Category Archives: SLAARC

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

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

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

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/12/20 (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.

 

2015/11/14 (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.

 

2015/10/31 (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.

 

2015/10/25 (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.

 

2015/08/29 (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.

 

2015/08/01 (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.

 

2015/07/26 (N) Rearranging

I was up at 8 AM but did not make coffee as Linda was still asleep and the grinder is fairly noisy.  I put the last load of laundry in the washing machine, cleaned the litter tray (which we keep in the downstairs shower), and then worked in my office.  Jasper (the cat) came down to assist me but mostly ended up supervising.

All three monitors mounted in the ham shack using the ZioTek wall-mounted track system.  The Dell is in the middle.  There is a mount and room for one more monitor at the right end.

All three monitors mounted in the ham shack using the ZioTek wall-mounted track system. The Dell is in the middle. There is a mount and room for one more monitor at the right end.

I mounted the fourth (last) arm on the wall-mounted rail in our ham shack.  I swung it back against the wall to get it out of the way as I do not have a monitor that I want to install at that position at the moment.  I cleaned up the tools and staged them by the stairs and then moved the coiled coax out of the way and cleared a few things off of the desks so I could move the desks back into position.  I left them farther out from the wall than before so they were appropriately placed relative to the three wall-mounted monitors.  I then put various pieces of ham radio equipment back on the desks.

Monitors obviously need computers.  I removed the Dell Precision laptop from my computer desks, removed the computer from the combination docking station and monitor stand, cleaned all of the pieces, and reassembled it.  I set it at the left edge of the ham desks, slid it under the left monitor, and placed our old Icom IC-706 HF transceiver on the monitor platform, just for appearance sake.  We are not using thus radio at the moment but it fit nicely in that spot.

I placed the GoBox with the Icom IC-7000 HF/VHF/UHF transceiver and 12VDC power supply at the right edge of the desks, put the MFJ-998 Intelli-Tuner to its left (under the right monitor), and put the larger variable voltage DC power supply on top of it.  The time we spent yesterday determining where to mount the rail on the wall was time well spent.  The monitors are at a comfortable height for viewing when seated at the desk, tilted down slightly to avoid glare from the overhead down lights, and the bottom edges are high enough above the desk to permit sizeable equipment to slide under them.  The desks are also far enough out from the wall to make it easy to attach and manage cables.

I rearranged my primary ASUS laptop on my computer desks and checked my e-mail accounts.  I have had a discussion going on this past week with Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine about hats with the BCM logo and responded to a couple more of those communiques.  Around 10:15 AM I heard footsteps and knew that Linda was finally up so I wrapped up the work in my office, transferred the laundry to the dryer, and went upstairs.

Linda was working at her desk and was not hungry but wanted coffee.  She did not sleep well last night so I made a pot of Sumatra Manhelding which is NOT one of our half decaffeinated blends.  I got myself a bowl of granola and had a large glass of orange juice.  We spent the rest of the morning in the living room reading, writing, and menu planning.

The dinette area of our bus with the two fan-coil heat exchangers on the floor.  They will go in the bases of the desk when it is installed in this corner.

The dinette area of our bus with the two fan-coil heat exchangers on the floor. They will go in the bases of the desk when it is installed in this corner.

I like to hear the grandfather clock strike 12.   Besides the charming Westminster chimes, it serves to announce that the part of the day has arrived where I am supposed to get some of the physical work on my to-do list accomplished.  Today, however, my #1 priority was to redesign the pull-out pantry so I limited my physical work to gathering up my tools from the basement and moving them to the garage, moving the bus back to its normal parking spot, and taking photos of cabinet details in the bus for Jarel.  I mixed in a little e-mail, a few computer updates, some ham radio, and time for meals, but basically I worked at my drafting board most of the day and evening.

For dinner Linda made a very tasty dish that we had not had before.  The base ingredient was rice and she used basmati even though the recipe called for brown.  I prefer basmati rice to brown rice so it was a good substitution as far as I was concerned.  The other ingredients were garlic, power greens, mushrooms, and blanched fresh green beans.  She sliced and caramelized a large onion and used it as a topping.  This was essentially a “1-pot” dish in that all of the ingredients ended up combined prior to serving.  Linda makes a lot of dishes like this and we both like them. This particular dish had the crunch of the green beans, the chewiness of the rice, and the soft earthy character of the mushrooms held together by the garlic and olive oil and topped with sweet earthiness of the caramelized onions.

At 8 PM local (EDT) I participated in the weekly SLAARC Info Net for the first time in a couple of years and did so from the comfort of our ham shack.  It was a pleasure using our new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE dual band transceiver with our Diamond X-50N 2m/70cm antenna at a height of 40 feet and connected by good coaxial cables all the way through.  Club president Harvey (AC8NO) served as net control operator and did a nice job.

After the net wrapped up at 8:45 PM Steve (N8AR), Andy (N8DEV), and I chatted for another 20 minutes trying to find some rhyme or reason why our Yaesu FTM-400’s are experiencing random audio dropouts.  We did not get it figured out and wrapped up our QSO so Steve and I could check into the LARK (Livingston Amateur Radio Klub) net that started at 9 PM (EDT).  This was the first time I had checked in to this particular net even though LARK is based in Howell and the repeater is closer to us than the ones in South Lyon or Novi.

The LARK Net was much briefer than the SLAARC net and concluded at 9:16 EDT.  Steve and I went back to the South Lyon repeater where Paul (N8BHT) heard us and joined the conversation.  When we finally wrapped up our testing QSO I went back to work on my pull-out pantry drawings.  I was about to shut everything down at 10:45 PM EDT when Mike (W8XH) announced his presence on the South Lyon repeater.  He was mobile but full-quieting and I did not experience any dropouts during our 25 minute QSO.  I took a few minutes to e-mail Jarel and then called it a night.  I had a few almonds as a snack, got ready for bed, and worked on this bog post for a while.

 

2015/07/25 (S) Monitoring

We started our day with our weekly ham radio breakfast in South Lyon.  As we were leaving breakfast I called Chuck to see if he was at his shop.  He wasn’t but said he could be there between 11 and 11:30 AM.  We drove home, loaded up my car with the accumulated recyclables, headed over to Recycle Livingston, and then headed to Chuck’s shop in Novi.  We arrived before he did and let ourselves in.  I got his Dremel tool kit and pistol style soldering gun and we chatted for a while.  He had a noon appointment with someone at a commercial building he owns in Livonia, and we had a long list of project tasks to take care of, so it was a shorter chat than usual.  We stopped at the Lowe’s in New Hudson and bought a can of garage door spray lube and then headed home, stopping for fuel at the Brighton Shell station on Grand River Avenue at I-96.

At our ham radio breakfast Linda had rye toast and I had an English muffin for breakfast (our usual meals) so we were hungry by the time we got home.  We had roll up sandwiches of hummus, Vidalia onions, and greens with a drizzle of olive in a whole wheat pita.  Very tasty.  We then got to work installing the wall-mounted track for the ZioTek monitor mounting system I bought from CyberGuys.

The north wall of the ham shack.  Critical points for the mounting of the ZioTek track system are marked with green tape.

The north wall of the ham shack. Critical points for the mounting of the ZioTek track system are marked with green tape.

Conceptually the installation was simple but it took all afternoon.  There is a kind of alcove at the north end of my office that serves as our amateur radio (ham) shack.  The purpose of the ZioTek system is to support up to four monitors on the north wall above the two desks located there so that they are not attached to the desks or using up any of the desktop real estate.  The walls in the office are 7/16ths inch thick T-111 exterior plywood with 1/2″ grooves on 4″ centers running the length of the plywood sheets.  The sheets are installed vertically so the groves run vertically giving the appearance of vertically installed 4″ wide rough sawn boards.  We finished the photo studio/office at the old house with this material so we knew we liked the way it looks.  Being plywood it has once major advantage and one major disadvantage compared to drywall; you can screw relatively heavy things to it, but holes are essentially impossible to repair.  What that meant for us was that we only had one chance to get the track in the correct location.

In this case “correct” meant:  at the right height and horizontal location to be able to position the monitors exactly where we wanted them while making sure the track was level.  To accomplish this I bought a 1″x6″-8′ poplar board to use as a mounting plate for the two track sections.  (All of the trim in the ham shack/office is poplar.)  We used pieces of tape to mark the locations of the corners of the three monitors on the wall and marked the centers of the VESA 100×100 mounting plates.  When we knew where the horizontal centerline of the tracks needed to be we determined the horizontal location of the tracks relative to the right end of the poplar board, which would be installed flush to the vertical trim in the northeast corner of the alcove.

The ZioTek tracks will mount to the horizontal poplar board which will be mounted to the wall at the studs.

The ZioTek tracks will mount to the horizontal poplar board which will be mounted to the wall at the studs.

We set the poplar board in the utility hallway and positioned the two tracks on it.  I butted the tracks together and slid one of the mounting plates so it saddled both tracks and kept them aligned.  The tracks are 4.5″ wide and the board was 5.5″ wide so I very carefully positioned the tracks for a 1/2″ reveal along both edges.  I then marked the eight mounting holes (four in each track) and removed the tracks.  Using a brad point wood bit that was slightly smaller than the central shaft of a #14 wood screw I drilled holes that were as carefully centered as I could make them.

We held the board in position against the wall and used a 1.5″ #6 finishing nail through the right mounting hole to hold that end of the board.  We then used a 4-foot level on the top edge of the board and secured the left end with a second nail through one of the mounting holes.  We positioned the chair where it will be when in use and made sure we liked the height of the board.  It looked and felt right so we proceeded to secure it to the wall.

The ZioTek tracks mounted to the poplar board mounted to the wall.  Linda is vacuuming up sawdust from drilling.

The ZioTek tracks mounted to the poplar board mounted to the wall. Linda is vacuuming up sawdust from drilling.

Using a small carpenter’s square I marked locations for mounting screws one inch in from each edge of the board in vertical alignment with the small heads of the nails that secure the T-111 to the studs.  The 8-foot long board spanned six studs so I had 12 holes to drill.  I used a standard drill bit that was slightly smaller than the shaft of a #14 wood screw and drilled through the poplar board, through the T-111, and into the studs.   I used a countersink bit to create recessed pockets for the flathead wood screws.  We then secured the board using 3″ long #14 flathead wood screws.  We applied a little soap to the screw threads to help them go in.

I pulled the two small nails out of the track mounting holes.  Using the same drill bit I finished drilling out the mounting holes all the way through the T-111.  We positioned and partially installed one track using 2″ long #14 flathead wood screws in the two end mounting holes.  We then did the same thing with the other track.  I slid one of the mounts so that half of it was in each track and partially installed the remaining four screws.  I gently snugged up all eight screws, checking the track alignment as I went, and then torqued them down.  The heads stick up above the inside surface of the track but the shuttle mounts are raised on the underside so they slide right over the screw heads without interference.

The first of three monitors to get mounted.  This one is on the left end of the tracks.

The first of three monitors to get mounted. This one is on the left end of the tracks.

With the track mounted to the wall we turned our attention to installing the monitor mounting arms and monitors.  We used one of the long arms on the left, the short arm in the center, and the medium arm on the right.  The other long arm will eventually end up on the far right or get swapped for the medium arm, but for now I only wanted to mount three monitors.  We installed the nice Dell monitor that goes with my older Dell Precision laptop in the center and installed the two ASUS monitors to either side of it.

By the time we got the third monitor mounted the office was in more disarray than usual and we did not have time to clean up tools and put things back in order.  Linda did manage, however, to run the vacuum cleaner and get most of the sawdust and wood chips sucked up.  Our son had called during the afternoon with a last minute request for babysitting services from Linda and I decided to go too.

A view of the mounts for the left and center monitors.  This is a substantial system.

A view of the mounts for the left and center monitors. This is a substantial system.

We left at 6 PM for Ann Arbor and stopped at the Whole Foods Market to pick up a few things for dinner.  We got two different vegan sushi rolls, a cold couscous salad, and some organic black grapes.  When we arrived at Brendan and Shawna’s house a little before 7 PM Madeline was surprised and excited to see us.  Brendan and Shawna left around 7:15 PM for an engagement party and Madeline was fine with the whole thing.  She was still eating her blueberries and strawberries and then wanted Linda to read several books to her.  We went upstairs to see how her crib had been converted to a toddler bed, allowing her to get up during the night to use the bathroom.  Such a big girl.  But not too big for pajamas that featured fairies.

After another couple of stories Madeline went to bed without a fuss.  We then had dinner.  The California rolls were OK but the couscous salad was outstanding and the grapes were very good.  We sat on the couch using our iPads but I could not stay awake so I laid down and drifted off to sleep.  I was awakened about 90 minutes later by the return of Madeline’s parents.  Linda gathered up our leftover food and the roses the kids had gotten her as a “thank you” for babysitting on such short notice which gave me time to fully wake up.  We were on our way by 10:30 PM and back home shortly after 11.

 

2015/07/19 (N) Another Buddy Visit

Linda was up at 6:30 AM to get showered before Madeline woke up at 7 AM.  Once Madeline was up they got busy right away making vegan blueberry pancakes.  I was up at 7:20 AM, got a quick shower, and was dressed and seated at the table just in time for breakfast.  The pancakes cooked especially well this morning although I would like to try them sometime without the blueberries cooked in.  After we were done eating I made coffee while Linda and Madeline prepared vegan sloppy Joe’s in the crock pot for lunch.

Mara has been getting up when she feels like it and eating breakfast by herself.  By 9 AM she was outside emptying the passenger side storage bays on her motorhome.  She spent the rest of the morning going through the stuff she had removed, deciding what to keep, organizing it, and putting it back.  I gathered up our laundry, sorted it, and started a load.

Aunt Meghan (our daughter) and Uncle Chris (her husband) arrived at 10 AM and I brewed another pot of coffee.  This was the second buddy visit of Madeline’s stay (the first was Cousin Katie on Friday).  Meghan provided a lot of child care during Madeline’s first 18 months and Madeline adores her “buddy.”  She took Meghan on a tour of the house showing her where various things, like snacks and kitty cats, were to be found.  It was a sure sign that Madeline is finally feeling very comfortable at our house.

Having other adults around gave Linda a break and some time to finish preparing lunch, although once Madeline realized Grandma Linda was at work in the kitchen she had to help.  I went out around 11:45 AM to fetch Mara.  We all sat down at noon and enjoyed a simple but delicious meal of vegan sloppy Joe’s (based on textured vegetable protein aka TVP), corn on the cob, raw baby carrots, and black grapes.

Madeline had very busy days yesterday and the day before and got up a little tired this morning so by 1 PM she was more than ready for her nap.  Meghan and Chris had things to do and took their leave.  Mara went back to work on her rig and Linda laid down for a nap.  I tended to the laundry and then went out to work on our bus and Mara’s motorhome.

I used the Speedout set to try and remove the screw with the stripped head from the stop block on the passenger side fixed glass frame.  I was not successful with this tool so I switched gears and worked on Mara’s cell phone booster system.  I climbed on the roof and she handed me the 12″ x 18″ thin galvanized sheet steel plate.  I took it to the front of the roof, set it down on the fore-aft centerline, and positioned the 4″ magnetic mount antenna in the center.  I dropped the coax over the edge by the driver’s side window and climbed back down from the roof.

Mara opened the sliding side window and screen by the driver’s seat and I passed the coax in to her.  Inside the rig we positioned the amplifier on the driver’s seat and started experimenting with various positions for the inside antenna.  We found one that worked well and left it for her to try.  I checked the laundry and then laid down for a nap.

I skipped dinner as I had a SLAARC meeting at 6:30 and had to leave before 6 PM which is when Madeline was having her evening meal.  Our ham radio club meetings start with social time from 6:30 to 7:00 PM.  The meeting was called to order at 7 PM by president Harvey (AC8NO) and I agreed to act as recording secretary.  Linda was not able to attend because she was taking care of Madeline so I gave the treasurer’s report in her absence.  The meeting adjourned at 7:10 PM.  We reconfigured the room for the program which was a presentation and debrief of our recent field day activity.  Larry (K8UT) reported on the N1MM Logger Plus networked computer logging software.  Steve (N8AR) reported on the radios and antennas and conducted the debriefing.

I got back home before 9 PM.  Madeline was asleep and the ladies were each enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio on the back deck.  I poured one for myself and joined them.  The mosquitoes eventually appeared and we retreated indoors.  I reheated the bowtie pasta from the other night and finished it for dinner.  We said “good night” at 10 PM after which I checked e-mail and websites and then headed to bed.  I wrote for a while before turning out the lights.

 

2015/07/11 (S) Impactful Tools

We had a small crowd for our SLAARC breakfast this morning but good conversation.  After breakfast we drove to Chuck’s house and picked up the manual impact screwdriver.  Barb was up in the thumb visiting her brother-in-law who recently lost his wife (Barb’s sister).  We lingered for a while and then left for home, stopping for gas on the way.

Back at the house I started a load of laundry and then went to work on the stop block screws.  Linda helped steady the ladder and pass tools and parts back and forth.  I got three of the four screws out of the two stop blocks but the head stripped on the forth one so I was only able to remove the aft stop block.  I tried different bits and even tried drilling a small hole in the center of the head to allow the bits to go in farther but it did not work.  The next approach will be a screw extractor, but first I have to go buy one.

We had soy yogurt for lunch with red grapes and I had a few pretzels with roasted red pepper hummus.  I kept trying to get to the basement to work on the desk design but kept getting detoured.  Once I finally reached my office I found that the mouse trap that I had placed under one of my desks was out in front of it.  The food was gone but there was no mouse, only mouse poop.  I realized that the trap was upside down which allowed the door to swing open.  Our best guess is that a mouse was trapped and the cats pulled the trap out from under the desk and accidentally turned it over while pawing at it trying to get the mouse.  Since there was no sign of a mouse having been caught by one of the cats my best guess is that it escaped, for now.

I checked e-mails and found the one with the credentials and instructions for the QTH.com web-hosting of SLAARC.com so I shared those with the other members of the SLAARC website team and then logged in to check out the log file I had created the other day as a test.

I decided to reconnect the Yaesu FTM-400 radio to the Diamond X-50 antenna on the tower so I could monitor the Novi and South Lyon repeaters while I worked in my office.  I had quite a mess on the ham shack desks and decided the best way to deal with it was to install Mike’s Icom IC-2820H in my car in place of our Icom V-8000 2m rig.  At least that would get the 2820 off the desk.  I checked that the mounting brackets and they were identical so I removed the V-8000 but left the mounting bracket installed in the car.

Mike had modified the power cord on his radio by cutting off the T-connector and replacing it with Andersen PowerPoles so I had to modify the power cable in my car to match as I could not modify Mike’s radio.  I removed the fuse from the positive (+12VDC) lead and then cut off the T-connector, leaving about 6″ of wire so I can add PowerPoles and make it into an adapter cable.  I brought my Hakko soldering station up from the basement, set it up on the floor behind the center console, ran an extension cord from the garage, and used it to solder PowerPole contacts to the two wires.  I then inserted them into the black/red housing pair and snapped them in place.

I mounted the IC-2820H, connected the power cable and connected the coax from the antenna.  I reinstalled the fuse in the positive lead, started the engine, and turned the radio on.  A couple of hams were chatting on the Novi repeater, one of whom I knew (Jim, KB8TAV).  When they finished I gave Jim a call and he came back to me, the first time I have been able to use the Novi 440 repeater from my car.  Jim signed off and I switched to the South Lyon 2m repeater and gave a general call.  Steve (N8AR) came back to me and we had a short QSO that verified the radio/antenna was also working on 2m.  As we were wrapping up Linda started fixing dinner.

Linda fixed a simple salad and Dr. Praeger’s vegan hamburgers with Daiya non-dairy cheese.  These patties were also squishy rather than firm and, like the ones at Zingerman’s Roadhouse the other night, where not very satisfying.  They tasted OK, and we ate them because we are not inclined to waste food, but there is a lot more to what makes food satisfying than just taste.  Sight, smell, and texture (mouth feel) are also important.

Linda had several TXT messages from Mara letting us know that she would be arriving tomorrow sometime before 2 PM as she wanted to watch the Wimbledon finals at that time.  Linda and I considered how best to accommodate Mara’s motorhome and finally decided to just pull our bus straight forward until the nose was at the edge of the concrete driveway.  That created more than enough space on the level part of the pull-through driveway for her to park and plug in to our 50 amp service.  The only loads we have in the bus at the moment are battery chargers so we used our 15 amp cord to plug it into a garage outlet.  Since I had to start it to move I switched it to high idle once I had it positioned, leveled it, turned on the OTR air-conditioning to put a load on the engine, and let it run for 30 minutes.

I returned to my office after dinner and work on the desk design for a while but by this point I was tired and not really in the mood.  The last time I updated the BCM page on our website was after the February 2015 issue came out.  I have had articles in the March, April, and May issues and will have articles in the June and July issues.  I captured the covers from March, April, and May and updated the page.

I exchanged e-mails with several people and spent some time looking at dual and triple monitor stands on EBay.  We rarely use EBay and the site made me change our password before it would let me log in.  There was a large selection of products but none of them were exactly what I am looking for.  There wasn’t any rush so I decided to revisit this tomorrow.

 

2015/07/07 (T) Field Day Photos

We did not sleep well last night, were slow to get up this morning, and slower to get going.  A cold front was pushing in from the northwest with the promise of cooler temperatures and sunny, blue skies, but first we were in for a day of overcast conditions and rain, which started around 8:30 AM.  It was a perfect morning to sit quietly in the living room, reading, writing, and drinking our coffee but too warm to turn on the gas fireplace logs.

Yesterday Linda started researching RV parks in southern Florida for this coming winter and we spent some time this morning looking at them online.  There was one in particular, Riverside RV Resort and Campground, which caught our attention.  Located on the Peace River near Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, it is a short distance southwest of Arcadia where the annual Buss’in rally is held.  We went to the rally two years ago and had a great time so we will go again this year if we decide to winter in Florida, which is our current inclination.

One of the reasons for us to winter in Florida, at least occasionally, is our many contacts there.  Our friends, Steve and Karen, bought a mobile home near Venice; our friends, Chuck and Barbara, bought a lot at Pelican Lake in Naples; our ham radio friends, Bruce and Linda, bought a house on 25 acres near Brooksville; our GLCC fiends, Ed and Janet, bought a place that I think is near Sarasota; our FMCA Freethinker friends, John and Marian, bought a place in Dunnellon; and our other FMCA Freethinker friends, Ed and Betty, bought a place in Bradenton.  In addition to all of those folks quite a few of our RV friends, like Pat and Vicki, spend the winter in Florida, and the state has a lot of things to see and do, including one of the best state park systems in the nation.

Linda left for her appointment with the dermatologist and I got to work at my desk.  I continued to deal with e-mails related to the SLAARC domain transfer and an ongoing conversation with BCM publisher Gary Hatt.  I got a Dropbox link to some Field Day photos from Steve (N8AR) a few days ago and downloaded them.  Last night I got a similar e-mail from Mike (KE8AGY) with a Google Drive link and today I got one from Jim (N8HAM) so I downloaded all of those photos.  I spent most of the rest of the day selecting and processing the photos I took and then processed all of the ones I got from other people.

I took a break to chat with Linda when she got back from her appointment.  I then removed the defective Morgan M-302N VHF/UHF Lightning Arrestor from the cable entry box and boxed it up to ship back to Morgan.  I took another short break for dinner, which was an excellent Farro and kale dish, and then worked until 8:30 PM when we had agreed to watch a movie.  This evening’s choice was The Imitation Game, a film about Alan Touring and the concepts he invented that allowed the British to build a machine that broke the coded messages generated by the German Enigma machine during WWII.  I spent another hour at my desk after the movie before going to bed and finishing this post.  Tomorrow morning I plan to finally upload some blog posts and then get back to work on the design of the custom desk for the bus.

 

2015/07/06 (M) Arrested

Our morning started with coffee, once we got up, and then granola for breakfast.  We are both in better health, generally, than we were in our 30s, 40s, and early 50s, but having Madeline here requires a different kind of constant energy and attention and we are somewhat tired by the time her parents take her home.  It’s a good tired, of course, but we were still tired this morning and slept in for a while.

I had hoped to get back to work on the bus today but the afternoon highs were forecast for the mid-80’s which would make for less than comfortable working conditions.  The forecast for the rest of the week was for highs in the 70’s so I decided to wait another day.  I really needed to get back to work on the bus but I also had other things to take care of that seemed at least as pressing.

At the top of my list was the SLAARC website.  Scott Neader had successfully copied the SLAARC WordPress website from GoDaddy.com to QTH.com and changed the domain pointers to point to the QTH servers.  He needed me to check that everything was working correctly.  He was also preparing to transfer the domain name registration and needed my involvement for that process.

Part of our home ham radio shack with the new Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm mobile radio shown lower left.

Part of our home ham radio shack with the new Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm mobile radio shown lower left.

Continuing with the ham radio theme, I needed to resolve how I was going to mount the new Diamond X-300NA 2m/70cm antenna and possibly remount the outside omnidirectional antenna for the cellular booster system.  That meant doing some minor engineering and possibly ordering parts.  I was also preoccupied with the fact that I was unable to participate in the SLAARC info net last night, apparently due to some malfunction in our ham radio system, and it was going to bug me until I figured it out.

Last, but not least, was the fact that I was now one month behind on uploading posts to our blog.  The farther behind I get the more of a chore it is to get caught up.  Like cleaning up my e-mail inboxes, which I also need to do, it finally becomes “the” thing I “have” to take care of before I can concentrate on any other work.  I hate it when that happens, but it is a recurring problem and I have no one to blame except myself.

I often seem to spend the first part of each morning finishing up my blog post (draft) for the previous day and outlining the one for the current day or making notes for future days.  It’s my way of reflecting on what I have done and thinking ahead to what I need/want to do next.  By the time I actually got to work this morning it was after 10 AM and Keith showed up to cut the grass.  It did not rain this past week and he was finally able to cut the grass at the west end of the property, which is low and often wet.

Before going to my office I checked the rebate paperwork which Linda had assembled for the new Yaesu ham radio and got it ready to mail.  I also started filling out the prescription form to send in to Catamaran Home Delivery when I realized the doctor had written the Rx for 30 days instead of 90.  I called the clinic and they said it would (probably) be OK to have Linda bring it to her appointment tomorrow and have the doctor rewrite it.

Our coaxial cable adapter kit.

Our coaxial cable adapter kit.

When I finally got to my office I looked at the SLAARC WordPress website on my computer to make sure everything was working.  The only thing that was not working was an online tool for logging check-ins for the Sunday evening info net.  I e-mailed Scott about that and then logged in as an administrator and updated several plugins.  I logged in to the FMCA-GLCC website and updated it and then did the same for our personal website.  I then created a support ticket at iPower.com regarding the broken FMCA Freethinkers website.  I dealt with SLAARC related e-mails throughout the day.

I spent the rest of the morning editing blog posts for the second half of June and early July and then started selecting and processing photos to use with blog posts, and processed those further.  By the time I quit working I had photos ready for everything except the three days of the ARRL Field Day event.

It was a nice day, if a bit warm, and we had the house opened up including the basement doorwall.  Other than a short break for lunch by 2 PM I had sat long enough and decided to setup the new Diamond X-300 2m/70cm antenna on a temporary pole.  I rummaged around the garage and found the four section pole I had used at the old house.  The pieces were buried under a pile of GLCC related PVC flag pole sections but I was able to slide them out.  I cleaned up the swaged connections and used a light coating of anti-seize compound before assembling them.  I stood it upright on the ground at the NE corner of the deck and zip tied it to the corner post at three points.  I then set up the 7-foot step ladder on the deck and removed the upper two sections.

The new Diamond X-300NA VHF/UHF ham radio antenna is visible atop the pole at the corner of the deck.

The new Diamond X-300NA VHF/UHF ham radio antenna is visible atop the pole at the corner of the deck.

I unbolted the X-300 antenna from its storage place on the side of the 40-foot tower and set the base on the east deck railing.  I then got one of the 35-foot heliac coax cables from the basement and attached it to the feed point of the antenna.  With Linda’s assistance I mounted the antenna to the top of the topmost mast section and zip tied the coax to the mast.  Back up on the ladder I was able to slip the upper mast sections into the lower mast sections and add a couple more zip ties to secure the coax.

I routed the coax over to the cable entry box (CEB) so that it was not visible.  The antenna is shielded from view by our Norway Crimson King Maple tree and the mast is very inconspicuous; not bad for a temporary installation.  I disconnected the X-50 antenna coax from the Morgan UHF/VHF Lightning Arrestor in the CEB and attached the coax from the X-300 in its place.  I went back to the ham shack, turned on the Yaesu radio, and listened.  Nothing.  I tried calling the South Lyon 2m repeater but nothing came back.  I tied the Novi 440 MHz repeater…nothing.  I turned the radio off and moved the coax to our Icom IC-7000 radio and repeated the tests.  Same results.  Something was clearly wrong so I called Mike (W8XH) to see if he could help me figure it out.

Mike was out but on his way back home and called me when he was back at his base station.  We verified the transmit and receive squelch settings on my radios and then tested both antennas on both radios.  Using our cell phones we confirmed that he was not hearing my transmissions and I was not hearing his, either direct (simplex) or through the repeaters.  It was now clear that RF signals were not making it into or out of my system and there was one component that was common to all configurations; the Morgan M-302N VHF/UHF Lightning Arrestor.

I have a coaxial cable adapter kit that allows me to temporarily interconnect most of the connectors used in amateur radio coaxial cables.  At Mike’s suggestion I used the kit to assemble an adapter (barrel connector) with N-female connections on both ends.  I then disconnected the antenna and radio coaxial cables from the lightning arrestor and connected the radio coax directly to the X-300 antenna coax.  Back in the ham shack I tested this configuration with both radios on both repeaters.  I was receiving both repeaters with S7 to S9 signal strength, which is good, and very little noise, which is also good.  Mike reported that my signal was very strong into both repeaters and that he was receiving me full-quieting.  I shut the radios off and then switched the connection in the cable entry box to the X-50 antenna.  We repeated the tests with the same results, confirming that the problem as the lightning arrestor and only the lightning arrestor.

The current status of the cable entry box.

The current status of the cable entry box.

Although I was disappointed that the M-302N was defective I was overjoyed, or at least relieved, that everything else was working perfectly.  Although the new X-300 antenna turned out not to be “necessary” having it on a mast above the tower will give us an even better transmit and receive capability than the current X-50 installation.  I even have some hope of being able to reach repeaters farther away in the Detroit metro area as well as in the Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti areas, and perhaps much farther beyond.  Windsor (Canada) and Kalamazoo are possible when atmospheric conditions are right for longer range propagation, and the Saginaw, Mt. Pleasant, Fort Wayne (Indiana), and even Cleveland (Ohio) areas are not out of the question.  Once, at the old house, I was on the Spirit of 76 repeater atop the Renaissance Center in Detroit when it picked up a 2m station from Iowa.

Relieved of my concerns, especially about the operation of our new radio, I returned to my computer-based tasks.  The first thing I did was e-mail Chris Perri at KF7P Metalwerks regarding the lightning arrestor, which I purchased from him as part of the cable entry box.  He apparently forwarded my e-mail to Morgan Manufacturing Inc., or at least e-mailed them, as I got an e-mail from Bob at Morgan with instructions on where to return the unit.  It has a lifetime warranty and he indicated they would repair or replace it as needed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, except for dinner, working on photos.  Dinner was chickpea salad on a bed of greens with steamed baby bok choy dressed in rice vinegar.  It was a perfect meal for a warm summer evening.

The humidity had been up all day and rose as the temperatures dropped at sunset, although they did not drop much.  Linda was watching an episode of Scorpion when I finally came upstairs.  We watched an episode of NCIS Los Angeles after that and then an episode of Two and a Half Men, which I have always enjoyed.  We turned on a small fan but it was a warm, uncomfortable evening for sleeping.  For whatever reason we did not turn on the air-conditioner although in hindsight we should have.

 

2015/07/05 (N) Return to HFM

Madeline helps Grandma Linda mix the batter for vegan blueberry pancakes.

Madeline helps Grandma Linda mix the batter for vegan blueberry pancakes.

The day started with Grandma Linda’s fabulous, made from scratch, blueberry vegan pancakes for breakfast, which Madeline helped make!  After breakfast we took Madeline to the Howell Farmers Market (HFM).  She had been to this market with us once before and it was a beautiful Michigan summer morning for a return visit.  On the drive over we discussed why it is that you cannot buy a farmer at a farmers market and you cannot buy a garage at a garage sale.  English can be a funny/strange language.

We walked the entire market, which is not really that big, and Linda bought some fresh strawberries.  A couple of the regular vendors were missing.  In particular we wanted to buy some more soap from Marjorie but she was not there.  Madeline enjoyed checking out the child and doll sized wooden furniture that one vendor had for sale.  We kept an eye out for someone selling jelly beans but did not see any so we stopped at the CVS on the way home and got a small bag of them.

We had just gotten home and I was unlocking the front door when Brendan and Shawna arrived.  We had a nice visit and they stayed for a light lunch.  By the end of lunch Madeline was showing signs of being ready for her nap so Brendan transferred the car seat and stroller from Linda’s car to their car, gathered up all of Madeline’s things, and loaded their car.  Madeline left with her parents at 12:30 PM and Linda laid down for a nap shortly thereafter.

I looked at the SLAARC WordPress website on my iPad to make sure it was working.  I checked most of the pages except for the Member Only Area, which requires a login, and they appeared to be OK.  I then went to my office to deal with things that needed to be dealt with from there.

Madeline tries on a child sized rocking chair at the Howell Farmers Market.

Madeline tries on a child sized rocking chair at the Howell Farmers Market.

My first task was to update the roster and financial records for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  I sent e-mails to new members, uploaded the updated roster to our Dropbox, and e-mailed everyone that they were available.  I had received the draft copy of the June 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine on Friday.  I proofread part 3 of my 4-part article on the exterior renovation of our motorcoach and sent corrections to the editor.  I then settled in to edit blog posts.

I took a break for dinner.  Linda cooked Brussels sprouts and heated some vegan riblets.  The barbecue sauce on these riblets is very tasty.  We had vegan chocolate cupcakes for dessert and they were very tasty too.  I then went back to my office and continued editing blog posts.

I took a break just before 8 PM to join the South Lyon 2m Information Net using our new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE RADIO but I did not hear anything except noise.  I left the radio on for a while and then turned it off.  I switched the coax to the Icom IC-7000 and turned it on but did not hear anything there either.  I turned the IC-7000 off, switched the coax back to the FTM-400, turned it back on, and went back to work at my desk.  Around 8:30 PM the squelch started opening and I heard very faint voices way down in the noise.  After listening carefully I was able to determine that it was Steve (N8AR) running the net but I could not understand most of what was being said.

It was the first time in a long time that I had tried to participate in the net and I was disappointed that the new installation of the antenna on the tower and coax cables to the radios in the basement was not working adequately.  They were working OK when I tested them with Mike (W8XH) so it could have been an unusual band condition but Steve was obviously getting in from farther to the west than our QTH.  I enjoy operating and am looking forward to finally having our larger tower up and some HF antennas in operation but for now I need to concentrate on getting the VHF/UHF stuff working reliably (correctly and consistently).

I exchanged some e-mails with Gary at BCM regarding the magazine and then continued editing blog posts.  I got through the end of June by 11 PM and quit for the night.

2015/07/03 (F) 4th Anniversary

Several SLAARC members were gathering at 10:30 AM this morning to unload the Field Day equipment from Steve’s trailer and store it in the South Lyon water tower.  I was going to join them but decided last night to stay home and work on the design for the desk and HVAC chase covers for our motorcoach.  Having played ham radio for much of the last week and a half I needed to refocus my time and attention on the interior remodeling of our bus.  Besides, Brendan was bringing Madeline to our house sometime mid-to-late morning and I wanted to be home when they arrived.  Today was Brendan and Shawna’s 4th wedding anniversary and they asked Linda if we would take care of Madeline for a couple of nights so they could have some time together without the constant demands of child care.  Of course Linda said ‘yes.’

I had a call last night from XPO Delivery Services letting me know the new refrigerator for the bus would be delivered to Chuck Spera’s shop in Novi today between 6 and 8 PM.  That meant I would have to be at the shop by 5 PM just in case they arrived early and could be there past 8 PM if they arrived late.  At 7:45 AM this morning I got a call from the Lowe’s in Howell asking if XPO could deliver the refrigerator in about an hour.  Sure, why not; I was still in bed but about to get up anyway and having the refrigerator delivered early would actually open up my entire day.  I hurried the process along, had Linda get the receipt, grabbed my iPad, and headed for Chuck’s shop in Novi.  Linda was getting ready to go for a walk as I left.

One never knows what the traffic will be like on I-96 headed into the Detroit metro area from the northwest but on this Friday, at the start of a major holiday weekend, the traffic was very light and I was able to get to Novi in the minimum legal time.  Traffic headed westbound actually appeared to be heavier than the inbound traffic.  I stopped at the Tim Horton’s on Beck Road just north of Grand River Avenue and got coffee which I had not taken the time to make at home before I left.

I texted Chuck to let him know that the refrigerator was being delivered this morning.  He called me back to clarify where to have them set it.  This would be a great weekend to do the swap as all of the other businesses around his shop building will be closed for the holiday, making it easy to get our bus in and out.  But his daughter arrived last night from New York and will be visiting for a week so the refrigerator replacement will have to wait, probably until at least next weekend.

By 9:30 AM XPO had not arrived so I called Lowe’s in Howell and talked to Erica in scheduling.  She said she would call the driver and see what was going on.  I texted a status update to Linda and continued to wait.  By 10 AM there was still no truck and no call back from Erica.  At 10:20 I was dialing Lowe’s again when an Enterprise rental truck drove past the building headed east and a few minutes later went by headed west and pulled into a parking lot.  Moments later my phone rang.  It was the XPO truck driver.  I explained where the driveway was and flagged them in.  When I ordered the fridge I gave detailed special instructions on how to find the building but the driver did not bother reading them and did not bother calling me until he had failed to find the delivery location for the second time.

They backed the truck into the area in front of Chuck’s garage door, lowered the refrigerator down on their lift gate, slid a pair of lift straps under it, picked it up, and carried it into the shop.  I looked it over as best I could and then signed for it.  Only later did I notice a small dent towards the bottom of the door.  I had an automated call later asking if I was satisfied with the delivery and indicated ‘no’, noting the arrival delay and the small ding.  The message said I would hear back from someone within an hour but no one ever called.  We do not plan to make an issue of the ding as we will be lucky to get it into the bus and into its alcove with no further damage.  Still, it should have arrived in perfect condition and did not.

I called Linda to let her know the refrigerator had arrived and that I was getting ready to head home.  She said Brendan had just arrived with Madeline.  As I started to back out of my parking spot Chuck arrived so I spent about 30 minutes talking with him about the timing and approach of the refrigerator swap.  I will almost certainly take our bus to his garage on a weekend.  Only later did I find out that Brendan will not be available to help for the next two or three weekends.  Ugh.  Chuck called a friend (golf buddy) who has narrow pallets (24″) to see if he could get a 5’ long section.  With the long forks set close together on his forklift we can slide the pallet over the forks and have a much more secure platform form for raising and lowering refrigerators, probably laying on their backs.

Linda called back and asked me to stop on the way home for some toddler toothpaste and a toddler toothbrush.  I did not know they made such things but I found them at the CVS in Brighton.  Not long after I got home Linda had lunch on the table.  She heated some veggie nuggets and set them out along with baby carrots, grapes, pretzels, hummus, vegan deli slices, bread, lettuce, and onion.  We all had a good lunch with lots of variety.  Brendan got Madeline down for her nap at 1 PM and hung around long enough to make sure she was asleep.  I took a few minutes to show him the new Yaesu radio before he headed back to Ann Arbor.

I was very tired and took a nap on the living room sofa which is especially comfortable for this purpose, better actually than for sitting on.  Madeline slept until almost 4 PM.  When she woke up she wanted her mommy and daddy and was a little weepy but Grandma Linda got her quickly engaged in doing things.  Linda took her for a walk to see the chickens while I went downstairs to check e-mails.  I responded to ones having to do with the transfer of the SLAARC website and domain name registration from GoDaddy.com to QTH.com and made mental note of others.  When they got back from their walk Linda brought Madeline downstairs to see Grandpa Bruce at work in his office and ham radio shack.  We told her we would help her become an amateur radio operator when she was older.

Linda decided that baking a vegan chocolate cake would be an excellent activity to do with Madeline and give us a nice treat for later.  Madeline helped pour and stir ingredients.  She ended up with chocolate cake batter on her face and clothes but it was worth it as she got to lick one of the spoons.  (Without any animal products, especially raw eggs, vegan cake batter is perfectly safe to eat.)  Linda had previously found a small baking set for Madeline that included a small bunt cake pan.  Some of the batter went in there to make a little cake just for Madeline and the rest was used to make 11 cupcakes.

After the cupcakes were cooked and taken out of the oven to cool Linda made dinner.  We had mock chicken strips (vegan), fresh sautéed green beans, vegan refried beans, and fresh berries leftover from earlier.  When the cakes were cool enough Linda got out the powdered sugar and sifter and we dusted them.  Madeline enjoyed the decorating but somehow ended up with powdered sugar in her hair, on her dress, and all over her face.  I took pictures and then Linda cleaned her up while I cleaned the floor.

After dinner and dessert we played and read a bit.  Linda had gotten three Sesame Street Workshop DVDs from the Howell Public Library so we all climbed up into the bed in our bedroom and watched one of them.  We played along with the various activities and games and encouraged Madeline to do the same.  The program ended at 8 PM which is Madeline’s bedtime.  Linda helped her in the bathroom, got her into her pajamas, and helped her brush her teeth.  She laid down without a fuss and drifted off to sleep. We stayed up until the last chime of the grandfather clock at 9:45 PM and then turned in for the night.  We are always satisfyingly tired after a full day of Madeline.