Category Archives: Accounting

Linda is a CPA and former corporate controller.

BP20160331-r-v1-historic-cocoa-village

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

I got up briefly at 6:30 AM to close the roof vents as a stray rain shower drifted over Jetty Park (JP).  I got up again around 7 to put some fresh food in the cats’ bowls so they would stop trying to get us up and then went back to bed.  Linda was up around 7:30 AM to take her last steroid pill and I finally got up to stay at 8:30.  I walked over to the office around 9:15 but it was closed until noon for store inventory.  I knew that from yesterday but had forgotten.  I walked back to our coach and brewed a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe coffee, which was much better than the office coffee anyway.

It was sunny but humid this morning and by 10 AM it was up into the 80’s in the coach so we closed up and turned on the air-conditioners.  Linda has been doing accounting work for the bakery but was waiting on a document from the controller so she walked over to use the shower facilities.  I worked on filling in yesterday’s blog post until she returned and then I walked over to get my shower.  Back at the coach I exchanged text messages and phone calls with Vickie regarding plans for today while Linda exchanged text messages with Mara regarding a possible meetup next week.

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

Pat and Vickie picked us up at noon and drove to Historic Cocoa Village on the mainland.  It was all boutique shopping and restaurants but still quaint and interesting enough.  Linda located The Garden of Eden Cafe and Bakery on Happy Cow but it was no longer in business and we ended up driving back to a Steak ‘n Shake on Merritt Island for lunch.  It was right on the 520 Causeway so it was very convenient.  Linda, Vickie, and I had garden salads and Pat had a hamburger.  I also ordered onion rings.  The salads were good but the onion rings were some of the worst I’ve ever had.  They were very greasy which was probably due to the fry oil not being hot enough.

We stopped at the Ron Jon Surf Shop (RJSS) in Cocoa Beach on the way back.  In the six years that Pat and Vickie have been coming to JP they had never visited the RJSS.  Linda wandered away from the group so I followed her, after which we could not find Pat and Vickie.  It turned out that they also got separated.  The store is big, with two floors, but not THAT big.  It is, however, crammed full of merchandise and the layout made it hard to see most of the store from any given vantage point.  It was also packed with people, which further obscured my view, but through text messages and phone calls we eventually all ended up in the same place and finally drove back to JPCG.

A little piece of Florida charm in Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

It turned out to be a very warm, humid, partly cloudy day and we were glad we had closed up our coaches and turned on the air-conditioners before we left.  Jasper and Juniper were glad too, and also glad to see us.  I walked over to the office to see if any full hookup sites had opened up, but they had not.  There wasn’t anyone else in the lounge area so I switched the TV to The Weather Channel to get a sense of the national and local weather situation.  A line of strong to severe storms was draped from Michigan’s thumb all the way to the Gulf of Mexico at the Texas/Louisiana border.  It was moving east across the continent with numerous severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, and a few tornado watches and warnings, ahead of it.  The northern tip looked like it would pass through our hometown but be below severe intensity.

Back at the coach Linda had resumed working on accounting for the bakery.  I checked e-mail, replied to one from Gary at BCM, and then logged into RVillage to deal with another one.  Scott and Tami had requested to join the CCO group, which is private, so I had to approve their request.   I also updated our checkout date at JP to Wednesday, April 6.  I updated the Excel spreadsheet that I use to track water/tank/softener usage and was just finishing up when I spotted the Carnival Victory cruise ship coming down the shipping channel from its dock at Port Canaveral.  I grabbed the camera and hurried over while Linda locked the bus and followed me.

It was hazy due to the heat and humidity but I clicked off a few photos anyway.  We knew that one of the Disney cruise ships would also be setting sail shortly so we stuck around the channel and walked down towards the pier looking for a better/different vantage point.  These ships always leave between 5 and 5:30 PM heading east down the channel so it is not an ideal time of day to photograph them as we are looking northwest if we want to see the bow.  Once they pass us we are looking northeast with the sun over our left shoulder so the lighting is much better.  I might do better driving up to the Exploration Tower area of the Port and trying to photograph the Disney ships as the leave the dock.  There’s a lot more ‘stuff’ up there (boats buildings, cranes, etc.) to provide foreground and framing, but it might also just obscure the view.  I won’t know which it is unless I investigate it, which I probably will not do on this visit.

At 5:30 PM I spotted the Disney Magic coming out of its terminal basin into the main channel.  It took a while to get into position for the photographs I wanted to take.  After it cleared the shoreline and another set of buoys it turned southeast.  Linda checked the schedule latter and found out it was headed for the Bahamas on a three night cruise.  She also learned that the Magic and the Dream are the only Disney Cruise Line ships that sail from Port Canaveral, which explained why we saw them as often as we did.

A Little Blue Heron by the jetty and shipping channel. Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral, FL.

We headed back up the channel towards the west and stopped when I spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin breaking the surface of the water by the entrance to the submarine turning basin.  We saw it three or four times as it headed back towards the ocean but then it disappeared.  While we were standing there chatting with a local resident a Little Blue Heron flew over and landed about five feet away from me.  It was looking for a handout, which we did not have, but I was able to walk around it and photograph it from different directions for a few minutes before it flew off in search of better prospects.

Back at our coach I worked on this post while Linda started preparing dinner.  She decided to make angel hair pasta with garlic, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  It’s a favorite “go to” meal that is relatively quick and easy to prepare but absolutely delicious.  Because of our late lunch, eaten between 2 and 3 PM, we did not have dinner until 7:30 PM.

After dinner we turned on the TV and put on our usual Thursday evening comedy programs.  I needed to proofread and edit a short article that someone else wrote for BCM but did not feel like doing it this evening.  I also needed to off-load today’s photos from my camera to my computer and Vickie wanted a picture of the manatees from the Merritt Island NWR, but I deferred all of that to tomorrow.  I did, however, fill in today’s activities in my blog post.  That is something I can comfortably do on my iPad while watching TV.

Around 9 PM it was still 76 degrees F outside but we turned off the air-conditioners and opened up the coach anyway.  The temperature was forecast to only drop to about 70 but we figured we would be comfortable enough, preferring fresh air and roof vent fan noise to recirculated air and the roar of the air-conditioner evaporator fans.

Around 10 PM Linda started the update of her iPad to iOS 9.3.  That took over an hour and when it finally rebooted her tablet she went to bed.  I watched channel 6.1 (CBS) long enough to see the weather forecast and then switched to 24.1 (PBS) to watch Charlie Rose.  At midnight I tuned in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a few minutes and then went to bed and fell asleep.

 

2016/02/25-29 (R – M) Sand Castle Stallions Port

2016/02/25 (R) Siesta Key

We were up at 6:30 AM this morning and did not have coffee or breakfast.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 7 AM and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  Our destination was an endodontic office in Lakewood Ranch were Mara had an 8 AM appointment for a root canal procedure.  As we were coming into town Michael spotted a Dunkin Donuts.  Location duly noted.  I pulled up to the office building at 7:55 and we all went in.

The endodontist said the procedure would take about an hour.  Michael stayed to wait for Mara while Linda and I drove back to the DD for coffee and something to eat.  The DD was in a small shopping plaza next to a Shell station so I topped off the car’s fuel tank before we topped off ours’.  I bought regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $1.56 per gallon.  We were getting ready to leave DD when Mara texted Linda that she would be longer than originally thought.  The tooth needed a filling and the dental practice next door just had a cancellation and could take her right away.  That was fortunate for Mara as she and Michael are leaving on Saturday for a week long cruise.  She also wasn’t sure she could get in to see her dentist before July, which was much too long of a time to rely on the temporary filling the endodontist had put in place.

With Mara’s dental needs taken care of we headed west on FL-70 to I-75 south to Exit 207 and then west to US-41.  A short jog to the right (north) and back to the left and we were on Siesta Key Drive headed west to the island of Siesta Key.  We drove through the town, which was very quaint (upscale trendy, actually) and found a place to park with public access to the beach.  The Siesta Key beach is very fine white sands, reputed to be the finest and whitest of any beach in Florida.  We walked quite a ways south from our entry point past the main public entrance and numerous lifeguard stands, all of which were staffed.  The wind was strong and the waves were high and I took a few photos.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach.  Siesta Key, FL.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key, FL.

When we got back to the car we exited the island via the southern bridge and drove down US-41 to Venice.  We found a parking spot, which is not easy in Venice, and walked around the historic downtown area, which is now a mix of quaint and upscale shopping and lots of places to eat.  It is a very attractive area but there were a lot of people there.

We were just window shopping when we walked past the TableTop store.  As the name suggests, they sell a wide variety of products used to set a dining table.  We looked around to see if they had plastic wine glasses but did not see any.  We were just about to leave when we spotted one.  It was smaller than we wanted so we asked if they had others.  They did, we just did not see them!  They were not plastic, however, but were made of polycarbonate.  That’s the same material used for contact lens blanks and motorcycle visors.  It felt heavy duty and had a slight bluish cast.  The sales associate assured us that they could be cleaned in a dishwasher and would not discolor, craze, or crack, and will not break even if dropped on concrete (although we do not intend to test that claim).  We bought four of them at $15 each.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

When we had seen enough of Venice we returned to the car and drove a short distance to Cafe Evergreen in Nokomis for linner.  I had the veggie (vegan) burger and Linda had the vegan beet Rueben.  Mara had the stir-fry noodle dish, which both of us have had before, and Michael had the Chana Masala.  Our waiter, by his own admission, was having an off day but the food was good and we took our time enjoying it.

When we were done with our meal we were also done exploring for the day and I drove us back to Arcadia.  On the drive back we discussed plans for tomorrow, which included Solomon’s Castle in the late morning, Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in the mid-afternoon, some before and after errands, and a picnic lunch.  Back at the RV Resort we dropped Michael and Mara at her RV and then returned to ours.  We watched our Thursday night CBS TV programs and had some popcorn later in the evening.  We headed to bed at 11 PM, watched a few minutes of Charlie Rose, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/26 (F) Castle Stallions

Our two main attractions today were Solomon’s Castle, near Ono, Florida and Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions near Myakka City, Florida.  Both locations were within 25 miles of Arcadia and each other, so we did not have to endure an excessive amount of car travel.

We picked up Mara and Michael at 10:15 AM, stopped at the local Wells Fargo bank branch, and then headed west out of town.  At the edge of town we headed north on FL-661 towards Ono.  We turned onto CR-665 and five miles later turned off onto Salomon Road to the parking lot of Solomon’s Castle.  We had the address in the GPS, but there were occasional old hand-painted signs confirming the route.  We arrived just before 11 AM, when the “castle” opens for tours, but the parking lot was already crowded.  We bought our tickets for the 11:30 tour and then strolled around the part of the grounds between the parking lot and the castle while we waited.  Horse Creek runs through the property, much of which was wet.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

Solomon’s Castle was built by, and is still the home of, Henry Solomon and his wife.  Henry, who is about to turn 81, is an artist who has been creating art objects for 76 years.  Much of the main floor of the castle is an art museum, although the walking tour includes the living room and kitchen.  Other living spaces are on the second floor and were not part of the tour.  There is also a guest bedroom available to rent for $125 per night but I do not recall if an overnight stay included breakfast.  There is, however, a scale “replica” of the Santa Maria that houses part of the onsite cafe and is run by Solomon’s daughter and her husband, who live in a separate house on the property.

Solomon’s Castle and his art are quirky.  Although we did not get to meet him, we came away with an image of his sense of humor, and caught a glimpse of him in his workshop while we were walking the grounds after the tour.  Solomon works in a variety of materials but mostly metal and wood, and mostly with discarded scrap materials including food cans, beer cans, and parts/pieces of automobiles.  I took quite a few photos while we were there.  I don’t know what our son’s professional opinion of Solomon’s corpus would be, but some of his pieces were interesting and we had to respect the sheer quantity of work he has produced.  He seemed to have a particular interest in Picasso, copying several of the master’s works in wood montage.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

From the castle we continued north on CR-665 up to FL-64, the Florida Cracker Trail, and then west about five miles to Wauchula Road where we headed south to Myakka City.  At FL-70 in Myakka City we headed east about 1/2 mile and pulled in to a local park on the north side of the road that affronted the west bank of the Myakka River.  The picnic tables were all bolted to the concrete slabs that served as the floors of the open-sided shelters so we ate our lunch in the shade.  The air temperature was in the mid-60’s, and there was a breeze, so we ate with our jackets on.

After lunch we headed west on FL-70 to the other side of Myakka City were we turned south on Singletary Road.  About seven miles down we found the entrance to the Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School complex.  Hermann’s is the home of a group of Lipizzaner horses that tour North America.  The original horses were part of the 500 Austrian Royal Lipizzaner horses rescued by General George Patton at the end of World War II.  Gabby Hermann is the matriarch of the current operation and the original horses were brought to the USA by her father.  The Lipizzaner horse was first bred in Austria in 1565 from Arabian and Andalusian stock.  Six lines were produced and new Arabian and Andalusian stock have been included in the breeding since that time to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training.  Myakka City, FL.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training. Myakka City, FL.

Hermann’s has open rehearsals (performances) every Thursday and Friday at 3 PM and Saturday at 10 AM when they are not touring, weather permitting.  These are not “dress rehearsals” as the houses and riders are not fully costumed the way they would be for a show while on tour.  They do, however, put the horses through all of their maneuvers.  The rehearsals take place in an open air arena connected to the nearby stables with a pair of gated fences.  There are bleachers on the two long sides of the arena and visitors also bring lawn chairs and set them up on three sides of the arena.  We arrived around 2:15 PM and there were already people there.  Admission was a $5 “donation” per person, but it was not optional.  It was well worth the price, however, and we made an extra contribution at the end of the show.

We secured good seats in the last row of the one of the bleachers at the top of the stairs with our backs to the sun.  That allowed us an unobstructed view for photography with light from a good direction.  It was a good thing we got there early.  Six fully-loaded tour buses showed up after we got there along with lots of passenger cars.  The bleachers were packed and the lawn chairs were at least two deep around the fence.  After the show we walked over to see the 17 day old colt and walk through the stables.  I took photos and also snapped a few shots of the tour buses after chatting with the driver of a 2016 Prevost H3-45 with a beautiful deep purple paint scheme.  I would sure like to have one of those to convert.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School.  Myakka City, FL.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School. Myakka City, FL.

When we were done at Hermann’s we drove back to Arcadia and stopped at Walgreens before returning to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort.  We spent a little time at Mara’s motorhome so she could walk Linda through the various cat and RV chores that needed to be taken care off during the next week.  With that done we stopped at the mail room.  We had a slip in our mail slot that there was a package for us in the office but it was after 5 PM and the office was closed.  We figured it was the shipment of Nutpods vegan coffee creamer but we would not be able to pick it up until Monday as we would not be around during office hours on Saturday and the office is closed on Sundays.

For dinner Linda made lentil potato burritos using various leftover ingredients that we wanted/needed to use up.  I opened the bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine, using the cork puller that Mara gave us the other night, and we had some for dessert.  We were both tired so we watched some TV, including the first of three episodes of a new Masterpiece Mystery series named Silk about barristers in England.  We did not watch the second episode as we had to be up early in the morning and it was going to end too late.

2016/02/27 (S) Port Miami

We were up at 6:30 AM and left at 7 AM for Dunkin Donuts where we got something to eat and a couple of large half-caffe coffees.  As planned, we were back at Mara’s motorhome at 7:30 AM.  By 7:45 we had Michael, Mara, and their luggage onboard and were on our way to the cruise ship terminals at the Port of Miami some three plus hours distant.

The GPS wanted us to go south on FL-31 but we had already decided we would take FL-70 east to US-27 and then take that south/southeast as far as I-75.  We stopped at a Marathon station in South Bay to use the restrooms and let Mara and Michael get some coffee.  We headed east on I-75 to its end point at MM 0 and then followed whatever roads the GPS told us to use to get to Port Miami.  When we were almost to the Port we deviated from the GPS and took the tunnel under the water to get to the cruise ship terminals rather than exit the highway and use the bridge.  There was some temporary confusion, and minor tension, surrounding this but soon enough we ended up at Terminal F where the MSC Divina was docked.

Traffic was heavy and chaotic, but we found a spot at the curb and got them unloaded.  A quick handshake and a hug and we were on our way.  I never cease to be appalled at the incredibly pour traffic engineering we encounter at major transportation terminals.  We did get a stunning view of the skyscrapers that dominate the downtown Miami skyline, but after a bit of driving around we managed to escape the island via the bridge and I was glad to be clear of the area.

Linda had researched vegan friendly eateries last night and selected one called The Kitchen.  It was near Miami International Airport, not too far from Port Miami, and basically in the direction we needed to travel to return to Arcadia.  She put the address in the GPS and we enjoyed a slow, late Saturday morning, drive through downtown Miami.  We arrived around 11:30 and there were only a couple of other diners there.  As is often the case, it was a slightly funky little place, but it had an entirely vegan menu with lots of interesting options.

The Kitchen is, in fact, the prep facility for a chain of local eateries, and plenty of other customers showed up while we were there.  We had the tacos, which included plantains, and the nachos.  The tacos were good, especially the plantains, but the nachos were outstanding.  Both were made with vegan chorizo sausage.  The nachos had a base of blue corn chips with beans, tomatoes, salsa, and cashew cream.  It was also a big serving.  For dessert we each had a coconut date ball and a gobi berry chocolate brownie.  Yum.  The Kitchen was a bit pricey but most of the ingredients were organic and the food was fresh and very tasty so we felt it was good value for the money.

We left at 12:30 PM and I turned the wrong way leaving the parking lot.  It turned out we were on US-27 headed north so we stayed with that choice.  The GPS wanted to put us on the Interstate/Tollroads but we knew that eventually it would put us back on US-27.  There was a lot of traffic and frequent traffic signals, but we eventually got clear of the developed urban area.  Not too far out we stopped at a roadside park with an airboat operation and switched drivers.  Linda told me later that I napped for about an hour but my experience of the situation was that I nodded off and woke up repeatedly because of neck discomfort.

We got back to our RV resort around 3:45 PM and stopped at the mail room on the way in where I retrieved a box of magazines from BCM.  The 3 PM Mardi Gras parade had just ended but some of the decorated golf carts and masked participants were still hanging around the activity building.  I made a mental note that the Mardi Gras dinner started at 7:30 PM and we returned to our rig.

We turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got our local network online.  I opened the box of magazines to see what was inside and e-mailed Gary to let him know what I received.  Linda needed to attend to Mara’s cats, Maui and Sabra, and we both had several updates pending on our iPads and smartphones.  We packed up the iPads and walked to the activity building where I set up our technology in the library while Linda went on to Mara’s Bounder to tend to her cats.

I got both iPads and both smartphones connected to the Internet via the resort Wi-Fi system, which can only be picked up at/near the activity building (which includes the office, lanai, library, dining room/kitchen, card room, and laundry room).  The best reception is outside in front of the building, as the antenna is on the peak of the roof ridge at the front gable, but the reception in the lanai and library is very usable.  There was one other person there using the Wi-Fi but she left shortly after I arrived.

The updates for our iPads took 500 MB and the smartphone updates took at least another 250 MB, so it was at least a 0.75 GB update session.  Our 12 GB monthly Verizon data plan works out to about 0.4 GB per day, on average, so we are trying to do our updates using the park Wi-Fi and save our data plan for web searches, document/photo uploads/downloads, and other work we want and/or need to do from our motorcoach.

While I was updating our devices Linda got a text message from Mara and I was able to watch the latest OK Go video and play a few games.  Kate sent me the link a week ago and I was waiting for a chance to use the resort Wi-Fi when there were few, if any, other users.  I also downloaded the latest issue of The Gypsy Journal digital edition.

When I was done I packed up and walked over to Mara’s rig.  Linda exchanged text messages with Mara.  She and Michael are on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise for the first time.  They had finished the opening session with Jessica Porter and Neal Barnhard, M.D. and enjoyed it very much.  They had just sat down to dinner and we’re excited about that too.  We enjoyed their enthusiasm and recalled what it was like for us the first time we went on this cruise.  Linda packed up a few things to bring back to our coach.  Mara made Broccoli salad last night and there was a lot left over that she wanted us to eat.

It cooled off quickly after the sun set and the overnight low was forecast to be 42 degrees F.  We closed up the coach and then had some of Mara’s broccoli salad along with vegan Italian “sausage” for dinner.  We finished the Barefoot Moscato wine, had a few grapes for dessert, and settled in to watch some TV programs on the local PBS channels before going to bed.  We had spent 7 hours driving/riding in the car today and we were tired.

2016/02/28 (N) Cat Care

It was cool in the coach this morning and I stayed in bed, under the covers, with the electric heating pad on, until after 7:30 AM.  The cats were persistent, however, and I finally got up and took care of their needs.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the zone control thermostats for the bathroom and the kitchen/living area and the electric toe-kick heater for the front of the bus.  Linda got up at 8 AM as I was making coffee.

We had granola for breakfast, after which Linda packed up her laptop computer and gathered up papers related to work she needed to do.  She took the car and drove to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats and then work there.  She did not need to be online and figured the cats would appreciate the company, or at least get more accepting her presence and attention if she spent some quiet, extended time there.  I stayed at our rig to catch up on draft blog posts and attend to our cats.

Last week I downloaded the free version of an app called “OfficeSuite (Free) Mobile + PDF” and have been using it to write the drafts of my recent blog posts.  It works at least as well as the native iPad Notes app, better in my opinion (so far), and creates a native docx format Word document.  It also works with various cloud services.  Hypothetically that should save me the steps of e-mailing it to myself, selecting/copying the text from the e-mail, pasting it into a blank Word doc, and then cleaning up all of the junk caused by the Note app, which is considerable (numerous calendar hyperlinks).  I say hypothetically because I have not yet set up or tested the cloud sync feature.  That was on my “to do” list for today.

Around 11:30 AM it was getting warm in the coach under mostly sunny skies.  I opened windows and roof vents and then put out all of the awnings. I continued working on my blog posts from the last four days and was finally ready to upload one of them via a cloud service.  We have a Dropbox account but we also have OneDrive accounts as part of the Windows 10 OS on our notebook computers.  I don’t normally use OneDrive but I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it.

I set up the credentials to allow the app to connect to the OneDrive account attached to my OS login.  I then tried to move or copy the Word docx file for Wednesday’s blog post from “current files” to the OneDrive under Network locations but the OfficeSuites app would not give me the OneDrive account as an option.  I checked the Help screens for information to assist me but could not find anything pertaining to this specific problem.  The app has Pro and Premium upgrades available ($ and $$) but the feature chart indicated that interfacing to all five of the different cloud services was included in the Free version.  Rather than waste time on this I called David Aungier to let him know there was an updated version of his featured bus article in a folder in my Dropbox and then kept working on draft blog posts.

At 1 PM I was getting ready to walk over to Mara’s rig to get the shower supplies from Linda when she returned in the car.  We have been able to avoid removing the cats’ litter box from our shower by using the showers at the building by the swimming pool.  That also keeps the shower water out of our grey water tank, allowing us to go more days between dumps.  I got my towel and the soap from Linda and walked over to the shower house.

When I got back from my shower I trimmed my beard and shaved.  It had probably been at least a month since my last beard trim and I was starting to look a bit scruffy.  All cleaned up and feeling refreshed I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then returned to the issue of getting the OfficeSuites app to sync with one of my cloud services.  It appeared that Dropbox might be the best choice so I established the connection to that account.  Voilà!  I was finally able to copy a local Word file to the folder I had previously set up in my Dropbox for blog post documents.

I proceeded to finish each post in turn and copied it to the Dropbox folder which immediately uploaded it to the cloud server.  I checked my ASUS notebook computer to make sure the document had made it to the local hard drive.  It had, which meant I could move it to where I keep the draft posts and start editing it directly.  This was a big deal for me as I expect it to streamline the blogging process.

As I was working on all of this I realized that I had told Gary at BCM that I would review and comment on an article he had received from Lloyd DeGerald and would try to get it back to him by Sunday evening.  Lloyd is a highly experienced, factory-trained, Webasto / Aqua-Hot service and repair technician and has worked on our Aqua-Hot in the past.  His article was basically a terse service procedure consisting of a numbered list of steps.  There were some things that I was not clear about so I added comments and highlighted them in yellow.  I got the document e-mailed back to Gary, with answers to several questions he had asked, just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.

Dinner was an improvised dish of red beans and rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes, turmeric, and kale.  I added a little extra Tabasco hot sauce to mine and it was a very good dish.  After dinner Linda did the dishes and then we walked over to Mara’s motorhome, by way of the garbage trailer, to tend to the evening cat and rig chores.  Maui stayed out long enough to get up on the hassock and show some interest in me.  I let her smell my hand but when I tried to pet her head she swatted at me.  Too much, too soon.  She played with a cat toy that Linda shook around, ate her dinner, and disappeared into the bedroom.  Sabra stayed out the whole time we were there, ate her dinner, and chased feathers that Linda moved around.

We walked back to our rig before 8 PM and watched a special about the Manners of Downton Abby on PBS.  The overnight low was forecast at 54 degrees F so we closed the roof vents but did not close the coach windows all the way before turning in for the night.

2016/02/29 (M) Bonus Day

Last night was the Academy Awards but we did not watch the show.  We had not seen any of the films and were more interested in a pair of specials on the Manners of Downton Abby about the role of the show’s historical consultant whose job it has been to make sure all of the actors were as authentic as possible in their speech and mannerisms.

We got up this morning between 7:30 and 8 AM, which seems to have become our norm of late unless we have an outing planned that requires an early departure.  We had our usual coffee followed by granola with blueberries for breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a bit and I finished my blog post for yesterday and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  Linda noted that today was February 29th.  In a month that is usually two to three days shorter than all the others it was like having a bonus day.  I also enjoy the relative rarity of the event.

At 9:30 AM Linda packed up her computer and papers and walked over to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats.  She planned to stay and work a while and was expecting a call from Dave at the bakery around 10 AM.  I finished my coffee, got dressed, and settled in to work at my computer.

When Linda returned we walked to Walmart for a few grocery items before it got too warm outside.  When we got back and had the groceries put away, we reconfigured the back of the car.  After Mara’s arrival, but prior Michael’s arrival, we had reconfigured the back of the car.  We had removed one of the rear seats and put the other rear seat down so Mara could go places with us.  Most of the stuff went back in the car but in order to store the removed seat in the front bay of the bus and make room for some of the stuff from the car we had moved the air compressor and two of the four chassis stands to the passenger side engine bay.

Just prior to Michael’s arrival we reconfigured the back of the car again as we now needed four seats.  To keep our stuff out of sight and protect it from the weather we bought a small tent, set it up behind the bus, and put everything in it.

When Mara and Michael return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise on Saturday Michael is going to rent a car to and get them back to Arcadia from Miami.  He will be sticking around for another four weeks and they will need a car for most of that time as we are leaving Big Tree Carefree RV Resort a week from today.  So today we put both rear seats back up, emptied out the storage tent, reloaded the car, and repacked the front bay of the bus.

As long as we were working outside I stripped out the bad silicone caulk between the new passenger side lower windshield and the gasket.  I found a different product in one of our parts and supplies tubs and got it out.  I did not apply it, however, as I wanted to let the rubber gasket relax and hopefully reform to the glass.  In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that the Safelite installers did not know what they were doing.

It was a sunny day and by early afternoon the air temperature was 80 degrees F, so we put on our swimming suits and walked over to the pool.  We stopped at the office to retrieve our package of Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer and put it in the mail room until later.  After a nice soak and vitamin D treatment we showered, changed into dry clothes, and walked back to the mail room to retrieve our Nutpods package and other mail.  Being the last day of the month our electric bill was there along with an invitation to the Michigan reunion lunch scheduled for July 14 in Concord, Michigan.  The Resort does have a strong sense of community, and people take that back to their home states/provinces when the leave.

I had a text message from Kerry Fear requesting payment for snowplowing services for February.  Linda wrote a check and got it ready to mail.

For dinner Linda made stuffed poblano peppers and pan-grilled them.  (We do not travel with an outdoor grill, either propane or charcoal.)  The stuffing was rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan sour cream, cumin seeds, and Daiya vegan cheddar cheese.  So good.  We had some Barefoot Riesling wine after dinner and fresh mixed fruit salad (bananas, strawberries, and blueberries) for dessert.  I really like the way we eat.

After dinner we watched our usual PBS news programs followed by our usual CBS entertainment shows.  I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose’s interview with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.  I was getting ready for bed and turned on the fresh water pump.  It normally runs briefly to build up pressure and then shuts off.  This time it just kept running.  That meant one of two things: either there was an opening in the system (faucet or leak), or the demand pressure sensor was not working.  I shut it off, put my sweats and Crocs back on, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to investigate.

It was almost midnight but there was plenty of light from the resort street lamps.  I checked both sides of the utility bay and did not see any sign of a leak other than the small drip from the fill valve packing nut.  I turned on the shore water supply and opened the valves to allow it to flow through the softener to the coach.  Once the lines and softener were filled and pressurized I did not hear any further water flow, so I was somewhat confident that we did not have a leak in the system.  I left the outside water turned on so we could flush the toilet and run water to wash our hands.

Back inside I wrote a sticky note not to turn on the water pump and stuck it on the toilet seat.  Linda woke up right after I finally got to bed so I was able to tell her in person, but the note was still a good reminder.  I watched Tavis Smiley’s interview with Tom Waters of Pink Floyd and then went to sleep. February 2016 had been a very busy, but very satisfying month for us.

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

2015/11/20 (F) The End of Projects (for now)

Linda was up at 5:45 AM again and off to the bakery at 6:15 but this was the last time until spring 2016.  There is still more to do on both the software project and year-end accounting but she will do it remotely.  We need the weekend and the first three days of next week to get the motorcoach, the house, and us ready to travel and prepare for our Thanksgiving Day family gathering.  Also, unlike the last two winters, Linda does not plan to fly home in late February to take care of year-end accounting and tax work.  She will handle all of that from Florida instead, so she has to make sure she has everything she needs with her in the bus when we leave.

This was likewise the last day for me to work on bus projects.  The things I needed to do in the bus included:

  • Install metal edging to protect exposed tile edges.
  • Grease the steering column.
  • Install filter material over the HVAC holes under the bed.
  • Mount the West Mountain Radio RigRunner on the dashboard.
  • Pull the chassis battery tray out and check/clean/tighten the connections.

But I had a few other things to attend to first.

I was up and dressed at 7:45 and had an alarm set on my iPad for 8 AM to remind me to pick up our coffee bean order from Teeko’s.  I had a bowl of granola for breakfast and then called Brighton Honda.  My last oil change was at 99,280 miles and I now have over 105,000 on the odometer so I made an appointment for Monday afternoon to have the oil changed.  I had a cup of tea in the living room where I spent some time with our cats.  I then went to my office and replied to an e-mail from Gary at BCM.  I called Teeko’s to make sure our coffee was ready to pick up.  Mary did not have it packaged yet but said she would have it ready in an hour.  I indicated that it would be longer than that before I got there.  I called Discount Tire in Howell to see about having the tires on the Element rotated.  They were running 2 – 3 hours so I made an appointment for Monday morning.  I called Brighton Ford/NAPA to order an air filter for the bus.

I moved the brass colored stair edging into the bus and checked the temperature.  It was 64 degrees F so I bumped the thermostats up just a bit.  I also switched the remote temperature sensors so that #1 was in the freezer (top) and #2 was in the fresh food compartment (bottom).  I removed the ham radio antenna from its magnetic mount and put it in the car.  I finally left at 11:45 AM on my errand run.

My first stop was Wendy’s where I had an order of French fries for lunch.  I then went to Lowe’s, which was just across the street, for carpet stain remover and looked at tarps while I was there but did not buy one.  I don’t think we will be able to create enough space in the garage for the lawn tractor so I want to cover it for the winter.  From there it was less than a mile east on Grand River Avenue to the car wash.  I had taken the ham radio antenna off before I left the house but the car wash knocked the magnetic mount cellular booster antenna loose.  I pulled into a parking spot, put the cellular antenna back in position, and reattached the ham radio antenna.

I backtracked that same mile and stopped at Teeko’s to pick up our coffee order.  It seemed light but Mary already had it bagged and I was anxious to move along so I did not check it.  I continued west on GRA to the Bank of America branch near The Home Depot (which I should have done after stopping at Wendy’s).  With colder temperatures coming the next few days I decided to drive to the Shell station in Brighton and top off the tank.  The sign said regular was $2.059/gallon but the pump I used was set to $1.959.  Deal.

When I got home I checked the coffee order and realized something was not right.  There were supposed to be 16 vacuum sealed 1/2 lb. bags, four each for four different coffees, for a total of eight pounds of beans, but there were only 10 bags.  Some of them were definitely much less than a half pound but I did not have a scale and so I had no way to know for sure what the total weight was.  Three bags were also unsealed and some of the beans had spilled into the larger bag.  Two of those bags were the same bean but unfortunately the third one was different so I had no way of knowing which bag, or bags, the loose beans came out of.  I dumped the loose beans into the bag that was the most open as that was the easiest one to get them in.  I closed the three unsealed bags with spring clips, put everything back in the carry bag, and drove back to the coffee shop.

I was not pleased with the situation, especially the fact that I had to make this extra trip, but I worked through my frustration while driving and was friendly and courteous while I was there.  Being upset and nasty to people never accomplishes anything good.  Roger was there in addition to Mary and once I explained what we had ordered on Monday evening from Jeff it was obvious that something got lost in translation.  They will make it right and we will pick it up late in the afternoon on Monday.

For some time now we have felt that we do not always have Jeff’s full attention when he is waiting on us.  Teeko’s has had its challenges over the last couple of years, first with road construction making access to the strip mall more difficult, and now with the opening of a Panera on the opposite corner of the intersection.  My sense is that they have struggled financially as evidenced by the fact that they never spent the money for a proper neon sign.  As a result the shop is not as visible as it should be even though it is located at a major intersection.  Jeff got married last year and they just had their first child in September.  With those added responsibilities he went back to work driving a delivery truck for PepsiCo, which has a major plant on the south central side of Howell.  His parents, Roger and Mary, have been left to run the coffee shop during the day, which I suspect is not what they intended to be doing in their retirement.  Still, they are always very pleasant to deal with and I feel for their situation.

As much as we like Panera, when we still lived in Farmington Hills we tried to patronize a series of small, independent coffee shops but they all failed in the end.  Some failed because of mis-management, but ultimately they could not compete with the Starbucks, Panera, and Einstein Brothers stores in the area.  Sadly, I suspect this will also be the fate of Teeko’s even though it is a nicer coffee shop than the Biggby’s just down the street.  And it’s too bad (for us at least) as we really enjoy being able to purchase a variety of green beans and have them roasted to order.

Back home I finally got to work on the bus around 3 PM.  I got all of the old silver colored metal stair edging from the garage and determined where each piece had been installed.  I realized that I did not have a good way to cut the new edging nor did I have the time to measure, cut, and install it before it got dark.  I really wanted/needed the exposed edges of the tile protected so I decided to reinstall the old edging.  Although it had obviously seen heavy use over the years it was still serviceable.  Of equal importance was that it was already cut to approximately the correct length and angles.  I checked that the holes on the new edging would fall in different places than holes in the old edging.  That was the case, so I held each piece in place and drilled a small pilot hole at every third hole.  I changed to a different bit to drill through the metal that secures the edge of the plywood bus floor and then screwed each strip of metal edging in place.  The new edging will cover the holes from mounting the old edging.

This was the only work I was going to get done on/in/around the coach today.  Linda had called by this point to let me know she was heading home and was going to stop at Meijer’s along the way.  As soon as she got home she started making three batches of granola.  She is going to make and freeze as many batches as she can fit in the freezer so we can enjoy this fabulous granola well into winter.

While Linda made granola I worked at my computer cleaning up old e-mail.  Dinner was vegan Pad Thai; not like the real thing, of course, but it was easy, hot, and tasty enough.  We had some small oranges for dessert.  I worked at my desk for a while after dinner deleting old e-mails.  I quit at 8 PM to watch a few TV shows and work on this post.

 

2015/11/19 (R) FTH Annual Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/18 (W) Fuel Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/17 (T) Drivable Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/12 (R) Unforced Solutions

When I got up at 7 AM Linda had already left for the bakery.  I had granola for breakfast and made a cup of Stash China Black hot tea.  I went to my office and processed the photo that Byron sent me of him and Betty and e-mailed it to Gary and Jorge at Bus Conversion Magazine.  I then replied to an e-mail from Nancy (& Big Bill).  We met them at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida in April 2014.  They are from Ontario but have a place near Ocala, Florida where they spend at least part of the winter.  I also replied to an e-mail from the Mitch in Florida regarding good places for bus service and forwarded my reply to Chuck.  I cleaned the kitty litter tray and finally got to work on the bus.

A piece of scrap SurePly underlayment used as a spacer/guide for the Porter-Cable oscillating saw to undercut he bottom edge of the side wall panel so it can be removed above the floor tile.

A piece of scrap SurePly underlayment used as a spacer/guide for the Porter-Cable oscillating saw to undercut he bottom edge of the side wall panel so it can be removed above the floor tile.

First up was to finish screwing the down the SurePly underlayment on the floor of the passenger seat platform.  With that done I turned my attention to trimming the switch panel next to the passenger seat.  This panel is just 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood but has both AC and DC switches mounted in a row across the entire top portion.  The added thickness of the underlayment and tile on the floor and back wall of the platform required the bottom and back edges of the panel to be trimmed so it could be installed and removed in case I need to get to the wiring behind it.  I used pieces of underlayment as spacers/guides and trimmed off the edges using the Porter-Cable oscillating saw.  This was the perfect tool for this situation where I could not remove the panel and take it to the shop.

With the panel trimmed and the sawdust vacuumed up I turned my attention to the tile.  After test fitting some pieces to see where the edges would land I decided to tidy up the front of the bus so it would be easier to work.  While that was certainly true it was also a tactic of stepping away from the work and letting solutions float into consciousness rather than trying to force them out.  After several trips to bring things inside the house and garage it was noon and time for lunch, which meant more time to relax and let my subconscious work on the tile layout.  Hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers made a quick, easy, tasty meal and a cup of Constant Comment decaffeinated tea helped wash it down and warm me up while I worked on this post.

Two scrap pieces of the Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl tile used as feeler gauges to make sure the side wall switch panel will clear the floor and rear wall tiles.

Two scrap pieces of the Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl tile used as feeler gauges to make sure the side wall switch panel will clear the floor and rear wall tiles.

As long as I was taking a break I called Pat/Vickie Lintner to let them know I would be coming through Elkhart tomorrow (Friday) and verify that they would be home in the morning.  That sounded fine to Pat.  I will be picking up an accessory for a Nutone power base unit from them.  We have one of the power bases installed in the kitchen counter of the bus but the blender was the only accessory that came with the bus when we bought it.  Pat and Vickie had a power base in their bus but it broke years ago.  They never replaced it, and don’t plan to, so they no longer needed the accessories and were willing to give them to us.  We got most of the pieces from them at the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September but we were missing a critical piece which Vickie thought she still had and eventually found.

After my break I reinstalled the large front trim board on the driver side vertical wiring/plumbing chase that is located on the outside wall next to the back of the driver’s chair.  I don’t recall how I got it out but I could not get it back in.  I ended up trimming off a small protrusion on the lower end and then it went into position without any further difficulty.  It was a small thing, but it needed to be done and it was good to get it checked off my (mental) “to do” list.  When I cannot solve the problem I am trying to solve (tile layout) I try to keep moving and get other small tasks completed.

I took a few more minutes to carefully measure the adjustment needed to the bump out on the passenger side HVAC duct cover and the dimensions for the two new pieces of walnut that will go on either side of the sofa seat.  I brought the old pieces in the house and found the leftover walnut in the garage as I have to take some of it with me tomorrow to Jarel’s cabinet shop in Logansport, Indiana.  I think an hour of my day disappeared between these small, simple tasks.

I continued to ponder the tile layout for quite some time, taking and retaking measurements as I tried to figure out an arrangement that would allow the joints to fall in reasonable places while making sure I could notch around things that go through the floor and avoid having any small pieces.  That is a lot of constraints.  The arrangement I finally came up with had three full 16×16 tiles centered on the landing and into the driver area.  There will be pieces about six inches wide along the fore and aft edges, and the first full tile will also be about six inches back from the edge of the landing (by the entry stairs).  The joints (grout lines) resulting from this placement will continue up the front of the passenger seat platform and result in tile placements on the platform that should work out well.

Linda called at 4:15 PM to let me know she was on her way home from the bakery and was stopping at Kathi’s on the way.  I was done working in the bus for the day so I adjusted the thermostats on the heaters and checked the house battery bank status.  The battery bank voltage was at 25.0 VDC, just slightly down from the 25.2 V level of a fully charged and rested “24 V” lead acid battery (2.1 V per cell x 12 cells in series).  The State Of Charge (SOC) was at 84% and I decided to leave the charger off until Saturday morning after breakfast.  I did have the shorepower turned off for a few hours Wednesday so the refrigerator was running on the inverter for a while but there are no DC loads operating in the coach at the moment and the Magnum remote is showing zero current coming out of the battery bank.  There must be some loads, however, as the battery SOC wound not drop that much that quickly due to self-discharge.  I locked up the bus, went in the house for the evening, and turned on the outside lights for Linda.  Given when she left the office I knew it would be dark by the time she got home.

I took a few pictures throughout the day so I went to my office and off-loaded them onto my computer.  I had an e-mail from Gary at BCM with the latest markup of the PDF for the December 2015 issue.  I proofread my article and highlighted a half dozen things that needed to be changed, using the sticky note feature for the first time to indicate the corrections, and e-mailed it back to Gary and Jorge.

Linda got home about the time I clicked ‘send’ so I wrapped up my desk work and went upstairs.  She had not been grocery shopping this week and wasn’t sure what to fix for dinner so I suggested vegan pancakes.  Fifteen minutes later we were enjoying flapjacks with real maple syrup and cups of hot tea.  Breakfast for dinner is always a treat.  We spent a little time in the living room by the fireplace and then went to the rec room to watch a few TV programs while we doodled on our iPads.  We have been trying to break the habit of watching TV in bed but we finished watching the last show in bed and then turned out the lights.  In a reversal of our recent usual morning routine I have to be up early and Linda does not, but she still fell asleep before I did.

 

2015/11/05 (R) POR-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/04 (W) Southbound Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/03 (T) The Penultimate Cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/02 (M) Driveway Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/30 (F) 21AA

Linda was up and out the door at 6:15 AM.  I got up an hour later, got dressed to work, and had the last banana-nut muffin and a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins.  I turned on the fireplace and settled in to do a search for Chevron Delo 100 conventional SAE 40 motor oil.  O’Reilly’s Auto Parts had it listed online and available in some of their stores locally but not the ones closest to me.  I called the store in Howell and Ron checked the warehouse.  The inventory showed 32 ‘units’ but he said they were packaged with three one-gallon bottles to a box.  I needed 8 gallons to change the oil in the bus’s DD8V92TA engine so I ordered 3 boxes.

I thought I had heard a heavy truck earlier as I was getting dressed but did not investigate.  Around 8:30 AM I heard another one and eventually the gravel hauler pulled into sight.  That meant Phil was already here so I put on my coat and hat (it was chilly outside) and grabbed my camera.  Phil had already spread out some of the construction fabric and the gravel hauler was backing in to the third driveway entrance to dump a load of 21AA road gravel.  He pulled out, unhooked the rear trailer, backed in with the front trailer, and dumped a second load.  The sun was up but low in the sky.  It was brilliant, lighting up the fall colors against darker gray skies to the west but blue skies and white clouds overhead, so I snapped a few photos.

Construction fabric in place on the upper and lower portions of the driveway extension.

Construction fabric in place on the upper and lower portions of the driveway extension.

The gravel hauler reconnected his rear trailer, drove down the street, and turned around by backing his double trailer into the road that leads to the court.  Phil had told me the driver was incredibly skilled but I was impressed watching me maneuver his tractor-trailer train.  After he was gone I helped Phil (a little bit) position some of the construction fabric.  The gravel train was due back in an hour with another load so Phil started up his Takeuchi front loader and started moving the large pile of gravel into place.  I took a couple more photographs and then went inside to have granola for breakfast.  I did not feel like making coffee so I had some Stash China Black tea with soy creamer.  While the water was heating I turned up the thermostats in the bus and the garage.

While I was chatting with Phil he mentioned that he gets all of the things he needs to maintain his Peterbuilt truck and other equipment from Southwest Brake on Haas Lake Road off of Grand River Avenue.  That is certainly closer than driving to W. W. Williams in Dearborn so I checked it out.  I talked to Jack but he could not tell me if they had the filters I needed without part numbers to cross reference.  While I was at it I Googled W. W. Williams and checked the distance to their Dearborn and Saginaw locations, which were 53 and 63 miles respectively.  I also checked the website for A & L Systems in Redford, which is where I get the replacement elements for the Racor fuel filter / water separators.  Before I went to any of these places, however, I checked my existing supply of filters as I try to keep these on hand.

The gravel train returned at 10:05 AM and unloaded two more trailer loads of material.  I checked my stock of filters and appeared to have an oil filter, a spin on fuel filter, and two filter elements for the Racor fuel filter / water separator, but I wasn’t sure.  I spent the rest of the morning checking websites and making phone calls to track down the ones that I needed.

W. W. Williams in Dearborn had the oil filter and secondary fuel filter based on our engine serial number.  That’s pretty cool, and I have confidence that these relatively inexpensive, but critical, parts are the right ones for our engine and the best quality available. They could not identify the spin on coolant filter or the air filter, however.  The air cleaner assembly is apparently determined by the vehicle manufacturer and the two coolant filters on our bus are threaded on to a manifold that is not part of the engine.  I let Chuck know that I might be going to W. W. Williams this afternoon and he asked me to pick up 8 gallons of Detroit Diesel PowerGuard 40 weight oil for him, which I agreed to do.

I had a box in the tub where the filters were stored for a NAPA 4070 Coolant Filter / Conditioner.  I found it on NAPA’s online store but it turns out that Brighton Ford is also a NAPA store so I ordered it from them for pickup tomorrow morning.  They did not have the 6623 (546623) air filter and could not get one for pickup tomorrow.  Their price was higher than I recalled paying for the last one, and I did not need it right away, so I did not order it.

My last call was to A & L Systems, a small company that carries specialty products for heavy trucks and construction equipment.  I got our T. F. Hudgins Spinner II centrifugal oil cleaner from them but they are also a Racor dealer so I get the Racor fuel filter / water separator products from them as well.  John helped me figure out what I already had, which included two replacement elements for the large water separator on the main engine that also serves as the primary fuel filter.  The NAPA 2276 turned out to be the air filter for the generator.  I did not ask about the filter / separator for the Aqua-Hot as I am not going to have Joe change it (I can do it myself when I have time).

At 12:30 PM I chatted briefly with Phil to let him know I was leaving.  He figured he would be done placing and compacting the stone before I got back.  I think he was also going to level out some of the sand he placed at the west end of the yard but I wasn’t sure about that.  He still needs to bring in topsoil to fill in and grade both sides of the driveway and the low areas at the west end of the yard, but he needs the west end to dry out first.

I drove to W. W. Williams in southeast Dearborn.  I bought two secondary fuel filters and two oil filters for me, and eight gallons of Detroit Diesel PowerGuard SAE 40 oil for Chuck.  I then drove home.  It was just under an hour each way plus my time there, so it was a big chunk out of my day, but I did not have a choice as I needed to have the filters on hand by the time Joe got here.

Phil was, in fact, gone when I got back around 3 PM.  It appeared that he had finished spreading the gravel out, leveled the parking area, and driven over it with his track loader to compact it.  The track loader leaves ruts from the tracks so I drove up and down the driveway many times with my car to compact them and even out the surface.  It was mostly for cosmetic purposes, but it looked better and that made me feel better.  I took the filters into the garage and then used one of our metal toothed rakes to even out a few remaining ridges in the gravel.  When I was done I texted Chuck that I had his oil.

Linda called a little before 4 PM while I was working with the rake to let me know she had left the bakery and was stopping at Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner.  I suggested we go out to dinner instead and she quickly agreed.  I figured she would be at least an hour getting home with Friday rush hour traffic so I took a shower and put on my going-out clothes.  Traffic was heavy, as I expected, and she was tired, so it was long, hard drive home for her, as I expected.  We spent over half an hour considering our limited restaurant options without coming to a decision when Linda got a text message from Diane about walking tomorrow morning.  Linda texted back to see if they wanted to have dinner at Camelia’s, the little Mexican place near their house.  It took a phone call to confirm and finalize the arrangements but we agreed to meet them there at 7:30 PM.

Camelia’s is a nice little Mexican restaurant and we had a good meal over good conversation with old (long-time) friends.  Linda and Diane had Margaritas while John and I had draft beers (Dos Equis, of course).  Linda and I split an order of vegetarian fajitas.  They were smoking hot, literally, when they came to the table and very tasty.  We lingered at the restaurant until 9:30 PM.  John and Diane invited us to their house, which is near the restaurant, for tea but we deferred as we were tired, had a half hour drive to get home, and had to be up at 7 AM to drive to South Lyon for breakfast with our fellow amateur radio operators.

We got home a little after 10 PM and went straight to bed.  We caught a few minutes of weather and then went to sleep.

 

2015/10/29 (R) A Setback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/28 (W) Inside Flash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/27 (T) The Pilot’s Seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/26 (M) More Tree Trimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/23 (F) Fetching Antique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/21 (W) Electrifying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/19 (M) Flashless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/15 (R) Camera Software Updates

We had breakfast and coffee as usual but Linda had to leave at 9 AM for a 10 o’clock meeting at the bakery.  I had the fireplace on and hot coffee in my cup so I just stayed put in the living room in my warm winter robe.  I was finishing yesterday’s post when I got a call from Joe Cannarozzi looking for Chuck Spera’s phone number.  My N/A/P book is in my phone so after we were done talking I looked it up and texted it back to him.

After wrapping up yesterday’s blog post and starting today’s I spent a little time with the manual for the new Sony a99v DSLT camera and added a BC-VM10 battery charger to my B&H Photo cart.  Around 10:15 AM I made a follow up phone call to John Palmer at Palmer Energy Systems regarding the terminal block for the Magnum Energy Battery Monitor Kit (BMK).  John had not had a chance to talk to anyone from Magnum and indicated that his main contacts were away at a trade show.  He will still try to follow up with them but thought I might do just as well calling them directly.  They are in Washington State but are relocating to Minnesota as a result of being purchased by Sensata Technologies so I deferred the call until later today.  John said their phone and e-mail contact information had not changed yet, but he thought it might eventually as a result of the sale to Sensata and relocation to Minnesota.

There wasn’t much I could do with the desk in the bus without Linda’s help so I gathered up the laundry and started a load.  I then worked in my office for a while.  I was going to off-load photos from both the Sony a100 and Sony a99v but the Play Memories Home software indicated that updates were available and certain features (social media website interaction) required the newest version.  While I do not plan to interact with social media very much, photographically, I might want to at some point.  Besides, I like to have my software as up-to-date as possible.

The version that came on the CD-ROM was 1.03.something and the latest version from Sony’s website was 5.03.something, so my camera body was probably sitting at B&H Photo for quite a while.  The installer was a 15.6 MB download and program was a lot bigger than that.  It took over an hour to download, install, and then re-scan all of the images in the PICTURE folder, even though it just did this on Tuesday.  While I was waiting I got a solicitation from the Michigan VFW and agreed to send them a small donation of $10.

Rather than sit and stare at my computer screen I got the mail and then called Magnum Energy and asked for technical support.  I was caller number six in line to talk to someone so I selected the return call option from their menu and left my name.  Their system had already captured my phone number but had me confirm it.

One of the things I need to do with the new Sony a99v camera is figure out whether my old flash equipment can be used with it.  I found my Sunpak ring flash, my Metz CT-45, and my two Quantum Turbo gel cell battery packs.  The battery packs had their chargers connected so I set them up in the ham shack and plugged them in.

Linda called at 3 PM to let me know she was just leaving the bakery and planned to stop at Meijer’s.  That meant we would not be finishing the desk installation until tomorrow.  At that point I had not yet heard back from Magnum Energy; so much for being number six in line for a call back.

Debris piled where the new driveway extension will go.  Phil’s truck and large excavator in the distance on the road at the discharge end of the culvert.

Debris piled where the new driveway extension will go. Phil’s truck and large excavator in the distance on the road at the discharge end of the culvert.

I was just about to return to my office when Phil Jarrell showed up at 3:10 PM.  I put on my outdoor work shoes and sweatshirt and went out to join him.  We looked at the discharge end of the culvert and agreed on a game plan.  He unloaded his excavator with the 30″ toothed bucket attached, drove it back into the woods well beyond the end of the metal culvert, turned it around, and brought it back towards the culvert.  Phil’s Caterpillar excavator is a powerful machine and he was able to dig the large root loose that was blocking the outlet of the culvert.  He then dug a trench back from there for about 20 feet, clearing out lots of other stuff as he went, and then stopped.

Linda got home at 4 PM after deciding not to stop at Meijer’s after all.  I walked back to the house and suggested she come see what Phil was doing.  She did and then went back inside to do some bakery-related work at her computer.

A closer view of Phil’s truck and excavator.  He can move a lot of dirt, rock, and anything else he wants with this thing.

A closer view of Phil’s truck and excavator. He can move a lot of dirt, rock, and anything else he wants with this thing.

Phil used a shovel to clean out the end of the culvert, which was already filled with mud, so he could determine the elevation of the top and bottom of the discharge end of the culvert.  He then set up his laser level and started taking readings.  The 12″ diameter culvert drops 9 inches from the high end to the low end.  Phil said a 2″ drop would have been sufficient and the 9″ drop is actually a problem.  If it only dropped two inches most of the discharge end would be above grade.  But that is not the situation so we started working our way into the woods checking the elevation as we went.

The excavator positioned in the woods digging the large root out from in front of the discharge end of the culvert under the road.

The excavator positioned in the woods digging the large root out from in front of the discharge end of the culvert under the road.

By sighting down the center of the road in front of our house I determined roughly where the property line was.  Phil determined that if we continued trenching straight out from the culvert to the property line we would be out a total distance of about 50 feet and would be seven inches below the bottom of the inlet side of the culvert.  He also pointed out the soil he had already dug was very sandy and should drain well.  The fact that this whole wooded area had grass growing in it provided further evidence that it drained well.  A high clay soil would have held water and created an inhospitable environment for grass.

It was well past 5 PM and with the cloudy skies the light was fading so Phil did not want to go any farther today.  He also needed to get fuel in his front loader so it was ready to go first thing tomorrow.  He parked the excavator where it was out of the way and locked it before taking off.

 

 

The discharge end of the culvert with tree roots, dirt, and other debris cleared out of the way.

The discharge end of the culvert (dark hole center right) with tree roots, dirt, and other debris cleared out of the way.  The light gray horizonal stripe at the top of the screen is the road.

Linda made a wonderful pasta dish for dinner.  She used a whole wheat linguini and added it to a sauté of EVOO, garlic, onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, greens, and Brussels sprouts.  Yup, Brussels sprouts in pasta.  It was a first for me and it was very good.  Earlier in the week she had picked up a couple of bottles of Barefoot Moscato at the store, one white and the other red, so I opened the red.  It was sweet, of course, but we both liked it and thought it went well with the pasta which was all savory ingredients.

After dinner I returned to my office and finally connected the new Sony SLT-A99V camera to my computer and transferred images to my laptop as I had set out to do this morning.  After completing the transfer I formatted both cards, changed the file system to create daily date folders, and set the USB transfer mode to Mass Storage.  I registered the body, vertical grip, batteries, battery charger, and SD memory cards along with the old Sony alpha 100 body and lens (DSLR-A100K) and then created entries in our password program with all of the relevant details.

The packaging for the SD cards indicated that there were two free software programs available to support the cards so I went to the referenced website.  One program was Memory Card Data Recovery and the other was X-Pict Story.  The purpose of the data recovery program is self-evident.  X-Pict Story is used to create slide shows.

Both programs required proof that I had qualifying media in the form of model and serial numbers in order to even download them.  I got the packaging for one of the SDXC UHS-1 memory cards and looked it over very carefully but could find either piece of information.  I took the cards out of the camera but could not see any identifying information on them.  I got my magnifying lens hood and with that extreme magnification I was able to just make out a model number (SF-64UY) on one side and 8-digit serial number on the other.

As long as I was in front of my computer I checked into RVillage and went through a dozen and a half notifications and “liked” or commented on a few.  There was an Ambassadors virtual meeting today 2 PM PDT (5 PM EDT but we were busy.  There is another one on Saturday at 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT) and we will try to arrange our day so we can participate.

I spent some more time researching harness systems for holding cameras in front of me.  I think the 2-camera harness from Cotton Carriers may be just what I am looking for.  I was having trouble navigating their website using my iPad2 so I will look at their products more closely on the computer tomorrow.  I will also investigate whether I can order their products through Amazon or be better off ordering directly from the company.

Linda stayed up reading past 11:30 PM which is unusual for her.  I finished this post just after midnight but will look it over again in the morning before e-mailing it to myself.  Lights out; big day tomorrow with lots to try and get done.

 

2015/10/08 (R) A Mighty Hose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/10 (R) Illuminating

Linda had to go to the bakery today so she was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:15.  I was vaguely aware of the activity but fell back asleep and finally woke up a little before 8 AM.  I skipped breakfast save for a glass of juice to wash down my vitamin and allergy pill.  I spent time finishing yesterday’s blog post and thinking about what I absolutely had to get done in next four days.

I was working at the dining room table instead of in the living room so I got to watch a Red squirrel dart back and forth across the deck all morning.  It was gathering walnuts from the tree northeast of our house and taking them somewhere west of our upper deck.  It would run (hop) across the deck with a giant walnut in its mouth and then return by way of the deck railing.  While it was gathering another walnut I moved to our library where I had a good view of our lower deck.  It came down the stairs from the upper deck and disappeared behind the grill.  It may be storing them under the deck or under the cover on the grill, in which case we will have to move them.

The main pieces of the desk set in place but not yet assembled or secured, and without the temporary plywood top or permanent Corian countertop.

The main pieces of the desk set in place but not yet assembled or secured, and without the temporary plywood top or permanent Corian countertop.

Once I was in the bus I continued pondering how to get the desk installed so that everything would line up.  Built-in furniture is just that, and I had not spent a lot of time in advance figuring out how I was going to fasten pieces together and secure them to the coach.  I retrieved the piece of 1/4″ Baltic birch plywood from the garage to use as a spacer at the right end and just slid it in place temporarily.  I decided I would use mending plates attached to the back and underside of the left and right bases and pedestals to align the center cover.  I also decided to use a length of angle against the wall to support and align the pedestals and cover.  Along the same lines I decided to use smaller angle brackets to attach the vertical front panel of the built-in sofa to the two plenum/support boxes and the air return shelf, and to attach the plenum boxes and shelf to the HVAC/wiring chase.

One of the original living room AC light fixtures.  These were no doubt high-end fixtures but no longer worked in our remodeled interior.

One of the original living room AC light fixtures. These were no doubt high-end fixtures but no longer worked in our remodeled interior.

Feeling like I should get something tangible accomplished I decided to re-install the AC light fixture and the three DC reading lights under the overhead cabinets above the desk.  Linda and I agreed last night that we needed to replace the three 120V AC light fixtures in the front of the coach so I turned my attention to that issue.  I removed the fixture on the driver’s side by the kitchen end of the sofa alcove and removed the mounting ring.  I also measured the size of the base and the overall size of the fixture and wrote them down.  Ideally I will find a fixture that has a similar size base but with most of the light fixture above the center point.  One of the problems with the current fixtures is that they hang down far enough that a person sitting on the sofa would bump them with their head and probably break them as they are made of glass rods.

I headed towards The Home Depot in Howell and stopped at McDonald’s first for French fries and a soda beverage.  I looked at all of their wall sconce light fixtures.  They had two different ones that I thought might work but deferred a purchase until I had checked at Lowe’s.  THD had 72″ piano (continuous) hinges, however, so I bought one.  I also looked at PEX plumbing parts as Butch mentioned last night that I could use them to plumb the fan-coil heat exchangers.

Lowe’s had a wall sconce that was a little more to my liking.  I needed three but they only had one in stock, which I bought.  The Associate checked inventory at other stores and indicated that there were two more in stock in New Hudson.  He wrote down the Model number and the phone number for the store and said I could call and they would hold the items for me.  I picked up a couple of 75W GE Reveal light bulbs, the mending plates, angle brackets, and two different pieces of aluminum angle while I was there.  I looked for pieces of felt but all they had were very thick furniture pads which was not what I needed.

The new living room light fixture.  The color, style, and fit are a better match to the remodeled interior.

The new living room light fixture. The color, style, and fit are a better match to the remodeled interior.

I was going to stop at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts to check on heater hose, fittings, and band clamps but decided to skip that stop in favor of getting home and installing the new wall sconce light fixture.  It installed without too much difficulty and I liked the look.  The fixture, however, was rated for a maximum 60W bulb.

I closed up the house and bus and drove to the Lowe’s in New Hudson.  They did indeed have two more of the wall sconce light fixtures that I needed so I bought them.  I also picked up three 60W (equivalent, 8.5W actual) 800 lumens dimmable LED warm white light bulbs.  Linda texted me while I was at the store to let me know she was leaving the bakery and heading home.

I stopped at Michael’s Arts and Crafts in Brighton and bought a 36″ x 36″ piece of walnut brown felt.  I plan to use the felt underneath all of the pieces of the desk and sofa that contact the floor, and possibly in some other areas as well, to keep the wood from marring the tile.

When I got home I called Elkhart Campground to make a reservation for the GLCC rally next week.  I also called A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana to check on our sofa cushions.  Terry said they were almost done and we could pick them up on Monday.  I then sent several text messages to Jarel with photos attached of the desk and sofa in place on the bus and indicated I had some questions and would call him later.

I was getting ready to install the other two light fixtures when Linda got home.  The timing was good as she got to see the first one and approve it before I installed the other two.  We discussed the covering up of the mirror strips in the corner and decided we would leave them for now.  We can cover them up later if desired.  Linda went in the house to fix dinner.  I got the second sconce installed and went inside.

I had a few minutes until dinner was ready and used it to send an e-mail to Jarel.  Dinner was couscous on power greens and small slices of bread from a baguette Linda bought the other day.  I also had the leftover corn on the cob.

After dinner I called Jarel.  We had a long chat and it was 8 PM by the time we finished.  Linda headed to bed and I went back to the bus to install the third/final light fixture.  I also installed four small frosted bulbs in the light fixture under the overhead cabinets above the desk, replacing the clear bulbs that were there.  This light fixture is part of the same collection as the ones I removed from the living room walls but its design and location do interfere with anything.  We might replace it someday, if we find something we like better for use over the desk that is the right size and shape, but for now it will remain in place.  I locked up the bus, closed up the garage, and headed to my office.

I dealt with some BCM-related e-mail and then off-loaded today’s photos from the Sony a-100 DSLR.  I went through all of the photos from September, selected about a dozen, and processed them into 300×200 pixel size images so I could share them with friends and family via e-mail.  I have written extensive blog posts everyday but last posted to the website in mid-July.  I don’t like being that far behind but getting the posts uploaded is just not as important as other things I have to do at this time.

I was heading to bed when I decided to replace the two light bulbs in our home kitchen that were burned out.  I had the two 75W GE Reveal bulbs that I could not use in the bus, so I installed them in the kitchen downlights, and that really brightened things up.

I got to bed just before midnight.  It had been a beautiful day, weather wise, and a cool night was in store portending good sleep.  But first I had to capture the details of today’s work for this post.

 

2015/09/08 (T) Polyurethane

I was awakened at 6:30 AM by heavy rain.  I was not sleeping comfortably and had to get up anyway, so I put on my lightweight robe and slippers and took my iPad to the living room.  Naturally the cats wanted to be fed so I took care of that and then settled in to put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post.  The rain lasted for about 20 minutes.  I e-mailed the post to myself at 7:15.  Linda got up at 7:30 AM so I made coffee but we deferred breakfast until later.

I was thinking about the house battery voltage issues Butch was having and the role of the Vanner battery equalizer in his (and our) house battery system.  I did another Google search on “battery equalizer …”, and selected “batter equalizer circuit” from the list.  One of the listings was for the original patent application by James D. Sullivan as assigned to Vanner, Inc. ( http://www.google.com/patents/US4479083 ).  (I found it interesting that Google has a special directory for patents.)  As I expected, it is a DC-to-DC converter and in its most common configuration it is designed to take charge from the upper portion of a series battery pack and supply it to the lower part of such a pack or to any loads connected across just the lower bank.

One of its features is that it looks at the voltage across the entire battery pack and uses a voltage divider network (two resistors in series) to generate a reference voltage that is compared to the voltage across the lower bank.  Differences as small as 0.01 volts result in the transfer of charge from the upper to the lower bank when the lower bank has the lower voltage.  As implemented for use with buses and other vehicles that have 24/12 dual voltage DC electrical systems the divider network consists of two equal resistors and the reference voltage is 1/2 the overall battery pack voltage.  The design can “balance” other configurations, in which the “upper” and “lower” banks do not have the same voltage, by changing the divider resistors to have the correct ratio.  I will call Butch again this evening to report what I found and see how things stand with them in general.

When we had consumed a sufficient amount of coffee to be alert enough to work intelligently and safely we went to the garage to finish assembling the left plenum/support box for the built-in sofa.  I forced mating pieces into alignment while Linda drove in the screws.  These parts dry fit perfectly so this should not have been a problem.  I blame the slight misalignment on the corner clamps that I used.  I was reminded, once again, that cheap tools are almost never a bargain.

We had breakfast at 8:30 AM; homemade granola with leftover mixed berries.  We also spilt a banana that was getting past ripe.  As we were finishing our meal I got a call from Steven Weber at Martin Spring with another question on the Webasto system in the Prevost Bus Conversion he is servicing.  He had isolated a cracked fuel pipe and needed to order a replacement.  I suggested Sure Marine Service but also mentioned Lloyd DeGerald and Darin Hathaway.

Linda needed to spend some time at her desk preparing for a 1 PM meeting with the I.T. department at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor so I took a shower and got dressed to work.  I gathered up the laundry, started a load, and then spent some time in the garage sanding pieces of the built-in sofa while Linda showered and got dressed for her meeting.  She planned to leave at 11:45 AM.  I left at 11:30 and went to Lowe’s to buy tack cloth.

Tack cloth is like sticky cheesecloth and is probably called that because it is “tacky” to the touch.  It is used to remove sawdust, drywall dust, and other little tiny particles from surfaces such as sanded wood just prior to the application of finishes.  While I was there I looked at inline water separators and inline oilers for use with air compressors supplying air to pneumatic tools.  I also looked at copper fittings to see if they had 90 degree elbows that I could use to modify the Aqua-Hot coolant lines that feed the two front fan-coil hear-exchangers.

Linda left before I got home.  I moved the laundry to the dryer and went back to the garage to work.  I was contemplating what I wanted to do next when Keith pulled up in his truck and trailer.  I chose to skip having the lawn mowed this week which will help Keith get the rest of his clients taken care of in his shortened 4-day workweek.  The grass has grown since last Monday but not that much and is still short and brown in places.  With rain in the forecast today, tomorrow, and Thursday giving it another week should be good for it.  I showed him the floor in the bus before he left.

I returned to the bus project and realized that I needed to stain the underside of the built-in sofa shelf as part of it might be visible through the notch in the vertical front panel at the floor.  As long as I was staining that I also stained the tops of the plenum/support boxes so they would blend with the two stationary pieces at either end of the seat.

With the staining done I came inside to make a few phone calls.  The first one was to Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct to check on the details of the Corian countertop for the custom desk.  Josh said the Corian normally comes bonded to plywood which protects it from cracking in shipment.  I want to go ahead and cut the 3/4″ plywood top that will join the two pedestals together.  I also wanted to know if his Corian vendor could come out on the afternoon of the 14th to measure and possibly install the countertop by the end of the week.  His vendor turns out to be an Amish craftsman who does not “come out and measure” or “come back and install.”  Josh said he would check with the vendor to see if he would use my plywood base and also see if he had the Sandstone product in stock.

My next call was to Pat Lintner to check on dinner plans for the upcoming GLCC Surplus and Salvage rally.  I need to coordinate with Crimp Supply to have them provide catalogs for the attendees and perhaps speak to the group before dinner.  I got his answering machine and left a message.

My third call was to Jim Miteff (N8KUE) returning his call/message from earlier.  We had a long chat about RVing and Prevost bus conversions.  It’s a big topic and I sometimes forget that I have spent the last 10 years learning about it.  When I think back to the beginning of this adventure, however, I recall how exciting yet overwhelming it was initially.  I see Jim in the same place, but he is a very quick study and professional researcher so he will get past the overwhelming part fairly quickly.

While I was talking to Jim I heard a loud bang and then another one.  They sounded like it had come from within the house.  After the second one I got up to investigate.  As I peeked out the front door a Consumer’s Energy truck was backing out of the driveway.  I flagged the driver down and asked what was up.  He said they had detected a leak and that he had just fixed it.  I presumed it was at our meter but he wasn’t any more specific than that.  I thought it was odd that he did not knock on the door first to let me know he was on site, but I guess they have the right to service their infrastructure.  I have smelled gas on that side of the house occasionally ever since they installed it but dismissed it as a “purge valve” doing its thing.  We had the same issue at the old house and they kept telling me it was a “vent” mechanism on the meter.  I never belief that, but whatever.

I wrapped up my call with Jim, put in another load of laundry, and returned to the garage to apply polyurethane to as much of the built-in sofa pieces as I could.  Each piece has to be done in two steps and requires two coats, so that’s four applications that will have to spread out over a couple of days.

There wasn’t much else I could do, and I did not feel like working at my desk, so I hung up the dry laundry and then worked on my iPad in the living room.  Linda had made an appointment with Renee to have her hair cut at 4:30 PM.  She stopped at Meijer’s on the way home and finally arrived at 5:45 PM.  I went back to the garage at 6 PM and applied another coat of polyurethane.

Linda bought an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza for dinner and made a nice salad to go with it.  I had some more of the Leelanau Cellars Apricot wine and we had the last two vegan cupcakes for dessert.  I tried calling Butch twice but his phone was either off or out of range.  I called Pat Lintner again and this time he was home.  Saturday dinner will be at a restaurant so that will not be a good time for Crimp Supply to talk to the rally attendees and pass out catalogs.  I will call them tomorrow and see what I can arrange.

I headed back to the garage yet again, applied polyurethane to all the surfaces that had not yet been coated, put the brush in the soapy water, sealed up the can, and closed up the garage.  I think I have just enough polyurethane left to put one more coat on the top surface of the shelf.  I plan to do that in the morning before I start anything else.

On the drive home Linda heard a weather forecast that thunderstorms were headed our way this evening with up to 1″ of rain, strong wind, and possibly small hail.  Linda headed off to bed at 8 PM to watch NCIS and I caught the last half of the show.  I turned the channel to Create on Detroit PBS and watched A Chef’s Life, a series about a wife and husband who run the Chef & The Farmer restaurant in eastern North Carolina, and then turned the TV off.

I checked the weather with my iPad and it appeared that system had fallen apart although there was still a reduced chance of scattered thunderstorms at 11 PM and again from 2 to 4 AM.  I turned the light out at 10:30 PM.

 

2015/08/27 (R) In and Out

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and on her way to the bakery at 6:15.   I got up an hour later and also got an early start to my day; early is relative, after all.  After a bowl of granola I brewed some Cafe Europe / Columbian decaf coffee, turned on the gas fireplace, and continued reading Number Theory and its History.  A week ago Jim (N8KUE) e-mailed some questions to us regarding RVing and bus conversions.  I felt that too much time had passed without a response so I settled in at my computer to answer his questions as best I could.  I sent my reply at 9:30 and turned my attention to our bus project.

I got the pull-out pantry (mostly) installed yesterday.  Before we could place the refrigerator in the alcove, however, I needed to do four things:

  1. Install a piece of aluminum angle to prevent the fridge from sliding to the left;
  2. Secure the water line that went to the old refrigerator;
  3. Plug up openings in the cabinet with steel wool; and
  4. Install the 10th drawer slide on top of the pantry to reduce lateral movement at full extension.

I decided to tackle these tasks in that order, which meant a trip to Lowe’s to get the aluminum angle.  I chatted briefly with Mike (W8XH) on the drive and stopped at The Home Depot first but did not find what I wanted.  Lowe’s had a 3 foot length of 1/8″ thick 1.5″X1.5″ angle.  I wanted aluminum because it is light, easy for me to work, and won’t rust or need to be painted, but I wanted the 1/8″ thickness for strength.  While I was there I picked up another foam brush, a bottle of Mineral Spirits, and a package of #8-1.75″ stainless steel self-drilling exterior wood screws.

The road graders were out today in our part of the county and I passed the one working on Golf Club Road going to, and returning from, Lowe’s.  There was also one working on our road that I could not get around, so I followed it slowly until it reached our driveway and I could turn in.

Back home I cut the aluminum angle to a length of 26.5 inches, the same as the depth of the refrigerator base section and the top piece of plywood in the base of the alcove. I selected a drill bit that was just barely larger in diameter than the stainless steel screws.  Starting with the midpoint I drilled holes every three inches along the centerline of one side of the angle.  I then countersunk each hole, checking with a screw until the head was just slightly recessed.  A light back bore with the countersink bit removed any rough edges.

With the pantry pulled all the way out I placed the side of the angle with the holes on the 2nd piece of plywood in the alcove base with the other side of the angle against the edge of the 3rd piece of the base.  Since these pieces of plywood are all 3/4″ thick the vertical side of the angle extended above the plywood by 3/4 of an inch, more than enough to catch the left side of the refrigerator.  I held the angle tight against the edge of the 3rd piece of plywood, with the front edge back about 1/2″, and used the #8 VIX self-centering drill bit to drill a pilot hole in the back hole.  I then secured it with one of the stainless steel screws, penetrating both the 2nd and 1st layers of plywood and probably a heavy 1/8″ of the subfloor.  I held the front of the angle tight and secured the 2nd hole from the front in the same way, as I could not access the first hole due to the pantry.  I drilled all the remaining holes except the first and put in the screws.  I then pushed the pantry all the way in so I could access the front hole and secured it.  The angle was now held in place by nine strong screws fastened into a lot of wood.

The pantry and refrigerator installed in the alcove.

The pantry and refrigerator installed in the alcove.

The old refrigerator had an ice maker and cold water dispenser in the freezer door so there is a flexible copper water line at the back of the alcove.  The line runs through an inaccessible area and into the cabinet under the kitchen sink so removing it would be difficult and impractical.  It was easier to secure the water line, and besides, we might want to use it again someday.  I found some used screws with broad #2 SR heads and used them to secure cable ties with mounting tabs to the back wall of the alcove.  I re-shaped the copper tube as best I could so it would lie relatively flat against the back of the alcove and used the cable ties to hold it in place.

I noticed when I moved the tube that a little water came out of the end.  That struck me as odd as I had it in my head that the line was out of service.  After a little investigation I remembered that the shutoff valve for this line was still attached to the water inlet tube on the back of the old refrigerator.  If we had pressurized the fresh water system this would have been an open line.  Yikes!

I now had another, unexpected, task that had to be done before I could do anything else.  I gathered up a few tools, parts, and materials, got my head and arms into the under sink cabinet (which is never comfortable), shut off the supply line valves (just to be safe), and disconnected the copper tube to the refrigerator alcove.  I wrapped the threads of the open end of the T-fitting with several turns of Teflon tape, threaded a cap into the fitting, and snugged it up tight.  I did not, however, pressure test it as I did not want to take the time and I did not want to pressurize the fresh water system with the toilet disconnected.

With the water line secured I got one of the old packages of steel wool and used it to stuff the openings in the lower rear corners of the alcove where lots of wires, the water line, and two air lines pass in and out.  I meant to use the #1 steel wool but grabbed the 4/0 by mistake.  It will work just as well but the 4/0 is what Linda is using to clean all of the walnut woodwork, so it was a bit of a waste.

The pull-out pantry is very stable vertically and horizontally except when it is all the way out where it can move side-to-side about 1/2″.  I decided to install the last of the 10 slides on the flat between the top of the pantry box and the ceiling of the alcove, which is also the base of the upper cabinet.  The ceiling of the alcove is not parallel to the floor and so it was not parallel to the top of the pantry box.  I was able to slide a piece of 3/4″ oak veneered plywood between the ceiling and the upper edge of the top slide. With the 10th slide on top of the pantry I had about a 1/8″ gap between the slide and the plywood at the front, opening to about a 1/4″ gap at the rear.

My first attempt at a solution was to try cutting blocks from the end of a 2×4 to be just the right thickness for the front, middle, and rear.  That quickly proved to not be a workable solution without some form of stationary saw.  After further pondering I decided to cut a 4.5″ wide piece of the oak veneered plywood from one of the leftover pieces that happened to be 26.5″ long.

The new refrigerator in the alcove with the doors open.

The new refrigerator in the alcove with the doors open.

I set the piece of plywood in place on top of the two slides, one mounted to the alcove side panel and the other resting on top of the pantry box, and shimmed it with wood shims between the plywood and the ceiling to remove the gap between the plywood and the slide without making it tight.  I pulled the pantry out slightly so I could drill and screw the rear hole of the stationary part of the slide.  I then pulled the pantry all the way out, pushed the center section of the slide part way back in, and secured the front hole of the moveable part of the slide to the top of the pantry.  I used a slot that allowed side-to-side adjustment, just in case.  I also secured the center slot on the moveable slide to the top of the pantry box.

I fiddled with the slide until it went in and out smoothly.  It is tight enough that I don’t think it will come open when driving, but it pulls out easily enough and will be easier once we get a handle on it.  Linda called at 4 PM as I was finishing this task to let me know she was on her way home from the bakery.  It would be 60 to 90 minutes before she got home so I moved on to the next task.

The first piece of underlayment to go in will be a full 4’x8′ sheet minus a notch for the middle air-conditioner drain line and part of one short side that has to fit around the built-in pantry.  I measured for those cuts and then laid the sheet out in the driveway on top of 2x4s (on the flat).  I tried plunge cutting most of the 21″ long by 1″ wide strip off the end with my circular saw without using a guide and finished the cut with my saber saw.  My plunge cut wasn’t very good so I trimmed it with the saber saw.  That edge will go under the mirror tiles against the back of the built-in pantry so it will be OK.

Linda got home around 5:30 PM.  After unloading her car and changing clothes she examined my work for the day and was pleased with the way the pull-out pantry worked.  She helped me carry the 4’x8′ sheet of underlayment into the bus at which point I decided that we needed to get the refrigerator into the alcove before doing anything else.

We set the underlayment aside and uncovered the fridge which we had previously wrapped in painter’s plastic to keep it clean while grinding and sanding.  Linda cleaned off packing tape adhesive with Goo Gone, wiped it off with a wet rag, and then I wiped it off with a dry towel.  We rolled it over to the alcove, shut off the circuit breaker, plugged it in, and secured the cord to the back.  It rolls very easily but to get it into the alcove we had to tilt it forward to get the bottom back edge of the unit onto the 2.25″ high plywood base.  Oops; the left edge of the fridge space overlapped the built-in pantry opposite and prevented the unit from tilting enough to get the back edge up high enough.

The pantry pulled out with the refrigerator installed.

The pantry pulled out with the refrigerator installed.

We have learned not to panic, and after a moment’s thought we turned it slightly to the right, got the right rear bottom corner up onto the plywood and slid it into the alcove a couple inches.  We were then able to turn it to the left and get the left rear bottom corner onto the plywood base, making sure it was inside the aluminum angle.  Fortunately we had enough clearance above the unit to do that.  (If not we would have used the leftover 3/4″ plywood in front of the alcove, gotten the fridge onto those pieces, and then rolled it straight into its space.).   We lifted the front bottom of the unit and rolled it back into its cubby.  It was a perfect fit; snug to the aluminum angle on the left, tight to the right side of the alcove at the rear with a small (3/16″) gap at the right front, and far enough into the alcove that we can open the three drawers to the left of the sink.  High five!  Good job team.

I turned on the breaker to make sure the refrigerator still worked.  It did, and we were both pleased with how much quieter it is than the old one.  We did not need it running at the moment, however, so I turned the breaker off.  Linda got a towel and propped the doors open.

We got the underlayment flat on the floor and slid it into position.  It needed to be trimmed in three spots and I did not want to get into that at this hour so Linda started preparing diner while I put tools and materials away, locked the bus, and closed up the garage/shop.  I plugged in the old refrigerator (in the garage) to let it cool down overnight as DTE Energy’s recycling program is picking it up tomorrow between 8 AM and noon.

Dinner was mock riblets in BBQ sauce, green beans with onions and carrots, and fresh peaches, all very tasty.  After dinner I worked at my desk.  I replied to several e-mails from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine, and looked at my Habitat For Humanity article to see if I could split it into two or three parts.  It looked like that was possible so I let Gary know.  I chatted briefly with Steve (N8AR) on the Novi 440 repeater and with Jim (N8KUE) on the South Lyon 2m repeater.  I processed three photos of the finished pantry/fridge installation showing that everything goes in and out and e-mailed it to a dozen people.

I came to bed just before 10 PM.  We watched TV for a while until Linda drifted off to sleep.  I stayed up a bit longer to finish this post.

 

2015/08/18 (T) Walking Grind

We were up at 8 AM and I made a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff coffee while Linda got breakfast ready.  She made a batch of granola yesterday so we had some with fresh blueberries and unsweetened soy milk.  It’s our standard breakfast, but that’s because we like it so much.  She had an e-mail from Robin at the bakery and had to deal with some issues related to the bakery’s new account, The University of Michigan Ann Arbor.  As I do most mornings I sat in the living room working on my iPad, drinking my coffee, and paying attention to our two cats.

Being Tuesday Linda had a date with Diane to walk at 10 AM and left at 9:30 for Kensington Metropark.  I continued working on my iPad for a while and enjoying my coffee.  At 10:15 AM I called the Livingston County Sheriff and reported the mailbox incident from late Friday evening /early Saturday morning.  Shelby took the call, was very nice, said she was not aware of any other mailbox reports, but would pass the info along to the Desk Sargent.  I checked my e-mail and confirmed with Harvey for Friday at 10 AM to move the old bus refrigerator.  I finally went out to work on the floor of the bus at 11 AM, by which time the outside air temperature was already in the 80’s.

I leave three of the awning style windows in the bus open a few inches so it doesn’t get too hot inside.  I opened all three roof vents, turned on their ceiling fans, and set them to exhaust air rather than draw it in.  I also left the entrance door open to allow more air to flow through the inside of the coach.  I then sanded and vacuumed until about 1 PM.  When I came back in the house I had two missed calls from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint so I called her back.  I was on the phone with her when Linda got back from her walk.

Once I wrapped up the call with Michele we had a light lunch of hummus with pita chips and both black and red grapes.  While we were eating we were entertained by a gray squirrel who had gotten onto the bird feeder and was hanging upside down by its hind legs.  It would curl its body to bring its mouth up to the bottom of the feeder, emancipate some seed, and then uncurl to the more relaxed stretched out position and eat it.  All of this was also being watched with both interest and considerable skepticism by three crows who were hanging around on the ground under the feeder.  They grabbed seeds that the squirrel dropped but seemed very wary of it, which surprised us.  I speculated that perhaps they had never seen a squirrel behave in this way and were, therefore, understandably and appropriately cautious; crows are very smart, after all.

After lunch we took the three wallpaper sample books to the bus to look at them with the woodwork.  Before we could do that, however, we discovered a small bird trapped in the coach and had to deal with it.  I say “trapped” because it was up on the dashboard and obviously confused by the windshields as it kept trying to fly out through them.  It did not realize it could get out the same way it came in, through the open door.

The bird seemed small and I think it was an immature sparrow but I’m not sure.  It was seeking safe shelter in the space between the dashboard cover and the lower driver side windshield.  I used a broom to try to gently encourage it to fly towards the door but it was understandably suspicious of my good intentions.  I put on a pair of canvas work gloves and it allowed me to gently pick it up.  I tried to release it at the door opening and it flew into the door causing Linda to make a comment about why we use the phrase “bird-brained.”  I caught it again, got outside the bus clear of the door, and tossed it gently away from the bus.  It immediately took flight and flew off to the southwest, apparently none the worse for its ordeal.  I can only image the story it told the other birds.

I got a piece of the Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl floor tile from the garage.  Many of the wallpapers that we thought would look good with the floor tile turned out to be too yellow, and most of the ones with good color tone were too dark, but we found a few that we liked.  Those tended to be lighter without a lot of pattern and a neutral, off-white color.  We are, however, far from a final choice as we do not currently have a sample of the Lambright Notion Linen upholstery fabric or the MCD night shade material and the wallpaper has to work with all of these simultaneously.

We measured the areas that need to be repapered and in the process decided that we would leave the old wallpaper on the inner wall of the hallway, at least for now.  (The paper in the bathroom, which is different from the rest of the coach, is generally in good condition and we are not currently planning on replacing it as part of this project.)  The existing wallpaper in most of the coach is a string cloth with a beige base but distinct vertical threads that contain a noticeable amount of grey and a more subtle herringbone pattern.  It looks good with the walnut woodwork and worked well with the old white carpet, black ceramic floor tile, and bone leather upholstery, so we think it will continue to look good with the new floor tile.

If Josh is at his shop tomorrow we will try to stop and pick up the Lambright Notion Linen sample as whatever wallpaper we choose has to work well with the furniture fabric.  On Thursday we will revisit the papers in the three books we currently have with an eye towards something that has some grey in it.

It was another warm, humid day and I was done sanding so I closed up the roof vents, locked up the coach, and went inside.  Linda prepared a pizza using the gluten-free crust recipe she got from Mara.  Yum.

After dinner I went to Lowe’s and bought two bags of TEC Skill Set Universal Floor Patch and Skim Coat, a mixing bucket, two bags of tile spacers, and three 4’x8′ sheets of 1/4″ SurePly underlayment.  I meant to buy a folding metal sawhorse but left it somewhere in the store.  I was going to buy premixed floor leveling compound but they only had 1-quart containers for $10 each and the directions said it would only cover 1.5 square feet.  I have about 80 square feet of floor to patch and level, so that clearly was not a good solution.

The Universal Floor Patch is a powder that has to be mixed with water, but each bag will cover 20 – 25 square feet at 1/8″ thickness and costs $13; much better than the premixed stuff.  I have a few areas to patch that are deeper than 1/8″ but the material can be applied up to 1/2″ thick per coat, and most of the area just needs a much thinner skimcoat.  It can also be sanded within 24 hours which will allow me to make it very smooth and keep the work moving along.  My goal is to have the floor leveled and sanded smooth by bedtime on Saturday so I can install the 1/4″ underlayment on Sunday and start laying tile on Monday or Tuesday next week.

I stopped at Teeko’s Coffee and Teas to get some more of the Cafe Europe half-caff blend.  They had the regular blend but not the decaf blend so I had Roger use the Columbian decaf instead.  He roasted the beans for me while I waited and Jeff showed up along with his wife as I was leaving.  They were married last September and are expecting their first child late next month.  Jeff was wearing his Pepsi delivery shirt, confirming what the woman at the Kahuna Coffee Shop told us last Friday.

We turned in early as we will be getting up very early tomorrow to drive to Indiana again.  Linda watched an episode of NCIS after which I watched a PBS special on the origins and evolution of the Navy Seals.

 

2015/08/13 (R) Sanding Success

Linda was scheduled to go into the bakery today but knew before we went to bed last night that the visit was postponed.  That was just as well; we were very tired from our long day yesterday and slept in this morning.

Before I even had a chance to make coffee I spotted wild turkeys by the road in our easternmost driveway entrance.  They walked past the east end of the house into our backyard.  They hung around by the deer block for quite a while so we had a good long look at them and I took a few pictures.  There was a big tom, a younger/smaller tom, and a half-dozen hens, one with a surprisingly small chick for this late in the season.  The turkeys eventually moved on and we got back to our normal routine.  While I made the coffee Linda made her own version of raisin, date, walnut oatmeal with some quick oats that she had in the pantry.  It was very good.

We read for a bit but I needed to finish the blog posts for the last several days and Linda needed to return some items to the Howell Library and run a couple other errands.  While working on the blog post for yesterday I realized that we had not loaded all of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  I checked the pieces we had against the drawings, which we should have done yesterday, and confirmed that we were missing the two top pieces (E) for the support boxes (HVAC plenums) and the top piece (H) for the return air plenum.  I texted Jarel and he replied quickly that he would try to take care of it in time for me to drive back down on Wednesday to pick up them up.  It’s a 12-17 hour, 550 mile day, for me and costs about $60 in gasoline, so hopefully he will have the pantry done by then as well.

Linda got word from our son via TXT message that Shawna’s father, Mick, had passed away.  He had an aggressive but non-cancerous brain tumor that did respond to two separate surgeries and was moved to hospice care about two weeks ago.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline are cutting their vacation short by a day to head to the Grand Rapids area but are still leaving Tuesday to fly to Denver to visit Shawna’s mother, Carol, and her husband, Cliff.  It appears that a memorial service may be in the works for the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd, in which case we will probably drive over.

My sister tried to call me today.  Linda was on the house phone quite a bit today with bakery-related business so Patty tried my cell phone but did not leave a message.  I was working in the bus at the time, did not have it with me, and Linda could not find it in time when it was ringing.  Being deaf in one ear she cannot locate where sounds are coming from.  She does a little better when she uses her BAHA, but rarely wears it around the house.  I called my sister back and left a message and she eventually called me back and we got to talk.

Our father, who is 90, had been admitted to a hospital near where he lives.  The staff said he appeared to have severe dementia, but he was fine (for his age) just a couple of weeks ago, so I suspected a stroke or some other sudden change.  Patty sent me a text latter that the CAT scan of his brain revealed two recent lesions (last few weeks), the telltale sign of two strokes.  She also said he was being transferred to Missouri Baptist Hospital, which is much closer to where she lives, for further care.

Those two pieces of news certainly put a damper on the day, and may cause an adjustment in my plans if I have to travel to St. Louis.  In the meantime there is stuff that has to get done, so even though it was warm today and I wasn’t really in the humor, I kept working in the bus, off and on.  I vacuumed up loose material, including inside the bases of cabinets, and then cleaned the wiring in the refrigerator alcove with Lysol.  I decided to make a template for the refrigerator alcove plywood base filler panels so I could cut them the right size/shape on the first try.  I then used one of the new ceramic sanding belts on the residual thin-set and mastic, and it worked!  My sense of hope was renewed that I will be able to install the new floor correctly.

By 7 PM I was feeling drained so I wrapped up my work and took a shower.  For dinner Linda made pan-grilled BBQ tofu with caramelized onions and served it open faced on a hamburger bun with a side of fresh steamed asparagus.  It was delicious.

After dinner I went to Lowe’s and The Home Depot in search of several items but only ended up buying another 36 grit sanding belt.  I needed floor leveling compound but was not prepared to choose between their limited options.  I also needed a self-centering drill bit but neither store had them.  Lowe’s and THD really are focused on the tools and materials one needs to work on a house and its surrounding property.  Things like self-centering drill bits, though useful for things like drilling holes for door hinges, are really cabinet-making tools.  As big as these stores are they can’t, and don’t, sell everything.

I talked to Butch on the drive home.  The self-centering drill bit that Jarel recommended for installing the pull-out pantry slides is a Vix and Butch suggested four places where I could buy it:  Rockler, Custom Service Hardware, McFeeley’s, and Grizzly’s.  Before ordering one I need to e-mail or text Jarel and ask him what size screw I need to mount the pull-out pantry extension slides.

Back home I thought of four other things I could have bought while I was out so I added them to my list.  I then went to my office and worked on blog posts, updated the BCM Group page on RVillage, e-mailed Gary Hatt at BCM, responded to an e-mail from Howard (PlayaDog) re: screens for sliding bus windows, and started downloading Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 updates.  Jack Conrad had responded to my earlier e-mail asking if he knew what was going on with the Arcadia rally and I sent him a reply.  By the time I dealt with all that I was ready to recline and rest.

 

2015/08/10 (M) Keep on Buss’in

We have a doe and her spotted faun that have been coming in the early morning to the deer block we set in our back yard the other day.  They were there again this morning and the block is close enough to the house that we got a good look at them through the bedroom doorwall.  They must be comfortable with the setting as the faun wandered off towards the western part of our property and the doe let it go while she continued to lick the block.  Eventually, however, the faun was out of sight and the doe headed off in that direction to find it.

We had cinnamon raisin toast and soy yogurt for breakfast, with orange-grapefruit juice to wash down the vitamins.  I used up the last of the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caff coffee beans for our pot of morning coffee.  Keith usually mows our grass on Mondays and he came to the front door around 9:30 AM to ask if we wanted it cut this week.  That’s the first time he has done that this summer but it was an appropriate and timely question.  We have had very little rain the last couple of weeks so the grass had not gown much since last Monday and was a little brown in places.  We agreed to skip this week, which I think was what Keith was hoping I would say.  There was a high probability of rain starting around noon and I suspect he had another yard he wanted to cut before it started.

We have been very busy the last few days and I have not had time to do more than outline my blog posts.  Linda needed to work on an analysis for the bakery so I spent much of the day filling in the details of my recent posts.  Our days are very full and if I wait too long I cannot capture them accurately.

Linda looked up the information on the DTE Energy “Energy Efficiency” appliance recycling program.  I called the 866 number and was assisted by Reginald.  The earliest available pickup date was Friday, August 28 so I took that.  It took quite a while to arrange the pickup but Reginald appeared to get all the pertinent information and give me a confirmation code and a phone number to reach the truck on pickup day.

Once the refrigerator pickup was arranged I texted Chuck to let him know the details.  That prompted a return phone call and a conversation about refrigerators.  Having seen how our swap went on Saturday he and Barb are also thinking very seriously about replacing the refrigerator in their bus.  The rationale is the same as ours; the fridge is old, so it is noisier and less efficient than newer ones, and having it break on the road would be more than inconvenient.

Replacing a refrigerator in an RV, especially a residential unit in a bus conversion, is not like replacing one in a home.  Access is a major problem and there is not a lot of space to maneuver it or get more than two pairs of hands on it.  If they replace theirs here (in Michigan) their bus will be inside their garage/shop, the forklift will be available to do the heavy lifting, and trusted friends and family will be available to help.  And, most importantly, they won’t be living in it and dependent on the fridge for preserving their food.

Before the day got away from me I pulled up the PDF of the manual for the wireless keypad for the large garage door.  When I installed the new opener for the small garage door and reprogrammed the wireless remotes for our cars I inadvertently rendered the keypad inoperable.  Reprogramming it was simple enough once I had the procedure.  It’s the small, simple tasks like this one that become big burdens if not taken care of in a timely manner.

The predicted rain started around noon and was steady until 3 PM.  It was just the kind of rain we needed; gentle enough to give it a chance to soak in but hard enough to provide a useful quantity of moisture to the ground.  Six to 10 hours of this would have been even better but we were glad for what we got.

I had thought that we might mask off the inside of the coach today with painter’s plastic but with the rain and humidity, and plenty of other things to do, I decided to defer that until tomorrow.  During the afternoon Jarel texted me a couple of pictures and a brief status update on our custom woodworking projects.  Not surprisingly he is already well along on the construction of the pull-out pantry and has spray lacquered the pieces for the built-in sofa.

One of the photos showed one of the 1/8″ thick aluminum plates that will form the side rails for each shelf in the pantry.  He applied a brushed finish to the plate and countersunk the screw holes so the heads would not protrude beyond the surface.  Jarel did metal work at one time before he became a cabinet maker so he knows how to do this kind of stuff.  He is also meticulous and takes great pride in his work.  Given a choice I would always prefer to hire a craftsman who cares as much, or more, about the quality of their work as I do.

When I know I am going to have a long full day, such as this coming Wednesday, I will try to “write ahead” on my blog, basically outlining the plan for the day but obviously not filling in the details of things that have not yet happened.  Along the same lines, I often use future blog posts as a planning tool.  As things occur to me that I need to do I will note them in the draft of a future post.  If the thing actually gets done on that date I flesh out the details, and if not, I move it to a new date.

I think I did several loads of laundry today and spent some time editing and uploading blog posts during the evening, but as I am finishing this post later in the week I have lost the details and will just end here.

 

2015/08/05 (W) No Mask Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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