Category Archives: CCO

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

2015/12/28 (M) On to Arcadia

Even though we were pulling out this morning we did not set an alarm to get up at some particular time.  We were up by 7:30 AM anyway. I did not make coffee or have breakfast and started preparing for departure.  We packed up our computers and put them on the bed, put away remote controls, and turned off the laser printer and NAS.  While Linda cleared off counters and secured drawers I took care of some outside things.

I pulled the tow bar parts bags out, set them aside, got out the tow bar adapters for the car, and inserted them.  I folded up the two bag chairs and put them in the car and folded up the plastic table and stowed it in the front bay.  I checked the pressure in the two front/steer tires on the bus and they were fine so I did not have to get the air compressor and hose out.  I put up all of the awnings and opened the air valve for the engine accessories and toad braking system.

When everything else was ready Linda pulled the car out while I turned on the bus chassis batteries and started the bus engine.  I let the chassis air up, pulled up the tag axle, pulled out of our site, and then backed up until I was parallel with, and close to, the edge of the road on the passenger side and not blocking anyone’s driveway.  Linda pulled the car up behind the bus and we connected it for towing.  The breakaway cable finally broke so I got the spare cable out of the glove box but I could not get the key out of the disconnect.  Rather than risk breaking it and thereby disabling the car, we decided to travel without it.

We had a final, quick chat with our neighbor’s, Danny and Dorothy, and with Ken on the other side, and pulled away around 9:10 AM.  We were out of the resort and headed southeast on US-27 at 9:26.  At Ocala we headed south on I-75 as far as exit 301 (Cortez Blvd) at Brooksville, and headed east on FL-700 as far as US-98 and headed south.  Most of this segment was also co-terminus with US-35.  The drive was mostly rural and very pretty.  It was warm outside but patchy clouds kept the temperature inside the coach from getting too warm, at least for a while.  Eventually I turned on the OTR HVAC system and it worked well.

We passed through several smaller towns but eventually got to Lakeland which was much larger, with lots of stop lights and traffic, so it took longer to get through.  Still, it was an attractive community and something to see besides an Interstate highway.  The Detroit Tigers spring training camp is in Lakeland and we will likely drive up for some games while we are in this part of Florida.

US-17 joined up with US-98 as we were leaving Lakeland.  Somewhere south of Lakeland (Fort Meade?) US-98 turned east towards Sebring and we continued south on US-17 to Arcadia.  A few miles before reaching US-70 west of Arcadia we turned onto NE Turner Road which ran due south towards the Turner Agri-Civic Center and bypassed downtown Arcadia.  We pulled into the Civic Center, which was the rally venue, at 1:15 PM.

Linda checked in with rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan.  Linda stayed with the coach while Bill drove me over to check out sites.  I selected site #9 which would have us facing west with our passenger side facing north.  Although this orientation put the afternoon sun on our windshields, it also provided shade in conjunction with the patio awning.  Dan (?) led us over to the site and then left us to unhook the car and back the bus in.  We leveled the coach (we thought) and I shut it down and went through our arrival preparations.

The inside of the coach was cool from the OTR HVAC and I wanted to keep it that way, so we left the windows and roof vents closed and put the insulated foil panels in the three large skylights.  We also found the snap covers for the side windows next to the driver seat and installed those.  We were able to position the coach which generous space to our passenger side and far enough back that the 25 foot shorepower cord just reached the outlet box.  After plugging in we turned on all three of the residential air-conditioners.  We deployed all of the awnings, including the patio awning, to shade the windows and provide a shady place to sit outdoors.  We also have a fresh water and sewer connection but may not use them while we are here.  We are only here until Friday or Saturday and came in with a mostly full fresh water tank and mostly empty waste tanks.

Although it was very warm (86 degrees F) and humid the clouds had thickened and filled in during the second half of our drive and there was a good, steady breeze.  The bus ran well today including the OTR HVAC.  The low pressure light only came on briefly one time while I was idling at a stop light.  Apparently it works a lot better when it is relatively warm outside.

Once we were set up we had a light lunch of roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers with fresh apple slices and orange segments.  We then drove to Walmart to pick up some anti-itch cream and bought a few grocery items while we were there.  We checked out the filling station on the property and decided it was not a good choice for our bus.  We also found the entrance to Big Tree RV Resort which was, literally, across the street from the Walmart.  We drove back towards downtown and stopped at the Winn-Dixie to see if they had a better selection of boxed wines than the Walmart.  They did, and we bought a Franzia Crisp White.  We drove the rest of the way into downtown in search of a filling station with diesel fuel, and access for large vehicles, before returning to the rally site.

Linda wanted to go for a walk so we strolled past the buses and other RVs that were already here.  We ran into Scott Crosby working on Dan’s windshield.  We met Dan, Kathy, and their son James at the FMCA GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  Apparently the windshield on their GM PD4106 started coming out of its gasket along the top and caving into the cockpit on their trip to Arcadia.  Scott was up on a ladder getting the gasket reseated around the frame and glass.

We continued our walk and discovered that Paul and Claudine Elbisser, also from our FMCA GLCC chapter, were here.  We visited with them for quite a while before finishing our stroll around the rally and returning to our rig for dinner.  Linda microwaved a sweet potato and served the last of the Gardein stuffed mock turkey roll and broccoli that we had for dinner on Christmas day.

After dinner I tried tuning in OTA TV stations, orienting the antenna both WNW towards Tampa St. Petersburg, and due south towards Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and Ft. Meyers.  When I scanned for stations I found about 60 in each direction although many of them were the same stations.  So much for digital TV signals bring highly directional.  We watched reruns of our Monday evening TV shows on CBS.  We also turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi so we could get online long enough to check TV tower locations and network affiliations, check our e-mail, and change our location in RVillage.

I got an e-mail from Gary at BCM with the draft of the February 2016 issue and a request that I proofread Part 1 of my 2-part article on our Habitat For Humanity RV Care-A-Vanner build in July 2013.  I was a little tired from our day’s activities and was not in the humor to review articles, edit old blog posts, or write new ones so I just watched TV and fiddled with the thermostats and fan speeds on our air-conditioners.  I was puzzled by the fact that it felt humid in the rig in spite of the air-conditioners having been on all day.  The front and rear ones seem to be cooling better than the middle one, but the front one was the only one that we seaw water dripping from the drain line outside the bus.  I admit to having some level of concern about where the condensed water from the evaporators is going, assuming they are condensing any moisture.

The overnight low was forecast to be about 70 with morning fog, i.e., 100% relative humidity so in spite of the fan noise we left the bus closed up and the A-Cs running.  I adjusted the thermostats down to make sure the condensers would run, and lowered the fan speed in the bedroom to reduce the noise level.  I plugged the power in for the rear OTA TV antenna, but it was not functioning correctly and was clearly not going to fix itself.  It needs to be replaced but I am reluctant to buy another one of the same model as the failure rate so far has been 50%.  Linda read, and I played a few games, on our iPads and then went to sleep.

 

2015/09/20 (N) On To CCO

I woke up at 7:30 AM but lay in bed until almost 8 AM.  It got down to 50 degrees F outside last night and was cool enough in the bus for really good sleeping under several layers of sheets and thin blankets.  Linda was still sound asleep so I slipped into my sweats and walked over to the meeting room for coffee and conversation.  I skipped breakfast as I prefer not to eat before I have to drive the bus for any length of time.  I would normally skip the coffee too but we did not plan to leave until noon, so I figured I had time to process it.

Linda eventually got up, got dressed, and joined the other women in the kitchen for conversation.  Tim Olsen and Karl Crigger had not seen our remodeling project yet so we headed to the bus.  Tim was particularly interested in what we had done in terms of furniture and we had a nice chat.  All around us the other rally participants were in various stages of preparing for departure and both Tim and Karl took their leave to attend to their own departure routines.

Linda managed to get other people to take various pieces of chapter-owned food-related equipment and supplies with them so we did have to take them home, store them, and possibly have to get them to someone later.  She started preparing the inside of our coach for departure while I installed the hitch back into the receiver on the bus.  Most of the rally attendees had left by 11AM or were getting ready to pull out so we decided we would go too.

I fired up the bus engine and then disconnected and stowed the shore power cord while the engine warmed up and the chassis aired up.  The site directly behind us on the other side of the road was empty, and it would be a much easier departure from there than from our site, so I backed the coach up while Linda served as spotter.  Kathy came over so Linda showed her our interior remodeling project while I pulled the car around behind the bus and connected it to the hitch.  Linda caught up with me and helped finish preparing the car for towing while I opened the air valve for the auxiliary brake system on the car.  She checked that all of the bays were closed and locked, said “so long” to several folks, and got on board.

We were ready to pull out when Dan stopped by to say “thanks” for a great rally and then Mike stopped by to wish us safe travels.  There are quite a few people in GLCC that we have never met, but most of the ones we have crossed paths with are genuinely nice people.  Many of us in the GLCC chapter are also members of an independent organization named Converted Coach Owners, AKA “CCO.”  Linda and I joined CCO in August 2014 but have never made it to a rally.  The annual Halloween Rally will be in Centreville, MI the weekend of October 17th.  Our bus should be usable then and we are seriously considering trying to attend.

I pulled the tag axle up and pulled out at 11:30 AM, driving around the back side of the activities building to get to the exit.  This route is open with easy, wide turns.  The more direct route has narrow roads with sharp turns, large trees close to the road, and low branches; not a big rig friendly route.  A lot of large motorhomes and 5th Wheel trailers use Elkhart Campground and I do not understand why the trees along this route are not trimmed up adequately.  We have encountered the same thing, however, at other RV parks.  I get the feeling that many people who own/operate RV parks have never owned/used an RV or at least never driven a large one through their own campground.

We discussed several different route options that might avoid construction delays but ended up taking CR-4 back west to SR-19 north into Michigan and picked up US-12 east.  The road construction between Sturgis and White Pigeon that delayed me for 20 minutes on Tuesday was finished and we rolled right through that stretch.  We stayed on US-12 to Coldwater, got onto I-69 north, and took it to the southeast corner of Lansing where we exited onto I-96 east.  We encountered our only road construction backup approaching the US-127 interchange at the southeast corner of the Lansing area.  We were through that soon enough and on our final stretch home.  We left I-96 at exit 133 and headed east on M-59.  The last few miles were the worst.  Hacker Road is as bad at the moment as we have ever seen it, more pothole than road, with deep, frequent ones at that, but we took it slow and made it home without breaking anything (as far as I know).

Linda made big salads for dinner which we enjoyed with a glass of Moscato.  She relaxed playing online games while I set up my computer and then checked into the SLAARC information net.  We watched the repeat of the last episode of Sherlock from last season and then went to bed.

 

2015/08/14 (F) Back-to-the-Bricks (Again)

I was up late last night and thought I would sleep in this morning but the alarm on Linda’s iPad had other ideas and woke me up at 7:15 AM.  I got dressed and while Linda was getting ready I started downloading an update for Photoshop CC 2015 on my ASUS laptop.  These Adobe downloads are very large and very slow so I left it to run.

We did not have breakfast or coffee at home.  Linda made PB&J sandwiches and packed a bag of pretzel crackers, some fresh fruit, and some water in a cooler bag with some freezer packs.  The forecast was for very warm, very humid conditions so we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning.  We loaded the camera, raincoats, hats, folding camp chairs, an iPad, and some GLCC T-shirts and flags into the car and left around 8 AM for the GLCC/CCO Back-to-the-Bricks rally at the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan.

We took Hacker Road to M-59 east to Old US-23 and stopped at the Kahuna Coffee shop.  We had seen the sign for this place but had never been there.  The owner was there and she was very nice.  She has a smaller version of the JavaMaster hot air coffee bean roaster that Jeff has at Teeko’s.  Her selection of green beans, however, was very different from Teeko’s with lots of flavored beans but none of the ones we usually buy.  Knowing that she gets her beans from the same place as Jeff, however, means we could probably order the ones we like if Teeko’s disappears.  She is friends with Jeff and is well aware of the probable impact of the Panera opening up across the intersection from Teeko’s.  But I digress.

This morning we were interested in coffee and bagels to go.  Kahuna had a better selection of bagels than Teeko’s but we got our usual choices; “everything” for Linda and cinnamon raisin for me, toasted with nothing on them.  They had Swiss Chocolate Almond coffee brewed so we tasted a sample.  It was very smooth, with no bitterness and just a hint of the named flavors, so we got two large ones to go.

We got back on M-59 eastbound and 100 yards later took the entrance ramp to northbound US-23.  US-23 merges with I-75 at the southwest corner of Flint and we continued north on the combined road until we exited at M-57 and headed east through Clio to M-54 and turned south.  A few miles later we turned into the Fireman’s Park on the east side of the highway.  It was 9:15 AM as I parked the car.

When I talked to rally co-host Marty Caverly last week only 14 rigs had RSVP’d for the rally.  There were over 20 rigs there when we arrived and five more showed up during the day.  A guy also brought a Country Coach Prevost XL conversion down from Saginaw for the afternoon.  He is trying to sell it and wanted to let the rally attendees check it out.

We made the rounds and said our “hello”s to everyone.  As has happened at past rallies where we have dropped in for a day many of the ladies took off to check out local garage sales.  Bill and Karen Gerrie were just pulling out but stopped to chat briefly.  Frank and Sandy Griswold’s Featherlite H3-45 conversion has windows that slide open rather than swing out like our awning windows so I asked Frank and several other people about screens for these.  Everyone had the same suggestion; that any local window and door business should be able to make them.  I was trying to get useful information for someone who had e-mailed me as a result of an article in BCM.

The roundtable discussion started at 2 PM and most of the rally attendees were back by then.  Pat Lintner, our GLCC national director, gave a pitch for the FMCAssist program, which is included as part of the annual FMCA membership and more than worth the annual cost of $40.  I announced that we had GLCC T-shirts and a few flags with us if anyone wanted to buy them.  I also announced that the Arcadia Rally website had disappeared but that Bill and Brenda Phelan are working to fix the problem and the rally is still on for December 26-31, 2015 with departure on January 1, 2016.

Ed Roelle had two topics for the roundtable:  1) “towing insurance” for our bus conversions, and;  2) causes and cures for hard water deposit buildup in the fresh water plumbing associated with an Aqua-Hot (Webasto diesel burner) heating and domestic hot water systems.  Most of us use, or have used, Coach-Net for our “emergency roadside assistance” coverage.  The plan includes towing but many of our members have switched to one of the three Good Sam ERS plans.  The top (platinum) plan is ~$140/year.

A couple of years ago Coach-Net decided they would not cover bus conversions more than 40 years old and alienated quite a few folks in the converted coach community.  They eventually reversed that position but the damage was done.  Others who stayed with them have had issues getting service or being charged ridiculous sums of money for simple things.  Coach-Net was officially endorsed by FMCA until recently, and is still endorsed by The Escapees RV Club, but FMCA has found a different provider for this important service.

We stuck around after the roundtable and continued chatting with folks in constantly shifting groupings.  The dinner meal was planned for 6 PM, and by 5:30 preparations were well under way, so we started saying our “goodbyes.”  We finally got our chairs back in the car at 5:50 PM and pulled out at 5:55.  There were very ominous clouds moving towards the rally site from the north as we started for home and a severe weather watch had been posted.

To get home we reversed our route taking M-54 north to M-57 west through Clio to I-75/US-23 south.  We stayed on southbound US-23 at the split with I-75 southwest of Flint and eventually exited onto M-59.  Instead of going west towards home we headed east and pulled into the Hartland Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner and get fresh ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner with Steve and Karen.

The weather we saw approaching Clio from the north was just moving into Hartland as we left the Meijer’s, so it was a rapidly moving system.  The storm clouds were very dramatic but we got back to the house and got the car unloaded before the rain came.  The wind gusted strongly for a while but in the end we did not get as much precipitation as we needed or thought we would.

For dinner we had vegan burgers with all the fixin’s, oven-baked French fries, and fresh strawberries.  It was 9 PM by the time we were done eating.  We were both tired from our long, but very enjoyable, day so we went to bed earlier than usual.

 

2015/08/12 (W) Back to Indiana (Again)

Today was early arrival day for the annual Back-to-the-Bricks converted bus rally in Clio, Michigan.  This joint rally of the Converted Coach Owners (CCO) and the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter has become an annual event that typically draws 20 to 30 rigs.  Most of them are converted highway buses and many of those were converted or re-modeled by the owners.  Many of them are works in progress but such is the nature of the bus conversion hobby and the true bus nut.  But that is not where we were headed today.  Our bus is unusable at the moment as the toilet is disconnected, the bed platform has been removed, and all of the cabinet drawers have been taken out.  But the main reason was that we had multiple commitments in Indiana today.

Our first appointment was with Josh Leach of Coach Supply Direct.  Although CSD is located in Edwardsburg, Michigan we had arranged to meet him in the parking lot of the Martin’s Supermarket at SR-19 (IN) and CR-4 on the north side of Elkhart, Indiana at 9:30 AM to take delivery of 15 yards of upholstery fabric.  We picked that location, rather than his shop in Edwardsburg, for several reasons.  He had to be at the Forest River Owners Group (FROG) rally at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds at 10 AM so that location got him half way to his destination at a good time of day.  For us, Elkhart is a 3-1/2 hour drive.  That meant we had to be up at 5:00 AM and on the road not later than 5:45 AM to be there on time, allowing for coffee, fuel, and bathroom stops.  Had we met him at his shop we would have had to be there by 9 AM requiring us to get up even earlier.  You have to draw a line somewhere.

I took the wheel for the start of the trip.  It was still dark but the faint glow of the impending sunrise was visible as we pulled out onto Hacker Road facing a rising crescent moon.  At M-59 we headed west to I-96.  I reset one of the trip odometers before we left and verified that it was 13 miles from our driveway to the end of the entrance ramp from M-59 onto I-96W.  We skirted the southern edge of Lansing on I-96 and took Lansing Road to I-69 south.

Nineteen miles south of Lansing, and about an hour into our trip, we stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee in Charlotte for coffee and bagels.  Biggby’s is not my favorite coffee but this particular store is in just the right location.  Linda checked the M-DOT website and it appeared that the bridge work on M-60 in Mendon was completed, so we exited I-69S and headed west on M-60.  Unfortunately the bridge was still closed so we had to follow the detour to the south toward Sturgis.  Unlike our previous trip in early July, when we continued on to Sturgis, we followed the complete detour through Nottawa and Centreville and back to M-60 in Three Rivers.  We had never driven through Nottawa or Centreville before so that provided some new scenery for the trip.

As we have done many times before we continued our trip on M-60 as far as Jones where we stopped at the Shell station for fuel.  We then took M-40 south to US-12.  This seven mile stretch of M-40 traverses steeply rolling hills and is both beautiful and fun to drive.  We took US-12, running west just north of the Michigan-Indiana border, and eventually exited onto Old 205 (M-205?) which turns 90 degrees to the left a mile later and drops straight south into Indiana where it becomes SR-19.  A few miles later we arrived at the Martin’s Supermarket at CR-4 just after 9 AM.

Josh was not there yet so we went inside to use the restrooms and get some coffee.  This particular Martin’s has a nice salad bar with a beverage station, a Starbucks Coffee outlet, and a seating area with Wi-Fi.  Josh showed up right on time and parked next to us.  I met him outside and we transferred the roll of upholstery fabric from his car to ours and then went inside to visit for a few minutes before he had to leave for Goshen.

When we left Linda took over the driving.  Our next planned stop was A1-Upholstery in Elkhart to order the cushions for our built-in sofa.  Continuing south on SR-19 we stopped at Factory RV Surplus to look for battery cable end covers but the ones they had were too expensive.  I think they now sell more retail-packaged merchandise than they do true surplus material, and even less salvaged parts.

Lou (mom) and Terry (daughter) own and operate A-1 Upholstery and were recommended to us by Josh.  We discussed the project with Terry, who I had previously spoken to on the phone.  We reviewed my dimensioned scale drawings, which were on one sheet of 11″x17″ 1/4″ grid-square paper, and agreed on how the cushions would be made.  Terry thought she would have them done by the end of the month but noted on the order form that we needed them by September 14th.  We noticed that she had a lot of sample books from which we could have selected a fabric but we like the Lambright Notion Linen, and Terry thought it was a very good fabric that should look good and wear well in our application.  We left the fabric and drawing with her and wrote a check for the deposit.

All of our stops were important today, but our primary reason for the trip was to pick up the pieces of the custom desk and built-in sofa for our bus from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana.  We continued our trip south on SR-19 to US-20, took that west to US-31, and went south, exiting at Rochester onto IN-25 for the final 22 miles to Logansport.  This is a route I have driven many times but Linda had the wheel this time so I provided some occasional guidance.  I called Jarel to let him know we were making better time than we had anticipated and would be there between noon and 12:25 PM.  I then called Butch to give him a status update.

This was the first time Linda and Jarel had met and so it was also the first time Linda had met Mya, Jarel and Georgette’s sweet little dog.  Mya came up to me, sat, stared up at me like we were long lost friends, and waited patiently for me to give her the attention she was seeking.  I was happy to oblige.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.  Panorama taken from the entrance door.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.  Panorama from the center of the shop.  Entrance door is far left.

As I have previously described in this blog, the desk consists of nine pieces (if you count the four drawers as separate parts):  two pedestals with separate bases, a cover that goes between them, and four drawers.  The left pedestal has a fold up work surface with two support wings, and a fold down fake drawer front, so technically those are four more pieces, but they are attached to the pedestal with hinges so I am not counting them as separate parts.  The bottoms of each pedestal have been cut out to provide access to the fan-coil heat exchangers that will be installed in the bases, so those are really two separate pieces now, put I am not counting them as such.  I am also ignoring screws, drawer slides, blocking, and other assembly items in my parts count as they are all “installed components.”  With the drawers installed we only had five major pieces to load plus the two access plates.  Jarel also had the pieces ready for the built-in sofa so we loaded those as well.  I took pictures of his shop and the pull-out pantry, which was mostly assembled but not quite finished.

The installed desk will have more pieces than just described but these are the pieces that Jarel made.  The finished desk will have five grills that we have to cut and install, at least four drawer pulls that we have to install, a plywood top that will span the two pedestals and leg space, and a Sandstone Corian countertop that will go on top of the plywood.  While not actually part of the desk there will also be a large cover for the passenger-side living room HVAC duct and wiring chase and a small hose cover at the desk end both of which align with the left end of the desk and will look like they are part of it.  Jarel will make the chase cover later after the desk is installed and we can get a final, accurate measurement for its length.

As long as we were in the neighborhood we naturally stopped to visit with our friends, Butch and Fonda, in Twelve Mile, Indiana.  While we were at their house we loaded a dozen 4-foot army surplus fiberglass mast sections in the car.  Butch had bought these at a swap for me some time ago.  We will use them for ham radio antenna projects.  Butch gave me his old, non-functioning, Vanner battery equalizer to see if I can figure out how it does what it does.  He also lent me his air-powered brad nailer which can also drive 1/4″ crown staples and gave me a box of 5,000 staples to go with it.  Fonda found a scrap piece of resilient underlayment designed for free-floating wood floors.  Butch though it might work well under the 1/4″ plywood underlayment to fill in the gaps and irregularities so we took it with us.

When we were done loading stuff into our car we went to see their new property on SR-25.  They have already had a new roof put on the barn and new doors put in the house.  They have bought themselves a BIG project, but it will be a much more appropriate and manageable place for them going forward than the building complex in Twelve Mile that has housed their business operations for the last 20 years.  It’s an old GM dealership from the 1940s and they have approximately 11,000 feet under roof including a 2-bay service garage with a functioning in-ground lift.

We drove to Rochester and had dinner at Pizza Hut.  Linda and I split a medium specialty veggie pizza and had the salad bar with it.  We might have had a few more restaurant choices in Logansport, but Rochester was 22 miles closer to home.  With the 19 hours we were gone today, and over 525 miles we had to travel, 22 miles and 30 minutes was significant for us.

We got back on the road at 6:30 PM with Linda at the wheel and headed back up US-31N to US-20 and headed east.  We decided to stay on US-20 all the way to I-69, stopping in Lagrange to use the restroom at the Marathon complex.  We stopped again at the Shell station on M-60 in Michigan for fuel.  It was getting dark and I had been able to rest while Linda drove, so I took over the driving duties.  From this point on we were just reversing our route from this morning.  We got home at 10:30 PM, unloaded everything from the car, and then went straight to bed.

 

2014/09/28 (N) Oh Canada

Today was all about company—getting ready for company and having company—and this time our company was from Ontario, Canada.  Okay, they actually drove down from Frankenmuth, Michigan where they are staying at an RV Park, but they are Canadian citizens who reside in Canada when they are not traveling in their motorhomes.  Bill and Karen are fellow converted bus owners and members of both the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter and the Converted Coach Owners group.  Mike and Kathy have a purpose built class C motorhome and often travel with Bill and Karen.  Kathy is Bill’s sister.

Linda spent the morning preparing vegan lasagna and apple/pear crisp for baking later in the day while I worked at my desk on secretarial and financial duties for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.

Company arrived a little after 1 PM.  Linda took the ladies on a tour of the house while I took the guys on a tour of the property and then showed them around the house.  We had guys’ chat and gals’ chat for a while and then we all gathered around the table on the deck for some grapes and pretzels.  Linda put the lasagna in the oven at 3 PM and prepared a salad.  When the lasagna was done she put the apple/pear crisp in the oven to bake while we ate.  We sat down at 4 PM for dinner and had a very nice meal that included Italian bread and olive oil seasoned with pepper.  We opened a bottle of our 2009 Egri Merlot (it may have been our last one) and four of us had a small glass with dinner.

We continued our conversation on the deck after dinner and had our dessert out there. It was an absolutely perfect late September day.  When the sun got low in the sky we moved inside as it cools off quickly and the mosquitos come out.  We sat in the living room and talked until 9 PM.  By then it was dark and they still had a one hour drive back to their RV Park.  Kathy had rinsed off the dinner dishes, so Linda loaded the dishwasher and started it.  Linda packed her computer and gathered up all of the things she needed for tomorrow so she could get an early start for the bakery.  I will be home all day waiting for Bratcher Electric to show up and convert the whole house generator.  They are supposed to be here between 1 and 3 PM.  Karen took a few photos but I did take any, so I do not have any images to post from today.

 

2014/08/16 (S) Bus People

We enjoy the company of our fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) and so our first destination this morning was the Senate Coney Island in South Lyon for the weekly SLAARC breakfast.  It was a much smaller turnout than last week, but that often leads to better conversation for the lower noise level if no other reason.

Converted bus people are also our kind of people, so our second destination today was the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan where the joint CCO/GLCC “Back-to-the-Bricks” rally was taking place.  There were 22 rigs in attendance, 19 of which were converted buses.  We got there around 11AM and spent the afternoon visiting with whomever was around, starting with Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Light rain moved in during the early afternoon and we had a nice visit with our friends from Ontario, Bill and Karen, in their bus.

With a few exceptions we knew all of the attendees and they all knew us, so this was a comfortable reunion with old and new friends.  We had a chance to talk to Glen Williams, who runs a clock repair business named Tenor Clocks, about our broken grandfather clock and made an appointment for him to come work on it on Wednesday at noon.  (Glen is also part of a four man singing group named “Three Men and a Tenor”.  Glen is the Tenor.)  We were most cordially invited to stay for dinner but we had not paid to attend the rally and there was very little food we could (would) eat so we left around 6 PM as the group was assembling for the evening meal.

We stopped at the Panera in Fenton on the way home and enjoyed their black bean soup and Mediterranean veggie sandwich, hold the feta cheese.  Once home we enjoyed a small glass of Late Harvest Vignoles wine from Acres of Land winery in Kentucky while we worked on our iPads a bit before bed.