Category Archives: FMCA

Posts related to our involvement with the Family Motor Coach Association.

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.

 

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

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

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/12-15 (F–M) Everglades Update

2016/02/12 (F) Full Circle

We got up, showered, got dressed, and went down to breakfast around 8 AM.  We were packed, checked out, and had the car loaded by 9 AM.  We headed north on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, exited at some miles later, and headed west.  FL-94 ended at FL-997 where we headed north.  In looking at a map later, we would probably have been better off to get on FL-997 right from the hotel.  There was major road construction on FL-997 all the way to US-41, but traffic moved along at the 50 MPH posted speed limit.

At US-41 we headed west.  This is Miccosukee Indian territory, as indicated by the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming facility (Casino) at the NW corner of Fl-997 and US-41.  A short way to the west this stretch of US-41 (the Tamiami Highway between Tampa and Miami) is bordered by Everglades National Park on the south and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area on the north.  It eventually leaves both of these and runs through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

We pulled in to the ENP entrance for the Shark Valley Visitor Center and immediately and got stuck in the line of cars waiting to get in.  The parking lot had filled a few cars ahead of us and it was now a one car out, one car in situation.

Once we were in we checked out the tram ride to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower seven miles one way due south into the Everglades.  It was a two (2) hour narrated round-trip and cost $24 per person ($19 for seniors).  You can hike or bike out to the tower for free (after gaining admission to the NP).  We did not have that much time so we walked part way down the road along an open channel of water about 15 feet wide and found lots of wildlife photo opportunities, including birds, a large turtle, and alligators.  The most interesting thing we saw was a cluster of at least a dozen young alligators, ranging from one to two feet in length, piled up on top of one another.

A little farther west we left US-41 and drove a small 2-lane road for 38 miles.  The first half was paved and the second half was good gravel.  It was a lovely, slow drive with a maximum speed limit of 30 MPH and a few nature photo opportunities along the way.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

After rejoining US-41 we continued west through the Big Cypress National Preserve as far as FL-29 with Everglades NP once again on our left.  We then headed south through Everglades City and re-entered the park.  The Gulf Coast Visitor Center was very small and did not have the ENP shirts we had seen at the Flamingo Visitor Center and were now hoping to buy.  The vendor operated gift store did not have them either.  The only things you can do from this point in the park are explore the NW coastal portions by canoe, kayak, or pontoon boat.  We did not have time for any of that on this quick visit so we pulled up the address for our RV park in the GPS unit and pushed on.

We had a better look at Everglades City on the way out of town and decided that it was an interesting looking little place.  A traveling carnival of some considerable size was setting up in the middle of town, literally.

Back at US-41 we continued west as we were still somewhat east of the north-south line through Arcadia.  The only other route home from here would take us north on FL-29 and then back east on I-75 and eventually back through LaBelle and up the west side of Lake Okeechobee.  That would be a much longer trip and it was already starting to feel like it had been a long day.

We left US-41 at Collier Blvd. and traveled north about seven miles to I-75 north.  Traffic was heavy, congested, and stop-n-go initially but eventually freed up.  We traveled about 39 miles to exit 141 at Ft. Myers and headed east a few miles to FL-31.  Our final 38 miles were straight north to Arcadia where FL-31 ends at FL-70 just west of our RV resort.

From the Shell station in Arcadia on Tuesday morning to our coach at 5:45 PM today we put 919.4 miles on the car’s trip odometer.  The speedometer on the car reads slightly high, probably because the tires are not factory original specifications, so our actual mileage may have been slightly less by about one mile for every 60 miles traveled.  That would be approximately 15 miles for our trip, making the actual mileage perhaps 905 for the four days, for an average of 225 to 230 miles per day.  That’s a lot of driving, but the purpose of our trip was to get a first glimpse at a lot of south Florida that we had not seen before.

We brought a few things in from the car, spent some time with our cats, and then visited with Ron and Vera (who did not even realize we were gone), before walking over to Mara’ rig for dinner.  Mara made a pot of vegan chili and a wonderful salad which we enjoyed with a glass of her favorite Malbec.  We talked about our trip, how the kitties did in our absence, and discussed the logistics of Michael’s upcoming visit.  We returned to our coach around 9:15 PM, finished unloading the car, unpacked a few things, adored our cats, and relaxed with our iPads for an hour before going to bed.

2016/02/13 (S) Yard Sale

I was up at 7:30 AM, partially prepped the coffee, and then unpacked clothes and hung them up or put them in the laundry hamper.  Linda got up sometime after, after which I ground the coffee beans and finished making our morning coffee.

We noticed last night that a few folks had things sitting out in their front yards suggestive of a garage sale.  This morning there was quite a bit of commotion outside and we noticed several yards just from our rig with lots of stuff sitting out on tables and/or the ground.  Clearly Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was having an official yard sale event today.

We had granola for breakfast and then strolled through the resort.  Based on one comment we overheard we got the impression that the yard sale might have started yesterday but there was still lots of stuff available.  We are not yard sale people, as a rule, and our real destination was the laundry room.  Most of the parking spaces were taken but the room was empty and none of the machines were in use.  We walked back to our coach, loaded our laundry, computers, and iPads in the car, and drove over to the laundry room.

I got the laundry into a washing machine while Linda got her computer going and connected to the park Wi-Fi system.  I then started my computer and got online.  Her computer screen came up dark.  It has done this many times in the past, but not recently.  We think it may be related to the battery, but we are not sure.

Our main reason for bringing our computers over was to download our e-mails from the last four days.  BCM, in particular, has a habit of sending me large files as e-mail attachments or links to large files in a Dropbox, which I prefer.  I had at least 118 e-mails but no large attachments.  I did not get a count from Linda.  Both of our computers are also set up to automatically sync our Dropbox account, and one of the things it does is automatically backup four WordPress websites.  We only had 2.5 GB of data left on our Verizon account to get us through February 19th, so we wanted to transfer as much data as possible via the park Wi-Fi system.

Once the laundry was dry, folded, and hung, we returned to our coach where Linda put on her swimsuit and then joined Mara at the pool.  After putting the clean clothes away I rebooted and reconnected our computers and iPads to our local network and turned on the NAS.  Once everything was up and running I connected the camera and off-loaded all of the photos from the last four days; just over 400 total.  I got a bite to eat and then put on my swimsuit, gathered up my towel and a pair of dry shorts, and went over to the pool to join the ladies.

BP20160212_01732_400x300

A Purple Gallinule near the Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

When I arrived Linda and Mara were sunbathing.  The pool was cool even though it is heated but once I was in and swimming gently I generated enough heat from muscle activity to be comfortable.  I swam for about 1/2 hour and then sat in the hot tub with the whirlpool turned on and positioned myself to vigorously message my lower back.  Linda had taken the soap when she went so I took that along with my towel and shorts and used to shower to rinse off the chlorine and get cleaned up.  I returned the soap to Linda and walked back to our coach.

I doodled on my iPad while Linda read a book when she returned to the coach.  She left at 4 PM to walk to the grocery store with Mara while I laid down on the sofa to take a nap and Jasper curled up next to me.  I was aware of Linda’s return, gradually woke up, and finally got up.

Linda invited Mara to come for dinner.  While she busied herself with the preparations, I went through all of the photos from our trip to Everglades National Park and Key West and backed them up to our NAS.

While I was looking at photos ESET Smart Security kept popping up messages letting me know that it needed my attention.  I opened it and it presented me with a loooong list of critical and recommended updates.  Given our data situation this month I deferred those until I can take my computer back to the office/laundry/activity building and use the resort Wi-Fi system.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a “pasta” dish using an edamame and mung bean fettuccine style noodle.  Mara came to our coach around 6:45 PM and brought a vegan chocolate mousse for dessert.  It was based on blended avocados and it was a delicious finale to a scrumptious meal.  There was a nice orange glow in the western sky but it was too dark by then to eat outside.  It was also getting chilly following sunset so we ate inside and polished off a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio between the three of us.

Mara left a little before 9 PM and we turned on the TV to see if anything interesting was on.  One of the PBS stations was showing a three part drama titled Arthur & George based on a true life event in the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and starting Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as Doyle.  Linda went to bed part way through the third episode but I stayed up to watch it as it was very well done.  I flipped channels for a while after that but nothing else held my attention and I finally went to bed sometime after midnight.

2016/02/14 (N) Valentine’s Day

We were still tired from out whirlwind trip to south Florida and slept in this morning.  When we finally got up Linda made pancakes for breakfast, this being Sunday and all.

It’s a good thing we have our 2 GB of bonus data for the next couple of billing cycles.  Between the Windows 10 upgrade on two computers (most of which we did using the RV resort Wi-Fi), the upgrades to the iOS on both iPads, the inevitable updates to applications on all four devices, and quite a bit of work on BCM articles as well as our personal website/blog, we have had to monitor/manage our data usage very carefully for the January 20 through February 19 billing cycle.  Even with being gone for four days to the Everglades and Keys, and taking our devices to the activity building to use the Wi-Fi, we will be very close to our limit by this Friday, which is the 19th.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

My computer was indicating that I had 22 updates available which meant that Linda’s computer probably had a similar number.  One of them was a Windows 10 cumulative update which I knew would be large so I took both computers to the library and did the updates there.  I then spent part of the day processing and backing up photos before turning my attention to blog posts.  Even with our data situation I uploaded several from mid-October and prepared several more.

We had a relatively easy day otherwise and I did not record all of the details which are now mostly lost to me.  Brenda Phelan called around 5:15 PM to let me know our tire and windshield covers were ready but she and Bill were headed out for a couple of days on windshield cover appointments.  They would be back on Wednesday and we deferred dealing with delivery until then.

For dinner Linda made a mushroom bourginione with macaroni.  She used a Lindeman’s 2014 Shiraz to make it and we also drank some before/with our meal.  She bought a pint of Soy Delicious Cookie Dough non-dairy “ice cream” the other day and we had that for dessert.  After dinner we settled in to watch our Sunday evening TV programs, including Downton Abby.

2016/02/15 (M) Ready, Set, No

We had our usual morning of coffee, juice, and granola for breakfast.  Our fresh water tank had dropped below the 1/3 level yesterday or the day before.  The monitor only indicates Empty, 1/3, 2/3, and Full so once it drops below 1/3rd I have to check it visually.  Fortunately the tank is translucent polyethylene and is located behind a door such that I can see the water level when the lighting is right.  Given how we are parked, facing southwest, the light is best in the morning as access to the tank is from the driver side of the bay.

The tank was down to the 1/8th level, which is about 15 gallons.  We might have gotten one more day’s use but there was no reason to run the tank dry and the pump works better with a full tank.  I dumped both waste tanks and refilled the fresh water tank.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after the tank was full and it was indicating somewhere between 0 and 1.5 gpg.  I updated my Excel spreadsheet accordingly.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

Linda had work to do today on family tax returns and set up her computer on the temporary dining table while I continued to work at my computer on the desk.  I selected and processed a couple of photos from our visit to Everglades National Park for Linda’s weekly postcard to Madeline.  I then selected and processed photos to include in the blog posts for the dates of our visit to the Everglades and Keys.

Brenda Phelan had also sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding our tire covers.  I replied to that and indicated that we might pick them up on Wednesday when she and Bill are back at their shop in Lakeland.  With that done I started preparing for a 3:30 PM telecom meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I printed off six documents:  meeting notice, agenda/notes, short survey results and sampling information, and the long survey results and sampling information.  All told it was 55 sheets of paper, but I wanted/needed to see the survey results printed out.

At 3:29 I dialed in and was the first caller, which I though was odd.  I doubled checked the meeting notice and realized the meeting was Wednesday the 17th.  I knew that, but historically we have always met on Monday afternoons and I just had it in my head that we were meeting today.  The upside us that I have more time to digest the data and think about how I want to handle the fact that the sample/response was too small (in my expert opinion) for the results to be considered representative of the FMCA population.

We had leftovers for dinner, after which we settled in to watch the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX as our usual Monday evening programs on CBS were preempted by the Grammy Awards, which did not interest us.  At 10 PM we switched to PBS and watched a documentary on Stephen Hawking, followed Charlie Rose.  Rose’s show was focused on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scilia, who passed away over the weekend.

 

2016/01/21 (R) – 2016/01-25 (M) East and South

2016/01/21 (R) Lake Okeechobee

The weather forecast for today was for very nice conditions and we thought it would be a nice day to go for a ride in the car and explore the area of the state to our east, specifically Lake Okeechobee.  We were up a bit earlier than has been typical for us lately and did not make breakfast or coffee in favor of getting an early start.

The Defraggler disk defragmenter had finally completed its task.  I restarted my computer but it was not behaving correctly.  Besides the disk check and defrag I had also updated the NVIDIA graphics card driver, installed operating system updates, and updated Skype, which configured itself to auto-start on initial boot up.  I had to restart my machine again and suggested to Linda that we drive to the Shell station to top up the rank and then get coffee and bagels at the Dunkin Donuts next door.  I stopped back at our coach to check my e-mail and then shut my computer down.  I was looking for an e-mail from Herb, a member of the FMCA National Education Committee, about his visit to Lakeland, Florida today but he had not replied.  It was a long shot whether we would get to Lakeland today anyway.

We headed east on FL-70 as far as US-27 and then headed south towards Moore Haven and Clewiston.  Most of the drive was through the citrus groves, ranch lands, and fields of crops that make up most of this part of Florida.  The citrus groves eventually gave way to a tall plant with a wheat-like top that we did not recognize but thought might be wheat.  We passed a couple of fields that had been cleared and the organic matter mounded into burn piles.  When we saw large plumes of smoke later in our drive we assumed it was related to more land clearing.  Only later did Linda determine that the plants were sugar cane and the smoke was most likely from controlled burns of the cane fields which is the first step in harvesting the sugar cane.

We had not done a lot of research on Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding area.  What we did know was that it is the largest fresh water lake in the U. S. contained entirely within the borders of a single state.  What we did not know until we saw it was that the entire lake is surrounded by the Herbert Hoover Dike, a massive levy some 50 feet high with flood control gates and canals leading from it.  Construction was begun late in Herbert Hoover’s presidency as a result of a hurricane that pushed an enormous amount of water out of the lake to the southeast and killed thousands of people.

The first place on our drive where we were near the lakeshore was in Moore Haven but as a consequence of the dike there are only a few places where you can actually see the lake.  From Moore Haven to Clewiston US-27 ran right along the levy and we could see nesting boxes on top of tall poles.  All of them had nests and most of them had large birds roosting on them.  I presumed they were probably Osprey or possibly Eagles.

The first place we stopped was a county campground at South Bay, a small community at the southwest tip of the lake.  We were able to drive over the levy to a boat launch area, but the western and southwestern portions of the lake have extensive marshes and we could not see open water even from the top of the levy.  We also drove through the campground, which impressed us as a nice place to spend a couple of weeks to a month, depending on what else there was to do in the area.

We continued around the south end of the lake to Belle Grade, picking up US-441 to Pahokee where we drove over the dike to a marina that was part of a state park with an RV campground.  Before us was the lake and, like looking at a Great Lake or an ocean, it was indeed an endless expanse of water to the horizon.  Okeechobee is a big lake.

From Pahokee we continued up US-441 through Canal Point and along the edge of the levy up to the town of Okeechobee.  This stretch of highway was lined with RV parks, most of them small and not very nice looking.  We weren’t counting but I estimated somewhere between 18 and 24 “parks,” one right after another.  Many of them were full of old, closely spaced, rigs that appeared to be in very poor condition that was matched by the run down, trashy appearance of the properties themselves.

There were a few parks that looked OK and one of them was a park that Linda had called to inquire about openings and rates.  We always check out websites, Google Maps, and Google Earth, but they don’t always reveal the true appearance of a place or surrounding area.  Now that we were seeing this area first hand we were glad (relieved?) that we did not book a spot here.  At the risk of appearing snobbish, the east side of Lake Okeechobee did not impress us as a place we would stay or even need to visit again.  That said, we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and folks do the best they can.

Yes, we own a Prevost bus conversion, but we bought it very used and we do not think of ourselves as “those” kind of people; you know, snobbish towards those who own SOBs (some other brand).  But we are aware that we have a fairly negative reaction to places that are trashy.  Trashy and old are not the same thing; we have nothing against old.  We are old ourselves, and hope to get a lot older before our time is up.  Trashy suggests a lack of self-respect and a lack of respect for others.  We will take a pass on that.

By the time we reached the town of Okeechobee it was 2 PM and we were hungry.  Rather than continue on to Sebring we headed west on FL-70 where we found a Subway just before reaching the edge of town and stopped to have lunch.  After our meal we headed back to Arcadia 63 miles away on FL-70.  Along the way we saw more Osprey near the Kissimmee River and later on a group of Wood Storks and a few Sandhill Cranes along with the usual Egrets, Vultures, a Kingfisher, and other local birds.  Florida really is a great state for seeing birds.

Once we got back to our coach we relaxed for a while and then decided to go to the jam session at 7 PM.  The jam sessions here are different from what we have experienced other places.  We found out from talking to the attendees sitting around us that the four musicians (two guitars, bass guitar, and drums) are not from the park and are brought in (hired) for the jams.  People from the park took turns singing but no other musicians joined in during the hour we were there.  There were also a lot of people dancing, including singles and couples line dancing.  We left just before 8 PM and returned to our coach to watch our Thursday evening TV programs.

Another major storm was winding up across the south and taking aim on the mid-Atlantic and New England.  The worst effects of this storm were forecast to be ice and snow accumulations of 12″ to 36″ from northern Georgia north and east to the Canadian Maritimes.  As with the last few storms the impact on Florida was forecast to be strong storms associated a quickly moving cold front draped off of the low pressure system and extending far into the Gulf of Mexico.  Rain was expected in Arcadia starting around 4:30 AM.  Several bands were expected, with the strongest from late morning to early afternoon.  Behind the front would be strong winds and much cooler temperatures.  We left the awning style windows open an inch, closed the roof vents, and went to bed.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/22 (F) Desoto Veterinary Clinic

Heavy rain moved through our location starting at 4:30 AM, exactly when the weather forecasts said it would.  It arrived along with some wind and woke me up but it was not severe and I eventually fell back asleep.  The cats had their usual morning crazies starting around 5:30 AM so that woke me up again, and probably woke Linda up too, but they eventually calmed down and we all went back to sleep.

We finally got up at 8:15 AM and Linda got dressed right away.  It was cool enough that I put on my sweats but not cold enough to run the toe-kick heaters or the hydronic heating system.  I made our morning coffee and we had Linda’s yummy homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  I got dressed after breakfast and at 9:45 AM we put Jasper in his carrier and drove to the Desoto Veterinary Clinic for his 10 AM appointment.  There was a lull in the rain with the heaviest, potentially severe, weather expected between late morning and early afternoon so we got to the clinic and back without getting rained on.

We only had to wait a few minutes while Dr. McNulty finished up with another patient.  Jasper rarely goes in his carrier at the house or on the bus, even though we leave it out and accessible, but tends to stay in it at the vet’s office.  Dr. McNulty was a bit of an eccentric character but we liked him.  He spent as much time talking to Jasper as he did to us and checked him over to make sure he did not have other undetected health issues.  His diagnosis of Jasper’s fur loss was that he had been bitten by a flea.  He recommended a small corticosteroid injection to help relieve the itching and reduce Jasper’s need to scratch.  He also suggested that we discontinue the use of the Revolution medication while we are in Florida and switch both cats to Cheristin.  We agreed to all of his recommendations.

Unlike Revolution, which also prevents heartworm, Cheristin is a flea medication only.  Even though Florida is the flea and mosquito capitol of the U. S. Dr. McNulty said that heartworm, acquired from infected mosquitos, is extremely rare here while cats being affected by fleas is quite common.  His concern with Revolution is that the fleas have become resistant to it.  He quit prescribing Frontline and Advantage years ago and has now stopped prescribing Revolution for the same reason.  Jasper and Juniper are strictly inside cats so their exposure to mosquitos, fleas, and ticks is minimal as those critters can only gain entry to the coach via the front door when it’s open or hitch a ride in with one of us.  Still, they do not live in a hermetically sealed environment.

The rains resumed around 11 AM.  Linda complied a grocery list while I worked at my computer on some e-mails and did a little additional work on photos for my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  We had hummus and onion sandwiches for lunch around 12:30.  Linda waited for the rain to subside and finally headed to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket around 1:15 PM.

I had not worked on blog posts yesterday so I finished up the one from the 20th and worked on the ones for yesterday and today.  When Linda got back I helped get the groceries up into the coach.  I off-loaded the photos I took yesterday but was tired and did not feel like getting deeply into any computer-based work.  I laid down on the sofa instead and took a nap.  I like naps; naps are good.  While I was napping Linda went for a long walk.  I finally woke up as she was starting to prepare dinner.  The preparations were going to take a while so I went for a walk.

Dinner was butternut squash burritos and Mexican rice and was very tasty.  After dinner Linda applied the Cheristin to both cats.

PBS had back-to-back episodes of Endeavour, the series detailing the beginning of the career of the Inspector Morse character.  Linda slept through most of the second episode and went to bed as soon as it was over.  I stayed up and watched a show about the Neon Sign Museum in Las Vegas and two companies that are each restoring a sign for the museum.  I watched the weather for a few minutes and then went to bed.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/23 (S) Pelican Lake

It was a wild day today, wind wise.  Sustained winds of 25 to 35 MPH, with gusts 10 to 15 MPH higher than that, swept across southwest Florida behind the cold front that brought yesterday’s rain.  And it was a cold air mass, with temperatures this morning in the low 40’s F.  After getting up and putting on our sweats, which is what we do on chilly mornings, I made a pot of coffee, which is what I do almost every morning.  Linda decided it was a good morning for pancakes.  Vegan baking can be a bit tricky, but they turned out really well.

We did not have any plans for today.  We had thought about attending the Fort Myers RV Show, at the Lee County Expo Center on FL-31, but decided there would not be anything new to see after having been to the Tampa RV Supershow the previous weekend.

After breakfast I called Chuck to catch up on things generally, discuss leaky windshields in particular, and see if we could arrange a time to visit.  While we were talking a gust of wind opened our patio awning about 12″ and then let it slam shut.  I realized immediately that I had not latched the roller tube at either end when we retracted it a few days ago in advance of the latest round of storms.  I told Chuck I would call him right back and went outside to latch the tubes.  We always latch the roller tube when stowing it prior to moving the coach so I found it to be an interesting oversight on our part that we had not done this when stowing it while stationary.  We were lucky that we were home when this happened and that I was seated where I could see exactly what had happened and quickly figure out why.  You can be sure we will latch the roller tube from now on whenever it is retracted.

With yet another problem diagnosed and fixed I called Chuck back.  As it turned out there was also an RV show taking place at their motorcoach resort this weekend; mostly new and used Prevost conversions from Millennium, Marathon, Liberty, and Featherlight, with a few others and some high end motorhomes thrown in for good measure.  The show was open until 4 PM and Chuck was doing volunteer shuttle service with his golf cart from 2 – 4 PM.  It was a nice day, except for the wind, and we decided to drive down for a visit, look at some of the coaches, and then go out to dinner.

We left around 11:30 AM and stopped at the Shell station to top up the fuel tank.  We then headed down FL-31 to its terminus at FL-80 and headed west for a few miles where we picked up I-75 southbound.  We exited I-75 at exit 101 and drove another nine miles on Collier Blvd, finally crossing Tamiami Trail (US-41) before arriving at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort.  While we were stopped at the light at Tamiami Trail Linda called Chuck as requested.  When we got to the resort entrance he and Barbara were waiting for us in their golf cart.  Rather than parking with the other RV show attendees they led us back to their site and let us park there.  By the time we got to their site it was approaching 1:30 PM.  They gave us a tour and we sat outside in the sun chatting, their extensive landscaping sheltering us from most of the wind, which had blown us around on the drive down and was still blowing strongly.

At 2 PM Barbara took their car and headed to the grocery store and Chuck drove us to the coach display area in his golf cart.  While he performed his volunteer service we looked at all of the Prevost conversions but did not bother with the motorhomes other than the Newells.  The only coach we saw that would have tempted us to trade in our Royale Coach was a Featherlight that was done in walnut laminate (not real wood) with light wall and ceiling treatments and no mirrors on the ceiling.  It had a light, clean, modern feeling that appealed to us.  Being new, it was in better condition than ours and had a much newer technology Volvo 4-cycle engine.  It was also way out our price range, even if they gave us what we had invested in our coach in trade-in value.  New Prevost conversions are very expensive toys.

We did pay attention, however, to the induction cooktops that most of the coaches had and took pictures of the name plates for future reference.  Replacing our Gaggenau halogen cooktop with an induction unit is high on our list of future upgrades.  Ideally it will be a 120 VAC unit so we can use it on a 120 VAC / 30 Amp electrical service.  At least now we have some things to check out.

A few minutes before 4 PM we walked back to Chuck and Barbara’s site.  I paused long the way to take a few pictures as the resort really is visually stunning.  We sat at their patio table and enjoyed the setting in the late afternoon sun.  Chuck eventually called me on my cell phone to let me know he was done with his volunteer service and find out where we were so he could drive us back.  He was surprised we had walked, but then we are always amazed that people use their golf carts for short trips.

When Chuck returned we went inside to chat and he opened a bottle of Santos Sparkling Moscato (white).  Wow, that was a nice cocktail wine!  The buy it at Costco so that may finally be the reason we need to join.  Barbara returned with the groceries and after putting them away we had a second glass of wine.  After some research and discussion we determined that The Loving Hut restaurant, on the north side of downtown Naples, was, in fact, still open for business and was acceptable to all four of us.  The restaurant is just off of Tamiami Trail, so easy enough to find, but traffic in the Naples area is heavy all the time and it took a while to get there.  Once we arrived we settled in for a long meal with good conversation.

There are three things we like about The Loving Hut restaurants, not in any particular order.  For one, the menu is essentially Chinese and SE Asian cuisine.  Second, the menu is extensive with page after page of dishes to choose from.  Third, the entire menu is vegan; we can, literally, pick dishes at random and know that we can eat them and that we will like them.  As a bonus, they also have a nice assortment of European style vegan desserts.  It’s a chain, and we really wish we had one of these near our house, but it’s probably just as well that we do not.

We drove separate cars to the restaurant since it was in the direction we needed to go and neither of us had a car that would seat more than two people.  We said “farewell until next time” in the parking lot at 8:15 PM and headed our separate ways.  We only had a few miles to travel to the east to get back to I-75.  From there we retraced our route and finally arrived back at our coach around 9:40 PM.

We had left the windows cracked so it did not too hot inside for the cats but by the time we returned it was 66 degrees inside.  Not freezing cold, to be sure, but just chilly enough to warrant the application of heat for a while.  We changed into our sweats and watched some old British comedy programs on PBS/Create as there was nothing else on that looked interesting and I was too tired to start working on anything, including this post (which I deferred until Sunday).  I shut off the hydronic heating system and the electric toe-kick heaters, and turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, before turning in for the night.  Juniper (our female cat) very quickly got under the covers between us and spent the rest of the night there.  Jasper (our male cat) alternated between our pillows and the foot of the bed but never got under the covers.  Juniper likes the warmth and security but I think it’s too hot for Jasper and makes him feel trapped.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

2016/01/24 (N) Snowmagedon Exchange Rate

We woke to an outside air temperature of 38 degrees F, our coldest morning yet since we arrived in Florida, but we were not complaining.  We closed all of the windows before going to bed last night and the temperature only dropped to 59 degrees F in the coach, which is actually a nice temperature for sleeping.  We put on our sweats and turned on the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fan-coil heat exchangers for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, along with the front electric toe-kick heater.  The Aqua-Hot diesel burner was still “on” from yesterday when we showered but the electric heating element kept it from running so I turned the element off.

The strong, sustained winds yesterday had caused no more damage than a temporary power outage while we away from the coach, for which our house battery/inverter system took over as it is supposed to do.  Our weather related problems were few by comparison to what others’ experienced.  Just 200 miles north of us it was 28 degrees F in Williston and colder still Nashville, Tennessee with a low in the mid-teens.  Temperatures back home where around 20 degrees F, but that’s typical for SE Michigan this time of year, perhaps even a bit on the warm side of normal.

By far the worst weather, however, was the major snow/ice/wind storm that affected a large area from NW Mississippi up to Ohio and east across Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to the eastern seaboard from Georgia, through the Carolinas, Washington D. C., Philadelphia, New York City, and on into New England.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just west of Hershey and Annville, where Ron and Mary live, got 28″ of snow, and a small town in West Virginia got 40.5″, while places along the coast experienced significant flooding.  Thousands of flights were cancelled and transportation in D. C. and New York was at a standstill.  All things considered we felt like Arcadia was a really good choice for our winter base this year.

Linda checked in with Ron and Mary and they reported 30″ of snow at their house which they were in the process of clearing from their driveway.  Linda also checked in with Meghan, who reported no serious weather back home.  More importantly their male cat, Inches, had finished his round of medication and was doing much better.

Having visited Pelican Lake yesterday we were thinking about where we might go when we leave Big Tree RV Resort at the end of the first week in March.  Our thoughts drifted back to the conversation we had at the Tampa RV Supershow with the representatives from Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort.  Like Pelican Lake, Florida Grande is an ownership park.  It’s located near Webster, Florida about 100 miles north of Arcadia and a similar distance southeast of Williston.  The prices for lots there are more in our price range than Pelican Lake but we are a long way from buying an RV site anywhere.

Linda checked the website and saw that Florida Grande was offering a 2-for-1 special at the moment; pay for one week at the regular price (~$267) and get a second week free.  It also appeared that they had openings for the second and third week of March.  We were thinking of stopping there for a few days to check it out on our way to the FMCA national rally the third week of March in Perry, Georgia.  We have been reconsidering our attendance at that rally, however, as we really do not want to be that far north that early in March.  The 2-for-1 deal now has us thinking that Florida Grande might be a good place to spend the second and third weeks of March and then try to get into Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral for the last week of the month.

Linda took over the desk to work on some things for the bakery so I spent the late morning writing my blog post for yesterday and starting today’s post.  The high temperature today only reached 59 degrees but that was plenty warm enough to dump the holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank, which are on the sunny, southeast facing side of the coach.  Before I even got started, however, I ended up in a conversation with Dave whose 5th wheel trailer is across the street from us.  He and Barb are from New Hampshire and this is their 8th season at Big Tree RV Resort.

Dave said that the resort residents used to be about 60% from Quebec Province but the number has dropped to about 30% in recent years.  Most people “age out” of this lifestyle, whether mobile or stationary, due to declining health, strain on their financial resources, or loss of interest.  In the case of the folks from Quebec (and Ontario) the exchange rate to the U. S. dollar, which is currently 60%, is making it prohibitively expense for them to come south of the border for the winter.  When they exchange $1,000 CA they get $600 US.  That makes it really tough to come here and is one of the reasons our friends, Bill and Karen Gerrie, did not return to Florida, or anywhere else in the U. S., this winter.

All of the park models and permanent trailers here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort are owned by individuals, not the park, so beyond the nice climate and social connections the owners have a real monetary investment here.  Dave said that 17 to 24 units are typically for sale each year but so far people are buying them.  The largest contingent in the park now appears to be Michiganders (aka Michiganians). One of the couples we were talking to at the jam session on Thursday was from Jackson, Michigan and told me that in recent years they have been getting 75 attendees at the Michigan dinner, and that is probably not everyone in the park who calls Michigan home.

While I was out talking to Dave and tending to our tanks I took a closer look at our new windshield and discovered that the caulk the Safelite installers used was coming loose from everything, i.e., it was not adhering to the glass, the rubber gasket, or the body.  Chuck has had the same issue with his two windshields and has a “claim” in progress with Safelite.  He had e-mailed me all of his correspondence with the company so I e-mailed him back to let him know what I had just found.

When I tested the water coming out of the softener after filling the tank it indicated somewhere between 7 and 15 grains per gallon.  When I tested the water coming out of the park supply faucet on our arrival I estimated the hardness at 11 gpg.  If that was accurate, the water had not changed, and today’s test was accurate, it meant our 8,000 to 10,000 grain water softener was exhausted in less than 5,000 grains by my calculations.  That did not seem reasonable to me so I plan to retest the water and the output of the softener, but today’s reading suggested that the water might be harder than I thought and that the softener was exhausted and needed to be recharged.

My main focus today, however, was laundry.  For Linda’s part she wanted to clean the inside of the coach, take care of something for our FMCA GLCC chapter, and then work on something for the bakery.  I decided to take my laptop computer to the laundry room and try to download Windows 10.  It’s a 3 GB download so there was no way we were going to do this using our Verizon data plan.  I did not know, however, if the resort Wi-Fi system would allow me to download that much data or have a fast enough data rate to complete the download in a reasonable amount of time.  What I discovered was that the public Wi-Fi only downloaded 2.65 MB in 45 minutes and ultimately disconnected me from the Internet.  I turned off the Wi-Fi radio in my computer and looked to see if there was some way to cancel the download.  Unfortunately I did not find one.  Not good.  Shame on you, Microsoft (once again).  Stuff like that is an advertisement for Linux.

Linda put the NFL AFC championship game on our living room TV and Ron, on our driver side, set up one on a table under his patio awning, so I got to listen to the game in surround sound.  Yippee.  I was going to take a nap (in the bedroom) but decided to stay up and continue working on today’s blog post, which was getting quite lengthy.

Around 4 PM we had sourdough pretzel nibblers and hummus for lunch.  It’s going to be another week before Gary can have Stacy proofread the three articles I have in the queue for Bus Conversion Magazine so I decided so spend the later part of the afternoon editing my blog posts for October 2015 and get them ready to upload.  I only got a few of them done and decided to take a nap after all.  I was not feeling well, which made it hard to concentrate and made this work an unpleasant chore rather than something I enjoyed doing.

I napped for a couple of hours, which I really needed, but I still did not feel right when I got up.  The late afternoon and early evening disappeared without accomplishing much of anything and we finally had granola for dinner around 8 PM.  We watched Downton Abbey from 9 to 10 PM on PBS and then watched the first of six episodes of The X-Files on FOX once the NFL NFC championship game ended and the talking heads ran out of things to say afterwards.  In truth, they ran out of things to say before they ever got started.

We were in bed with the lights out by 11:45 PM.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and was toasty warm in spite of the dropping temperature outside and inside the coach.  Juniper (our female cat) immediately climbed under the covers between us with her head between our pillows and settled in for the night.

2016/01/25 (M) TV Dilemma

The forecasted low temperature for last night was 37 degrees F.  The low temperature usually occurs just before sunrise; around 7 AM this time of year in Arcadia.  We woke up around then and checked the current weather on our phones which reported the temperature as 40 degrees F.  The temperature inside our coach was 56, three degrees colder than I have seen so far this winter, so I suspected the outside temperature dropped down into the upper 30s overnight.

I was feeling a little “off” last evening and did not sleep well last night, but not for lack of warmth.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and I was comfortable enough that way.  I had taken a nap during the afternoon, so I wasn’t really tired at midnight, but mostly I was unable to find a comfortable position.  Juniper (our female cat) got under the covers between our heads as soon as we went to bed, so that constrained somewhat my ability to change positions, which I did almost constantly; at least that was my perception.

We got up and put on our sweats, which is our standard routine for cold mornings unless we are leaving early to go somewhere.  I turned the Aqua-Hot on, turned on the three zone controllers, and set the thermostats to 70 degrees.  I then made our morning coffee and checked my e-mail while it was brewing.  The FMCA National Education Committee meeting that was tentatively set for today or next Monday (February 1st) was being rescheduled for February 8th or 15th.  That was fine with me; I have other things to work on right now and I am not looking forward to our committee’s discussion of meaningless survey data.  It’s not that I enjoy bring a nay-sayer, but there’s a science (and art) to doing surveys and as best I can tell the survey was not distributed in a way that allows us to treat the responses as representative of the larger population of FMCA members.

While we were enjoying our first cup-a-Joe a crow landed on the power pole just north of our rig (two sites away except that there is only one more site north of us).  Juniper spied it right away and began chattering the way she does when she sees birds and gets excited.  The crow eventually left and was replaced by our resident Pileated Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was clinging to the side of the pole, rather than sitting on the wires, where the pole has been pecked away and reduced in diameter for a length of some 10 inches (estimated) all the way around.  Pileated Woodpeckers are large, magnificent birds and are always a treat to see.  It eventually left and was replaced by a smaller woodpecker or Flicker but I was not able to see it well enough to be sure which one it was.

We like something hot and substantial on a cold morning, and oatmeal is our go to choice, so that was what Linda made for breakfast.  We did not have plans to travel today so we stayed in our sweats for most of the morning.  I finished my blog post for yesterday, started on this one, and then settled in at my computer to edit posts for October 2015.

I took a break and tested the water from the tap and softener.  Both readings were once again between 7 and 15 gpg so the hardness of the tap water had not changed since my original test and the softener was definitely depleted.  I checked to see if the clear filter housings I bought at the Arcadia rally would fit the pre-filter.  They did, so I cleaned them and substituted one for the opaque housing.  I configured the pre-filter housing with the flow constrictor tube, added 26 ounces of table salt, and started the water flow, allowing the discharge to drain on the ground.

After a couple of hours most of the salt was still in the bottom of the housing and I could see the top of the flow diverter tube so I knew there was a problem and had a good idea what it was.  The tube was not sealed at the top allowing water to enter the filter housing and go right back out without being forced down through the salt and into the slots at the bottom of the flow diverter tube.  I added an O-ring under the bottom of the tube and a rubber flat washer at the top.  I recovered the washer from one of the old filter elements.

I added another 26 ounces of table salt to the housing and reassembled it.  When I turned on the water pressure it pushed about half of the salt into the softener even with the outlet valve closed.  This was probably the first time since I made the diverter tube that my regeneration system actually worked as intended and, because of the clear housing, the first time I was able to visually observe it.  Because so much salt got pushed into the softener I ran just a little more water and then shut it off to let the brine develop and exchange ions with the resin.

For dinner Linda made a couscous dish with grape tomatoes and other yummy ingredients.  I was still not feeling 100% right but this dish was light enough and tasty enough to be appetizing.

We had a TV dilemma this evening; X-Files vs. Supergirl.  After many years absence FOX brought back a 6-episode season of The X-Files.  Episode 1 was Sunday evening after the NFL NFC Championship game but episode 2 was this evening at 8 PM, placing it opposite Supergirl on CBS.  Episodes 3 through 6 will also air on Mondays at 8 PM.  Buggers.  Our other Monday evening shows were all repeats but we watched them anyway.

The low temperature for overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F with no storms.  That meant we could leave the windows open and the furnace/heaters off and get a good night’s sleep.

 

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

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

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

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/12/28 (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.

 

2015/12/07 (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.

 

2015/12/04 (F) The Chores of Life

The overnight low was forecast to be in the mid-50s so before going to bed I closed the roof vents and we only left the windows open about half an inch.  I was up at 7:12 AM this morning and put on my sweats.  I fed the cats (they insisted), took out my nighttime bite guard, washed it, and put it away.  I then sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and Juniper on my lap while I worked on my iPad.

Linda stayed in bed until 9:15 AM.  She is having trouble shaking the congestion and cough but the nighttime medication seems to control it and allow her to get plenty of much needed sleep.  Once she was up I made a pot of coffee and she fixed bowls of granola for breakfast.

My main focus today was working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter but we had other things to do as well.  At the top of my list was mailing the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter certification paperwork to FMCA HQ.  I also needed to do a load of laundry, our first since we left home a week ago.  Linda planned to work on her counted cross-stitch project but also needed to make a run to the Publix grocery store on the southwest corner of Gainesville.

The word “chore” is often used pejoratively, and that is an appropriate use according to the definition, but the first meaning is “…everyday tasks of running a household or farm.”  The definition goes on to include “…. difficult or unpleasant tasks …” and some chores are certainly more (or less) pleasant than others.  Linda likes to cook and I don’t mind doing the laundry but neither of us particularly enjoy cleaning.  I don’t mind dumping our holding tanks, a chore that many RVers apparently find onerous, but I do not like adjusting the pressure in our tires.

I gathered up the soiled laundry and laundry supplies and loaded them in the car.  The north bathroom/laundry building is in plain sight of our coach, and not that far away, but I had more stuff than I could carry in one trip and it was heavier than I cared to schlep around.  If we had an appropriate wheeled cart I might have used that, but we don’t.  I got two loads started but held off on the third until I had taken a shower.  The bathhouses are in the same building as the laundry.  I added my towel to the third load and started it.

In the middle of doing the laundry I was back at the coach, got the FMCA chapter certification paperwork in an envelope, addressed it, and added stamps.  I was going to walk to the Post Office but in the interest of time I drove to the Resort office instead.  That little task had been nagging me for quite a while so I had a sense of relief, as much as accomplishment, when I put the envelope in the outgoing mailbox.  Linda walked down and used the shower facility.

As soon as I got back to the coach with the clean laundry/supplies and brought them inside I put the 2m/70cm ham radio antenna back on the roof of the car.  Linda then took the car and headed for the Publix supermarket at the southwest corner of Gainesville.  I did not want to unload the car, and had work to do at the coach, so Linda went to Publix by herself so there would be room for the groceries.  I put the laundry away and then settled in to work at my computer.

I realized this morning that I do not have SPSS installed on my ASUS laptop so I will not be able to analyze the data from the FMCA education surveys myself, at least not until I get home.  That is unfortunate as I do not know at this point if HQ has the ability or willingness to do the analysis we need done.  I sent an e-mail to the committee chair and executive director to let them know.  Mea culpa.  I replied to a few e-mails and then resumed working on our Holiday Letter.

I realized last night that some of the images which had already been post-processed had dates in the file names that were different from the dates when they were taken.  As I was trying to arrange them in chronological order I went back and found the originals and corrected the dates.  I then continued placing and captioning the photos.

When Linda returned with the groceries I helped get them into the coach while she put them away.  She finally found the Snyder sourdough pretzel nibblers we like and we finished an open container of hummus and had some fruit for a light lunch.

For dinner Linda made a salad and sautéed mushrooms, onions, and broccoli as a topping for a baked potato, which we split.  I had a little vegan sour cream on my half.  After dinner we changed into warmer clothes and packed a bottle of wine and our two plastic wine glasses and walked to the firepit.

Friday and Saturday nights during the winter folks at the Resort gather at the firepit to enjoy the warmth of the fire, have a glass of wine, talk to one another, and listen to live music provided by volunteer residents.  Our friend, John Smith, is the main entertainer, doing mostly folk/rock/country-crossover.  He is also responsible for the fire since Kevin and Sharon sold their park model and moved to The Villages.  (We are still having a hard time comprehending that move.)  John performed solo in clubs and bars for a living many years ago before he and Ali got married.  Jeff sometimes brings his guitar and performs as well, his specialty being old time country music (such as Merle Haggard).  Other musicians occasionally show up, or at least they did two years ago.

We were the first to arrive (besides John) and chatted with him for quite a while before anyone else showed up.  Other folks drifted in and John eventually fetched his guitar and played.  Ali was visiting with Jeff and Kathy and was one of the last to show up.  Jeff and Kathy’s dog, Teddy, has lymphoma so they stayed at their 5th wheel with him.  We stayed to the end, said “good night” to John and Ali, and walked back to our rig.  We watched an hour of Create TV and went to bed.

 

2015/12/03 (R) 2015 Year in Review 

It cooled off overnight and was 60 degrees F outside when I got up at 8 AM.  We left the windows open a bit when we went to bed last night but it only dropped to 71 in the coach.  The forecast high for today was only 73 with partly to mostly cloudy skies, so the coach was going to be comfortable all day with just fresh air and perhaps the bathroom exhaust fan running.  I made a pot of coffee and then Linda got up and made oatmeal for our breakfast.

Linda’s goal for the next couple of weeks is to finish the counted cross-stitch needlepoint Christmas stocking she is making for grand-daughter Madeline.  She has to keep very careful count of her stitches, so I am not allowed to talk to her, or myself, while she is working.  It should be a very quiet two weeks.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

My first goal today was to finish the BCM article on servicing the Webasto WDB2010 burner in our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  This was work I did back in January while we were in Quartzsite, AZ.  I post-processed the last 10 photos, inserted them into the Word docx, added captions, and then rearranged them according to print edition and digital edition bonus content section.

I had an e-mail back from Chuck about the Prevost Community AITA NAPA discount card.  I followed his directions and completed the online application.  He called mid-morning and we talked about the chassis batteries.

I finished the Webasto article but did not upload it right away.  I had an e-mail from Gaye Young, FMCA National Secretary and chair of the Education Committee, with the preliminary results of the survey that went out this fall.  After looking through the data I wrote an e-mail to the committee with some observations.

Today was pretty much a stay-at-home day except for an early afternoon walk.  We had black bean soup and vegan grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and then walked up to the office to make copies of the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers group.  I will mail the forms to FMCA HA in Cincinnati, Ohio tomorrow.

We talked briefly with Janet Rawley in the office and checked out the activities center across the street.  They have moved the library and game tables from the office to the AC and are going to redo at least part of the space as offices.  Given the number of additional park models and RV sites they should expand the mailboxes as well.  There was a basket of tomatoes at the AC, free for the taking, so Linda selected a few.  On our way back to our rig we stopped to chat with Jim Rawley (Sonny Fox on XM) at their 5th wheel.  Jim and Janet were part of our circle of friends two years ago and their rig is just a few sites down from John and Ali’s.  We dropped off the tomatoes and paperwork and continued on our walk around the newer section of the park.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

Back at our coach I started working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  I was working on my ASUS laptop when the file manager suddenly would not respond to mouse clicks or let me close it.  I tried clicking a few other things and windows popped open that I could not then close.  This was strange behavior indeed, and something I had not seen before.  I was able to click the shutdown icon in the tray and forced the machine to close programs and turn off.  I restarted my computer and ran a complete scan with the ESET Smart Security program.  Complete scans take quite a while so I used my iPad to play a few games and work on this post.  When the scan was finally done I reviewed the findings and got back to work.

I uploaded the Webasto service article to Gary at BCM and then got back to work on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  Linda can only count so many cross stitches per day before she gets cross-eyed.  She also needs very strong light, so when the sun gets low in the afternoon sky she quits for the day.

Dinner was salad and reheated red beans and rice, a dish that holds up well over multiple servings.  After dinner I got back to work on our holiday letter and worked on it until bedtime.  I selected about 50 photos and will try to do captioned pictures instead of extensive narrative.  The local CBS affiliate had the Lions–Packers game on instead of our usual Thursday evening programs so Linda flipped between the game and whatever was on PBS.  My computer worked fine for the rest of the evening.

 

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.

 

2015/11/19 (R) FTH Annual Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/18 (W) Fuel Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/14 (W) Frankenmuth Friends

The forecast for today was for cloudy conditions in the morning changing to partly sunny in the afternoon with seasonally cool temperatures; a perfect fall day for our afternoon visit with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Catherine at the Jellystone Park Campground Resort in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

After our usual morning routine of feeding the cats, eating breakfast, and drinking our coffee while reading and writing, we showered and dressed for the day.  We were going to work in the bus on the installation of the desk but decided we did not have enough time and did not want to feel rushed.  We want the installation to be just right the first/only time.

I used some of the morning to continue studying the manual for the new Sony a99v DSLT camera and some of it to put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter roster and e-mail it to the other officers and members of the nominating committee.  I also got a text message from Chuck inquiring about local service options for the Cruise-Air air-conditioners we have in our buses.  I replied that ours have only been serviced by Butch Williams who is five hours away in Twelve Mile, Indiana when he and Fonda are not in the desert southwest.

We left at 11:15 for Frankenmuth.  We took Linda’s car so she drove.  We stopped at the new Meijer’s in Birch Run for bottled water, grapes, and pretzels.  M-83 was down to one lane and we had a bit of a wait at the temporary traffic signal.  I called Bill to let him know we were there and he was waiting for us out by the road when we arrived at the park at 12:15 PM.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion.  They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion. They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Karen had found peanut butter pretzels and had a nice platter of fresh fruit that included sliced kiwi, strawberries, orange segments, and grapes.  She made tea for both of us and we settled in to chat.  Bill and I took up stations at the dinette while Linda and Karen sat on the “Chesterfield.”  We chatted away until 2:30 PM, and somewhere in there Karen made cups of hot coffee.  It was a cool day outside but warm and cozy in their rig.  Bill and Karen have a mid-60s GM transit bus that they acquired and converted in the mid-80s.  They have been coming to the Frankenmuth Jellystone Park from their home in Ontario, Canada for as long as they have had the bus.  It is 50 years old this year and Bill figures it has traveled a million miles between its commercial service and life as a motorhome.  Bill did a nice job with the conversion and it has held up very well over the years

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

At 2:30 PM we drove over to the River Place outdoor mall and walked around”.  River Place is one of the newer developments in Frankenmuth but stayed with the “fantasy Bavarian village” theme of the town in a really nice way.  It is compact complex of buildings arranged with narrow, winding pedestrian corridors that occasionally open up into small plazas.  The façades are all faux Bavarian with the appearance of being two or three stories tall, increasing the sense of being “in” the village.

After checking out River Place, and buying a small bag of jalapeño flavored popcorn, we ambled all the way to the other end of the Main Street shopping district and back.  Along the way we stopped in lots of stores and bought a few things at the health food store that we cannot usually find locally.  The light was wonderful and I captured a few images with my old Sony a100.  I did not bring the new Sony a99v as I was not ready to use it.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back.  The cascading waterfall is man-made.  The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back. The cascading waterfall is man-made. The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

We got back to Bill and Karen’s bus at 5:15 PM and sat for a while before going to dinner at 6 PM.  Mike and Catherine joined us for dinner and we walked next door to the Black Forest restaurant.  Our dinner choices were very limited but they had a flatbread pizza on the menu so we tried that with mushrooms and onions, hold the cheese.  The tomato sauce was surprisingly spicy and it made for a decent vegan pizza.  Our side salads were simple but the ingredients were fresh and the whole meal was quite acceptable, made better by the company of friends.

By the time we walked back to Jellystone Park it was 8 PM.  We visited with Bill and Karen until 9 PM and then took our leave.  We probably won’t see them again until the 2016 GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, Indiana.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Birch Run to fill the fuel tank and were still home by 10 PM.  Although I would normally handle night driving I was sleepy so Linda drove us home.

 

 

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

When we entered the house we were not greeted by our two cats.  We called but they did not come.  This is unusual behavior for them and usually means they are up to something, with the odds highly in favor of something having to do with a mouse.  We found Juniper in the basement “guarding” the folded up corner of one of the throw rugs and I spotted a small, motionless mouse partially concealed by the rug.  It was dead, which is why she wasn’t carrying it around in her mouth playing keep-away with me.  Linda got a small plastic zip lock sandwich bag and I used it to pick up the mouse and seal it inside before putting it in the garbage.

Jasper was nowhere to be found.  In looking around the basement a second time Linda noticed that one of the boxes we keep on the window sills behind the sofa in the recreation room had fallen on the couch.  That was a sure sign that Jasper was up in the suspended ceiling.  He has gotten up there before via that window sill and the boxes were there to keep him from gaining access to that space.  Apparently they were not the deterrent we thought/hoped they were.  We called for him and eventually he responded verbally.  He then stuck his head around the edge of the ceiling and looked at us upside down.  He eventually decided it was safe to come down but seemed unsure of how to accomplish that.  I moved the other box on that window sill, stepped up onto the arm if the sofa, and helped him down onto the sill, into my arms, and then onto the sofa.  In some was he is just a big baby.

We had no way of determining whether he stayed up there because he wanted to or because he wasn’t sure how to get down but regardless was rather insistent on getting attention from us.  That desire for contact and comfort followed us into bed until he finally gave himself a bath and then curled up next to me to go to sleep.  I worked on this post for a while and then turned the lights out.

 

2015/10/13 (T) Desk Alignment

I got up at 8 AM, put on my robe, made coffee, fed the cats, and refreshed their water fountain while Linda got dressed and washed blueberries to put in our granola.  We took our coffee to the living room where I turned on the fireplace and we were joined by our feline friends.  I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s post and e-mailed it to myself while Linda pulled up the latest video post from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org.

Linda left at 9:30 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark for their weekly walk.  As this will probably be their last walk together until spring they planned to go to lunch afterwards.  While there was some work I could do by myself on the (permanent) installation of the desk there were other aspects of the job that would definitely require two people.  I needed to finish updating the roster for the FMCA Freethinkers chapter so I spent about 30 minutes reading the manual for the new Sony SLT-a99v camera and then got dressed and worked in my office for the rest of morning.

After a short lunch break I resumed working on the roster until Linda got home.  She and Diane had lunch at Baker’s in Milford as it is close to the Metropark parking lot where they meet.  We removed most of the things from the bus we were not currently using, many of which were stored in the sofa storage box.  We got the sofa seat off of the desk pedestals and set it back in place on the sofa base.

I wanted to use pieces of a 24″ X 30″ furnace filter to cover the various air inlets in the desk bases and the air outlets in the OTR HVAC duct.  The best way to hold the filter material in place appeared to be with some very strong tape.  We did not have any such tape on hand so Linda went to Lowe’s and bought a roll of Gorilla Tape while I cut pieces of filter material to fit the various openings.

The left desk base and passenger side OTR HVAC duct showing the pieces of furnace filter material used to seal these openings while permitting filtered airflow.

The left desk base and passenger side OTR HVAC duct showing the pieces of furnace filter material used to seal these openings while permitting filtered airflow.

We got all of the openings taped up but I still needed to fabricate two tongue and groove alignment devices between the pedestals and the center connector/cover.  I make these out of flat mending plates, one on the pedestal (tongue), and two on the connector/cover (groove).  The tongue is flat against the back side of the pedestal vertical board and protrudes about 1/2″ beyond the edge.  The groove is made from two plates, one stacked on top of the other, attached to the back side of the vertical connector/cover board.  The upper plate is just back from the edge of the board and the lower one (next to the wood) is offset from the edge a little more than 1/2”, just enough to create a space for the tongue.  The tongue and groove devices match two others lower down on the connector/cover.  All four of them are oriented vertically allowing the connector/cover to drop into place and force it to align with the matching pieces of the pedestals.  A pair of horizontal plates, one on each pedestal, provide a resting surface for the connector/cover that aligns it horizontally.

With the devices fabricated we were finally able to set the pedestals on the bases, drop the connector/cover in place, and align everything as if the entire desk was a single unit.  We then got the Corian desktop out of my car, brought it into the coach, and set it in place.  It will require some careful adjustments before we screw everything down but it basically fit properly and looked good.  Final positioning of the left pedestal and base, however, would require us to put the front HVAC duct cover in position.

We got the cover out of the library and into the bus for the first time since we brought it home from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana.  The length was perfect but the bump out where the heater hoses were originally going to loop through was too deep.    I suspect the mistake was in my design/drawings.  Jarel knew this piece was supposed to line up with the left pedestal and base but I no longer recall if he even had the desk pieces in his possession when he was building the cover.  At this point it didn’t matter anyway.  The misalignment is with the base and is not very visible.  Also, the bump out is screwed on to the main cover so it can eventually be removed and trimmed or replaced with one that has the correct dimensions.

Once we had the cover in place I realized that I also needed to fabricate and install alignment plates between the cover and the left pedestal.  I had not planned on this and did not have enough mending plates so we went to Lowe’s to buy more.  While we were there I bought another can of 40:1 premixed fuel and a bottle of bar and chain oil for the new Poulan Pro 18” chainsaw.  We stopped at Walmart to see if they stocked a particular folding chair made by Stakmore that we have seen online, but they did not.  We think it would work nicely as a desk chair, and go well with the interior materials and colors in our bus, but we would like to see one in the round before buying it.

Back home I worked on the alignment plates while Linda prepared dinner.  We had leftover lentil loaf, microwaved sweet potatoes, and a mix of steamed broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  She added a little water to the lentil loaf before reheating it to moisten it a bit.  We both like ketchup on our lentil loaf and I added some Pick-a-Poo sauce to mine.  All three dishes were served hot, which was comforting on a cool evening, and everything was very tasty including the cup of hot tea.

I returned to the bus after dinner and finished installing the mending plates on the HVAC duct cover.  I was not able to put it in place by myself, and there was no reason to have Linda come out and help at this hour, so I set the thermostats back and locked up the bus.

I called Butch and this time the call went through.  I updated him on the installation and testing of the fan-coil heat exchangers and asked him about the operation of our new refrigerator.  He suggested that I isolate the remote temperature sensors by using pieces of the furnace filter material to keep them from touching an objects or surfaces directly.  He and Fonda are wrapping up at the RV Park in Bouse and moving to Quartzsite on Thursday.  After we were done talking I worked on this post while we watched a few TV programs and then went to bed.

 

2015/10/12 (M) Countertops Plus

I was up later than usual last night so I did not get up this morning until 8 AM.  I fed the cats but did not have breakfast or make coffee.  I put the ham radio antenna back on my car and reinstalled the control head and microphone.  I then reinstalled the GPS and the cellular booster.  I moved the front passenger seat forward, set the back all the way down, and the moved it back until it touched the passenger side rear seat, which I put down last night.  I got two 2x4s from the garage that were about seven feet long and set them on the reclined seats to serve as full length supports for the desk/counter top I was picking up today from Countertops Plus in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Linda got up at 8:30 AM and got a couple of blankets for me to use to protect the desktop and the tabletop once there were loaded in the car.  I made sure I had my checkbook, sunglasses, wallet, phone as well as the address and phone number for Countertops Plus.  It was a beautiful, clear, cool morning as I backed out of the driveway at 8:45 AM.

The GPS predicted I would arrive at 11:30 AM but tried to take me on a different route than the one I actually followed.  I followed my usual route, heading west on I-96 to Lansing and then south on I-69.  I stopped at the Shell station half way between Lansing and Charlotte but their pumps were all out of order.  (We encountered this same situation at our local Shell station on the way home from our ham radio club meeting last night.  We presumed they were out of fuel.)  I went to the BP station across the street and fueled my car.

I got off I-69 again at the Charlotte exit about 15 miles later and stopped at the Biggby’s coffee shop where I got a toasted bagel and a large coffee to go.  My coffee was 40% Biggby’s best (regular), 40% French roast (decaf), and 20% Michigan cherry (regular).  I was glad I did not use any more Michigan cherry than I did as the flavor is very strong and somewhat unpleasantly artificial.  Biggby’s is definitely not my favorite coffee but the location in Charlotte is about an hour into the trip to Indiana and conveniently located relative to the highway.

I stayed on I-69 as far as Coldwater and then headed west on US-12.  At Sturgis the GPS had me turn south on Centreville Road (M-66).  A few minutes later I crossed into Indiana and passed the Howe Military Academy in Howe.  I went west on IN-120 and then took several county roads before arriving at Countertops Plus at noon.

On the drive down I got a call from our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi.  He is tentatively coming to our house on Monday, November 1, to service the chassis and engine.

The office at Countertops Plus was unattended so I walked around the side and found owner Ferman Miller working in his shop.  He had me back up to one of the loading doors and helped me get the desk/counter top into the car and onto the pair of 2x4s.  He set the tabletop, which was much smaller, on one of the blankets on the floor in the rear.  I wrote a check for the balance (cash or check only, no credit cards) and got a receipt.  I set the GPS for home and headed back the way I came.

When I got back to Howe I got on the Indiana Toll Road going east and took it toI-69 where I exited and headed north.  I stopped at M-60 to have lunch and then drove across the street to the Shell station.  All of their pumps were also out of service so I drove back towards the highway entrance ramp and stopped at the BP station.  It appeared that whatever was affecting the Shell stations was widespread.  I got back on I-69 north at 1:30 PM and the GPS said I would be home in approximately 90 minutes.

The beautiful blue skies of the morning were becoming more and more obscured by clouds the farther north I traveled.  It had been breezy all day and that continued but with reduced intensity.  It was almost completely overcast by the time I got home.  I did not stop again and pulled in the driveway around 3 PM.  I backed the car in front of the bus and unloaded my personal affects.  We inspected and measured the desktop and table and were satisfied that they were the correct size and shape.  The plywood base was not exactly as I had specified it but the deviations will not prevent the desk from being assembled correctly or be visible.

While I was away Linda had removed the remaining wallpaper in the cockpit of the bus and made a trip to J. C. Penney’s at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi to look for new privacy curtains for the front of the bus.  I was not in the mood to change into work clothes and needed to work on FMCA Freethinkers chapter roster and financial statements so I went to my office.  After cleaning up my desk and checking e-mail I got down to business.

Linda called me up to dinner at 6 PM.  We had a nice salad, Amy’s Spanish Rice and Bean soup, crackers with peanut butter and strawberry preserves, and watermelon.  We got a few raindrops on the rear deck while we were eating even though the probability of rain was near zero.  The weather is changing this week from mild and dry to cooler and a little wetter, with our first sub-freezing overnight low temperature forecasted for this coming weekend.  Cooler weather means more soup, which is fine by me.  It also means more mornings with the fireplace on while we enjoy our coffee; also fine by me.

I made progress on the Freethinkers chapter records but did not get done.  We watched a few TV shows on the big TV set in the basement; Big Bang Theory, Scorpion, and NCIS Los Angeles.  I did finalize plans for our visit with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Catherine at the Jellystone RV Park in Frankenmuth on Wednesday.  I also managed to get an e-mail off to Lou letting him know that the new camera had arrived.  We went to bed at 11 PM, put on the Create channel from the Detroit PBS affiliate (WTVS), and watched travel and cooking shows while I worked on this post.  Around midnight I thought I heard it raining but did not get up to check.

 

2015/10/11 (N) Now Heat This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/20 (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.

 

2015/09/19 (S) Rally Wrap Up

Today was the last full day of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) annual Surplus and Salvage Rally.  It started with strong storms overnight but they had dissipated by breakfast time.  The skies eventually cleared on brisk winds with a chilly northerly component and the high was forecasted to be 67 with some clouds.  The clouds turned out to be white, scattered, and fast moving and it turned out to be a lovely late summer day with a hint of fall in the air.

The breakfast provided as part of the rally was pancakes and sausage but Linda and I had our granola and finished up the berries.  We decided to stay around the campground and have an easy day.  Initially, however, we had some post-breakfast excitement.

Juniper caught another mouse.  It was another very small dark gray house mouse, obviously very young but old enough to wander away from a nest in search of food and water.  I got it away from her and into the paper cup that we kept for this purpose and put the paper bowl on top.  Linda took it back to the woods and set it free.

Even after catching two mice in the last 16 hours the cats continued to show great interest in the base of the bathroom sink cabinet.  The front of the toe kick space has one of the many brass colored expanded metal screens for the OTR HVAC ducts and several things were becoming clear to me at this point.  1) We had a nest somewhere in the bus; 2) the nest was likely in the base of this cabinet, or accessible from there, and 3) the baby mice were apparently small enough to get through the expanded metal grate.  I also suspected that something had happened to the mother mouse which is why the babies were leaving the nest.

Some of this was confirmed when I got down on the bathroom floor with a flashlight and was looking through the grate when a small mouse came out of the 4″ flexible duct.  I tapped on the grate and got it to turn around and go back.  I measured the rectangular opening.  Linda cut a piece of cardboard about 1″ larger in width and length and I taped it over the opening.

We were away from the coach visiting with Scott Crosby of http://BusGreaseMonkey.com and others before Scott left for home.  Scott and Tami Bruner came over too, followed by their friends/neighbors Misty and Gary who brought their GM3751 Silversides to the rally.  When we returned to our motorcoach it was immediately obvious that Juniper had caught, or at least cornered, something, probably another mouse.  Her posture and vocalizations are distinctive in the presence of prey.  What was odd was she was by the front of the new built-in sofa rather than in the bathroom.

I shushed her away and she left the area without much protest.  I did not see a mouse and walked to the bathroom to make sure our cardboard cover was still in place.  It was, so if there was another mouse it must have gotten into the living area of the bus through some other opening, perhaps the OTR HVAC air return under the sofa.  When I returned to the living room the mouse was climbing up onto the top edge of my slippers.  I did not see exactly where it came from but it could have been inside one of them to escape the cats.  I got the paper cup and bowl and caught it fairly easily.

I put on my Crocs, which we use as easy on/off camp shoes, walked back to the woods at the southern boundary of the campground, and set the mouse free.  It scampered under some leaves but its odds of survival were probably as small as it was.  The temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 40’s tonight and I heard a Great Horned Owl off in the distance.  Still, its survival odds in the bus were probably worse.  We had live trapped an adult house mouse under the kitchen sink when the bus was still at home, but that was a couple of weeks ago so there is no way it could have been the mother of these current juvenile mice unless it found its way back into the bus.  My assumption was that the mother was not around and the young mice were desperately trying to find food and water.  These circumstances made me a bit sad, but we simply cannot have mice getting into the living area and becoming play toys for our cats.  Ultimately we need to find a way to keep them out of the bus altogether but so far a solution to that problem has proven to be elusive.

The official rally lunch was leftovers after which folks divided up whatever was left.  Linda split the remaining salad lettuce with Vickie and took some bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and bottled water.  I grabbed a mostly full 2 L bottle of diet Coke.

Marty Caverly stopped by to see the bus remodeling and stayed to chat a while.  Marty had spent the better part of a day at the Back-to-the-Bricks Rally last month getting Pat and Vickie’s cruise control to finally work reliably.  He spent most of this morning getting their air leveling system to work reliably.  Marty is an electrician who did a lot of work with electronics in his 40 years with General Motors and is the “go to” guy in our club for most electrical issues.

There was a lull in our social activities and Linda settled in to read while I worked at my computer transferring drafts of blog posts from e-mail to Word.  I edited a week’s worth from the third week of July and got them ready to upload but did not post them.  I will do that when we get home.  I used the MCD day shade while sitting at the desk to cut down the light while still affording me a view.  Linda forgot her iPad and was using mine to read one of the latest novels in Nick Russell’s Big Lake series.  She went for a walk which gave me an opportunity to work on this post as I write them using the Note app on my iPad.

We saw Pat and Vickie walking towards the office and figured they were making arrangements for next year’s Surplus and Salvage Rally.  They stopped at our coach on the way back with the signed contract.  The dates are September 21 to 25, 2016 and the nightly camping rate is $35 plus tax for 50A full hookup sites.  It’s pricey, but the campground is conveniently located in the heart of the Elkhart area with convenient access to many RV surplus businesses.  We also get the exclusive use of a meeting room with a full kitchen, and they always reserve sites for us that are close to the meeting room.  It should be a lovely time of year to have the rally, being the first five days of fall.  Unfortunately we will probably not be attending as we do not plan to be back from New England by then.

Meals for this rally usually include dinner on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Friday also being a business meeting, and breakfast on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  The only lunch is the “must goes” on Saturday.  Saturday dinner is traditionally out at a restaurant and the choice this year was McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk.  The Elkhart River splits as it comes into the city, joins back up with itself and eventually flows into the much larger St. Joseph River at two points.  McCarthy’s features some very interesting Irish fare but the ambiance is slightly upscale restaurant rather than an Irish pub feel.  Our food choices were very limited, of course, but we knew that before signed up to go.

We rode over with Pat and Vickie and sat with them at one end of the table.  I think we had 13 of the 23 attendees at dinner.  Linda had a Guinness and I had a lighter beer that had “cider” in the name.  We each had a house salad with a very nice balsamic vinegar dressing but no cheese and an order of French fries.  The service was OK but not outstanding.  I asked for Tabasco sauce and Vickie had to remind the waitress to get it.  I was over half done with my fries by the time it arrived.  The serving was small but the fries were good and we did not leave hungry.

Most of us went for a walk along the river after dinner.  The sun was already below the downtown skyline, however, and it was chilly.  None of us brought jackets so it was a shorter walk than it might otherwise have been.

Back at the campground Scott and Tami started a campfire in the fire pit by their rig.  Linda and I brought over our chairs, blankets, a bowl of grapes, and our glasses of wine.  Vickie brought her chair, popcorn, and a popcorn skillet designed for popping corn over an open fire.  Dan brought his chair and joined us.  It was a clear, crisp evening but the fire (and blankets) made it comfortable, the popcorn and grapes made it yummy, and company made it worthwhile.

Although relaxing in some ways, rallies are intense in other ways.  We have only been here 3-1/2 days but we arrived tired, ran around taking care of things, and when we finally relaxed the tiredness washed over us.  We gathered up our things and went back to the coach at 10 PM where we watched an episode of Grantchester on the local PBS affiliate, went to bed, and fell asleep.

 

2015/09/18 (F) RBus Anniversary

The predicted thunderstorms came overnight with heavy rain and lots of lightning and thunder.  I was aware of the rain but Linda seemed to be more aware of the lightning.  Based on the radar just before going to bed the strongest storms passed north of us.  Even with furnaces and air-conditioners we are more intimately connected to the weather in our RV than we are in our house, especially during storms, but we like that aspect of the lifestyle.  If we wanted to live in a climate controlled bunker we would build one at the house.

Our bus at the GLCC Surplus Salvage Rally at Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, IN.  We bought it six years ago today.  We are the 4th owners as best we can determine.

Our bus at the GLCC Surplus Salvage Rally at Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, IN. We bought it six years ago today. We are the 4th owners as best we can determine.  The older GM buses behind ours are also members of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter.

We bought our bus six years ago today.  It is an H3-40 VIP motorcoach that was manufactured by Prevost Car Inc. in Quebec, Canada in August 1990.  It is powered by a Detroit Diesel 8V92TA diesel engine manufactured in April 1990.  It went directly to Royale Coach in Elkhart, Indiana in September 1990 and the conversion was finished in October 1991.  Because of the timing it was titled as a 1992.

In Michigan vehicles have to be at least 25 years old to qualify as “historic” so we are still a couple of years away from that benchmark, but she is a grand ole gal none-the-less.  Technically historic license plates, which carry an inexpensive registration fee, are only supposed to be used on vehicles that receive limited use, such as in car shows and parades, but people routinely put them on everyday use vehicles to avoid paying higher registration fees.  We, however, do not intend to do that.  It’s the kind of thing that some bureaucrat in the future can decide to do something about and end up imposing retroactive penalties.  It’s just not worth the risk of having to deal with that hassle.

We spent an hour after breakfast figuring out the required dimensions for the Corian table that will go between the two captain’s chairs in the living room of the bus.  I then called Countertops Plus and left a message for Ferman Miller with the dimensions.  It turned out that the table needs to be 22″ wide and 38″ long and I doubt that he has enough material in his 96″ by 30″ sheet to make both the desktop and the table.  I will follow up with him on Monday if I do not hear back from him before then.

We left late in the morning to visit two of the surplus and salvage businesses on US-12 in Michigan.  Johnson’s is just west of White Pigeon and Bontrager’s is east of White Pigeon but not as far as Sturgis.  I found two switch plates at Johnson’s that might fit two small 12V DC switches I need to mount.  At Bontrager’s I found a 1-1/2″ Bristol blade valve to replace the one on our fresh water tank.  We also bought four packages of small 12V DC LED rope lights.  Each pack is 5 meters (16′) long and has 60 warm white LEDs per meter.  They are rated at 4.8 Watts per meter and are very bright.  My intention is to use them around the inside of cabinet openings in place of the incandescent light fixtures that are original to the coach.  The will give a brighter light and illuminate the entire inside of the cabinet rather than shining light from a single location.

We looked at a powered fresh water hose reel with a 40′ hose and a powered 50A shoreline reel with a 33′ cord.  They wanted $200 for the water reel and $400 for the cord reel.  Linda looked them up online using her phone.  The asking prices were certainly less than retail at Camping World, but not enough less to make me shell out that kind of money for something that might not get installed for a year or more, if I could figure out a way to install them at all.

We stopped at Martin’s on the way back to camp and bought two Amy’s frozen vegan lasagna entries for dinner.  The other rally participants were having regular lasagna and we wanted to fit in.  🙂  Salad was also being served and Vickie was making it without cheese, eggs, etc. so we could have some.

Pat and Vickie had a Nutone Food Center years ago and still had some of the accessories plus a replacement motor.  They brought all of it over to see if it would fit our unit.  It did, but was missing one piece, a right angle drive that was needed for some of the accessories.  Vickie was pretty sure they had it somewhere at home but would have to look for it after the rally.  They also did not have the food processor, which is the accessory that interests Linda the most, but it was nice to get what they had.  Linda can start checking EBay now that we know the other accessories fit our recessed power base.

I helped Pat with the wiring for an LED replacement bulb for a fluorescent light fixture.  They have 12 of these fixtures (with 24 tubes) in their 1987 Prevost XL conversion.  Pat found LED replacements that can be wired directly to the switched 12V DC supply, completely eliminating the use of the electronic ballasts.  It turned out that the pins at each end of the tubes were also electrically active and we had to cut all of the interconnecting wires.

Ed Roelle stopped by to find out what we were doing with all of the food equipment.  Apparently someone thought we were “giving it all away.”  Not true, of course; it belongs to the club and isn’t ours to give.  What we wanted was for different people to take the things that will be the most useful at the rallies they host.  Linda and I do not make it to all of the rallies, and next summer we will miss two of the big ones; Back-to-the-Bricks in August and Surplus & Salvage in September.  We plan to attend the Escapees Escapade Rally at the end of July in Essex Junction, Vermont, and then the FMCA rally in early August in Massachusetts.  We will then head for the Canadian Maritimes and work our way back down through New England over the course of the early fall.

Pat Caverly stopped by to see the bus.  Linda showed her around and then we all sat down to visit for a while.  After they left to help with dinner preparations I finished the posts for yesterday and the day before, e-mailed them to myself, and started working on today’s post.

Dinner was scheduled for 6 PM and most folks were gathered by then.  Rain looked imminent so I closed the three roof vents in our bus, gathered up the bag of chapter T-shirts and flags, and went to the meeting room.  I conferred with Pat, Vickie, Tami, and Linda and decided to hold the brief business meeting before dinner.  It took all of 10 minutes.  Dinner was salad and lasagna.  Vickie prepared the salad by keeping all of the ingredients separate.  That allowed us to build our salads using only things we eat, which we really appreciated.  Linda heated the frozen Amy’s vegan lasagnas that we bought at Martin’s for our main course.

Linda was helping clean up in the kitchen and I was sitting at a large round table swapping bus stories when Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint came in.  She was on her way home, which is not far from the campground, and knew from talking to Josh (at Coach Supply Direct) that we were here for a rally.  She stopped in to see if she could find our coach, which of course she could even in the dark, since she is the one who painted it.  Linda and I excused ourselves and went back to the coach with Michele, retrieving her kids from her car.  We showed her the interior remodeling and had a long chat.

While we were talking Juniper caught a small house mouse.  We knew there was one around because she had been focused on the bathroom most of the day exhibiting stalking behavior.  Something got my attention and when I went back to the bedroom it was immediately obvious, even in the dark, that she had a mouse on the bed and was “playing” with it.  I got a paper cup and went to the bedroom to try and catch it.  It was very small, clearly a very young mouse.  I made Juniper release it and it hunkered down on the floor by the HVAC duct.  When I put the cup down it started to go the other way but Juniper was there and it turned around and ran into the cup.  Although the cup was not big it was big enough, and slick enough, that the mouse could not climb out.  I put a paper bowl over the cup to make sure it did not escape and we continued to chat.

It started raining while Michele, Raven (her daughter), and River (her son) were visiting.  At one point the rain was very heavy and the lightning was intense and frequent so they stayed long enough for the storm to pass.  It was getting late and we were all a bit tired so they prepared to leave.  I took the bowl off of the cup and placed a plastic zip lock bag over the cup and zipped it shut.  Raven carried the cup and Michele said they would release the mouse about a mile down the road near an area of fields.

Linda turned the front TV on and we watched an episode of Gotham, which we will not have to watch again, and American Masters (on PBS).  The American Masters episode was on the photographer Pedro Guerrero.  Although known as perhaps the best photographer of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, he had a far-reaching and distinguished career.  As always, it was a well done program on a fascinating individual who made important cultural contributions.  Linda was dozing at the end, went to bed, and fell asleep.  I tried to write for a while, gave up, and went to sleep.

 

2015/09/17 (R) Counter This

I went to breakfast before Linda as she was still asleep.  I wanted coffee but it wasn’t ready so I toasted a blueberry bagel and ate that.  Eventually the coffee was ready and I had some.  Linda showed up a little while later with our granola and fruit and most of the rally attendees arrived and had breakfast.  I got a call from Josh regarding the Corian desktop.  He indicated that Ferman Miller of Countertops Plus in Shipshewana had a piece of Sandstone Corian big enough to make our desk top and was expecting us to call or visit.

After breakfast we gave Vickie a tour of the bus and visited for a while.  We then drove to Countertops Plus, located east of downtown Shipshewana, and met with Ferman Miller.  He had a piece of 1/2″ Sandstone Corian that was a perfect match to our existing counters.  It was 96″ long by 30″ wide.  He needed a 72-3/4″ by 25-3/4″ piece for the desktop plus a 72-3/4” by 1″ piece and a 25-1/4″ by 1″ piece for the front and left edge returns.  It looked like he might have enough Corian left to make our dining room table so I made a quick sketch but left off the length and width dimensions.  We ordered the desktop and the table.  He figured out the price and we gave him a deposit.  I need to determine the length and width of the table and call him in the morning with those dimensions.

We set the GPS for Jarel Beatty Cabinetry and headed for Logansport.  I called Jarel to let him know we were on our way and verify that it was still OK to come.  We drove through the pleasant Amish/Mennonite countryside on small count roads we had not previously traversed and passed a school where the children were playing softball dressed in their plain, traditional clothing.  It was an odd yet delightful sight.  Once we were on US-20 we were on familiar roads.  We stopped along US-20 for fuel and a break and bought some peanuts and water.  We arrived at Jarel’s place at 2:11 PM.

We brought a 60″ long piece of 1/4″ walnut veneer plywood and had Jarel rip two pieces 4-3/4″ wide.  He actually cut them slightly wider and then trimmed off a small edge to get the long edges clean and square.  We loaded the half sheet (96″ by 24″) of 3/4″ walnut veneered plywood in the car and then loaded the half box cover for the forward passenger side OTR HVAC duct.  There were other pieces of plywood and hardwood left so we loaded all of those as well.  We only realized after we left that we forgot to get the drawings back from Jarel.  I sent him a TXT message and asked him to hang on to them until I could get them from him and he agreed to do that.

We stopped at the Martin’s supermarket about a mile from Elkhart Campground and made salads for dinner at their excellent salad bar.  It was 5:30 PM by the time we got back to the campground.  Dinner was nominally at 6 PM but was ready to eat closer to 6:30.  Linda reheated seitan stroganoff (vegan, of course) for our main course.

After dinner we gave Charles and Connie Martin the tour of our interior remodeling project and chatted for a while.  There were thunderstorms in the overnight forecast so I rolled up the two driver side awnings.  We then joined Scott and Tami Bruner at the fire pit by their bus.  I took a couple of folding chairs over and Linda brought our glasses of Franzia Moscato.  Charles joined us and so did Dan.  Tami had interviewed for a new job this morning, gotten the offer, and accepted the position, so it was a big day for her.  She and Scott have also been successful finding things they need for their bus conversion projects (they own two buses) so it has been a very good week for them.

Tami was tired and headed off to bed and Linda had the same idea a short while later.  There was a fairly high probability of rain starting at 2 AM with but we got occasional drops starting at 10 PM.  By midnight we were all getting tired and the raindrops were becoming frequent enough that they gave us an excuse to call it a night as we needed to put our lawn chairs away so they did not get soaking wet.  I wrote for a while in bed but I was too tired to work efficiently and went to sleep around 1 AM.

 

2015/09/16 (W) CSD to GLCC

I spent the night in the coach at Coach Supply Direct, in the fenced in parking lot, next to the train tracks that run parallel to M-62 through Edwardsburg, Michigan.  I was up late and went to bed tired.  The trains did not bother me (they run at every hour of the day and night) but aching knees and joints in my hands, especially the base of my thumbs, made for a less than sound sleep.  I had also not leveled the coach when I arrived yesterday but it was slightly low to the front passenger side so it did not bother me as me head was higher than my feet, the head of the bed being on the driver’s side of the bedroom.

I had granola for breakfast, checked my e-mail, and was just settling in to start today’s post using my iPad when Josh showed up at 7:30 AM.  He opened the building and retrieved a small desk/cabinet and loaded it into his car to take back to the cabinet maker.  A portion of the back needed to be finished as it will be exposed when installed.  Having just been through the process of designing built-in RV furniture and interacting with a cabinet maker I understood how a detail like this could easily be missed.  We were fortunate in our choice of Jarel Beatty, as recommended by our friend Butch Williams, to build our pieces.  Jarel’s meticulous attention to the details of how something would be constructed, installed, viewed, and used, resulted in our not having any post-construction issues.

After Josh left I checked the status of the house batteries.  They were at 81% SOC (State Of Charge). Not bad after 11 hours of use.  Extrapolating, it appears that given some reasonable energy management we could go 24 hours without recharging before hitting the 50% SOC level.  I did not, for instance, use the microwave oven.  That is much better than before we replaced the refrigerator so it appears that the new one is clearly more energy efficient than the old one.

I also checked the coolant levels in the Aqua-Hot and generator expansion tanks.  The Aqua-Hot tank was still above max cold but the unit was also still a bit warm to the touch.  The level in the generator tank yesterday was very low with the engine fully warmed up and operating under load so I added antifreeze up to the “hot” mark.  If was slightly above that level this morning although I expected it to be lower as the system cooled off and drew the coolant back in.

Tyler showed up at 8:15 AM and knocked on the door.  He had stopped at McDonald’s and bought me a large coffee, half regular half decaf.  He had asked about this before leaving yesterday and remembered it this morning.  I was impressed with both his memory and thoughtfulness.  He got right to work on the cockpit seats, starting with the driver’s seat.  Before installing it, however, I had him repair the swivel plate.

That plate has always wobbled which was an uncomfortable and annoying sensation while driving.  Now that I had a clear view of the top of the plate it was “obvious” that there was once a washer under the retaining nut but it was no longer there.  Tyler removed the retaining nut, found a large washer with the correct hole size, put it on the threaded shaft, replaced the retaining nut, and tightened it.  No more wobble.

I am always trying to deconstruct the details of how this coach was built or serviced.  My best guess is that old seat was removed when CMI installed the tile floor in the cockpit area right after we bought the bus.  The installer probably removed the seat from the swivel plate in order to have better access to the pedestal and the area around it to lay the tile and either did not replace the washer or failed to recognize that it was missing and needed to be replaced.  I will never know for sure, but that’s my best guess.

Tyler bolts the new Flexsteel driver’s seat to the existing pedestal swivel base.  There is not a lot of room to work around the base of this seat.

Tyler bolts the new Flexsteel driver’s seat to the existing pedestal swivel base. There is not a lot of room to work around the base of this seat.

I connected the chassis batteries so Tyler could connect the 12V DC power to the seat and reposition it.  The outside rear mounting bolt was particularly difficult to reach but with the power on he was able to slide the seat forward and swivel the front to the left creating better access to the left rear.  Once it was bolted down he had me sit in it and make sure all of the adjustments worked.  They did!  The seat is comfortable, fits better in the available space, and has a range of adjustment that should allow either of us to position it comfortably.  It is still a little tight on the left side, but not like the old chair, and the only control there is a manual level for adjusting the back tilt that I can reach it without difficulty and generally do not change once I have it adjusted.

When Josh returned at 10 AM with the parts for the living room slider bases he and Tyler got busy prepping them.  Linda texted me around 10:20 for a status update and I suggested that she not leave before 1 PM.  There was more custom work required to get the chairs assembled and mounted than I thought there would be, but as I was able to watch every step of the process, and talk to Josh and Tyler as they worked, I could clearly see what the problems were and what they were doing to solve them.  They were on task and focused on getting it done correctly.

One of the new Flexsteel 529 captain’ chairs with the new swivel/slide pedestal base attached.  Note the handle for the swivel release.

One of the new Flexsteel 529 captain’ chairs with the new swivel/slide pedestal base attached. Note the handle for the swivel release.

The problem this morning was getting the swivel release cables on the cockpit seats to stay in place when the swivel tang was released from the detent in the base.  The reason for the problem is that we are reusing the old swivel bases because they have base plates that match the mounting bolt locations in the floor.  The way the swivel release cable is retained on these bases, however, is different from the attachments on the ends of the new cables.  Tyler was able to figure out a solution but it took a little time.  I don’t mind paying for that kind of experience and problem-solving.

I texted Jarel to give him a status update and indicated that we could come down Thursday, Friday, or Saturday to pick stuff up.  He texted back that any of those days would work.  I checked the Magnum remote and the SOC status had gone back to “Think’n”.  Nuts.  This has happened before with the Battery Monitor Kit and I think it has to do with the 4-pin connector that plugs into the bottom of it.  Whatever the case I need to investigate and fix it if I can.

The two class C captain’s chairs installed on the passenger side of the living room.

The two class C captain’s chairs installed on the passenger side of the living room.

With the driver’s seat installed I sat and tested its various adjustments and found a position that I liked.  Next came the two class C captain’s chairs for the passenger side of the living room.  Tyler and I worked for quite a while using a base with no chair on it to determine the correct location for the bases.  The seats needed to be far enough from the passenger side wall, the desk, and the co-pilot seat to swivel without interference but no farther as we did not want them to encroach into the center isle one inch more than necessary.  We also ran them through their full range of slide and swivel motions to make sure we could pull them up to the table.

We ended up with the edge of the front seat 16″ from the front edge of the main floor and 16″ from the HVAC duct.  We checked it for square and marked the holes.  Tyler drilled pilot holes using nuts to limit the depth.  We set the chair in position and secured it with four lag screws.  We measured 36.5″ to the front edge of the second base and positioned the base 16″ from the HVAC duct.  We made sure it looked right and then Tyler marked the hole locations and we removed the temporary base.  He drilled the pilot holes, we set the chair in place, and lag screwed them into floor.

The new navigator (L) and pilot (R) seats installed in the cockpit.  The navigator seat has a powered footrest.  We reused the old 6-way power bases for both seats.

The new navigator (L) and pilot (R) seats installed in the cockpit. The navigator seat has a powered footrest. We reused the old 6-way power bases for both seats.

With the captain’s chairs installed in the living room Tyler installed the co-pilot seat.  Once that was done the job was finished except for the cleanup and paperwork.  Josh and I chatted some more about the Corian desk top.  He had inquiries out to three suppliers but was having trouble getting replies from them.  We needed a temporary desk surface, so Tyler cleaned off the 4’x8′ piece of 1/2″ plywood that had served as the workbench for integrating the seating components. He marked and cut a 72″ long x 24.5″ deep piece.  I notched the center of the back edge 18″ wide by 3″ deep.  Tyler and I installed it while Josh totaled up the bill.  I wrote him a check for the balance due, prepared the coach for departure, and left a little after 2 PM.

I could have titled this post “Edwardsburg to Elkhart” but I like to keep my titles short.  The trip from Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan to Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana was a short trip of approximately 15 miles that took about 25 minutes.  Upon arrival I parked the coach to the side of the entrance road and went in to the office to register.

We have been to this campground many times before but I managed to miss the turn for the row with our assigned site so I had to go all the way around a second time.  Once I had the bus in the site I leveled it and then shut it down.  I texted Linda our site number and then chatted with other GLCC chapter members who were already there and parked.

While I helped set up tables in the meeting room Linda arrived and got the cats, litter tray, etc. on board our coach.  After settling in for a few minutes I called Terry at A-1 Upholstery.  She was there so we drove over to pick up the sofa cushions, wrote her a check for the balance, and drove back to camp.  We were unloading the cushions when Dan stopped by.  He had retired at the end of July and bought a converted GM4104 a couple of weeks later.  His wife Kathy and son James had made the trip up from Huntsville, Alabama just for this rally.  They planned to join FMCA and GLCC but wanted to check us out first.

Linda had cleared the sofa earlier and put stuff away under the bed.  By the time I came in she had the new sofa cushions in place.  They were a tight fit but they looked nice.  We might make a small adjustment to the depth of the plywood seat but I think they are going to work out OK.

Linda went to the meeting room to help prep dinner and heat our vegan chili.  I took a short nap and joined her at 6 PM to eat.  We went back to the coach and gave Ed Roelle the tour and chatted for a while.  We then went back to the club house, met up with Vickie, and went for a walk.  When we got back to our coach I opened the box of Franzia Moscato and poured two glasses of wine.  We took two lawn chairs over to Scott and Tami’s bus to sit and chat.  Scott Crosby of www.busgreasemonkey.com was also there.  He arrived after I did in his 1948 GM 3751 “Silverside” bus.  It eventually got chilly so we went inside and went to bed where I worked on blog posts for a while on my iPad.

 

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.

 

2015/06/07 (N) Too Soon, Too Late

Unlike the Escapees Rallies, which always have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, the FMCA rallies always end with the entertainment the evening before departure day.  On departure day there is an asynchronous but generally smooth exodus of motorhomes that can start as early as 6 AM.  A small group of members from the Ontario Rovers chapter was parked across from our row of GLCC buses and they started firing up their engines at 7 AM and pulled out shortly thereafter.  No one objects to, or is disturbed by, this as it is understood and accepted that folks need to get on the road as suits their personal plans and travel styles.  We are usually required to vacate the rally venue by noon unless we are part of the debriefing meetings.

One of the things I find most interesting about rallies is the somewhat contradictory feelings many of us seem to have on departure day that the rally is ending too soon but we would have been glad to leave sooner.  The sense that it is over too quickly has to do, for me at least, with the fact that we enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow converted bus owners who we only see very occasionally.  The sense that it has gone on too long is just the fatigue of an intense multi-day event where every day is packed full of things to do.

John and Paulette pulled out around 9:30 AM followed by Don and Sandra and then Larry and Alma.  The Canadian contingent of our chapter (two buses and a Class C motorhome) was headed to a campground in Middlebury, Indiana about 17 miles away.  They had planned to leave just before noon on the presumption that they would not be able to check in any sooner than that.  Karen called and found out their sites were vacant so they all prepped their coaches, hooked up their cars, and were gone by 10:30 AM.  Once we saw they were getting ready to leave we did not have any reason to linger so we prepared our coach for departure and so did Scott and Tami.  We both decided to hook up by our sites rather than at the dump stations.  We pulled away just after 11 AM with them not far behind us.

We took the outer road along the southern boundary of the Fairgrounds over to the dump stations at the southeast corner.  There are at least five parallel lanes that RVs can use to dump their holding tanks.  We have never had to wait for one but when we got over there they were all in use and there were five motorhomes waiting to get in.  We had to dump before we left, and so did Scott and Tami, so there was nothing to do but wait our turn.  Soon enough we were able to pull up, hook up our sewer hose, dump our holding tanks, rinse out the hose, put it away, close up the bay’s, and head for the exit.

The easiest way in/out of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds is NOT through Goshen, Indiana which involves narrower streets, lots of traffic, and railroad grade crossings.  From Gate 5 at the far northeast corner of the fairgrounds we turned right on CR-34 (Monroe St.) and headed east.  About a mile later, give or take a bit, we turned left and headed north on CR-29.  A couple of miles later CR-29 ended at IN-4 which we took east to IN-13.  IN-13 starts (ends) at that point and only goes north from there.

We discussed whether to turn east onto US-20 or continue north on IN-13 but finally opted for the US-20 route.  IN-13 becomes US-131 in Michigan and we could have taken it up to I-94, passing through Three Rivers, Michigan on the way.  But US-20 is a good route that we have traveled many times and is the quickest way home from this part of Indiana, getting us over to I-69 very directly.

Once we got to I-69 the rest of our trip was on Interstate highways except for the last 13 miles.  We stopped at the Michigan Welcome Center / Rest Area at mile marker 5 and then continued up to Lansing where we exited onto I-96 east.  As we approached the exit for the Mobil Truck Stop at M-52 our fuel level was indicating just below a half tank and I decided not to stop and top it off.  We talked about taking the Latson Road exit but M-59 is the most direct route home so I took that exit like we usually do.  M-59 only goes east from there and rolls along interrupted by only two stop lights.  Approximately 11 miles later I turned south on N. Hacker road and we completed the drive to our house.

We had very light and intermittent rain from the time we left the fairgrounds but it did not affect the drive.  The only issue with the bus was that the Battery Balance Light and Vanner Equalizer Light both came on twice.  Both times it happened I had just hit a very bumpy section of road so I am wondering if I have some loose cables.  I have not checked the batteries in a while and terminal connections are probably due to be cleaned and tightened.  The batteries are three or four years old at this point and are standard lead-acid maintenance-free batteries.  I keep them on maintenance chargers when the coach is parked, but these batteries typically only last about 5 years so I need to check them and keep an eye on them.

We pulled into our driveway around 2:45 PM and Linda got out to direct me as I parked the rig.  We were level without any adjustments so I shut down the main engine, switched off the batteries, closed all of the air valves, and plugged in the shorepower cord.  It was not raining so we busied ourselves emptying the bus, including the refrigerator, of items we needed to get into the house sooner rather than later.  We did not empty the freezer section as Linda needs to clean out and rearrange our home refrigerator freezer section first, and we left a lot of the clothes on board.

The wind was gusting stronger as the afternoon progressed.  It continued to spritz off and on but the heavier rains finally came around 6 PM.  They were initially isolated and intermittent but became stronger and more persistent as the evening hours advanced and by 9 PM we had lightning and thunder.  Our son called around 9:30 PM just to check in with us, see how our week was, and bring us up to date regarding their activities.  Last week was grand-daughter Madeline’s first full week of part-time day care.  She will be staying home on Monday’s and Friday’s through the summer and hopefully be able to spend some time with Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.

 

2015/06/06 (S) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 4)

Today was the last day of the 2015 GLAMARAMA rally.  It started at 7 AM with a pancake breakfast that ran until 9 AM.  For the third year the rally organizers hired Chris’s Cakes to provide the pancakes.  They had three long propane fueled griddles with sliding depositors.  The operator stopped the depositors and used a lever to release the batter for six pancakes at a time and then moved it to the next position and did the same thing until the griddle was full.  All of the pancakes had to be flipped by hand but the operators (cooks) were fast and generally accurate.  They would occasionally flip three of them into the air at once and someone would try to catch them on their plate.

Linda and both had coffee.  She had to work registration from 8 – 10 AM and left to go do that.  I was hungry so I had three pancakes even though they probably contained eggs and/or milk products.  I should have saved the calories; neither the pancakes nor the syrup had any flavor.  Zero, zip, nada, nothing; no taste.  I cannot remember the last time I had food that was that bland.  But Scott, Mark, and I settled into an in-depth bus conversation that lasted until after 9 AM and the coffee was OK.

Linda and I met up back at the coach a little after 10 AM.  I got a call from Gaye a Young letting me know we had a meeting with FMCA Executive Director Jerry Yeatts at 2:30 PM.  Linda and I went back to the Coach Supply Direct booth and talked to Josh some more about fabrics.  He confirmed that the Flexsteel 529 captain’s chair had a skirt around the base and that we could do a 2-tone fabric on the Flexsteel 591 captain’s chairs.  We got the set of Lambright fabric samples from him along with the MCD shade material samples, and took them back to our coach to study in situ.

Although we liked the Bonkers Havana fabric we had previously selected, we ultimately selected two different ones.  The Lone Wolf Brass was similar to the Bonkers Havana but lighter and much less green.  Until we saw them together we did not realize the Bonkers Havana was green at all.  The Legacy Borpeaux was a deep maroon, a color that appears in the Lone Wolf Brass and Bonkers Havana weaves.  We will use the Lone Wolf Brass as the main fabric for the 591 chairs with the Borpeaux as the inset for the lower back and center aft seat panels.  The 529 chairs will be all Borpeaux as the design of the chair does not lend itself to a 2-tone approach and we wanted some variety in the fabrics as long as they coordinated well.

The selection of materials for the MCD night shade was limited to six choices with one of them being black and another one white.  Of the other four there was one we liked (B33).  It was a bone (bisque, biscuit, etc.) color with a subtle but nice pattern.  We wanted this opaque material to be light, but not “white,” so it would reflect artificial interior light when it was pulled down.  The day shade is only available as a black fine-mesh screen.  It is designed to block sunlight during the day but allow you to see out without anyone outside being able to see in.

With our selections made we went back to see Josh and return his sample materials.  We keep feeling like we are close to placing an order but Josh needs to work up his pricing and get us the line drawings of the chairs.  For our part we need to determine the dimensions of the cushions for the sofa and talk to A–1 Upholstery and get their estimate of how many yards of material we need so Josh can order all of the fabric at one time.

We went for our first walk around the Fairgrounds for this rally, although Linda has been walking every evening with Vicki Lintner.  We were back at Building A at 12:30 PM.  Linda had signed up for the Ladies Tea, which started at 1 PM so she headed over to the Home and Arts Building and I went back to our coach.

Frank Griswold drove down and bought a day pass.  He and Sandy had planned to come to the rally in their Prevost H3-45 Vantare conversion but were unable to attend due to family issues.  Jim and Lydia Marin decided to leave and go visit their children and Tim Olsen decided to depart right behind them and get home before the rain got his newly acquired, and freshly washed, Royale Coach Prevost XL dirty.  When you have inside storage for your bus you have the option of being concerned about such things.

I was eating a sandwich for lunch, had Jasper on my lap, and was working on this blog post when Pat Lintner knocked on the door around 2 PM.  He had purchased 18″ LED replacement lights for one of the ceiling fixtures in their Prevost bus conversion and wanted help wiring it.  I took my voltmeter over to his coach to check the wiring.  All we needed to do was identify the +12VDC and DC ground wires and while it seemed obvious how the fixture should be wired I was getting some odd readings on my meter.  I did not want to rush and clip any wires until I was confident that I understood how the fixture was wired, and I had a meeting at 2:30 PM, so I told Pat I would be back before diner to finish the job.

I met with Gaye Young (FMCA national education committee chair) and Jerry Yeatts (FMCA executive director) for about 30 minutes to discuss the current status of the national education committee and its work.  I then participated in a roundtable discussion with FMCA national secretary Vicki Ferrari and six other chapter secretaries.  It was a very informative session that lasted for 90 minutes.

I had a chance to think about the fixture wiring while walking to and from my meetings, so after the chapter secretaries roundtable ended I went back to Pat’s coach, identified the +12VDC and DC ground wires, verified the voltage, clipped the supply wires, and got the LED bulbs installed in the ceiling fixture.  I was done in time to walk back to my coach, which was not far from Pat’s, drop off my volt meter and iPad, and walk over to Building A for the Volunteer Dinner where Linda was waiting for me at the front door.

We went in and were greeted by Charlie Adcock, FMCA National President, who addressed Linda as Mrs. Bruce, and then by Jane Roush, who addressed Linda as Fay, all of which she found slightly amusing.  I suggested that she had an identity crisis but she assured me she liked it that way.  Dinner was green beans in butter with bacon, mashed potatoes (milk and butter), beef tips in gravy, and dinner rolls.  There was no salad so we had dinner rolls with margarine for dinner.  Mostly we go to these events to sociable and visible but it would be nice if a bit more consideration was given to having food available for people who have gluten issues or do not eat meat, eggs, or dairy for whatever reason.  Green beans, properly prepared, are actually very tasty without butter and bacon.

We returned to our coach for a while and finished the leftover seitan stroganoff so we at least had something other than bread for dinner.  We walked back to Building A, which we are parked behind one end of, for the evening entertainment.  Sarah Ghetto performed at the first GLAMARAMA in September 2013 and was popular with the crowd so they invited her back.  She was born blind and with a cleft pallet.  The pallet was corrected surgically and she is an attractive and talented 31 year old woman with a college degree in music education and a voice that does justice to the Ann Murray covers and other songs she performs.  She owns her own motorhome and travels with her parents from her home base in Norman, Oklahoma about five months of the year.  Her dad sets up the lights and sound, MC’s the show, and plays guitar and/or sings on a few numbers, but dad makes it clear that Sarah is the star and keeps the spotlight on her.

FMCA is an International organization with members from Canada and Mexico in addition to the U.S.A. and yet they insist on hiring performers who pay tribute to the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and sing God Bless America and other nationalist songs.  The Great Lakes Area (GLAMA) in particular includes all of Ontario and our Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter includes members from the entire area (IN, MI, OH, and Ontario).  Our Canadian friends seem to take all of the religious-patriot nonsense in stride, but we find it inconsiderate at best and offensive at worst.  Still, we enjoyed Sarah’s concert, most of which was not this kind of stuff.  The Marlin’s also did some of this kind of music but most of their show was just great renditions of oldies.

We all walked the short distance back to our coaches after the concert and stood around in conversational groupings.  To our surprise Mark Lovegreen had pulled out.  He was headed to a relative’s farm outside Topeka, Kansas and wanted to get started with the trip.  Linda and Vicki went for a walk, as they have every evening, and returned as the daylight was fading.  They took down the American and Canadian Flags for the last time and folded them properly.

As darkness fell so did the temperature and once again it was just Scott and I having a conversation.  This time it was mostly about holding tanks.  By 10 PM we were getting a bit chilled and finally returned to our respective coaches for the night.  I had some fresh fruit for desert and then went to bed and wrote for a little while before turning off the lights.  At rallies our days usually start early, are filled with things to do, and run well into the evening.  By the end of four or five days of that everyone is tired, but it’s a good kind of tired.

 

2015/06/05 (F) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 3)

Today was day 3 of the FMCA GLAMARAMA 2015 rally.  We were up at 7 AM after a poor night’s sleep in which the trains seemed to be almost continuous and the engineers seemed to leave their horns on for prolonged periods of time rather than just tooting them.  We were at breakfast before 7:30 AM and had coffee while conversing at length with our friends from GLCC.  Unlike the full breakfast that was included as part of the rally yesterday, today’s breakfast was simply coffee and donuts.  The day’s rally activities got started at 9 AM so everyone went their own separate way at that time.

Linda and I went back to our coach for a while.  We got word from our daughter that our step grand-daughter, Katie, woke up very ill this morning with a temperature of 103 degree F and unable to keep food down.  When Linda headed to the 9:45 AM presentation on the FMCAssist program I stopped in one of the vendor buildings to pick up a receipt from Daryl Lawrence and chat with Josh Leach from Coach Supply Direct about our interior remodeling project.  I then returned our GLCC sign to the office and went back to our coach.

The luncheon was at 11:15 AM, which seemed a bit early, but we walked over with our Canadian friends from our GLCC chapter and got in line.  As usual we could not eat most of the food (by our choice) but we were able to make tomato and onion sandwiches using hamburger buns.  Our daughter contacted Linda during lunch to let us know that Katie’s mom was taking her to the emergency room and we did not need to travel home in the car as Katie would probably not be attending her high school graduation this evening or the family dinner planned for afterwards.  Although that greatly simplified our day we were disappointed for Katie and concerned that she get better very soon.

After lunch we went back to talk to Josh some more.  Darin Hathaway was still out on Aqua-Hot service calls but things were so slow in the vendor area that Josh was willing to step away from his booth for a little while and bring his Corian samples box to our coach.  It turned out that the Sandstone color/pattern was a perfect match to our existing kitchen counter.  We do not always have that kind of good fortune when working on our 24 year old bus conversion.

We talked about chairs and Josh suggested that a Flexsteel Class C captain’s chair (model 529) might be a better choice for our dining/work table grouping than the barrel chairs we thought we wanted.  The 529 is only 24 inches wide (to the outside of the arms) and can be mounted on a bolt down swivel/slide base with a seatbelt bar.  It has a higher back than the barrel chairs but appears to be better proportioned for our space.  The higher back would also be more supportive and the back does recline, so it would be adjustable the extent we have room.

We also talked about the Flexsteel 591 captain’s chair, with and without a footrest, for the passenger and driver seats respectively.  Josh looked at the motorized bases for both chairs and thought they could be reused.  That would be nice if true as it would save us cost and potentially simplify the installation.  We still like the Lambright Havana Bonkers cloth fabric but are wondering if it might be too dark to use on all of the furniture.  He gave us the name and phone number of A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart and said that they could make our custom sofa cushions and were the best upholsterers he has worked with.  We will not have time to call them until Monday.

Last, but not least, Josh took measurements of all of our windows (except the windshields and cockpit windows) for MCD duo-shades.  While potentially not as attractive as the Specialty Window Coverings (SWC) pleated day-night shades we currently have they would probably work better mechanically and be more effective in blocking light while affording us a view.  We will almost certainly replace the shades in the bedroom as one of them is already broken.  Whether we do the others will depend, at least partially, on cost but the quality of the design and manufacturing is very low and many of the metal pieces are actually bowed and have been since the day they were installed.  In retrospect we should never have accepted them.

We spent the afternoon in/near our coach reading, writing, and paying attention to our cats.  The Chapter Officers and Vendor’s Reception started at 4:15 PM.  We walked over with Bill and Karen Gerrie who are officers in the Ontario Overlanders chapter.  We had a sampling of items from the fresh fruit and relish trays.  Linda had the Franzia Moscato and I had the Franzia Refreshingly Red wine.  While waiting in line we finally made the acquaintance of Gaye Young, the chairperson of the national education committee, and her husband Jerry.  Gaye is a candidate for FMCA national secretary.  The election will be held at the national convention in Madison, Wisconsin at the end of July.

We went back to our motorcoach for a while and then returned to Building A to hear The Marlins.  A group of four brothers, The Marlins gave a high energy 90 minute performance of an eclectic mix of popular music from the last 75 years.  Back at our coach several of us stood outside talking until it got cool and dark.  Vicki and Linda took down the American and Canadian flags and folded them.  Linda then went in for the evening while I remained outside talking to Mark Lovegreen, who owns the highly modified MCI MC-8 parked next to us with the Laughing Raven Touring Co. markings.  Mark is from Alaska and we continued our conversation for quite a while talking about buses and travel.  It finally got chilly enough that we both retired to our respective coaches, although Mark was probably just hitting his comfort zone.  I worked for a while on this post and then went to bed.

 

2015/06/03 (W) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 1)

Today was the opening day of the 2015 rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Great Lakes Area MotorCoach Association (GLAMA).  We were expecting three more arrivals from our Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter but only two of them made it in before the 5 PM parking cutoff.  Jim and Lydia Marin, who parked next to us at Elkhart Campground on Sunday, arrived during the morning while Linda and I were out running errands.  Larry and Alma Baker arrived mid-afternoon.

Linda and I had our usual breakfast and then left around 8:30 AM.  Our first stop was Martin’s supermarket on US-33 northwest of downtown Goshen where Linda ordered the food for our chapter social tomorrow.  She and Karen Gerrie will pick up the deli trays, chips, pop, plates, napkins, and eating utensils tomorrow just before the social begins.

When we were done at Martin’s we continued up US-33 towards Elkhart, took CR-20 over to SR-19 and followed that north to W. Franklin Street where we headed west to the Elk Park Industrial Park and Paul’s Seating.  We met with Paul who was as helpful as he could be but it was basically a wasted trip.  He did not have a showroom, did not have additional information about the products shown on his website, and no longer carried any form of barrel chair.  His business appeared to mostly be recovering existing furniture, although later in the day we were looking at Pleasureway motorhomes (made in Elkhart) that featured furniture from Paul’s Seating.  It did not impress us as the highest quality RV furniture we have seen.

Paul suggested we look at MasterCraft for barrel chairs.  Linda pulled them up on the web browser on her phone.  They were in LaGrange, Indiana, which was quite a drive to the east on US-20, and did not have anything illustrated on their website that looked like the kind of chair we wanted/needed.  We went back down US-33 to Goshen, stopped along the way for a soft pretzel at Ben’s, and then returned to the fairgrounds.

I made phone calls to Isringhausen, Suburban Seating, Villa International, and Glastop RV Furniture.  I chatted with someone at Isri, Carlos at Suburban, Melanie at Villa (in Elkhart), and Peter from Glastop.  The calls to ISRI and Suburban were in connection with getting an ISRI 6800/6832/6860 bus driver seat.  The calls to Villa and Glastop were for barrel chairs.

We sat outside our coach for a while and chatted with Mike Dickson.  He and Kathy are in the Jayco Class C next to us.  We eventually got hungry and Linda made faux deli slice sandwiches for lunch.  By that point I was ready for a nap and slept for about two hours.  We had some of the seitan stroganoff for dinner around 5:30 PM.  I put on my nice GLCC shirt and at 6:05 PM we took the GLCC chapter flag over to Building A to line up for the opening ceremonies.  I thought I could handle the flag alone but we decided to have Linda help carry it.  She was wearing her Desert Bar T-shirt so she went back and changed into her GLCC shirt.

The opening ceremonies started at 6:30 PM.  After the presentation of the Canadian and American colors, the singing of both national anthems, the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag, and a very religious invocation, we had the parade of chapter flags.  That was followed by the introductions of a long list of FMCA dignitaries and announcements.  Fortunately it was all done by 7 PM.  There was a short break before the Frustrated Maestros started playing and we took that opportunity to return to our coach as did many of our other chapter members.  Several groups of us stood around and chatted until it got chilly and we all went inside.  The rest of the evening was spent in our coach using our iPads.

 

2015/06/02 (T) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 0)

We were up at 7 AM and had cinnamon toast for breakfast but did not have coffee.  We checked various routes to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds (EC4HFG) and searched online for information about any possible road construction problem areas but did not find anything that looked problematic.  By 8 AM we had started preparing the bus and car for travel.  Linda walked over to Curtis’s coach to say “so long for now” but all the shades were down so she sent him a text message that we were on our way.  We pulled out of our site at 8:15 AM.  I pulled up clear of other RVs and stopped to wipe off the passenger side mirror which was obscured with dew.  I am always surprised that I don’t notice things like that before we start to move.

We took CR-4 west to SR-19 and went south, crossing over the Indiana Toll Road, to CR-6.  There are times of the day that this intersection would be very busy but traffic was light this morning and I had no trouble getting into the correct turn lane and completing the turn.  CR-6 is a 4-lane road and moved along nicely all the way to CR-17 except for a short lane closure for local maintenance.  We turned south on CR-17, took it down to US-20, and headed east.  As I expected, this stretch of US-20 was still very much under construction with only one lane open in each direction and no wide loads over 11 feet permitted.  Traffic was more congested and slower but it moved along.  When we got to SR-15 we turned south and ran along nicely until we got to a construction zone that had the road down to one lane with flaggers.  We waited patiently and eventually got through the bottleneck.  We were routed through a short detour and then finally entered Goshen.  We followed the SR-15/US-33 Truck Route and found ourselves in another one lane construction zone with flaggers, and a train thrown in for good measure, but we eventually made it to our turn onto eastbound CR-34 (Monroe Street) and drove the final mile to Gate 5 of the EC4HFG.

We were directed to the staging area where we unhooked our car.  We were then led to the area reserved for our Great Lakes Converted Coaches Chapter and backed into our site.  The Laughing Raven Touring Co. bus was already parked in our area.  We saw this bus at Elkhart Campground while walking but did not realize it was headed to the rally.  The owner, Mark Lovegreen, is not a member of our chapter but wanted to park with other buses and we were glad to have him.  I reserved 12 parking spaces, the parking crew gave us 13, and I had a least one coach that was not going to show up so we had the space.  Also, Pat and Vicki Lintner got parked on hard surface nearby as the ground in our area was very soft when they arrived on Sunday.  In addition to being our chapters National Director Pat is the Senior VP of GLAMA would normally be parked elsewhere except that he likes to park with the chapter.

While Linda set up the interior and made coffee I hooked up the electrical power.  Our main 50 A circuit breaker did not want to set.  I finally pushed the lever hard enough to move it but did not like the way it sounded and did not get power to the coach.  I have indicator lights that told me there was power at the coach end of the shorepower cord but I verified that using my VOM.  I removed the cover from the disconnect box in our coach and verified that there was voltage present on both the L1and L2 bus but no voltage present on the output lugs of the circuit breaker.  Bummer.

Linda turned off the 30A supply circuit breaker and unplugged the cord.  I checked with the VOM that there was not voltage present and then unclamped the L1 and L2 load wires, removed them from the circuit breaker, and then removed the breaker from the box.  I tested it for continuity and with the lever in the “ON” position and one leg showed a short but the other leg showed an open.  That meant I should have had voltage coming through to our Progressive Industries EMS on one leg but I never did.  Regardless, we needed a new breaker as at least the one side had clearly failed.

The circuit breaker was a Square D QO style 2-pole 50A model.  I knew that Lowe’s carried QO breakers so Linda searched for the nearest store using her phone.  There was one on US-33 back towards Elkhart so Linda fixed a “to go” cup of coffee for me and I headed there.  They had a good selection of QO breakers including the 50A one that needed.  I looked briefly at refrigerators and noted that they had the Frigidaire model we are considering in white, black, and stainless steel.  Maybe we will drive up later to look at them.

I took a different route through Goshen to avoid the one lane construction zone.  Back at the coach I refilled my coffee and got to work.  As bus repairs go this one was pretty straightforward.  Getting the two load wires into the circuit breaker clamps was a bit tricky but I got them in.  The QO breakers snap onto a mounting rail at the bottom and then the contact fingers snap over two blades at the top.  All of that took a bit of pushing but I got it in.  I put the cover plate back on, reconnected the shorepower cord, turned on the supply breaker, and turned on the coach breaker.  We had power to the coach but it shut off.  I reset the breakers (turned them full off and then back on) and everything appeared to be fine and the power did not trip out after that.

With our power problem averted Linda walked over and got us registered and signed up for one of the few remaining time slots to work in the rally office.  She had volunteered to work registration but most of the time slots were already filled and the only thing left was Saturday morning.  Shortly after she returned to our parking area three more buses showed up:  Bill and Karen Gerrie, Mike and Kathy Dickson, and Joe and Mia Temples.  Next in were John and Paulette Lingafelter followed by Don and Sandra Moyer.  Late in the afternoon Scott and Tami Bruner arrived.  That only left a couple of coaches arriving tomorrow.

I borrowed a sledge hammer from Joe Temples and pounded three pieces of rebar into the ground to serve as supports for the clubs three flag holders.  A number of RVs around the rally site had the same design and I suspect that there was an article in the magazine, or something online, about how to build these.  They are very simple and inexpensive, can be taken apart for transporting, and rotate with changes in wind direction.  Our club as a USA flag, a Canadian flag, and a Chapter flag.

We all stood around in small, shifting groups talking about this and that.  I laid down around 2 PM and napped for about 90 minutes.  We are conveniently located to one of the bathroom/shower facilities so Linda took a shower there so as to not use up the good water in our tank.  By 6 PM most of our group had left to go out to dinner.  We ate around 6:30 PM, having a nice, light supper of cold chickpea salad on a bed of power greens.

A little before 7 PM we drove back to Lowe’s to look at refrigerators.  It turned out that the ones I saw were the 18 cu. ft. models not the 16 cu. ft. one we need/want.  The 18 cu. ft. model would fit in our alcove but take up the entire width leaving no space for a pull out pantry.  We looked at solar powered spotlights for illuminating the flags at night but at $18 each decided not to buy any as we needed at least three and would ultimately need the approval of the club to buy them.  We stopped at the Martin’s market on US-33 and picked up a deli tray brochure and a few grocery items.

Back at the rig there were lots of folks gathered in conversation.  Linda and Vicki went for a walk while I chatted with Mark (from Alaska) and Scott.  Scott and Tami recently had a new Whirlpool residential refrigerator installed in their bus so I went to see it.  It’s a very nice French door fridge with lower freezer drawer but is too tall for our alcove.  This is the style refrigerator Linda wanted but we could not find one sized to fit our space.  Bill Gerrie helped me get the U.S. and Canadian flags off of the holders.  Linda and Vicki returned just in time to help fold them properly.  With darkness came much cooler temperatures and everyone retreated to the warmth and comfort of their coaches.

Someone reminded us that Paul’s Seating in Elkhart was a good place to shop for furniture so Linda Googled it and found the website.  There were pictures of lots of chairs, including a barrel chair, but no information about dimensions, fabric options, or prices.  We will likely go to Martin’s in the morning and place a food order and then drive in to Elkhart and find Paul’s.  The critical path for our interior remodeling project goes directly through the selection of furniture and then through the refrigerator replacement so we are starting to feel some pressure about getting decisions made and orders placed.

 

2015/06/01 (M) Bradd and Hall et al

The temperature dropped into the upper 40’s last night.  Although the temperature in the bus only dropped to about 64 degrees F I was cold and did not sleep soundly.  The electric heater pad is still on the mattress but was not plugged in so I could not use it.  Linda developed a bad sore throat during the night (there are no good ones) and also did not sleep well.  We got up around 7 AM and I made coffee while she got dressed and drove to the nearby Martin’s supermarket for Ibuprofen and Chloraseptic throat lozenges.  Sore throats are no fun.  We both hope this passes without requiring medical intervention.

We are in the newest section of Elkhart Campground which consists of narrow pull-through 50 Amp full hookup sites that are long enough to leave a towed car connected to a 45 foot motorhome.  The section is not full but the motorhome on our passenger side had their GLAMARAMA 2015 parking and volunteer placards in the window this morning.  We finally opened our registration packet and found that we also have a volunteer placard since Linda is volunteering at the registration table.  We also discovered that we could have arrived at the Fairgrounds this morning and stayed for no charge.  Oh well, Elkhart Campground is more convenient to Bradd and Hall and other Elkhart area vendors and if we checked into the rally we would immediately be working and socializing instead of shopping.  One must be clear about their priorities.

Bradd and Hall is open from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday.  We got there around 9:45 AM and had just gone inside when I got a call from Curtis Coleman.  We was headed east on I-80 from Iowa with his sights set on Cleveland and Columbus Ohio and did not realize we were in Elkhart.  He brought me up-to-date on some things having to do with RVillage and we discussed him coming to our house to hang out once he had taken care of some business later this week and we got back home from the rally.

At Bradd and Hall we were assisted by Stephanie.  Bradd and Hall had a good selection of Flexsteel Captain’s chairs and Lambright Comfort Chairs but did not have any Flexsteel barrel chairs.  That was more than disappointing as we thought the Flexsteel bolt down barrel chair might be just what we need to provide seating, with seat belts, on the passenger side of the coach that can swivel to face anywhere from forward to aft.  They had two Flexsteel Captain’s chairs that we found comfortable enough and were not too large.  Either one might do nicely to replace the front passenger seat, and possibly to replace the driver’s seat, although I am holding out for an ISRI air-suspension driver’s seat.  We took cell phone photos of each of us sitting in various seats, photographed product tags, and got several fabric samples but were no closer to a decision about seating when we left than we were when we arrived.

On the drive back to the campground we stopped at Factory RV Surplus to look for some electrical components but ended up looking at furniture.  They had a barrel chair that we liked but no identifying information on it.  We did, however, get some free popcorn.  We were headed up SR-19 and decided to go on up into Michigan and pay Michelle Henry a visit at Phoenix Paint.  There did not appear to be anyone around so we left and went back to our coach and had a bite of lunch.  We had planned to also visit Lambright Comfort Chairs in Shipshewana, but we had been there before and figured they would not have anything different from what Bradd and Hall had on display.  With both of us being tired and Linda still not feeling well we decided to stick around the bus and continue to do online research.

Sometime during the afternoon I got a call from Jim Marin wanting to know where we were parked.  From our windshield I could see their motorcoach parked up by the office waiting to come into the campground.  The space to our passenger side was vacant so they registered for that one and pulled on around and in.  Jim and Lydia have a 1997 MCI 102DLS-3 Vantare conversion that they bought last September.  It’s a nice coach and they got a good deal on the purchase.  They got plugged in and set up while we connected our car for towing and then we stood around visiting in the cool temperatures and warm sun.

We were showing them what we have done to the inside of our coach and explaining what we plan to do when there was a knock on the door.  It was Curtis Coleman.  He had decided that Elkhart was far enough for one day and knew we were here as a result of our conversation this morning so he pulled in for the night and was parked one spot up from Jim and Lydia.  We made introductions, finished looking at our coach and then toured Jim and Lydia’s bus.  I brought my tape measure and tried to quantify the size of their furniture which appeared to fit very nicely in the available space.  All of us then went to Curtis’s coach, which is also a 1997 Vantare conversion of a Prevost XL, and got a sense for his seating.  Both coaches have ISRI driver’s seats and both Jim and Curtis really like them.

We had eaten dinner earlier so Marin’s returned to their coach for their evening meal and we left Curtis to tend to Augie Doggie and take care of RVillage business.  Curtis came over later to visit and we sat in our coach in three lawn chairs and had a great chat.  He returned to his coach at 10:45 PM and we went to bed a short time later.  It was forecast to drop into the mid 40’s overnight so I closed the roof vents and turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed.

 

2015/05/31 (N) Age of Disco Camping

We were up around 8 AM.  Linda took a shower after which I started the last load of laundry while she made coffee.  We had our usual granola breakfast.  When the washer finished I trimmed up my beard and shaved and then took my shower while Linda moved the wash to the clothes dryer.  Once we were both dressed we got very busy loading the bus and preparing it for travel.

I put on my work clothes and selected my clothes for the week.  Linda took care of loading the bus while I attended to preparing it for travel.  The preparations went something like this.  First I loaded our GLCC banner, flags, T-shirts, door prizes, tools, and our new 6 gallon pancake style Porter-Cable air compressor into our Honda Element.  I turned on our TireTraker TPMS monitor and plugged in the power cord for the TPMS repeater which is installed in the passenger-side rear corner cabinet in the bedroom.  I then got out our long fresh-water hose, connected it to the faucet on the front of the house, ran it under the bus, and connected it to the fresh water inlet.  I got a mat to put under the fresh water tank drain and emptied about 40 gallons of water that had been in the tank since we got home on Friday, April 24.  I closed the drain valve and then opened the fresh water tank fill valve.

At 3.4 gallons per minute the 120 gallon fresh water tank takes about a half hour to fill.  While that was happening I got our DeWalt 15 gallon upright tank air compressor out of the garage and rolled it over to the front of the bus (it has wheels).  I got our long extension cord out of the front bay and ran it from the front porch outlet to the air compressor.  I then got the air hose out of the bay where it was stored along with the air chuck, and digital tire pressure gauge, and retrieved a knee pad and slip pliers from two other bays.  I removed the TT TPMS sensor from each wheel in turn, checking and adjusting the pressure as I went.  I always do both dual drive tires on each side at the same time to make sure they are the same.

The inside duals have valve stem extensions so I use the pliers to keep them from loosening while I unscrew the sensor.  The two front tires were at 111.5 and 112.0 PSI, both above the minimum required 110.0 PSI, but I brought them up to 115.0 PSI.  I like to run the tires 5 PSI over the correct pressure to allow for changes in overnight low temperatures and to provide some margin against slow leaks.  The two tag axle tires were around 82.5 PSI so I reset them to 85.0 PSI.  The four drive tires were around 92.5 PSI so I brought them up to 95.0 PSI.

By the time I was done with the tires the fresh water tank was full so I shut off the water and stored everything back where it came from.  I then pulled the Element around behind the bus.  Everything was on board by this point except the cats, the cat tree, and us.  We hooked up the car for towing and checked all of the lights.  I switched on (connected) the chassis batteries, opened all of the air valves, switched off the Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump and diesel burner, started the main engine, and switched the suspension to drive mode.  While coach was airing up I pulled the 50 A shorepower cord and stowed it away.  Back in the house we put the cats in their carriers and left them in the front hallway while we took their “tree” out to the bus.  We then brought them out, locking the house behind us, and put them on board.  Both cats immediately went under the front passenger seat which is their “go to” spot while the coach is moving.

All of what I have just described took place with intermittent light rain.  We could not recall the last time we had to load the motorcoach, or our previous motorhome, in the rain, but we agreed that having it parked with the entrance door opposite the sidewalk to the front door of the house made it much more convenient.  Still, it was reminiscent of the “age of camping,” a time in our lives when we camped frequently in a tent with our pre-teen children.  While not a constant companion, rain was a frequent visitor on these outings and yet it never deterred us from going and never lessened our enjoyment.  Indeed, we tried to show our children the special beauty of a hike in a Michigan woodland in the rain or the power of standing near the shore of a Great Lake during a storm.  Cooking was more of challenge, to be sure, but we had a screen room in addition to our tent and made preparing and eating meals part of the adventure.  Our friend Chuck said to me once that we were different from most of the other Prevost owners he and Barbara know because we were “campers.”  True enough, although what we do now hardly seems like camping to us. Still, we are quite comfortable with having the furniture and flooring removed from our motorcoach, sitting on lawn chairs instead, and dining at our fold up plastic side table.

We pulled out of our driveway at 12:30 PM and made our way slowly down our muddy, pot marked dirt road to N. Hacker Road.  It was nice not having to worry about scratching the side of our rig as a result of our tree trimming raid late last night.  Instead of taking our usual route north to M-59 we went south on Hacker which got us on pavement a short distance later.  Most of the trees on the west side of S. Hacker Road were trimmed up high enough but just before getting to Grand River Avenue we got clunked.  Our front OTR TV antenna is the highest thing on the bus.  It is centered side-to-side near the front and probably took the branch.  I should check it for damage the next time I am on the roof.

We went south on Grand River Avenue towards Brighton and less than a mile later took the entrance ramp to I-96 west.  Twenty-three miles later we took exit 122 and stopped at the Mobil Truck Stop for fuel.  We were at 3/8ths of a tank and rather than fill it we only put 80 gallons on board.  That was enough added fuel for approximately 480 miles and our round trip to/from the RV rally would be less than that.

We will not be using the coach for a while after this week and it is not clear what the best thing is to do relative to long term storage.  Filling the tank with fuel minimizes the air in the tank and thus the opportunity for moisture to condense out.  Moisture is a bad thing in diesel fuel as it enables the growth of algae.  I use a biocide additive to inhibit that growth, especially at a fill up just before it is going to sit for a while, and we have a fuel polishing pump to slowly circulate the fuel and remove water and other gunk while the coach is sitting.  That would seem to solve the problem, except for the fact that it is not ideal to store diesel fuel any longer than necessary before using it.  I suspect that we will fill the tank at the Mobil Truck Stop just before returning home, using an extra dose of biocide, and then run the fuel polishing pump all summer.

We continued west on I-96 to the southwest corner of Lansing and then exited onto southbound I-69.  It continued to be overcast with a noticeable wind out of the east.  We thought we were done with the rain but continued to get an occasional sprinkle.  We exited I-69 at US-12 and headed west through Coldwater and the southern tier of Michigan counties.  US-12 is a good 2-lane highway with some left and right and some up and down, sometimes at the same time.  It is a fun drive with nice scenery and passes through three other small towns:  Bronson, Sturgis, and White Pigeon.  We eventually left US-12 onto Old 205 (M-205) and a couple of miles later entered Indiana where the road became SR-19 (IN-19).  A few more miles and then left (east) on CR-4 and a mile later we pulled into Elkhart campground at 4:10 PM.

Linda checked us in and then we drove to site 738, leveled the coach, and shut down the engine.  We went through as much of normal arrival routine as we could, setting up the cat tree, two folding lawn chairs, and our plastic folding side table.  Linda got our WiFi Ranger connected to the RV Park WiFi and got online with her iPad while I used mine to write.

We snacked on pretzels while we were traveling and by 5:30 PM we were ready for dinner.  Linda made a simple salad and then cooked a couple of vegan “burgers” and served them with the remainder of the potato salad she made the other day.  We went for a walk around the campground after dinner and thought we spotted Nick and Terry Russell’s Winnebago Ultimate Advantage motorhome but did not see any sign of them.  The rig had Florida plates but there was a new Honda SUV parked in front.  The last time we saw them they had a Ford Explorer but I have not been keeping up with Nick’s blog so they could have gotten a new car without us knowing about it.

When we finished our walk we unhooked the car.  I forgot to pack my toothbrush so we drove back to the intersection of CR-4 and SR-19 where there is a CVS, a Walgreen’s, and a Martin’s supermarket.  The CVS was the most convenient, and we have a discount card there, so we bought my toothbrush and picked up some pistachios and almonds on sale.  Back at the coach we had small glasses of Moscato and some red grapes.  It’s been a very physical week for us and by 8:30 PM Linda was ready to lie down and watch a little TV.

The TV stations here serve the area surrounding South Bend and Elkhart including the area of Michigan along the Indiana border.  It took me a while to figure out where to point the antennas but I eventually remembered that there a quite a few very tall towers on the south side of US-20 about half way between Elkhart and South Bend.  That was roughly southwest of our location and we were parked facing southwest so it was a simple matter to point the antennas straight forward.  Bingo!  (I should have remembered that the AntennaPoint.com website will give you the bearing and distance to all of the broadcast TV towers with a certain radius of a specified location, but I didn’t at the time.)

The local PBS station was in the middle of a fund raiser (they probably all were nationwide).  That usually means vintage (nostalgic) musical performances and tonight was no exception with a reunion concert by the BeeGees (Brothers Gibb).  Although best known (to my generation) as the “sound of disco,” personified in the movie Saturday Night Fever, the BeeGees performed actively for many years and have a very deep catalog of surprisingly familiar songs.  This concert was filmed in Las Vegas in 1997 and several of the brothers have since passed away.

Good music is good music but popular music tends to take on significance for individuals based on where they were and what they were doing at the time it became popular.  The BeeGees, like Ernest Hemingway, we’re so popular that it became popular to put down the music of the disco era.  Thankfully that time has passed (in both cases) and we can remember fondly “the age of disco” and enjoy the art and artists for what they are, enjoyable and talented.

The BeeGees concert was followed by Motown 25.  I was 12 in 1964 and although I studied and played classical music I was definitely listening to popular music on the radio and that included the new Motown sound.  I was enjoying this concert as well but it was late and even I get tired and sleepy so I turned it off and went to bed.