Category Archives: Ham Radio

Posts that have something to do with our amateur (ham) radio hobby including the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club, our local ham radio group.

BP20160315-17-t-r-v1-clermont-orlando-brakes-linner

2016/03/16 (T) Clermont & Orlando

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/16 (W) Braking News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL.

2016/03/17 (R) Linner at Papa Joe’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

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

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/01/01 (F) – 2016/01/05 (T)

2016/01/01 (F) A Short Move

We got to back to our coach around 1 AM last night but I did not go to sleep until almost 2 AM so we slept in a bit longer than usual this morning.  The rally ended at midnight so there was no breakfast or organized activities this morning.  I wandered around the rally venue taking pictures of buses as they pulled out or were now easier to photograph because adjacent buses had moved out of the way.  The departure of rigs from a rally is always interesting.  It is an asynchronous, unmanaged event that is none-the-less generally very orderly.  There is never a rush for the exit as RVs leave one-by-one except for occasional groups that are traveling together.

 Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

My wandering eventually took me to the north end of the venue where Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion was parked.  As I had expected the local NAPA store was not open today so David was unable to get the new oil pressure gauge he needed.  He did not plan on sticking around until tomorrow to get the part and was basically ready to leave as soon as I photographed his coach.  After a brief discussion we agreed that he would pull it out onto the main exit road facing south so I could photograph it in good light and without a lot of clutter around it.  I went back to my coach to get my wide angle lens and additional batteries while he moved the bus.  After shooting the exterior, bays, and interior we exchanged contact information and Dave was on his way back to his home RV park in Zephyrhills, Florida.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After I was done with Dave’s bus I captured a few exterior images of Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle that I was not able to get yesterday.  I sat and chatted with them for a bit and gave them my contact information.  Although they were not leaving until tomorrow they were getting ready to go explore the area and check out several options for where to camp next.  At this point I had taken all of the rally photos I was going to take and went back to our coach to help Linda prepare it for our departure.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After having a light lunch we finished prepping our coach to travel and pulled out at 1 PM for the short trip to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia.  Linda drove the car and followed me over.  Once we were in the resort she went ahead of me to find the office and get us registered.  While she was doing that two guys showed up in a golf cart.  They made a phone call and then had me follow them to the office.  From there they escorted me to site #K-2 and got me parked.  It was a somewhat narrow back-in site but they got me positioned just right.

Linda went back to the office to finish our registration and extended our stay until March 7th.  The Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise returns to the Port of Miami on March 5th and we have to pick up Michael and Mara and then get him back to the Tampa airport and get her back to the resort.  We will have the 6th to visit with Mara and then be on the move.

While Linda was taking care of our registration I leveled the bus and shut it down.  I got the shorepower connected but was surprised that the no load voltage on L1 was only 115 VAC and that L2 was even lower at 111 VAC.  It was warm and humid but running our air-conditioners with those voltages might be a problem as our Progressive Industries EMS might cut off the shorepower if it dropped any lower.

When Linda got back we deployed all of the awnings.  A frog dropped from the driver side forward awning onto the grass when we opened it.  It was unharmed and hopped off somewhere.  While we were setting up we met Ron and Vera, who have the site just south of ours, as they were out washing their trailer.

With the voltage at our site lower than I liked I decided not to run the air conditioners.  We opened all the windows and roof vents and turned on all three exhaust fans plus an inside fan.  We endured a rather warm/humid afternoon with just the natural ventilation, helped a little by a southwesterly breeze coming in the driver side windows.  Our coach is parked facing southwest, so we are getting the afternoon sun.

Lots of residents walked or rode their bikes past our site.  Most waved and/or said “hello” and a few stopped to chat.  Conrad and Bonnie visited for quite a while and shared a lot of information with us about the resort and especially its activities, which are apparently numerous.  Big Tree RV Resort is a Carefree Resorts property and promotes itself as an active adult community.  Early evidence suggested that this might, indeed, be the case.

By late afternoon I was tired and uncomfortable so I took a nap.  Once the sun dropped below the trees it cooled off enough that we took a leisurely stroll around the resort to get a sense of the layout and the people.  We almost always do this when we arrive at any new campground, even if we are only going to be there for one night.  Lots of folks were out walking or riding their bicycles.  More than a few had strong French accents and we noticed quite a few license plates from Quebec Province in Canada.

Back at our rig Linda made vegan pancakes for dinner and served them with fresh blueberries and real maple syrup.  We had pineapple later for dessert and a small glass of wine while we watched the first episode of the new season of Sherlock on PBS.  Linda went to bed as soon as the program was over.  Since I took a nap earlier I stayed up for a while, checked us into the resort on RVillage, and tried to fill in missing information for my blog posts from December 30th and 31st.  Eventually I was unable to keep my eyes open and went to sleep.

2016/02/02 (S) Big Tree Carefree RV Resort

It was very foggy last night by the time I went to bed but had dissipated somewhat by dawn.  We slept in and got up at 8:30 AM.  Linda got a shower while I made coffee and then I got my shower and trimmed my beard shorter than usual.  We had coffee, juice, and granola with blueberries for breakfast and split a banana.

After breakfast we drove to downtown Arcadia to visit the farmers market.  Although rain was not forecast for today it was misting when we left so we took our rain coats.  It was a good thing that we did as the mist got heavier as we got to downtown.  There were only a few vendors in the square and none of them were selling fresh produce so we did not buy anything.  There was a vendor with lots of pickled products that looked interesting so we may buy something from him at the next farmers market in two weeks.  We walked around the block and back to our car and then drove back to the resort on the east edge of town about two miles from downtown.

We lost a decorative lug nut cover off of the passenger side of the coach yesterday just after I turned onto eastbound FL-70.  Linda looked for it as we drove by but did not spot it.

Back at the coach Linda vacuumed the interior, wet mopped the floor, and then went for a walk.  I decided to get a short article written about the Arcadia Rally 2016 for Bus Conversion Magazine while it was still fresh in my mind and before we got busy exploring this part of Florida.  First, I transferred my photos from the last few days to my computer and organized them.  Next, I set up the folder and sub-folders for the article, opened my article template (Word), and wrote a page of text.  I then started selecting and processing photographs and, except for a few breaks, that is what I did for most of the day.

When Linda returned from her walk she made a grocery list and then took the car to Walmart.  The Walmart is directly opposite the entrance to the resort on the south side of FL-70, which is the main east-west highway through Arcadia.  FL-70 is a divided road at this point so to get to the Walmart we have turn right and go west on FL-70 and then make a U-turn, which is legal here, or make a left onto southbound US-31 and then go in the west entrance.  To get back to the resort we can exit the Walmart at a traffic light and turn left onto westbound FL-70 and then immediately turn right into the resort entrance.  If we are coming east from west of the resort entrance we must make a U-turn at the traffic light in front of the Walmart of a little farther to the east.  The traffic signal also serves a much larger residential development just east of the resort and there is a crosswalk, so we can walk to Walmart if we do not expect to have a lot to carry back.

When Linda got back and had the groceries put away we had chickpea salad on greens for lunch.  During the afternoon I took a break from working on my article to hook up the water softener.  Back inside I wanted to back up my most recent photos but my computer could not “see” the NAS.  I ended up shutting down everything and restarting it a particular order: WFR, A|W router, NAS, and lastly computer.  That reset the connections (IP addresses) and I was able to get back to work.

I had been sitting most of the day so we went for an evening stroll before dinner.  Back at the coach Linda made a zoodles “pasta” with mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli, turmeric, and flax seed.  After dinner we decided to do our laundry so we gathered up clothes and bedding, loaded the laundry into the car, and drove it to the resort laundromat, which is located in the same building as the office, library, and activities/meeting room.  We loaded four washers and then four dryers.  We took our iPads with us and doodled while we waited.  There was a good, free Wi-Fi signal at the building so we may take advantage of that while we are here.

After the laundry was done, folded, and hung up we watched America Reframed: A Will To The Woods on PBS/2.  It was a program about the “green burial” movement and one man’s determination to have a green burial if/when he succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He did and got his wish.  It was a well done documentary.

2016/01/03 (N) Another Article

A cold front drifted southeast through our location yesterday afternoon bringing with it cooler temperatures and an increased probability of rain.  We left the windows open just an inch but I closed all three roof vents before we went to bed.  We slept in this morning because we did not have any pressing reason to get up.  When we did arise I made coffee and Linda eventually fixed toast and grapefruit for our breakfast.

Linda needed something that she forgot to buy at Walmart yesterday so she walked there to get it.  When she got back she headed out to continue her walk in the resort but the rain finally came and she quickly returned to our coach.  Once it started it was persistent and heavy at times.  We eventually discovered that the skylight in the hallway was leaking which did not make either of us very happy.

I settled in early and spent the whole day working on projects related to the Arcadia Rally.  I processed all of the photos of Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion and inserted a few of them into a Word doc to serve as an example.  I uploaded the photos and the Word document to a folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed Dave the read-only link.  I selected and processed a few photos for rally organizers Bill and Brenda Phelan, uploaded those to another Dropbox folder, and e-mailed them the read-only link.  I then focused on my article about the rally for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM), finishing the draft of the print version around 9 PM.  I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed the publisher, editor, and layout technician.  I still need to upload cover and centerfold photos and then select, process, and upload photos for the bonus content section of the digital edition.

During the course of the day I took breaks for lunch and dinner.  Lunch was a really tasty cannelloni bean salad with capers, olives, lemon zest, raw garlic, and other tasty ingredients.  Dinner was a salad of power greens with couscous, cooked beets, blueberries, and orange segments.

I also e-mailed Pat Lintner and texted Chuck Spera to see if they had arrived at the Florida destinations.  Linda was playing online word games with her sister (Sr. Marilyn) and with Karen Limkemann, and thereby learned that Karen and Steve had arrived at their new place near Venice, Florida where they were busy assembling furniture they just purchased at IKEA.  She also exchanged text messages with both of our children regarding our mailing address while we are at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and a few items we needed them to forward on to us.  When we checked out the mail room yesterday we discovered that every site at the resort has a cubby and management had already placed a tag on ours with our last name on it.  That was a nice touch and made us feel just that much more welcome even though we will only be here for a little over two months.

After dinner we turned on the TV and tuned in Part 1 of Ken Burns’ film on Prohibition on PBS/World.  We switched to PBS/main and watched the first episode of the sixth and final season of Downton Abby.  At the conclusion of the episode we switched back to Prohibition.  There was still a chance for rain through tonight, and overnight low temperatures were forecast to drop to around 50 degrees F for the next few nights, so we left the roof vents closed and the windows barely open and went to bed.

2016/01/04 (M) Unblocked

The overnight low dropped into the upper 40’s last night and made for nice sleeping conditions.  As sometimes happens with me when I do not have a clock-regulated schedule to keep, my awake/sleep cycle slowly shifts as I stay up a little later each night and get up a little later each morning.  I did not go to sleep last night until after 1 AM and we both got up this morning between 8:30 and 9 to pleasantly cool temperatures in the coach and bright, sunny skies outside.

As we were getting dressed we discovered that an old leak in the bedroom was still leaking.  The wall just below the front corner of the passenger side window was wet.  Linda’s house slippers were stored on top of the OTR HVAC duct cover and also got wet.  That’s how we discovered that we still have a problem.  Like the other leaks around windows I am convinced that the problem is the way the awnings were originally installed by Royale Coach.  They were mounted to the hinged body panels that hold the windows and I think the gaskets for these panels were damaged in the process.  Whatever the reason it is very discouraging that we still have leaks in the coach.  The other possibility was that the water was getting in around the Fan-Tastic roof vent/fan and then running through the ceiling to the side wall and down.

I got our Verizon Mi-Fi/WiFi-Ranger combo online and then made coffee while Linda cooked oatmeal for our breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a while and I renewed my subscription to the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory.  It was only $9.99/year and they had a holiday renewal special extending it to 18 months.  I have this app on my Android-based Samsung Galaxy III Smartphone.

My focus for today was to work on the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter website and then unlock the public pages.  I received an e-mail from chapter president Bob Pelc recently that prompted me to take care of this and it took most of the day except for beaks to eat and go for a couple of walks, one after lunch and one after dinner.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with lower humidity, a light breeze, and a high of 69 degrees F.  While walking, we met Gary and Pat a few sites down from us.  They came in yesterday and have a house back in Michigan about three miles from ours.  It’s a small world.

We stopped in the office so I could see it and Pat greeted me by name.  Since we had never met that caught me by surprise.  She recognized/remembered Linda from when she registered us and made the assumption about who I was.  She and her husband, Jim, manage the park.  Jim was one of the two guys who led me to the site and got us parked.  Pat said she wanted to see our bus and we invited her to stop by anytime.  We have overheard a couple of comments and had a few conversations that suggest folks are curious about our bus and word of its presence has spread through the resort.

Lunch was hummus and dark leafy greens sandwiches with oranges and grapes.  Dinner was pan-seared tofu slices on a bed of dark leafy greens with Asian peanut sauce and apple slices.  Both meals were very tasty.

I got an unexpected call from Kathy Dewsbury-White, executive director of the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  We had not spoken it quite some time so it was a pleasant surprise.  After our evening walk we settled in to watch our usual Monday evening TV programs.  Having worked all day at my computer I was not in the humor to even doodle on my iPad.  We watched the 11 PM news long enough to known the world is falling apart, and switched to the local weather channel (same station) which forecast sunny days ahead.  There wasn’t anything on any of the PBS channels we wanted to see so we were in bed and asleep by 11:30 PM.

2016/01/05 (T) 1969 Model 07 Eagle

We were up at 7:30 AM this morning.  The temperature overnight fell into the upper 40’s and it was 64 degrees F in the coach so we put on our sweats.  I made coffee and turned on the Aqua-Hot long enough to raise the temperature to 69 degrees and take the chill off of the interior.  We had granola, blueberries, and a banana for breakfast, along with juice, and then doodled on our iPads while we finished our coffee.  I renewed my subscription the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory yesterday and reset my password this morning so I could use the website and Android app on my phone.  I searched for repeaters within 20 miles of our location.  There appeared to be two in Arcadia but many more west and south of us in Punta Gorda, Murdock, Venice, and Port Charlotte.  At 10 AM we took showers, got dressed, and then got to work.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that the PayPal receipt for the RFinder annual subscription had been processed as a monthly payment.  It’s only $9.99, but yikes! just the same.  I e-mailed the folks at RFinder (Suffolk Systems) and also filed a complaint with PayPal.  I knew the folks at RFinder would straighten it out but my complaint was really with PayPal.  Their e-mail had instructions for dealing with this that did not correspond to their website.  Not helpful.

The first order of business for me was dumping the holding tanks and filling the fresh water tank.  Once that was done my main focus today was roughing out a featured bus article for Bus Conversions Magazine on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  They had their bus at the Arcadia Rally last week and I was able to interview them and photograph it.  They were there two years ago but I was not able to do an article on their bus at that time.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

Linda took her exercise walk in the morning.  When she got back we had mock deli sandwiches for lunch and then went for a stroll around the resort.  After our stroll we drove to the Joshua Citrus Company location a couple of miles south of the RV resort.  We bought a few things for ourselves and picked up a brochure describing the assortments of fruit they package and ship.  We want to ship some fresh citrus fruit to our family members back in Michigan while we are here.

While we were at Joshua Citrus I got a call from Bob Greenberg, W2CYK, at RFinder regarding my e-mail and PayPal complaint.  He explained what I needed to do to correct the error.  When we got back to our rig I canceled the PayPal complaint and then cancelled the subscription (recurring payment).  RFinder will e-mail me in June 2017 to remind me that I need to renew.  I can set up an annual subscription at that time if I want to.

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror.  (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror. (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

For dinner Linda made black-eyed peas with celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.  She served it with open-faced Boca “burgers” (vegan) and corn.  We went for another stroll after dinner.  The high temperature today only reached the lower 70’s, and cooled off quickly after the sun set, so we each bundled up a bit (me more than her) to avoid getting chilled.  When we got back to our rig I was done with computer-based work for the day and settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs.  After catching a little bit of the local news and weather we both went to sleep.

 

2015/12/20 (N) Brooksville Hams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/22 (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.

 

2015/11/17 (T) Drivable Again

Linda set her iPad alarm for 5:45 AM.  I heard it go off and got up shortly thereafter even though I did not turn out my light last night until 12:30 AM.  She got up at 6 AM and was showered, dressed, and out the door by 6:20.

I tuned in Weather Nation on WILX TV out of Lansing while I folded the clean laundry.  Of all the stations we can pick up this is the only one with a dedicated weather sub-channel.  The current forecast was for two more days with high temperatures near 60 degrees F but high humidity and rain as moisture races north from the Gulf in advance of a cold front.  By the weekend we are looking at highs at or barely above freezing and lows in the low 20’s.  The 10-day forecast has us back in the 40’s by Tuesday so we should not have any weather difficulties for Thanksgiving and the following day when we head south.

We planned to re-install the two front seats in the bus late this afternoon and I plan to take it on a fueling run tomorrow so I can run the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system instead of running electric heaters.  I will also drain and refill the fresh water tank, but those are tomorrow’s tasks.  I had other things to do today, starting with the laundry.

I needed to wait until late morning to do the final cleaning of the tile in the cockpit and had several things to do that had to wait for the cleaning to be done first.  To make good use of my time I decided to measure, cut, drill, and paint the 1/2″x3/4″ aluminum angle that will serve as a retaining bracket for the refrigerator.  I will install it tomorrow after the front seats are re-installed and out of the way.

With that done I got the 3/4″ piece of walnut that Jarel cut and shaped for me to cover the front edges of the plywood under the refrigerator.  The piece sticks up a little above the top of the top layer of plywood so I wanted to install it in a way that will allow it to be easily removed.  That precluded the use of nails, even small ones.  I did not want the appearance of screw heads and wasn’t interested in drilling deep countersunk holes and using plugs.  (The woodwork in the bus was essentially assembled this way and most of the plugs have come out.  We will probably put them all back in once we are done reconditioning the wood even though I would rather not.)  That left Velcro as the only reasonable option, so I started a shopping list.

My next mini-project was to attach the 1/4″ walnut veneer plywood to the face of the pull-out pantry.  Jarel had ripped two pieces to the proper width for me but neither one was quite long enough to fully cover the front of the pull-out pantry.  Step 1 was figuring out where to have the two pieces meet and then determine how long each piece needed to be.  The next problem to solve was how to attach them.  I decided to use glue, clamp the walnut panels to the front of the pantry, and then secure them using screws from behind.  I looked for my large wood clamps but could not find them so I added face clamps to my shopping list.

The front structure of the pantry is 1/2″ thick ash and I planned to drill countersunk holes from the inside so the screw heads would be flush.  That meant I needed #6 5/8″ screws, which I did not have, as 3/4″ screws would probably puncture the veneer.  I added the screws to my shopping list.  I selected a small drill bit and drilled holes from the inside just below the top board and just below each shelf plus one just above the bottom shelf.  Because of the metal side plates these locations were easier to reach on the inside.  I then switched to my countersink bit and drilled the holes out from the inside.

Back in the garage I sprayed a second coat of black paint on the aluminum angles for the refrigerator retaining bracket, moved a load of laundry to the dryer and put another load in the washer, and then took my shopping list and went to Lowe’s.  Lowe’s had a very clever Automax self-adjusting face clamp with a 6″ reach.  It was a little pricier than the 3″ version which was a little pricier than the 3″ manual adjust version, but the size and auto adjustment feature swayed my decision.

On the drive back to house I had a nice QSO with Steve (N8AR) on the South Lyon 2m repeater.  When I got home I had some wasabi/soy almonds and sourdough pretzel nibblers with hummus for lunch.

Returning to the bus work I cleaned the tile in the cockpit using Armstrong Once ‘n Done and rinsed it with a clean sponge and warm water.  I then returned to working on attaching the walnut veneered plywood to the face of the pantry.  I decided which piece to use for the longer bottom section and which portion of the other piece to use for the top section.  In the shop I clamped each piece in turn to a 2×4, set the Boca saw guide, and trimmed them to length.

The 1/4" walnut veneered plywood clamped to the front of the pull-out pantry.

The 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood clamped to the front of the pull-out pantry.

Back in the bus I applied the bottom piece first.  It was slightly curled, lengthwise, so after applying Titebond II glue to the back I positioned it using the two Automax face clamps and then used C-clamps with scrap pieces of underlayment to hold it flat while protecting the veneer.  I then installed #6 5/8″ SR screws from the back to secure the face plywood.  I installed the upper panel using the same procedure.

We are using the same handle for the pantry that we have used throughout the bus.  Jarel made a 4-1/2″ by 8″ piece of 3/4″ walnut with coved edges to serve as a decorative base for the handle and to cover the joint between the upper and lower pieces of veneered plywood.  I marked the vertical centerline on the back and then marked two holes on 3″ centers, centered vertically.  I selected a 1/8″ drill bit, which was slightly larger in diameter than the #8-32 machine screws used to secure the handle, and drilled the holes from the back side using a block of 2×4 as a drill guide to make sure I went straight through the board.  (A drill press would obviously have been the correct way to drill these holes, and I have one, but it is buried behind other things where I cannot get to it.)

I clamped the decorative base to the front of the pantry centered horizontally and vertically on the joint between the two veneered panels.  Using the handle mounting holes I drilled all the way through the front of the pantry.  I bought special handle mounting screws the other night that are 2″ long but can be broken off at 1/4″ intervals.  I needed a 1-3/4″ length, so I inserted the screws through the holes from the back and broke off the first section with a pair of pliers.  I screwed them into the handle, temporarily securing the block.  I then drilled four countersunk holes from the inside of the pantry into the back of the decorative block and secured it with 1-1/4″ self-drilling screws.  I left all of the other clamps in place while the glue dried.

The only thing I did not get done on the pull-out pantry was attaching the door stop to the bottom of the face.  I will take care of that tomorrow.

Linda called at 3:30 PM to let me know she was on her way home.  I started working on remounting the accelerator pedal.  I got the pieces of old tile that were installed in that area and used them as templates to mark the location of the mounting holes.

Yesterday I discovered a grease fitting on the steering column.  It is located towards the center front of the bus about 8″ up from the floor.  Joe has never put grease in this fitting when he has serviced the chassis and for all I know it may not have been greased since it left the factory.  I wanted to get some grease into this fitting before I remounted the steering column shroud but I did not have a grease gun so I put that on my next shopping list.

Linda got home a little quicker than usual due to lighter than normal traffic.  After changing into her work clothes and grabbing some pretzels for a snack she came out to the bus to help.  I set the accelerator pedal upside down on top of the brake pedal to get it out of the way and drilled holes at the three points I had marked.  Linda handled the vacuum cleaner as we are trying to keep the coach clean.  I set the accelerator pedal where it belonged and started the three lag screws by hand.  Linda then held the pedal up while I tightened the three screws with a socket and ratchet.  I also drilled a small hole for a screw to secure the cable clamp on the accelerator wiring harness and installed that by hand as there was no room for the Rigid drill/driver.

I did not want to install the steering column shroud until I had greased the fitting but I went ahead and installed the base bracket.  Again using an old tile as a template I lightly marked two of the five holes.  I removed the old tile, set the bracket in place, and lined it up with the two marks.  I then marked the other three holes.  I selected a suitable drill bit, smaller than the diameter of the screws, and drilled through the tile and a little ways into the plywood below.  The screws were 5/8″ pan head Philips so I installed them by hand.

It was finally time to install the two front seats.  We got the base/pedestals from the library and checked to make sure the paint was dry.  It was, so we moved them to the bus.  I was going to install the driver’s seat first but the 3/4″ holes I had drilled in the tile when I installed it were not big enough.  Actually, they were exactly the right size if they had been in exactly the right place.  I needed to enlarge them to 1″ but did not have a 1″ drill bit.  I added that to my shopping list and we proceeded to install the passenger seat.

I set the base over the four captive mounting bolts and put a large/thick washer over each one followed by a substantial lock washer and finally a nut.  I ran the nuts down by hand as far as I could and then used a socket and ratchet to snug them down.

By now it was half past dark.  We needed dinner and stuff for the bus so we headed to Lowe’s where I bought a 1″ twist drill with a 1/2″ shank.  We then went to the new Panera, on the same property as Lowe’s and Walmart, for dinner.  This Panera had a different look and feel than the older ones, which a much smaller bakery section, but the food and coffee were the same and were good.  After dinner I drove across the street to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and bought a grease gun.

On the drive home I decided to defer greasing the steering column until tomorrow. Our priority was getting the driver’s seat installed.  I used the 1″ twist drill bit in our 1/2″ Craftsman drill to enlarge the four holes.  The base/pedestal has 1″ long alignment tubes on the underside so the holes in the tile and underlying plywood had to be big enough to allow for less than perfect positioning.  With the holes enlarged I dropped the base in place, set a large washer over each hole, and threaded the new bolts into holes in the structure of the bus.  That was the end of the bus work for today.  We retired to the basement recreation room and watched NCIS and NCISNOLA before going to bed.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/10 (T) A Rainy Day

I checked the TV weather station before I turned off the lights last night.  Rain covered most of Indiana and Ohio and was moving northeast.  We were going to get clipped by the western edge of the moisture but the heaviest rain was forecast to pass to our south and east.

Linda planned to go into the bakery today and had her alarm set for 5:45 AM.  It went off and I woke her up enough to shut it off and go back to sleep.  Around 6 AM we both received e-mails on our iPads and phones, a sure sign that we had lost power to the house.  I was awake at this point but stayed in bed until 6:45.  I was not falling back asleep, so I put on my robe and made coffee.  I finished up the Kenya AA, which is not decaffeinated, figuring we could both use the boost this morning.

While the coffee was brewing I cleaned the cats’ litter tray and checked my e-mail.  I had a reply from Bill Tharpe which decided for me that I would be going to Indiana on Friday.  I also had replies from the two Mitch’s who had contacted me as about articles I wrote in Bus Conversion Magazine and replied to both of those.  I edited the e-mail with the minutes of Sunday’s SLAARC meeting and forwarded it on to the club officers.  An e-mail from Gary at BCM indicated that they still needed a photo of Byron and Betty Pigg for the December featured bus article, so I replied and cc:d Byron.  Writing for BCM is sometimes a lot of work, but it’s a hobby for and I enjoy it so I do not mind.

It was wet outside and still raining lightly, a perfect day to sit by the fireplace in a robe and drink hot coffee.  Phil was hoping to return today with a load of screened topsoil and get it placed and graded along the edges of the driveway but said it would depend on the weather.  Once the topsoil is taken care of he will grade the driveway with his bulldozer and make sure the 40 foot long parking area is as flat and level as possible.

Linda finally got up at 8:30 and was starting to get dressed to go to the bakery when I suggested she stay home, rest, and get well.  She was immediately OK with that idea, put on her robe, and took her iPad to the living room to enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and some hot coffee.  I finished up my draft blog post for yesterday, e-mailed it to myself, and started this one.  I really cannot afford to lose a whole day of work on the bus but this is the kind of day where we like to just sit and do quiet things, or even nothing at all.  We finally finished our coffee, got dressed, and had a light breakfast at 10 AM.

Taking care of Madeline for three days and nights took a lot of Linda’s mental and physical energy and her cold took what was left.  She headed back to bed and I got my thoughts organized relative to working in the bus.  I talked to Jarel yesterday and found out that it would cost $50 to have a sheet of 1/4″ Baltic Birch plywood delivered to his shop because he did not have a regular delivery scheduled and the $50 cost of the 60″x 60″ sheet would not meet the minimum cost for free delivery.  I did not need the piece of plywood badly enough to pay a 100% surcharge to get it so that idea was off the table until next year.

My goal for today was to get a piece of SurePly underlayment cut and installed on the passenger seat platform.  Before I even started on the piece I had to resolve what to do about the four carriage bolts that are used to mount the base.  One of the four bolts has some messed up threads but I have a tap and die set and might be able to clean them up.  However, I am adding the thickness of the underlayment and floor tile plus a washer to what was there before so I wanted to use a longer bolt.  I already knew that Lowe’s and O’Reilly’s did not have what I needed and I presumed that The Home Depot did not either.

I finally went to Howell Hardware and had a good QSO with Steve (N8AR) on the drive there.  As I had been told they had a very good selection of hardware, by the piece, but they did not have fine thread carriage bolts in the 1/2″ size I needed.  I bought four of the 2″ long coarse thread bolts, four flat washers, four lock washers, and four nuts.  I also picked up a large washer to match the other three I already had for securing the central mounting stud along with two nylon washers.  That trip took over an hour out of my day before I even got started on my main task.

It took me several hours and many trips back and forth between the bus and the shop (in the garage) to get the piece of underlayment to fit just right.  I made one small mistake but the piece was large enough and complicated enough that I did not want to take the time or material to remake it.  Before I could install it I needed to get the outside end of the floor patch secured.  Yesterday I tried to screw that end to the material underneath it but the screw would not penetrate.  I scratched my head for quite a while until it occurred to me that I could use a small angle bracket attached to the vertical wood wiring chase in the forward outside corner.  I had limited access to that area, and it took me multiple attempts before I finally got the screw in, but I did.  Securing the bracket to the floor patch was a lot easier.

After securing the end of the patch I realized that the area between the front mounting channel and vertical front of the platform was slightly concave.  It was not a big dip but it was big enough that it needed to be patched.  Floor patching compound was the last thing I wanted to deal with today but it turned out to be just that, because once I applied it it had to dry for hours.  It was heavily overcast all day and my mood was correspondingly suppressed so I felt like I was doing everything in slow motion.  Based on the fact that I did not even get the piece of underlayment installed perhaps I was.

I try to keep an eye on the “house” batteries in the bus.  When I checked them this afternoon the reported voltage was higher than normal so I turned off the charger function on the Magnum 4024 to let the batteries rest and see where the voltage really was.  The DC draws on the battery bank were minimal.

I am finishing this post a couple of days later and no longer recall what Linda fixed for dinner but whatever it was I’m sure it was good.  After dinner we relaxed in the living room for a while, watched our Tuesday evening TV programs on the larger TV set in the basement recreation room, and then went to bed.

 

2015/11/08 (N) SLAARC Elections

Madeline was in bed last night at 8 PM and fell asleep quickly.  We were in bed before 10 PM.  Linda fell asleep right away and I put my iPad away and turned off the light at 10:30 PM.  Good thing, too, as Madeline started coughing at 5:30 AM.  Linda got up at 6 AM and brought her into our bed.  I don’t know if she ever fell back asleep but we all stayed there quietly enjoying the warmth of the covers until 7:30 AM, by which time the house was warming up.  Hurrah for programmable thermostats!

Being Sunday morning, and having Madeline here, we were in no hurry to get up, get dressed, or get busy.  Not that we had nothing to do, we just were not in a hurry to do anything.  Linda prepared baked French toast last night, with a little help from Madeline, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.  She got up at 6:45 to pre-heat the oven and again at 7 to put the dish in to bake.

I got up at 7:30 and made coffee.  The downlight over the end of the counter where I make the coffee burned out last night so I replaced the bulb.  Linda set the table and took the French toast out of the oven at 8.  When she cut into it and served out pieces for each of us it was obvious that something was very wrong.  Instead of baked French toast we had inedible goo.  Linda has had very few recipe failures since we switched to a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet but this one took first place.  She mentioned that it was a different recipe than she has used in the past and that she used an egg replacer she has not used before which did not seem to dissolve correctly last night.

Linda was willing to make vegan pancakes but I did not see any reason for her to go to that trouble.  We still had plenty of granola, part of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, and fresh berries, all of which made for an easy but tasty breakfast.]

Madeline plays (at) the organ.  It is one of her favorite “toys” at our house.

Madeline plays (at) the organ. It is one of her favorite “toys” at our house.

After breakfast I cleared the table and then read a book to Madeline while Linda cleaned off the dishes.  I turned on the fireplace and we drank our coffee in the living room while Madeline found various things to play with, ultimately ending up at the organ.

By 9:30 AM we were feeling like getting dressed.  I put in my work clothes and finally got to work in the bus at 10 after turning up the thermostats in the library, garage, and bus.  The first thing I needed to do was screw down the last/top layer of SurePly underlayment in the landing and driver area.  I used #6 SR (square recessed) self-drilling wood screws in three different lengths based on what was underneath the underlayment.  I chose to use screws rather than staples for several reasons.  The main one was that I needed the ability of the screws to pull things together.  The other reason was that I did not want to get the air compressor and stapler out for this relatively small number of fasteners.  (The SurePly underlayment for the main floor of the bus was stapled with approximately 350 staples per full 4’x8’ sheet.)

I pulled up the larger piece of SurePly one last time, measured the location of the boundary between the original bus floor and the new patch, marked the boundary on the top of the large piece, and put it back in place.  I carefully aligned the smaller piece to the stair edge and along the front and made sure the larger piece also fit correctly.  The smaller piece sits entirely on the new landing, which is 3/4″ plywood, so I secured it with 1″ screws, spacing them 2-to-3 inches apart along every edge and about 4 inches apart in the field.

The 1/2″ piece of plywood just forward of the driver’s seat was partially unscrewed and needed to be screwed back down.  Since it was installed over the original 1″ thick plywood bus floor I replaced the existing screws with 1-1/4″ screws and added more, especially along the edges.

To secure the larger piece I used 1-1/2″ screws over the patch, which was already about 1-1/4″ thick.  Over the original 1″ thick plywood bus floor I used the 1-1/4″ screws and over the 3/4″ thick landing I used 1″ screws.  I ran out of the 1″ length before I got the larger piece secured.  As much as I did not want to spend time driving around today I could not finish this task without the proper screws so around 11:15 AM I headed off to Lowe’s.  As long as I had to make the trip I looked for washers to space up the mounting bolts for the passenger seat pedestal base and nylon washers to go under the nut on the main mounting stud for the two swivel bases.  I found something that might work for the former but not the latter.

Linda and Madeline were getting ready to leave as I returned home just before noon.  Madeline was upset because Linda made her wear a sweater under her coat and she did not want to.  She is generally a cheerful and pleasant little girl but we never know when or why she is going to draw a line in the sand.  She doesn’t always or even usually get her way but she is persistent.  The tears, of course, are not the result of genuine injury and are usually quickly enough wiped away by focusing her attention on something else.  They finally pulled out of the driveway at 12:15 PM for an outing at Kensington Metropark.

I finished securing the larger piece of SurePly over the landing and then started on the next task.  I had decided to patch in an area at the end of the passenger platform where it drops down into the back of the driver area.  The area to be patched was only 12-3/4″ long and less than 4″ wide but the underlying metal was rounded over in this area and there wasn’t much I could use to attach new wood.  The area was also deep and not level.  I ended up making a sandwich with two layers of SurePly, two wood shins on top of those, and a piece of 3/4″ plywood on top.  I got all of the pieces cut and fitted and then marked them with pencil lines down the exposed edges to act as alignment marks.

I carefully assembled the sandwich upside down in the shop and screwed it together from the bottom.  I then put it in place in the bus and measured for a vertical piece with an angled rear edge to catch the outside edge of the patch and hold it up.  I secured the patch with one 1-1/2″ screw near the front and secured the vertical piece with one screw into the same piece of wood.

Building and installing this patch took a while and I was just finishing it when Linda and Madeline got home around 3:30 PM from their trip to Kensington Metropark.  By this time it was too late to start working on the underlayment for the passenger seat platform as I needed to stop working at 4 PM and get cleaned up for our amateur radio club meeting this evening.  With the little time remaining I unscrewed the top of the step and removed the two screws that held it to the rear and side walls of the co-pilot/navigator platform.  I then removed a half dozen flat head wood screws that held a piece of metal trim to the front edge of the platform.

The screws were rusted but came out.  The issue for my work was that the heads were not countersunk and stuck above the metal in a way that would interfere with installing the sheet of underlayment.  I used a 7/16″ drill bit to create tapered holes and may go back tomorrow and use my countersink bit.  I looked, but did have any appropriate screws to replace the ones I took out.  That meant another trip to Lowe’s which I could do after dinner on my way to the ham radio club meeting.

I put the two swivel pedestal/bases back in the landing and locked the bus.  I made sure everything was in the garage that needed to be and closed the overhead door.  I showered and shaved and put on clean clothes.  I then sat on the living room sofa with Madeline while Linda fixed dinner.  I worked on this post while Ms. M played games on Linda’s iPad.  It’s amazing to watch a 3-year old manipulate an iPad.  Their use of the touch screen is intuitive, which is cool, and it holds their attention in a way that other activities do not, almost to the point of obsession or addiction, which can border on troubling.  In spite of how much Madeline likes to eat, Grandma Linda had to gently take the iPad away and get her to come to the table for dinner.

As part of her food planning for this weekend Linda had picked up some mock turkey patties with gravy.  She also picked up some vegan heat-n-serve mac-n-cheese.  Those were the main course this evening along with a nice green salad and the rest of the fresh pineapple.  Dessert was going to be cake but I had to leave before it was served.

I left at 5:30 PM and drove to Lowe’s in New Hudson.  I monitored a QSO between Mike (W8XH) and Steve (N8AR) until Steve reached the meeting location in South Lyon.  I then called for Mike and we chatted until I reached Lowe’s.  I bought a box of 1-1/4′ long # 12 flathead wood screws and picked up three 40 W appliance light bulbs for the microwave in the house as the installed ones had burned out.

I got to the Witch’s Hat Depot at 6:35 PM so I had a chance to visit with my fellow hams before the meeting started at 7 PM.  Steve (N8AR) had a display set up with several different DC power meters he ordered off of EBay.  The business meeting was longer than usual because we had to elect officers for 2016.  The process was very smooth, surprisingly so actually, but still took 10 minutes.  The meeting was done by 7:20 after which the club president, Harvey (AC8NO), did a presentation on his Icom IC-7200 portable base station transceiver.

I was back home by 8:40 PM.  Madeline had already gone to bed so Linda and I had some quiet adult time to enjoy a cup of hibiscus tea.  We were both tired after long days of work and play but we did a lot today and felt good about the things we accomplished.

 

2015/11/07 (S) Measure One, Cut Twice 

We were all up at 7 AM.  I got dressed and left at 7:25 AM for the SLAARC breakfast in South Lyon.  Linda and Madeline had toaster waffles and fresh berries for breakfast at home.  The main reason I went to breakfast was to talk with Larry (K8UT) about a plug-in for WordPress that he recently found and though I might want to use for the SLAARC website.  He purchased a five site license for the full version of a survey plug-in and was willing to donate one use to the ham radio club.

When I got home at 9:30 AM the girls were getting ready to leave.  Linda’s plan for the morning was to take Madeline to the Howell Public Library.  The library has a very nice play area for younger children and a good selection of children’s books.  Apparently they planned to be gone for a while because they had a bag packed with snacks and other things for an extended outing.  I changed into my work close and when they left I resumed working on the bus.

My first objective was to cut the final piece of SurePly underlayment for the entry landing and area under the driver’s seat.  It was a large and complex piece that took me a long time to lay out even using the piece that goes under the driver’s seat as a template.  When I finally had it cut and drilled with the holes for the seat mounting bolts I took it to the bus to see how it fit.  Unfortunately I could not get it in.  It had to go under something on the front and back and also had to fit around curves and angles, and it just was not physically possible to get it in place in one piece.  It was immediately obvious that I would have to cut the piece into two parts but not so obvious how best to do that.

Linda and Madeline returned about this time (12:30 PM) and I was ready for a break.  They brought in their “haul” from the library—eight books and five videos—and laid it out on the living room coffee table.  The play market that Madeline likes so much had been replaced by a play kitchen.  The librarian told Linda they rotate the playsets every three months to keep it interesting for the children.

After going to the library Linda drove to the Brighton Mill Pond so Madeline could play at the Playscape.  Linda reported that Madeline has figured out how to pump a swing and is able to keep it going once someone helps her get started.  As a special treat they went to the ice cream shop nearby and Ms. M got a scoop of ice cream.  She did not tell me what flavor, but she said it had sprinkles on it.

It was going on 1 PM and seemed like a good time to have lunch, so Linda made hummus sandwiches with sliced onion for us and hummus on bread for Madeline.  She washed off a big bunch of grapes and we all enjoyed some of those too.  After lunch I read one of the library books to Madeline and then Linda read her a different one.  At that point I excused myself and went back to work on the bus.

I pondered the situation with the piece of underlayment and finally saw what appeared to be a natural cut line.  After considering where the tile would go, however, I decided against it.  Unlike the tile on the main floor of the bus, which is installed on the bias, the grouted joint lines in the cockpit/entry are going to run straight fore-and-aft and side-to-side.  I was not sure, however, exactly where they would fall.  I needed to avoid having a grout line fall on a joint between two pieces of underlayment so I ended up cutting the piece that covers the landing at an angle.  This gave me a smaller piece that tucked under the center console on the dashboard and a larger piece that tucked under some metal trim behind the driver’s seat.  I was now able to get both pieces in but they did not fit properly.

I had used my last large piece of SurePly to make the original single piece, and it had taken me hours to do, so I did not want to remake it.  I made any trips between the bus and the garage/shop, trimming a little bit at a time and rechecking the fit, until I finally got the piece to fit correctly.  In the process the piece had changed enough that the smaller piece was now too small and could not be trimmed to fit.  I searched through my scrap pieces of SurePly and found one that was almost big enough to remake the smaller piece, but not quite.

It was now 3:30 PM, and I still had some good daylight to work by, so I secured the floor patch under the driver’s seat.  The patch consisted of a 1/4″ thick layer of SurePly with a 3/4″ thick layer of oak veneered plywood on top of it to make a 1″ thick piece.  The SurePly was screwed to the 3/4″ plywood from underneath.  With the patch in place I installed another piece of 1/4″ SurePly that covered the patch and extended out over the old surrounding wood, which was still sound, and filled in the area once occupied by a 1/2″ thick piece of plywood.  I used 1″ self-drilling screws to secure the top layer of SurePly to the underlying wood, slightly countersinking the heads and pulling the underlying patch up tight while pulling the SurePly down tight to the old wood.  I walked on it and it felt secure.  There will be one more layer of SurePly and a layer of tile before the seat base gets re-installed.  Bolting down the base will obviously pull everything down tight to the structure of the bus if it isn’t already.

Linda and Madeline spent part of the afternoon baking vegan cupcakes.  Linda usually makes chocolate ones but I requested white/vanilla ones this time.  She found a recipe that looked promising and used it.  They needed frosting to finish the cupcakes so they bundled up and went to Meijer’s.  They got back a little before 4 PM, frosting and sprinkles in hand.

I needed more SurePly to continue working, not that I was eager to; I had spent most of the day trying to make one stupid piece of wood and still wasn’t finished.  The temperature had been dropping all afternoon and it was down to 55 in the garage, which was open so I could go back-and-forth to the bus.  I still had the antique SUN distributor tester in my car and determined that I could not get 4’x8′ sheets of material in the car with the machine in there.  Linda and Madeline put on their shoes and coats and came outside so Linda could help me get the tester out of the car.  I then went to Lowe’s.

I had a nice QSO with David (W8DRD) from our ham radio club on the way to Lowe’s.  At the store I was struggling to get the SurePly off of the top of the stack, which was above my head at the limit of my reach.  A customer stopped and helped me which I appreciated.  I needed one sheet to finish the driver/landing area and get the piece I need for the passenger seat platform floor, but I bought two sheets just in case the various scraps I have are not large enough to do the walls of the passenger seat platform.

I was back home by 5 PM and unloaded the two sheets of SurePly.  I put one on the 2x4s across the sawhorses and the other one in the small bay with the other sheet materials.  Linda and Madeline put their shoes and coats on once again and came outside so Linda could help me load the distributor tester back into my car.  Linda said we would eat dinner around 6 PM so I started working on remaking the small piece for the front portion of the landing.

I used the original piece as a pattern for the edges that fit properly but cut it larger than needed for the edge that needed to match the other piece where I cut it into two parts.  After getting it trimmed to fit correctly on three sides I put the larger piece in place overlapping the smaller one and traced the edge on the smaller piece.  I took it back to the garage and used the clamp-on saw guide to get a clean, straight cut.  When I took it back to the bus and set it in place it fit.  Success at last.

By now it was dark and getting close to dinner time.  I decided to leave the securement of this last layer of SurePly until tomorrow when I was refreshed and had better light.  I had hoped to get this landing/driver floor finished today, as well as the floor for the passenger seat platform, but given the difficulties and frustrations of today I felt like I had ended at a good place.  I locked up the bus and closed the garage door on my way in.  I expect tomorrow to be another good day, but then if I didn’t, why would I bother?

I changed out of my work clothes and put on my sweats.  Dinner was vegan cheeseburgers with a vegetable medley on the side and fresh pineapple.  Dessert was vanilla frosted white cupcakes with sprinkles.  After clearing the table I interacted with Madeline while Linda cleaned up a few dishes.  She and Madeline then prepared the baked French toast, which has to sit overnight.  As promised, once all of the stuff was done we went to the basement and watched one of the Daniel Stripped Tiger videos.  When we had seen enough episodes we turned off the TV set and went upstairs.  Madeline got into her pajamas and went to bed.  I put a load of laundry into the washing machine and then settled in to my usual evening routine.  I pulled the laundry out of the dryer at 9:45 PM and we turned in for the night at 10 PM.

 

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.

 

2015/10/31 (S) Boo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/28 (W) Inside Flash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/25 (N) Bus Dinner

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

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

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

The reason for removing the seats was two-fold:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/24 (S) Meghan and Chris

We drove separately to our SLAARC breakfast in South Lyon as Linda had plans to walk with Diane at Kensington Metropark after breakfast.  We drove through some heavy rain after which I chatted a bit with Tom (W8TAF) and Mike (W8XH).  As always, we enjoyed the breakfast conversation with our fellow amateur radio operators.  Linda left at 9:15 and I lingered until 9:30 enjoying my last cup of coffee.  I paid our check and had just headed for home when Mike (W8XH) called me on the radio.  We had a good chat about my Hi-Q 6-80 mobile HF antenna and will try to find a time to test it using his newer VNWA.  Mike has learned a lot about how to use it in the last couple of years and is always willing to put that knowledge to use to help his fellow ham.  I would love to figure out a way to mount this antenna so we can take it with us this winter and use it, but I doubt that will happen.  We just have too much else that has to get done in the next month that is more important than this.

At home I pulled up the DX Engineering website on my iPad.  I found their Mix 31 snap-on ferrite chokes and put them in my cart.  If I can find a few other small things to buy the order will qualify for free shipping.  I suspect that will not be a problem.

Next I pulled up the Sony alpha app and researched the acronyms they use for various features of their cameras and lenses.  The model numbers for their A-mount lenses all begin with SAL (Sony “A” Lens) and their E-mount lenses all begin with SEL (Sony “E” Lens) so that helps sort those out right up front.  However, they make both 35mm full frame (36mm x 24mm) and APS-C (24mm x 16mm) lenses in both mounting systems.  The FF lenses can be used on APS-C bodies, such as our Sony a100, but the APS-C lenses, which always include the letters “DT” in the product name, cannot generally be used on FF bodies.  Our new Sony SLT-a99v DSLT camera body, however, can detect a DT lens and automatically limits the active portion of the sensor to an APS-C size area.

SAM stands for “Smooth Action Motor” and SSM stands for “SuperSonic wave Motor” both of which are used with certain lenses, especially large telephoto ones, that have their own internal focusing motor.  OSS stands for “Optical Steady Shot.”  Even though the alpha series cameras have image stabilization built into the body some Sony lenses also have image stabilization built into them.

One of the things I was trying to find out is which lenses have distance encoders so they will work with the ADI (Advanced Distance Integration) feature of the a99 body and compatible Sony flash units.  The lens specification table in the alpha app was not really clear on this point.  Some lenses were marked with a small circle for this feature and others with a dash.  If their nomenclature is consistent with other entries the dash means “no”.  Logically then the circle means “yes” but I did not pursue this further.  I will have to experiment with the 18-70mm APS-C format lens that came with the a100 and see if it supports ADI.

I opened the B&H Photo Video app and revisited the reviews on the Sony HVL-60m flash.  Although more expensive than the HVL-43m I added it to my cart.  Besides being more powerful it has an available external battery pack which I found and also put in the cart.  Finally, I added the Cotton Carrier dual camera harness to the cart.  I found my Minolta electric shutter releases and checked to see if they worked with the alpha 99.  They did!, so I did not need to order new ones.  B&H was closed for online order processing until 7:30 PM this evening so I did not submit the order right away.  The Cotton Carrier is on sale until the 26th so I will submit the order tomorrow while the sale price is still valid.

Linda got home at 12:30 PM and we had the last two vegan hotdogs for lunch.  She then started preparing dinner and I went to my office.  I did a load of laundry, dealt with e-mail, checked in with RVillage, and copied photos from both the Sony a100 and the Sony a99 to my computer.  I updated my BCM article spreadsheet and then moved article folders to the proper directories and deleted them from my BCM Dropbox folder.  I added 80 pounds of solar salt to the water softener and then brought the laundry upstairs and hung it up.  By 4:30 PM I was feeling very tired and took a short nap until Meghan and Chris showed up at 5 PM.

We showed them the driveway and bus projects and then went inside the house just as it started to sprinkle.  Everyone selected a beer and we were standing around the kitchen when a brief, but very intense, line of storms moved through our area with heavy rain and strong winds.

For dinner Linda made a salad of dark leafy greens with tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and raisins dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette.  The main course was a Farro pilaf with dried cranberries, onions, garlic, broccoli leaves, and slivered almonds.  Yes, broccoli leaves.  The whole broccoli plant is edible but until recently only the flowerets were available in stores.  The side dish was Brussels sprouts cut in half and oven-roasted with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.  Dessert was pears in wine.  She used the Witch’s Brew, a spiced red wine that was perfect for this dish and this time of year.  After poaching the pears she reduced the wine to a sauce and chilled everything in the refrigerator for hours.  (The pears were made ahead of time as was the Farro, with the main dish being finished just before serving.)

We sat in the living room with the fireplace on and chatted about houses, pets, travel, sports, and the upcoming holidays.  Meghan and Chris stayed until 8:30 PM and then headed home.  It was a nice visit during which both cats actually came out of hiding and allowed themselves to be petted, a rare treat in Jasper’s case.

We were both tired, partly the residual effect of our altered schedule on Wednesday and Thursday, so we finished clearing the table and went to bed.  The Detroit PBS Create channel was featuring vegetarian (including vegan) episodes of various cooking shows so we watched a few of those before turning off the TV and going to sleep.

 

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.

 

2015/10/17 (S) First Snow

Last night we removed the dining table from the back of my car and put it on the bed in the bus.  We then removed the two rear seats and put them in the garage.  We wanted the back of the Honda Element empty when we got up this morning as we do not usually have time to spare in the morning before driving to South Lyon for breakfast with the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.

It’s always good to see our fellow hams and today was no exception.  We arrived just before 8 AM and stayed for over an hour.  We left around 9:15 and drove to Chuck’s shop in Novi to get the box with the two remaining lower windshields for our bus.  Chuck was already there and helped us load the box into the car.  The box was sized to hold five windshields but only had two in it so it was light enough for us to move by hand.  I knew it would fit in my car as we had measured it on a previous visit and I had checked the dimensions against the car.  We set one end on the tailgate, lifted the other end, and slid it in.  We chatted for a while, and looked at a project Chuck is working in for new front window shades, before heading home.

Phil was not at our house when we got home but he had obviously been there.  All of the concrete, and many of the rocks and boulders, were gone from the driveway extension area so I presumed he had loaded them in his truck and hauled them away.

The Converted Coach Owners (CCO) Halloween Rally was going on this weekend and today was the main day for activities.  We had intended/hoped to go to the rally but the progress on our bus remodeling has slowed over the last couple of weeks for various reasons, all legitimate, and it was not in a condition to travel or be used.  It’s not that things are not getting done; they are, just not as fast as we would like or need them to.  Among other things I have not yet secured the refrigerator and pantry.  We thought about driving over in the car but it was over two hours one way and we needed to spend what time we had available working on the bus and could not justify being gone.  Thanksgiving does not look/feel that far away anymore.  It also seemed ill-advised to be gone while Phil is here digging up the yard.

My main bus focus for today was completing the installation of the built-in sofa.  We had already set the plywood seat board on a blanket on the bus kitchen floor so I had access to the inside of the base/storage box.  I did not need Linda’s assistance for a while so she worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  Before starting on the sofa, however, I took care of a few other minor things.

First I replaced the alkaline batteries in the TempMinder thermometers with Lithium ones.  I then reset the minimum and maximum temperatures for the two remote sensors.  Sensor #1 monitors the freezer and sensor #2 monitors the fresh food compartment of the bus refrigerator.  The directions for the TempMinder suggest using Lithium batteries if the remote sensors will be in cold environments.

Next I got a piece of scrap SurePly underlayment to see how it would fit in the rabbited wood trim on the lower outside wall of the hallway.  I inserted it fully into a corner and marked the edges with a pencil.  It is approximately 3/16″ thick and fit nicely without being too tight.  With a layer of veneer it should be just right.  When I removed it the depth of the rabbits appeared to be 5/16″ to 3/8″.  I think the underlayment will make a nice base for hardwood veneer.  I will cut the panels 1/2″ wider (22-1/2″) and 1/2″ longer (28″) than the 22″ X 27-1/2″ dimensions of the framed opening and allow them to “float” just like a frame and panel door.

My last mini-task was locating the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood we removed from the old refrigerator and measuring it to see if we had pieces big enough to panel the damaged area on the wall by the co-pilot seat.  I was pleased to find that the remaining pieces are large enough for this application.

By now it was 12:30 PM and my phone reminded me that we had an RVillage Ambassadors webinar/meeting at 1 PM.  Linda heated up some Amy’s Vegetable Bean Soup and made hot lentil loaf sandwiches with ketchup.  Yum.  We got our first snow flurries of the 2015-16 winter season during lunch and they continued off and on through the afternoon.  We moved to Michigan in May 1976.  It snowed on October 15th that year and we had snow on the ground every day until early April 1977.  While that has not held up over the years as a “typical” southeast Michigan winter it was very different from what we grew up with in Missouri and formed our first and most lasting impression of our adopted state.

I retrieved the link for the Go To Meeting from the RVillage website and put it in my web browser.  1 PM came and went with no meeting.  The meeting notice said “Saturday, October 17 at 10 AM PST” but they had clarified that was actually 10 AM PDT, which is 1 PM EDT.  We decided that perhaps they really meant PST, which would be 2 PM our time.  We tried again an hour later, but no meeting ever commenced.

When I finally got to work in the bus on the sofa I removed six screws, three each from two angle brackets, and pulled the entire base assembly out from the wall, giving me complete access to the HVAC duct and wiring chase.  Much of the final installation of the sofa involved this duct.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

The ends of the plywood seat rest on two boxes with open ends that also serve as plenums for air from the OTR HVAC system ducts.  I needed to cut out rectangular openings in the vertical face of the duct to allow air into the back end of these boxes.  I used a 1/2″ drill to create starter holes at the corners of the openings and then used a manual sheet metal nibbler and a drill-powered reciprocating nibbler, both of which I borrowed from Chuck a few weeks ago, to cut out the sheet metal.  The two tools work differently but they both worked well and I was glad I had both of them for this task.  The powered nibbler created a lot of small metal debris so I vacuumed the whole work area very thoroughly when I was done nibbling.

The right (forward) end of the duct also had an extra hole in it where I did not need or want one.  I removed an old sheet metal patch plate and cut a new one to cover the area I needed to close off.  I ended up having to pre-drill holes as I spun the heads off two of my cheap sheet metal screws.  I had a heck of a time getting the shafts out, but I got it done.  This was just one more example of why seemingly simple projects always take longer than they should.

Phil returned while I was working on the sofa and continued trenching in the French drain.  I stopped to chat with him briefly and Linda came out to let me know she was headed to the grocery store.  I then got back to my own tasks and let Phil get back to his.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The open fronts of the two plenum boxes are attached to the inside of the vertical front support, which is 3/4″ walnut veneered plywood.  To get the air out of the boxes and into the coach my design called for brown plastic 4″ round louvered diffusers.  They are considered “four inch” because the two inch long cylindrical pipe on the back will just fit through a 4″ diameter circular hole.  (A 4″ flexible duct, like dryer duct, will also just fit over the pipe.)  The visible part of the diffuser is actually 5-1/2″ in diameter.

The inside width of the plenum boxes is 4-1/4″ by design.  I needed to center a 4″ hole within that space so I had to locate the center point for my 4″ hole saw very accurately side-to-side.  I also wanted the hole centered vertically.  Using my small square I marked the vertical midpoint on the edge of the front plywood at each end.  I then measured in 2-13/16″ from the midpoint mark and used my spring-loaded center punch to mark the center of the hole.   [The 2-13/16″ dimension came from half the inside width, or 2-1/8″, plus the thickness of the plywood used to make the plenums, or 11/16″.]

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

I stood the boxes on their back ends so the front board was horizontal.  I straddled the front board with my legs to hold it and drilled starter holes with a #6 countersink bit.  I then drilled the 4″ holes with a 4″ hole saw using my 1/2″ Craftsman corded drill, being careful to have the pilot bit in the starter holes and drill perpendicular to the face of the plywood.  I have had this drill for 37 years.  It is very powerful and has several ways it can be gripped quite securely.  It is large, heavy, and lacks the convenience of a cordless drill but when I need to use a bit with a 1/2″ shaft and/or need the torque, this is still the drill for the job.  The hole saw created some sawdust so I vacuumed the whole area thoroughly when I was done drilling.

I was just finishing this work when Linda got back from the grocery store.  She put the groceries away and came out to see if I needed any assistance.  I already had the roll of plastic screen in the bus and she got the Gorilla Tape from the garage.  I cut pieces of the screen large enough to cover the two rectangular openings in the HVAC duct and used lengths of Gorilla Tape to secure them.  We then slid the base/storage assembly back into position, pushed it tight to the HVAC duct, and reattached it to the wood wire chase on top of the duct.  The two support boxes and the return air box have foam weather stripping on the back edges to seal against the duct.

We picked the plywood seat up off of the kitchen floor and set it back in place but did not secure it.  We left it out several inches from its original position and got a seat and back cushion from the bedroom.  We experimented with different spacings and finally agreed that we need to have the seat out 4-3/4″ farther than originally designed.  The current hinge board is 11/16″ plywood, 2-3/4″ wide by just under 78″ long.  This board is screwed to the top of the wiring chase and to one side of the 72″ piano hinge.  I will replace it with a piece that is 7-1/2″ wide by the same length.  I will also have to provide some additional support for the seat side of the piano hinge as in the original design had both sides of the hinge resting on top of the wiring chase on top of the HVAC duct.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory.  This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory. This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

That was the end of the interior bus work for today.  By the time we were done Phil had driven his front-loader onto his flat-bed trailer and secured it so it appeared he was wrapping up for the day.  I chatted with him about the project for 30 minutes before he left.  Earlier in the afternoon I had found my site plan drawings for the bus barn and agreed to stake out the driveway tomorrow so we could review it first thing Monday morning.

Linda had invited Meghan and Chris for brunch tomorrow but it was not a good weekend for them as the Michigan vs Michigan State football game was taking place in Ann Arbor.  Chris manages the Pizza House restaurant, and being away on football Saturday is not an option.  They will come next Sunday (31st) instead.

For dinner Linda made a nice salad of mixed greens with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and diced onions dressed with raspberry vinaigrette.  The main course was pan-fried polenta with vegan puttanesca sauce.  It held its heat to the last bite and was very satisfying on a cold evening.  I opened a bottle of Cupcake Black Forest red wine.  We have had it before and, although drier than I prefer, it went well with the meal.

After dinner I got my flashlight and checked the bus for axle/hub seal leaks by looking under the bus from the opposite side to see the inside of the wheels.  I did not see anything to suggest a problem on any of the six positions and will text that information to Joe tomorrow for planning purposes as he would require a second day to work on the seals if that was needed.

We spent the last couple of hours of the day in the living room, with the fireplace turned on, reading, writing, and playing games while enjoying some red grapes for dessert.  Linda got a text from her sister-in-law, Mary, with a photo of her and Ron “standing on ‘the’ corner in Winslow, Arizona.”  Ron has been retired for many years but Mary only recently retired and they are on their first extended camping trip in their A-liner trailer and their first trip to the southwest U.S.

We went to bed around 10 PM.  Linda fell asleep quickly while I divided my attention between cooking shows on the Detroit PBS Create channel, a concert by Eric Clapton on PBS, and working on this post.

 

2015/10/11 (N) Now Heat This

I guess we were tired after having Madeline at our house for 23 hours.  We slept in until after 8 AM and it was going on 9 by the time the coffee was brewed and we sat down to breakfast.  I really needed to attend to some paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter but was also eager to get deeper into the manual for the new Sony a99v camera.  I installed the PDF manual onto my laptop yesterday from the CD-ROM that came with the camera and then e-mailed it go my iPad2 so I could read it conveniently.

HL – Jasper, our mackerel tabby male cat, allows himself to be photographed on the living room floor.  You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but he is actually a very sweet animal ad a real joy to have in our household.

Jasper, our mackerel tabby male cat, allows himself to be photographed on the living room floor. You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but he is actually a very sweet animal ad a real joy to have in our household.

Other than the time, date, and date format I have not adjusted any of the default settings or experimented with the camera’s many functions.  I have taken a few photos just to make sure it works but I do not want to start generating a lot of image files until I have made decisions about basic things like folder naming conventions and “normal” shooting modes and settings.  I did, however, enable a “rule of thirds” grid on the viewfinder screen.

Linda worked on our personal accounting and then prepared the treasurer’s report for our amateur radio club meeting this evening.  I took a break from reading the camera manual to research the availability of some accessories on the B&H Photo website.

The electric cable release for my old Minolta 9000 SLR film cameras works with the a100 so it may work with the a99v too.  If not, newer remotes are available, including wireless ones that are not too expensive.  I found the angle finder but it is discontinued.  With the adjustable LCD screen in the back of the camera the angle finder isn’t really necessary but would have been a nice accessory just the same.  I am also looking for a case and/or a photographer’s vest and/or a chest harness/holder.  The a99v with the vertical grip and a telephoto lens is a substantial piece of equipment, both in size and weight, and the chest harness/holder would support that weight more comfortably and securely than a neck strap.  I found several interesting things but not exactly what I had in mind.

By the time Linda finished her accounting tasks I was dressed to work.  First up was the hydronic heating system in our bus.  I got four pieces of 2×4, each about four feet long, and two pieces of 2×12 about 16″ long.  I put a pair of 2x4s under each desk base and inserted one of the 2x12s between the 2x4s and the base.  That raised each base three inches which was enough to ensure that the heater hoses attached to the lower fitting on each heat exchanger sloped slightly downward back towards the main unit.

The hose that connects the two heat exchangers together in series is attached to the top fitting on each one.  Half way between the exchangers is a T with the bull branch pointing up.  A ball valve with a waste port is attached to the branch.  While Linda held the valve higher than anything else in the system I opened the valve and used a small funnel to slowly pour in antifreeze.  When the lines and exchangers appeared to be full I closed the valve, turned on the thermostat for that loop, and turned it up to cause the circulating pump to come on.  I let the pump run for a few minutes and then turned it off.  Again with Linda elevating the valve I opened it and added a little more antifreeze.  I ran the pump again for a few minutes and shut it off.  This time the coolant was still right at the valve so I shut it and Linda set it down.

It was now time for “the big test.”  In order to be able to see if there were any leaks, and catch any coolant if there were, we put heavy duty paper shop towels under all six of the clamped connections where the heater hose went over 3/4″ copper as well as under the soldered joints of the T and valve.  I opened the water bay on the passenger side, where the Aqua-Hot is installed, checked the coolant level in the expansion tank, and made sure the paper cup was positioned under the overflow tube.  The level of coolant in the expansion tank was just above Minimum Cold.  With everything in order I turned on the Aqua-Hot burner and then turned the front zone thermostat back on.  I also turned on the thermostats for the bathroom and bedroom zones to cause coolant to circulate through those loops.

There are quite a few gallons of antifreeze in the hydronic heating system and even on a mild day such as today (temperature just above 70 degrees F) it takes a while to heat it up to the 170 degrees required to shut off the diesel burner.  I kept checking the hoses by the fill valve and the expansion tank.  When the hoses were warm and the level of the coolant had risen 1/2″ in the expansion tank I cracked open the waste port on the fill valve.  I got a tiny, short hiss and then coolant came out so I quickly closed it.  It appeared that our method for filling the system and bleeding the air out had worked as intended, and there was no evidence of any leaks.

I left the Aqua-Hot on until it shut off on its own.  The expansion tank was near full at this point and I topped it up.  As the system cools down the coolant will contract in volume and some of the coolant in the expansion tank will be drawn back into the main chamber.  It’s important that there is more coolant in the expansion tank than the amount that will be drawn in or air will get drawn in instead.  I buttoned up the coach and turned to my next task.

I removed the chain from the new Poulan Pro 18” chain saw since I completely dulled it trying to cut through a tree root.  As long as the cover, chain, and bar were off I cleaned up the motor unit as best I could.  Oil impregnated sawdust is tenacious stuff.  I put the new chain on the bar and attached them to the motor, making sure the chain was oriented correctly.  I topped up the bar and chain oil reservoir and topped off the fuel tank.

It took several trips to get the 7′ step ladder, pole saw, compound lopping shears, hand tree saw, and chain saw back to the apple tree.  I noticed yesterday that one of the main branches coming off the trunk about 3′ above the ground was dead.  The bark was missing and the smaller limbs were brittle.  The bark looked like it might have been chewed away by deer but I wasn’t sure.  All I knew is that it was dead.

I started with the pole saw and worked from the ladder to cut off the limbs that extended far up into the tree.  Once I had those detached and pulled out of the tree I started the chainsaw and used it to cut off the larger branches as I worked my way down towards the main trunk.  I gathered all of the smaller material into a pile and then gathered the larger pieces together.  I used the largest piece as a sawbuck to support the other pieces as I de-limbed them and cut them into four foot lengths.  I then cut up a large pine tree limb that has been sitting on the ground under the apple tree for quite a while.  I used the pole saw and loppers to trim off a few other small branches and the carried all of the tools back to the garage.  It was 3 PM by the time I got everything put away.  I was done with physical work for the day so I got a much needed shower and got dressed appropriately for our meeting later.

The apple tree is still in need of serious pruning if it us to survive and bear useful fruit.  It particular it needs to be “topped.”  It is too tall overall, especially in the center, and much of the fruit is growing up there where the sunlight is good but it cannot be reached either by us or by the deer.  We have been putting deadwood in the firepit all summer and, more recently, on the disposal pile, where it goes mostly depending on what part of the yard the tree was in when it fell or got cut down.  In the case of the apple tree it occurred to me that Applewood is prized for the smoke it produces when grilling so I may stack it up, let it continue to dry, and perhaps rent a chipper next year to turn it into something useful.

We had breakfast later than usual, and skipped lunch, so we ate dinner at 4:30 PM, which was earlier than usual.  Dinner was lentil loaf, baked potato, and steamed broccoli, a simple but healthy and tasty meal.

On Friday I exchanged a few text messages with Josh at Coach Supply Direct regarding our desktop and table.  The net result was that his schedule had changed and he was not going to be able to get our desktop and table from Countertops Plus in Shipshewana, Indiana and deliver them to us for over a week, at the earliest.  He had also planned to bring some extra clips for our MCD shades and look at the wiring on the front passenger seat 6-way power base.  Those last two items were not critical but we are ready to install the desk once we have the desktop and cannot afford to wait another week and a half to get it.  I called and left a message for Ferman Miller to let him know I would be driving down tomorrow morning to pick them up.  I then worked on this post until 5:30 PM when I stopped to reinstall the antenna, radio, and GPS in my car.

We left at 5:45 PM for our monthly SLAARC meeting and shortly thereafter heard Mike (W8XH) on the South Lyon 2m repeater.  I replied to his call and we had a QSO that lasted almost all the way to our meeting site, where we arrived within a minute of one another.

We socialized with fellow club members from 6:30 PM until Harvey (AC8NO) called the business meeting to order just after 7 PM.  The club secretary was absent so I took the minutes.  The business meeting lasted less than 10 minutes and was followed by a presentation on APRS by Eric (K8ERS).  I gave Mike (W8XH) a check for the Icom IC-2820H dual band radio that has been in my car since early summer.

As I said at the beginning, I really needed to update the FMCA Freethinkers roster and financial reports and make them available this evening.  Well, sometimes things don’t happen just because they need too.  Today was just too perfect a day to waste it sitting inside at a computer and by the time we got home from our meeting I did not feel like starting this task.  I will try to make this a priority tomorrow evening, but each day is an adventure and I have to be agile in dealing with the myriad tasks that lay before me, including ones that appear unexpectedly.

 

2015/09/26 (S) A Step in the Right Direction

We missed our ham radio club breakfast last week because we were at an RV rally and we plan to be at another rally three weekends from now so in spite of all the work we still have to do on the bus we went to breakfast in South Lyon.  After breakfast we went to the Lowe’s in New Hudson, which is close to South Lyon, and bought a Porter-Cable 1/4 sheet palm sander.  The sander is small enough to get into corners but has an integral dust collection bag.  The bag can be removed for sanding in really tight spots, but it cuts down on airborne dust while sanding and reduces the amount of cleanup afterwards.  We have several other Porter-Cable power tools and I am generally pleased with them.

Back at the house we took care of a few chores and then got to work on the bus.  Linda continued working on stripping the old wallpaper behind the sofa while I pondered for a while about what to do before deciding to concentrate on rebuilding the landing at the top of the entry stairs.  This landing is where the pneumatic entry stairwell slide cover was installed.  Without all of that “stuff” in place the last step up to the landing was now too short and the step up to the copilot level was too tall.  More importantly, the step heights were all different, and would be a built in trip hazard if not corrected.

I determined that the 2.5″ wide poplar boards installed on edge with a 3/4″ thick plywood floor and a top layer of 3/16″ SurePly underlayment would match the top surface of the plywood in the driver’s area.  That would (should), in turn, allow me to install the new vinyl floor tiles so they bridge that seam.  I will have to reuse the plywood in the driver’s area, but worst case that will require using adhesive remover followed by floor patching compound and sanding before installing the tiles.

The landing was not “square” (of course) so I made and rechecked measurements several times.  I then built a four-sided frame that fit snugly and had the front board aligned with the face of the plastic riser.  I am going to tile the steps and I am not going to use underlayment so I needed these surfaces as aligned and flat as possible.  I will probably use floor patching compound, however, to fill the gaps before installing the tile.  I used screws to secure the frame to the adjacent vertical wood that forms the riser to the copilot level and to the base of the landing with angle brackets.

I needed a piece of 3/4″ plywood approximately 31-1/8″ x 27-5/8″ for the new landing as the old piece I took out was not in good shape and I did not want to reuse it.  I did not have any other 3/4″ plywood pieces that were large enough so I went to Lowe’s.  They did not have 3/4″ half sheets (4′ x 4′) but I bought some more angle brackets while I was there.  I then went to The Home Depot.  They also did not have 3/4″ half sheets, but they had full sheets of 23/32″ sanded plywood that looked like it would work and a nice panel saw with an employee available to operate it.  I waited while he built a complete set of closet shelving for a couple and engaged in some domestic counseling.  He then cut the plywood sheet into two 4′ x 4′ pieces and helped me load them into a cart.  I was able to get them into my Honda Element by myself and close the back hatches.  I had a nice QSO with Steve (N8AR) on the drive home via the South Lyon 2m amateur radio repeater.

Linda had long since finished working on the wallpaper and busied herself in the kitchen preparing collard greens Cole slaw and vegan potato salad.  It was somewhere between late afternoon and early evening but I still had enough light to work outside.  Linda was still busy cooking so I decided to go ahead and try to cut the plywood for the new landing.  Again, it was not a rectangle, i.e., an equiangular quadrilateral (four right angles and four sides with opposing sides parallel and equal in length) so getting the shape exactly right was tricky.

I determined that the right front corner, as viewed from the entry steps, was a right angle, or close enough to one to provide a known starting point.  I put the plywood on 2″x4″s on the flat in the driveway to elevate them so I could clamp a saw guide in place and provide clearance for the saw blade.  I measured the lengths of all four edges as best I could and placed the right front corner at a factory corner of one of the 4′ x 4′ pieces.  I marked the length of the right side and the front on the two factory edges.  The left side was longer than the right side and the rear side was longer than the front side so I marked arcs for the left and rear lengths and found their point of intersection.  If the right front corner was, in fact, a right angle them this had to result in the correct shape.  The key word in that last sentence is “if.”

I tried to confirm my layout by measuring the lengths of the diagonals on the plywood and on the bus but I could not get accurate measurements in the bus.  I triple-checked my measurements and layout then marked the guide lines for the setback on my circular saw; 6-5/8″ to the inside edge of the teeth on the blade.  Truth be told I initially marked the guide lines on the wrong side of the cut.  I started to adjust my guide board to the outside of the blade and then thought better of the idea.  The guide needed to be set up so that if the blade wandered off course it would cut into waste material rather than the finished piece.  I re-measured and marked the guide lines in the proper place, checked their location with my small square, checked with the saw, made minor adjustments, and finally made the first of two cuts.  I then repeated all of that and made the second cut.  When I set the piece in place in the bus it was a perfect fit.  I was so pleased that I had Linda come out to see it.  Sometimes I amaze even myself.

I like to quit on a high note so that was the end of our bus work for today.  We did not make dramatic progress but we kept moving and got things done that needed doing.  My work today involved a certain amount of pondering and on-the-fly engineering combined with careful, repeated measuring and accurate cutting.  This kind of work is never fast.

A beautiful sunset had developed, which meant it was getting dark, so I put a few things away and closed up the bus while Linda prepared our dinner.  She made a nice salad and heated a couple of Amy’s vegan (non-dairy) lasagna entrées.  A glass of Moscato was a welcome accompaniment and we enjoyed a second glass as we relaxed in the living room.  We got a Rockler catalog in the mail today so I looked through that.  If you are into woodworking it’s the adult equivalent of the Sear’s Christmas catalogs of yesteryear.

I called Butch at 10 PM.  It was 7 PM in Bouse, Arizona and I figured they would be done working for the day and probably already had their dinner.  The daytime highs there have been reaching 110 degrees F so Butch and the other RV Park employees have been starting work between 6 and 7 AM and trying to finish up by 1 PM.  He did not elaborate but said the situation the first two weeks has not been exactly what they signed up for.  He had already responded to an e-mail from Linda with more details so we let it go at that and talked about other things.  We wrapped up our conversation at 10:30 and I went to bed.  I was going to play a couple of games and then go to sleep but there was an update available for the iPad OS so I installed it.  9.0.1 was a big update and took quite a while to install.  I was very sleepy by the time it finished and turned out the lights.

 

2015/09/13 (N) Club Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/12 (S) Making It Usable

In spite of all that we still have to get done on the bus we got up at 7:15 AM and went to our SLAARC breakfast.  We did not get to go last week because our grand-daughter (Madeline) was here and we won’t get to go next week because we will be at an RV rally.  We did not hang around like we sometimes do and left at 9 AM, but at least we got to go.

When I quit working on the toilet in the bus at 10 PM last night I had come to the conclusion that I had spent six hours trying to fix the wrong thing.  I assumed that the leak was due to a faulty O-ring or a misalignment of two pieces with the slip fit, presumably caused by the 9″ piece of Qest pipe with 1/2″ NPT lavatory fittings on each end.  After hours of effort and numerous attempts it occurred to me that the problem could be the threaded fitting in the first piece.  The fitting is unusual in that it is hollow and has an inside hex shape.  I got my SAE and metric Allen wrench sets but the largest wrenches, 3/8″ and 10mm, were too small and would not engage the fitting.

After dropping Linda at home I went in search of a 7/16″ and 1/2″ Allen wrenches.  I stopped at our bank for a little cash and then went to The Home Depot as they are next door to one another.  No luck there, but I did buy a 20″ flexible supply line with 1/2″ FIP threads.  I tried Lowe’s next but that was another strike out.  I tried O’Reilly’s auto parts store, the Tractor Supply store, and the Sears store across the street.  Nope, nada, nothing.  The guy at Sears suggested ACE hardware back in Howell so I headed that way but pulled into an Advance Auto Parts.  They had a set of Allen wrench (hex key) stubs, with 1/2″ drive sockets.  It included sizes smaller and larger than what I was looking for, in addition to the ones I was looking for, so I bought it.

Back home we installed the three large drawers in the rear of the bedroom.  I then spent several more hours working on the toilet while Linda changed out the handles on all of the cabinet doors.  She even figured out how to remove the handle on the built-in laundry hamper in the bathroom. As I have said here before, she is a clever girl.  I unscrewed the insert with a 7/16″ hex key, cleaned off the old thread compound, wrapped the threads with Teflon tape, and screwed it back in.  I mated the air/water sequence valve with the vacuum breaker and got them mounted to the support bracket, getting them aligned and snug in the process.

The last step was to attach the 20″ flexible supply line to the air/water sequence valve and water supply line.  I attached it to the air/water sequence valve first, looped it around, and attached it to the incoming water supply fitting.  Easy to say but tough to do.  There is a lot of stuff crammed into the back portion of this toilet and there is barely room to get one hand in there to work, never mind two.  To make matters worse (for me) the only hand I could get in there was my left one.  Being right-handed that made a difficult task even more so.

I turned on the water and checked for connection leaks.  I did not see any so I applied air pressure and initiated the flush cycle but it did not work.  Nothing, nada, zilch, no movement of the valve, drain flapper opening, and no flow of water.  The air-water sequence valve is mounted to a horizontal plate.  It installs from underneath and is held in place by a large nut that threads over the top.  I thought perhaps this nut was too tight and causing the valve to bind so I loosened it and the valve started working.  I flushed it several times looking for leaks and did not see any.  We made tiny adjustments to the location and decided to screw it down.  It was 3 PM.

I found the four screws that were originally used to mount the toilet to the floor.  They are very large and quite unusual.  They are 2.25″ long with coarse threads and hex heads with large Philips screwdriver slots.  The center of the heads, where the screwdriver slots cross, are drilled and tapped and there are four black caps with screws built into them that screw into them to conceal them and give the toilet a finished look.  I was concerned, however, about their length.  The underlayment and tile are somewhere between 5/16″ and 7/16″ thick, slightly thinner than the ceramic tile I removed, and the bus subfloor is (presumably) 3/4″ thick.  Anything that penetrates the tile by more than 1″ risks coming through the bottom side of the plywood and potentially screwing into something it should not.  I measured the base of the toilet and it was an honest one inch thick so I decided I would reuse the screws when we got to that point.

At this point we took about 45 minutes to clean up tools and put things away in the garage.  We then turned our attention to getting the built-in sofa installed.  I removed a piece of expanded metal mesh and cut a piece of aluminum sheet metal to cover a hole and used heavy duty double sided 3M tape to attach it to the HVAC duct.  While Linda cut pieces of felt to go under any pieces of the sofa that touched the floor I cut and attached foam weatherstripping to the back edges of the two plenum/support boxes and the return air duct/shelf.

We put the two plenum/support boxes in place against the end cabinets and HVAC duct but did not take the time to cut and screen openings into the duct.  We set the return air duct/shelf in place and put in the vertical front panel but the shelf held it out so I removed the weatherstripping from the back edge.  We also did not take the time to drill the 4″ holes at either end of the vertical panel for the round diffusers as there was no point doing this until the HVAC duct was modified.

We secured each of the plenum/support boxes to the wiring chase with a single angle bracket and to the front panel with a pair of brackets.  I drilled and countersunk a three foot length of 1/8″ aluminum angle and we installed it against the inside of the vertical panel and the top of the shelf.  The shelf is 45″ wide (side-to-side) and there is a 3″ high by 44″ long piece of the vertical panel missing at the floor and centered side-to-side.  The aluminum angle will transfer vertical loads on the central portion of the vertical panel to the shelf, which is 3/4″ plywood with full depth pieces along each edge and a slightly shorter central support piece.

We had been making a list throughout the day of parts that we needed.  When we got to a point with the sofa where we did not have the screws we needed we took a break.  We went to Qdoba in Howell for dinner, our first visit to this particular eatery since we moved to the Brighton/Hartland/Howell area, and both had vegan taco salads.  The salads were good enough although the taco shell bowels were not the best we have had.  The servers seemed a bit stingy with the various ingredients but in the end the salad was substantial and tasty.  It was also a convenient and efficient location being on an out lot of the Meijer’s supermarket property and right across the street from Lowe’s.

After dinner we went to Lowe’s and bought felt drawer/door bumper pads, screws, and two more angle brackets.  Back home we worked on the built-in sofa until 9 PM and called it quits for the night.  I spent two hours at my desk and finalized a featured bus article for Bus Conversion Magazine on Larry and Carol Hall’s GM4106.  I uploaded the article and photo files it to my Dropbox BCM folder, and then e-mailed the publisher, editor, layout person, and Larry to let them know it was there.

I try to finish these posts each night before I go to sleep or first thing the next morning.  If I fail to do that I quickly lose the sequence of events and details.  I tend to be up too late as a result, but if I fall behind by even one day it is very difficult to catch up while also trying to keep up.  As much as I have enjoyed the remodeling project I will be glad to not be so busy this winter and be able to write shorter posts about the interesting people, places, and things we experience.

 

2015/09/06 (N) Grouting

We got up quietly at 7:30 AM as Madeline was still sound asleep.  Linda did not want to let her sleep too long and get off schedule so I got the “all clear” to grind the coffee beans just before 8 AM.  I made the Costa Rican half-caff because I am trying to use it up so we can replace it with something we like better.  Madeline emerged with Grandma Linda a few minutes later.  After stretching they decided to sit quietly on the living room sofa and read stories while everyone woke up and the adults enjoyed our coffee.

Sometime between 9:30 and 10 AM we left for the Howell Farmers Market.  We walked from one end to the other, with Madeline in her stroller, scoping out this week’s bounty. We then walked back through and Linda bought a few things including hard stem garlic which we had never seen before.  We stopped and chatted with our favorite vendor, Marjorie.

When we got home and put the produce away Linda prepared a snack lunch for herself and Madeline.  The two of them then went on an outing to the farm at Kensington Metropark (KMP) while I stayed behind to work on bus projects.  I decided to start by finishing the assembly of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  I attached the center support for the return air shelf as follows:

  • I determined the center of the long edges of the shelf and drew a line between them.
  • I carried these center marks to the other side and then measured 3/8″ to either side.
  • I connected corresponding marks to create a pair of parallel lines 3/4″ apart and centered on the underside of the shelf.
  • I placed the support in position, determined its fore-aft position, and marked the ends.
  • I then marked a piece of scrap wood, cut it into four pieces, and used them to hold the support in place; two long pieces the same length as the support, and two short pieces across the ends.
  • This allowed me to turn the shelf right side up with the center support held in the correct place and then mark and drill countersunk pilot holes for the screws.
  • I removed the support piece, sanded off any rough spots, put Titebond II wood glue on the edge, and replaced it between the temporary blocking.
  • I stood on the shelf to force the pieces together and ran all the screws down tight.
  • I then removed the temporary blocking.

After sleeping on it last night I decided I would attach the plenum/support boxes to the vertical front panel and the wood wire chase on top of the HVAC chase rather than to the adjacent cabinets or to the floor.  That meant I could go ahead and assemble them as complete, single units.  Easier said than done.

Even though I used right angle corner clamps the two halves I built for each box did not want to go together perfectly.  I managed to get one of them assembled but could not complete the other one by myself.  The problem was that I needed both hands to pull the pieces into alignment and two more hands to operate the drill and screw gun.

By now it was 1 PM, which is Madeline’s normal nap time, but they were not back from the Metropark yet so I gathered up all of the tools and materials I needed to grout the floor tiles in the bus.  That included the special Armstrong S-288 Glacier White sanded vinyl grout, a flat blade screwdriver, the 4″x8″ hard edge float, the smaller margin trowel, the 2″ putty knife (wall scraper), the ScotchBrite sponges, the Revel scrubber, two large buckets for rinse water, paper towels, a large cloth towel, and paper bags.

Madeline pets one of the sheep at the Kensington Metropark animal farm.

Madeline pets one of the sheep at the Kensington Metropark animal farm.

Since Linda and Madeline had still not returned I had a few pretzels with hummus.  They finally got home around 1:30 PM and I heard all about the farm and the animals Ms. M got to see and touch.  The 2-day old piglets were apparently a big hit but so was the playroom.  It was a good outing and I wish I could have gone but I got stuff done that needed to be done.

Madeline finally laid down for her nap at 2 PM but Linda could not help me with the tile grouting as she needed to be within earshot of Madeline’s bedroom.  I decided that we could not afford any further delay for this aspect of the interior remodeling project and resolved to do it by myself.  Without Linda to walk me through the steps, have materials ready, and clean the tools, I needed to be very clear about the steps and their timing.  I must have read the directions on the container of grout a dozen times in an attempt to internalize them but they just would not stick with me.  I needed a spray bottle for water so Linda found one for me.

The afternoon was very warm so I turned off the air-conditioning in our home library, closed up the coach, and turned on two of the three air-conditioners, making sure they were on opposite legs of the electrical service.  I staged all of the stuff in the bedroom storage box as I planned to start on the back side of the bed in the driver side corner by the head of the bed and work my way out.

I finally got started at 2:30 PM.  The grouting involved a specific set of steps that got repeated many times as the directions said to only do 6 – 10 sq. ft. at a time.  That range had to do with the time required to apply and strike the grout, setup time (3 – 8 minutes), misting with water, waiting 20-30 seconds, scrubbing, and finally wiping with a square edged cellulose sponge.  I had to divide the U-shaped bedroom floor into six sections and it took me until 5:30 PM to do that much so my average time was 30 minutes per section, each of which was smaller than 6 square feet.

I took a short break, had something to drink, and checked with Linda on the timing of dinner.  We settled on 6:30 PM and I returned to my grouting.  I had to do the bathroom floor in two sections, which got me into the hallway and joined up with the work from the bedroom.  I went in to clean up for dinner and was greeted by the smell of something baking.  Madeline wanted to make cupcakes so Linda assembled the ingredients and walked her through the steps, letting her do as much of the work as possible.  For not even being three years old yet she is very interested in cooking, but only if it is something she will get to eat! 🙂

Dinner was vegan cheeseburgers, corn-on-the-cob (from the Farmers Market), left over black beans and edamame, and sliced pears.  I worked in the bus from 7 to 8 PM and finished the hallway as far as the bend that transitions into the kitchen.  I cleaned all of the tools and sealed the grout container using Cling-Wrap pressed down onto the surface of the grout to keep air away from it, and locked up the bus.

I washed up and turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm radio in the ham shack while Linda helped Madeline take a bath.  Steve, N8AR, was serving as net control for the weekly SLAARC information net and had already started the net but not yet called for check-ins so I got to participate in the entire net.  We had a small group this evening, most likely due to it being a holiday weekend, but it was still a good net.

I came upstairs to have dessert with Linda and Madeline; chocolate cupcakes (vegan) with sprinkles.  Yum.  I then returned to my office to re-read an article I wrote about replacing the speedometer in the bus and editing it to indicate where the pictures should be placed.  I dealt with several BCM related e-mails and then came upstairs.

Madeline was in her pajamas and sitting in her portable bed while Linda read a story.  She decided that she wanted me to read a couple stories too, so I did.  We got her tucked in with her stuffed animals arranged at the four corners of her bed, turned on the night light, and left her to fall asleep.

I opened the bottle of Apricot wine that Brendan and Shawna picked up from Leelenau Cellars and we each had a small glass.  I worked on this post while Linda cleaned up the kitchen.  It had been a long and very tiring day for both of us but a very satisfying and productive day as well.  We don’t mind that kind of tired.

 

2015/08/29 (S) Up and Down

When we arrived at the South Lyon Senate Coney Island just before 8 AM there were only five other SLAARC members there but we had 16 by the time the last two people showed up.  Linda (K8LMF) got to sit next to Linda (NF8C) for the first time in quite a while and they had a long chat.  All but one person stayed until 9:45 when we got up to leave and everyone else followed suit.

We were back home by 10:15 AM, changed into our work clothes, and got back to work on the bus remodeling project.  It was a very overcast and cloudy day with a high probability of rain that was forecast to be an all-day event.  That altered our plans a little in that we did not want the pieces of underlayment to get wet and our air-compressor could not be out in the rain as it has an electric motor.

Yesterday we marked and cut the underlayment panels in the driveway, laying them across 2x4s to create space for the circular saw blade.  In order to keep the project moving forward we decided to use the temporary “workbench” in the garage for this work.  Since the workbench was covered with drawer fronts that had to be moved we decided to take a little time to put the new handles on them and reattach them to the drawer boxes.  Sometimes it’s true that “there’s no time like the present” to get something done.

Linda has worked hard on cleaning and waxing the walnut drawer fronts and fixed cabinetry in our motorcoach.  The results so far are amazing and we are feeling like all of our work will be worthwhile as the interior of the coach is going to look very nice when we are done with this project.

We had cut the piece of underlayment for part of the hallway last night but needed to trim it to get it to fit correctly.  I think we took it out of, and back into, the bus at least four times, each trip requiring us to go up and down the seven steps in the entryway/cockpit plus the stool outside the door.  I do not know how many times we went up and down those steps today but it was a quite a few.  To add to our enjoyment and bus conversion physical fitness program we were usually carrying something and it was often heavy and/or large.

The next pieces of underlayment to be cut would fill out most of the living room.  I had planned to cut them a certain way but changed my mind after talking it through with Linda.  We took measurements and I made drawings that were close to scale.  We ended up using the full 48″ width of a 4’x8′ sheet and about 86″ of its length for the piece that fills the alcove where the built-in sofa and storage base will go.  It had two large corner cutouts, one to make it fit with two other installed pieces and the other to go around the base of the media cabinet that doubles as an end table for the forward end of the sofa.  After test fitting it we had to trim a couple inches off of a back corner because of a wire bundle and create a notch for several wires that ran through the floor just in front of the driver’s side HVAC chase.  We waited for a lull in the rain and took it back into the coach.

It fit just right but unfortunately there were defects in the subfloor, such as small gouges and depressed screw heads, that needed to be repaired.  Since we could not use the air-stapler today I did not have a good excuse for not patching the floor correctly so I worked on that while Linda resumed working on the woodwork.  The quart of “ready to use” floor patch was not as ready to use as I would have liked.  The directions said to stir thoroughly and when I opened the container there was a half inch of milky white liquid on top of somewhat drier and stiffer material with the consistency of fine wet sand.  The directions also said the open (working) time was about 15 minutes.

I set the timer on the microwave for 20 minutes, spent five of those trying to stir and mix the floor patch ingredients, and then tried to patch everything that really needed it in the allotted time.  I did not care for this material and wish I had used the Universal Patch and Skimcoat that I used everywhere else.  It was gritty and did not feather out or finish as smoothly as I wanted, but there was nothing to do now but wait for it to dry which would take three hours.

Linda decided to work in the house and eventually fix dinner while I worked in the bedroom (of the bus) trying to remove very old masking tape from the subfloor using a 1.25″ putty knife.  After an hour I had about half of it off but called it quits as my hands were sore.

For dinner Linda cooked a couple of ears of corn-on-the-cob, heated some vegetarian (vegan) baked beans, and cooked two vegan “burgers” topped with vegan cheese.  Mustard, ketchup, pickle relish, and four large leaves of romaine lettuce made for a tasty sandwich.  We each had a glass of the Cupcake Black Forest Decadent Red wine with the meal.  Dessert was fresh sliced strawberries with non-dairy (vegan) peach mango “yogurt.”  It was a tasty summertime meal.

After dinner I tried sanding the floor patches even though the directions said not to sand the dried material.  I used a very old piece of 120 grit sandpaper in my orbital sander and went over the entire area.  I vacuumed the whole area but I could still feel a residual grit on the floor.  I got Linda’s vacuum from the house and tried that.  I then got the Revel wet/dry mop and tried wet moping the area, but it was still gritty.  I was preparing to go over the entire area with the new 80 grit sandpaper but Linda managed to get it clean using the brush attachment on the house vacuum cleaner.

With the area cleaned up we put the piece of underlayment for the sofa nook in place and it fit very nicely but we did not staple it.  We redid our measurements for the passenger side front piece and made some minor adjustments to the dimensions on the drawing.  What I have tried to do wherever possible is to keep at least two factory edges with a common vertex (corner) and use that point and those sides as the basis for my measurements.

It looked like heavy rain was going to hit us from the west but must have tracked north of us.  We continued to get rain, off and on, but nothing heavy every materialized.  Working in the garage we measured and cut the last piece for today.  We made extensive use of the circular saw running it along a saw guide.  By the time we had the sheet cut there was a lull in the rain so we took it to the bus to test fit it.  The fit was close but needed minor trimming in the front outside corner.  By now it was 8:30 PM and we did not want to haul the sheet back out of the bus and into the garage to work on it.  That will be our first task tomorrow followed by stapling the three pieces that we cut today, weather permitting.

We turned in at 10 PM.  There wasn’t anything on TV that interested us, so Linda read for few minutes before falling asleep and I wrote until 11:30.

 

2015/08/22 (S) Clean and Level

We arrived at the SLAARC breakfast just before 8 AM.  We took the last two seats at the end of the long row of tables, but had to add another one as six more people came in after us.  We had a lively chat that lasted until almost 9:30.  After breakfast we stopped at the Tractor Supply Company store in New Hudson to get a couple more deer blocks and then headed for home.

We took a few minutes to put away tools and straighten up the garage enough that we could set up a work surface for Linda to use for cleaning the walnut drawer fronts for all of the bus drawers.  We set up the two sawhorses we got at Lowe’s yesterday, set two 8-foot 2x4s in the provided grooves, and set a 4’x8′ piece of 2″ rigid foam insulation across them to use as the work surface.  I found an old package of 4/0 steel wool and Linda found some old terry cloth towels.

Foam insulation work surface in garage with walnut drawer fronts laid out for cleaning with Touch of Oranges.

Foam insulation work surface in garage with walnut drawer fronts laid out for cleaning with Touch of Oranges.

Linda removed the drawer fronts from seven of the drawer boxes and tagged them so they could be reunited later as each front is uniquely paired with its box.  She then removed the handles from the drawer fronts and set them aside as they will be replaced with new ones once the cleaning is done.  She started with the back sides of the drawer fronts.  Following the directions she sprayed them liberally with Touch of Oranges wood cleaner, let them sit for 10 minutes, sprayed them again lightly, and rubbed them with the 4/0 steel wool.  She then wiped them off with a terry cloth towel and applied Touch of Beeswax using 4/0 steel wool, always working with the grain, of course.  The wax will have at least 24 hours to soak in before being wiped off.  Once that is done she will flip them over and repeat the process on the front side.

While Linda was doing all of that I hauled the 15 gallon DeWalt portable air compressor out by the bus, plugged it in, and connected the air hose.  I used the 4″ circular pneumatic sander on a few remaining high spots and decided I was done with it.  I had found some old packs of 80 grit half sheets and tried using them on my orbital sander but the grit disappeared very quickly and the sheets snagged and tore on splinters in the plywood.  I spent more time changing sheets than I did sanding with them so I abandoned this approach after the fifth sheet.  I did, however, find a half dozen splintered areas and prepared those by making stop cuts with a utility knife and then peeling the splinter free with a putty knife, creating voids that will be filled with leveling compound.

I was tired of sanding and was clearly not going to get the floor back down to bare wood.  I decided that the floor was as sanded and smooth as it was going to get and it was time to move to the next process; patching and leveling.  Before I could do that, however, I needed to clean the coach.  I vacuumed the floor three times and vacuumed all of the woodwork and wallpaper.  As I worked from the bedroom forward Linda followed behind with a microfiber cloth wiping down all of the woodwork.

I assembled the tools I needed to apply the Universal Patch and Skimcoat; a 3″ putty knife, a 5″ putty knife, a combination smooth and toothed rectangular trowel, a mixing bucket, and a 2 foot long wooden stir stick and a mixing paddle designed to go in a drill.  Each bag of UPS weighs 7 pounds and gets mixed with 1.75 quarts of water, which works out to 1 part water to 2 parts UPS.

The directions on the bag indicated that a full bag of UPS, properly mixed, would cover 20 to 25 square feet 1/8″ thick.  That’s only a 5’x5′ area, but I only had a few gouges that were 1/8″ deep, so an entire bag was going to cover a lot more than 25 square feet when applied as a skim coat.  Not having worked with this material before I had no idea how much working time I would have so I decided to mix half a bag.  The recommended mixing method using a paddle in an electric drill turned out to be a bad idea so used the 2-foot long wooden stir stick to mix the compound.

TEC Universal Patch and Skimcoat applied to the floor in that hallway.

TEC Universal Patch and Skimcoat applied to the floor in that hallway.

I started in the bathroom patching small depressions and then working out from the baseboards.  By the time I got out into the hallway I had not even used half the compound and it was starting to set up.  I hurried to use as much of it as I could, and tried adding a little extra water to extend its workability, but was only able to use about 60% of it before it was too stiff to spread and trowel off smoothly.  I could have waited 1 hour and then mixed and applied more compound but I did not want to risk disturbing what I had already done and it has to set for 24 hours before I can sand it, which I will have to do.

Cleanup required warm soapy water for the tools.  I then poured it into the 5 gallon compound bucket, topped it up with water, stirred it to dissolve the compound as much as possible, and let it sit.

For dinner Linda made Farro with mushrooms, onions garlic, glazed snow peas, and grated carrots.  She needed some dry white wine for the Farro dish and opened a bottle of Pinot Grigio, so we had a glass with the meal.  As rule if a wine is used in a dish it is also a good choice to drink with that meal.

After dinner I went to Lowe’s and got some more 4/0 steel wool and some 80 grit sandpaper sheets.  I stopped at O’Reilly’s for a battery disconnect switch for the lawn tractor but they did not have one.  I tried the Howell Tractor Supply Company but they did not have one either.  I drove to the Brighton Shell station, topped off the fuel in the Element, and went home.  We turned in at 9 PM and watched a 007 movie before going to sleep.

 

2015/08/15 (S) Steve and Karen

As we were backing out of the driveway to go to our weekly ham radio breakfast we noticed a large mailbox sitting on the ground next to ours.  It was still attached to the upper half of its wood support structure.  The number was 593, which is not an address that occurs on our street.  We left it there and went to breakfast.

We had a mid-sized group of 15 people at our SLAARC breakfast this morning.  On the drive into breakfast we lost power to our GPS every time I transmitted on the 2m ham band.  The GPS and cellular booster worked fine all day yesterday with the new 12VDC extension splitter, but I did not use the mobile ham radio.

After breakfast we went directly to Chuck’s shop in Novi to see if we could retrieve the old refrigerator using our car.  A measuring tape quickly revealed that the fridge would not fit without removing the seats.  Even then it would be too long to close the rear gate and hatch on the Element.  At breakfast Harvey (AC8NO) offered the use of his van and labor to help move the fridge and I will probably take him up on it.

On the drive home I chatted with John (NU8M) on the South Lyon 2m repeater and we were joined by Mike (W8XH).  After John signed and dropped off Linda tried different combinations of power connections while I talked with Mike.  Based on that test the splitter appears to be the problem but we could not determine if it was a voltage drop issue or some form of RFI.

I stopped on the way home to fill the gas tank in my car.  When we got home I put the mailbox in the back of my car and we drove to the end of the street but it clearly did not come from one of our neighbor’s yards.  When we got back to the house we also noticed that there was a footprint on the side of our mailbox.  Closer inspection revealed that the post was slightly loose in the ground and the box was leaning (bent) slightly to one side.  Clearly someone had tried to kick it over (and failed) and there was a very high probability that it was the same person(s) who probably broke the other mailbox and left it on the ground next to ours.  We discussed whether we should report it to the Livingston County Sheriff Department but did not take the time right then to do so.

Linda needed to make a grocery store run and then prep the food for dinner and pick up the house.  With company coming later I did not want to get all sweaty working in the bus and garage so I worked in my office editing and uploading blog posts.  I quit around 3:30 and was writing blog posts when Steve and Karen Limkemann arrived at 4 PM.

We always have a nice visit with Steve and Karen and they are good sports about eating the vegan food that Linda prepares.  Linda made a sweet and sour collard greens cole slaw and vegan potato salad ahead of time.  She cooked corn-on-the-cob on the stovetop and heated vegan beer brats on the grill along with onions and green peppers.  Steve and Karen brought a Malbec wine which we enjoyed before, during and after the meal.  Dessert was fresh strawberries with cashew milk snickerdoodle ice cream.  Really, what’s not to like?

Steve and Karen have rented a house trailer in a trailer park near Venice, Florida for the last few winters.  I think they rented it for January, February, and March and split the time with another couple, but I may not have my facts completely straight.  The owners of the trailer are from England and decided after this last winter that they want to start using it during the winter so Steve and Karen lost the use of it.  They really liked the park and its location so they bought a trailer that was for sale and already set up.  We visited them two winters ago, but we were several hours north of them.  This coming winter we will be much closer to them while we are in Arcadia during January and February and plan to see them more often.  Venice is a very upscale place and there is an excellent vegan restaurant within easy walking distance (a mile) from their trailer park.

We talked about trying to catch the tail end of the Perseids Meteor Shower but the peak was earlier in the week, they would not be visible at our location until midnight, and then only low in the northeast sky, which is not an ideal viewing direction from our yard.  Steve and Karen had a 45 minute drive to get home and left around 10:30 PM.  By that point it had been a long but very satisfying day for us and we were straight away to bed once they were safely on their way.

 

2015/08/08 (S) A New Bus Fridge (Finally)

We overslept and did not get up until 7:15 AM.  The weather has been very pleasant all this past week but we awoke to light rain.  We left for our SLAARC breakfast at 7:25 AM and took a different route than usual to see how it would be for the bus.  I headed north on Hacker to M-59, east to US-23, and south to I-96 east.  The ramp from US-23 south to I-96 east is a left exit, left entrance, with a very short merge lane in the middle of a major construction project.  I decided that was not our best option for the bus.

We arrived at breakfast at 8 AM to find a dozen people already there but at least 10 more showed up after us.  We enjoyed the conversation, as we usually do, but did not linger and were on our way back home by 9:15 AM.  As soon as we arrived we changed into our work clothes and got busy with the final preparations to move the bus to Chuck’s bus garage in Novi.

I pulled the bus out at 10:30 AM and Linda followed in the Element, which had all of the pieces we had removed from the old refrigerator along with tools, blankets, and some 2x4s.  The bus roof was brushed by a few small, low branches getting from our house to N. Hacker Road, reminding me that I need to covertly trim trees and bushes along our street.  I say covertly because they are not on our property.  The last time I took the bus out we went south on Hacker to Grand River Avenue.  This would have been our preferred route today except that the trees are not trimmed up in a few places and one of them, just before Bendix Drive, clunked the stuff on our roof pretty hard last time.  I did not care to repeat that so I went north as we had this morning in the car.

At M-59 I headed west to Latson Road, a trip of some four to five miles in the wrong direction.  The reason is that Latson Road going south has a relatively new, and easy to navigate, intersection with I-96.  From there we had an easy run to the Beck Road exit, a short jog south to Grand River Avenue, an easy left turn, and the final mile to Chuck’s shop where we arrived at 11 AM.

Chuck had already pulled his bus out of the building and parked it out of the way but there were several trucks and a dumpster trailer blocking access to his door.  They belonged to a motley crew that the owner of the building in front of Chuck’s shop had hired to clean up some of the mess left behind by the sunroom company that just moved out of the building.  He had me pull up to the right and position myself to back up and then negotiated with the workers to move their vehicles.  I pulled up the tag axles and waited.  The workers were not happy about it but they did it.

To get our bus into Chuck’s shop nose first he had me back parallel to the building and then bring it around to the passenger side into a space adjacent to the front building until I was perpendicular to his door.  I was then able to pull straight in but I did not pull in all the way.  Chuck had me stop with the fixed window frame opposite his forklift which he had already positioned for use.  The on again, off again light rain was not a factor as the window frame we needed to open was well inside his shop.

Linda and I unloaded all of the stuff from the car and brought it inside the shop.  We realized that we forgot to bring the camera so Linda tried to capture the progress of the work with her cell phone camera.  I have put those images in a separate gallery post for this date.

Randy, the owner of the Printology business in the suite adjacent to Chuck’s, came over to see what we were up to and stuck around to help.  With me working from an 8 foot step ladder outside the bus, while Chuck and Linda worked inside, we opened the window frame about 24 inches and propped it with a piece of 2×4.  I then carefully lifted the window higher while Linda sighted along the bottom of the upper cabinet.  When I had the frame high enough to be clear of the cabinet Chuck measured the length of 2×4 we would need to prop it open.

It looked like 52 inches would do the trick.  I had a 56″ piece of 2×4 so I cut it down to 52″ with my 7-1/4″ Rockwell circular saw.  I used the first piece to mark a second piece on an 8 foot 2×4 and cut that.  Linda took both pieces inside the bus where she handled one and Chuck handled the other.  As I lifted the bottom edge of the window from outside the bus the window hinge (at the top) made some unpleasant (and a bit unnerving) sounds but I got it high enough that they could put the two braces in place and the frame did not come unhinged.  We had just finished this task when John Rauch and his son, John, arrived at noon to help move the refrigerators.

The old refrigerator was lying face down in the bus.  The two Johns lifted it as a test and determined that they would not have any difficulty moving it.  Linda fetched one of the blankets and dropped it over the sill of the open window to protect it and the side of the coach.  Chuck had placed the long forks on his forklift about two feet apart and slid a narrow pallet over them.  He raised the forks and brought the forklift forward towards the bus.  We got him to position the top of the pallet even with the top of the sill and about 3″ away from the side of the coach.

John and John are very strong and were able to lift the old refrigerator case and pass it through the window onto the pallet.  With a person on ladders on either side of the pallet we slid the refrigerator all the way out.  Chuck then tilted the forks slightly, slowly backed away, and lowered it down.  John and John got the old refrigerator off the pallet, carried it out of the way, and stood it upright on its base.  They then lifted the new refrigerator onto its back, picked it up, and placed it on the pallet.  They went back inside the bus while Chuck brought the forklift up to the coach and raised the forks until the pallet was at window sill level.  John and John slid it into the bus, stood it up, and rolled it into the alcove.  I then secured it in place with a piece of 1×3 wood screwed to the floor across the front to keep it from rolling out while driving.  There is approximately three inches of space above the fridge but it cannot tilt out very far before the upper back edge catches the ceiling of the alcove.

John, John, and Chuck raised the window frame slightly to remove the 2x4s and close the frame when the top hinge started coming apart.  Linda yelled for me and I scrambled over to get another pair of hands on the frame.  With me and Chuck holding the outside (free) edge and the two Johns holding the hinge edge I was able to see where the hinge was out and direct folks as to what to do.  It took several tries and a few minutes (that seemed like hours) but we got the hinge re-engaged and then closed the window frame.  We took a few minutes to rest and chat and Chuck showed John (the father) his race car.   The heavy lifting was all done so John, John, and Randy took off, but before they did Linda gave John (the son) a gift for their new baby girl, Lucy Violet.

Linda and I put all the shelves and bins in the new refrigerator and then reattached the two doors.  That was a bit of extra work as it came with the hinges on the right side but we needed the door to open on the right side.  With the doors on we took a moment to consider our choice of size and color (black) and felt we had made the right decision.  We started to reassemble the old refrigerator but we were all hungry and decided to go to lunch first.  I started the bus and pulled it all the way into the shop so we could close up.  Chuck then drove us down the street to Panera for lunch.  We took our time and had a nice meal and a nice chat.

Back at the shop we decided to switch the buses around so Chuck would be free to leave.  He wanted a picture of the two buses together so I backed ours out of his shop, swung around to the passenger side, got parallel to his bus, and then backed up so the nose of our bus was about 10 feet behind the nose of his.  He and Linda then both took photos with their cell phones.  When the photo shoot was done I pulled forward to the left and then backed in parallel to the building about four feet from the curb.  That gave Chuck plenty of room to pull up next to me on my passenger side and then back around next to the front building and get lined up to pull straight into his bay just as I had done earlier.

Back in the shop Linda wiped out the inside of the old refrigerator and then we reattached the two doors.  As she cleaned each rack, shelf, and bin I placed it back into the refrigerator.  When it was fully reassembled we plugged it in.  It came on, ran for about 60 seconds and then shut off.  It obviously was not cold yet, and might have been cause for alarm if I had not dealt with this “problem” before.

I knew from prior experience that the defrost timer had probably disconnected the compressor and connected the evaporator defroster.  Chuck pulled out three of his lawn chairs and we sat around waiting for the refrigerator to restart.  The only thing missing was three cold beers.  We knew the unit still had power as the lights were working.  There was an outside chance that the overload protector (fuse?) might have blown, but I did not consider that to be likely.  Our patience was rewarded about 25 minutes later when the compressor came back on.  While we were waiting we gathered up our tools and various materials and loaded everything back into the Honda Element.

Chuck had a message from his wife, Barbara, with her ETA so we decided to settle back into the lawn chairs and kibbutz until Barb arrived.  She showed up a little while later and Chuck got out a fourth chair and we sat in the shop listening to the sound of the functioning refrigerator and debriefing the events of the day.  As a result of the window frame hinge coming loose I am now of the opinion that I did not need to remove the two stop blocks.  I suspect they are there to “stop” the hinge from coming apart and I should not have removed them.  Chuck is also thinking about replacing the refrigerator in their bus and is going to check with Prevost regarding these blocks.  As much as anything I was annoyed with myself for the amount of time I wasted removing these blocks but what is done is done and I now need to reinstall the one block that came off undamaged and get a replacement for the other one, even though I can only attach it with one machine screw.  Butch thinks he can make one for me, otherwise I will have to get one from Prevost.

Our local electrical utility, DTE Energy, will pick up used appliances.  In the case of a refrigerator it has to be plugged in and running, which I presume means it is functioning and cooling the interior.  If so, they will take it away and send us a check for $50.  From our end that’s a good deal as we don’t have to pay someone to haul it away.  Because of the R-12 Freon there are very few places that will deal with it.  My guess is that DTE has a sub-contractor who will recover, clean, and recycle the R-12, which is no longer being made and has become very expensive.  They may also recycle the copper tubing and electrical wire, and possibly the metal case and other materials.  Even with the labor to do this work the unit must be worth more than $50 to them.

We all needed to get some dinner so we wrapped up our visit and started up our bus.  I pulled out onto westbound Grand River Avenue followed by Linda in the car.  At Beck Road we turned north and then got on I-96 westbound.  The bus was at 3/8ths of a tank of fuel so I decided to stay on I-96 and go to the Mobil truck stop at M-52, a run of about 30 miles that would allow the engine and transmission to come up to normal operating temperature.  Linda exited at Latson Road and stopped at Meijer’s to do some grocery shopping.

The Mobil truck stop is run down with a very poor, pot-holed apron and parking area, but there are usually several tractor-trailers fueling here when we pull in as it is one of only two places that a semi can refuel between Detroit and Lansing.  There weren’t any trucks getting fuel when I pulled in but it was 7:30 PM on a Saturday evening and there were a half dozen tractor-trailers settled in the parking area for the night.  I poured two bottles of Stanadyne diesel fuel additive into the fuel tank followed by two ounces of Racor Biocide.  I then added 125 gallons of diesel fuel to the tank, which took about 11 minutes.  By the time I paid for the fuel and was ready to pull out it was 8 PM.

I called Linda to let her know I was on my way and then reset the trip odometer.  I drove east on I-96 for 10 miles to the M-59 / Burkhardt Road exit and got on M-59, which only goes east from there.  Eleven miles later I made the turn south onto N. Hacker Road and completed the drive to our house.  Linda heard me idling in the street, where I stopped to lift the tag axles before making the tight right turn into our pull-through driveway, and came out to help get me parked.  Once I was positioned correctly I put the tag axle back down, let the engine low idle for a minute to let the turbo spin down and let the heads cool off and the temperature to equalize, switched the Level Low system out of drive mode, and shut off the engine.  I shut off the air supply to the engine accessories, shut off the chassis batteries, connected the shore power cord, locked everything up, and went in for the evening.

It had been a long day and we were glad to have it behind us.  I had been anticipating the refrigerator exchange, with some dread, for well over a month.  The concern was that we would not be able to move the units out/in through the window frame, requiring us to remove and replace the lower passenger-side windshield, or that something would go wrong, like the hinge, and turn out to be an expensive and difficult problem to fix.  With each passing day it was also becoming a bottleneck in our remodeling project, at least psychologically if not physically.  But it was finally done and ended well.  We will plug in the new refrigerator tomorrow to make sure it works.  We tested it in Chuck’s shop when it was delivered so we expect it to work now.  There is a lot of work to do but now we can get on with it and I expect it to go well.

In spite of being tired we stayed up and watched the PBS broadcast of the Simon and Garfunkel reunion concert they did live in New York City’s Central Park 10 years after they split up as a duo.  Their music remains among my most favorite from my youth and it has lost nothing with the passing of many years.

 

2015/08/06 (R) Three Quarters Framed

As usual, we started the day with breakfast and then enjoyed our coffee while reading and writing.  Best Pest Control showed up mid-morning to apply the second treatment for hornets, wasps, etc. so we closed up all of the windows and doorwalls while they sprayed.

We located a Wayne-Dalton facility in Livonia so I called them.  As I suspected they were the factory distribution center and would not sell to us directly.  They did, however, give me the name of one of their customers, a business in Milford named The Door Doctor that had a retail store front.  I called them and they had a 12 foot length of the required D-channel bottom weather seal for our small (8′) garage door.  It turned out that they were not actually in downtown Milford but were more conveniently located near the Milford Road exit of I-96.  When the pest control guys were done and gone I drove over and bought the seal.

Back home Linda made quesadillas for lunch and set out some yummy black grapes.  We then made an errand run to Howell.  Our first stop was at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea where we ordered a pound each of fresh roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff and Costa Rican half-caff beans.  The Yirgacheffe is one of our favorites.  The Costa Rican is something new for us.

Our next stop was The Home Depot for a half sheet (4′ x 4′) of 3/4″ plywood.  They only had one type in a 4′ x 4′ size and I did not like it so we did not buy it.  They had nicer plywood in full sheets (4′ x 8′) but I did not need that much and did not want to fuss with something that size.  We did, however, find a drawer/cabinet pull that we liked and bought one to try out with our bus cabinets.  It’s a Rockefeller style from Liberty in an antique brass finish for a 3″ center-to-center hole spacing.  They also had a matching single screw knob in case we need it.

Our next stop was the Howell Art and Frame shop in downtown Howell to pick up three of our four pieces of artwork.  The owner, Rick, had ordered the fourth frame the wrong size and had to reorder it.  The three that were finished looked very nice and I would like to think that the artist, Ann Metzger, would have been pleased with our choices.  Ann was married to my mother’s cousin and took up painting as rehabilitation therapy for breast cancer surgery in her early 40’s.  She turned out to be quite good and was active in the St. Louis artist’s guild for many years.  We have collected many of her works over the last 44 years.

We stopped at Lowe’s to look at their drawer pulls but they did not have anything similar to the one we got at The Home Depot.  We stopped back at Teeko’s to pick up our coffee order and then headed home.

Back home we moved the paintings to the library and turned our attention to installing the seal on the 8 foot wide garage door.  With the door all the way up we were able to slide the old seal out towards the larger door.  I thought we could install the new one with the door in the same position without removing the track from the bottom of the door.  That was, indeed, the case but it did not go in easily.  I trimmed the ends and ran the door up and down a few times and made minor adjustments on each end until it worked properly.  We still need to redo the side and top seals for both doors.

I tried programming the garage door remote control in my car the day we installed the new opener on the small garage door but wasn’t able to.  At the suggestion of the woman at The Door Doctor, I Googled the model numbers of our various remotes and found the manuals.  I had forgotten that the four 3-button remotes we bought a couple of years ago had to be configured before they could be paired with the openers.  Once I knew how to do that I was able to program mine and Linda’s to work with both doors.  Each of our children also have one and I will have to re-program those the next time they are here.

I exchanged e-mails with Josh at Coach Supply Direct about picking up the extra fabric we ordered, perhaps next Tuesday.  I also e-mailed and texted with Jarel about picking up the desk pieces next Tuesday and possibly the pieces for the built-in sofa.  He did not, however, receive the mailing tube with the drawings and cut sheet today, so we will see if that works out.  I suggested he defer work on the pull-out pantry in favor of the sofa pieces as that will allow me to keep working while he is on vacation at the end of this month.  He still owes us a price estimate for the pantry but at this point it almost doesn’t matter as he will be the one building it regardless of the number.

I talked to Terry at A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart regarding the sofa cushions.  She and her mom, Lou, run the business.  I last talked to Terry in early June and she remembered the conversation.  I described once again what we were looking for and she gave me a rough estimate of the cost.  She said we could stop by Tuesday morning to drop off the fabric and discuss the job and thought they could have it finished by the end of August.  That would be great timing for us.  We are starting to feel like this whole project will come together nicely once we get the refrigerators swapped and can finely get back to work on the floor of the bus.

I installed the new Morgan M-302N I.C.E. style lightning arrestor and connected the radio and antenna cables.  I had a short QSO with Mike (W8XH) via the South Lyon 2m repeater and had no issues on transmit or receive.  I started working on a gallery post of 45 photos from the ARRL Field Day event at the end of June but only got half of it done before dinner.

Linda made a delicious zoodles dish for dinner.  Zoodles are zucchini noodles that she cuts with her SpiraLife slicer and uses in place of grain or rice pasta.  The dish had the usual garlic, onion, olive oil base but also had shallots, mushrooms, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes.  We had fresh watermelon later for dessert.

After dinner I finished the gallery post while monitoring the Novi and South Lyon repeaters.  I then had a long QSO with Mike (W8XH) and Steve (N8AR) that gave me a chance to test the M-302N lightning arrestor on both VHF and UHF at three different power levels.  We continued to have the minor problem with quick, apparently random, audio dropouts on our Yaesu FTM-400 dual band radios.  The apparent randomness has made it difficult to puzzle out what might be causing this and we all agreed that we need to set aside time to plan and execute a systematic test and record the results for analysis.

Butch called to chat about house (bus) battery cabling and other things.  I mentioned that we would be coming down on Tuesday and would try to arrange our timing so we can stop and visit over dinner.  We then watched The Princess Bride on DVD.  It’s our all-time favorite movie and I long ago lost count of how many times we have seen it.

 

2015/08/05 (W) No Mask Wednesday

Linda was up at 6 AM and left for the bakery around 6:20 AM, I think. I was more asleep than awake and did not get up until later. I wanted to do a load of laundry but needed powdered detergent which I did not have. I also needed to make a run to Lowe’s so I left to take care of my errands without making coffee or having breakfast.

I picked up a couple of 2x4s at Lowe’s that I will use to cut a pair of support arms for propping open the fixed window in the bus while we exchange the refrigerators. I was going to buy a 4’x4′ (half sheet) of plywood to cut for the base of the refrigerator alcove but did not care for the selection. I also did want to wrestle with the size and weight by myself. I will have to go back to The Home Depot with Linda to get what I need. I got my laundry supplies across the street at Meijer’s and headed home.

After unloading the 2x4s I thought I would program the remote control in my car for the new garage door opener. The procedure is very simple but much to my dismay the remote would not connect with the opener. The remote is a 3-button model made by Chamberlin, and both garage door openers are identical Chamberlin models. We have four of these 3-button remotes, one for me, one for Linda, and one for each of our children. We got the 3-button model because we have two overhead doors on our garage and plan (hope) to have a barn someday with an overhead door. All four of the 3-button remotes programmed to the large garage door without a problem and the new door opener came with a single button remote that works just fine, as did the large garage door opener. I won’t know if the problem is the opener or my remote until I can try programming Linda’s remote. If her remote will program then I know it’s my remote, but if it won’t program I still won’t know where the problem lies.

I had originally planned to mask off the interior of the bus today so I could start sanding the floor tomorrow but decided to put it off. Not only would the painter’s plastic be difficult to manage by myself, I realized that it did not make a lot of sense to tape it up in advance of doing the refrigerator swap. I was on the phone with Chuck arranging to bring our bus to his shop this weekend to take care of the refrigerators when our USPS carrier, Michelle, came to the door bearing gifts. Well, OK, they were packages, but I did not expect them until tomorrow so that made them more like gifts in my mind. One was from Amateur Electronics Supply (AES) and the other was from Morgan Manufacturing, so it was all ham radio stuff.

I went to my ham shack/office and mounted the control head for the Yaesu FTM-400 on the stand that just arrived from AES. I e-mailed Steve (N8AR) to arrange a time to test the lightning arrestor before installing it in our cable entry box. I then e-mailed Jarel to start trying to arrange a day next week to drive to his shop in Logansport, Indiana to pick up the custom walnut desk. Finally, I e-mailed Josh at Coach Supply Direct to make sure he was going to be around. I was checking out the TVFool.com website, which Steve recommended, when the art frame shop in Howell called to let us know that three of our four paintings were ready to pick up. They would have all been done but he ordered the forth frame the wrong size and had to reorder it. Linda then called to let me know she was on her way home from the bakery. So much communication, so little time.

When Linda got home we discussed going out to dinner and researched a new place that had opened in Howell. As usually happens, however, there is almost no place that serves anything we choose to eat and we ended up staying home. Linda had a couple of Boca burgers in the freezer and we had those with corn-on-the-cob and fresh fruit (peaches, nectarines, and strawberries). We eat better food, and in smaller quantities, when we dine at home.

After dinner I caught Steve (N8AR) on the radio and we agreed that I would bring the lightning arrestor over to his QTH at 8 PM. I had an e-mail related to the draft of the July issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and checked to make sure a correction had been made correctly.

At Steve’s house my lightning arrestor tested better than the previous one, and should work OK in my system, but it was very clear that there is something wrong with the design and/or manufacturing of these VHF/UHF I.C.E. units. We also came to the conclusion that the quality control testing the manufacturer was doing (if any) was inadequate to reveal the problem. I expect, however, that this one will work when I install it so if it is typical of their units most hams would not have a reason to suspect that it was flawed. Someone would have a problem with it, however, as it is clearly not usable for all frequencies from 40 MHz to 1 GHz as stated on the label. My unit has a 0.31 dB loss at 445 MHz (it should be 0.01) but has an 11.59 dB loss around 635 MHz, which is a huge factor of 16 times loos of signal, and the loss from 500 MHz to 1 GHz is unacceptably large making it useless in that range of frequencies.

Steve captured all of the data and e-mailed it to me. He then tested one of his Polyphaser lightning arrestors and sent me that data file. He also sent me the link to the VNWA software from SDR-Kits.com that I needed to work with the data file. We spent a few minutes talking about the problem we are having at home with our ham radio transmissions interfering with our OTA TV signals. He sent me a link to the free student version of the ELSIE (“L”,”C”) filter design software.

I left about 9:45 PM and called my friend, John Rauch, to see if Saturday noon would work for him in terms of our refrigerator swap. He said it would and that he would check with his son (also John) to see if he could/would also help. I will let Chuck know tomorrow that it looks like Saturday is a “go.”

Linda was asleep by the time I got home so I worked in my office until after midnight. I captured the data attached to the e-mails from Steve and then downloaded and installed both the VNWA and the ELSIE software. I then uploaded my personal blog posts for June 28, 29, and 30. I logged in to the FMCA Freethinkers website, the FMCA GLCC website, and the SLAARC website and installed updates for the themes and numerous plug-ins. With that I came back upstairs and worked on this post in the living room so as not to disturb Linda and finally went to bed around 1 AM.

 

2015/08/01 (S) Refrigerator Swapping (NOT)

We had a good crowd for our weekly SLAARC breakfast.  We sat across from Mike (W8XH) and had a chance to discuss what to do about the ‘extra’ user accounts on our computers.  We also discussed the release of Windows 10 that occurred on the 29th of July and all came to the conclusion that we would not be upgrading anytime soon.

When we got home I talked to Chuck on the phone.  He said the sun room company was still moving out of the building in front of his shop and that there was still too much stuff in the way to be able to move our buses around.  Given the circumstances we agreed that we would not do the refrigerator swap today and probably not tomorrow.

At breakfast Mike suggested that we look in the Users folder on our computers to see what files were associated with each of these previously unknown users and then delete the User accounts.  It turned out that these users did not exist, or at least had no folders or files associated with them that we could find.  Linda’s computer did, however, have a couple more folders in the Users folder that did not have User accounts associated with them.  When we deleted each of the phantom accounts we were given the option of saving any associated files in a folder on the desktop.  We selected that option each time but no such folders ever got created, confirming (I suppose) that there were no files associated with that account.

Bill, who takes care of the computers and software for the bakery, installed software on our machines when we first got them and Linda speculated as to whether these phantom accounts might have been inadvertently created at that time.  At this point we will probably never know.  We have strong security systems in place and are reasonably careful in how we interact with the online world, but it was a bit unnerving to find these accounts on our machines.

We were on tap for another warm, humid day and I elected not to do any work on the bus or in the garage.  With the phantom User accounts taken care of I transferred the photos that I received of the custom walnut desk from Jarel from my SG3 phone to my laptop computer and edited them for use on our blog.  I copied recent photos from my DSLR camera to my computer and then settled in to copy blog post drafts from e-mails into Word and edit them.

In the course of the day I did a couple of loads of laundry, worked on the sofa design/drawings, chatted on the ham radio, and took time out to have lunch and dinner, which was the left over Pad Thai.  Having sat for a day or two the dish had absorbed the liquid and, although Linda thought the broccoli was now too soft, I liked it better than when it was freshly made.  I also got to add a generous amount of peanuts, which is how I remember Pad Thai being served in restaurants.  After dinner I started reading “Number Theory and Its History” by Oystein Ore.