Category Archives: Natl Educ Committee

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.

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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.

 

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.

 

2015/06/06 (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.

 

2015/04/26-30 (N-R) Routine Returns

2015/04/26 (N) Bentley

Turning the lights out at 11 PM last night meant I would be awake around 6 AM this morning and ready to get up, and that was the case.  Linda was awake by 6:30 AM and we were up shortly thereafter.  I was able to light the natural gas fireplace without difficulty.  The only thing I can figure is that perhaps I did not have the Off/Pilot/On gas valve in the right position last night.

With the gas valve in the Off position gas cannot flow beyond the valve.  In the Pilot position gas can only flow to the pilot flame assembly, and only while the knob is pushed in, until the flame has been lit long enough to cause the heat sensitive pilot valve to remain open at which point the knob can be released.  I do not think gas can flow to the main burner tubes, however, until the knob is turned to the On position.  There is also a Remote/Off/On switch that has to be in the Off position when lighting the pilot flame (with the built in spark igniter) and moved to the On position to allow the main burner tubes to receive gas.  All I can figure is that I did not have the Off/Pilot/On valve turned to the On position. The Remote position is intended to be used with a wall mounted thermostat which we do not have.  For us the firelogs are primarily decorative but are useful for taking the chill off of the early morning or late evening.  We never have them on, however, unless we are in the living room or dining room where we can see them.

Linda fed the cats while I made coffee which we enjoyed in the living room by the firelogs.  It was 33 degrees F outside this morning but in another week the morning temperatures should be such that we can sit on the rear deck and enjoy our morning brew out there.  We finally both got dressed and Linda heated an Amy’s Breakfast Scramble and split it between us.  We lingered a while longer in the living room and finally got to work on our various chores.

Linda’s focus was to continue cleaning the kitchen, off-loading food and kitchen supplies from the bus, and getting her domestic and professional domains back in order.  She made a grocery list as the day went along.  We would normally go to the Howell Farmers Market on Sunday morning, but the outdoor market does not start until next week.

I cleaned the cats’ litter tray, which seems to be my job at home but Linda’s job on the bus, and then got to work on revising the draft survey for the FMCA national education committee.  While I was doing that I also started up a couple of our workstation computers, installed updates, and kept an eye on my e-mail and RVillage messages.  I worked on the survey until dinner time, with a break for lunch, and had Linda proofread it before I uploaded it to my Dropbox and e-mailed the link to the committee.  We have a telephone meeting at 3:30 PM EDT tomorrow and I wanted everyone to have a chance to look it over in advance of the meeting.

Linda made Farro with garlic, dried cranberries, almonds, and kale and cooked some fresh asparagus.  A green salad and a glass of wine completed a very nice meal.  Linda had a text message from her sister letting us know that her housemate, Linda, decided to have Bentley put down.  He was the oldest of her three dogs, deaf and arthritic, and on medications that he would not take, and he had lost interest in food.  We had both received a text message from Linda regarding our recent visit so I responded to that.  We were sad that Bentley was gone, but glad that we got to see him one last time.

I turned my attention to editing photos for my April 10 blog post about out visit to Bandolier National Monument and Santa Fe, New Mexico but the batteries in my wireless mouse needed to be recharged so I plugged it in and called it quits for the night.  Linda was watching the first episode of Wolf Hall (PBS) on her iPad so I finished reading the May-June 2015 issue of the Gypsy Journal and played a few rounds of my favorite games.  Linda prepared some fresh berries for dessert and we enjoyed them to the glow of the firelogs before going to bed.

2015/04/27 (M) Caller #9

After coffee and cereal this morning I continued selecting and processing photos from our April 10 visit to Bandolier National Monument and Old Town Santa Fe.  I ended up with 16 photos so I uploaded the post and put them in an image gallery at the end.  After lunch I got all of my documents in order for my 3:30 PM (EDT) telephone meeting of the FMCA Education Committee.  I chatted briefly with the committee chair to see if there were any surprises in store.  I then worked on consolidating my draft blog posts for April 11 through 15 which included the time we spent in Norman, Oklahoma visiting with my uncle Bob and Aunt Helen, and four additional generations of relatives.

I exchanged e-mails with BCM Publisher Gary Hatt and Editor Dave Rush regarding my article on the redoing of the exterior of our coach.  The article is 5,800 words with 71 photos and they would like to split it up and run it in installments over three or four issues.  That will require me to go back through the article and identify the places where it can be split, making sure the photos track with the text, and write some additional bridge paragraphs to wrap up each installment and introduce the next one.

I dialed in to my FMCA meeting just before 3:30 PM.  I was caller number nine (9) but I did not win anything.  The meeting lasted almost 90 minutes.  We discussed the survey we have been developing and approved a motion to pass it along to the Executive Board with the recommendation that it be sent to a random sample of the members both electronically and via USPS.  I expect to receive minor corrections in the next 36 hours and get a final draft to the FMCA Executive Director on Wednesday so he can have it reviewed by an outside expert (Barry) at Membership Corporation of America (MCA).  The FMCA executive board meets in a week so we will see what happens.

After the meeting I finished working on the April 11-16 consolidated post and uploaded it to our personal blog just in time for dinner which featured taco bowl salads.  She started with refrigerated tortillas, draped them over ramekins, and baked them to create the shell.  She reconstituted an ancho, red Hatch, and pequin chile and used them to season the pinto beans, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and olives that made up the filling.  Franzia Fruity Red Sangria went nicely with the tacos.  Later we had a fresh mixed fruit salad of blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.  We relaxed for a while, reading and playing games, but were surprisingly tired and went to bed before 10 PM.  Change happens, transition takes time.

2015/04/28 (T) And now … the rest of the summer

As sometimes happens when we go to bed early, we slept in this morning and did not get out of bed until after 8 AM.  It is nice to be able to do that if we want to.  Coffee and toast got the day started followed by reading, writing, and cat admiring.  It was a beautiful, sunny morning albeit still on the chilly side.  In other words, another day in the idyllic paradise we call retirement in the country.

We have both been busy since we got home last Friday, unloading the bus and putting things in their place in the house, visiting family, cleaning and stocking the kitchen, going through mail, and working on bills and accounting, both personal and organizational.  And that was mostly Linda!  I helped with some of that but was mostly focused on finishing a draft survey for the FMCA education committee, sending it out, and participating in a committee meeting by teleconference yesterday afternoon.  I will have some minor additional work to do on the survey by the end of the day tomorrow, but with the meeting behind me I can now concentrate on all of the other things that need to be done.  To paraphrase Paul Harvey “And now … the rest of the summer.”

One of the chores that is always there is laundry.  Linda seems to take over this task when we are living in the bus, but it is definitely my job when we are at home.  Ditto for cleaning the cat litter tray.  To be fair, both the laundry room and liter tray are in the basement where my office and the ham radio shack are located, so I am down there a lot more than her.  When we first return home after being away for an extended time there is a lot of laundry to do.  Not that we don’t do it while we are away, we do, but I like to clean everything that we had with us.  This is not a one day task, in part because we like to limit the number of loads of laundry we do on any given day so as not to overload the septic tanks, and in part because I just do not want to spend an entire day doing laundry.

My main focus this morning, however, was to revisit my article for Bus Conversion Magazine on the renovation of the exterior of our bus back in 2011/2012.  It needs to be split into 3 or 4 installments and I would rather do that myself, making sure the photos track with the text.  I started a load of laundry and then got to work, keeping an eye on e-mail and RVillage.  I finished restructuring the article just before lunch, uploaded it to my BCM Dropbox folder, and e-mailed the editor and publisher.  Linda reheated the Farro-cranberries-almonds dish for lunch and served it with black grapes.

I moved the first load of laundry to the dryer, put a second load of laundry in the washing machine, and started compiling my posts for April 16 through 20.  I got an e-mail from Lou Petkus regarding the SKP Photographers BOF website.  Lou started, and leads, the BOF and administers the website while I take care of the RVillage group and someone else takes care of the member database/roster.  He found and installed a free system for displaying photo albums.  He was setting it up so each BOF member had their own login and could upload their own photos and wanted me (and Linda) to try it out.  I did, and found a number of issues which I documented for him.  I like the idea, so I hope he can resolve the issues.

I folded and hung up the dried laundry and returned to my blog post which I uploaded, tagged, and published before going upstairs.  It was a beautiful day and while Linda was outside on the rear deck reading four deer walked up the eastern boundary of our property.  We were chatting back there when the doorbell rang, which is unusual for us.  It was Aaron, one of the kids (teenager?) from the house to our immediate east.  UPS had delivered our Amazon order to their house instead of ours even though it had my name and our address on the label.

Linda sautéed onions until they were partly caramelized, pan-fried tofu slices, and then added bar-b-que sauce.  She served these in tortillas rather than on buns.  She also sautéed fresh green beans.  I opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and we each had a small glass with dinner.

After dinner I called Joe Cannarozzi, the mobile mechanic who has done the majority of the service work on our bus since we got it back to Michigan in 2010.  As planned, he is now in upstate New York where he will be working well into the fall.  He plans to be back this way the first week in November and we made plans to have him do the routine chassis maintenance at that time.  I also discussed our interior renovation plans for the bus and got some tips from him about how to approach that work, especially the floor, as he has done several.

I noticed that I had a voice message from Gary at BCM.  He had called earlier in the day after I had uploaded the new 4-part version of the Exterior Makeover article so I called him back and left him a message.  Tag; you’re it.

2015/04/29 (W) Bus Lunch

We had a typical start to our day; coffee, breakfast, and iPads (news, weather, games, reading, and writing).  Actually, that’s how most of our days in the bus also start, so the only real difference is where we are sitting and what we can see from that vantage point.  I needed to order a refill on a prescription medication so I tried doing that on my iPad.  No problem iPad-wise, but the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) had switched the mail order prescription drug service from Medco/Express-Scripts to Catamaran Home Delivery effective January 1, 2015.  Catamaran was already the third part administrator (TPA) but was now operating their own pharmacy.  Even though I already had a Catamaran account I had to register for Home Delivery service.  Once I did that I was supposed to be able to see any prescriptions that had transferred over.  There weren’t any 🙁  That meant I needed a new prescription.  I had a mid-morning appointment and did not want to spend time “holding for the next available representative” so I decided to take care of this task tomorrow.

Linda called last Friday and arranged to have our curbside trash pickup resume this week.  Wednesday is trash pickup day, so the trashcan had to go out by the street this morning.  (We don’t have curbs here, so I can’t say we took the can to the curb.)  The last two years Alchin’s has come past our house around noon.  While we figured that would probably be the case again this year we did not want to risk missing the truck, so Linda took it out early.

Linda is the treasurer of SLAARC, our local ham radio club based in South Lyon, Michigan.  The club’s bank (First Merit) is there and she needed to make a deposit.  I was headed that general direction so I took it with me.  The deposit made, I headed on to Chuck Spera’s bus garage in Novi, MI.  Chuck and Barbara have the same model Prevost bus that we do only one year newer and converted by Liberty, so fancier than ours.  Like us, they spend a lot of time in it, and, like us, there are always projects to be done.  Some of those, in turn, require some discussion.

I met Chuck at his shop at 10:15 AM and had a look at his turbo boost sensor intake manifold pressure hose.  It appeared to be intact but old a frayed like mine was.  The one on our bus failed on the drive out to Quartzsite, AZ in December 2014.  Changing his hose would be more difficult than our as is chassis batteries are in the passenger-side engine bay and make access to that side of the engine much more difficult than in our bus.  We have been using the same mobile mechanic for the last few years but he has found longer term employment and cut back on the mobile servicing of Prevost chassis.  I indicated to Chuck that we really needed to find someone locally who is in business at an accessible location and plans to continue as such into the foreseeable future.  He suggested that we take a drive to Johnie’s in Walled Lake, so that is what we did.

Denny was not there (Johnie was his dad) but I got to see the place and now know where it is.  We drove back to the Panera in Novi for lunch and then back to Chuck’s shop which is nearby.  By 2 PM we had not only solved all of the world’s problems we had made good progress on unraveling the mysteries of the universe.  Wanting to leave something for the next conversation I headed for home leaving Chuck to ponder the mysteries of the bus, which are far more baffling than the mysteries of the universe.

I drove home on Grand River Avenue (GRA) to avoid WB I-96 and the I-96/US-23 interchange construction.  I bought gas at the Wixom Meijer’s and found out 20 minutes later that I had paid way too much for it ($2.59/gal).  The BP station in Brighton had regular for $2.29 and the Shell station closest to our house had it for $2.44.  Bummer.  I passed a First Merit Bank on the south side of GRA just west of Old US-23 in Brighton.  Not right around the corner from our house, but a lot closer than South Lyon.  There is also a Jeep dealership there.  We are interested in getting a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we just don’t like the prices we are seeing.

Our Amazon shipment arrived with the two filter cartridges for the under sink housing in the bus and other things.  Hopefully the delivery to the wrong address on Monday was a one-time thing.  I had been trading phone messages with Gary at BCM and finally got through to him this time.  I then curled up with the new B&H catalog which made it feel like Christmas in April.

Linda made a potato lentil ginger curry for dinner and it was very good.  I had planned on revising the FMCA Education Survey and sending it out this evening but I was simply not in the humor to go back downstairs.  I think my retirement motto is going to be “there is always tomorrow, and if not, it didn’t matter anyway.”  Linda had to get up early tomorrow morning to beat the traffic headed into Detroit so we went to bed earlier than usual.

2015/04/30 (R) Steel

Linda set her alarm for 5:45 AM.  The purpose of her alarm is to wake me up so I can wake her up.  It worked as planned and she got up and got ready to go to the bakery while I went back to sleep.

I finally got up at 8:30 AM.  I’ve been busy since we got home but also a bit tired and feeling the need to just unwind from our exciting winter out west.  After breakfast I called the Internal Medicine clinic at the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi to see if I could get my doctor’s nurse to get my doctor to write me a new prescription for my nasal spray.  Naturally I never got to talk to the doctor or a nurse, but the youngish sounding lady who handled the phone call was very helpful, up to a point.  She really wanted to schedule me for an appointment and was not quite piecing together that my prescription, which is for a maintenance drug, is only good for one year but my doctor only needs/wants to see me every other year.  I don’t expect the new script to be a problem, but that fact that my MPSERS health care plan changed mail-order prescription providers as of January 1st may add a wrinkle.  I’m not due for a physical until the fall but I will go sooner if needed to get my script.  Which reminds me, I need to schedule my annual appointment with the dermatology PA.

I focused on making some last minute corrections to the FMCA education survey and shipped it off.  I got an e-mail back from Diane Wolfe with some questions.  She is not a member of the FMCA education committee but she and husband Brett did review and comment on it.  The questions were interesting and answering them gave me a chance to explain some technicalities and cc: the FMCA Executive Director as they were as much for his benefit as hers.

I had several e-mails back and forth with Kate regarding productions at Meadowbrook Theater and an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), all of which sounded interesting.  Our social life is less active at home than on the road so we welcome such opportunities.

I had a phone call from Mike at Rocket Steel Buildings following up on an inquiry I made.  He sent me a brochure and a price.  It was something but not exactly the quote I was looking for.  I still need to follow up with SteelMaster Building Systems and get to work on drawings for the wood-framed basilica design.

I compiled my blog posts for April 21-25, 2015 after finding the one for the 24th.  I had e-mailed it from my iPad but it never arrived.  I e-mailed it again and it bounced back.  The spam blocker even said it was from a white listed sender (me!) but rejected it anyway.  Huh ???  I sent it a third time to two addresses, one of which was not attached to our domain, and it came through to both accounts, naturally.  I guess this was one of the mysteries of the universe that Chuck and I left unsolved yesterday.  Anyway, I finally got it, finished compiling my posts, and uploaded, tagged, and published it.

I also had several e-mails back and forth with Lou Petkus regarding the SKP Photographers BOF and website.  Gary sent me a link to a document in his Dropbox with photos and audio files from an interview he did for a featured bus article that never got written.  I agreed to take a look at it and see what I can do.

I managed to get more things off of the bus, including bedding, and did two more loads of laundry.  I do not like to do more than two loads a day as it over taxes the septic system.  Someone rang the front doorbell, the second time this week.  This time it was Kaylie, Aaron’s sister, from next door.  For the second time this week UPS delivered a package, correctly addressed to me, to the wrong address.  I was concerned this would happen and Linda said I was a pessimist.  Apparently we were both right.

I called the local UPS store but the only thing they could do was give me the national 800 customer service number.  I am a pessimist (just ask Linda), so I was not looking forward to that experience, but I called and fought my through their voice menu system.  It did not include an option for my situation (of course) and I finally just kept saying “agent” until the system gave up and connected me to a real person.

“Chelsea” was apologetic, even though she had not personally done anything wrong, because that’s what customer service people are trained to do.  I think someone, somewhere, once upon a time figured out that apologizing diffuses customers who are upset.  Well, it doesn’t.  And assuring me that it “won’t happen again” is equally meaningless when it comes from a person who is not in a position within the organization to make such a statement.  But Chelsea verified my name and address and the incorrect delivery address and said she took careful notes and would make sure they got to the right person.  I hope so.

What is perhaps most frustrating is that UPS has a local distribution center in Howell, and I have the address, but it is not open to the public except for limited package pickup hours.  In other words, the mistake is being made by a driver who is most likely operating out of that location, or by someone scheduling the routing, but there is no customer support person or facility manager that I can talk to, face-to-face, and resolve this at the point of origin of the problem.  We buy a lot stuff now through Amazon Prime, and it all gets shipped via UPS, so having it delivered anywhere other than to our house is a problem.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery at 5 PM and heading to Kathi’s.  They were going to have dinner at La Marsa in Farmington Hills and give the I-96 traffic a chance to subside before she finished the drive home.  I had some of the leftover potato barley ginger curry for dinner and then called Phil Jarrel to remind him that we are still trying to figure out how to put up a bus barn and still want him to do the site prep and driveway.  I then called Butch to see if he was able to locate the front brake drums for their MCI MC-9 NJT bus.  He was, and already had the driver side front reassembled.  I responded to a couple of e-mails and filled out an online RFQ for SteelMaster Building Systems and went to bed.

 

2015/02/07-11 (S-W) In and Around Q

2015/02/07 (S) Bouse, AZ

We got up around 8 AM, got cleaned up, and had coffee and granola.  Linda then cut my hair, which seems to be a once every 4 to 6 weeks thing when we are traveling.  Butch and Fonda went to Yuma to meet up with Bell, Bell’s daughter, and Bell’s three grand-daughters.  Bell’s daughter was in Yuma with her Roller Derby team and the family came along.  We wanted to get out and do some more sight-seeing and decided to drive to Bouse, Arizona.

Cholla "teddy bear" cacti at Quinn's Pass on the road to Bouse, AZ.

Cholla “teddy bear” cacti at Quinn’s Pass on the road to Bouse, AZ.

Bouse is a small town located in the next valley to the east of Quartzsite, which sits in the La Paz valley.  It is on AZ-72 at the eastern end of Plomosa Road.  The western end of Plomosa Road is at AZ-95 seven miles north of the city limit of Quartzsite.  The first three miles of Plomosa Road heading east from AZ-95 runs through the BLM Plomosa Road STVA.  The road is paved its entire length and provided a fun and scenic drive out to Bouse and back.  We stopped at Quinn Pass to read the historical marker and ended up going on a short hike.  We have wanted to do this little trip ever since friends told us about it, but today provided an added incentive to finally go; the Parker 425.

The Parker 425 is an annual off-road race in the desert east of Parker, south of the Buckskin Mountains, and north of Bouse.  The course is a little over 140 miles in length and the race consists of three loops for a total of 425 miles.  It begins and ends at the Bluewater Resort and Casino in Parker.  Last year’s winner completed the race in just over seven hours.  That’s an average speed of 60 MPH, and there are plenty of curves and bumpy areas where it is not possible to go that fast, so the vehicles are really moving every place they can.

When we got to AZ-72 we crossed the highway, drove three short blocks, and made a left on Swansea.  I could see from the GPS that it was a paved road that continued in a northeasterly direction.  I had looked at a map yesterday and had a general sense that one of the spectator areas was out that way.  We did not have to drive very far before we saw Jeeps and ATVs parked on top of a big hill all facing the same direction.  We drove past the turnoff for that area and just around the hill was a large parking area full of cars and RVs.  The dirt road was closed, the Fire Department was set up there, and there was a checkpoint for the race.  I found a place to park and we got out to check out the action.

We stayed long enough to see a dozen different vehicles pass through the checkpoint and I shot photos from several different vantage points.  There are different classes of vehicles, but the ones we saw were of two types: highly modified small pickup trucks, and custom built off-road racers known as “grasshoppers” because of their long shape and the suspensions allow them to “bounce” over bumps in the road.

View looking NW from the Quinn's Pass area between Quartzsite and Bouse, AZ.

View looking NW from the Quinn’s Pass area between Quartzsite and Bouse, AZ.

The air temperature was pleasant but the sun was very hot so we drove the short distance back to Bouse, stopped at AZ-72, and quickly scoped out the town.  We spotted the Coachman Restaurant just northwest of the intersection and drove over there to have lunch.  We each had a garden salad and iced tea, and I had French fries.  We can pretty much count on lettuce and potatoes in any restaurant we visit.

Bouse was founded in 1908 as a mining camp but as a waypoint between Phoenix and Parker it now survives on tourism, agriculture, and retirees.  Measuring 10.1 square miles at 947 feet ASL with 996 residents (2010 census) the area enjoys sunny skies year-round.  We saw RVs of all types throughout town and in the dessert along Plomosa Road which is all BLM land.  There were also quite a few RVs in the Bouse Community Park.

We drove back to Quartzsite the way we came, a distance of 30 miles, because the only other ways back were via Parker (64 miles) and Phoenix (at least 250 miles).  Linda wanted to walk through the Tyson Wells market area one more time as this is the last weekend for the Craft Show.  We bought a cute hand puppet that we think grand-daughter Madeline will find very interesting.  We drove over to Barry’s Breads to get a loaf of his Barry’s Basic Bread but he was not open.  In fact, it looked like he was done for the season.  Activity really has slowed down here and he is presumably getting ready to move to his next venue.

We stopped at the Road Runner Market and bought a loaf of French bread and some red grapes.  We then drove to the Quartzsite Cemetery to take photographs of Hadji Ali’s (Hi Jolly’s) gravesite, which is marked by a small pyramid with a silhouette of a camel on top.  As long as we were there we wandered around the rest of the cemetery, which was an interesting and well-kept place.

Once we were back at the coach Linda sat outside and read while I transferred photo files from my camera to my computer and backed them up to our NAS.  I then continued selecting and processing images from yesterday’s outing to KOFA NWR Palm Canyon.  I was starting to work on the images from today when Linda cane in and started making dinner.

She decided to make “Mustard Greens and Beans” using Great Northern beans.  In addition to the usual onion and garlic, it had vinegar, a little sugar, and honey mustard.  It was very tasty and we agreed it was a keeper.  She served sautéed green beans on the side, cut up some of the French bread, and poured a couple of glasses of Franzia Refreshing White wine.  Sliced fresh strawberries and cookies for desert completed the meal.

Butch and Fonda got back from Yuma while Linda was cooking.  I gave Butch a call after dinner to discuss our TireTraker systems.  He needs to charge their monitor this evening and I asked him to check on the behavior of the LEDS on the 12/24VDC plug.

As we do most evenings, Linda read and played online word games while I worked on this post for a while and then resumed editing photos on my computer.  I checked e-mail again and had several regarding the upcoming Freethinkers gathering at the Liar Peg Leg Smith Monument boondocking area near Borrego Springs, California.  One of them posited the question of how often Friday the 13th occurs?  I did a quick online search and the answer appeared to be 1 to 3 times per year and every 12/7 or 1.714 times per year, on average.  That is 171.4 times per century or 1,714 times per millennium.  I posted that back to the e-mail reflector and went to bed.

Rocks and flora at Quinn's Pass, AZ.

Rocks and flora at Quinn’s Pass, AZ.

2015/02/08 (N) Another Meetup

I was up at 7:30 AM this morning and got the coffee made right away.  Linda did not sleep well last night but got up as soon as she smelled the coffee.  Breakfast was toast and preserves.  I was planning on putting in a long day at my computer and Linda was planning on doing laundry and some work for the bakery but our plans changed before we got started.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Lou and Donna Rice of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter indicating that they were at Mile Marker 2 on Plomosa Road.  We drove right past them twice yesterday on our visit to Bouse but had no idea they were there.

Plomosa Road is about seven miles north of Quartzsite on AZ-95.  We left at 10 AM and were parked next to their Jeep before 10:15.  We sat and talked for four hours before returning to our coach.  As soon as we got back I took our TireTraker monitor and charger over to Butch’s coach.  We tried our charger on his monitor and it worked fine.  We then tried his charger on our monitor and it did not work.  Between our four devices it was clearly our monitor that was defective.  I will have to call Darryl Lawrence tomorrow and see what we can figure out.

We each had a pear, some red grapes, and something to drink.  Linda gathered up laundry and I got to work editing consolidated blog posts.  In between loads she sat outside and read.

Fonda had two Poblano peppers she got at the Farmers Market on Wednesday and gave them to Linda.  Linda found a recipe for stuffed grilled poblanos.  The stuffing was white rice, scallions, black beans, tomatoes, vegan sour cream and cheddar cheese, and cumin.  It resembled Mexican rice but with a creamy/cheesy dimension.  She cooked the stuffed peppers on Butch and Fonda’s little grill and cooked the extra stuffing on our cooktop.  She served the dish with Clementine orange wedges and a glass of Franzia Refreshing White wine to make an outstanding meal.

After dinner we sat outside Butch and Fonda’s bus enjoying the cool desert night air and watching the lights of airplanes flying overhead.  It eventually cooled off enough that we returned to our coach where I continued to work on blog posts and Linda worked on the bakery accounting.  She eventually went off to bed and I uploaded survey items to the FMCA Education Committee folder in our Dropbox and sent an e-nail to the committee.  We have a committee work session tomorrow at 4 PM EST (2 PM MST).

Vehicles positioned east of Bouse, AZ to watch the Parker 435 off-road race.

Vehicles positioned east of Bouse, AZ to watch the Parker 435 off-road race.

2015/02/09 (M) A Bright Idea

Butch called around 8:20 AM to let me know that our light bulb order was at the Post Office awaiting pickup.  He and Fonda were headed to the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club for a day-long class on faceting, so he gave me the parcel slip so I could go pick up the package.

While we were eating breakfast it suddenly occurred to me that we should visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West while we are camped near Tucson next month.  Linda went to the website and discovered that it is in Scottsdale which is a northern Suburb of Phoenix and is closer to Quartzsite than it us to Tucson.  We selected a couple of possible dates and she went online to get tickets.  The “Behind the Scenes” tours are only done on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.  She tried to get tickets for Monday February 16 but they only had one left.  She called but they would not sell us two tickets.  We waited way too long to think of this and painted ourselves into a corner so it may not happen on this trip to the southwest.

I drove to the Quartzsite Post Office after breakfast and retrieved the package, only my second trip to the Post Office to transact business since we arrived in Q.  The first trip was to sign up for the P. O. Box.  Linda usually takes care of the mail while she is out walking and Butch usually checks the P. O. Box, which is at a different location that is not quite as convenient a walk from our camp as the main building.  We have not used the P. O. Box very much, but it has been invaluable when we have.

I worked most of the day on some of my blog posts for December 2014.  I took a break around 12:30 for a bite of lunch and then called Daryl Lawrence and left a message regarding our TireTraker TT-400C monitor which appears to not be recharging.

The Parker 425 checkpoint east of Bouse, AZ.  This race is a BIG deal with fire, EMS, and helicopter coverage.

The Parker 425 checkpoint east of Bouse, AZ. This race is a BIG deal with fire, EMS, and helicopter coverage.

Gaye Young called around 1:30 PM to make sure I was going to participate in the FMCA Education Committee work session at 2 PM.  (Gaye is the chairperson of the committee.)  There were only two items on the agenda and I had to give the status report on both of them.  Our work sessions and meetings are conducted by telephone conference.  They usually last an hour and today was not an exception.  If committee members provide me with additional input this week regarding an education survey we are developing I will have some work to do the last two weeks of the month in addition to working on articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, completing some minor repairs on the bus, finishing the cleaning/waxing of the exterior of the bus, and cleaning/waxing the car.

I managed to upload consolidated blog posts, including some photographs, for December 5 – 8, 9 – 12, and 13 – 16, 2014.  I did not take very many photos while we were traveling but once we got settled in Q I got the camera out and started using it.

I got a call back from Jeff at TireTraker support.  I explained what the monitor was (not) doing and he agreed to mail me a new one along with a new charger.  We will return the defective one to Daryl at Escapade next month.

Linda cooked up a couple of Tofurkey brand vegan Italian sausages with sweet onions and sweet red bell peppers and served some broccoli as a side dish.  After dinner I removed my bulbs from the Bulbtown shipment and checked the quantities and prices against my spreadsheet.  I then took the remaining bulbs over to Butch.  He had ordered 10 #4003 bulbs to use in his bay fixtures and realized when he saw them that he should have ordered #4004s.  Both are 24VDC bulbs but the #4003s have a single contact base whereas #4004s have a double contact base.  I think my bay light fixtures may take #4003s.  I will check tomorrow and if so I will buy them instead of Butch.

We sat outside with the lights off enjoying a glass of wine while watching the long lingering sunset backlight the mountains to our west.  As the sunset faded we looked at the stars and watched aircraft lights moving east and west high over the desert.  It still cools off here after the sun sets but not as quickly, nor as dramatically, as it did just  a week ago.

I combined the blog posts for December 17 – 20, 2014.  I had selected and processed photos for this post earlier so it was ready to upload at 11 PM but I did not want to go through the process at that late hour.  I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then went to bed.  A short time later Jasper threw up a large quantity of food so I had to get up and deal with that.  It looked like it had some hair mixed in with it, but I don’t know if that was the root cause.

2015/02/10 (T) Deionized

We were planning on heading to the Peg Leg Monument boondocking area on Thursday, spending the night in Indio, California and visiting Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) on Friday before driving home Friday evening.  Ken Harrison from the FMCA Freethinkers indicated that he and Linda would not make it to Peg Leg until Friday.  That prompted us to consider flipping our plans, doing JTNP on Thursday and Peg leg on Friday.  Either way we will stay in Indio as we already have reservations at a motel.

The Polaris RZR ("razer") was one of the most popular 4-wheel ATVs in and around Q.

The Polaris RZR (“razer”) was one of the most popular 4-wheel ATVs in and around Q.

We had another stay-at-home day relaxing while getting things done.  Linda was going to drive to Blythe for groceries, but decided to go on Sunday as we will be away from camp all of Thursday and Friday and much of Saturday.  She is going to see if the Farmers Market is still operating tomorrow morning.  If not she will stop by the Road Runner Market.

As has been our pattern recently Linda went for a long walk (5 miles) while I continued to work on blog posts.  We had a light lunch when she returned.  I then called Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, Michigan and ordered six pounds of roasted coffee beans to be shipped to us here in Q.  We are approaching the midpoint of our snowbird season and are almost out of the five pounds of coffee we started with.  Jeff is going to roast two pounds each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff, Sweet Seattle Dreams half-calf, and Cafe Europe Blend half-caff.  He will let it out-gas for a couple of days and then vacuum seal it in one-pound portions and mail it to us in a USPS flat rate box that will go to our P. O. Box in Q.  That should be enough to get us home even if we do not get there until late April.

Butch is always looking out for us and trying to help us spend our retirement dollars so he sent me a link to a portable two-tank water de-ionizing system that is available from RVupgrades.com.  The system is intended for washing/finishing cars and RVs as de-ionized water has had all of the dissolved minerals removed and does not leave spots on surfaces when it dries.  It is not, however, considered suitable for drinking.  The two tanks are plumbed in series and use special resin beds that have to be replaced when exhausted rather than recharged.  The first tank removes cations and the second removes anions, leaving the water completely deionized.  The cations are the positively charged ones typically “removed” by water “softeners”, such as calcium, iron, and magnesium, through ion exchange with sodium.  The anions are the negatively charged ones that water softeners typically do not remove, including fluoride and sodium.  The dual tank system is about 33% more expensive than a single tank portable water softener, but given the time, expense, and frustration I am experiencing trying to clean and wax our motorcoach I am seriously considering ordering one tomorrow.

I uploaded two consolidated blog posts yesterday and another one this afternoon.  I consolidated the posts for December 21 – 26, 2014, selected and processed the photos, and then took a break to sit outside and just enjoy the weather.  No book, no iPad, no computer; just ahhhh.  It was 78 degrees F with 19% relative humidity, a steady breeze from the northwest, and a hot sun shining through absolutely clear blue skies.  Linda and I agreed that it was the most perfect weather day we have had so far this winter.

Linda had some seitan ‘mock’ beef in the freezer that she heated in a saucepan and served with basmati rice accented with soy sauce.  Very simple but very tasty.  After dinner I uploaded the December 21 – 26 consolidated blog post along with 12 photos, entered all of the tags, and published it.

I got an e-mail yesterday from Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia asking if we would be interested in previewing/testing another new website.  I said ‘yes’ and she responded with the URL for the development site.  When I was done with our website I went to the new one and created an account.  I got an activation e-mail, clicked the link, and was able to login.  I spent an hour looking around the site and captured my impressions and suggestions in an e-mail back to the development team.  I took a few minutes to investigate portable water deionizers but by then it was too late to get involved in any serious research so I went to bed.

2015/02/11 (W) Update This!

Hi Jolly's (Hadji Ali's) gravesite in the Quartzsite Cemetary; allegedly the most visited place in Q.

Hi Jolly’s (Hadji Ali’s) gravesite in the Quartzsite Cemetary; allegedly the most visited place in Q.

Linda’s cell phone rang just before 8 AM.  It was Barb.  She and Jim were up, dressed, and had the golf cart out and ready to go to the Farmers Market.  When we mentioned it yesterday Barb said she wanted to go and Linda indicated that it was open from 8 AM to noon.  Somehow that got translated into leaving at 8 AM to go to the market.  Linda, being a good sport, got up, got dressed and walked over about 8:15 and said she was ready to go.  No breakfast, no coffee, just the “git er done” spirit of the old west.  I stayed behind and got the coffee ready to brew when she returned.  I then got to work on computer stuff in the true “git er done” spirit of the new/virtual west.

They returned from the Farmers Market around 9:30 AM.  Linda bought another Romanesco brocciflower, some Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, and oranges.  To our delight Barry’s Breads was also there and had a few loaves of Barry’s Basic Bread.  He told Linda he will be around, at least at the Wednesday Farmers Market, through the end of this month.

As much as I would like to have de-ionized water available for rinsing the coach as I wash it, I decided not to speed hundreds of dollars without first doing deeper research into the available technologies and their life cycle costs.  I had enough other stuff to do today that I did not want to make time to dig into this new topic.

Linda saw a photographers vest at the Salvation Army resale store the other day but did not buy it as it was $15, pricey for the SA, and she wasn’t sure it would fit me.  We drove over to the store to see if it was still there.  It was, and it was too small for me.  It also had a defective zipper.  For a moment I thought we were going to have to buy it so I could take it home and cut it off.  I managed instead to pull it off over my head like a t-shirt and Linda was then able to get the zipper undone and put it back on the rack.  This was my first time in the store so while we were there I found two pairs of shorts for $2 each, a third pair for $0.50, and a lightweight, lined, waist-length London Fog jacket for $0.25.  Linda found a white hand-held mixer with two beaters for $4.  Deal.

When we got back Linda called the Prince of Tucson RV Park and made a reservation for the evening of Thursday, March 5th.  Lou and Val Petkus will already be there and this will allow us to caravan into the SKP Escapade at the Pima County Fairgrounds first thing Friday morning.   By coming in together we will be able to park together which will make our staff photography work more convenient.

My computer indicated that it had a large number of updates to install; 34, to be exact.  It was a 334 MB download so I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and switched my computer over to it.  The Mi-Fi is much faster than the Wi-Fi and I find that with large downloads the faster I get them done the more likely they are to complete successfully.  When those were done downloading and installing I had to restart my computer to finish the installation.  I also had an updated driver available for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor, so I downloaded and installed that.

 

I figured that if I had updates for my computer Linda would have them for hers.  I switched her computer over to our Mi-Fi and checked for updates.  She had 20 recommended and 4 optional.  I selected all 24 and the download was 980 MB.  That’s a lot of updates so I started it and let it run.  As always, finishing the installation required the computer to be rebooted.  When it restarted her computer the screen was once again functioning normally.  Go figure.  She also had an Adobe Creative Cloud update so I started that.  It failed at the 29% point so closed it and restarted it.  The second time it ran to completion.

Linda needed to work at her computer so we both sat at the dinette table and did our respective computer things.  She brought our financial records up-to-date in Quicken and I compiled and then uploaded a consolidated blog post for the last six days of December 2014.  I had e-mails going back and forth with some of our fellow FMCA Freethinkers regarding the Peg Leg gathering and ended up joining the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  I’ve meant to do that for a while and the electrons finally aligned just right this afternoon.

Hi Jolly's pyramid gravesite marker is a State Historical Site.

Hi Jolly’s pyramid gravesite marker is a State Historical Site.

Somewhere during the course of the afternoon we had sandwiches for lunch and snacked on dried fruits and nuts.  Kathi Slater called to check on Linda’s travel arrangements, after which I made popcorn.  Linda borrowed a small cooler from Butch and Fonda for our 2-day trip to California and back.  Fonda came over to go through the chores involved in caring for the cats while we are away and Linda gave her a set of keys to the bus.

I had seen a quick notification from the RV Internet Resource Center (Mobile Internet Aficionados membership website) that WiFiRanger had finally released their new firmware upgrade for the WiFiRanger Mobile.  Using my iPad as the control panel I switched our WFR-MT from the Wi-Fi/DSL connection to our Verizon Mi-Fi.  Again, I wanted to make sure this upgrade got downloaded as quickly as possible through the most reliable connection we have.  The download was reasonably quick but the installation took quite a while.  My iPad eventually lost contact with the WFR-MT and I just left it to finish and went over to visit with Butch and Fonda and Linda.  We came back to our coach when their dinner was ready and the WFR-MT firmware upgrade had finished installing successfully.  I switched the connection back to the Wi-Fi/DSL that we get to use as part of our “rent” while we are here.  I switched our laptops back to our internal Wi-Fi network and then shut the Verizon Mi-Fi off to let it recharge.

Neither of us was very hungry after snacking late this afternoon so Linda sliced the remaining tofu and pan-seared it.  She caramelized onions, added BBQ sauce, and served it open faced over the tofu.  After dinner Linda made a list of things we needed to take tomorrow while I made a final check of e-mail.  I e-mailed Lou Petkus to let him know that we were booked into the Prince of Tucson RV Park for March 5th.  I sent a message to Curtis Coleman via RVillage to accept his invitation to boondock in his driveway and see if March 3 and 4 would work for him.  He phoned back to confirm that it would be OK and then sent his address via TXT message.  I also had an e-mail from Kate de Fuccio and replied to that.  I checked for updates and my computer had several more to install so I started that process.  I checked Linda’s computer but she did not have any updates pending.  Although we got a lot of other things done today it felt like I had mostly dealt with computer updates.  Update days are often like that and you cannot schedule them because you never know when Microsoft is going to drop a big ‘update bomb’ in your lap.

Linda went to bed around her usual time.  I turned in shortly thereafter and much earlier than I have been.  We plan to get up at 6 AM tomorrow, have a light breakfast, finish packing for our trip, and be on the road at 7 AM.  We will stop at Albertson’s in Blythe, California for some water, ice, and other snack items to get us through the day to dinner at Native Foods in Palm Springs and give us something to eat on Friday while we are at the Peg Leg gathering.  Albertson’s opens at 6 AM PST, which corresponds to our 7 AM MST departure time.  We should arrive at the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park around 7:30 AM PST which will give us a good, long day to explore the park.

 

2015/02/06 (F) KOFA NWR Palm Canyon

 

Palm Canyon Road entrance to KOFA NWR.

Palm Canyon Road entrance to KOFA NWR.

I slept in until 8 AM, got up, put on my sweats, and made a pot of coffee.  While that was brewing I turned the TT-400C TPMS monitor on and then adjusted the pressures in the four car tires and checked the passenger side steer tire on the bus.  Based on the temperatures it was reporting the monitor appeared to not be picking up the six rear tires on the bus so I plugged the PressurePro repeater in.  It is mounted in the passenger side rear corner bedroom cabinet and Darryl Lawrence said it should work fine with the TT-400C monitor.  Consumer TPM Systems all operate on the same frequency of 433.92 MHz and the repeater just receives, amplifies, and retransmits signals on that frequency.  The sensors have a unique digital identity and send out an encoded digital signal; that’s how the receiver/monitors know which signals to display and ignore the rest.

Linda in the parking lot at the mouth of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

Linda in the parking lot at the mouth of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

After a breakfast of juice and cinnamon raisin oatmeal Linda went for a walk while the air temperature was still cool.  I stayed at the coach and dumped the holding tanks, made up our mixture of a bottle of PineSol with an equal amount of water and a cup of Calgon bath beads.  Shake until dissolved and add ~60% to the black tank (via the toilet) and the other 40% to the gray tank via the bathroom and kitchen sinks, including the In-Sink-Erator.

 

 

 

 

The beginnng of the Palm Canyon trail, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The beginnng of the Palm Canyon trail, KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

With my chores done I recorded the dump in our notebook and then added the information to our Water Usage spreadsheet.  According to the spreadsheet and our notebook it had been 19 days since we last emptied the waste tanks.  I knew that wasn’t possible as we normally dump every 9 to 10 days when we are in normal water usage mode, and Marilyn was here for the first half of that interval.  Clearly we had forgotten to record a dump 9 or 10 days ago.

 

 

The north wall farther into Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall farther into Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

 

I finished working on some additional draft items for the survey the FMCA National Education Committee wants to send out.  I sent them to the committee chair (Gaye) and the member whose items I was revising.  We have another phone meeting on Monday and I wanted to get these items out to the committee by tomorrow so the members have time to look at them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got an e-mail from Gary at BCM last night advising the editor that I was doing an article on Quartzsite for the February 2015 issue and would have it done by the end of next week.  I e-mailed him back last night and then wrote it this morning and e-mailed it to him and Mike, the editor, for review.  Although I am no longer employed, I sometimes still work better against a deadline.

Deeper into Palm Canyon approaching the 1/2 mile mark.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Deeper into Palm Canyon approaching the 1/2 mile mark. KOFA NWR, AZ.

After cleaning and waxing the bus and spending a lot of time sitting in front of our computers we wanted to get away from camp and do some sight-seeing.  The repair we had done yesterday to the passenger side rear tire on our car seemed to be holding so at 2PM we headed for the King OF Arizona (KOFA) National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Palm Canyon area about 20 miles south of town.

A lone palm backlit high up on the south wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

A lone palm backlit high up on the south wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

This seemed like a good spot to stop and let Linda take my picture for a change.  Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

This seemed like a good spot to stop and let Linda take my picture for a change. Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

Palm Canyon is an enormous slot in the Kofa Mountains.  The canyon is aligned ENE to WSW opening to the WSW so we figured the best light would be in the mid-to-late afternoon.  To get there we drove south out of Quartzsite on US-95 about 19 miles to Palm Canyon Road and then east for seven miles on a good gravel roadway.  Good is relative, of course; it took as long to drive the 7 miles as it did the 19.  The trailhead is at the end of the road, which is the beginning of the canyon.  There are also several areas just off the parking/turnaround designated for tent camping, and it would be a spectacular place to pitch a tent.  The last mile or so of the road climbs more than you realize until you get to the parking area and are treated to a sweeping view of part of the La Paz Valley that stretches for over 100 miles from Parker on the north end to somewhere north of Yuma on the south end.

 

Looking WSW back out of Palm Canyon at the La Paz Valley.  The trail climbs it goes deeper into the canyon.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Looking WSW back out of Palm Canyon at the La Paz Valley. The trail climbs it goes deeper into the canyon. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

There they are!  The fan palms of Palm Canyon high up in a shaded crevice on the south wall of the canyon.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

There they are! The fan palms of Palm Canyon high up in a shaded crevice on the south wall of the canyon. KOFA NWR, AZ.

The trail is a 1/2 mile hike into the canyon near the floor but to the south of, and above, the central drainage wash.  The canyon is named for the California Fan Palm trees that grow there; the only naturally occurring Palm trees in Arizona.  There is lots of other vegetation in the canyon, however, and the palms are a bit elusive.  About a half mile in there is a small wooden sign with an arrow pointing up to the left at a 45 degree angle.  All the sign had on it was the word “PALMS.”  And there they were, way up in a narrow crevice.  Mind you, some of the trees in this main grove have trunks that are 20 inches in diameter, but the canyon is a big place and the trees are far away from where we were standing.  The only wildlife we saw up close were small lizards about 3″ long, 6″ with their tails.  We heard and then saw a bird soaring high above the southern edge of the canyon but could not tell what it was.

 

Delicate colors on the north wall of Palm Canyon in the late afternoon sun.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Delicate colors on the north wall of Palm Canyon in the late afternoon sun. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

The light was nice hiking in and got better and better as we hiked out.  The trail climbs quite a bit from the parking area, but not steeply in any one place.  We took our time and I took a lot of photographs.  By the time we got back in our car the sun had slipped behind the Dome Rock Mountain Range that defines the western edge of the La Paz Valley.  We had nice colors in every direction but without any clouds we did have a particularly photogenic sunset.  By the time we got back to US-95 it was approaching 6:20 PM and we needed our headlights even through the glow along the crest of the mountains continued almost all the way back to town.

Looking back into Palm Canyon as we hike out.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Looking back into Palm Canyon as we hike out. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

 

Linda made a green salad with fresh tomatoes and blueberries, dried fruit, and nuts and dressed it with Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette.  She heated up a couple of tortillas and used them to make a quesadilla-like thing with Daiya (vegan) cheese, tomato slices, and jalapeño pepper slices.  We had a small glass of Franzia Refreshing White wine with dinner and had red grapes for desert.

 

 

Before we left for our hike I had unplugged the power supply from my ASUS notebook computer to let it cool off.  It seems to me that it runs hot.  I plugged it in when we got back and had a notification on the screen that the computer needed to be restarted to complete the installation of updates.

 

The only wildlife we saw up close in Palm Canyon.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

The only wildlife we saw up close in Palm Canyon. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

The north wall at the entrance to Palm Canyon in the glow of sunset.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall at the entrance to Palm Canyon in the glow of sunset. KOFA NWR, AZ.

I decided to check my e-mail first and had a couple from Gary, so I called him after we finished dinner and we chatted for about an hour.  It sounds like the article I sent him this morning on Quartzsite 2015 won’t run until the March issue, so that will give me a little more time to select and process photos, experience more things here, and possibly extend the article a bit.  In the meantime Gary is going to have Stacy proofread all of the articles that are ready plus the one I just sent.

 

 

My ASUS laptop keyboard appears to be functioning correctly again so I was reluctant to restart my computer, but the message said it would restart in one day on its own anyway.  I guess there’s no time like the present to find out if the machine has a problem.  It finished whatever it was it needed to do, powered down, and restarted without a hitch.  I then copied all of the photos from our canyon hike to the computer and NAS and started looking at them.  I processed a few and then went to bed.

 

2015/02/01-05 (N-R) Another Month in Q

2015/02/01 (N) Hola February

Yesterday would have been an excellent day to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus—cool and cloudy without a lot of breeze—but it was also an excellent day for the inside computer work that we both needed/wanted to do.  I downloaded the free version of the Simple:Press forum WordPress plug-in the day before yesterday and was going to make a priority of installing it today on the FMCA Freethinkers website I have been developing until the activation of the Jetpack Site Management feature caused the admin panel (app) to crash.  We have had a problem for a while with one member who was unable (or unwilling) to interact appropriately online via our e-mail reflector.  The reflector does not require a login and does not have any way to moderate discussions or block/remove posts, so our options as a chapter were very limited.  A WordPress-based forum would give us all of those features.

I had an e-mail reply from support@ipower.com indicating that the Wordfence plugin had caused the problem.  They needed the answer to the security question in order to authenticate my support request and fix the problem. Bob Pelc provided me with that information which I supplied back to ipower.com.  Later in the day I got an e-mail indicating that the problem was resolved and I was, in fact, able to log in without any problems.  The e-mail said the Wordfence plugin had caused the crash and that they disabled it, but after I logged in it was still activated.  I did not, however, take the time to check if it was functioning correctly.  I also did not install the Simple:Press forum at this time.

For breakfast Linda improvised a potato tofu scramble with nutritional yeast, garlic, and other seasonings.  It was a hearty and flavorful start to the day.  After breakfast I called Jim A. back to discuss the FMCA seminar listing categorization document we have been working on.

I settled in to work at my computer on the consolidated blog post for November 10-16 while Linda settled in to work on accounting for the bakery.  She is also approaching the time of year when she has to pull tax returns together.  She uses Turbo Tax and needs an updated version each year.  The products she needed were on sale through Amazon Prime.  She purchased and download them, which also placed them in her Amazon software library, and they installed and opened without a hitch.

I got an e-mail from Harvey Carter (AC8NO), president of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC), asking me to update the officer listing on the club website.  I took care of that and also changed that contact form (Contact Us page) to e-mail him instead of former president Mike Sharpe (WX8H).

By 2:30 PM I was tired of sitting in front of my computer so I changed into my work clothes and spent an hour trying to clean and wax a couple of windows on the bus.  The passenger side, which faces south, was so hot I cloud not touch it for very long, so I worked on the north side in the shade.

Jim/Flo L. and Jim/Barb B. disassembled the Select Comfort air mattress we had put in the park model trailer and divided up the parts.  We were going to donate it to the Salvation Army but did not get it done fast enough.  Jim B. would like the pump and controllers but Butch and Fonda need them to replace the defective unit on the mattress in their guest bedroom.  Since that is where I sleep when I am there, it is in my best interest to give it to them.

We invited all of our neighbors to come over for happy hour at 4 PM.  Barb B. came over with a glass of wine at 4:20 PM, so I poured a glass for Linda and me.  Jim B. was taking a nap as were Butch and Fonda.  (Hey; retirement is hard work!).   Butch and Fonda eventually shook the cobwebs out and came over.  Jim and Flo L. arrived but busied themselves with dinner preparations.  They were joining Jim/Barb B. for a belated Christmas dinner.  Jim B. eventually awoke and Barb left to join the other three for dinner.  Fonda left just before 6 PM to go to church but returned a few minutes later.  Apparently the evening service had been cancelled because of the Super Bowl.  She and Butch visited as the sun set and eventually it got chilly enough that we all decided to go inside.

I e-mailed Chuck Spera and my long-time friend John (J. C.) Armbruster earlier in the day but had not gotten responses from either of them by bedtime.  During the evening I had e-mails going back and forth with Steve Willey regarding the upcoming informal FMCA Freethinker gathering at the Liar Peg Leg Smith Monument boondocking area in Borrego Springs, California.  I also e-mailed Jim Ellmore regarding the same event.

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona.

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona as seen from our campsite on the north end of town.

2015/02/02 (M) Market Day

The last 24 hours have brought into focus why we are here for the winter.  It will be sunny and 80 degrees F today.  Detroit got 16.7 inches of snow from the storm that hit over the weekend, with 12 inches in Ann Arbor and similar amounts in Dexter, Howell, and Brighton.  When we checked this morning it was 7 degrees at home and going up to a high of 14.  Yeah, we are not missing that.

Breakfast was the bland store-bought bulk granola we have had to eat since running out of Linda’s homemade granola some weeks ago.  I wish we could carry a five-month supply of her granola; it’s that good.  Right after breakfast Linda started putting together menu ideas and a shopping list while I reviewed the latest seminar listing from Jim A. and e-mailed it back to him.  He called later to discuss it briefly.  I started working on yet another consolidated blog post for 17-23 Nov 2014 and did that until I could not stand to sit any longer.  The antidote for was go outside and work on cleaning and waxing the rear cap of the bus.

Butch and Fonda left around 9 AM and drove to Parker to go shopping at Wal-Mart.  Back home they shop at the Wal-Mart in Logansport and are familiar with the items there.  Not long after they left Linda drove to Blythe, California to do our grocery shopping for the week.  Of the supermarkets available to us we prefer the Albertson’s in Blythe, followed by the Smart & Final Extra at the same intersection.

Butch and Fonda returned from shopping and so did Jim and Barb.  Butch asked if I had ordered the coil for the MAC solenoid air valve that controls the a-c shutters behind the front bumper.  I hadn’t, so I took a break from cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus and called MAC Valve to order a replacement coil for the 111B601BAAA solenoid valve.  (I still have the old valve but I do not think I have it with us in the bus.)

Jim L. stopped by with some very fresh grapefruit and we got to talking about automotive detailing.  He recommended Finesse from 3M for polishing paint without leaving marks.  He said it works so well that the paint looks “wet” when you are done.  Butch had also suggested that I look at the Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  Apparently this machine can finish paint with no swirl marks.

The FMCA Freethinker website /WP-admin/ panel was back up and running.  I logged in and checked the plugins.  They were all there but they had ALL been deactivated.  Tech support at ipower.com had indicated that they were going to disable the Wordfence plugin.  I re-activated most of them, but not all, and specifically did not re-activate the Jetpack plugin.  It is a large, feature rich plugin and the only thing I use is the Carousel feature to manage native WordPress image galleries.  Unfortunately I need that feature and have not found another plugin that does what I need.

I worked for most of the evening on the consolidated blog post.  By the time I finished it was too late to start selecting and editing photos, so I will do that tomorrow if I have time.

2015/03/03 (T) Wax On, Wax Off

I knew there was something else I was supposed to do yesterday, but I could not remember what it was.  I sometimes put “tasks” on my calendar, but that does not help if do not check it.  I remembered this morning what it was; I needed to call Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon, Michigan and follow up on an e-mail I sent last Thursday regarding our order for personalized SLAARC jackets.  I made that call and Pam took our credit card information.  Barb handles sales but had not made it in yet due to the snow.  Sunset Sportswear was closed yesterday because of the storm so if I had remembered to call them it would have been for naught.  Things often work out like that.

I also got an e-mail from the Escapees RV Club regarding the upcoming Escapade rally.  It indicated we could extend our stay until Sunday noon.  I called Lou Petkus, the head staff photographer for the Escapade, to let him know.  The rally ends on Thursday with normal departure on Friday and staff departure on Saturday.  Lou is trying to arrange a photography field trip for Saturday so the fact that anyone can stay until Sunday should help with participation.  I called the SKP headquarters and booked the extra night.

I confirmed which RV Park Lou and Val will be in on March 5th and I think we will try to get in there as well.  That location will position us close to the rally venue and allow us to caravan in together and park together.  (We have to be in by 11AM on the 6th.)  That, in turn, should make our staff photography work more convenient.  We plan to hang out (dry camp) with RVillage founder Curtis Coleman for a couple of nights before this at his rental home near Casa Grande, which will put us a lot closer to Tucson than we are here in Quartzsite.

We had also mentioned to Lou and Val at Quartzfest that we were thinking of heading to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument after the Escapade.  They had been discussing it and decided they would like to go there as well so we will probably caravan there with them.  After OPCNM we plan to head to Big Bend NP (BBNP) in Texas and Lou and Val would also like to go there.  That is a three day drive for us, and we may take six or seven days to get there depending on where we might stop and what there is to see long the way.  Whether we travel together or separate will be determined later.  Our friend, Mara, and another women from the WINs are also headed to BBNP sometime in March and we have tentatively agreed to meet up with them if we can work out the timing.

I checked my e-mail and had a reply from Jetpack tech support at WordPress.com. “Happiness Engineer” Jeremy said that Wordfence has been known to cause issues with the Jetpack plugin.  He acknowledged that Wordfence is a powerful and important plugin but can be very aggressive in protecting websites.  Given that Wordfence appears to have caused the crash of the FMCAA Freethinkers WordPress /WP-admin/ Jeremy said I probably did not need to reinstall the Jetpack plugin.  I filled out a support ticket yesterday for this issue on the Wordfence website as I have a premium (paid) membership.  They acknowledged the support ticket right away but an actual response will likely take longer.

I had all of these communications chores done by 11 AM and decided to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  I started with the rear, as it was still in the shade, and finished the lower half.  It was tedious as that is the engine hatch and it has numerous horizontal indentations that run the full width.  These indentations are open on the inside top for airflow and have screens to keep things from getting in (like fingers).

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

I continued on around to the driver side of the bus which faces north.  The temperature this afternoon got up to 80 degrees F, and it was very hot in the sun, but it was pleasantly cool in the shade of the bus.  It was near perfect conditions for the work I was doing.  I worked most of the afternoon and did not quite get the back half of the bus cleaned and waxed.  A couple of bay doors and I will be past the half way point on that side.

I am going to try to work on this at least a few hours every day, otherwise it will never get done and this is an ideal place to work on it as long as I am not working in the sun.  The south facing passenger side is going to be more of a challenge and I will have to limit my work to the morning before the body panels heat up.

UPS showed up today with my coil for the MAC valve which turned out to be an entire new valve.  Rather than try to remove the solenoid coil I may just install the whole valve.  UPS also brought Fonda’s new sewing machine.  It only weighs 13 pounds.

Butch got back from a rock hunting field trip late in the afternoon and we stood around chatting as an amazing sunset developed around us.  As I have mentioned before, sunsets here are often 360 degree events and this one surrounded us with color before finally fading into another starry night.

Linda made a wonderful dish for dinner last night and we had it again this evening.  She pan-grilled polenta and served it on a bed of dark leafy greens topped with puttanesca sauce made from scratch.

After dinner I selected photographs for my November 17 – 23, 2014 blog post and processed them.  I uploaded the text to our WordPress site and then uploaded, captioned, and integrated each photo in turn.  I also had to enter all of the tags, which I figure out as I read through the post.  If there is one thing I would like to have at this point it is the ability to highlight key words and phrases in my Word document and have them automatically become tags when the text is uploaded.

By the time I published the post and went to bed to finish this one it was midnight.  At eight minutes after midnight MST I was one hour into my 63rd year as I was born on this date at 00:08 in the Central Time Zone, where eight minutes past midnight happened an hour ago.

2015/02/04 (W) 63 and Counting

I finished my blog post for yesterday late last night and e-mailed it to myself at eight minutes after midnight, the hour and minute of my birth, or so I have always been told.  Linda and the cats were all asleep and I observed the moment in quiet solitude.  As I noted at the end of yesterday’s post I was actually an hour late in my observance as we are currently in the Mountain Time Zone and I was born in the Central Time Zone.  But it was the thought that counted.

Sixty-three is not a milestone birthday anniversary, other than making it that far.  On my 60th birthday I became eligible to retire, and did so four months later.  On my 62nd birthday I became eligible to start drawing social security, but didn’t.  On my 65th birthday I will become eligible for Medicare.  The year I turn 66 Linda will apply for Social Security benefits and immediately suspend them.  I will be eligible for my full Social Security benefit but will not apply for it.  I will apply for the spousal benefit instead.  Our monthly Social Security benefits continue to increase by 8% per year until age 70, a solid and guaranteed return, so Linda will start taking her benefits then and I will file for, and take, my benefits when I turn 70.

Having thought through the complexities of birthdays, we had breakfast and then I got to work cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  My plan was to finish the driver side but not spend all day at it.  As it turned out, I spent most of the day at it, taking breaks to check e-mail.  It is just slow work, especially since so much of it has to be done on a step ladder.  I have no idea how many trips I made up and down that ladder, but it was a lot.  It is only a seven foot step ladder so I have to stand near the top to reach the top of the sides which are over 12 feet from the ground.  I cannot reach very far to the side either, so I work from one side of the ladder then climb down and climb up the other side and work from there.  I then climb down and move the ladder about three feet and do it all again; over, and over, and over.  But as Long as I keep going it eventually gets done.  I am, however, seriously considering getting a Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  There is simply too much bus to do this by hand.  I am also considering getting a platform to put between two ladders and/or a four-wheel elevated work platform to use in the barn if/when we get it built.

I got a call from our daughter wishing me a happy birthday and had a nice chat with her.  I asked if Katie had made a final college selection but she is not done with interviews yet.  Perhaps we will know in a few weeks where she is headed in the fall.

Yesterday Linda invited all of our camping neighbors to come over today at 4 PM for happy hour to celebrate my birthday.  In preparation she spent part of the day making cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  When she wasn’t cooking she did accounting and tax return work for Butch and Fonda.  Around 3 PM she prepared bruschetta using what was left of a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread and the puttanesca sauce she made a couple of nights ago.  Larry/Sandy, Jim/Barb, and Butch/Fonda all brought chairs and beverages of their choice.  Butch and Fonda brought chips, salsa, and hummus and the peanut and dried fruit mix they make.  We sat around talking until the sun set at which point the air temperature cooled off and we all retreated to our rigs.

I got a call from our son during our happy hour and excused myself for a few minutes to chat with him.  It was 7:40 PM back in Ann Arbor and Madeline was getting ready for bed.  I got to “chat” with her and she wished me a happy birthday.  With encouragement from her mom she asked me “How is Arizona?”  I told her it was very nice here.

We skipped lunch today and did not have dinner because we filled up on happy hour snacks.  Linda played online word games while I started assembling the consolidated blog post for November 24 – 30.  She turned on the MiFi and trundled off to bed to watch an episode of Downton Abby on her iPad.  I finished editing the post and selected two photos to go with it.  When I checked I found that I did not have photos for most of the days covered by the post.  I thought about uploading it but decided against it as it still takes time to upload the text, upload and insert the pictures, and create all of the tags and I was too tired to maintain the needed concentration.  Somewhere in there I read through a reply from Chuck Spera and sent him the next volley in our e-mail conversation.

Overall it was a good 63rd birthday.  Given our winter travel lifestyle I face the interesting prospect of celebrating my birthday somewhere different every year for many years to come.

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour.  L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me.   Photo by Linda (not shown).

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour. L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me. Photo by Linda (not shown).

2015/02/05 (R) A Screwy Tire

The overnight lows are now dropping into the upper 40’s at night and the coach cools off just enough that I turn the heat on in the front of the bus while I make coffee in the morning.  Soon enough the sun starts heating up the coach and we are pulling the accordion shades down to keep it out and opening windows and turning on ceiling exhaust fans to draw cool air in.  A couple of days ago we finally put the awnings out on the south facing passenger side of the coach.  Between the patio awning and the bedroom awning they shade more than half of the upper portion of the coach and help keep the interior temperatures in check.  We have not had them out much, however, because of the somewhat persistent winds in the La Paz Valley.

After breakfast I wanted to setup the TireTraker TT-400C TPMS.  Once I started I would need to install the sensors on all 13 tires.  In order to install the sensor on the spare tire in the car I had to empty out the back so I could get to the tire.  Linda was helping me and noticed a screw in the passenger side rear tire.  It was right at the edge of the tread but not technically in the side wall.  The tire was holding pressure but when I started to back the screw out it started to hiss so I screwed it back in.  Nuts.

Linda got online to look for tire repair shops in Quartzsite.  The first three numbers we tried were out of service and the Love’s Truck Stop only repaired big tires, not small ones, so I called Jim Liebherr to see if he knew of some place in town.  Flo answered the phone and could not locate Jim so I asked for a return phone call.  Butch then offered to drive me downtown where he thought he remembered seeing a tire shop.  As we were pulling out of our camp it occurred to Butch that the RV Pit Stop, just south of us on Central Avenue, might do tire repairs.  Before we even got that far we saw the sign for Best Auto and Tires.  We have walked or driven past this place dozens of times but never paid any attention to the fact they sold and serviced tires.  At the time we did not care.

They said they would have to see the tire so we drove back to camp and I drove back in the car.  They said they could repair it properly with an internal patch and they would get right on it if I wanted to wait for it.  $14.  Deal.  I could easily have walked back to camp from there but I was back with the car within an hour.  If the tire had not been repairable we would have had to take it off the car and use Butch’s Chevy Suburban to drive it to Yuma or Lake Havasu City where there are Discount Tire Locations.

Jim L. returned my earlier phone call while I was waiting for the tire.  He and Flo use a dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico and are very satisfied with the service and price.  I have a tooth that is bothering me just a bit and was giving some serious consideration to making an appointment with someone in Los Algodones.

I installed the batteries in our new TT-400C sensors and programmed the baseline pressures into the monitor (receiver).  I then installed the sensors on the bus and car tires, linking each one to the monitor as I went.  Programming the baseline pressures first is the easier way to install the system.  In setup mode the monitor displays each tire position in turn.  While the position is displayed a sensor is screwed onto the valve stem.  The application of pressure to the sensor “wakes it up.”  When the sensor starts transmitting the monitor associates it with the displayed tire position.  After exiting setup mode only the programmed tire positions display on the monitor.

In addition to the overall setup procedure there are several things I like better about the TT-400C system compared to the PressurePro system we have had since the 2008 FMCA national rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.  A major one is that the baseline pressures are programmed into the monitor.  On the PP-TPMS the baseline pressures are determined by the pressure in the tire at the time the sensor is put on.  Another thing I like is that the TT-TPMS monitor is powered by rechargeable batteries and is not plugged in when in use.  That makes it much more convenient to move it between the bus and the car, but especially to carry it around while installing and associating the sensors to wheel positions.  Finally, I like the sensors, which are much smaller and only weigh 0.4 ounces each.

Linda helped me reload the back of the Element and sort through all of the “stuff” that was “stuffed” in the glove box and the passenger side dashboard trays.  (When was the last time someone actually stored gloves in an automotive glove box?).  With everything sorted out and repackaged in ZipLock bags I stored it back in the glove box and locked up the car.

Linda spent part the morning working on accounting and tax returns for Butch and Fonda and talking on the phone to Dave, the controller at Metropolitan Baking.  I got a call later from Jim Ammenheiser and then did a final proofreading of our Education Committee recommendation to FMCA staff for how to restructure the categorization and listing of seminars and activities in the national rally programs.

We took a break and had the last two cupcakes from yesterday with some vegan Mocha Almond Fudge coconut “ice cream.”  We were supposed to have these last night for my birthday but we were not hungry after snacking at the happy hour birthday gathering.  Linda then went for a walk.  Linda got me a birthday card and a towel with an elastic edged hole for my head.  I tend to get food on my shirts when I eat and the towel is basically an adult bib that can be easily laundered.

Our fresh water tank was a bottle cap shy of empty so I filled it.  It usually takes about 50 minutes to fill the tank starting from empty so I set the timer on my smartphone for 40 minutes.  When it signaled me to check on the progress the tank was already overflowing.  (It has a vent tube on top of the tank that runs through the floor of the bay.)  I don’t think I wasted more than a few gallons of soft water so it should not throw my water usage and softening calculations off by much.  The good news was that the post-fill hardness test showed the water coming out of the softener at 0.0 to 0.5 gpg total hardness (0 to 10 ppm.)  That was better than the reading I got right after I recharged the softener, so perhaps it still had some residual salt in it initially.

At 4 PM I was getting ready to upload a blog post when the UPS truck showed up and dropped off two boxes for me.  It was the Chemical Guys microfiber products I had ordered recently, including two microfiber auto detailing aprons.  Butch returned a few minutes later with a small package for me.  It was the lens hood I had ordered for my Sony zoom lens and it had been mailed USPS.  He also had eight (8) Full River 6V L16 AGM batteries.  I helped him unload them from the Suburban onto the concrete pad on the driver side of their bus.  Fonda emptied out the driver’s side of their battery bay and she and I then moved the batteries to the bay where Butch positioned them.  He left them in their boxes and will install them when they get back to Twelve Mile.

At 5:15 PM I finally got around to uploading the consolidated blog post for the last week of November (2014).  I then started thinking about what to do with my December 2014 posts.  As of today I am still 67 posts behind and putting up daily posts is not realistic.  In looking through my photos I was surprised to find that I took very few from the time we left the house until we arrived in Quartzsite.  I decided to do consolidated posts for Dec 1 – 4 (Twelve Mike, IN to Alvarado, TX), 5 – 8 (visit with Donn Barnes), and 9 – 12 (travel from Alvarado to Quartzsite, AZ).  I have more pictures for the rest of the month, so I will have to figure out what makes sense.  I compiled the posts for December 1 – 4, selected and processed one photo, uploaded it, selected the categories, and entered all of the tags.  I posted it and then realized I wanted to edit the URLs slightly so I logged back in and found that I was unable to type anything.

It took me a while to figure out that the problem was the built-in keyboard on my ASUS G750JM ROG notebook computer.  I got it at the end of April last year, so I have only had it for eight months.  I decided to run a full scan using ESET Smart Security since I could do that with just a mouse and the Bluetooth mouse was working just fine.  It found 18 threats and dealt with 16 of them.  I then ran CCleaner, after which I enabled the onscreen keyboard.  Although intended for use on touchscreen computers, at least I could type things into a search box using my mouse.

I found some references to similar problems on answers.microsoft.com with the suggestion to examine the keyboard device properties.  If it indicated the device was installed and working correctly it was probably not a Windows 8.1 problem.  The other suggestion was to try an external keyboard.  If that worked it would confirm a keyboard hardware problem.  I had already gotten my Gigaware wireless keyboard out so I plugged in the USB dongle, turned on the keyboard, and voilà, I could type again!

Another post on the Windows forum listed website links for ASUS support so I started following those.  One ASUS website wanted the serial number of my computer, which I had to get off of a tag on the bottom of the case with really small type.  Once I had that entered correctly I was able to go to a download page with 81 files available, including bios and chipset code.  There were two files that seemed to have something to do with the keyboard.  By 1:15 AM I had a half dozen tabs open in two different browsers with no definitive understanding of what had happened or what to do to fix it.  I then realized that the Shift Lock key on the keyboard was illuminated and I could toggle it on and off.  I could also toggle the Number Lock, so I tried typing and the keyboard was working once again.  That, however, did not give me any confidence that it would continue to do so.  I decided I was not going to shut the computer down for fear of not being able to log back in on startup.  I was not about to start downloading and installing anything at that hour so I went to bed tired, annoyed, and, frankly, a bit discouraged by this unwelcomed turn of events.