Category Archives: Bus Projects

Posts related to maintenance, repair, and remodeling projects on our 1990/92 Prevost H3-40 VIP Royale Coach (Monaco) converted motorcoach .

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2016/03/18 (F) R. V. Detailing

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, and made coffee.  Linda got up at 7:45 and got dressed even though she was obviously not feeling well and probably did not get a good night’s sleep.  I cleaned the cats’ litter tray and then got dressed.  We were expecting Nick’s R.V. Detailing sometime between 8 and 9 AM so we wanted to be up, dressed, and done with breakfast before they arrived.  Nick called at 8:20 to let me know he was running late and expected to be here around 10 AM.

We woke to overcast skies but by 8:45 the clouds had thinned considerably and we had direct sunlight on the driver side of our motorcoach.  A couple of days ago the forecast was for a 100% chance of rain today, not good for washing and waxing an RV outdoors, but that changed to 0% with overcast skies, which was perfect for the task at hand.  Either way, the high temperature was forecast to be 87, which is probably warmer than ideal for Nick, but it will be what it will be.

The delay in Nick’s arrival gave me time to finish my coffee and doodle on my iPad for a while before getting to work.  Linda went back to bed while I finished getting the outside of the bus ready for detailing.  I was able to unsnap all of the new windshield covers using the Zip Dee Awning rod except for one snap and the entry step stool got me up high enough for that.  I needed the 3-step stool, however, to get the covers off of the upper windshield wipers.  Linda came out in time to help me roll up the windshield covers, put them in their mesh storage bag, and store them in the front bay.  I moved the two Coleman bag chairs and the folding plastic side table to the pad area behind the coach house.  We went back inside to await Nick’s arrival and worked at our computers.  Linda eventually went back to bed.

Our Verizon billing cycle ends at midnight tomorrow night and as of 8:30 this morning we had 1.7 GB of data remaining out of 12.  We have done well managing our limited data plan this winter by taking advantage of free Wi-Fi connections to the Internet at Williston Crossings RV Resort (WCRVR), Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR), and now Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

The Internet connection at WCRVR was outstanding; fast and usable from our coach.  The Wi-Fi at BTCRVR and FGMCR was only available at the clubhouse buildings, but at least we had that.  The speed at BTCRVR was slow but usable while the speed at FGMCR has been pretty very good.  (Our Verizon cellular data speed at Florida Grande has also been the best we’ve seen this winter.)  We added 2 GB to our data plan in mid-January for three billing cycles by downloading and activating Verizon’s Go90 app.  We have not used the app, and don’t intend to, but the extra 2 GB of data certainly has helped and will get us through the remainder of this winter season.

We don’t stream videos so for us the main data management trick has been to defer as many updates as possible for our phones, iPads, and computers until we are connected to the Internet via a park Wi-Fi system.  We were forced into this tactic when needed to upgrade our computers to Windows 10 while we were at BTCRVR in January.  While that has meant taking our devices to a clubhouse, we have often combined this with doing the laundry.  Both BTCRVR and FGMCR also have libraries (FGMCR’s was especially nice) which provided comfortable/quiet places to sit and read or use another device while one updated.

Nick’s Detailing cleaning up our coach at FGMCR in Webster, FL.

Nick and his helper showed up around 10 AM as promised and got to work detailing our bus.  The trailer that Nick tows behind his F-250 has a pressure pump, a water heater, a pair of tanks for de-ionizing water, and a large plastic tank for holding the de-ionized water.  It also has large reels for long hoses and the various spray wands and other tools needed for their work.  They even carry a large rotary brush for cleaning concrete, which is one of their other services.

Linda spent most of the day in bed.  She rarely gets sick but this is the second time this winter, and both times it has hit her hard.  I took a few pictures of the Nick’s equipment, and of the two of them working, and then retreated inside the bus to work at my computer.  Other than an occasional e-mail my focus was on editing and uploading blog posts.  I uploaded the ones for December 1 through 6 to our website and edited the ones for the 7th through the 14th.

UPS delivered my Prevost parts order around 2 PM so I took time out to check it.  I had four packages with tags whose Prevost part numbers matched the packing slip which matched what I ordered.  I did not, however, open the individual boxes.  I also took a few minutes to upload the February and March 2016 issues of BCM to our Dropbox and e-mailed the link to Steven Gullette.  Steve was out team leader on the July 2016 Habitat For Humanity build in Sheridan, Wyoming and my 2-part article was about that experience.  I got a text from Joe letting me know that he was headed our way and found a place to stay.  He was going to check in and get a shower and would see us first thing in the morning.  I texted back to confirm and let him know that the parts had arrived from Prevost.  Linda got up around 4:15 PM and had me send a text message to Mara letting her know that we would not be able to make it to the water skiing show tomorrow in Winter Haven.

Nick and Jesse finished up at 5 PM.  They had also pressure washed the car for an extra $10 so the total was $310.  That was 12 man hours of work plus equipment and product and seemed fair to me.  (I knew the price in advance.)  They used Turtle Wax Platinum automotive wax, and it looked good.  They applied it with a buffer and rubbed it out by hand.  I’ve cleaned and waxed our coach by hand, so I know how much work it is.

I was putting the water softener, pre-filter, and bag chairs away when René and Ruth stopped in their golf cart.  They are long-term renters here.  This is their 4th season at Florida Grande MCR and they rented a site for an entire year but do not plan to be here all of that time.  They noticed that we had a vendor here last week (Bill and Brenda Phelan) making our windshield covers and wanted to know where we got the tire covers.  I chatted with René for quite a while before we walked back to the golf cart and included Ruth in the conversation.  They have rented a site for a month at one of the luxury motorcoach resorts in Petoskey and wanted to know more about the State of Michigan.  I agree to e-mail some information to them later this evening.

Linda was still under the weather and wasn’t hungry but I convinced her that it might be good for her, physically and mentally, to go for a walk around the resort.  She agreed and we took a slow stroll around the front/main loop.  Back at the rig I had a bowl of granola for dinner and got a call from Pat (& Vickie) Lintner to check on the progress of our brake repair.  They also wanted to know if we would be interested in going to Epcot for a flower show sometime while we are at Jetty Park.  They would drive as they already have a season parking pass.  They also have season passes to the Disney World complex but we would have to buy day passes for $100 each.  We said we would consider it when Linda was feeling better, but I doubt that we will shell out $200 just to spend seven hours looking at flowers no matter how spectacular they are.

We have had some expenses this winter that we had not planned on, but we were glad to be able to get tire and windshield covers from Bill and Brenda Phelan while in south-central Florida and consider them a necessary investment.  They are well made and they work, and Bill and Brenda are fellow converted bus people running a small business that we wanted to support.  We were also glad to be able to get our motorcoach washed on January 1st in Arcadia and then get it washed and waxed today at FGMCR.  We have a lot invested in our home on wheels and taking care of the paint is just one of many necessary maintenance expenses.

The problem with the driver side tag axle brake, however, was something we just did not see coming.  As of this evening it is not yet resolved and thus the final cost is still unknown and unpredictable.  It’s hard to consider spending $200 to look at flowers right now but our view of that may change if/when the brake problem is resolved and the final cost is known.  What this brake failure has raised, however, is the necessity of also rebuilding the passenger side tag axle disc brake caliper and both of the steer axle disc brake calipers.  The cost just for parts is approximately $500 per hub plus $280 per axle for brake pads, if needed.  In round numbers that is $2,500 for the four disc brakes not including labor.  I expect Joe will be working on this for 4 to 8 hours tomorrow just to keep us on the road, so that’s more cost.

I don’t begrudge Joe his pay, he earns it and deserves it, and parts cost what they cost; it’s all part of owning a bus.  What I don’t like is having this happen on the road where ready solutions might not be at hand or we might be forced into a solution that is more costly than it should be.  But most of all I don’t like how it unexpectedly interrupts our winter and planned activities.  Perhaps that indicates that I do not have the necessary “roll with the punches” mindset for the converted bus lifestyle, although I think I have handled it reasonably well in the 6-1/2 years we have owned this bus.  Linda pointed out that our two prior winters were relatively trouble free but the fact is that we had issues with the bus both seasons.  At this point I do not have as much confidence in it as I want and need to have in order to fully enjoy it, but I will keep working towards that goal.

Linda went to bed at 10 PM and I continued to work on this draft blog post.  I found a PBS fundraiser concert on WUSF channel 16.1 featuring The Smothers Brothers, the Kingston Trio, and many other folk groups and musicians of the late 50’s and 60’s.  When it ended at 11 PM I switched to channel 16.4, which is the Create sub-channel, and watched an episode of GlobeTrekker before going off to what would probably be a less than completely restful sleep.

2016/03/19 (S) Braking News

I was up shortly after 7 AM, anticipating Joe’s arrival at 8 AM, and made coffee.  He texted at 7:30 that he would not be here until closer to 9.  That gave me time to enjoy my coffee and put the finishing touches on yesterday’s rather lengthy blog post.  When I tried to upload the Word file to our Dropbox I discovered that my iPad was not connected to any of our Wi-Fi networks.  It asked me for the password for each one I tried, even after restarting it twice, and when I finally entered them it would still not connect.  My computer was still online via its usual Wi-Fi connection, so I knew that our network was functioning.  I will probably have to shut everything down and restart it, but I wasn’t about to get into that this morning.

Linda got up at 8:30 still looking and feeling like death warmed over.  I poured her some coffee and then went out a few minutes later to remove the hub cap and lug nut covers.  I noticed that the sky to the north, northwest, and west was a solid mass of very dark clouds so Linda pulled up The Weather Channel radar on her iPad.  We knew that the probability of rain at our location today was forecast at 100% with the possibility of thunderstorms, but we were not happy about what we saw in the radar image.  There was a large band of rain stretching from north of us southwest into the Gulf of Mexico well south of our latitude.  The band included larger clusters with cores of strong rain indicated.  Linda put the summary in motion and the entire band was drifting due east with movement along the front from SW to NE.  There was no doubt that we would get rained on this morning, it was just a matter of when it would start, how intense it would be, and how long it would last.

At 8:50 I drive up to the trash dumpster and then drove to the clubhouse.  There was a car parked by the gatehouse so I walked over there.  The gate attendants were there so I gave them my name and site number as well as Joe’s name and explained why he was coming to visit us.  Joe arrived at 9:10 AM and a few minutes later drove right past our site.  I quickly phoned him and told him to turn around.  He did not have his “camper” (bumper-tow trailer) with him so he pulled onto the pad and drove to the very back to get his tools as close as possible to the rear of the bus where he would be working.  He had his dog, Gracie, with him.  Gracie is at least part Pit Bull Terrier with perhaps some boxer.  She has a dark brown, slightly brindled, coat and is a pretty dog.  More importantly, she is very sweet, very well-behaved, and very mindful of Joe, who has trained her well and gently.  As Joe got ready to work I grabbed my camera.

Joe got right to work on the driver side (LS) tag axle wheel and did not need any power tools.  He loosened the lug nuts using a 12x torque multiplier and a standard torque wrench.  The torque multiplier is a special tool designed just for this purpose.  It has an arm that fits over an adjacent lug nut to keep the tool from turning, thus forcing the torque to be applied to the target lug nut in the socket.  We also have one of these tools along with a 3′ long torque wrench, both of which I bought from Butch last year.

Once Joe had the lug nuts broken loose he had me start the bus engine and raise the tag axle.  As happened to the other day it did not lift the tires clear of the pad.  He had me switch the suspension to Level Low mode and raise the rear end so he could position his chassis stands under it.  He then had me lower the rear of the bus until it was resting on the stands.  Finally, he had me raise the tag axle and this time the tires lifted clear of the pad.

Joe checked to see if he could turn the tire.  He could, although he indicated that it had a lot more drag than it should.  I told him that had not been able to turn it at all yesterday.  He loosened and then removed all of the lug nuts and then removed the wheel/tire and rolled it behind the bus out of the way.  It’s a big thing; 42″ in diameter, 12″ wide, and 100 pounds.  Working on buses is not for sissies and weaklings, although as an owner the two most important and powerful tools needed are a cell phone and credit card.

Mobile mechanic Joe Cannarozzi removes the DS tag tire/wheel to get access to the brake.

With the tire/wheel out of the way Joe removed the dynamic wheel balancer and was finally able to access the disc brake assembly.  The assembly includes the caliper, the automatic slack adjuster, and the pneumatic brake actuator.  The entire assembly is mounted to a bracket (torque plate, or “spider”) that is part of the fixed portion of the axle via two large steel mounting pins that allow the caliper to move (slide) when actuated.  When facing the axle hub from the outside end the mounting points are at approximately 9 o’clock and 4 o’clock with the caliper and brake pads to the lower left towards the front of the vehicle.  (On the passenger side the caliper is to the lower right, again towards the front of the vehicle.)  The only other connection to the disc brake assembly is the air line that attaches to the brake canister.  The tag axle brakes are deactivated when the tag axle is raised so there was no air pressure in the line and Joe disconnected it.

The mounting pins are locked in by what Joe calls “wedges” which are metal pins with a partial circular notch machined out at roughly the midpoint.  The mounting pins have a slightly reduced diameter at their midpoint.  The notch in the locking pin engages the reduced diameter and locks the mounting pin in place.  The locking pin, in turn, is pulled up snug by a castle nut which is then secured by a cotter pin so that nothing can vibrate loose.  With the locking pins removed Joe was able to tap the mounting pins out and wiggle the assembly to get it loose from the rotor and then lower it to the ground.  Easier said than done; the disc brake assembly is very heavy, awkwardly shaped, and not balanced.

The first thing we both noticed was how the brake pads were worn.  The front and back faces of each pad were not parallel and the change in thickness was mirrored.  That is to say, the thinner end of one pad was opposed by the thicker edge of the other pad.  This suggested to us that the entire disc brake assembly was not square to the rotor and that over time the pads had become worn to match this misalignment.  That, in turn, suggested that the wear pattern on the pads could be forcing the caliper out of alignment on the slide pins and that this might finally have gotten to the point that that caliper got bound up on the slide pins and could not retract.

The fixed mounting holes have pressed in bushings so Joe inspected those and said they looked and felt OK.  We also inspected the mounting/slide pins and said they appeared to be alright.  I fetched all of the parts that I ordered from Prevost and opened the box with the new slide pins.  Joe compared the fit of the new pins and the old pins in the existing sleeve bearings and said that he could not detect any difference.  He had about a dozen replacement sleeves and checked the old and new pins in one of the new sleeves.  Again, he could not detect any difference.  The sleeve bearings are pressed in and pressed out.  Joe did not have the specialized tools needed to do this but also thought it was unnecessary work.

When Joe went to remove the larger inside brake pad he had a very difficult time getting it out.  Part of the pad holder is supposed to slide between two machined faces causing it to move straight in and out, but it was wedged tight.  Joe thought this was another possible reason why the brakes were dragging.  Once he got it out and removed the other (outer/fixed) pad he tried using a hand file to ease the fit.  I suggested that we try one of the new brake pads instead and he agreed.

The DS tag axle air disc brake caliper.

Before installing the new brake pads Joe used a wire brush to thoroughly clean the parts of the caliper that involved moving pieces and got a considerable amount of rust, brake dust, and general fine debris to come loose.  He also backed off the automatic slack adjuster and was of the opinion that the main actuator mechanism was moving freely and probably not what had cause the brakes to bind.  At that point Joe thought that disassembling the caliper and trying to rebuild it on site was a bad idea and I was inclined agreed.  The kit has a lot of parts and doing this outside in the rain did not seem like a good idea.  The new inner pad was a better fit than the old one so he installed it along with the new outer pad.  He then reconnected the air line to the brake canister.

Now came the moment of truth; could the disc brake assembly be reinstalled (at all), and if so, without causing excessive drag on the rotor discs.  As I mentioned before, the assembly is bulky and heavy, but the answer to the first part was ‘yes.’  The answer to the second part was ‘sort of’, but ‘sort of’ is a much better answer than ‘no.’  Joe was a able to turn the hub by hand but it was harder to turn than he wanted.  He decided to have me start the engine and slowly pump the brakes.  Each time I released them I paused while he turned the hub 1/8 to 1/4 turn.  What he was trying to do was get the new brake pads to seat and get the caliper to move straight in and out.  After several times around he was satisfied with the way the wheel felt as he turned it.  It still had a bit more drag than he wanted but he thought it would be OK.  Short of driving to a shop like American Frame & Axle in Tampa or Prevost in Jacksonville, this was the best we were going to do as a roadside repair.

A light drizzle had started around 10 AM at which point I put my camera away, got out my raincoat, and got out an umbrella which I held over Joe as best I could while he worked.  By the time Joe had the brake assembly reinstalled it was raining harder; not a downpour or thunderstorm, but a steady rain, and I had already put all of the new parts away in the front bay.  Joe reinstalled the dynamic wheel balancer and then got the tire/wheel back onto the mounting studs.  He put all of the lug nuts back on finger tight and then used the torque wrench to snug them up and pull the wheel flat against the hub.  He then had me lower the tag axle, which did not require me to start the engine, and tightened the lug nuts to 650 pound-feet using the 12x torque multiplier with the torque wrench set to 65 lb.-ft.  Why 65?  There is some loss in the gearing of the torque multiplier and Joe has found that treating it as a 10x device seems to be perfect.

Joe gave me a dollar amount for the service call and Linda wrote him a check.  I feel that he has always been fair with us and provided technically competent service with good value, so I have never argued with him about what he charged me or tried to negotiate a slightly better “deal.”  That kind of negotiating, over what amounts to pennies in the larger view, just indicates to someone that I don’t value their work or that I think they are trying to take advantage of me or even cheat me.  In the end all that does is create ill will, which is ultimately not in my best interest.  When Joe, or anyone else, works on our bus I want them to be glad to do the work and happy that we are their customer; there’s too much riding on it to have it any other way.

Joe got all of bus tools packed up and then we chatted for a while before he took off.  His timetable from this point on is a little loose but he thinks he is going to be in Williamston, Michigan, sometime in early April.  That’s only 30 miles from our house, so we discussed the possibility of him coming to our place at that time to at least service the other three disc brakes.  That would require us to get home, of course, but with the mild winter up north that might be possible.  We do not have any plans beyond our scheduled departure from Jetty Park on March 29th.

After Joe left I explained to Linda what he found, what he did, and why he thought the brake was fixed and would probably work properly now.  I then sent a short text message to Butch Williams, Chuck Spera, Pat Lintner, and Ed Roelle updating them on the status of the situation.  These are four of my five “go-to” bus guys, the fifth being Bill Gerrie from Ontario.

Pat called me right away.  He and Vickie we’re glad to hear that the problem was probably resolved and we would be arriving at Jetty Park on Monday as scheduled.  Linda had looked at the website for the home and garden show at Epcot Center and had me indicate to Pat that we would like to go assuming she is sufficiently recovered from her illness and we can find a nice weather day.

Not long after I got off the phone with Pat I got a call from Chuck.  Chuck’s interest in our brake situation is based on more than just the concern of one friend for another.  He and Barbara have an H3-40 VIP Liberty Conversion that is only one year newer than ours.  That means he likely has the same exact brake components as we do and is potentially facing the same failure/repair/maintenance issues as us.

While I was on the phone with Chuck Linda checked the Livingston County Road Commission website and found that the Spring Seasonal Size and Weight Restrictions had been lifted from all of the roads.  That meant we were clear to return home at any time.  We have had a good winter in Florida, and are looking forward to our week at Jetty Park, but we are not feeling the need to linger here to avoid freezing temperature back home.  Indeed, the last week here has been hot and if that continues we will definitely be ready to leave.

After the phone calls I made vegan cold cut sandwiches for lunch and got out our vitamins.  After lunch Linda went back to bed and I started working on the draft of this blog post.  Linda got back up around 3 PM.  By 5 PM I had finally captured the details of today’s events.  Linda spent part of the afternoon researching and purchasing Easter holiday gifts online for our children and grand-daughters.  She was out of tissues, so I drove to the Dollar Store in Webster to buy more.  When I got back I sat at the desk and edited another week’s worth of blog posts from mid-late December 2015.

As I was wrapping up my work to have dinner Adobe CC notified me that two updates were available.  That meant Lightroom and Photoshop, and we have them installed on both of our computers.  Our Verizon billing cycle was due to reset at midnight tonight and as of dinnertime we had used 10.927 GB out of 12.0.  This a bit of a game with us, and we like to use as much data as we can without exceeding our plan.

Around 6:30 PM Linda started fixing dinner in spite of still feeling pretty lousy.  She improvised an Udon noodle dish with broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms and a citrus soy sauce which really gave it a spark.  She is taking OTC medications for her “cold” so she had water to drink while I had a glass of Arbor Mist Mango Moscato.  It’s growing on me.

I felt the need to get up and move around a bit after dinner while Linda felt the need to rest.  I took both of our iPads and my smartphone and walked up to the library in the FGMCR clubhouse to use the resort Wi-Fi to update them.  I had 10 app updates on my phone (estimated at 150 MB) and three on my iPad (200+ MB) while Linda had four on her iPad (200+ MB).  Rather than compete with myself I updated my phone first and then Linda’s iPad while I worked on this blog post on my iPad.  I then updated my iPad.  Even though we had 1/12 of our monthly data plan remaining at 7 PM these updates would have used over half of that.

When I was done updating our devices I walked back to our rig.  PBS out of Tampa / St. Petersburg was fundraising (again), this time featuring folk/rock/pop musical performances from yesteryear, so we left that on for background entertainment.  I uploaded one blog post from December 7, 2015 but was not in the humor to do more this evening.  I was monitoring our data usage closely and decided to update Adobe Lightroom on my computer.  It was 300 MB so I decided to defer the other three Adobe updates until tomorrow when I can take our computers to the resort library and do them there.

By this point Linda had long since gone to bed so I upgraded her laptop to ESET Smart Security 9 (SS9) which then required activation.  That was not the case on my computer and I had to go through a process of converting a username and password to a license activation key and then using that to activate the product.  While the upgrade was downloading and installing I installed the My Verizon Mobile app on my iPad.  I had to look up our account credentials but it would not let me log in.  It was getting close to midnight when our billing cycle would end and was telling me to “try again later.”  With that done I started following the procedure on ESET’s support website for updating drivers that Windows 10 is unable, or unwilling, to handle.

The ESET SS9 program was reporting that 16 or 17 driver updates were needed but I had to write them down on a sheet of paper.  These are manual, one-at-a-time, updates made by using the Device Manager to select a device, select “update driver,” and then select “search the computer and Internet for a more up-to-date version.”  If it finds one it installs it, which might then require a restart of the computer; a tedious and time consuming process for even one update.  I did 4 or 5 of these updates successfully but was too tired to do them all.  As it approached midnight we had used 11.6 of our 12.0 GB data plan and at the stroke of midnight the usage reset to zero (0).  Having successfully managed our meager 12 GB data plan (per monthly billing cycle) for the second month, squeezing out as much data as possible without incurring overage charges, I went to bed.

2016/03/20 (N) FGMCR Finale

Linda got up at 6 AM to take more medication and then went back to sleep on the sofa.  I was unaware of that at the time and found out when I got up at 7:45 AM.  I sat in one of the captain’s chairs with Juniper on my lap finishing yesterday’s blog post draft and then started today’s.  I finally got up at 9 and made coffee.

I worked most of the morning and early afternoon uploading blog posts from December 2015 to our website, taking time out for a few chores, and managed to upload the posts through December 20th.  I got a loaf of bread out of the freezer around 10 AM to let it thaw.  I made toast at noon for an easy meal.  With lots of nice puffy white clouds around, and a forecasted high temp of 79 degrees F, I put out the awnings on the driver (southeast-facing) side of the coach, turned off the residential air-conditioners, opened the windows and roof vents, and turned on the ceiling exhaust fans.  I grabbed my Tilley hat and walked the trash down to the dumpster.  I love my Tilley hat.

At 1:30 PM I powered down my computer and took it to the library at the resort clubhouse along with my iPad.  The music jam was taking place in the main room at 2 PM so I closed the connecting door.  That made the volume just about right and I enjoyed the background entertainment while I updated and blogged.  The musical genre was “country and gospel” (of course).  Not my kind of music, but the musicianship was high enough to be pleasant and the participants were obviously enjoying themselves.

When I first powered up my computer the disk drive light sputtered for a long time and the screen remained blank as though it was having trouble starting.  I powered it off, let it sit a minute, and then powered it back on.  This time the HDD light came on and stayed on, flickering slightly, which is what it normally does on startup.  It took a long time for the startup screen to appear, but it eventually did.  This behavior is, unfortunately, not unusual following updates, but the failure to start up could indicate a developing problem with the HDD.  I installed a number of updates last night, but had restarted the computer several times without difficulty.  Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) notified me that there was an update available for Photoshop CC (2015) but I already knew that; it was my main reason for going to the library to use the resort Wi-Fi connection to the Internet.

With Photoshop updated I turned my attention to updating device drivers.  As I described yesterday, this is a manual, one-at-time, process.  I got five drivers updated without needing to reboot the computer but the 6th one required a restart.  This time the start screen came up fairly quickly and I was able to connect to the resort Wi-Fi and log in without difficulty.  I then continued updating drivers.  There were two drivers for printers that we do not own, and a driver for the Intel WatchDog Timer (Intel WDT).  Try as I might, I could not locate the Intel WDT within the device manager and thus could not update it.

It’s possible the WDT is not enabled in the BIOS of my computer; from what I saw on the web not all manufacturers utilize it.  I restarted the computer to make sure things were fully installed and configured, and just to make sure it would (start up).  When the HDD light finally went out I checked for Windows 10 updates.  It reported that my device was up-to-date but ESET SS9 was still indicating an update to a driver I updated last night.  I updated it again and then restarted the machine once again.  I let it start up fully and then powered it down and went back to our coach.  I will go back later and update Linda’s computer.  I will also try to update our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS navigation system, and perhaps our Garmin 465T GPS navigation system as well.  There’s a Wi-Fi Room at the west end of the clubhouse and I think I will try working there.

Back at our coach the bed was clear so I got out the computer cases.  I also needed the USB tether cables for the two GPS navigation systems.  I thought the cables were stored inside the sofa so we had to remove all of the cushions to get access to them.  As long as they were off, we rotated them.  The cables were not there so I looked in several other places before finally looking under the bed and finding one there.  Fortunately it fit both GPS units.  I packed up both of our computers, including the power supplies, my iPad, and put the two GPS units in my computer case.  I piled everything in the front seat of the car and drove back to the clubhouse, but this time I went to the Wi-Fi room.

The Wi-Fi room has four small desk tables set against the walls and a slightly larger round table in the center of the room.  Each desk table has a comfortable office type chair on casters and an outlet strip to supply AC power to portable devices.  I was the only person there and picked the desk table in the darkest corner to set up my equipment.  I got both computers plugged in to AC power and started them up.  There was a wireless access point visible in the room, so I connected to it instead of the SSID I normally use at the other end of the building.  I figured the stronger signal would provide a more reliable, and perhaps faster, connection.  I then connected the Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS navigation unit to my computer with an appropriate USB cable and turned it on.  Once it connected with my laptop the Rand-McNally Dock software opened automatically and informed me that there was an OS/firmware update available for the device and also a map update.

I did the device update first and it took about 10 seconds.  I then started the map update.  At one point it told me the download would take 13 hours to complete, and that was after it had been downloading for an hour.  The R-M map update process is almost 4 GB of data and often does not complete successful.  When that happens everything is lost and you have to start over.  Basically, you can’t do the update on a limited/metered data plan, which is why I was sitting in the FGMCR Wi-Fi room trying to do it using the resort’s Internet connection.

With the map download under way I opened ESET SS9 on Linda’s computer to see what updates it thought were available.  I tried yet again to install the update for the Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 Redistributable, and once again it did if not seem to work correctly.  Windows 10 Update said it was available, said it downloaded it, and flashed the screen about six times that it was installing, before finally indicating that everything was up-to-date.  I tried to repeat what the ESET technician did on my machine by locating and repairing the update, but unlike my computer it did not appear in the list.  It really looks like I will have to get online with ESET again and gave them work some more of their remote magic.

Next I decided to update some of the indicated drivers on Linda’s computer.  I opened ESET SS9 again, went to available OS updates screen, and wrote them down.  I was able to update four of the 11 but could not find the other devices in Device Manager.  On my computer there was only one driver of any importance that I could not locate, but Samsung and ASUS obviously do not do things the same way.  What was surprising is that ESET SS9 is identifying updates for device drivers that do not appear to exist.  I restarted Linda’s machine to make are sure everything was OK and it appeared to be.

Two other people showed up (a couple) and were web-surfing and streaming some videos on separate devices.  All of which was fine; they had as much right to do that as I had to do what I was doing, perhaps more if they are owners, but I doubt that any of us were getting great data speed.  I started the update for Adobe Lightroom CC (2105) on Linda’s computer anyway, knowing that it was approximately 300 MB and would likely take a while.  Linda has lost her voice so I texted her the status of my work and suggested that she get out a folding chair and sit outside for a while in the lovely fresh spring air and sunshine.

Another couple came in to Skype with someone but decided to set up their tablet in the Billiards Room so as not to disturb the rest of us (or keep their conversation private, or both).  A short time later the first couple left and my map download, coincidentally, speeded up quite a bit.  I initiated the update of Adobe Photoshop CC (2015) on Linda’s computer and the map download on my machine, not coincidentally, slowed way down.

I had a brief chat with Butch Williams between 8 and 9 PM EDT.  He and Fonda were also preparing to move on tomorrow from their RV Park in Huahauca, Arizona. Their next waypoint was Deming, New Mexico but he did not know if they would make it in one day.  I was finally finished with my computer and GPS unit updates by 9 PM (except for our Garmin 465T) and returned to the coach.  Linda had held dinner, which I appreciated.  We did not have to be up at the crack of dawn so we stayed up a while and watched TV before turning in for the night

 

2016/03/08 Custom Window Covers for the Bus

Bill and Brenda Phelan, of RV Windshield Covers of Florida, operate a mobile business based out of Lakeland, Florida.  This is a photo gallery of the 1-day process they went through to make and install a set of five mesh covers for the windshield and front side windows of our 1991/92 Prevost H3-40 VIP Royale Coach (Monaco) converted coach.  We were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida, at the time.  Their mobile workshop is a converted EMS truck and is also an RV suitable for business trips of up to three weeks.  The photos are not captioned.  Click on any image to open the gallery view.

2016/03/08 (T) Coverup Reset

I was awake at 7 AM having only slept for six hours, and not slept well at that.  The Magnum remote showed the house batteries at 23.9 VDC and 44% SOC.  The Fault light was also still on, and 24.0 VDC was my target voltage, so I put on my sweats, went outside, and turned on the AC power to the coach.  The charger section of the Magnum 4024 inverter/charger did not activate, which was very concerning, and I was not getting any current on L1.  Figuring out what was wrong, and fixing it if possible, was not what I planned to do today but suddenly became my first/highest priority task.  I was reminded, once again, that the RV lifestyle has a lot of unexpected twists and turns and successful enjoyment requires a willingness and ability to deal with whatever comes up.

In order to get on with our day I shut off the Magnum inverter and then shut off the AC shorepower.  I unplugged the AC cables into and out of the inverter and plugged the AC subpanel directly into the external AC feed.  I turned off the 12 VDC master switch, disabling all of our 12 VDC devices, including our water pump and the control circuitry for the auxiliary air-compressor, and disconnected the positive 24V battery cable from the Magnum 4024, removing power from the unit.  I turned on the shore water and at that point we were able to use the coach, at least as long as the auxiliary air pressure remained high enough to operate the air-flush toilet.  Worst case was that we might have to use the small portable air compressor and/or start the main engine occasionally to pressurize the system.

There wasn’t a medical emergency at our coach.  This is Bill and Brenda Phelan’s mobile workshop RV on our site (#230) at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, FL.

There wasn’t a medical emergency at our coach. This is Bill and Brenda Phelan’s mobile workshop RV on our site (#230) at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, FL.

My next priority was making coffee and having breakfast.  Bill and Brenda Phelan were due to arrive at 9 AM so we needed to be up, dressed, and ready for them.  I called Brenda at 8:20 AM and she said they were on the way and would arrive on time.  I drove up to the main gate at 8:45 and waited for them.  When they arrived I directed them to our site and then drove back myself.

Bill and Brenda Phelan have several businesses, but this sign on the door of their mobile workshop RV says it all.

Bill and Brenda Phelan have several businesses, but this sign on the door of their mobile workshop RV says it all.

The first time we met Bill and Brenda was when we attended the Arcadia Rally 2014 (at the end of December 2013).  They took over the operation of the rally starting with the 2012 gathering at the end of 2011, and ran it for five years, but it was not their main business.  They had several businesses including a food concession trailer (The Fry’in Saucer) that they just sold.  Their main business is making windshield covers, tire covers, windshield wiper and mirror covers, and patio mats.  We ordered tire covers and windshield wiper covers from them at the Tampa RV Supershow in January and they shipped those to use at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia a few weeks ago.

Brenda and Bill test fit the main windshield cover before installing the corner snaps on our Prevost H3-40 motorcoach.  Site #230, Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

Brenda and Bill test fit the main windshield cover before installing the corner snaps on our Prevost H3-40 motorcoach. Site #230, Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

They were here today to make external covers for our bus windshields and the glass on both the driver and passenger sides of the cockpit.  They operate RV Windshield Covers of Florida as a mobile business out of a very unique vehicle.  Having converted a couple of buses into motorhomes they bought a used EMS truck (ambulance) and reconfigured it as a small motorhome with an industrial sewing machine and storage for all of their tools, materials, and supplies.  The window covers are custom made on site, so the mobile workshop is a necessity.

After looking at our coach and discussing the job with us, we decided to have one large cover for the windshield, on large cover for the driver side fixed windows, and three covers for the passenger side.  The reason for three covers on the passenger side was that the door has a window that opens and we wanted to be able to cover it independently.  That required the fixed windows above it and to the rear of it to each have their own cover.  Basically, the work went as follows:

  • Measure the window to be covered.
  • Roll out a large enough piece of fabric on the ground.
  • Cut the fabric to that require shape and dimensions, but a bit larger all the way around.
  • Hem the edges and reinforce them, adding loops to the four corners and the company label to one of the hems.
  • Attached 1/2 of a snap fitting to each corner to start, and in the center of the upper edge of wider pieces.
  • Hold the fabric up and get it temporarily in position and mark the location on the body of one of the upper corner snaps. Drill and hole and screw the mating park of the snap into the body.
  • Attach the fabric to the snap and then stretch it to the other upper corner and mark the location of that snap.
  • Drill a hole and screw in the mating part of the snap.
  • Attach the fabric to the second snap. Repeat this for the lower corners and any additional snaps that are needed to get the fabric to stretch tight and lay flat.
  • Repeat for each window cover.
Windshield and driver side covers finished and installed and looking good in the late afternoon glow of the late afternoon sun.

Windshield and driver side covers finished and installed and looking good in the late afternoon glow of the late afternoon sun.

While Bill and Brenda worked I called John Palmer to get his opinion about the Magnum 4024 problem.  He suggested that I reset the unit and see if that cleared the fault.  If not, he suggested I call tech support.  He confirmed that he had a couple of units in stock if I needed one, and also had high end standalone chargers.

 

 

The front cover goes under all four wipers and covers all four windshields with one large piece of fabric.  We were very impressed with the way Bill and Brenda made these covers, and very pleased with the way they turned out.

The front cover goes under all four wipers and covers all four windshields with one large piece of fabric. We were very impressed with the way Bill and Brenda made these covers, and very pleased with the way they turned out.

I wanted to go through a careful diagnostic procedure before calling Magnum T/S.  I found the manual on my iPad and looked at the diagnostic and routine maintenance procedures.  The wiring appeared to be good and power was making it through the Progressive Industries EMS unit.  I thought I had reset the unit earlier but according to the manual I had not done it correctly, which is to say, I had not actually reset the unit.  Followed the directions and voilà!  I called John back to update him.

 

The three passenger side covers are clearly visible here along with the windshield cover.

The three passenger side covers are clearly visible here along with the windshield cover.

When Bill and Brenda were done working we got out four chairs, visited for a while, and gave them a tour of the interior remodeling work.  We were impressed with their on-site fabricating and installation process and very pleased with the way the covers turned out.  The chocolate brown mesh fabric is the same one we chose for our tire covers and complements the paint colors on the bus, including the chocolate brown upper body.

Once Bill and Brenda left Linda changed into her swimsuit and went to the pool while I took a nap.  Linda eventually returned from her swim, I eventually woke up from my nap, and we eventually had dinner.  At least I presume that we did as I did not finish this post at the time and am editing it for upload to our website many months later.  I did, however, record that Joan and Bill, whom we met at the welcome party yesterday, stopped to chat, and that another couple also stopped.

 

2015/12/26 (S) Departure Preparations

In spite of overnight lows in the upper 60s and plenty of humidity we left the windows open, the exhaust fans on, and the air-conditioners off last night and did not get up until 8:30 this morning.  I made our pot of morning coffee and Linda eventually warmed up the remaining cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post while she played word games on her iPad.  I got a text message from John letting us know that he took Ali to the hospital early this morning but he did not elaborate.

Although we are not leaving until Monday morning, we wanted to start some of our departure preparations today.  For me that meant:

  • dumping the waste tanks;
  • filling the fresh water tank;
  • putting away the hoses and water softener;
  • airing up the tires; and,
  • doing the laundry, including the bedding.

Linda walked up to get a shower and I started working on these chores in roughly that order  I dumped the black tank and then checked the tank level monitor in the house systems panel.  The indicator for Tank #2 no longer showed full but still showed 2/3rds.  The indicator for Tank #1 did not change, showing 2/3rds before and after.  I back flushed the black water tank which helped clean off the floor of the tank but did not do anything for the level sensors.  I then dumped the grey water tank.  Once it was empty I checked the monitor again and the Tank #1 indicator had dropped from 2/3rds to 1/3rd.  All of this seemed to confirm that Tank #2 was plumbed into the toilet and corresponded to the bodily function of the same number.  I was reminded that I really should mark the display with ‘B’ and ‘G’.

When Linda returned from her shower I took a load of whites to the laundry room and put them in a washing machine.  When I returned to our coach I tapped on the side of the fresh water tank to determine the water level.  It was very low, below 1/6th (20 gallons) and perhaps more like 1/8 (15 gallons).  At our water usage rate we might have been able to go one more day but there wasn’t any reason to cut it that close.  Besides, the lines coming out of the tank are on the side near the bottom but are not at the very bottom so there are a few gallons in there that are not usable.  My reason for wanting to know was so I could enter the gallons in my water usage tracking spreadsheet.  I also wanted to get the tank filled so I could put the hoses and water softener away.

While the tank was filling I got out the air-compressor, air hose, air chuck, and air pressure gauge and started checking the tires.  The tires on the sunny south-facing driver’s side of the bus were a bit higher than I wanted so I adjusted them as follows (in PSI): DST=87.5, DSOD=DSID=97.5, DSS=117.5.  The passenger side tires were in the shade so I figured they were not as inflated as the driver side tires and the pressures would not drop as much overnight.  I set them as follows (in PSI): PST=86, PSOD=PSID=96.  When I checked the PSS tire it was 70 PSI.  It was supposed to be 115.  Yikes!

This tire has always had a slow leak but it sat most of the summer without losing much air.  I checked/adjusted the pressures on November 25 (the day before Thanksgiving) but did not check them again until today.  In retrospect that was probably a mistake but it is my second least favorite chore, right behind recharging the water softener.  The tire had lost 45 PSI in about 30 days, an average of 1.5 PSI per day.  That is not a fast enough leak to pose a problem for driving as long as I check it every day while driving and don’t go more than a few days while parked, but it was troubling nonetheless as it was a change in the behavior of the tire.

The small pancake air compressor we carry has a 150 PSI maximum tank pressure and will provide a regulated output almost that high, but not for very long as it does not have a lot of volume.  It’s designed to run low volume air tools, such as nailers and staplers, not high volume air tools, like sanders or impact wrenches.  It works fine for topping up a tire but is not designed to inflate a bus tire from 70 to 115 PSI.

It took a lot of cycles to finally get the pressure to 115.5 PSI and before it did the compressor stopped coming on to re-pressurize the tank.  It was warm and I thought a thermal overload protector might have opened.  Another possibility is that once the tire gets up to about 110 PSI the compressor only supplies a small amount of additional air at 130 to 140 PSI until the tank pressure drops to match what is in the tire.  At that point the compressor cannot push more air into the tire but the tank pressure is not low enough to cause the compressor to turn on.  At this point I was really regretting that we did not bring the 15 gallon DeWalt air compressor with the 200 PSI tank and 150 PSI regulated output.  Yeah, it’s big; but it works.

The front of the car was parked facing the front of the bus so the passenger side tires were in the sun.  I adjusted the PSF=33.5 PSI (32 is normal) and the PSR=35.5 PSI (34 is normal).  I set the DSF=32.5 and the DSR=34.5.  I really need to check all of the tires first thing in the morning while it is cool, and before the sun heats up one side of the vehicles, but I am usually enjoying my morning coffee and not fully dressed.  I also do not want to run the air compressor too early in the day, as it is noisy, so I have to write down the pressure adjustment needed for each tire and do it later.  All things considered it’s a slightly obnoxious process.

With the waste tanks drained and the water tank filled I tested the water coming out of the softener and it was still indicating 1.5 gpg (25 ppm).  I disconnected the water hoses from the coach, the supply faucet, and the water softener but left them connected to both sides of the separate pre-filter.  After draining them as best I could I coiled the pre-filter hoses around the filter housing and connected the ends together to prevent leaks and put it on top of a tub in the front bay on the driver’s side.  I removed the cover from the filter housing attached to the softener, which does not have a filter element in it, and dumped the water out to get rid of the weight.  I then stored the softener in the passenger side of the front bay.

With the fresh water apparatuses taken care of I disconnected the waste hose from the angle adapter, flushed it out, collapsed it, and coiled it in the tub where we store all of the waste tank related accessories.  I disconnected the backflush angle adapter, removed the backflush water hose, capped the discharge fitting, and added all of that to the waste accessories tub.

I put the air compressor back in the passenger side of the front bay, coiled up the air hose, and stored it in the driver side tray over the drive tires.  Back inside I reattached the air inlet screen for the middle air-conditioner, put the drill and driver buts away with the other tools, and closed up all the bays.  Other than rechecking the passenger side front tire all I have left to do to get the bus ready to travel is stow the bag chairs and fold up table, stow the awnings, and disconnect and stow the shorepower cord.  After that it’s the usual departure procedure.  Once we are out of our site I will back the bus up so as not to block anyone’s driveway and Linda will pull the car around behind it so we can hook it up for towing.  We will then exit the resort via the covered bridge to the main gate and out to US-27.

I sat outside for the later part of the afternoon working on this post.  Linda was out too for a while, but went in to lie down.  She said she felt OK but was very tired.  I put the second load of laundry in a washing machine around 2 PM and went back at 3 to transfer it to a dryer.  John stopped by on the way back to his rig and said the hospital was probably going to admit Ali but as of when he left she was still in the ER.  He took her in this morning because of severe abdominal pain.

I was getting ready to go back at 3:45 PM to retrieve the laundry when I got involved in a conversation with our neighbors to the south, Danny and Dorothy.  We had previously exchanged salutations and had brief chats but this was our first real conversation.  Pam, who is in the rig to our north with her husband Ken, stopped to chat briefly as she headed out for a walk.  It was also the first time we have talked.  It seems that this often happens.  Two years ago it was March before we got to be friends with more than just John and Ali and by the time we left in early April we were being sociable with a dozen people.

At 4:15 PM Linda decided we should go for an easy walk.  The sun had just dropped below the trees so the air temperature was pleasant but the humidity had not yet risen.  We strolled up to the office and checked for mail.  The holiday card from Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline was there but not the Christmas card from Marilyn.  We will be gone before the mail arrives on Monday so we will have to ask in the office tomorrow about having stuff forwarded.  We also have to let them know we are pulling out early Monday and need to have someone read the meter so we can settle the electric bill.

We had partly cloudy skies for our walk which thinned out as the evening progressed and allowed some radiational cooling.  Basically we have been going from 83 degrees and 63% relative humidity during the day to 68 degrees and 83% relative humidity overnight.  Comfortable enough in the day but muggy at night.

Back at the rig we sat outside with our iPads until Linda went in at 5:30 to prepare leftovers for dinner and I went inside at 5:45 to eat them.  We had crossed paths with John while we were walking and he said there would be a fire in the firepit tonight.  At 6:30 Linda filled our flip top insulated coffee mugs with wine and packed them in our carry bag, along with our two plastic wine glasses, and we walked up to the campfire.  There were already a half dozen people there and more showed up after us so that we almost filled the available seats.

Big Mike had built the fire and had it going.  John was there to tend to things but did not play his guitar and sing.  He is still recovering from whatever made him ill overnight Wednesday and with the high heat/humidity, and Ali in the hospital, he probably did not feel much like performing.  As much as we enjoy the entertainment we also enjoy the conversation, and there was plenty of that to go around.  We ended up talking to Peter and Giselle from Ontario, whom we had not met before.  They are not retired yet but are arranging some extended vacation time to try out the RV lifestyle.  That is really smart in our opinion if your employment situation permits it.

Peter, John, Linda, and I were the last to leave.  At 10 PM I spread out the remaining fire logs and John locked up the shed.  He took off on his golf cart to lock up the various buildings in the park and we walked back to our coach.  The skies were partly cloudy and there was a large, bright, full moon.  The temperature was pleasant and the park was still and quiet save for one person we saw walking their dog off in the distance.  This was our last campfire at WCRVR this season unless we return briefly in March on our way north.  We missed seeing Ali but even with her absence, and without music, we enjoyed it our evening sitting around the campfire.

Back at our coach we had the last of the apple strudel with Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream for dessert.  I flipped channels on the TV while Linda read and I played games.  We caught the tail end of a vegan cooking show that we had never seen or even heard of and caught the news/weather at 11 PM.  We were interested in the storm system moving into the Midwest but otherwise there wasn’t much on that grabbed our interest.

As we were getting ready for bed I put soiled clothes in the hamper and realized that I had not taken the clothes from there yesterday and laundered them with the second/dark load.  That meant I would be doing an unexpected load of laundry in the morning.  In spite of a forecast of possibly early morning light fog we left the windows open and two of the three exhaust fans running all night.  We do better (up to a point) with fresh, moving air, even if it is humid, than we do with the coach closed up and the noise of the air-conditioners.  Linda fell asleep quickly but I played games on my iPad and watched Cook’s Country on the PBS Create channel before turning off the lights at 12:30 AM.

 

2015/12/08 (T) Hudson and Back

The outside air temperature dropped into the 40’s last night.  I closed the roof vents before turning in but we left the windows open a bit.  It was 61 degrees F in the kitchen when I got up at 8 AM so I turned on the Aqua-Hot, turned up all three thermostats, and turned on the front electric toekick heater.  I fed the cats and then made our morning coffee.  Linda got up around 8:20.  After our first cup of coffee we had granola for breakfast.  When the temperature in the coach reached 70 I turned off the thermostats and the electric heater and shut off the Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  (The electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot stays on whenever we are plugged in and living in the coach.)

I called Suncoast Designers and talked to Donna.  She talked to the technician and reported back that the bus window would be ready for pickup at 3 PM.  The office closes at 3:45 PM, so I would need to be there close to 3 to get it and settle the bill.

I found my water usage spreadsheet, which I last updated on April 19 of this year, and edited it to include the dump and fill activity since then.  I had to go back to my blog posts from late April to confirm just what I had done and when I had done it.  I checked my most recent post drafts and discovered that I had not made mention of dumping here at WCRVR.  Linda and I agreed that it was not the day we got here and not the following day so I recorded it as the 3rd.  Since there had been large time gaps in our use of the coach, and I had dumped the fresh water tank and refilled it the day before Thanksgiving, I had to reset the spreadsheet to known starting points.

After entering the missing data I determined that, with two people living in the coach, we continue to use fresh water at the rate of approximately 12 gallons per day and fill the waste tanks at the rate of approximately 12 gallons per day; five for the black tank and seven for the gray tank.  With 120 gallons of fresh water that means we can boondock for about 10 days, during which time we would use up the 120 gallons of fresh water and add roughly the same number of gallons to the two waste tanks, 50 to the 80 gallon black tank, and 70 to the 120 gallon gray tank.  I also determined that we have used about half the capacity of the water softener.

The numbers for the waste tanks are very rough as our tank level monitors do not work and I cannot see the levels in the tanks, even though they are translucent white plastic, as they are hidden behind “beauty panels.”  Still, I think my estimates are reasonable.  Given the 3:4 ratio of fresh:waste tank capacity I am inclined to redo the water bay next spring as a 300 gallon, 2-tank, system replacing the current 330 gallons of combined tank capacity (125 fresh, 125 gray, 80 black).  I could reuse the current 125 gallon fresh tank but I would probably replace it with one of a different shape to make room for the water softener and filters to be built in and to relocate the fresh water pump to the driver side floor at the level of the bottom of the fresh water tank.

At current usage rates a 125 gallon fresh water tank and a single 175 gallon waste tank would, hypothetically, allow us to boondock for 13 days, running out of fresh water just as our waste tank reached capacity.  We might be able to stay out longer if we could reduce fresh water usage and waste generation proportionally.  In practice, however, we would probably not go more than 13 to 14 days and only then if the new tank monitors worked accurately.  Still, that would allow us to stay out two full weeks before we had to dump and fill, which seems like a good amount of time.

The other benefits of reconfiguring the tanks in the utility bay include slightly different tank shapes that would create some space for the water softener and filters and provide access to the tanks for servicing and monitoring.  It would also allow me to install rotating spray heads for the waste tank and drain it through the macerator pump, allowing use to “dump” our tanks at our house or anywhere we could get a garden hose into a waste drain.  We might even gain space, or access to space that is already there, to store drain hoses, and other utilities-related things, in the bay.  I would, for instance, love to have a shorepower reel but I do not think I can create that kind of space without making the tanks too small.

What we would lose in the redo is a separate gray tank that could, hypothetically, be drained onto the ground in some places.  The number of places where that is legal, however, is too small (in my opinion) to justify keeping that capability.  The other main argument for keeping separate black and gray waste water tanks is that the contents of the gray tank can be used to flush the drain hose out after first dumping the contents of the black tank.  Indeed, some bus converters set up their waste tanks with the gray tank above the black tank and plumb them so that the gray tank can be drained into the black tank to help flush it out, or drained directly (which leaves open the option of draining it in on the ground).

We heard another interesting take on water management for boondocking at a seminar in August 2012 at the FMCA national rally in Madison, WI.  The presenter described his system, which involved three tanks, fresh, gray, and black.  His twist on this was that he ran the gray water through a filter (or set of filters) and then used it to flush the toilet.  The advantage is that all of the fresh water becomes available for gray water use, i.e., cooking and cleaning.  As an example, consider a setup (such as we might have in our bus conversion) with a 150 gallon fresh water tank, a 100 gallon gray tank, and a 50 gallon black tank. Since the first 50 gallons that go into the gray tank will potentially end up in the black tank the entire 150 gallons of fresh water can ultimately end up in the 100 gallon gray tank.  With careful management of water usage, that could really extend the amount of time the rig can be used without hookups.  These tanks could be sized differently, larger waste and smaller fresh, if you had a fresh water bladder that could be used to retrieve additional fresh water and refill the tank without moving the RV.  Lot’s of interesting possibilities, all of which involve engineering design tradeoffs.

I opened the box of BCM back issues that arrived yesterday and went through them.  There were two of each issue but I won’t know if they are all there until I can integrate them into the partial sets I brought from home.  Those sets were under the bed and there was a cat on the bed so retrieving them would have to wait until later.  I worked on this post for a while instead and stopped at noon to have lunch.  Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sliced an apple.  Simple but delicious.

I looked through the articles in my BCM “in process” folder and opened the one on tips for taking photographs to see how complete it was.  While not finished, the article was much more than an outline.  I spent about 20 minutes reviewing what I already had and doing some additional editing but did not feel like digging into in it.

I left at 1 PM for Hudson, taking the same route I took yesterday, and arrived at 2:45 PM.  I was 15 minutes early but the window was done.  There was no charge for the repair, which I appreciated, as the seal failed not long after the window was originally fixed in April 2014.  The technician wanted the window to stay horizontal for at least another day, supported by its frame, before being reinstalled in the bus.  Because the back of the car was full and could not be rearranged I moved the passenger seat all the way forward and leaned the seat back as far as it would go.  I used the blanket to plug the gap between the front edge of the seat and dashboard and set the window in place, outside up, with one short edge on the blanket and the other one on the seatback.  It traveled very well that way on the drive home and I decided it was safer to leave it there than setting it out on the picnic table overnight.  I got back to the rig around 5 PM even though I stopped twice, once for popcorn at Rural King, and then at McDonald’s for a diet pop.

Linda made seitan vegan stroganoff for dinner which we enjoyed with a glass of Mimbres Red table wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico.  In retrospect we should have bought more bottles while we were there.  Every wine we bought from them was a red and very much to our liking, especially mine, which is unusual.

We had both spent most of the day sitting on our butts (not our hands) and went for a brisk stroll after dinner.  We watched a few TV programs, went to bed at 10:30, and finished watching Rick Steves’ Europe before turning out the lights.

 

2015/12/07 (M) Not on Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/12/06 (N) Multiple Threads

I got out of bed at 8 AM, fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made some hot soapy water for dishes and then measured out and ground our morning coffee beans.  Once I had the coffee brewing I cleaned the grinder, which I had not done in a while.

Linda got up around 8:30 and we both sat with our iPads and enjoyed our first cup of coffee.  I had a reply to the e-mail I sent our son last night and replied back.  I also sent the photo I created on Thursday to him and our daughter.  It is a 3-image panorama looking north out of our passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

At 9:30 Linda started making pancakes, which has become something of a regular treat for our Sunday breakfast.  I got a call from my sister at 10 letting me know she was heading to the hospital where our dad is in the ICU.  We finished our coffee around 10:30 and got dressed.  Linda settled in to work on her counted cross-stitch project and I checked our fresh water tank.  The level was finally below 1/3 on the monitor so I decided to test the park water.  As I expected, based on our previous time here, the hardness was at the maximum on the test strip so I got the water softener out and connected it to the supply valve.  The quick disconnect, while a nice idea, is made of plastic.  It was finally worn to the point where it would not seal so I unthreaded it from the pressure regulator and put it back in the fresh water tub where it joined a dozen other components that I should throw away.  Someday.

I have read in multiple publications and blogs that the RV sewer hose, and especially the bayonet connectors used on RV sewer hoses, is the weakest component on an RV, both by design and manufacture.  While these components may be in contention for that status, I submit that the garden hose fittings that are universally used for the fresh water connections may actually be the worst.  My fresh water connections always leak even when I tighten them (gently) with a wrench.  My sewer connections do not generally leak.

But I have digressed once again.  When I had the softener connected I tested the output and it appeared to be fully charged so I connected it to the inlet of the coach and refilled the fresh water tank.  In Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter I kept track of the details of when I dumped and filled tanks, including the hardness was of the water coming out of the softener before and after each fill.  This data served two purposes.

One purpose was to compensate for our waste tank level monitors, which do not work.  We were trying to determine the rate at which we were filling them so we could calibrate how long we could reasonably boondock before we had to dump them.  That turned out to be about nine days, conservatively, which is how long we went before hooked up here and dumped.

 

Because the water softener can only remove a certain number of grains of hardness before it is exhausted the number of gallons it can soften before it has to be recharged depends on the hardness of the water coming in.  At 25 grains of hardness per gallon, which is what we had in Q and what we have here in Williston, the softener, which has a capacity of about 10,000 grains, can process about 400 gallons.  If the hardness is higher than 25 gpg we will not be able to process that many gallons.  400 gallons is about four refills if I refill it when the level is down to 1/6 (20 gallons).  Our usage data from Q indicated that we used about 9 gallons per person per day on average (18 gallons per day) and that I was filling the tank every 5 to 6 days and recharging it every three weeks.

While setting up the water softener I noticed an active nest of red ants.  I saw John drive by and a few minutes later saw him headed back our way and flagged him down.  He did not have the ant poison on his cart but offered to get it and come back, which he did.  He also brought a rake.  It turned out that he buys this product at his own expense and uses it to treat sites before folks check in, so I will buy a bag for ourselves and one to replenish his stock as part of my trip to Hudson tomorrow.

With the refill underway I resumed working on the photos for the BCM article on the International Thermal Research (ITR) OASIS Combi hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Willams’ 1987 MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The hospital tried to reach me at 12:14 PM but the call went directly to my voice mail.  After a few text messages back and forth with my sister and niece I received a phone number for the doctor and was able to get her on the phone.

Brendan texted me at 1 PM to let me know he was headed to our house.  He called when he got there and I called him back on our house phone.  He spent about half an hour searching through brief cases looking for certain papers and telling me what he was finding.  He found the case I needed and took it back to his house where he can go through it more comfortably and ship it to me if needed.

I had resumed working on the BCM article when John and Ali showed up.  We invited them into the coach to see the remodeling work we have done and they stayed long enough to chat awhile and have a small glass of wine.  I opened the bottle of Viva La Rojo from the Heart Of The Desert winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we all agreed it was very nice.  It is at such moments that I am left to wonder why we did not buy more than one bottle.

After they left I continued working on the article until I was too tired to concentrate.  It was well into the second half of the afternoon so we both put our projects aside and removed the fogged living room awning style window/frame, wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in the car.  I need to leave early in the morning and drive to Suncoast Designers in Hudson to have the window repaired and did not want to be messing around with it at 6 AM in the morning.

Getting the window out required the step ladder and a small screwdriver to remove two C-clips so it was a bit more involved than it sounds.  Linda put the screen back in place, covered it with a piece of the silvered bubble insulation, and taped it around the edges.  The RV resort is very safe so someone getting into our rig was not our concern.  Rather, the low temperature overnight Monday into Tuesday is forecast to be in the 40’s so we really cannot have an uninsulated opening in the side of the coach.  The chance for rain is low to zero, and we have the awning out over most of that window, so we are hopeful we will not have to seal the outside with plastic.  Our other concern was our cats.  The screens do not fit as tight as we would like and if this one fell out the cats could jump to their “freedom” with potentially dire consequences.

Linda made stuffed Poblano peppers for dinner.  The preparation took a while so I laid down on the sofa and watched Martha Bakes and Ask This Old House on the Create channel from the University of Florida, Gainesville PBS station.  What can I say?  I find TV that teaches me things entertaining, even if I can’t eat anything Martha bakes.  At home Linda would normally cook the peppers on our outdoor or indoor grill but tonight she pan-seared them.  The peppers were stuffed with a mixture of rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan cheddar cheese, and vegan sour cream.  The peppers brought just enough heat to the dish and we finished the bottle of Viva La Rojo, which smoothed everything out.  We had a nice salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette as a first course.  We had sliced fresh strawberries for dessert.  It was a really good meal.

We watched President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office, an interesting episode of 60 Minutes (which I have not seen in years), and the Sinatra 100 Grammy tribute.  It was an unusual evening of television for us but very enjoyable and a nice conclusion to a day that was broken up into multiple threads.

 

2015/12/02 (W) Settling In

I was up at 7 AM, fed the cats, and settled in on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back to work on my iPad.  I finished my blog post for yesterday and e-mailed the last three days to myself.  I updated seven apps and then checked out the latest issue of the SKP Photographers BoF newsletter.  Linda finally got up at 9:15 AM.  I made a pot of coffee and we had toast for breakfast.

My first priority after breakfast was responding to a half-dozen e-mails from Gary at BCM, one of which required me to proofread an article he had written about a recent rally.  Next I selected four photos I took with our new Sony a99v DSLT camera and uploaded them to a Dropbox folder for Lou to see.  Somewhere in there I got a call from Joe (our mobile mechanic) about Globus cork flooring products.  As long as he was on the line I asked his opinion about the chassis battery / Vanner equalizer issue.  He reminded me, as he often does, that I already knew how to check if the Vanners were working.  When we concluded the call I went outside and did the checks.

With the Vanners connected to the batteries and working correctly the voltage at the “12V” terminal should be exactly 1/2 the voltage at the “24V” terminal.  Equivalently, the voltage from +24 to +12 should be the same as the voltage from +12 to Ground.  I unplugged the two maintenance chargers to let the surface charge bleed off and used the time to trace the wiring behind the two battery disconnect switches.  As I somewhat expected the two Vanner equalizers, which are wired in parallel, are NOT connected to the batteries when they are disconnected from the coach electrical panels.  (The one Vanner whose label I could see is a Voltmaster 60-50M rated at 50 Amps maximum so I presume the other one is the same model.)

With the battery bank connected the relative voltage measurements were as expected, indicating that the Vanners were probably working correctly while the absolute measurements of +25.6 and +12.8 (to the nearest 0.1 VDC) indicated that the batteries were fully charged.

I put the disconnect switches back in the disconnected position and plugged the maintenance chargers back in.  I checked the voltage on the upper and lower battery strands and they were close to the same but not identical.  That was reasonable given that the chargers were independent (electrically isolated) and the upper and lower strands were bridged by Vanner equalizers just minutes before.  Based on my testing it appeared that everything was OK except that I lacked a plausible explanation for why the engine alternator apparently did not fully charge the batteries yesterday on the drive down from Mayo.  I wrote all this up in an e-mail and sent it to Joe, Butch, and Chuck, all of whom have had conversations with me about this over the last few days.

Linda made a humus and onion on rye sandwich and we split it for lunch along with some grapes.  It rained hard while we were eating but the rain did not last long.  After lunch I completed the certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  It was 4:15 PM by the time I was done.  I will get copies made tomorrow and get it in the mail to the headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I logged in to the Prevost Community website to renew our AITA NAPA discount card but wasn’t sure what to do, so I called Chuck.  He and Barbara were at a wine and cheese gathering and he said he would call me back when he was free.  Linda wanted to go for a walk around the Resort so at 4:30 we headed towards the north end.  This part of the Resort has had a lot of development since we were last here and now has a lot of new park models and large pads for RVs.

We looped around to John and Ali’s 5th wheel but did not see any sign of them so we headed down the main road towards Jeff and Kathy’s site.  Sure enough, John and Ali were there enjoying a glass of wine with Jeff and Kathy.  They offered us some and we accepted and pulled up a couple of open chairs.  We sat and visited until 6:30 PM when we started to get some persistent rain drops.  John drove us back to our coach in his golf cart.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and pan-seared tofu with a balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar glaze with chives.  It was very good and I could easily have eaten twice as much.  After dinner I worked on an article about replacing the bearings in our Aqua-Hot Webasto burner this past winter while we were on Quartzsite.  I got the text finished and inserted/captioned the photos that had been post-processed.  There are more photos to be processed and I plan to finish the article tomorrow and upload it to the Dropbox for proofreading.

I need, and have been looking forward to, a stretch of quiet days with time to work at my computer as I have a lot to do.  I need to update our website and blog, which is almost four months behind, and get back to work on the SLAARC, FMCA Freethinkers, and FMCA GLCC websites.  I also need to finish some articles for BCM that have been “in process” for quite a while, and I need/want to write some new ones.  Along the same lines I need to clean up my BCM folders on my hard drive and in our Dropbox.  That is not all going to happen by the time we leave for Arcadia, but I will do as much as I can.  Once we get to Arcadia we will be spending more time away from the coach exploring southern Florida and visiting with friends.  That means I will be creating lots of new photos and posts but have less time to process them.  Ahhhh, retirement.

 

2015/11/30 (M) Palmer Energy Systems

I was up at 6:45 AM and wandered over to John’s trailer compound around 7:10.  He was outside talking to someone on his cell phone and we finally left at 7:20 for breakfast in Mayo.  We went to a small, unassuming diner and waited in the car until Dale showed up.  We ordered at the counter, selected ceramic mugs from a basket, and then took a table in the back.  I had a version of my usual breakfast out; dry toast with Smucker’s Strawberry Jam and coffee.

We were done by 8:15 and stopped at the NAPA store headed east out of town on US-27.  They had a good supply of Group 31 commercial batteries and gave me a good price based on my AITA/NAPA discount card and waved the core charge if I returned the old batteries.

We returned to John’s and I got busy removing the old batteries, which was a bigger project than it sounds.  I had to get all four of my tool boxes out plus our Little Giant ladder, nitrile gloves, and paper towels.  I also had to disconnect the car from the bus.

The four batteries were lined up, sitting crosswise, in a tray above the passenger side tag axle.  Being that far off the ground I found it easier to work from the Little Giant ladder configured as a short step ladder.

My first step was to make a diagram of the physical location of the batteries with the positive and negative terminals marked and lines for the main cables attached to each one.  I assigned the numbers 1 through 8 to the terminals and then used green Frog Tape to label each cable with the number of the terminal it was connected to.  At Linda’s suggestion I used my iPad to take a photo of the batteries with the labeled cables.

My next step was to remove all of the cables from the batteries, being careful not to allow the exposed lugs on the ends to come in contact with anything they should not touch.  Some of the cables were jumpers, which I removed and set aside, while others were captive and had to hang down next to the forward side of the tray.  The cables were secured with a lock washer and nut at each terminal which I set aside as I removed them.

With all of the cables removed I proceeded to remove the large nut that secured the retaining bracket that held the batteries and remove it.  I started with the battery farthest to the outside as it was the easiest to lift out from atop the ladder.  Paul, one of the owners of the Entegra Aspire motorhome parked behind us, had come over to see what I was doing and offered to help.  I gladly accepted his assistance and he helped me lift the old batteries out of the tray and get them on the ground.  Each one weighs about 80 pounds.

I emptied out part of the driver’s side rear of our Honda Element, loaded the four used batteries in there, and took off for Mayo.  The associate at the NAPA store unloaded the old ones for me and loaded the four new ones, which I appreciated.  He pulled eight new lock washers for the terminals and a larger one for the hold down bracket, got a 1/8″ brass pipe thread plug, and helped me select at spray lubricant for the tray slides and a grease to coat the connections after they were made to protect them against corrosion.

As best I recall I was back at camp by 9:30 AM and backed the car into position by the passenger side rear of the bus.  I used the silicon spray to lubricate the slide tracks.  I then moved each battery in turn from the car to the ladder, setting it up one step at a time until I could lift it into the tray and slide it into position.  I was careful to use my legs and protect my back muscles.

With the batteries physically in place and oriented correctly I reinstalled the hold down clamp.  I then got Linda to help me reattach the cables.  I cleaned the ends to remove previous grease and wrapped several of them in electrical tape to ensure they did not short out to the tie down bracket.  I put No-Ox electrical connection anti-oxidant on each terminal.  We then put the cables back on using the new lock washers and the old nuts.  I torqued the nuts tight and we double checked the connections against the diagram.  We finished at 12:30 PM, so I felt we had accomplished the battery replacement in a very good amount of time.

I turned on the generator and then turned on the circuit breaker for the maintenance chargers.  As I expected the new batteries were not fully charged but the maintenance chargers indicated at least a 75% SOC and we slid the battery tray back in to its compartment.  I repacked the tool boxes and Linda loaded them back into the battery bay.  We put the ladder back in the front bay and the things I had removed from the car back in there.

This old building seemed to be full of stuff but no longer actively used.  Our bus was parked pointing directly at it.

This old building seemed to be full of stuff but no longer actively used. Our bus was parked pointing directly at it.

At 1 PM we decided to go for a walk in the woods.  I turned off the genset, put on my hiking boots, and got the Sony a99 camera.  It was a lovely day for a walk with the air temperature at 80 degrees F but shaded from direct sunlight by the forest.  I took a couple of dozen photos along the way.  We were back by 2 PM and decided to drive into Mayo to see it and buy some groceries.  When we got back we had vegan cold cut sandwiches for lunch and then sat outside for a while.  Paul came over to chat followed by Euginia.  Doc (the retired veterinarian who owns the property) stopped by and then John drove up to see if we were interested in a campfire.  That sounded great so John said he would start one.

Linda sits in a tree swing in one of the areas that John has “improved” on the property.

Linda sits in a tree swing in one of the areas that John has “improved” on the property.

We took our chairs over to the fire ring and sat for a long time having a nice conversation.  Kathleen arrived in a car and joined the group.  We never learned who she was but we did learn that she was there to meet up with folks driving down from Atlanta.  On the short walk back to our coach we paused to marvel at the night sky.  It is very dark here at night and there were no clouds this evening.

For dinner Linda made linguine with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil.  It was very good.  She used the induction cooker and we operated off of the batteries/inverter so they got quite a workout.  After dinner I used www.antennapoint.com to locate the TV towers around us.  I managed to tune in a CBS affiliate so we were able to watch our usual Monday evening TV programs.  I worked at my computer off-loading photos from the camera and copying them to the NAS.  I e-mailed Butch and texted Chuck regarding the battery replacement.

Linda sits in a tree swing in one of the areas that John has “improved” on the property.

Our bus boondocked at John Palmer Energy Systems shaded from the late afternoon sun.

John suggested that we operate off of the inverter and batteries and run them down to 24.0 VDC which is approximately a 50% SOC, so I agreed to try it.  We had issues with the system during the evening.  The power was flickering, causing the APC UPS to switch to batteries briefly and the lights to flicker.  The TV even turned off once.  This has never happened before and I did not know what was causing it, but suspected that we might be using too little power and/or that the inverter had overheated (although I considered that rather unlikely).  I ended up turning off the NAS and the Amped Wireless router, which were plugged in to the UPS, and then shut off and unplugged the UPS.  My laptop runs on its own battery, of course, but I had already checked my e-mail, off-loaded photos from the camera, and backed up photo files to the NAS, so I turned it off as well.

I also turned off the Search Watts feature on the inverter, which was set to 5 Watts.  My understanding is that this feature turns off the inverter when there is no load and turns it back on when a load of at least 5 Watts tries to draw current.  Five Watts on a 120 V AC system is 5/120 = 1/24 Amp or slightly more than 40 mA; not very much.  On a 24 V DC battery bank the required draw from the batteries, ignoring inverter inefficiency, would be five times that (120/24 = 5) or 200 mA = 0.2 A.  The Magnum remote was showing that we were drawing at least 6 A, so that should not have been a problem, but I did not know what else to do and I certainly was not going to bother John at this late hour.

John also suggested that I equalize the batteries and told me how to activate that function on the Magnum 4024 by holding down the button on the unit for at least 25 seconds.  The equalizing charge is a 4 hour cycle and he suggested I run it twice, back-to-back once the batteries were fully recharged and the charger was in float mode showing zero Amps.  He told me to run the equalizing charge once every six months.   I have always read that you should NOT apply an equalizing charge to AGM batteries but John said that the two guys who own Lifeline Batteries now recommend this.

We went to bed a little after 11 PM.  Linda fell asleep almost immediately but I was awake until 1 AM working on this post and listening to the sounds of the coach.

 

2015/11/29 (N) Cartersville to Mayo

I got up at 6 AM, fed the cats, turned on the engine block heater and the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and then sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back until 7:20 when I got dressed.  Linda was awake at 6 but fell back asleep and did not get up until after 7:30 AM.  We had toast and bananas for breakfast but no coffee or tea.

We had 342 miles to travel today to get to John Palmer’s place northeast of Mayo, Florida.  He operates Palmer Energy Systems (http://palmerenergysystems.com).  We had already driven almost 700 miles, not all of it due south, of course, so we estimated that we were at least 600 miles farther south than our house.  It may not seem like that much on a planet with a 24,000 mile circumference but it’s enough to make a big difference in the climate and weather.  I was going to check/adjust all of the tires before we left this morning but the temperature was only slightly warmer than when we left home.  The TireTraker TPMS seemed to indicate that the tires were OK (although I do not trust the readings I am getting) so I just inspected them visually.

Once again we targeted an 8:30 AM departure time and actually pulled out of our site at 8:35.  As soon as we pulled onto I-75 southbound we were in heavier traffic than I expected and it only got worse the farther south we went.  It was reasonably smooth sailing all things considered, those things being:  construction zones, dense traffic, sunshine (we were driving south, more or less), and drivers who didn’t know how to use an entrance ramp to merge onto a freeway.  The last one is one of the banes of my bus driving experience.

We only stopped twice.  The first stop was around 11 AM at the rest area near MM179 (south of Atlanta) to use the bathroom and give the cats a chance to do the same.  The second stop was at the rest area near MM59 around 12:30 PM.  We stopped long enough to have a snack of sliced apples, have something to drink, and use the bathroom.  It also gave the cats a chance to eat, drink, and use the litter tray.  I called John to get final instructions on how to get into his place.  That turned out to be a useful call; he confirmed that we would not have any problem with US-129/FL-51 traffic circle in Live Oak, Florida.  He also gave a specific tip to “pull off the road into the ditch (on the right) to swing wide enough to make the turn (to the left) onto his street from the county road.”

Because we were stopping for more than a few minutes I shut off the engine.  The Battery Balance light came on as I was pulling into the rest stop.  This light does not come on very often and usually only stays on for a few seconds and then goes off and stays off.  When I first turned the ignition switch on in Berea it came on and stayed on for several minutes but then turned off and stayed off.  It did not come on this morning when I first turned the ignition switch on in Cartersville, so I thought we might be OK (although I did not really believe that).  With the engine off (alternator not running), but the ignition switch on, the 24V and 12V gauges indicated less than full charge voltages.  I did not recall having ever seen that condition before.

We were back on the road by 1 PM with the OTR A-C turned on.  As always the A-C Low Pressure warning light came on occasionally but it always went off after a relatively short time.  Of more concern was the Battery Balance light, which went on and off for the next 40 miles.  Sometimes it would flicker but other times it would stay on for a long time.  Not good.

Caution and warning lights always add an element of stress to driving the bus, but Linda experiences it too from the co-pilot/navigator seat.  She knows that it stresses me and she can see the lights from her seat, so she knows what is going on at the same time I do.  In spite of the warning light the rest of the trip was smooth and uneventful.  We had much less traffic as soon as we exited I-75 onto US-129 in Florida.  We encountered a bit more traffic and had a slow roll through Live Oak, Florida.  Once we were on FL-51 headed south towards Mayo, Florida we had almost no traffic.  We crossed the Suwannee River twice, the second time just north of Mayo, and shortly thereafter made our turn onto CR-354 and headed east parallel to the river.

We found John’s street and followed his advice on how to get the bus in.  The problem was that the County Road was not that wide and John’s street was even narrower.  It also had signs on posts on each side right at the shoulder of the County Road.  That geometry meant that a long vehicle could not cut the corners and had to pass fairly straight between the sign posts.  The grassy shoulder was wide enough, before dropping off slightly into a drainage ditch, that I was able to get the passenger side tires well off the road and the driver side tires to the edge of the pavement.  It was also firm enough that I was not concerned about the passenger side tires getting stuck in soft soil.  I stopped and lifted the tag axles, to shorten the turning radius, and then pulled forward until I was looking down the road out my side window.  I then turned the front wheels to the left all the way to the stops and slowly made the turn.  I judged it just right, something I have gotten better at doing with experience, and we made it in without difficulty.  That was good because we had the car in tow behind the bus and could not back up.  If I had not made the turn we would have blocked the County Road for at least 10 minutes while we unhooked the car.  We slowly worked our way up to the buildings at the end of the road and I left the bus running while I went to find John.

John was in his trailer but heard me calling and came out.  He drove me through the parking approach in his Kubota utility cart and dropped me back at the coach.  I got it parked in a spot that had afternoon shade, leveled it, and shut the engine off while Linda opened a couple of windows and a roof vent.  John wanted to give us a tour of the property so I did not turn off the chassis batteries or close the air valves the way I normally would on arrival, but took care of that when we got back from our tour.

John is the caretaker for 400 acres of plantation pine woodland with a 25 year lease on 70 of the acres.  The owners still live on the property but are in their 80’s and one of their three children has a house on some of the acres.  John’s son, Pat, also has a trailer here and works with his dad.  There is a third guy here named Terry who works with John and also has a trailer.

Besides taking care of the property John has a solar energy business and a canopy business, all operated out of trailers that can be moved if/when needed.  He has been here for six years.  In that time he has created over six miles of trails through the woods and along the high south bank of the Suwannee River and cleared small areas for tents and a couple larger areas for RVs.  He does not run a campground or charge fees; the space is for friends and customers to use while they are here.  It’s a pretty neat place, kind of like a private state park, with access to the Suwannee River.

Back at the coach we talked about a solar installation for the bus and then John gave me a tour of his workshop and inventory trailers.  We probably won’t do anything relative to solar while we are here but I wanted to get John’s opinion on some things, which I did.  John knows what he knows and doesn’t pull any punches.  He has lived an off-grid, solar lifestyle for over a quarter century and he thinks solar systems on bus conversions are a waste of money as buses require substantial AC electrical power from a shoreline or Genset to really function fully and properly.  I concede that he is basically correct (unless you spend a lot of time in the southwest) but his utilitarian logic does not place any value on the “I want it because it’s cool” factor.

When I was done talking to John about solar stuff I opened the tray with the battery disconnect switches and the Vanner Equalizers (the coach has two of them operating in parallel) and checked to make sure the circuit breakers had not popped.  I had no way of knowing if they were operating correctly but I ruled out their shutting off as the cause of the chassis battery balance situation.  There was some corrosion on the terminals but not enough to cause a problem.  When I finally started the generator at 4:30 PM the maintenance charger for the upper 12V strand of the 24V chassis battery bank showed 25% SOC.  That was definitely not good and suggested that one or both of the upper 12V batteries had failed.  They are 5-to-6 years old so that would not come as a surprise.

I texted Chuck, described what I had found, and indicated that I planned to go buy four batteries tomorrow.  He asked if I still had my American Independent Trucker Association (AITA) NAPA Discount Card that we got through Prevost Community.  I did, and it did not expire until the end of the month, so tomorrow I will see if there is a NAPA store nearby with batteries I need in stock.

I set up the Amped Wireless router, the NAS, and my computer AC power adapter and connected the NAS and computer to the router with network cables.  I powered all of them up, turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi, and got the WiFiRanger connected to the Mi-Fi.  The Amped Wireless router connected to the WiFiRanger and everything worked as intended.  We were online so I checked e-mail.

Linda heated up a can of Amy’s chili for dinner, which we had with Saltine crackers and a little vegan “butter.”  I sliced up an apple later for dessert.

I tried calling Butch but did not reach him so I tuned in a TV station and worked on this post.  I tried Butch again later and finally got through to him.  We had not talked in several weeks so we had a nice chat.  Butch thought our batteries should have lasted seven years, given the way I use and maintain them, but conceded that five years is a typical lifespan.  He also mentioned that Nick Russell had used the picture I sent of our bus covered in snow in his blog.  I have not had a chance to check Nick’s blog in a while so I found the post when I was done talking to Butch.

By now it was 10:30 PM and I needed to get to bed.  John was leaving for breakfast at 7:15 AM and I had indicated that I would go with him so I did not want to be up too late and risk oversleeping.

 

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.

 

2015/11/18 (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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/15 (N) Tiling the Cockpit, #2

Having had a larger than normal meal later than usual last night, and gotten to bed later than usual, we did not get up this morning until a little after 8 AM.  I made coffee but we were not hungry.  By the time we finished our coffee it was approaching 10 AM but once we got to work in the bus we were on task until 7:30 PM with only a short lunch break at 1:15 PM.

Bruce dry fits floor tiles on the navigator seat platform.  (Photo by Linda.)

Bruce dry fits floor tiles on the navigator seat platform. (Photo by Linda.)

We cut and dry fit the tiles for the platform floor and walls.  We had to take time out to use the oscillating saw to undercut the bottom edge of the face board on the passenger side front vertical wiring chase.  With all the tile cut and fitted we determined the order in which we would install them.  We started with the platform floor and the first six tiles of the landing.  I also had to fashion some shims to make sure the tile in the driver-side rear corner of the platform would be installed in exactly the right location.  This would be the first tile installed and if it was even slightly misaligned it would throw all of the other tiles off.

Bruce spreads Armstrong vinyl adhesive on the navigator platform.  (Photo by Linda.)

Bruce spreads Armstrong vinyl adhesive on the navigator platform. (Photo by Linda.)

I marked the edges of all the tiles on the underlayment and then we pulled them up in the reverse order of installation.  Linda prepared some soapy water to use for cleanup of the tools and tiles.  I spread the Armstrong vinyl adhesive and Linda cleaned the trowels when I was done.  We waited for it to cure to the point where we could set the tiles.  Even with two heaters going in the front of the bus the adhesive took about 50 minutes to cure to where it would not transfer when touched.  Once it reached that point we had roughly an hour to set the tiles but it only took about 20 minutes to install them.  I used a large rubber mallet to help set them, pulled the spacers, wiped the edges with a wet paper towel, and then walked on them in lieu of using a 100 pound floor roller which would have been awkward at best to use on such a small area and not worth the time and expense to rent from The Home Depot in Howell.

Bruce installs intricately cut floor tiles in the cramped front of the driver’s area.  (Photo by Linda.)

Bruce installs intricately cut floor tiles in the cramped front of the driver’s area. (Photo by Linda.)

As soon as the first group of tiles was installed we pulled up the remainder of the floor tiles from the landing and driver area.  Linda got some paper grocery bags and painter’s tape and masked off the platform floor along the back and side wall.  I spread adhesive on all of those areas and then Linda once again cleaned the tools.  Approximately 50 minutes from when I started spreading adhesive l started setting the tiles and about 20 minutes after that they were all installed.  Once again I used a large rubber mallet to help set them, pulled the spacers, and wiped the edges with a wet paper towel.  I walked on the floor tiles but had no way to further set the wall tiles.

We were done by 7:30 PM.  Linda cleaned up the tools and water bucket while I closed up the bus.  She started fixing diner and I got out of my work clothes and put on my robe.  Dinner was a nice salad and an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza; vegan, of course.  We finished the Organic Natural White wine from Frey, but we did not necessarily enjoy it.

Following dinner we relaxed in the living room for a while and I responded to a series of text messages from Kristine Gullen.  I missed the SLAARC information net at 8 PM because it just slipped my mind.  We were in bed by 10 PM and I watched Part 1 of the 2-part PBS American Experience program on Walt Disney while I finished this post.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/13 (F) Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/12 (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.

 

2015/11/11 (W) Two for One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/10 (T) A Rainy Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/09 (M) Clever Mouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/08 (N) SLAARC Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/06 (F) MEF3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/05 (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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/30 (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.