  The drying time for the POR-15 is 2 to 6 hours.  The afternoon high temperature was 72 degrees F so I figured I would check at 4:30 PM.  The directions said I could paint it while it was still tacky as long as it set enough not to transfer.

Linda got home around 3:30 PM and changed into her work clothes.  Phil was still here working but we left him alone.  The weather forecast for overnight and into tomorrow was for rain, possibly heavy, so we did not want to cause any delay in Phil’s work.  I had cut and fit four pieces of wood earlier.  We put painter’s plastic over the sawhorses and laid them out bottom sides up.  Linda put 2×4 blocks under them to get the edges off of the plastic and I coated them with Thompson’s Water Seal.  I am doing what I can to protect this new wood from water damage.

I needed to finish masking off the cockpit with painter’s plastic before spraying the black rubberized undercoating paint so Linda helped me with that.  The plastic is very thin and much easier to handle with two people.  While we were doing that Phil drove past.  We took a break and walked down to west end of the property to see what Phil had accomplished today.  Back in the bus we had the area masked off to my satisfaction by 4:45 PM.

The base of my thumbs were bothering me (arthritis) so Linda shook the paint can for the required three minutes.  Although the light was fading due to the hour of the day and the cloud cover, I was still able to see well enough to spray the paint where needed.  That was the end of our work for the day, except for cleaning up, and I was satisfied with what we had accomplished.  We put some painter’s tape over three areas where we thought water might be getting in and then started putting everything away.

The wood pieces we treated with Thompson’s Water Seal were still wet so I picked them up from underneath and carried them into the back of the garage.  Linda brought the blocks in and set them on the floor and I put the pieces back on top of the blocks.  The directions said to allow at least 48 hours for drying but I plan to flip them over and coat the other side tomorrow if possible.  We are running out of time and I cannot wait two days to seal the other side and then another two days for it to dry.  We put the various tools away, removed the plastic from the sawhorses, and moved the 2×4 stringers and the sawhorses into the small garage bay.  It was 5:45 PM when we closed up the garage and it was getting dark, a clear reminder that summer was behind us and winter was approaching.

We relaxed for a while before dinner.  Linda made a nice salad and reheated the whole wheat linguini she made the other night.  We opened the bottle of Frey Natural White wine to try it.  I liked it even less than their Natural Red, if that’s possible.  It was very dry and since I do not care for dry wines I was not able to judge its other qualities.  Linda did not care for it either, and she tends to be OK with dry wines, so I suspect it is just not a very good wine.  I suggested she find a recipe that calls for white wine and use the rest of it in the dish.

One of our favorite TV shows is The Big Bang Theory.  It has moved to Thursday evenings this season, so we went downstairs to watch it.  The problem is that once we are in front of the TV set we tend to stay there.  I use the time to multi-task and work on my blog post for the day, so it’s not a complete waste of time.  Besides, we do not consider being entertained a waste of our time.  I am enjoying working on the bus, and although some aspects of the work appear humorous in retrospect, I am rarely laughing while in the middle of it.  I like things that make me laugh, and The Big Bang Theory is a very cleverly written show that is well acted and very funny.

 

2015/11/04 (W) Southbound Liberty

Linda decided last night to work at home today rather than driving into the bakery in Hamtramck.  That meant she did not have to get up at 5:45 AM.  She was up just before 7 and I was up just after that.  I made a large pot of Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe coffee and Linda toasted slices of cinnamon raisin bread for breakfast.  After breakfast she settled in to work at her desk while I tended to several chores.

I last changed our whole house water filter in May (of this year) and it looked like it was overdue for replacement.  I had one filter element left so I used it.  The process is simple enough:  I turned off the well pump, shut off the valves on either side of the filter housing, released the pressure in the housing, and unscrew the removable bowl.  When I unwrapped the filter and read the directions I was reminded that I am supposed to clean the bowl with warm, soapy water, rinse it clean, and then sanitize it with a bleach solution and rinse it out again.  That requires water, of course, but I had the water shut off and the filter housing disassembled so I had n way to turn the water back on.  The only way to accomplish this would be to stage the needed water before shutting off the water system but I never remember to open the new filter element are read the directions before I start.  I mean, really, it’s not the sort of procedure that requires me to read the directions each time.

One of the old swivel bearings (L) and one of the new swivel bearings (R).  The new one is obviously smaller than the old one and was not compatible with our pedestals and power bases.

One of the old swivel bearings (L) and one of the new swivel bearings (R). The new one is obviously smaller than the old one and was not compatible with our pedestals and power bases.

Not having any running water I wiped out the bowl with paper towels as best I could.  The directions called for lubricating the main O-ring with silicon grease.  I knew I had some from the last time I changed the filter.  It was hiding in plain sight but took me a while to find.  After greasing the gasket and installing it back on the bowl, I put in the new filter element and screwed the bowl back into the filter head, tightening it with the filter wrench.  I turned the well pump back on, opened the inlet and outlet valves for the filter, and let the trapped air out with the purge valve.

Our filter housing takes a larger than usual element.  It is 10″ long, which is the most common length, but 5″ in diameter, which is much bigger than usual.  It’s a dual density spun polypropylene material with a 50 micron nominal rating at the large outside surface and a 5 micron nominal rating towards the smaller core.  These filter elements are not available at the local home stores so I get them from Adam’s Well Drilling and Water Treatment, who installed out current water treatment system.

I gathered up the laundry and put a load in the washer.  I took the label from the new filter element and headed out on an errand run.  My first stop was Adam’s where I bought four filter elements and two bottles of chlorine tablets for the taste and odor portion of our water treatment system.  Wilson Marine is located next door to Adam’s so I stopped there to see if they sold marine grade plywood.  They didn’t but I had a good chat with the associate.  He suggested that for patching the floor in the bus I just use treated plywood or use Thompson’s Water Seal to treat whatever wood I use.

One of the new swivel bearings on top of one of the old swivel bearings clearly showing that the new bearing is small in diameter, inside and out, than the old one.

One of the new swivel bearings on top of one of the old swivel bearings clearly showing that the new bearing is small in diameter, inside and out, than the old one.

My last stop was O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.  Their parking lot was finally open so I could park near the door.  Ronald had me load the containers of used oil and the bag of filters into a shopping cart.  The bag had leaked onto the paper towels I put under it in the back of my car so Ron gave me a cardboard box to put it in.  He simply put the bag of filters in a container but he emptied the six containers of oil and gave them back to me.  They recycle oil but not the containers.

When I got home Linda checked to see if we could take the plastic oil bottles to Recycle Livingston.  Used motor oil is considered hazardous waste and anything that has had used motor oil in it is considered a hazardous material so we could not take the containers there.  I helped Linda load all of the other recyclables into my car and she made a run to the recycling center, the first in a few weeks.  After moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer and putting another load in the washer I got back to work on the bus floor.

 The area behind the panel to the right of the co-pilot/navigator seat.  The mouse nest is gone and the damaged wood has been removed from between the side-to-side seat mounting rails.

The area behind the panel to the right of the co-pilot/navigator seat. The mouse nest is gone and the damaged wood has been removed from between the side-to-side seat mounting rails.

I spent most of the afternoon working on the floor under the front passenger seat.  First I removed the blocking that provides support for the bottom edge of the switch panel but also spans the three floor boards.  I cleaned out the mouse nest behind the switch panel and found the skeleton of a small mouse.  I then got the piece of wood between the mounting channels out.  The drain line for the front CruiseAir evaporator went through this floor near the outside edge but the floor was rotted enough that I was able to break out the wood on the back side and pull the board out.  As I did this I was reminded, once again, about how much of this conversion was built with the idea that it would never have to be disassembled.

I took a break for lunch, which was leftover lentils and quinoa pilaf with some fresh fruit.  After lunch I resumed working on the floor under the front passenger seat in the bus.  I managed to remove most of the rusted metal filler plate.  I made a lucky guess as to where my wire brush was stored and used it to clean the surface of the rusted metal that remained.  I played with different combinations of wood thicknesses and pondered how I will rebuild this area.  I then sprayed the rusted areas with POR-15 cleaner/degreaser and scrubbed them with a sponge soaked in hot water.

I moved to the driver’s seat area and repeated the process.  There was one area with damaged wood that I still had to deal with.  There was an edge about 10 inches long capped with two thin gage metal angles that were badly rusted.  I removed as much of the angles as I could.  I cut off a strip of wood about 2″ wide and 10″ long and removed the rest of the angles.  I wire brushed the area but left the POR-15 cleaner/degreaser for tomorrow.  In anticipation of applying the POR-15 tomorrow and coating it with black spray on rubberized undercoating paint I began masking off the area with painter’s plastic.

For dinner Linda made a salad, roasted eggplant with garlic and breadcrumbs, and mock fish with vegan tartar sauce.  We finished the Frey Natural Red wine with our meal.  I would love to support this company but this wine is too dry for my pallet.

PBS had an interesting lineup of shows this evening on continental formation, natural wonders, and the human brain.  I dealt with e-mail before the shows and we turned in after the last one.  Chuck and Barbara were planning on leaving this morning, southbound for Florida in their 1993 H3-40 Liberty motorcoach.  I did not have any messages from Chuck today so I presume they got away as planned.  They bought a lot at the Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Naples where they have spent the last six winters and that is where they are headed.  We will be staying about 90 minutes north of there in January and February and will get together with them as time and commitments permit.  We are looking forward to seeing their lot; it has a coach house and they are doing some landscaping, including large palm trees.

 

2015/11/03 (T) The Penultimate Cut

I heard noises in the kitchen at 7 AM and thought the cats might be up to something.  I got up and discovered that Linda was just leaving the house.  She is normally out the door between 6:15 and 6:30 AM but did not set her iPad alarm last night.  I stuck my head out the door and said “good morning” as she was getting in the car.

I had my usual breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and brewed a half pot of Sumatra Mandheling half-caffe coffee.  I was enjoying my cup-a-joe by the fireplace when Linda called to let me know there was a story coming up on Michigan Radio (WUOM) at 8:30 AM about an underground landfill fire in Bridgeton, Missouri.  Bridgeton is where my sister, niece, future nephew, and grand-niece live and I had just heard about this fire for the first time on Sunday evening while talking with my sister.

I got the leaf blower out at 10 AM and spent a couple of hours blowing as many leaves out from under bushes and away from the house into the yard as I could.  Keith arrived at 10:30 AM and followed his usual mowing pattern starting with the west half of the property.  The lawn in the immediate vicinity of the house is the last area he cuts which gave me enough time to get the leaves out into the yard where Keith could mulch them.

Most of our trees have dropped most of their leaves by now and Keith’s mower did a pretty good job of mulching most of them.  Before he left we discussed having him come back one more time.  The grass has quit growing so my preference is to wait two weeks but that will depend on the weather.  Keith will check with us next Monday and we will decide what to do at that time.

Mike (W8XH) is planning to come over tomorrow after breakfast and help me work on the tower and our Hi-Q 6-80 antenna.  I have been collecting materials that I need and took a little time to see if they would work with the tower.  I also took the Diamond X-300N antenna down as I planned to put it on the tower in place of the X-50N that is currently up there.  My materials were not working quite the way I had hoped they would so I headed to Lowe’s to see what else I could find.  I also planned to drop off the used oil and filters from the bus at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store.

At Lowe’s I found clamp sets designed for mounting antenna masts and bought a pair.  O’Reilly’s parking lot was still closed off.  It looked like it had been re-blacktopped and they were painting the stripes for the parking spaces.  This was my second attempt to get rid of the waste from yesterday’s bus maintenance.  I will try again tomorrow; with any luck the third time will be the charm.damage

The area beneath the co-pilot/navigator seat.  Not a pretty sight, especially when racing against the clock to get the coach finished for the upcoming winter season.

The area beneath the co-pilot/navigator seat. Not a pretty sight, especially when racing against the clock to get the coach finished for the upcoming winter season.

I finally got back to work on the bus at 2:30 PM and removed the front passenger chair pedestal base.  The entire area under the base, between the side-to-side seat mounting channels, was rotten so I cut out the water-damaged wood.  Just below the wood I found rusted metal which appeared to be delaminating.  Metal does not do that so I presume there was a layer of sheet metal on top of a metal housing.  The main structure of the bus is welded stainless steel but mild steel was obviously used to create compartments.  Ugh.

After cutting out the damaged wood the remaining piece towards the outside was loose but would not come out.  I removed a couple of screws from the 1/4″ walnut veneer side panel and pried the top out with a small screwdriver.  This panel has a lot of switches mounted in it and a lot of wires behind it so I could only pull it out about four inches.  That was enough to see a 3/4″x3/4″ piece of blocking screwed to the floor to catch/secure the bottom edge of the panel.  It also enough to see a very large nest made of tiny bits of shredded paper.

The cavity behind the panel to the right of the co-pilot/navigator seat was apparently a great place for a mouse to build a nest.

The cavity behind the panel to the right of the co-pilot/navigator seat was apparently a great place for a mouse to build a nest.

I left the nest alone for the moment and removed two screws from the block that went into the piece of wood I need to remove.  It appeared that a drain line for the front air-conditioner went through the floor near the outside edge and possibly some wires.  I left the nest for Linda to see and will resume working on this tomorrow.

Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and served them with some of the leftover broccoli soup and sliced fruit.  We each had a small glass of the Frey Natural Red organic/vegan wine.

After dinner I called Phil to see what his plans were for this week vis-a-vis our driveway and French drain projects.  I got his voice mail and left him a message.  When we left on Saturday afternoon he was just finishing up placing and compacting the gravel in the driveway but said the west end of the yard needed to dry out (again) before he could finish working down there.  Hopefully the new drain will help speed that process along.

The floor area under the driver’s seat in the bus with all of the rotten wood cut out.

The floor area under the driver’s seat in the bus with all of the rotten wood cut out.

Phil uses a self-leveling laser level system to measure elevations.  Not only has he assured me that the new 40 foot parking area is level, he has demonstrated it with his system.  Still, it does not look level, especially from certain points of view, and it does not feel level when driving in it, although that may also be an optical illusion.  We have a transit level and I plan to use it to check the pad, but it requires two people, one to hold the measuring stick and one to look through the telescope and record the readings.  That means I need Linda’s assistance, which means this will have to wait until the weekend.  Perhaps by then I will have the cockpit in the bus repaired.  It’s also possible that Phil will have returned and completed the job, I which case I may have him help me use the transit as a check on his laser system.

We watched our usual lineup of Tuesday evening TV shows while Linda checked in on her online word games and I worked on this post.

 

2015/11/02 (M) Driveway Joe

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I got up at 6:45 AM, got dressed, and went to the bus to turn on the block heater and Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat loop.  I then made coffee and had breakfast, after which I e-mailed Mike (W8XH) to let him know Joe would be here all day today.  I then reset the clocks in the two digital cameras.

Joe was at Chuck’s a little before 7 AM to change the engine oil and filter and figured it would take one hour.  I started the main engine in our bus at 7:45 AM to warm up the oil and make it easier to drain.  I let it run for 20 minutes on high idle, dropped it to low idle for a minute and shut it down.  The block will hold heat for quite a while.

Chuck texted me at 8:15 AM to let me know that Joe was on his way to our place and Joe called about five minutes later.  He was on our street but called because he wasn’t sure he was in the right place.  He pulled in to our first driveway entrance just before 9 and pulled his van up behind the bus.

I had dumped the air in the suspension yesterday when I put the coach up on stands so Joe had me start the engine and air up the suspension as a safety backup should one of the stands fail.  I raised it up off of all four stands and then set it back down but quit dumping the air as soon as it was on each stand.

The work for today was routine annual chassis and engine maintenance.  Joe needed to have diesel fuel on hand so I drove to the Shell station and bought four gallons.  While I was there I picked up a large coffee for him at the co-located Dunkin Donuts.

When I got back from my errand run Joe was already lubricating everything on the chassis and engine that had a grease fitting using the Mobil 1 synthetic grease I bought yesterday.  He was starting to generate messy trash so I fetched a large plastic trash bag.  He drained the engine oil, removed the old filter, filled the new filter with oil, and spun it on.  He then added six gallons of Chevron Delo 100 SAE 40 Heavy Duty Engine Oil that I bought on Saturday.  I added 2 to 3 more quarts from the reservoir to use up the oil that had been in there for a while.  I then refilled the reservoir as it is very handy for topping up the oil.

Joe removed and replaced both coolant filters while I fetched a bottle of Detroit Diesel PowerCool engine coolant.  He added coolant to the expansion reservoir while I watched the sight glass on the side of the tank and told him when to stop.  He then had me help him with the secondary fuel filter, which we pre-filled with diesel fuel.  Last, but not least, we replaced the filter element in the Racor fuel filter / water separator.  Joe installed the new filter element and gaskets and topped off the fuel in the housing before putting the cover back on.

I started the main engine and let it run for 30 seconds to circulate the oil, coolant, and fuel.  Joe added a little bit more oil to bring the level up to just over half way between the L and H marks on the dipstick.  This is where the engine likes to run and if I fill it to the H mark it will get rid of the extra oil on its own.

With the maintenance on the bus completed we transferred all of the old oil from the drain pan into the one gallon plastic jugs that had contained the new oil and put them back in the 3-jug cardboard boxes for convenient transport.  Our local O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store accepts waste oil and filters so I will take them there for disposal.  Although I had my own bus work to do I hung with Joe until he was done.  I stayed near the bus and trimmed trees when he did not me to assist with things.

Joe offered to come back next year to do our annual service and suggested that we take an extra day to replace as many grease fittings as possible either with better fittings or with small lines running back to one or more conveniently located manifolds.  The manifolds would have an input for grease and a valve for each line allowing most of the chassis and engine to be greased without getting under the bus.  I must say that I liked the sound of that.  It would be a nice upgrade to the bus and would make a good article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I did NOT have Joe remove driver side front tire so I could get the splash guard off and inspect the area under the tray behind the driver’s seat.  I will have to deal with that on my own.  I also noticed that the fuel tank was down to 3/8ths so I will have to take the bus out and refuel it at some point and may have to turn off the Aqua-Hot and use the electric toe-kick heaters instead until I can refuel.

Keith called at 1 PM to let me know he would not make it out to mow the grass today.  He will be here tomorrow morning, probably for the last time this season.  Joe was packed up and on his way at 1:45 PM.  He was headed to Chicago where he has a house but has not been there in the last 18 months.

After Joe was done I went to Painter’s Supply and Equipment in Howell to buy POR-15 and the POR cleaner/degreaser.  POR is a brand but stands for “Paint Over Rust.”  It reacts chemically with rusted metal to stabilize the metal and prevent further rust.  I bought a can of spray on rubber material to put over it.  The POR-15 was pricey at $33 for a pint, but it is serious stuff and is used by the U. S. Navy.

My next stop was Lowe’s for a foam brush.  I picked up a 4-foot length of angle, four U-bolts, two pulleys, some miscellaneous nuts and bolts, and a 100 foot length of 3/8″ polypropylene rope, all of which was in preparation for ham radio projects tomorrow on the small tower.  After Lowe’s I stopped across the street at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store to dispose of the oil and filters.  Their parking lot was being seal-coated and I could not get to the disposal bins so I will have to try again tomorrow.

By the time I got home it was 4:30 PM.  Rather than start working on the bus I did a little more trimming on the trees by the road in front of the house and then put the yard tools away.

For dinner Linda made a whole wheat linguini with mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes lightly sautéed in EVOO.  We opened the bottle of Frey Natural Red organic/vegan wine.  It was very dry which made it difficult for me judge its other qualities as I do not care for dry wines or wines with noticeable tannins.  Still, it went well with the dish and I finished my glass.  I don’t think I will ever develop a taste, however, for dry wines and/or wines with a lot of tannins.

After dinner I worked on an article for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM) about our experience on the Habitat for Humanity build we participated in back in July 2013.  The article has been done for a while but the publisher (Gary) had someone (Teresa) proofread it a couple of days ago and she found some minor things that I needed to correct.  Gary and I are also discussing whether to split the article into two parts and/or cut down a bit on the number of photos, which currently number about 60.  I took a break from 8 to 11 PM to watch television with Linda and then returned to working on the article before going to bed.

 

2015/10/27 (T) The Pilot’s Seat

My morning started at 8 AM in its usual fashion.  I fed the cats, made coffee, started a load of laundry, made/ate breakfast (orange/grapefruit juice and granola with fresh blueberries), drank my coffee in the living room with the fireplace on and Jasper at my side, day-dreamed about high quality used Sony alpha lenses, and finally got to work on the bus a little after 10 AM.  Rain is coming tonight and forecast to stick around into Thursday so today would be a good day to do some more trimming, felling, and cutting up of dead trees.  The temperature this morning was still in the 40’s, however, and there is still much to be done in the bus.

A few days ago I installed a new AC outlet on the forward side of the cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I wired it into the outlet on the aft side of the cabinet and then discovered that the original outlet was cracked.  I had also used an oversized cover plate on the new outlet and it interfered with the Corian cabinet top.  I finally got around to replacing the cracked outlet this morning.  I also switched the cover plates.  The regular size one still interfered slightly with the Corian top so I cut 1/8″ off of the top edge and added strips of felt on the three edges of the cabinet to raise the Corian top slightly and cushion it.  Everything fit nicely.  I turned the circuit breaker on and checked for power.  The outlets were good to go and I checked this mini-project off my (mental) project list.

I took a break and called the Escapees RV Club to register Linda and me as staff for the July 2016 Escapade.  I then called Josh at Coach Supply Direct regarding extra brackets for our MCD shades/brackets, the wiring of the passenger seat switch, and the correct orientation of the swivel bearings.  I learned that the flange, which wraps around the other piece on the inside of the ring, goes down.  (I had puzzled out that it should go the other way so I am glad I asked.)  When I was done with my phone calls I had a quick lunch of Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Snyder sourdough pretzel nibblers.

My next task was unbolting the driver seat pedestal base from the floor.  The pedestal is secured by four large carriage bolts that go through holes at the four corners of the base plate and thread into nuts that I presume are welded into the floor structure.  The base had to be removed in order to remove the old vinyl floor tile which was installed under the base.  To get the old tile out I also had to remove a plastic cover around the steering linkage and a floor mounted bracket that retained the bottom if it.  Last, but not least, I had to unscrew the accelerator bracket from the floor by removing three small lag screws.  The accelerator is electrical, with a cable that runs through the floor, but other than limited access it was easy to detach.

Removing the old vinyl tile from the driver’s area of the cockpit was relatively straightforward.  It’s somewhat flexible and wasn’t glued down that tightly.  When Creative Mobile Interiors installed the tile they laid it out in a way that allowed the pieces to be trimmed in reasonable ways to fit around the steering column and brake pedal.  The brake pedal is mechanically linked to a complex multi-port air valve in the compartment under the floor and any finished floor has to be installed around it.

The plywood under the driver’s seat area was depressed directly under the base.  It seemed unlikely that this was the result of the base being bolted down.  It may indicate that this area also got wet like the area under the passenger side seat base.  I plan to install SurePly underlayment on the floor under the passenger seat but not the under the driver’s seat so I will either have to replace this piece or use floor leveling compound to fill the depressed area.  Replacing the plywood is probably the correct, but more involved, solution.

I started thinking about installing the new tile so I laid out all of the old tiles on the floor in the garage, kind of like putting a simple jigsaw puzzle back together.  I plan to use them as a pattern to cut the new tiles.  With a clear view of the whole driver’s area I became intrigued by the lower sidewall counsel next to the driver’s seat.  The more I looked at it the clearer it became that Royale Coach had cut the top off of a bumped out area, removed the upper three inches of the wall of the bump out, replaced the top piece, and tried to fill in the three inch gap in the side wall.  They had also cut out an access plate and then screwed it back in.  It eventually became obvious to me that they had done this to create horizontal space for the wide Villa driver’s seat that was in the coach when we bought it.  Had Royale Coach left the ISRI seat in place these modifications would not have been needed.  They were originally hidden under carpet but once the carpet was removed the really poor quality of the workmanship in this area was all too apparent.

I probably should have applied adhesive remover to the stairs and walls around the cockpit but it has to sit for 1 to 3 hours and the timing wasn’t right.  The weather was still decent and I needed to finish working on the trees at the west end of our property.  The adhesive remover can be left on for up the 24 hours so applying it at 5 PM with the intent of removing it the next morning might be ideal.  The weather forecast for overnight, through tomorrow, and into Thursday, however, is for rain and colder temperatures, so they will not be good mornings for working with the door of the bus open.

Around 3:30 PM I had a banana nut muffin and then called Phil at Precision Grading.  I got his voice mail and left him a message.  I was getting ready to use the chainsaw to cut down a small dead tree at the west end of the property when Linda texted that she was leaving the bakery.  A few minutes later Chuck called.  He had some carpet remnants for us and was nearby so he came over.  He could not stay long but took the time to look at what I was working on in the bus before he left.  It would still be awhile before Linda got home so I took the chainsaw to the west end of the yard, cut down the tree, de-limbed it, and cut it up into manageable size pieces.  I then cut up another tree of similar size that has been on the ground for a while and cut up some of the larger branches that I trimmed off the trees yesterday.

Linda got home while I was finishing the tree work and started fixing squash and a lentil/quinoa pilaf for dinner, both of which would take some time.  After cleaning the saw and putting it away I took one of the carriage boots from the bus driver’s seat and went to Lowe’s to see if I could find slightly longer replacements.  The old ones were somewhat rusted and some of the threads were in less than ideal condition.  The new Armstrong vinyl tiles are also a bit thicker than the old ones and I wanted to make sure I had bolts that were long enough to completely thread into the retained nuts.  It turned out that the bolts are metric, specifically M12-1.75×80.  Lowe’s had Grade 8 M12-1.75×90 bolts (10 mm longer than the 80s) so I bought four.  I also bought some thick M12 fender washers that were larger than the old ones.  While I was there I picked up a role of red electrical tape.

Dinner was excellent.  The squash was baked without butter (vegan) or brown sugar but was very tasty.  The pilaf had onions, garlic, and mixed greens and was very good.  We finished the Witch’s Brew wine from Leelanau Cellars that Linda used to poach the pears on Saturday.  The squash did not look that big, but neither of us was able to finish our half so we saved it for tomorrow’s lunch.

I checked e-mail after dinner and then we settled in to watch our Tuesday night TV programs.  We caught the weather report at 11 PM and then turned off the television and lights.  I turned down the brightness on my iPad display and worked for another 30 minutes before going to sleep.  I did not hear back from Phil this evening but I already knew he would not be here on Wednesday if the rain came as forecast as he had another job to work on that was better suited to working in rainy conditions than ours.

 

2015/10/26 (M) More Tree Trimming

Linda was up early and off to the bakery.  I got up at 7:15, put on my robe, fed the cats, heated water for a cup of tea, and had a couple of vegan banana nut muffins.  I turned on the fireplace and worked on my iPad with Juniper curled up in my lap.  With Linda going to the bakery most days for the next few weeks this is how our days will start.

I have a lot of things to do, some of which require good weather.  Today looked to be just such a day so I wanted to take full advantage of it.  Keith called yesterday afternoon and we agreed that he would skip this week and mow the grass again on Monday, November 2nd.  That may be the final  cutting for this year and our hope is that most of the leaves will have fallen by then as Keith’s mower does a pretty good job of mulching them.

I left around 10 AM and went to the Tractor Supply Company store in Howell.  They sell Cub Cadet lawn tractors and someone recently suggested to me that they might carry parts specifically for CC machines.  They had a good selection of mower blades and drive belts but their fuel filters were generic and they did not sell starters, fuel pumps, or ignition coils.  I think the “Tractor Supply” name is a misnomer.  I bought a fuel filter but it turned out to be too big to fit in the clip that holds it on the side of the engine.

I got out one of our battery chargers, connected it to the battery on the lawn tractor, and let it sit for a while.  It has a 60A start boost setting and I tried using that to start the tractor.  It did not turn over fast enough but eventually gets a little fuel, putts, putts, putts for a few seconds, and stops.  There could be any number of things wrong such as any/all of: a gummed up carburetor, a bad fuel pump, or a bad starter motor.

My main focus today was trimming trees at the west end of the property.  Most (all) of them have branches that hang down low enough to bump your head when walking or knock you off a riding lawn mower if you are not paying attention.  Some of the branches were in Phil’s way the last time he was here and I said I would trim them before he returned as he will be placing and grading topsoil all through this area.  This will also make it possible for Keith to mow under these trees right up to the trunks, something he has not been able to do up to this point in time.

Except for a short break at 1 PM to have a quick lunch I worked until Linda texted me at 3:30 that she was leaving the bakery.  I was basically done at that point, finished picking up some small branches, and carried my tools back to the garage.  Linda got home at 4:30.  After catching up on our days she made a batch of granola.

I worked for a few minutes in the bus starting to loosen the last few pieces of old vinyl floor tile in the cockpit while Linda pulled dinner together.  We had the leftover dandelion greens risotto.  She used the rest of the greens in a sauté with onions, garlic hot pepper flakes, and a little EVOO.  We had an Asian Apple Pear for dessert; the first one of these either of us has ever had.  It was definitely a pear but a bit crisp, like an apple, and with some apple taste.  Monday night is TV night and we watched our usual shows before going to bed.

 

2015/10/23 (F) Fetching Antique

Linda was back on schedule this morning; up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I got up around 7:30 AM, ground beans for a small pot of coffee and made breakfast.  Breakfast was oatmeal that I made myself from quick cook oats with raisins, dried cranberries, and pecans.  I forgot to add cinnamon and brown sugar but I did add a small amount of vegan butter, sugar, and non-dairy coffee creamer.  I like to cook my oatmeal until it is very thick and then loosen it up slightly with these additions.

After breakfast I checked the thermometers in the bus refrigerator and recorded the temperatures.  They seem to be all over the place and I am really starting to question the accuracy, and thus the usefulness, of these relatively inexpensive “consumer” devices.

Around 10 AM I was getting ready to drive to Canton when I got a call from Chuck.  The pair of motorized MCD duo shades had arrived the other day and he was having difficulty installing them.  I offered to stop by his shop after my errand and he said he would be there.

I called Clyde to make sure he would be home and then headed to Canton to pick up the antique Sun automotive distributor tester.  Clyde’s house was easy to find; an old residential area tucked away behind what is now a heavily developed commercial strip along Ford Road either side of I-275.  He helped me load the tester into my car and then we chatted for a while.  He had a very rare and beautifully restored (customized) 1948 two-door Pontiac boat tail sport coup; all black with two chrome strips, one down each side.  I am not a “car guy” but I appreciate a work of art when I see one.

I drove to Chuck’s shop in Novi to see how the windshield shade installation was progressing.  The pocket between the upper windshields and the cabinets was too narrow on the outside ends to allow the shades to tilt enough to engage the clip in that end and then swing up and latch on the other side.  After struggling with it for a while we went to lunch at the Panera nearby.

Back at his shop we pondered the installation problem until I finally had an insight.  The upper windshields slope away from the overhead cabinets, creating more horizontal space at lower heights.  I suggested that using a 2″x2″ board as a spacer might lower the mounting bracket just enough to allow it to tilt into place and have enough space to lock it in and release it if needed.  Chuck had a scrap piece of 2×2 that we used to see if my idea might work.  Chuck thought it would work so he locked up the shop and I headed for home while headed to The Home Depot.

Back home I checked the thermometers in the bus fridge.  The readings just did not make sense so I brought the LaCrosse base unit and remote into the house to get them away from the TempMinder components.  I researched methods and equipment for measuring temperature in freezers and refrigerators looking for something that would be more accurate and precise than our current technology but I did not find much.

The more accurate temperature measurement instruments that are available for under $100 all use wired probes rather than wireless remote sensors.  The best ones have the probes sealed in small glass bottles filled with a liquid such as alcohol, oil, or glycerin.  These remain liquid at normal freezer and refrigerator temperatures and surround the temperature probe with enough thermal mass to prevent it from responding too quickly to changes in air temperature such as occurs when the door is opened or the fridge compressor and fans are running.  In effect the probes more accurately reflect the temperature of things stored in the refrigerator rather than the instantaneous temperature of the air near the sensor.  The wires for the probes are typically relatively fine and do not prevent the door seals from closing completely, at least in the short term.  A permanent installation, however, seems ill-advised.

I was researching flash units and other accessories for our new Sony alpha 99 camera when Phil showed up mid-afternoon.  I set my research aside and went out to chat with him and watch what he was doing.  He had a full truck load of sand from another job that he dumped at the west end of the property and then moved it into some of the low spots, of which there are many.  He used his front loader to finish removing topsoil from the new driveway area by the third culvert and load it into his truck.  He filled the truck and dumped it at the west end of the property.  He then used his bulldozer to grade out the area of the driveway where he had just removed all of the topsoil.  Finally, he used the front loader to compact the sand driveway base.

Phil was going to come back on Saturday but he is at the point where he needs stone (21AA road gravel) that he will not be able to get it until Monday.  He is also finishing up other jobs that involve inspections and won’t be back here until at least Tuesday.  I need to trim the lower branches on some of the trees to get them out of his way, and out of Keith’s way when he mows the grass, so I will probably do that on Monday, leaving Saturday and Sunday to work on the bus while Linda is available to help.

Phil was still working when Linda got home so I left Phil to finish up and went inside.  I was tired and took a short nap while Linda fixed dinner.  She made a nice salad and risotto with celery and dandelion greens; a first for us, and very tasty.  We also did a taste test of the California Olive Ranch EVOO versus the Philippe Berio EVOO that Linda normally uses.  We used Italian bread that she brought home from the bakery.  I was able to detect a very subtle difference in the taste but had to not use the crust of the bread as the poppy seeds provided their own distinct taste.  The COR product was the top choice of a tasting panel at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and reasonably priced at just under $10 a bottle but I did not find the taste superior to the PB product.

After dinner I went to my office and checked e-mail.  I took care of some things related to the November 2015 issue of BCM.  We had confirmation e-mails from Molly Pinner for our 56th Escapade Volunteer assignments.  I also had one from Kate with links to camera harnesses at B&H Photo and a second with links to a recent interview on AM1700 with the organizer of the Pop-X art exhibit in Liberty Plaza and photos she has taken of guests at the station and musical groups at SxSW and other venues.

I talked briefly with Mike (W8XH) via the South Lyon 2m repeater using the Yaesu FTM-400 radio.  Our ham shack was working just fine so apparently there was no Info Net this past Sunday.  I called Butch to let him know I had the distributor tester and chatted with him about the refrigerator temperature monitoring problems I am having.  It was then off to bed, as we have to be up by 7 AM to get to our weekly ham radio breakfast in South Lyon.

 

2015/10/22 (R) Another Routine Exam

Linda got up at 2:30 AM and started drinking the second half gallon of GoLightly at 3 AM.  She was done with it by 5 AM, as required, and got me up at 5:45 AM.  We were going to leave for the HFHS Columbus Center in Novi at 6:15 but actually left closer to 6:30.

The traffic inbound to the Detroit Metro Area from the northwest at that hour of the morning is heavy and the slowdowns are ridiculous in the sense that there is no apparent reason for them.  And yet, according to Linda, the traffic comes to a complete stop at approximately the same places every day.  Part of the problem seems to be that people do not know how to merge.  This might be a driving specific manifestation of the more general problems in or society of people thinking they should always come first and being unable/unwilling to compromise.  Another problem is that people speed and tailgate, which means they are frequently on their brakes, the implication being that the rest of us should somehow get out of their way.  Brake lights, in turn, seem to cause a chain reaction and far enough back in the chain traffic can come to a complete halt.  Whatever the causes, we do not drive the highways at rush hour if we do not have to.

We got to the Columbus Center with a few minutes to spare, got a nice parking spot, and went inside.  We found the colonoscopy clinic on the second floor and Linda checked in.  She was the first patient on the schedule for her doctor and did not have to wait very long before being taken in.  The Columbus Center has guest Wi-Fi for their customers and a small self-serve cafe so I went there and had some coffee while I researched flash units and lenses for the Sony SLT-a99v camera that I recently acquired.

Linda’s colonoscopy took less than an hour.  She had come out of the anesthesia, gotten the preliminary results (good), and been discharged by 9:15 AM.  She got dressed and we were on our way by 9:30.  She was hungry, of course, so we went to the Panera on Novi Road just south of Grand River Avenue and had coffee and bagels.  On the way home we stopped at the new Menard’s on Wixom Road just north of I-96.  They had the Eaton RV electrical outlet boxes for the same price as Lowe’s but had a better selection of conduit adapters.  I bought three pieces that together would allow me to connect the bottom of the RV outlet box to the conduit I already had.

We got home at 11 AM and it did not take long for Linda to go to bed.  While she slept I installed the RV outlet box on the post by the new driveway extension and level parking pad.  The first step was to cement a 1-1/2″ to 1-1/4″ reducer into a 2″ to 1-1/2″ reducer which I did in the garage.  The weather was on the cool side of perfect but a nice enough day for working outside with appropriate clothing.  The next step was to determine where to cut off the vertical piece of 2″ PVC conduit so the bottom of the outlet box would be 24″ above the ground.  The pair of reducers would take up about two inches so I marked the pipe at 22″.

The conduit was tight to a 4″x 4″ post and secured by two plastic conduit brackets.  I removed the upper bracket but could not use my Rigid tubing cutter to go completely around it so I used a hacksaw.  I could not just cut all the way through the pipe, however, because of the rope that was inside to be used later to pull wires through the conduit.  I cut a large “V” notch on the side opposite the post, like I would when felling a tree, and pulled the free end of the rope out through the opening.  The notch was horizontal on the bottom and came in at about 45 degrees from higher up.  With the rope out of the way, and secured so it could not fall into the pipe, I continued the horizontal cut and finished cutting through the conduit.

I loosened the clamp holding the bottom of the pipe so I could move the top of it far enough from the post to get some PVC cement most of the way around the riser.  I then pushed and twisted the 2-piece adapter assembly over the 2″ conduit.  Using a short level I plumbed the riser pipe while eyeing its relationship to the post.  Holding the upper clamp over the pipe I secured the clamp with two screws but did not tighten the clamp all the way down.

RV electrical outlet box on top of riser post with level on top.

RV electrical outlet box on top of riser post with level on top.

I set the outlet box on top of the adapters and dropped the third piece through the hole from the inside but did not cement it in.  I used the level to plumb the box, checking it visually in relationship to the post and pipe, and then marked the three mounting holes with a marking pen.  I removed the adapter collar and box and then center-punched and drilled holes for three pan head wood screws.  I put the box and collar back on/in the pipe and secured it to the post with three pan head wood screws.  I then installed the removable panel with the outlet mounted in it.  I coiled up the extra rope, closed the cover, and was done except for getting all of the tools and materials back into the garage.

I checked on the thermometers in the bus refrigerator and recorded the readings.  I then decided to add a duplex AC outlet in the cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I found a deep plastic single gang remodeling box, a brown duplex outlet, a brown oversized cover plate, and a 30″ length of 14-2+G cable.  I used the box to outline the opening and then completed the lines with a small square.  I drilled out the four corners of the opening with a 1/2″ drill.  I then cut out the opening using a saber saw, finishing some of the inside corners with a hacksaw.  I made quite a bit of sawdust and wood chips so I vacuumed up the mess before continuing with the installation.

The new AC outlet box (blue) installed in the front of the A/V cabinet behind the driver’s chair.

The new AC outlet box (blue) installed in the front of the A/V cabinet behind the driver’s chair.

I turned off the breaker in the inverter subpanel for the driver side AC outlets circuit and verified that the existing outlet was not energized.  I removed the cover plate, unscrewed the duplex outlet, and pulled it out.  I opened a second access hole on top of the outlet box and then prepared the cable by removing about 4″ of the sheath and stripping about 3/4″ of insulation off of the wires.  I fed the cable through the hole and connected the wires to the appropriate screw terminals.  I turned the outlet over so the round ground pins were at the top rather than the bottom, screwed the outlet back into the box, and put the cover plate back on.  I had hoped to finish the whole job before dinner but dinner was ready so I went inside to eat.

For dinner Linda made a salad and Garbanzo beans with onions and Swiss chard lightly sautéed in olive oil.  It probably had a little garlic and might have had a few hot pepper flakes as Linda often uses these ingredients, but I don’t know for sure as I am wrote this post two days later.

After dinner I finished installing the new outlet.  When I put the oversized cover plate on it appeared to be close enough to the top edge of the cabinet that it would interfere with the Corian top.  No big deal, I would just swap it with the regular size plate on the original outlet.  When I went to take the first cover plate off I noticed that one of the outlets was cracked in half horizontally.  I will have to replace it but did not feel like getting into that this evening with the light and my energy fading.

It had been a long day, and I was admittedly tired and contemplating an earlier than usual bedtime, so I locked up the bus and went into the house for the evening.  We turned in at 9 PM and were asleep by 10.

 

2015/10/21 (W) Electrifying

In spite of being out later than usual last night Linda was up early and off to the bakery at 6:15 AM.  I got up at the same time and made coffee so Linda could take some with her.  Neither of us slept well as we had larger meals, with richer food, and later at night than usual.  I wasn’t hungry but I like to start my day with coffee and it seems to help keep me regular.  TMI, perhaps, but there it is.  I had to get up anyway to prepare the garage so the electricians from Bratcher Electric could get to the areas they needed to work on.  But first I put a load of laundry in the washing machine.

We had a light but steady rain last night starting around midnight.  Phil was hoping for rain over the next few days as the sand base for the driveway will compact much better if the sand is moist.  We have a 70% chance of more rain during the day today and into the evening but by tomorrow a cold front is supposed to push through with much cooler and drier conditions behind it.  I hope the sand gets wet enough to stay moist until Saturday when Phil returns.

Jeremy and Pete from Bratcher Electric showed up at 9 AM.  I walked them through the job and then left them alone to work except for the occasional photograph and questions.  The questions were for my own understanding of the work.

I needed to mix the “GoLightly” prescription for Linda and get it in the refrigerator to chill.  The instructions said to use lukewarm drinking water.  I drew a large pot of our RO water, heated it on the stove, let it cool to what I judged to be lukewarm, added it to the jug, shook it well to mix, and put it in the fridge.  It should be plenty cold by the time she gets home this afternoon.

I was not going to get involved in my own construction projects while Jeremy and Pete were here.  At some point towards the end of their work they were going to have to turn off the whole house generator and disconnect the main service coming in from the utility pole so they could safely tie in the new disconnect that feeds the panel in the garage.  I went ahead and turned off the HP Color LaserJet printer, the two NAS units, and all of the computers except one that was installing updates, and I shut it down when it was done.

While the electricians worked I did some more photo product research.  Based on what I found on the Quantum Instruments, Inc. website they do not make anything that works with the Sony alpha camera bodies, including the SLT-a99v.  Thus it appears that there is no point in repairing (replacing) one or both of my Quantum Turbo battery packs.  I tested my Sunpak DX-8R ring flash the other day so I know I can trigger it but I do not know if I can control it.  My Metz 45CT-4 can operate off of AA batteries but I have not had time to test it with the a99.  Like the ring flash I expect that the a99 will be able to trigger it but I doubt it can control it through the lens (TTL).  If it can then I would have a reason to repair/replace at least one of my Quantum Turbo battery packs.

What all of this means in the short term is that I am going to have to buy a Sony “on-camera flash” designed specifically to work in an integrated way with the a99 body.  Further research revealed that there are only three choices: the HVL-60AM, the HVL-43M, and the HVL-20 (?)  I downloaded the manuals for the 60 and the 43 models and glanced at them, but they are as long as the manual for the camera body.  The 60 has an optional battery pack, but it just holds six AA batteries in addition to the four in the flash unit.  I looked at reviews on the B&H website and they were mixed for both the 60 and the 43.  The 60 is more powerful but is very large.  The 43 is smaller but less powerful and lacks the connector for an auxiliary battery pack.  The biggest knock on both were the mechanical attachment to the camera and an over temp feature that seems to erroneously shut the unit down after just a few quick flashes.

The small box upper left is the new 100 A main disconnect for the electrical panel in the garage.  The large box upper right is the automatic transfer switch and the large box below it is the 200 A service entrance disconnect.

The small box upper left is the new 100 A main disconnect for the electrical panel in the garage. The large box upper right is the automatic transfer switch and the large box below it is the 200 A service entrance disconnect.

After the electricians were gone I heated up a can of Amy’s Red Lentil soup and had some hummus and pretzel nibblers.  I put another load of laundry in the washer and then went in search of an RV outlet box.

Lowe’s had an Eaton box with either a 30 A or 50 Amp single plug and no disconnect or circuit breaker.  The 50 A version is what I installed three years ago for the pull-through drive in front of the house.  What I had forgotten, apparently, was that the largest opening on the bottom of this box was smaller than 2″ but I could not determine if it was 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″.  Lowe’s did not have the adapters I needed so I went to The Home Depot.  They did not seem to have what I needed either so I went to City Electric Supply.  CES had a better selection of adapters and also had RV panels with circuit breakers.  The panels were much more expensive so I did not buy one but I had them set up the pieces to adapt from 2″ conduit to 1-1/2″ pipe thread.  I then went back to Lowe’s and bought the 50 A outlet box.

Back at the house I spent some more time in the bus fiddling with the remote temperature sensors in the refrigerator but otherwise did not accomplish much.  Linda got home late in the afternoon but was not able to eat anything because of her colonoscopy tomorrow morning.  I was on my own for dinner but do not recall what I had as I am finishing this post a couple of days later.  Linda had to consume half of the GoLightly (1/2 gallon!) between 6 and 8 PM.  I worked in the garage for a while removing the knockouts from the bottom of the RV box.  That was when I confirmed that the hole was sized for 1-1/4″ conduit, not 1-1/2″.  I worked in my office at my computer for the rest of the evening.  We both went to bed before 10 PM as Linda had to get up at 3 AM and drink the other half gallon of GoLightly between then and 5 AM and I had to be up at 5:45 AM so I could get her to HFHS Columbus Center in Novi by 7:15 AM.  Sometimes the scheduling of medical procedures just leaves me shaking my head.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/19 (M) Flashless

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:15.  I woke up but went back to sleep and finally got up at 7:30 and got dressed.  I turned on the furnace in the garage and turned up the thermostats in the bus and then had breakfast.  Rather than grind up a small quantity of coffee beans and get the coffee maker dirty I had a cup of tea.  I retrieved Butch’s e-mail and called Clyde in Canton to arrange pickup of the antique Sun distributor tester that Butch bought from him last night on Ebay.  I will drive down Friday to pick it up.

Phil showed up around 8:30 AM, unloaded his front loader, and got to work on the French drain.  I went out around 10 AM and talked to him briefly.  I then walked through the southwest corner of our property looking for a corner marker.  I did not find one but I did discover some REALLY big trees with REALLY BIG vines woven through them.  The base of the vines was as big as one of the trees, about 30″ in diameter.  I had never seen a vine root that size.

Back at the house I called John Palmer, of Palmer Energy Systems in Florida, to update him on my recent call to Magnum Energy technical support.  He said he would talk to Tom in the next couple of days and try to get me the connector (terminal block) I need.  We agreed I will call him back on Friday.

Next I called A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana and talked to Terry.  I ordered a bolster cushion to fill in the space behind the sofa seat cushions and below the sofa back cushions.  It will be 6″ high x 4-3/4″ deep x 78″ long and will be one density of firm foam rather than a firm center layer with softer outer layers on top and bottom (like the seat cushions).  She will use a plain beige fabric as it will not be visible and so it does not have to match the other sofa cushions.  She said it would be ready in early November, which is plenty of time for us to drive down and get it.  The price was $125, which sounded like a fair price to me.

I got out my old Sunpak DX-8R ring flash and connected it to one of my Quantum high voltage battery packs but the battery pack appeared to be dead.  The two battery packs I have are almost unused but have apparently self-discharged and are now dead.  This also happened to my original battery packs.  The only flash equipment I have is set up to run off these packs but I am not inclined to replace them again as I do not use them enough to keep them charged which makes it hard to justify the cost as they are expensive.  Unfortunately that leaves me, for the moment, without any flash capability for the new Sony SLT-A99V DSLT camera.  Buggers.

I sent a TXT message to Joe to let him know that I did not see any indication of axle/hub seal leaks on the inside of the bus wheels.  I then called Bill in Mexico, Indiana and left him a message regarding the antique Sun distributor tester.  I will drive it at least as far as Elkhart, Indiana when I pick up the bolster from A-1 Upholstery and transfer it to Bill if he can meet me there.  There is also the possibility that I will drive it all the way to Bill’s place in Mexico, Indiana and stop by Jarel Beatty’s cabinetry shop in Logansport to have him cut down the connector on the passenger side HVAC duct cover.  If I do I will also pick up the drawings for the desk, sofa, and pull-out pantry as long as I am there.

Phil checks the grade of the new driveway extension.  The laser level is set up by the utility pole.

Phil checks the grade of the new driveway extension. The laser level is set up by the utility pole.

I went back outside and walked through the layout of the driveway extension with Phil.  He then set up his laser level, took elevation measurements at various points, and made an annotated sketch.  He needed to think about the data and figure out what we could actually do given the change in grade from the existing concrete driveway to the road at the third culvert and the need to flatten out before reaching the culvert to tie in with where the barn will (might) eventually go.

Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up around 11 AM to mow the grass.  I got out our leaf blower and let Phil know that I would be occupied for a little while with yard work.  I blew the leaves off of the rear decks, out from under/around various bushes, and off of the two boulder retaining walls into the yard where Keith could mulch them with his riding lawn mower.

About the time I was done blowing leaves Phil had a plan to discuss.  The elevation drops 7-1/2 feet from the concrete driveway (that goes from the street to the garage) to the street at the third culvert some 200 feet away.  Phil thought that our best bet was to slope down from the driveway over a distance of 40 feet, level out for 40 feet, and then gently slope down for 70 feet to the area in front of the future barn location.  That would leave another 50 feet with a slight drop to get to the street.  Some of the area down there will be close to level, however, so another RV could park down there.

We also discussed running power and agreed that I would buy about 40 feet of plastic conduit to get under the level area and headed towards the southwest corner of the garage.  We would need the conduit first thing tomorrow morning so I decided I would go to Lowe’s this evening.

I finally got to work in the bus around 1:30 PM.  I positioned the sofa seat, secured the piano hinge to the stationary backboard with four screws and then drilled all of the other screw holes using my smallest VIX bit.  I installed all of the little screws, dialed back the thermostats, and closed up the bus.  My time-on-task was short but it was a big item to check off of my “list.”

The Sunpak DX-8R ring flash can operate on four AA batteries so I put a set in and connected it to the hot shoe on top of the camera.  The camera was able to trigger the flash (more than once) but the shots were seriously overexposed.  I did not take the time to try and figure out if the flash can be controlled by the camera based on light coming through the lens.  If not it won’t be usable in most situations.

It was a mild day with blue skies and white puffy clouds so I took the new camera outside to capture some images of the work Phil is doing.  I shot a few frames of the more colorful trees in our yard while I was at it.

Linda texted me at 3:40 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery and stopping at the store on the way home.  Phil continued to find rock, concrete, and brick debris as he dug out the driveway extension.  He used the 30″ toothed bucket on his excavator to sift out the larger pieces and pull them into a pile and then used his front loader to put all of it into his dump truck.  I got a metal tine rake and raked out some of the smaller stuff, not because it needed to be removed but because I needed to do something physical and wanted to smooth it out to get a better idea of how it will look when finished.

Phil started securing his equipment at 5 PM and we were wrapping up our last discussion of the project for the day when Linda got home at 5:30.  After unloading a few groceries she started fixing dinner.  Phil took off and I continued raking for another half hour until dinner was ready.  Linda served the rest of the polenta with puttanesca sauce and steamed sliced parsnips.  I thought we finished the Cupcake Black Forest wine last night but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we still had enough for our meal this evening.

After dinner I went to The Home Depot looking for a fuel filter for our Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  THD sells Cub Cadet equipment but only had generic fuel filters so I did not buy one.  I went to Lowe’s, where we get a 5% discount on everything we buy! and bought the following:  four 10-foot pieces of 2″ PVC non-conductive conduit, a 90 degree elbow, a coupler, two end caps, 1″ and 1-1/4″ self-drilling screws, an 8′ long pressure treated 4×4′, and a clamp on saw guide.  The saw guide was an impulse purchase but I had a $10 Off card for a total purchase of $50 of more.  We have struggled with makeshift saw guides all summer and fall and I still have more careful cutting to do.  I already have a saw guide but could not find it and should have bought a new one at the beginning of the bus remodeling project.

Phil called the house while I was out so I called him back.  He had figured out that extending the driveway to within 10 feet of the front of the proposed bus barn would add 25% to the cost of the project.  That was more than I was prepared to spend at this time so we will defer that work until we build the barn, probably in summer 2017.  We watched Scorpion and NCIS Los Angeles and then went to bed.

 

2015-10-18 (N) Homage to FLLW  

We got up at 8 AM.  I made Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe coffee while Linda prepared vegan pancakes.  We had talked yesterday about going to the Howell Farmers Market this morning but did not feel like going out in the early morning chill.  When we finished our coffee I turned the fireplace off and we got dressed to work.

Our focus in the bus today continued to be the built-in sofa.  We decided yesterday to move the plywood seat out from the wall 4-3/4″ from its original position.  The original stationary board on the back side of the piano hinge, which was only 2-3/4″ wide, was designed to place the front edge of the plywood seat (which has a 3/4″ walnut hardwood edge) 3/4″ beyond the cabinetry on both ends of the sofa with an overhang of just a few inches beyond the vertical front support board.  It was a nice design which tied in well with the cabinetry and kept the sofa from intruding into the living room aisle.  It resulted, however, in a seating depth of 16″ which turned out to be too short.  It was my homage to Frank Lloyd Wright: integrated, attractive, cantilevered, and uncomfortable.

As much as I like and admire FLLW’s work, I also like the Bauhaus maxim “form follows function.”  We needed a 3/4″ thick (11/16″ actually) board 7-1/2″ wide by 77-7/8″ long to locate the plywood seat in its new position.  The only wood we had on hand that we could cut this from in one piece was a 24″ X 96″ piece of walnut veneered plywood.  Since the board will not be visible I did not want to waste the walnut veneered plywood for this piece.

We also had a half sheet (4′ X 4′) of good plywood and after thinking about it for a while I decided to make the stationary board in two pieces.  The key was that I would use a third piece, cut from that same 4′ X 4′ sheet, as a splicing plate to join the other two pieces together.  But I was trying to accomplish more than that.  With the original design the pivot line of the piano hinge was over the top of the wiring chase, about 1-3/4″ back from the front edge.  That meant the back edge of the moveable seat board, when closed, was resting on the wiring chase for its entire length.  With the new stationary board the pivot line of the piano hinge is unsupported except for 5-3/4″ on each end.  The third piece of plywood would be at least a partial solution to that problem.

We worked in the garage with the overhead doors closed and the furnace on.  I cut two 7-1/2″ wide pieces off of the 4′ X 4′ sheet of plywood and then cut them to lengths of 38-7/8″ each so they would be just shy of 77-7/8″ when butted together end-to-end.  We took the two pieces to the bus and set them in place on top of the writing chase which sits atop the HVAC duct.  They just fit, which was nice.  I marked the underside along the edge of the wiring chase with a pencil.   We then took the pieces back to the shop.

I found a relatively flat portion of the garage floor and laid the two pieces end-to-end face down.  I set the third piece on top of the first two so that it was of equal length in both directions from the center and was at least 1/4″ forward from the line I had marked.  This third board extended beyond the front edge of the other two boards by at least two inches along its entire length of four feet.  With Linda holding it in place I inserted four self-drilling wood screws, two for each of the main boards, to hold the three pieces in position.

We placed the old 2-3/4″ wide board along the edge of the new boards and marked the locations of all of screw holes for the piano hinge.  I then center punched and drilled countersunk holes for lots of screws being careful to keep them in between the hinge holes.  I ran all of the screws in until the points just protruded from the other side.  I then applied Titebond II wood glue to the two main boards, positioned the third board using the screw tips as alignment guides, and ran all of the screws down pulling the pieces tightly together.  Linda got a paper shop towel wet and I used it to clean off the excess glue that oozed out from between the boards.

We took the new stationary backboard to the bus and set it in place upside down.  I marked the underside along the edge of wiring chase and then we flipped it end-for-end and set it in place right side up.  We pulled it forward so I could mark the locations of the existing screws securing the top of the wiring chase to the two long sides and then slid it back against the wall.  The line served as my guide for where to screw the backboard to the wiring chase.  (The chase has two long “1×2″ sides on edge with a 3/8″ thick plywood top that is about 4-1/2″ wide.  For maximum strength I needed to screw through the backboard into the 1x2s.  I also needed to avoid the space between the 1x2s as that is where all of the AC wiring is run.)

I center tapped a lot of locations and drilled them with a #6 countersink bit even though I was using #8 self-drilling outdoor screws.  The reason for the drilling step was to make sure I did not split any wood.  I screwed the backboard to the wiring chase with lots of 1-1/4″ #8 screws in two rows corresponding to the front and back side boards of the wiring chase.

The backboard pieces had oozed a small amount of additional glue so I used a piece of scrap aluminum sheet metal to scrap it out of the joint.  When the plywood seat is closed the back couple of inches will rest on the third piece of plywood so there cannot be any interference along there.  We set the moveable seat board in place and marked all of the hinge holes on the stationary backboard and then pulled it out gain.  We did not, however, attach the piano hinge to the stationary backboard as I wanted to let the glue cure for at least 24 hours.

By this point it was 1 PM so we stopped to have lunch which consisted of vegan hotdogs with mustard, onions, and relish and both red and green grapes.  We got these grapes at Meijer’s and their produce is usually good, but the green grapes had almost no taste.  Oh well; there will be days (and foods) like that.

After lunch we shifted our attention to the driveway extension project.  I gathered up a box of plastic and wood stakes, a mallet, a 100 foot tape measure, and the site plan for the bus barn and driveway.  It took us about three hours to stake out the location of the pull-through driveway, locate the front corners of the bus barn, and stake out the approach/apron for the barn.  Phil will be back early tomorrow morning and the first thing on the agenda is going over the layout and figuring out elevations for the two planned level pad areas.

At this point Linda went inside to work on dinner while I cleared the margin of the woods along the south side of the driveway extension.  I added bar/chain oil and a 40:1 fuel:oil mixture to the chain saw and got out the compound loppers, pruning saw, pole saw, and safety glasses.  I initially used the loppers to cut down small saplings, cut off small branches, and trim back bushes and vines.  I used the chain saw to cut down slightly larger trees, up to 3” in diameter at the base, and finish cutting out three bushes and some entwined vines.  I then used the pole saw to trim low overhanging branches.  I dragged all of the cuttings to a spot on the west side of the fir trees and used the chain saw to cut the larger trees into smaller pieces.

It was 6:30 PM by the time I was done and had the tools put away.  Dinner was almost ready when I got a call from Butch.  He was following up on how our refrigerator was performing and also needed my assistance with a possible Ebay purchase.  The item he was interested in was in Canton, Michigan about 45 minutes from our house, and the seller was not willing to ship it.  He wanted to know if it would fit in our Honda Element and if so, would I be willing to pick it up if he decided to buy it.  Of course I was willing to help as long as my car was able to handle the item.  While he was on the phone I measured the clearance for the rear hatch and gave him the dimensions.  As soon as we got off the phone he e-mailed me the link to the auction, which still had 85 minutes remaining.

For dinner Linda started with a really nice salad that had slivered almonds and pumpkin seeds and dressed it with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.  The main course was an amazing soup.  She roasted a golden acorn squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, and shallots.  She then put these in a pot, added vegetable broth, and heated the mixture.  To finish the dish she used an immersion blender to purée everything into a smooth, thick, hearty, and delicious soup.  After working outside all afternoon on a chilly day it really hit the spot.  We finished the bottle of Cupcake Black Forest red wine we opened yesterday.

After dinner I retrieved Butch’s e-mail, checked out the item, and e-mailed him back.  I then spent a little time reading and replying to posts in various RVillage groups.  I called Butch back just before 8 PM and then turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 to join the SLAARC Info Net at 8 PM.  Unfortunately all I heard was noise.  I have not used the radio for the last few weeks so I don’t know if the net did not take place (unlikely but possible) or if a problem has developed with our system.  If the later, it is most likely the Morgan I.C.E. lightning arrestor (again).  Whatever the reason, I was not going to figure it out this evening.  I went to bed at 9 PM and wrote this post.  It took some time to write but if I do not record the details the same day they slip away quickly.

 

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).

 

2015/10/09 (F) All Charged Up

We finished the current batch of granola for breakfast and had just finished our meal when Chris, from Bratcher Electric, showed up at 8:45 AM to service the whole house generator.  He let me watch and explained the various steps in the process.  The trickiest part appeared to be replacing the spark plug on the back side of the engine.  Everything else was fairly accessible.  There is a 1/4 turn valve to drain the oil and a rubber tube to get it out to a collection vessel.

Chris had what looked like a small gas can but it was painted blue.  It had a clear plastic tube attached to what would normally be the air vent.  The tube was sized to just fit inside the oil drain hose.  A vacuum pump was threaded on to opening where the pour spout would normally go.  A few pumps of the handle and the device sucked the oil right out of the engine and contained it so he could transport it easily and cleanly.  It was a very clever device, and obviously very handy for someone who does several generator maintenance procedures every day.

He gapped the spark plugs at 0.028″, checked the air filter (it was fine), replaced the oil filter, noting the date on the filter with a permanent marker, and put ~2-1/3 quarts of 5W-30 synthetic oil back in the engine.  He cautioned me to only use the specified filter and pure synthetic oil.  The engine runs hot under load and regular oil can lead to problems.  He checked all of the settings and changed the weekly self-test to run at full speed for the entire time.  He prefers that setting as it gets the engine up to normal operating temperature and helps burn off any moisture in the oil.  He started the unit manually, let it run for a while, and then shut it down and put in back in AUTO mode.

Linda prepared the dry ingredients for her vegan chocolate cupcakes and then put together a grocery list.  She left to go to Meijer’s while Chris was still working.  He finished up around 10:15.  I worked on the bus, using split plastic wire loom to protect the wires that power the fans on the heat exchangers.  I then worked on reconnecting the wires from the front bay electric heater to the supply wires.

A close up view of the fill/bleeder valve assembly for the heat exchangers in the desk bases.

A close up view of the fill/bleeder valve assembly for the heat exchangers in the desk bases.

The supply wires run inside the HVAC duct.  They originally came out of the duct and went through a hole in the floor into the OTR air-conditioning bay and then through the partition wall into the front bay.  I had to cut the cable and pull it through the floor from underneath so I could install the new floor tile.  I could clearly see where the OTR HVAC supply duct came into the distribution duct but when I tried drilling from below I seemed to hit metal.   The bottom of the duct was clearly plywood so I drilled from above with a 1/2″ spade bit.  I got through most of the plywood but again seem to hit metal.  I knew there wasn’t anything in that location, like wires, pipes, or air lines, so I switched to a 1/2″ twist drill and finished the hole.

I dropped a screwdriver through the hole so I could locate it from below.  I then pushed the electrical cable from the heater up through the hole and secured it to a fastener on the forward wall with a cable tie.  Linda got back at this point so I helped get the groceries into the house.  She then mixed a new batch if granola and put it in the oven to bake.  I gathered up my electrical tools, uncapped the feed wires, checked them with a volt meter to make sure they were not energized, connected the feed wires to the load wires, and tucked them back inside the duct.

We had a choice as to what to work on next—fill the heat exchangers and hoses with antifreeze or hang the wallpaper in the hallway—so we had lunch.  Summer has passed, but tofu hotdogs with mustard, onion, and relish, along with some red grapes, was still a tasty lunch.

When we got back to work in the coach we decided to hang the wallpaper.  The pieces were already cut and laid out on the bed.  Hanging them not only got them off the bed, it would allow us to get the wood trim off the bed as well and back on the lower wall.  But not today.  The wallpaper adhesive needs to cure for 24 hours before we work around it and does not achieve its full cure for 5 to 7 days.  We have one piece of wallpaper to hang behind the forward end of the sofa but the wall prep is not finished in that area.  Once that piece is up, and we have the Corian top for the desk, we can complete the installation of the desk and sofa.

Shawna was bringing Madeline at 4:30 PM to spend the night with us.  It was already 2:30 and I needed to get cleaned up and put on non-work clothes before they arrived so we called it a day.  I had once again accumulated quite a few tools in the bus.  I gathered up all of the ones I was done with, returned them to the garage, and locked up the coach.  The UPS truck showed up with my package from B&H Photo which I set aside temporarily while I took a shower and got dressed.

The box looked like it had been treated well in shipment.  I opened the box, carefully removed all of the contents, and compared them to the order/packing list.  Everything was there and appeared to be in pristine condition.  I unwrapped the battery charger and Lithium ion battery, put the battery in the charger, and plugged it in.  The new charger is essentially the same as the one that came with my Sony alpha 100 years ago so I got the old one from the basement.  I bought five additional batteries so I opened one of them and plugged it in to the old charger.  I then found the Instruction Manual and curled up with it on the living room sofa while Juniper (the cat) curled up on me.

The directions with the charger and the batteries indicated that it can take up to 175 minutes to fully recharge a battery and that full charge is not obtained until an hour after the charging light goes out.  So, basically, I need to leave the batteries in the charger for three hours to ensure they are fully charged.  The camera takes one battery, and the vertical grip accessory takes two batteries, so my normal operating configuration will be to have three batteries in the use.  That’s why I have a total of six batteries for this new camera.  I will probably buy another charger so I can charge three batteries simultaneously.

I called Chuck to let him know I got my car back late yesterday but would not be able to move the windshields box until sometime next week.  It turned out that he and Barbara were also busy all weekend.  His daughter, son-in-law, and grandson were in town with more family arriving from Trinidad and Tobago this evening.  Tomorrow is his grandson’s first birthday and Sunday he is being baptized at the church in Ann Arbor where Chuck’s daughter was married.

Shawna showed up just after 4:30 PM.  Madeline had fallen asleep in the car and was slow to wake up, clinging to her mom for quite a while.  Linda brought in the various bags of clothes and toys along with the inflatable bed and got everything situated in the middle bedroom.  When Linda mentioned making cupcakes Madeline finally woke up and became cheerful.  Once her focus was on baking with Grandma Linda Shawna was able to slip away without any drama on Ms. M’s part.

Today was Brendan and Shawna’s friend Jorge’s birthday and the three of them were headed to a new restaurant in Detroit to celebrate.  The restaurant does not take reservations and is apparently very popular at the moment so Shawna was not sure if they would actually get to eat there.

With Linda’s help Madeline mixed the ingredients for the cupcakes and managed to pour most of the batter into the baking tray.  Linda then prepared dinner while I played with Madeline.  We did the ABCs on her placemat, and then colored with crayons.  Dinner was mock chicken tenders, edamame, and steamed carrot rounds with fresh orange segments and sliced strawberries, so it was mostly fresh, whole plant-based foods.

As soon as the cupcakes were cool enough to be frosted Madeline coated each one with the special Halloween orange frosting and the back and orange Halloween sprinkles.  I was summoned to inspect the work and then it was time to eat.  Madeline selected a cupcake for herself and then one for me and one for Linda.  We ate them at the table and they were very good.

After cupcakes we played soccer with two different balls, kicking and throwing them all around the house.  By 8 PM we needed to start winding things down.  Shawna had left her iPad and Madeline selected a Curious George video about Christmas.  Linda and Madeline climbed up in our bed where they could stretch out their legs and watched the first 60% of the cartoon.  I opened two more camera batteries and put them in the chargers and then joined the girls.  We will watch the rest of the cartoon tomorrow morning.

I helped Madeline brush her teeth and Linda got her into her pajamas.  Linda read her several stories and finally got her in bed around 9:15 PM.  During dinner Madeline inquired about having pancakes for breakfast.  (I had made the same inquiry over lunch.)  Linda did not have all of the ingredients she needed so after Madeline went to bed I went to Meijer’s in Howell and bought avocado oil and all-purpose flour.  Linda is trying to use up ingredients rather than stock up on them so I bought a two pound bag of King Arthur organic unbleached enriched all-purpose flour even though I could have bought a 10 pound bag of the Meijer’s brand (bleached and not organic) for only 50 cents more.

Just before going to bed I opened two more batteries and put them in the chargers.  We went to bed at 11 PM but did not turn on the TV to ensure that we did not disturb Madeline’s sleep.  I was basically done with the draft of this post and read some more of the Instruction Manual for my new Sony alpha 99 (SLT-A99V) camera and vertical battery grip (VG-C99AM).  I am really looking forward to using this new equipment but it takes a couple of days to charge batteries, install software, and read manuals enough to be able to configure it for first use.  This class of camera has a lot of adjustable parameters with default settings that may or may not be what any particular user wants.

 

2015/10/07 (W) The Root Cause

We had Linda’s homemade granola for breakfast with fresh blueberries.  Berry season is just about over for the year and they will become more expensive as they have to be transported from farther away.  I made a pot of Sweet Seattle Dreams, the half-caff blend that Jeff makes just for us, and we drank it in the living room.  Linda checked in on the world and pulled up the latest video from NutritionFacts.org while I researched hardwood veneers on Rockler.com.

After breakfast and coffee I called Metro Environmental Services to arrange to have the culvert under the road cleaned out.  They were able to schedule us for this afternoon so I accepted that appointment.  I then called Brighton Honda to check on my car and left a message for Rob, the service advisor who wrote up the repair for the driver side door lock.  I had no sooner left that message than I got a call from Karen at Bratcher Electric.

Mike had worked up the quote to install the 100 Amp disconnect, tie it into the output of the transfer switch, and run a 100 Amp 4-wire service entrance cable to the current sub-panel, making it into a main panel.  They would also disconnect and cap the current sub-panel feed from the basement as part of the work.  At just north of $1,300 it was a good $300 higher than I expected.  My expectation, however, was not based on anything specific other than my own sense of the cost of materials and the amount of labor that might be involved, plus a desire for it to not cost more than $1,000.  🙁

With the phone calls taken care of we worked in the bus for the rest of the morning.  Linda worked on stripping the remnants of wallpaper that remained after we removed the mirrors from the lower outside hallway wall yesterday.  I worked on re-routing the heater hoses for the fan-coil heat exchangers.  She got her job done before I got mine done.  That’s usually the way it is.

To start, I removed one of the old 4″ round plastic grates and used my inspection mirror and a flashlight to examine the inside of the HVAC duct.  What I discovered was that the two heater hoses were secured periodically with plastic cable clamps to the outer wall of the HVAC duct.  I also discovered that the metal part of the duct is just the inner wall and top.  The bottom is the plywood subfloor of the bus and the outer wall is the plywood wall.  As originally built the metal portion of the duct could be removed but when Royale Coach did the conversion they built cabinets around the ducts and put wood wiring chases on top of them in such a way that they can no longer be removed without partially disassembling the coach.

The location of the hoses and wires in the duct was such that I could safely use my 4″ bi-metal hole saw to cut access holes for the hoses.  I determined where the cable clamps were located by measuring inside the duct.  I then marked where the access slots in the bottom back of the bases would be located and determined where I needed the two hoses to emerge from the duct.

The manual sheet metal nibbler used to cut a line between the bottoms of the two holes in the HVAC duct.

The manual sheet metal nibbler used to cut a line between the bottoms of the two holes in the HVAC duct.

There was already a 4″ hole at one of my needed locations so I drilled a second one next to it with an inch in-between.  I used Chuck’s hand powered sheet metal nibbler to connect the holes together to make an opening that looked like the track around a football field.  We vacuumed up the metal chips and I then installed door edge molding all the way around the edge of the opening.  I was able to reach the screws holding the first pair of cable clamps with a #2SR screwdriver and remove them.  This large slot will be behind the left end of the center connecting cover of the desk and the hose for the heat exchanger that goes in the left base will come out of it.

 

Plastic U-channel door edge molding installed around the new heater hose opening.

Plastic U-channel door edge molding installed around the new heater hose opening.

The location of the next pair of cable clamps corresponded, roughly, to where I needed the hose for the right heat exchanger to emerge.  I drilled two 4″ holes, side-by-side, at that location and nibbled out the little bit of metal in-between them to make a second slot.  Again, I installed the door edge molding around the entire edge.  The molding was a tight fit, and I had to use a screwdriver to get it to go on the inner curves, but I got it on.  The U-channel is locked in mechanically and has adhesive in it so it should stay put once it has had a few days in place.  Once the hoses are re-routed I will put screen material, and perhaps some solid plates, over the openings to prevent critters from gaining access to the living area by way of the HVAC PCTS (Prevost Critter Tunnel System).

 

The access holes in the OTR HVAC duct in the area behind where the desk will be installed.

The access holes in the OTR HVAC duct in the area behind where the desk will be installed.

Linda had two medical appointments this afternoon, both routine diagnostic procedures, so she got cleaned up, changed her clothes, and left around 12:30 PM as I was finishing up the second slot.  I went inside and was thinking about making something for lunch when the doorbell rang.  It was our mail carrier, Michelle, with a package that was too big for the mailbox.  A few minutes later the doorbell rang again.  I figured it was Michelle again, but it was one of the guys from Metro Environmental Services.  They were supposed to call first but just showed up.

I put my shoes on and walked them down to the clogged culvert that goes under the road.  I was really hoping they could clean it out from the south side but when we went into the woods we could not see the end of the culvert.  They got a metal detector and located the end of the pipe.  It was almost completely buried and had a massive root running right in front of it from a very large nearby tree.  They got a shovel and dug out around the root, exposing much of it and the end of the pipe.

The tree was probably 30″ in diameter at the base and the root was at least 10″ in diameter.  I got my (new) 18″ chain saw but had trouble getting it started.  It turned out it was out of gasoline.  Once I got it started I tried to cut through the root on either side of the culvert.  I thought I was all the way through on one end (closest to the tree) and most of the way through on the other end, but the root would not budge.  I dulled the teeth on the chain to the point where the saw would no longer cut and did not want to take the time to put a new chain on just to ruin it quickly.  The guys finally agreed to hydrojet the culvert from the north side of the road.

The actual cleaning out of the culvert did not take that long.  The pump produces 2,000 PSI and they used about 300 gallons of water from the onboard tank on their truck.  The head on the end of the hose has one forward facing nozzle and many rear/side facing nozzles.  The forward facing nozzle loosens and cleans out the area directly in front of the head while the other nozzles force the head forward and blast whatever is in the pipe back out towards the entrance.

They started with a small head and ran it in until there was water coming out the other end of the culvert.  They then pulled the hose back and switched to a much larger head and ran that all the way through and back.  When they were done muddy water filled the culvert and the depressions on either end.  On the inlet end the water was only about 3″ deep in the bottom of the culvert but on the outlet end it was near the top.  They billed me for the minimum first hour amount even though I think they were here longer than that.

I called Phil to let him know what we had run into.  He was surprised, to say the least, as he thought he had checked the other end of the culvert.  Obviously not, but that’s water under the road, so to speak.  Besides the problems with the root and the discharge end of the culvert being below the surface, it looked to me like the discharge area was something of a low spot and it was not obvious to me where water would flow from there.  I have learned, however, that I am not very good at judging such things visually.

Cory, our neighbor across the street, had come over to see what was going on.  He offered that the discharge area does, in fact, drain to the south through his property and eventually to Golf Club Road.  Cory has been here for 30 years so I have no reason to doubt the truth of that.  The elevation where Golf Club ends at Hacker and where our street ends at Hacker appears to be about the same.  Our street is fairly level while Golf Club has a little bit of up and down, but it is subtle.  I suggested to Phil that we might have to clear a path into the woods for his small digger and do some trenching to give the water a way out.

While Cory and I were chatting I noticed that the trees along this part of the road were hanging out over the road on both sides and were rather lower than they should be.  This is the very thing I complain about with regards to the way most of our neighbor’s fail to maintain their properties along the road.  I decided I should do something about it so I got our pole saw and spent a couple of hours trimming the low overhanging branches.

Linda went to the Whole Foods Market in West Bloomfield following her medical appointments and got home just as I was finishing up the pruning.  She went for a walk while I called John Palmer of Palmer Energy Systems in Florida.  I bought our Magnum inverter/charger for the bus from John along with various accessories and batteries.  I needed a 4-wire terminal block for our Magnum Battery Monitor Kit (BMK) because I had messed up the one that came with it when I originally installed it.  John confirmed that Magnum Energy had recently been acquired by Sensata, and was in the process of relocating the plant to Minnesota, but that several of the old-timers were still on board.  John needed to talk to Tom anyway and asked me to call him back in a week to see if he was able to get the connector.

I checked with the service department at Brighton Honda again and Rob said he expected to get the new door lock mechanism back from the locksmith tomorrow morning and to have the car ready for me to pick up by the end of the day.  It will be nice to finally have it back.

The cloudy weather finally broke today and we saw some blue sky with brighter light levels than we have had recently.  The day was lovely but a little on the cool side by late afternoon so we both had a cup of hot tea.  Linda took advantage of the light to work on her counted cross-stitch project, a holiday stocking for grand-daughter Madeline, and I went back to the bus to sand off the last traces of the old wallpaper from the outside wall in the hallway.

I used our Porter-Cable 1/4 sheet palm sander with 80, 120, and finally 220 grit sandpaper.  The sander has an integral dust collection bag but it does not capture all of the dust.  I used the vacuum cleaner to pick up as much of the residual dust as I could and then used a tack cloth to wipe down the wall.

For dinner Linda made pan-grilled tofu with caramelized onions in sweet barbecue sauce.  She served it open-faced on rye bread, because that is what we had, and steamed some fresh green beans as a side dish.  Yum.

After dinner I drove to Lowe’s.  I needed something I could use to plug the two heater hoses to keep them from leaking as I pull them back through the HVAC duct and out through the new slots I made for them today.  I ended up buying two 3/4″ barbed plastic plugs.  While I was there I looked to see if they had any bleeder valves but they did not.  They do not sell parts designed specifically for hydronic heating systems and I will have to go to Northwest Plumbing and Supply for such items.

While I was in the plumbing isle I looked to see if I could figure out some combination of parts to make a fill valve for the system but did not see anything that inspired me.  I would love to have one or more high point expansion tanks on this system but I do not have any easily accessible places for them from which I could also run overflow drain lines.  There is a good sized volume of unused space behind the drawers on the passenger side of the bedroom but it would be a very difficult place to install anything.  Perhaps Northwest Plumbing and Supply will have something.

On the way home I stopped at the BP station and topped up the fuel tank in Linda’s car.  I drove home with greater consideration for fuel economy than usual and managed to get the average MPG up to 56.7 before it dropped back to 55.4 as I pulled in the driveway.  It will drop into the upper 40s as soon as Linda starts the engine tomorrow morning but it was fun to get it into the driveway with numbers above 55 MPG.

 

2015/10/06 (T) Trimming & Stripping

We did not get an early start to our day today.  I got up a little after 8 AM and Linda got up 15 minutes later.  Even so, she still had our granola and berries ready before I had the coffee made, but in my defense I had the extra step of transferring the three pounds of coffee we bought yesterday from their paper bags to our metal containers with the air-tight lids.  We were wondering about whether grapes are berries so Linda Googled the topic.  Botanically, grapes are berries but strawberries and raspberries are not.  Also included among the “true” berries are bananas, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants.  That’s right, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants are fruits.

Linda left at 9:30 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark for a 10 AM walk.  Mike from Bratcher Electric showed up at 10:30 to revisit the wiring project I needed his company to do.  They are going to install a 100 Amp disconnect switch next to the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage, run power to the disconnect switch from the transfer switch, and then run a 4-wire service entrance cable (SEC) from the disconnect switch through the garage attic to the electrical distribution panel in the closet with the HVAC system for the library.  The electrical panel is currently a 60 A sub-panel of the main distribution panel in the basement and this project will convert it to a 100 A main panel while still allowing it to be powered by the generator if the utility power goes out.

When Mike left I gathered up the two metal cutting tools I borrowed from Chuck, our corded 1/2″ Craftsman drill (which I needed to power one of the nibblers), the small Rigid drill kit, and my telescoping inspection mirror.  My plan was to cut one or two openings in the passenger side HVAC duct for the heater hoses but I decided to do some yard work instead.

We still had some bushes growing out over the drainage ditch by the mailbox and I wanted to get them trimmed up and add the waste material to the timber pile before Phil hauled it away tomorrow (hopefully).  I was still working on this little distraction when Linda got back from her walk so she got a pair of gloves and helped.  The bushes and trees in this area have an extensive system of vines running through them.  I got a lot of the smaller vines cut and pulled free and I managed to trim one bush back enough to create an “entrance” to the inner part of this stand of trees.

Once I was “inside” the grove I found one of the main sources of the vine, a massive thing that looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie.  It was easily 10″ in diameter where it came out of the ground and had 4″ to 6″ pieces branching off in different directions.  I have no idea what kind of vine this but I suspect it is a wild grape vine.  Given its size I surmised that it has been there for a very long time gradually chocking off the trees.  I will have to eventually cut it out, but I would like to find out first just exactly what it is.

Linda helped drag all of the clippings over to the disposal pile where we cut some of them into smaller pieces before adding them to the pile.  We noticed a small tree hanging out into the space above the driveway that Phil is about to build.  We thought the tree was dead and decided to cut it down.  It was 5″ in diameter 6″ above the ground–big enough to require the chain saw–and also had a lot of branches that were large enough to be more expeditiously dispatched with said same machine.

After felling the tree and de-limbing it I was not so sure that it was dead.  We had a half dozen other trees along the northern edge of this stand woods that looked to be similarly dead but I decided not to cut them down.  One in particular had a lot of obviously new, small branches.  We will wait until spring and see which, if any, of these trees develop leaves.  If they are alive I will trim them instead of cutting them down.

We put away the yard tools and took a break to have a light, late lunch of vegan cold cuts sandwiches and black grapes with a glass of beet juice.  I like beets on salads and as a side vegetable.  Beet juice is OK but a bit more of an acquired taste.  We have added it into our daily food plans because of its ability to control blood pressure.  Linda is adding ground flax seed to her granola for the same reason.

Measuring and cutting wallpaper on the dining room table in the house.

Measuring and cutting wallpaper on the dining room table in the house.

At 2 PM we decided to hang the wallpaper in the hallway of the bus so we gathered all of our tools and took them to the coach.  I measured the wall and determined the lengths (30″) and widths of the four pieces; two full width (26.5″) and two partial width (15.5″), one for the left end and one for the right end.  We cut the four pieces on the dining room table in the house where we could unroll over six feet of wallpaper, measure more accurately, and cut more easily.  We cut the two full pieces out of the end of the first double roll and cut the two partial pieces out of the beginning of a new double roll.

Linda took the pieces to the bus and laid them out on the bed.  I was getting ready to pour some GH-95 paste into the tray and roll it onto the wall when I decided to remove the trim board that separates the upper wall from the vertical mirror strips on the lower wall.  My intent was to avoid having to trim the bottom edge of the wallpaper by tucking it behind this board.  What I discovered was that the strip mirrors on the lower portion of the wall were glued to the wallpaper and some of them were loose.

The fact that the mirrors were glued to wallpaper and not to the plywood wall surface meant that they could be removed.  I unscrewed the four vertical pieces of wood trim that framed the mirrors in three panels and then removed the bottom trim piece.  I carefully removed each mirror by prying the underlying wallpaper loose from the wall using a large screwdriver and working from the top down.  When the entire strip was loose I cut the wallpaper to release it.  I handed them to Linda and she stored them carefully inside the built-in sofa.  I managed to get all of them off except one which fractured in several places.  We taped it up and vacuumed up the few glass fragments that were created when it broke.

At this point we were clearly not going to hang the four pieces of wallpaper we just cut as we needed to finish stripping the base layer of the old wallpaper first.  We also had to take a little time to decide how to finish the lower wall.  One option would be to wallpaper the entire wall and not put the wood trim back.  We probably have enough wallpaper to do that, even after cutting the four smaller pieces for the upper wall, but we did not think the wall would look right if we did that.

Another option would be to install wood panels to replace the mirror strips.  In this case we would use a light wood with a natural finish to provide an intentional contrast with all of the walnut trim.  The mirror strips are slightly beveled on their long edges and measure 3/16″ thick at those edges.  That means a 3/16″ hardwood veneered plywood should be a perfect fit, allowing all of the wood trim to go back in place.  Maple or Birch with a natural finish are the most likely choices.

The wood panels is the option we will almost certainly pursue and we do not have to resolve exactly what panels to use in order to finish wallpapering the upper part of the wall.  All told this will push our finish date back a couple of days, but we don’t really have a finish date anyway, and we will like the final result a lot better.  We really do not like the strip mirrors and wish we could remove or cover all of them.

It was only 4:30 PM when we quit working in the bus for the day but we had both had a relatively physical day and were ready to quit.  The lighting in the hallway was also a little dim due to the continuing heavy cloud cover which was having the added effect of lowering our energy level and enthusiasm a bit.

My last couple of e-mails to Lou Petkus of the SKP Photographers BoF had gone unanswered so I called Lou to make sure everything was OK.  It was; he and Val have just been very busy.  We know about busy.  We had a nice chat about cameras and RVing plans for the upcoming winter.

Linda always puts nice dinner meals on the table and tonight was no different.  She halved and cored a white acorn squash and baked it in the oven with a little vegan butter and brown sugar.  She had a few Brussels sprouts left over and some baby carrots so she added onions and sautéed them to make a very good vegetable medley.  Finally, she heated a package of mock chicken in orange sauce.  The trio of dishes was not only tasty but lifted my spirits; not that either of us are down, but the weather has been heavily overcast for several days and had a slightly depressing effect on our moods.

I got a call from Phil after dinner updating me on his availability to work on our driveway and French drain project.  The 2-day job he started yesterday morning is probably going to take him the entire week to finish so there is very little chance we will see him back at work on our project before next Monday.  He did, however, find time to call a company that can hydrojet the culvert under our road and find out their pricing.  He gave me the name and phone number and I will call them tomorrow and try to set something up.  The other upside is that we have more time to pull dead trees out of the woods in front of our house, cut them up, and add them to the disposal pile, if we so choose.

Linda’s favorite TV shows are concentrated on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings so we watched NCIS and NCISNOLA followed by an episode of LIMITLESS, just to see what it was like.  I watched Two and a Half Men, which I happen to find very amusing, and then went to sleep.

 

2015/10/05 (M) Pondering Wallpaper

I woke up to stay at 7:20 AM, got up shortly thereafter, and got dressed to work.  Today was finally wallpapering day.  I fed the cats and refilled the reservoir on their recirculating water dish.  Linda was still sound asleep, and I suspected that she did not sleep well last night, so I closed the bedroom door while I ground the coffee beans so as not to disturb her.  She is still fighting off a cold and/or allergies and so am I.  I used the last of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans plus a couple of scoops of the Kenya AA.  We are a day or two away from being out of coffee and will have to get some more when we go out this morning to buy wallpaper paste and tools.

Linda got up at 7:40.  Phil had not shown up yet nor called to update us on whether he would be here so we were left to guess that he was on his way to the other last minute job that he said he would probably have to take care of today and tomorrow.  The temperature at 8 AM was 55 degrees F with light fog.  It looked very wet outside but I could not tell if it had rained overnight or if it was just heavy dew.  The high was forecast to be 72, and we have the electric heaters on in the bus, so the walls should be warm enough for us to hang wallpaper today.

We left at 9:30 to go buy wallpaper paste and a few tools at Lowe’s in Howell.  We stopped at Teeko’s on the way and ordered three pounds of coffee beans.  We got one pound each of the following, roasted to order:  1) Sweet Seattle Dreams (1/2 Seattle Blend and 1/2 Sweet Dreams decaf blend); 2) Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff; and 3) 1/2 Sumatra Manhelding with 1/2 Sumatra decaf.  At Lowe’s we bought a gallon jug of Roman GH-95 Wallpaper Paste for Kitchen and Bath.  It is supposed to be more suitable for high moisture environments and since we tend to use the bus with the windows open it can get humid inside.  We also got a smoothing tool, a 24″ paint shield to use for as a trimming guide, a 1/4″ nap 9″ long roller cover, and an inexpensive paint brush.  We stopped at Teeko’s on the way home and Roger had our coffee beans ready for pickup.

Back home I gathered up the tools we already had and took everything to the bus.  I got a scrap of underlayment to use as a small work surface for measuring and cutting off lengths of wallpaper.  We did not have room to set up a work surface in the bus that was big enough to roll out the wallpaper and apply paste to the back side so we decided to apply the paste to the walls using a roller and brush.

Before we got started installing the wallpaper Keith showed up around 10:45 AM to cut the grass.  I wasn’t sure he would come today due to the wet conditions, but he did not think it was wet enough to be a problem.  It’s been two weeks since the last grass cutting and it definitely needed to be mowed, at least in some places.  We also cut up and moved a couple of downed trees so he was finally able to mow the grass where they had been.

I had just finished chatting with Keith when Phil showed up around 11 AM to pick up his small excavator.  He had been at another job since 7 AM.  It was supposed to only involve “moving some stone around” so he only took his front loader to the site.  When he got there he was shown a much more extensive landscaping plan and a job site that included removing tree stumps and other digging operations.  Even with that his plan is to be back at our place on Wednesday.

My first task was to sand the primed walls.  I used the Porter-Cable palm sander, first with 120 grit sandpaper and then with 220 grit.  Linda then wiped down the walls with tack cloth while I put the sander away.  There is not a lot of room to work in the bus so we try to remove tools that we are not using.

We finished gathering our tools and materials, including two big buckets of water (one with mild soap) and spent an hour pondering the wallpaper installation.  Part of the pondering involved measuring the three wall areas that were ready for wallpaper and deciding where we would start and how we would proceed from there.  By the time we were ready to cut and paste wallpaper it was 12:30 PM so we took a break and had a sandwich and grapes for lunch.

When we unrolled the first double roll of wallpaper we noticed periodic faint horizontal “lines.”  These turned out to be slight impressions from the outside edge of the end of the roll which was very tightly wrapped in clear plastic.  We decided to cut four shorter pieces to go behind the desk and behind the sofa just in case the impressions did not smooth out and disappear.  We cut two more short pieces to continue forward under the windows on the passenger side.  We then cut longer pieces for the corner behind the desk and the wall at the kitchen end of the sofa.

The last time we hung wallpaper was 30 years ago.  It was all pre-pasted and required reverse rolling the piece to be hung, immersing it in a water tray to activate the glue, and then slowly pulling it out as it unrolled and drained.  We then slid it into position on the wall, smoothing it out and removing the air bubbles as we went, and finally trimming it.  The wallpapers we used were thinner than the stuff we have for the bus and we created seams by overlapping adjacent panels slightly and cutting through both pieces half way between the overlap.  The free edge pieces were both removed and we had perfect seams.

The wallpaper we bought for the coach is a heavier vinyl that is washable and scrubbable.  We got the paper from Delux Drapery & Shade Co. in Ann Arbor but it did not come with installation instructions other than to follow the adhesive manufacturer’s directions.  The associate at Lowe’s, however, was very helpful and told us specifically not to overlap and trim the seams the way we had years ago.  The appropriate technique for the heavier vinyl wallpapers is to butt the edges together and roll them flat.

You always reach a point in every project where there is nothing left to do but to do it.  We poured some of the paste into a paint tray (with a plastic liner for easier cleanup later).  I started on the passenger side of the bus in the corner behind the desk on the back side of the pantry.  I used the brush to cut in the corners where the wall met the adjacent woodwork and used the roller to fill in the field.  We butted the right edge of the panel into the corner along its full length and then smoothed it towards the left and top as best we could.  The wall curves in as it goes up but I got the top edge tucked and trimmed.  I made a relief cut at the bottom of the window surround on the left which allowed us to finish smoothing the bottom portion of the panel under the window and get the upper panel tucked in, where the wall meets the surround, and trim it.  I then trimmed around the window release mechanism and along the bottom of the panel.

Wallpaper tools in sofa (seat removed) and wallpaper on wall behind the sofa.

Wallpaper tools in sofa (seat removed) and wallpaper on wall behind the sofa.

The vinyl wallpaper did not trim easily even with a new, very sharp, break-off style blade.  It also did not want to stick to the wall and we ended up peeling it back in places and spreading more paste.  We had primed the walls with Zinser 1-2-3, a water-based acrylic primer, so they should not have been very absorbent.  We hung a total of eight pieces, five on the passenger side and three on the driver side, and stopped for the day.  The wall in the hallway was prepped for four additional pieces but we decided to defer those until to tomorrow.  We cleaned up all of the tools and then relaxed for a while in the living room.

Linda prepared dinner while I worked on this post.  I could not figure out from the odor what she was making but it sure smelled good.  It turned out to be a tofu scramble, a vegan interpretation of scrambled eggs, and she served it with toasted raisin bread.  Very tasty and very satisfying.  It’s the one breakfast dish that she makes that does equally well as a dinner meal.

I drove to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts to get some door edge trim/guard and stopped at the Meijer’s supermarket for tissues and laundry supplies.  The door edge trim is a plastic U-channel that I will use to cover the edge of a hole (or holes) I will cut in the passenger side HVAC duct for the Aqua-Hot heater hoses to base through into the desk bases without making any sharp turns.

We felt like being entertained and settled in to watch several TV shows.  In-between two of the shows I made popcorn, a rare treat for us but one we really enjoy.

 

2015/10/03 (S) Wallpaper Stumps

Last night we discussed not going to breakfast this morning and that was sufficient to give us permission to sleep in.  We got up at 7:30 AM, too late to make it to South Lyon by 8, so I made coffee while Linda cooked oatmeal with nuts and dried fruits.

There was a hawk on the ground just behind our house.  It took flight but stayed in the area dancing with a crow.  In spite of seeing it repeatedly–on the ground, perched in a tree, and in flight–we could not identify it other than to be fairly certain it was not a red-tailed hawk.  Red-tailed hawks are the most commonly seen raptor around here but they are very distinctive due to their red tails.

I checked the bus and the temperature was 54 degrees F, too cool for wallpapering.  I had left two electric heaters on last night but obviously did not set the thermostats high enough.  The refrigerator freezer compartment was 24 degrees, which is way too high, and has me concerned that something has broken, perhaps as a result of driving on our very bad roads.  I settled in to enjoy my coffee (as best I could) and await the arrival of Philip Jarrell from Precision Grading.

Phil showed up at 8:35 AM.  The fact that he was probably starting work on our French drain and driveway extension project this morning was the main reason we decided not to go to our weekly ham radio club breakfast.  I left Phil alone long enough to get his equipment unloaded and then went out to chat with him briefly.  He had already communicated with me by phone during the week about what he wanted to accomplish today, and where he needed to start the work, but I always like to be on site when a contractor arrives and double check these things.  That is especially true when they have big equipment that can move a lot of earth in a short time.

Phil was using his smaller backhoe to dig up tree stumps and pull debris out of the woods along the area where the pull-through driveway extension will run.  He also pulled out concrete blocks, pipes, and other building debris that has been thrown there over many years.  I did not, however, have him pull out the two piles of bricks as I presume they are the same as the ones on the house and we might want to keep them for future repairs.

I needed to get the air-ride seat base back to Chuck this morning so I put it in the car and drove to his shop in Novi.  He was just pulling his stacker trailer out of the shop with his forklift when I arrived.  After he finished getting it out and positioning it I gave him the air-ride base and he put it in the trailer through the side door.  We chatted briefly about moving the two remaining windshields, during which time Barbara showed up, so I left them to their chores and headed home.

Back at the house we decided not to try hanging wallpaper today.  The temperature was in the low 50’s and it was drizzling lightly and intermittently.  Not wanting to waste the day we decided to straighten up the temporary workshop we have set up in the garage.  We had just started that when we got a call from our son and he put his daughter on the phone.  Madeline wanted to come visit her grandparents which we were all too happy to oblige.  A return call pinned down the day/time as tomorrow morning.  I helped Linda load the recyclables into her car and she took them to Recycle Livingston.  She stopped at the Meijer’s in Howell on the way home to pick up ingredients for a fruit salad for tomorrow’s visit.

Part of the reason for cleaning up the garage/shop was that when I went to pull out the tub with all of our wallpapering tools I could not find it even though we both remembered recently seeing the tools somewhere.  The more we looked the more it seemed that “recently” was either a long time ago or a product of our collective imaginations.  We still have a lot of stuff in boxes from our move 2-1/2 years ago and we have boxes stored behind boxes in the garage making it difficult to get to many of them.

We worked steadily except for a lunch break and a couple of quick chats with Phil.  Lunch was a half sandwich of hummus and onions on rye with leftover potato salad and collard greens Cole slaw.

Phil was working by the culvert that goes under the road and had dug away the earth in front of it.  I got down and looked in; it was completely clogged.  Phil said he knew a company in Walled Lake that could open it and clean it out using a hydro-jet system and agreed to give them a call on Monday.  He was setting up his laser level to shoot the grade and mark the route for the French drain when I went back inside.We did not get the garage completely cleaned and organized but by mid-afternoon it was a lot better than when we started.  I eventually spotted the dark gray tray that we have used in the distant past for wetting pre-pasted wallpaper.  It was on top of some upper cabinets, not down on a shelf where we had been looking.  Inside were all of our wallpapering tools except for a long edge that we used for guiding the razor knife when trimming corners.  The smoothing tool was falling apart and completely useless so we threw it away.  We will need to pick up a few new tools when we buy the wallpaper paste.

Linda made some hot tea and settled in to work on her counted cross-stitch project while I worked on my iPad.  I eventually went back to the garage to see if I could find my small gasoline powered chain saw.  Fortunately, it was where I remembered last seeing it.  We have a dead tree that needs to be cut down before it also falls across the road and several trees that are already down and need to be cut into small enough pieces so that Phil can use his front loader to move them to his dump truck.

As long as Phil is hauling wood debris off of the site we might as well take advantage of his willingness to take whatever will fit in his truck.  The alternative is for us to haul it to the fire pit with our (currently non-functioning) lawn tractor and burn it.  Unfortunately I could not find the small red plastic gasoline container that I use for gasoline mixed 40:1 with 2-cycle oil for use in small, air-cooled 2-stroke engines such as the chain saw.  I also could not find our Ryobi multipurpose trimmer/saw and figured I had lent all of this to one of our children, probably our son.

Our 13″ McCullough chain saw has not seen regular use over the years but has always been willing to run when needed and proven to be very handy.  It’s a nice size for cutting down small trees and de-limbing larger ones.  In order to use it I needed a small gasoline container.  I would normally go to Lowe’s in Howell but much of the drive is on dirt roads.  It had been drizzling all day and the dirt roads were sloppy so I went to The Home Depot in Brighton.  The entire route is paved except the first/last mile from/to our house.

THD had quarts of pre-mixed gasoline and oil in 40:1 and 50:1 ratios.  Although expensive compared to the cost of gasoline at a filling station, I did not have to buy a new container, a bottle of oil, stop at the filling station on the way home, deal with mixing everything in the correct ratio, add Stabil fuel stabilizer to the container, and then remember what was in the container or label it.  Sometimes the price of convenience is a price worth paying.

When I got home I added the fuel to the tank of the chain saw and set all of the controls according to the starting directions.  I figured it would take a few pulls of the handle, perhaps quite a few, to get it to start but I did not expect the engine to be locked up.  On a couple of tries I got the crank to turn slightly but mostly it would not budge.  I have no idea what is wrong with it but I suspect that something is rusted or bent.  Whatever the case I have no intention of taking the time to try to disassemble it to find out.

Dinner was salad and leftover pizza with a small glass of wine.  I went to Lowe’s after dinner and bought a new chain saw.  Lowe’s sells at least five different brands of chain saws but they feature Husqvarna.  I bought a Poulan Pro 18″ model figuring the longer chain bar would be useful for cutting down and/or cutting up slightly larger trees.  I got it for 1/2 to 2/3 of the comparable Husqvarna models.

Poulan is Husqvarna’s less expensive product line and it seemed good enough for the occasional use it will get.  We have too many trees on our property to be without a functioning chain saw, however, and Phil will be done cleaning and hauling timber at the end of his next day here.  I will probably take the little McCullough somewhere to see if it can be repaired but that may not be until next spring.  Even if I took it someplace on Monday I would not have it back in time, assuming it can even be repaired.

Back home I turned on the natural gas fireplace and we relaxed in the living room reading, writing, and playing games on our iPads.  With the new iOS 9 Apple changed the Game Center so the login screen pops up every time you open any game.  It is REALLY annoying and apparently we are not alone in that view.  Linda was checking online to see if there was a way to disable it and saw a lot of chatter on the subject, none of it positive (but no way to disable the “feature”).  She did find something that said it should stop popping up for any game where you have clicked “Cancel” three times in a row but she has canceled the login more times than that yet is still getting the screen.  Interestingly, the login screen has stopped popping up on my iPad.  The only difference between them is that I used mine the other day while waiting at Discount Tire without any connection to the Internet.  Maybe that confused it.

We turned in just before 10 PM hoping to watch a little television but did not find much on that interested us even on PBS.  We searched through the channels and happened on a program titled “If You Build It” (on one of the three PBS affiliates we can pick up) about project-based learning.  It was interesting.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New landing platform structure with sound/thermal insulation.

New landing platform structure with sound/thermal insulation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/28 (M) Connected

I was up at 8 AM, got dressed to work, gathered up the laundry, and started a load in the washer.  I was getting ready to grind the beans for our morning coffee when Linda got up.  She did not look at all well, having come down with what appeared to be a bad cold late last night.  But she’s a trooper and washed our breakfast berries, as she does most mornings, and got our granola ready.

Bus work notwithstanding my first task this morning was to figure out what had gone wrong with the thermostat in the main floor hallway of the house.  This is our “main” thermostat; it controls the heat to the living room, entry foyer, hallway, and kitchen/dining room.  It also controls the air-conditioning for the entire main floor of the house.  There is no air supply or return from the basement and the library has its own HVAC system.

I used my VOM to check the voltage at the secondary of the transformer on the furnace, at the input to each of the five motorized valves, and the voltage coming out and going to the five thermostats (four for space heating zones and one for domestic hot water).  Everything looked OK.  I pulled the main thermostat off of the base to check the wiring there.  I also got out the installation manual to make sure I knew what I was checking.

The wiring of the base plate matched the diagram for a 1H/1C-2T system, i.e., one heating system, one cooling system, and TWO transformers.  The manual was also very clear that the common wire had to come from the cooling system transformer.  The voltage from Rc to C was just under 15 volts when I expected it to be ~26V.  All of this pointed towards the air-handler.  I shut off the circuit breaker for the air-handler and reset it but that did not fix anything.  The evidence was confirming my suspicion that something happened while Rebecca was in the attic on Friday.  That meant I was going to have to go in the attic to figure out what it was.

Getting into the attic meant I had to empty the hall coat closet of all of its hanging contents and most of the stuff sitting on the floor and remove the wooden hanging rod, which fortunately lifts up and out easily.  I then had to lean a 6-foot step ladder against the back wall, climb up, and unscrew the 1/2″ piece of foam insulation that we use as a temporary cover until I can fabricate something more permanent (hopefully something that involves a self-storing ladder and hinged, spring-loaded door).

With the cover removed I was able to get my waist to about ceiling height, set my flashlight where I could reach it, and hoist myself up into the attic.  I do not have any permanent/switched lighting in the attic, but I plan to install some at some point.  What I should do is install a hatch in the hallway so I do not have to empty the closet to get into the attic, but that probably won’t happen.  I did this in our previous house and it made working in the attic much more convenient.  Flashlight in hand I crawled the 15+ feet over to the air-handler on plywood set across the roof trusses on a slope.  I was reminded than another attic project will be to rig up a walkway (crawlway) that is level and does not compress the insulation.  The insulation in this attic is a mess and needs to be straightened out, so that is another project for our “to do” list.  But I digress.

When I got to the air-handler I saw a surface mounted switch box on top of the unit partially obscured by one of the flexible ducts.  The switch was in the “Off” position so I flipped it to the “On” position.  I did not see a transformer so I presumed it was inside the enclosure.  I also presumed that Rebecca had either accidental moved the switch while checking/measuring the unit or had turned it off as a safety precaution and forgot to turn it back on.  It did not really matter as the result was the same either way.

I worked my way back to the hatch in the closet ceiling, lowered myself down onto the top of the step ladder, and climbed down.  The thermostat, which is on the wall across from the closet, now had information showing on the display.  The upside to all if this was that I now knew something about our HVAC system and Wi-Fi thermostat that I did not previously know, so at least I learned something in the process.

This thermostat is 7-day programmable model so I set the day and time and then went through the programmed values but could only access the settings for the cooling mode.  I activated the setup menu and walked through all of the settings, changing only one that had nothing to do with the programming.  I finally got out the user manual and saw that I had to select a mode in order to program its schedule.  I manually set temperatures for heating and cooling that would not cause those systems to come on and then programmed the times and temperature set points, four per day for each mode, for all seven days.

Keith showed up late morning while I was working.  We agreed to let the grass go for another week.  It has been dry and a little warm during the day for the last week and the grass has not grown much.  There is, however, a real possibility of rain latter today and into tomorrow.  Also, Phil is supposed to start tomorrow on the French drain and driveway work and with a little luck in the weather department may be done by next Monday.

With the thermostat issue resolved I turned my attention to the bus.  I thought about priming the walls but decided against it.  I would need to move the desk pedestals and bases, unscrew the sofa seat platform and move it on top of the pedestals, and then mask everything with painter’s plastic.  All of that was work that was much more easily and quickly accomplished with two people and Linda was sound asleep taking a nap that she obviously needed.

The other reason for not getting into the priming was that I have to take the bus to Chuck’s shop in Novi tomorrow morning to have the two lower windshields replaced.  That meant the bus had to be ready to move before the end of today and there were two things I had to do in that regard.  One was to reattach the desk pedestals to their bases and to the wall.  The other was to connect the loose ends of the two Aqua-Hot heater hoses together.  It had only just occurred to me that once I start the main engine the Aqua-Hot will heat up and the coolant will expand.  If these hoses are not connected the supply line will have coolant coming out of it and the return line will suck air into the system, neither of which would be good things.

I took care of the desk first.  I reattached each pedestal to its corresponding base using the existing screw holes.  I set the two assemblies in place with the connecting cover and then reattached each pedestal to the wall using the existing screw hole.  I thought about trimming down the temporary plywood top and reinstalling it but decided there was no point in doing that.  I cleaned up the rest of the interior making sure there were no loose items on counters or elsewhere that could fly around while the coach was moving.

The two bleeder valves were still clamped inside an old piece of heater hose that originally connected the two front heat-exchangers together with short stubs of hose on the other ends.  Working in the garage on our temporary workbench I unclamped and removed the hoses.  One of the valves was very badly corroded on one end and was not reusable.  The other one needed to be cleaned up but appeared to otherwise be serviceable.  Some of the inside of the hose was stuck to the metal of one of the pipe ends and was surprisingly difficult to remove.

I washed my hands, which were filthy, checked my e-mail, sent a message to Bill Gerrie, replied to an e-mail from Butch, took the dried laundry upstairs, folded it, and put it away.  Linda woke up while I was finishing the laundry and heated up some Amy’s mock chicken noodle soup for our lunch, which we had with sourdough pretzel nibblers and roasted red pepper hummus.  It was 2:30 PM by the time we finished lunch.  I called Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct to see if he had followed up with Ferman Miller at Countertops Plus regarding our Corian tabletop.  I got his voice mail and left a message.  It felt like the day was slipping away and I had not done much but I had, in fact, accomplished quite a bit and all of it was stuff that needed doing.

I worked on this post for an hour and then completed the task of connecting the two heater hoses together.  I cut the ends of the old hoses off so I had clean material and square ends.  I slipped two band clamps over each hose and pushed them over the pipe ends of the bleeder valve.  They were very difficult to get on but I got them on far enough to put two clamps on each connection.  I did not turn the Aqua-Hot on as I would rather not refill these hoses with antifreeze at this time but I did start the main engine to air up the chassis and then let it run for 30 minutes to get it up to temperature.  It did not have any noticeable effect on the coolant in the Aqua-Hot in that short amount of time.

While the engine was running I closed the roof vents and made one last check that the interior was secure.  Once I shut the engine off I closed the various air valves, disconnected the batteries, locked up the coach, and was done working on/with the bus for the day.  I changed out of my work clothes and went to my office to edit blog posts from early August and get them ready to upload.

Linda called me up to dinner at 7 PM.  We had vegan cheeseburgers with leftover vegan potato salad and collard greens Cole slaw (inherently vegan).  It was yummy.  I went back to my office to edit more posts but got involved in e-mails from/to Bill Gerrie and Gary Hatt.  Gary sent me the BCM logo he is using for business cards and I spent over an hour trying to use Microsoft Publisher, and then Word, to layout a BCM business card that says “Freelance Author/Photographer.”  I did not care for the result and really want a card with the cover of the February 2013 issue as a full card photo.  The cover of that issue is our bus.

I came upstairs a little after 10 PM and watched the end of NCIS Los Angeles with Linda.  She did some online research and concluded that she did not have a cold but is suffering from an allergic reaction to something.  She went straight to sleep while I played a few games on my iPad before turning out the lights.

 

2015/09/25 (F) Miss Dig

I turned the lights out at 11 PM last night and slept until 8:15 AM this morning.  I was preparing coffee when Linda told me there were wild turkeys in the back yard.  They were gathered at the deer feed block and more showed up while we were watching.  There were 15 in all, and they were big.  We had our usual granola for breakfast with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.  We finished our morning routine and coffee at 10 AM and got back to work on the bus.

Linda continued working on removing the old wallpaper while I worked on the entry and cockpit.  She used a drywall sanding sponge to try and remove the last little bit of material from the walls she stripped yesterday and it worked rather well but not 100%.  I was able to remove the step well cover assembly yesterday and today I removed the last step before reaching the main floor.  It did not come out easily; the three screws securing it to two adjacent walls were badly rusted and the Philips heads would not hold the screwdriver bit.  I ended up prying them loose, and inelegant (brute force) but effective solution.  I am going to rebuild this step with a slightly deeper run and an open front so we can store shoes under it.  First, however, I have to tile the floor.

I spent some time examining the old tile in the driver’s part of the cockpit.  It clearly goes under the accelerator pedal but around the brake pedal.  That’s reasonable as the accelerator is electrical, with only a cable that goes through a small hole in the floor, while the brake is pneumatic and the major part of it is in the bay below the floor with all of the air lines connected to it.  I came to the conclusion that the tile was also installed under the seat base, which means Creative Mobile Interiors removed the base to install the tile.  I did not come to a final decision regarding removing the tile versus tiling over it, but I am leaning towards removing it.

I was also able to determine that the retaining nut on the swivel bases for the pilot and copilot seats was 15/16″ and accessible from the rear with the seats moved forward.  That means I can remove the seat, 6-way power base, and swivel plate as one assembly by removing one nut.  I will then have excellent access to the pedestal mounting bolts and the driver’s area once everything else is out of the way.

Rebecca from Shutz HVAC called at 10:30 AM and arrived about 15 minutes later.  Shutz is the HVAC installation contractor for the Lowe’s in Howell and she was here to look at our main air-conditioning system and give us a quote on a new Trane system as that is what Lowe’s sells.  Lowe’s had a Pro Show on Wednesday and Rebecca was staffing the Shutz table so we stopped to chat.  She let us know that everything at Lowe’s was on sale through tomorrow at closing for 10% off with our Lowe’s credit card, including installation labor.  The card is automatically good for 5% off on any product purchase so the extra 5% is not enough of an incentive to cause us to make the purchase, but we were curious what a new system might cost.  I will get a quote from Darryl at DCM, however, before making any decisions.  Also, our friend Mike (W8XH) recently had an A-C system installed and was very happy with the company, product, and installation so I will find out who he used and get a quote from them too.

Rebecca was very nice and very knowledgable.  After looking at the condenser/compressor outside I got a step ladder and she went up in the attic to look at the old air-handler/evaporator.  The system is a Coleman and we have no idea how old it is; we just know that it did not do a good job of cooling the house this summer.  The quote was for a “3 ton” system for $7,800.  With 10% off it came to $7,020 but that price was based on flushing, testing, and reusing the existing refrigerant lines, which did not sound like a good idea to me.

Charles from USIC (Miss Dig) showed up around 11:30 AM to mark the utilities.  Phil plans to start digging and grading next week, hopefully Tuesday.  Charles came to the front door and I excused myself from the air-conditioning conversation to walk the property with him.  I explained what we were having done and showed him where the work would take place.  He marked the main gas line along the entire length of our property, a portion of the branch line going to our meter, the tie in for the branch line to the house across the street, and the T at the northwest corner of our property where the main line splits to service the court.  He also marked the phone line, which runs underground from a pole west of our house to the southwest corner of our garage.  The main electrical service runs underground with the phone line but someone else has to come out and mark that.  I chatted with Charles briefly before he left and then called Phil and left him a message.

Last summer Darryl from DCM Heating and Cooling installed a new natural gas furnace with an air conditioner for our library, a natural gas heater in our garage, ran all of the black iron pipe, including 160 feet of 2″ line, hooked us up to the gas meter, and got everything working for just under $11,000.  The Trane system would be bigger than the one for the library, and the air-handler in the attic is a more difficult installation, but $7,800 for just the air-conditioner without new refrigerant lines seemed a bit high.  After Rebecca left I called and left a message for Darryl.

Linda was ready to strip the wallpaper behind the built-in sofa so we moved the two desk pedestals onto a blanket on the kitchen floor in the bus and unscrewed the seat and set it on top of the desk pedestals.  When I finally got back to work on the bus I removed the cover for the front OTR HVAC system and set it aside.  I was trying to get access to the underside of the wood trim that includes a grab handle that needs to be tightened but had a look around first.

I noticed a damper controlled by a flexible cable and figured it was what determined if the air was fresh or recirculated.  I turned the knob on the dashboard and saw the cable move but not the damper.  The damper was stuck so I loosened it by hand but the knob still did not cause it to move.  I then noticed that the sheath of the flexible cable had come loose from its retaining clip.  It was a tight spot in which to work but I was able to loosen the two screws holding the clip using a right angle screwdriver.  I slipped the sheath under the clip, tightened the screws enough to hold it, and turned the knob.  It worked!  On a day when I did not feel like I was accomplishing very much this was a tangible and unexpected success.

I removed the only four visible screws from the wood trim but it would not budge.  I had tried removing it once before without success but was determined to get it loose this time.  The only reasonable explanation was that CMI had glued it on after tightening the grab handle as part of the initial work we had them do right after we bought the coach.  I carefully worked a pry bar under the passenger side end and gradually applied force to it.  It was, indeed, “glued” on but it appeared that I would be able to pry it loose without breaking anything if I took my time.

When I did finally get it off I could see that they had used clear silicon (adhesive) caulk to attach it to a dark gray plastic piece.  Royale Coach had originally attached it to this plastic piece using four screws.  The plastic piece turned out to be the lower windshield defroster duct and I am considering how we might finish this without replacing the wood trim.  Wallpaper is currently at the top of my list but I doubt that it would be a good solution.  Of further interest to us was the wood itself.  We presumed it was maple based on the color but were puzzled why they would have used a different wood in the entryway.  Once we saw the back side, however, it was obviously walnut that lightened where it was exposed to light to the point of looking like maple.  There is other wood in the entry and copilot area that is equally light and we now realized that we had a refinishing task and not just a cleaning task, ahead of us at some point.

My next task was to scrape as much of the caulk off as I could.  I got a lot of it off, but not all.  Silicon caulk is difficult to remove.  I eventually found a single edge razor blade holder and blade and used that to get the last bit off.  I then worked on removing layers of masking tape from the edges of the base where the former step well slide was installed.

I have some carpentry to do to rebuild the steps and prep them for the tile installation and needed some materials and supplies so I went to Lowe’s and got:

  • Adhesive remover;
  • A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/16″ SurePly underlayment;
  • Two 3/4″ x 2.5″ – 6′ poplar boards;
  • A 15/16″ open or closed end ratcheting wrench;
  • A bottle of Piranha Wallpaper remover;
  • A Piranha wallpaper remover sponge;
  • A pack of 2,000 18 gauge 3/4″ long x 1/4″ crown staples;
  • A pack of 25 sheets of 120 grit and a pack of 25 sheets of 220 grit 1/4 sheet sandpaper.

I got 10% off the total bill! which was nice.  I did not get a palm sander as they were out of the Porter Cable model I wanted.  The Lowe’s in New Hudson showed two in their inventory so we will stop there tomorrow after breakfast and get one.  I also needed a half sheet of 3/4″ plywood to make a new platform to replace the step well slide but did not feel like dealing with that.

For dinner Linda heated some butternut squash ravioli she bought at Whole Foods.  She served it with sliced vegan Italian sausage cooked with mushrooms, onions, and garlic, a side dish of steamed fresh green beans, and a glass of Moscato.

After dinner I uploaded my blog posts for July 23 through 31 plus a gallery post of 11 photos I got from Jarel Beatty of the custom walnut desk in the process of being built in his shop.  I got a call back from Darryl and we discussed the new air-conditioning system.  He said he would get me a price but advised us not to let anyone reuse the old refrigerant lines.  If they are not 100% clean the old refrigerant will contaminate the new system.  If Shutz installs the Trane system it comes with a 10 year parts and labor warranty, but it would still be a hassle to deal with getting a contaminated unit repaired or replaced.

After chatting with Darryl for a while we agreed that there wasn’t any urgency to this.  For one, we need to have Darryl check the current system for leaks, and assuming it does not have one, for proper refrigerant charge, cooling capacity, and airflow.  Darryl is busy doing heating systems at the moment, but is willing to do the maintenance work.  Also, the cooling season is done for this year and we will be traveling during the hottest part of next summer.  A final factor is that this has been another expensive summer for us with the new roof on the house, the interior remodeling of our motorcoach, and the work Phil is about to do, so we would prefer to defer this expense.

 

2015/08/21 (F) Have Fridge Will Travel

I was up at 7:40 AM and made a pot of Costa Rican half-caff coffee.  Linda was up just before 8 AM and washed off some fresh blueberries to put on our breakfast granola.  The Costa Rican is definitely not our favorite coffee and I brewed it with a little too much water which did not improve matters.  But we bought a pound of beans and are not going to throw them out so the sooner we use them up the sooner we can get something that we like.

Harvey Carter (AC8NO), the current President of our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club, agreed to help us move the old bus refrigerator from Chuck’s shop in Novi to our house this morning using his cargo van.  He pulled into the parking lot of the shop right behind us at 10 AM.  Chuck and Barb had already left for Oscoda in their bus with their race car trailer in tow.

After opening the shop we had Harvey back his van up to the overhead door.  We brought several lengths of 2x4s planning to use them under the back of the refrigerator but Harvey had two ramps made from 2x12s with a cross piece that spanned the rear bumper.  That looked like a much better alternative to us.  He also had a good hand truck and a ratchet strap.

We decided to truck the unit from the left side because the refrigerant and water lines protrude beyond the back of the case.  We removed all of the trays from the doors and cabinet but left the shelves in place.  We slid the hand truck under the left side of the cabinet and secured it with the ratchet strap.  With Harvey on the hand truck we tilted it back and rolled it out to the ramps.  We adjusted the ramps so the hand truck wheels would be centered on them.  Harvey then pulled the hand truck up the ramp backwards as Linda and I pushed from the bottom, eventually lowering it all the way down as we slid it fully into the van.  I then closed up the shop.

I rode with Harvey in the van and Linda followed us in the car for the trip back to our house where I had Harvey back his van up to the small garage door.  Reversing our procedure from earlier we unloaded the fridge by rolling the hand truck down the pair of ramps and put it just inside the small garage bay near the door.  We plugged it in and it started running so at least we did not break it.

We wanted to put the drawers and door bins back in but could not get the fresh food compartment door open more than a few inches.  I was able to open it just enough to see inside and determine that at least two shelves had come loose and wedged into positions that prevented the door from opening.  The solution was to remove the door.  I undid the three screws that attach the top hinge to the cabinet and removed it, allowing Harvey to lift the door off of the bottom hinge.  I reattached the two shelves to the mounting rails at the rear of the cabinet.  Harvey then set the bottom door hinge pin back in the lower bracket and held the door while I reinstalled the top hinge.  We will plug it in later next week and let it cool off as it has to be running and cold when DTE Energy comes on Friday to pick it up.

While Linda unloaded the drawers and bins from the car and put them back in the refrigerator I gave Harvey the ham radio tour.  We looked at the antennas on the tower, the cable entry box, and the ham shack with the multiple monitor wall mounted track system we installed.  I then gave him a tour of the bus interior.  Linda was getting ready to go for a walk but I suggested we take Harvey to lunch and agreed to go.  He lives in Green Oak Township southeast of Brighton so we went to the Panera on Grand River Avenue at I-96 as it was in the direction of his house and we all like their food.

After lunch we drove to the frame shop in Howell and picked up the last of four paintings we had framed.  We were pleased with our choice of framing material and the owner, Rick, did a nice job assembling it.  We headed back to Lowe’s and looked at thin paneling materials.  Linda got a shield for the bird feeder that is supposed to keep the squirrels from getting to the seed block and I got a recessed outlet that I am considering using for the refrigerator in the bus.  We stopped at the Walmart adjacent to the Lowe’s but did not find the peanut butter filled pretzels we were looking far.  I needed a battery disconnect for the lawn tractor battery but we did not feel like doing anymore shopping today and returned home.

It was late enough in the afternoon that I did not feel like getting the air compressor out and working on the floor of the bus so I went to my office while Linda went for a walk.  I was going to upload a few blog posts but decided to work on an article for Bus Conversion Magazine instead.

I took photographs of two buses at a pair of converted bus gatherings in Quartzite back in January of this year.  Larry and Carol Hall had a very nice GM4106 at the FMCA Western G.M. Coach rally while Byron and Betty Pigg had a gorgeous Model 15 Eagle at the Eagle International converted bus rally.  Larry and Byron are the presidents of their respective groups and the rallies took place at the same time in adjacent sections of the Quartzsite Marketplace dry camp area.  This campground is near the epicenter of RV vendor activities and only a mile from where we were camped.  Gary Hatt, the owner/publisher of BCM, brought his newly acquired Eagle conversion and had his mobile mechanic drive his MC-9 Moose Creek Motor Cabin, which was for sale.  He invited me over so we could finally meet in person, I could meet a few folks, and photograph the buses.  He knew, in particular, that Larry and Byron were interested in having their buses featured in the magazine and figured I could help make that happen.

I had started articles on both buses right after I photographed them and worked on them a bit back in February but I did not get them finished before we had to leave Quartzsite in early March.  Once we pulled up stakes we were on the move and very busy and I did not get back to them before we got home.  Of course, we got even busier once we got home so new articles for BCM were on the back burner with the gas turned off.  But magazines have lead times with deadlines for each issue, and Gary very much wanted to feature both of these buses before 2016 arrived, so I dusted them off and decided to work on the article about the Hall’s GM4106.

Larry had sent me a brief narrative some months ago and I had started filling in the detailed specifications about the bus and conversion.  I had already selected possible photos for the cover and centerfold as well as the article and post processed some, but not all, of them.  I massaged Larry’s narrative, added an introduction of my own, extracted some additional specifications, and then focused my efforts on completing the post-processing of the photos.

I took a break for dinner and afterwards completed the photo processing.  I then started inserting the thumbnail versions of the images into the Word document and writing captions.  There isn’t really any magic to writing an article; it’s just a specific kind of work.  You string words together into sentences, organized by paragraphs, that tell a short story about something interesting and you illustrate it with captioned photos that are hopefully relevant and technically adequate.  It takes time and energy to do this well, however, and I ran out of both around 10 PM.