Category Archives: Indiana

Posts related to our RV-related travels in Indiana.

2015/11/13 (F) Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/12 (M) Countertops Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/20 (N) On To CCO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/19 (S) Rally Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/18 (F) RBus Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/17 (R) Counter This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/16 (W) CSD to GLCC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/15 (T) Coach Supply Direct

We were awake at 6 AM and I planned to be on the road in the bus at 7 AM but it did not work out exactly that way.  For starters, I needed to take a shower.  Next, I really needed a haircut, which Linda does for me.  Along the same lines I needed to shave.  Another factor was that it was still darker at 7 AM than I wanted to drive in.  We also had last minute things to assemble and load such as toiletries, technology, shoes, hats, sunglasses, baskets and bags full of essential incidentals, as well as design drawings for the custom woodworking in the coach.  We were close to being ready for me to pull out at 8 AM but I still needed to check the tree limbs that hang out over the road near our house.  Good thing I did; many of them had grown down and were less than 13’6″.  How did we know?  We set the extension handle on the pole saw so that the length from the bottom of the handle to the tip of the saw blade was 13’6″.  Anything that touched the blade got trimmed.

I finally connected the chassis batteries, turned on the engine air accessories valve, and fired up the bus engine at 8:15 AM.  Linda helped me check the exterior lights, all of which were OK.  I pulled out at 8:25 AM and worked my way slowly down our street and was able to maneuver so as not to scratch the sides.  I had not driven north on Hacker in some time.  The road was in very bad condition and I thought the glass tubes in the new light fixtures would not survive the first, short leg of the trip.  Two of the kitchen cabinet drawers came open, which they do not normally do.  Linda had taped the refrigerator doors closed so they stayed that way.  The new pull-out pantry stayed closed and so did all of the drawers on the new desk.

Once I was on M-59 the trip was much smoother but not without some bumpy road sections along the way.  I-69S between Lansing and I-94 in particular is a surprisingly rough road.  I thought about stopping at the rest area on I-96 westbound just before Lansing but was anxious to make up for the late start.  The bus rolled along easily at 68 MPH without the car attached.  The difference between towing and not towing is subtle but I am aware of it.  The bus alone accelerates a little faster and stops a little easier.  It is also 20 feet shorter than the bus/car combination which makes it easier to pass and merge.

I stopped at the rest area on I-69 southbound just north of I-94, as that would be my last convenient opportunity to do so, and called Josh at Coach Supply Direct to update him on my travels.  I continued south on I-69 intending to exit at Coldwater and head west on US-12.  I was paying attention to the truck in front of me and realized a few seconds too late that I had missed the exit.  I drove three more miles to the Fenn Road exit and headed back north towards Coldwater.

Once I was on US-12 westbound, a road I have driven many times, the trip was uneventful until I got west of Sturgis.  MDOT was rebuilding several miles of the highway between Sturgis and White Pigeon and had the road down to one lane.  I was the first vehicle to arrive at the flagger so I figured I was in for a wait.  I did not check the time but the delay was at least 20 minutes.  I called Josh and updated him on my location and ETA.  Bring first in line made the wait easier as I could see what was, and wasn’t, happening.  Eventually it was our turn to go and I got to lead the parade except for a truck hauling dirt who they let go ahead of me.  That was just as well; he was in a big hurry and quickly disappeared from site, traveling at what I considered to be much too high a speed for the conditions.  All traffic was being routed on the eastbound lane and shoulder and I had to drive straddling the rumble strips to keep from knocking my fillings loose.

I finally made it to Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg just after noon.  I had talked to Josh on Sunday about how best to get the bus into his place.  Following his advice I continued past M-62 to Cass Street and turned left.  Cass merged into Elkhart Road and shortly thereafter I turned left into the fenced property where his business is located.  Josh had described where other motorhomes were parked and where he wanted me relative to them so I was able to get the bus situated without assistance, another advantage to not having the car attached to the back of the bus as I could back up as needed.  Josh came out of the building as I was shutting down the engine.

Josh has several guys working with him at the moment; Jim, Tyler, and Tim.  The first task was removing the remaining pleated shades from the side windows and installing the new MCD shades.  Jim is very knowledgeable about MCD shades and was the lead installer.  The shades are very nice and will be more functional than the old ones.  The automatic retract speed was still a little fast on some of them and might need to be adjusted but that is a minor thing.

While the guys worked on the shades Josh and I looked at the new seats and discussed the larger set of tasks that needed to be accomplished.  I was very pleased with our choice of fabric and how the seats turned out.  The only apparent glitch was that the slide rails for the two captain’s chairs for the living room had come without the actuator handles.  Josh made some phone calls and arranged to pick up the needed parts first thing tomorrow morning.  We also measured for the Corian desk top and contacted his supplier regarding that.

I needed something to eat and drink and since the coach was being worked on I walked across the street in search of nutritional sustenance.  I walked past the Taco Bell and had my sights set on the McDonald’s (French fries and a diet Coke) when I spotted the Subway, which was closer and offered better food options for me.  I had a Veggie Delight Chopped Salad, chips, and a diet Coke.  I dined in, refilled my drink, and then walked back.

A view of the cockpit of our bus with the old Villa pilot and co-pilot/navigator seats removed.  This shot is from the living room looking forward.

A view of the cockpit of our bus with the old Villa pilot and co-pilot/navigator seats removed. This shot is from the living room looking forward.

Tyler is an experienced automotive technician and was the main guy responsible for removing the two Villa chairs from the cockpit area.  He unbolted the 6-way power mechanism from the swivel pedestal but left it attached to the seat.  With the seats out of the bus he removed the 6-way power base from each one and installed it on the corresponding new Flexsteel seat.  There was more to this mounting than just tightening a few bolts and he was not quite done by the time he had to quit for the day.  The controls still had to be mounted, the wiring connected, and the seats installed in the bus.

 Josh (R) confers with Tyler (L) as he is working on getting the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator seats ready to install.

Josh (R) confers with Tyler (L) as he is working on getting the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator seats ready to install.

Since all of the seat prep work was being done on a work surface in the building I took advantage of the access I had to the cockpit area.  I borrowed a scraper and scrapped off small fragments of carpet.  I borrowed a spray bottle of Spic-n-Span and cleaned the swivel pedestals.  I discovered a small piece of paper blocking the lower left HVAC nozzle and removed it.  I also discovered that the fresh air damper was not buried deep in the front end of the coach like I thought it was.  The lever by the driver’s left knee, which has been so difficult to operate, actuated a short cable that controls a damper just to the left of the steering column below the dash.  I was able to use two cable ties to secure some wire bundles out of the way of the damper allowing it to open wider and to open/close more easily.  I finished by borrowing a small shop vac and vacuuming up all of the loose material I had created.

The old 6-way power bases being attached to the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator captains seats. The new seats came with new controls that Tyler had to mount and wire.  Both seats also included lumbar support air bladders with their own air pump as part of the seat.

The old 6-way power bases being attached to the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator captains seats. The new seats came with new controls that Tyler had to mount and wire. Both seats also included lumbar support air bladders with their own air pump as part of the seat.

I borrowed a piece of 3/4″ plywood about four feet long and put it across the two pedestals of the desk to make a temporary work surface.  I got the folding chair out from under the bed, along with my computer and iPad, and got the “desk” set up to use my computer.  I tried to get photos with my camera of the different aspects of the project throughout the day.  I also took seven pictures with my smartphone and sent them to Linda’s smartphone so she could see the progress.  Josh’s wife stopped by to check on his schedule and I gave her a tour of the remodeling project.

A view of the bottom of the two new Flexsteel “class C” captain’s chairs for the passenger side of the of the living room with one of the slide/swivel bases and its seatbelt attachment bar.

A view of the bottom of the two new Flexsteel “class C” captain’s chairs for the passenger side of the of the living room with one of the slide/swivel bases and its seatbelt attachment bar.

I got our Verizon Mi-Fi online, connected my iPad to the Wi-Fi Ranger, connected the WFR to the Mi-Fi, and then started my computer and connected it to the WFR.  I checked my e-mail and there was one from RVillage regarding a new group feature, group home page feeds, and asking that group owners post to their group home page feeds and create an announcement for the group that would notify everyone in the group of the new feature.

As long as I was in RVillage I created a new private, non-searchable group called RVIG (for RVillage Investors Group) and invited Curtis, the founder/CEO of RVillage, to join.  He accepted and I private messaged him, which prompted a phone call that resulted in me transferring ownership of the group to him.  He wanted to change “Investors” to “stakeholders,” which I agreed was a better term.  It also turns out that an a priori “friend” connection is needed to invite someone to join a group and Curtis was the only person who would have such a connection with all of the RVillage stakeholders.  I always thought that Curtis should create and manage this group but he has so much on his plate that sometimes it’s easier if someone else initiates something and then hands it off to him.  I was glad to be the catalyst in this case.

It was another long day but I spent a relatively small percentage of it on my hands and knees, or on my back looking under the dashboard, which I have not been physically able to do in until today because of the very confined space in front of the driver’s seat.  I brought one of our folding Zip Dee chairs inside and set it up on the passenger side of the living room so I had someplace comfortable to sit and use my iPad.  I spent several hours finishing yesterday’s post and writing today’s post.  All four of the seats are supposed to be installed tomorrow morning and I should be on my way to Elkhart Campground by noon.  Linda plans to leave between 11AM drive down in the Element with the cats.  She should arrive about 3-1/2 hours after she departs from the house by which time I should have the bus parked and hooked up.

 

2015/08/19 (W) If It’s Wednesday This Must Be Indiana

 

As we did last Wednesday we were up earlier than usual to drive to Indiana.  We wanted to be at Bontrager’s Surplus when they opened at 9 AM to pick up some battery terminal covers for Butch, and possibly ourselves, so we pulled out of our driveway at 6:16 AM.

We took our usual route west on M-59 to I-96W to Lansing Road south.  Rather than get on I-69S we stayed on Lansing Road all the way to Charlotte where we stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee to use the restroom and get coffee and bagels.  From there we then took I-69S to Coldwater and headed west on US-12 since Bontrager’s Surplus is located on US-12 in White Pigeon, Michigan.

We arrived at Bontrager’s Surplus just after 9 AM.  We looked around briefly but did not spot the battery terminal covers so we asked one of the employees where they might be and he took us directly to them.  We bought 36 (18 red and 18 black), 10 of each for Butch and 8 of each for us.  Bontrager’s is probably the best stocked of the surplus and salvage stores in this area and I could have spent hours here, but we had other places to be and a long day ahead of us.

Our shopping done we continued on to Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan where we found Josh Leach hard at work on some interior remodeling of a Fleetwood Revolution.  He removed the Notion Linen sample from his Lambright Comfort Chairs book and we chatted for a while.

I reflected on fact that one of the nicest Class A motorhomes we ever saw was a Fleetwood Revolution.  The interior was a (faux) cherry wood with satin finish nickel hardware.  It had modern, clean cabinetry and light grey wall treatments and a light tile floor with nickel colored inserts, as best I can recall.  We eventually toured the American Coach factory in Decatur, Indiana where the Revolution was made and after seeing some of the construction methods we were less enamored with it.  Like all of the American Coach products it was out of our price range as a new unit but it was very much to our taste.

Before continuing our Journey Linda pulled up Jarel’s address in our GPS.  I then texted Jarel to give him a revised, and more accurate ETA.  We headed southwest out of Edwardsburg on M-62 which becomes IN-23 through Granger.  We turned onto IN-331 which bypasses most of Mishawaka east of town and delivered us to US-20 where we headed west.  We stopped at the Meijer’s, which has a filling station, fueled the car, and switched drivers.  We exited US-20 just south of South Bend, Indiana and headed south on US-31.  We exited US-31 at Rochester and took IN-25 south to Logansport.  I texted Jarel an updated ETA enroute.

We arrived at Jarel Beatty Cabinetry at 11:45 AM and pulled around back.  I texted Jarel to let him know we were there and he came out of the shop to meet us.  We chatted for a while, loaded up the pantry, the slides, the three pieces for the built-in sofa that we forgot last week, a piece of walnut trim for the pantry face, and a leftover  piece of 1/4″ Baltic birch plywood.  Linda wrote a check for the balance we owed.  The only thing left for Jarel to build is the HVAC/wiring chase cover but he cannot do that until I give him the length, which I cannot do him until the desk is installed in the bus.

We left the cabinet shop at 1 PM and stopped at the Martin’s supermarket in Logansport for lunch.  This particular Martin’s did not have a salad bar but they did have pre-made salads.  We each had one along with a bread roll.  I called Butch to let them know we were on our way, and headed for Twelve Mile, Indiana.

I gave Butch the battery terminal covers.  He and I figured their cost ($1.25 each) covered the cost of the 12 fiberglass pole mast sections ($2.00 each) we took last week and called it even.

I brought the small window frame stop block from our bus to see if Butch could make one.  He had some aluminum bar stock that looked like it would work.  We decided to make it longer than the original to accommodate three machine screws and cut it to size using a band saw.  Butch then marked three points to drill holes using the old block as a template.  Two holes were drilled through and one end hike was blind.  The blind hole will fit over the shaft of the old screw that would not come out in case any of it is still protruding above the surface.  The middle hole will line up with other existing hole and I will have to drill and tap a hole in the frame to match the third hole.  But first I need to get some brown spray paint, put some sacrificial screws in the holes, and paint the piece.

While we were working on the stop block I noticed that Butch had a torque multiplier sitting out.  He commented that it was available to a good home for a good price; hint, hint.  These torque multipliers are used to break the lug nuts loose on bus and truck wheels and I have had one on my mental wish list since I first became aware of them five years ago.  I had not pursued getting one as they tend to be expensive even used on Ebay.  Butch wanted $75 for it so I wrote a check and put it in the car.  It has three different lug nut sockets so I hope one of them first the ones on our bus.  I also hoped they would fit the very large torque wrench I bought from Butch last fall but they are 1″ square drive sockets and the torque wrench has a 3/4″ square stud.  I’m not sure I have a correct socket for the torque wrench so that’s another thing I still need to get.

Butch and Fonda bought a compact stacked clothes washer/dryer for their bus and asked if we would help them get it into their rig.  Of course we said yes.  We got it on a dolly and wheeled it out to the entrance door and then pondered the situation.  We have some recent experience getting things out of and into a bus entrance door and this did not look promising.  Butch handed me a tape measure and I determined that the maximum width that would fit through the step well was 23.5 inches due to the door hinges.  The washer/dryer is 24″ wide and 28″ deep with a recessed back on the washer (lower unit).  It is also tall, being a stacked unit, and we all agreed that the only way it was going in was on its back, through a window, using a forklift.  It was Deja vu all over again; been there, done that, didn’t even get a T-shirt.  That approach required more preparation than Butch cared to tackle today, and more time than we had to spare, so we moved the unit back under the overhang and left it covered with a blanket.

We all went back in the house and visited for a while longer.  Butch had found his 4″ pneumatic body sander and loaned it to me along with three boxes of AA50 sanding discs.  While not quite as aggressive as the #36 ceramic grit belts I have been using on the 4″ portable belt sander, this tool will allow me to get under the cabinet toe kicks where the belt sander won’t reach.

As much as we would have liked to stay and go out to dinner again, we did not want to be getting home at midnight.  We wished them a safe journey, again, but this time it really is unlikely that we will see them again before they leave for Arizona.  We left for home at 4:45 PM with Linda at the wheel.  From SR-16W (CR-700N) we took CR-700 (Meridian) north to its northernmost point and headed west into Fulton on W750S where we picked up IN-25 and headed north.  At Rochester we left IN-25 and took US-31N to US-20W.  We exited US-20 at SR-19 and drove north through Elkhart, finally arriving at the Martin’s supermarket at CR-4 around 6:15 PM.  This Martin’s has an excellent salad bar and a nice dining area with an upstairs, which is where we chose to sit and eat our dinner.

Linda continued to drive after dinner.  There is an entrance to the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90) on SR-19 just south of CR-4 so we got on going east.  The toll road is a few extra miles compared to US-12 through Michigan, but it is posted 70 MPH (max) with no stops, compared to 55 MPH with six towns that have reduced speed limits and stops.

We exited the toll road, paid our $2.90 toll, and headed north on I-69.  A few miles later we were back in Michigan.  We left the Interstate at M-60 (exit 25) to refuel at the Shell station, use the restrooms, and switch drivers.  It was about 8 PM and still light, but it was cloudy to the west and the light was fading.  I find night driving easier than Linda does and I had been able rest while she drove so I was good to go.

I followed our usual route, leaving I-69N and using the Lansing Road cutoff to get to I-96E.  We passed mile marker 100 on the south side of Lansing, which meant we had 33 miles to the M-59 exit.  From there it was 11 miles to Hacker Road and then the final 2.5 miles to our house.

We arrived home at 10 PM, five hours and 15 minutes after we left Twelve Mile and just over 16 hours from when we left home this morning.  The trip odometer indicated 534.8 miles traveled today.  We unloaded the camera, phones, wallets, etc. from the car but decided to wait until tomorrow to unload the cabinetry, tools, and parts.  We headed off to bed and watched part 3 of a PBS program The Mystery of Matter:  The Search for the Elements.  Interesting stuff.  We both find programs that inform and educate to be entertaining.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN

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

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/07/21 (T) A Long Day

I was awake at 6 AM, and up shortly thereafter, even though I did not set an alarm.  I packed a change of clothes and a few toiletries and then gathered up my cell phone and iPad chargers, my iPad, and my checkbook.  I loaded the desk/pantry drawings and travel bag into my car and then did a temporary installation of the weBoost cellular booster.  I put the outside magnetic base antenna in the center of the roof and experimented with the placement of the inside antenna, eventually setting it above the passenger side sun visor facing down.  I backed out of the driveway at 7:05 AM and headed for Indiana.

I took Hacker to Golf Club to Latson with some thought of stopping at Teeko’s for coffee but decided to get some miles behind me first and proceeded to I-96 westbound towards Lansing.  I should have looked up the frequency for the Lansing area repeater, where Don runs a net Monday through Friday from 7 AM until at least 11 AM, but I didn’t think of that ahead of time.  I would also have had to figure out how to switch Mike’s Icom IC-2820H radio from memory mode to VFO mode.  Eventually I will, but not today.  Today was not about ham radio, it was about bus projects.

I took the Lansing Road cutoff to I-69 south and about 20 miles later took the Lansing Road exit at Charlotte.  I stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee not far from the highway and resumed my trip around 8:30 AM.  When Linda and I drove to Edwardsburg, Michigan to visit Coach Supply Direct on July 1st we discovered that M-60 was closed at Minden (between I-69 and US-131) and had to take a long detour.  Rather than risk having that happen again I headed west on I-94.  I had been playing with the cell phone booster but unplugged it and plugged in the Garmin 465T GPS instead.  I eventually saw that M-40 came all the way north to I-94 and decided to take it instead of US-131.

I had never been on this stretch of M-40.  The road was a good 2-lane at 55 MPH except going through small towns.  I drove through miles and miles of vineyards and eventually got to the charming (looking) little town of Marcellus where I discovered a large Welch’s plant.  I knew that a lot of the grapes grown in southwest Michigan ended up as Welch’s grape juice but I did not know where their processing plants were located.  Now I know where they have at least one.

When I reached the intersection with M-60 in Jones I stopped at the Shell station for fuel.  Regular unleaded was $2.52 per gallon which was better than I had seen so far during the trip.  Instead of continuing down M-40 to US-12 I put the address for Coach Supply Direct into my GPS and headed west on M-60 towards Cassopolis.  The GPS had me bypass Cassopolis by heading south on Calvin Center Road to Brownsville Road and then west to M-62 where I headed south towards Edwardsburg.

When I arrived at Coach Supply Direct it was locked up with no sign of Josh.  I called his 800 number and he answered, which I appreciated.  He was in western Pennsylvania heading home from a customer service call and said he could meet me at the shop after 4 PM.  We agreed that I would call him when I had a clearer picture of what time I could get back to his shop.

I left Edwardsburg and drove back on US-12 to Cassopolis Road which merges briefly with Old-102 and then becomes IN-19 (SR-19) in Indiana.  I stopped at Factory RV Surplus in Elkhart, which is on SR-19, to buy a special two-piece bracket for mounting the edge of a table to a wall.  I saw it on their website and luckily they had it in the store as well.

I proceeded south on SR-19 to US-20, went west to US-31, and took that south to the SR-25 exit at Rochester.  From there it was 22 miles to Logansport and a few more blocks to Jarel Beatty Cabinetry.  Jarel is a cabinet maker and a mutual friend of Butch Williams.  I have been talking to Jarel about the custom desk we wanted for the bus for several years and, more recently, about the pull-out pantry and HVAC duct and wiring chase cover.  The purpose of my visit was to deliver the design drawings for the desk and pantry and go over them with Jarel.  I got there around 1:20 PM and left around 5:50 PM.  After discussing the projects at length we agreed that I would change the design of the pantry so I did not leave those drawings with Jarel.  The Fulterer pantry slide had been delivered to Jarel so I took that with me as it turned out to be too wide for this project.

I set my GPS destination for Edwardsburg and it indicated I would arrive around 7:45 PM.  I called Josh to see if that would work for him and he said it would.  I headed north on SR-25 and then called Butch to let him know that I would not be able to stop and visit or spend the night.  That was probably just as well as he was in the emergency room when I called.  He had nicked his thumb in his table saw and was having it tended to.  I stopped at the Kroger in Rochester to buy some snacks for dinner and got a return call from Butch.

The drive to Edwardsburg was pleasant and took me on some more roads I had not driven before.  US-31 north to US-20 east was familiar territory but I exited at Elm Street (US-331 north) which bypassed the west side of Mishawaka and eventually took me up through Granger and onto M-62 in Michigan.  A few miles later I was at Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg where Josh was waiting for me.

I returned the Lambright Comfort Chair fabric samples and the MCD shade material samples (the reason for my visit) and we chatted for about 45 minutes.  Our new MCD shades had already arrived but I asked Josh to hang on to them.  We tentatively agreed that we would bring the coach to his shop on Monday September 14 to have the new chairs and shades installed.  The GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally starts on Wednesday the 16th in Elkhart and Josh offered to let us park at his shop the evenings of the 14th and 15th with 30A electric.

I left around 8:30 PM and started for home.  Again, the initial route was familiar as I took US-12 east to M-40 north, to M-60 and stopped at the Shell station in Jones for the second time today.  I then travelled east on M-60 to Three Rivers where I picked up US-131 northbound.  Rather than continue east on M-60, which I presumed was still closed at Minden, I stayed on US-131 all the way to I-94 between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.  On I-94 east I encountered a major traffic jam due to construction.  The highway was down to one lane and traffic was barely moving as people merged down and then gawked as they went past the very busy construction site.

The rest of the drive was uneventful and familiar as I left I-94 for I-69 north, stopped at the McDonald’s in Charlotte for coffee, and got back on I-69.  I took the Lansing Road cutoff to I-96 and rolled along eastbound to the M-59 exit on the far west edge of Howell.  Eleven miles on M-59 put me at Hacker Road and a few miles later I pulled into the driveway.  It was just after midnight when I arrived, about 17 hours from when I left, and I had put over 550 miles on the car.  I unloaded a few things from the car and then went straight to bed.

 

2015/07/12 (N) Mara Comes To Visit

When I shut down the bus yesterday I forgot to shut off the air supply to the engine accessories and turn off the chassis batteries, so I did that as soon as I got up this morning.  I then made coffee and we had our usual juice and homemade granola.  After breakfast Linda went shopping and I went to Lowe’s.  She picked up a lot of fresh vegetables at the Howell Farmers Market and finished up at Meijer’s.  I bought a 4-piece screw extractor set and then stopped at O’Reilly’s and bought two gallons of 50/50 pre-mixed universal antifreeze to top up the Aqua-Hot in our bus.  I stopped at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea and had them roast a pound of Sumatra Mandheling beans.  We have not tried these before but Mary thought we would like them.  They are not decaffeinated, but we try to keep a regular coffee bean on hand for company, after dinner, or when we want (need) the high octane in the morning.

Linda had been in contact with our friend Mara for the last few weeks so we knew that she might stop here on her way to the Canadian Maritime Provinces.  Late last week she confirmed that she would be here on Sunday so after our morning errands we turned our attention to getting ready for her arrival.  She lives/travels in a Fleetwood Bounder (Class A motorhome).  We saw it in Quartzsite, so we knew it was somewhere between 35 and 40 feet in length and that she does not tow a car behind it.  Yesterday we moved our bus so she could park on the level pad with easy access to our 50 Amp electrical hookup.  I cleaned up the coaxial cables that I had spread out all over the rec room floor and Linda vacuumed the carpets and wood floors and cleaned the bathrooms.  We keep a clean house but it is not always tidy as we are involved in a lot of projects at the moment.  But when company is coming we like things to a least start out tidy.

Mara was coming from Michigan City, Indiana so she only had 200 miles to travel.  Most of it would have been on Interstate highways but she decided to detour over to Three Rivers, Michigan to visit a Latvian community located nearby.  She finally arrived at our house around 2:30 PM.  We met her in the street and I directed her into her parking spot.

It’s always exciting, and a bit intense, to meet up with an RV friend and that was certainly the case here.  Mara had enjoyed her stop at the Latvian community even though she found them in church.  We had last seen her in Quartzsite, Arizona in February.  We had all had a lot of RV travel adventures since then, and it was also her first visit to our house, so we had lots to talk about.

Linda made bow-tie pasta with mushrooms, onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil pesto using basil that she grew on our back deck.  We had a simple green salad and Italian bread with the meal and enjoyed 1-1/2 bottles of the 2013 Egri Merlot between the three of us.  We sat on the deck enjoying the last of the wine until it cooled off and we went inside.  By 9 PM we were all tired but we insisted that Mara stay for fresh sweet cherries.  Rejuvenated by the cherries we all got our second wind and had a long conversation about RVs, cellular and Wi-Fi communications while traveling, and a cool routing app that Mara uses (MapMyPlaces).  By 11 PM we were all tired for real and Mara returned to her rig for the night.  It had been a long, but very satisfying, day for all of us.

 

2015/07/01 (W) Coach Supply Direct

We were up at 7 AM and left at 7:45 to drive to Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan.  On the out of town we stopped at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea for coffee and bagels to go.  The coffee was single origin Kenya and was very good.  We drink half-caff at home so I will check with Jeff to see if this also comes in a decaffeinated bean.

We took I-96 west towards Lansing and then took the Lansing Road cutoff to I-69 south.  We exited at M-60 and headed west towards Three Rivers.  Our plan was to drop down M-40 to US-12 for the final run into Edwardsburg but M-60 was closed in Minden and the detour took us south on M-66 towards Sturgis.  We were about half way to Sturgis when the detour turned west back towards Three Rivers so we continued on to Sturgis where we picked up US-12 and continued our westward journey.  We stopped at the McDonald’s in White Pigeon for a second cup of coffee and then finished our trip to Edwardsburg.

Coach Supply Direct is located on Elkhart Road just south of US-12.  It was easy to find and Josh greeted us as we pulled in.  We looked at his Lambright fabric samples again and were just not finding exactly what we wanted so Josh suggested we check out the selection at Pro-Forma (?) on the southeast side of Elkhart.  They are a major supplier of surplus yard goods in the area and he often gets fabric from them for projects.  He offered to go over with us but we did not want to pull him away from his work more than we already had.  He called to let them know we were coming without him.

We took US-12 back east to M-217 and dropped into Indiana where the road becomes County 17.  Just before US-20 we turned west and about 1.5 miles later we turned south onto Hall Road and pulled into Pro-Forma’s parking lot.  Bob (the owner) was out but we found Mike back in the warehouse.  He took us to the room with the sample books and we looked at a sample of every fabric they had but did find anything even close to what we were looking for.  Bob returned from his errand run and we commented that apparently plain off-white upholstery cloth was out of style.  Quite to the contrary, he said it is very much in use and as a result there is very little, if any, surplus coming out of the Elkhart-based RV manufacturers.

I took a different route back to Edwardsburg, driving through Elkhart on some streets I had not driven before.  After talking with Josh some more we had him do a final estimate (quote), sans fabric selections, as follows:

  • Two (2) Flexsteel 529 Class C captain’s chairs with skirts, adjustable arm rests, 8.5″ swivel pedestal with 20″ seatbelt bar, tan seatbelt, and slide tracks.
  • One Flexsteel 591 Class A driver’s captain’s chair with skirt, adjustable arm rests, and power lumbar option.
  • One Flexsteel 591 Class A co-pilot captain’s chair with footrest, skirt, adjustable arm rests, and power lumbar option.
  • 15 yards of additional fabric TBD.
  • Seven (7) MCD Duo Shades with dark out fabric TBD.
  • An estimate of a 2 to 6 hours labor to install everything.

Josh converted the estimate (quote) into an invoice and Linda wrote him a check for the requested 50% deposit.  He then let us select Lambright fabric samples to take with us.  We removed six from the binder rings and also took one of his sets of MCD dark out material samples.  I had planned to stop and visit with Michele Henry at Phoenix Paint but had not told her that we were coming so she was not expecting us.  By the time we left for home it was 3 PM so we waved as we drove past her shop.

Linda had packed food for the trip so she ate her vegan yogurt and got out the grapes for both of us to munch on.  Instead of retracing our route from the morning I stayed on US-12 all the way to Coldwater.  By the time we reached I-69 I was hungry so I pulled into the Walmart.  I ate my yogurt in the car and then we went in to buy Snyder’s sourdough pretzel nibblers, Blue Diamond Wasabi Soy almonds, and some mini-strudels (apple and cherry) that did not contain any animal products (according to the label).  We got on I-69 going north and I exited at M-60 for fuel.

We got home around 6:45 PM.  UPS had delivered the order I placed yesterday with Amateur Electronics Supply so I brought that in from the porch and set it aside for tomorrow.  I opened one of the boxes of Armstrong floor tiles, removed a tile, took it to the bus, and set it on the floor in the kitchen.  We took the Lambright fabric and MCD dark shade samples to the bus and had an initial look at all of them together with the walnut woodwork, floor tile, and existing wallpaper (which is going to get replaced with something).  We left them to look at again tomorrow in better/different light and went in to have dinner.

Linda reheated the potato-kale curry leftovers and served some fresh watermelon.  I checked e-mail and responded to some that related to the SLAARC website.  We relaxed by watching two episodes of “First Peoples” on PBS and then went to sleep.  It was a long, tiring day with somewhere between 350 and 400 miles of driving and 7 to 8 hours of sitting in the car.  We were glad to have the chairs and shades ordered, and to have decided (for now) to go with the custom made sofa cushions, but we were frustrated by still having the fabric and shade materials undecided.  We told Josh we would have a decision by Friday so tomorrow will be final decision day.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/04/21-25 (T-S) IN, MI, Home

2015/04/21 (T) Back to Twelve Mile, IN

The outside air temperature dropped into the 30’s (F) last night and the air temperature in the coach fell to 60, so when I got up this morning I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system to take the chill off.  We eventually got up, got dressed, and walked across to Small Town Brew to get a couple of cups of coffee and chat with owner Lisa Paul and her friend/neighbor, Ashley, who helps her run the coffee shop.  Both of them remembered both of us, which was nice.

It’s interesting sitting in a small town coffee shop, where everyone is a friend or relative, and just listening to the conversation.  We are outsiders her, of course, strangers to most of the folks who drop in, but everyone is nice to us.  Some are curious about who we are, and where we are from, but rarely ask why we are there, in this little coffee shop in this little town, surrounded by corn fields.  Of course, we usually mention that we are friends of Butch and Fonda, so that probably answers whatever questions they may have had.

We eventually returned to our coach and had breakfast.  We tried connecting our WiFiRanger to Butch and Fonda’s Wi-Fi router yesterday and it was able to connect and obtain an IP address but the data transfer rate was so slow that web pages would not load and e-mail would not download before timing out.  I turned our Verizon Mi-Fi on and we had a very weak but usable signal, so I connected the WFR to the Mi-Fi and we were able to do the few things we needed to do online.  We then went in the house to let Butch and Fonda know we were awake and see what they were up to.

Butch’s brother, John, and his nephew, Brock, showed up and helped Butch with the driver side front wheel assembly on Butch and Fonda’s MC-9 bus.  The tire/wheel was off when we arrived yesterday and I learned that Butch is replacing the hub bearings and seals, installing an automatic slack adjuster for the brake, and replacing the brake pads.  It looked like quite a job with some large, heavy parts, so I did my part by staying out of the way.  I also took a few pictures at Butch’s suggestion.  He does not want to write articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, but he has been interested in having me write articles about projects on his bus.

Linda spent some time working with Fonda’s new sewing machine that she got while they were in Quartzsite, Arizona.  It is a little smaller than a regular sewing machine, only weighs 13 pounds, and only cost about $130.  Linda gave her sewing machine to her sister many years ago but now that she is retired she is thinking that it might be nice to have one for mending tasks or projects, such as new privacy curtains for the bus.

Butch got a catalog recently from Crimp Supply in Royal Oak, Michigan, which is not at far from our house.  I glanced through it last night and it contains a lot of specialized parts that would be useful to a ham radio hobbyist or someone converting a bus into a motorhome.  I called and requested a catalog and had a nice chat with Debbie.  She was willing to provide me with additional catalogs that I can give to members of GLCC and CCO at the Back-to-the-Bricks and/or Surplus & Salvage per allies in August and September respectively.  She was also willing to show up in person and give a brief presentation on her company and hand out the catalogs.  Cool.

Brock had to leave after which Butch and John decided to go to the shooting range along with a third guy whose name I did not get.  I went along to see the range and watch what they were doing.  Butch had home-brewed some shotgun shells for his Ruger revolver and wanted to test them.  They caused the revolving chamber to jam so they will require some additional work.  John had a new semi-automatic pistol and wanted to see how it handled.  He also had ammunition he had loaded with bullets he had cast and wanted to test fire them.

I was offered the opportunity to shoot but declined.  I have never handled a pistol and it would have been a waste of good ammunition.  I did take a class in rifle marksmanship while I was at the University of Missouri – Columbia many years ago.  I was in the Air Force R.O.T.C. Program at the time and thought I should know something about how to handle a firearm.  Learning to handle a pistol correctly would have been more relevant, but I do not recall a course being offered for that.  I bought a Ruger 10-22 rifle at that time, and I still have it.  It’s a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle designed to look like an M-1 carbine and features a 10-round rotary clip that is flush to the bottom of the stock when inserted.  I was only interested in shooting at paper targets so I added a scope to it.  It is safely tucked away with a trigger lock on it, but I have not fired it in many, many years.  I should probably bring it to Twelve Mile the next time we come down, let Butch inspect and clean it properly, and take it to the range just for grins and giggles.

John and the other guy went back to Logansport from the range.  When Butch and I got back to the house he continued working on the driver side front wheel of their bus.  I helped a little, but mostly by taking photographs for a possible future article.  After putting tools and parts away we sat and relaxed for a while and then all of us went to Logansport for dinner at Pizza Hut.  It was 8:45 PM by the time we got back so everyone said “good night” and turned in for the evening.

2015/04/22 (W) Chillin’ in Twelve Mile

Yesterday looked and felt more like winter than spring with gray, cloudy skies and blustery, cold winds.  The temperature overnight dropped into the mid-30s but we were toasty warm under blankets with our electric heating pad turned on.  I got up at 7:30 AM and turned on the thermostats.  The temperature in the kitchen was reading 63 degrees F but the temperature by the dashboard was only 53.  The Aqua-Hot has performed very well since I rebuilt the blower bearings and quickly brought the temperature in the coach up to 70 degrees F.

We put on our sweats and walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whomever else might be there.  Three local guys were enjoying their morning brew when we arrived.  They eventually left and were replaced by others.  Most of the patrons seemed to be retired or semi-retired farmers.  One fellow, Lee, chatted with us at length about a canvas covered hoop barn he put up.  It was constructed using laminated wood hoops rather than steel, was 30′ wide by 70′ long and cost about $4,000 15 years ago, although I was not clear whether that included the 4-foot high poured concrete walls.  He already owned concrete forms and the heavy equipment that one finds on farms, so he was able to do a lot of the work himself without renting equipment or hiring contractors.  Still, it has to be the lowest cost way to create a structure for getting our bus out of the weather and out of sight.  It is unknown, however, whether the Township and County would let us to put it up.

Butch left at 8:30 AM for medical appointments in Logansport and Fonda came over at 10:45 AM to gather up Linda for a girl’s day out.  Linda wanted to go to McClure’s Apple Orchard on US-31 between IN-16 and US-24.  Although it is very close to Twelve Mile Fonda had never been there.  They were then headed to Peru.  Although it is the same distance from Twelve Mile as Logansport and Rochester it is the city that Butch and Fonda visit the least.  Peru’s claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Cole Porter and Emmet Kelly and was the winter home of several circuses many, many years ago.  I believe there is a circus museum there that Nick Russell wrote about in the Gypsy Journal.

With no bus project or social interactions I settled in to work on my blog and await everyone’s return.  It started out sunny this morning but by 11 AM was thickly clouded over and looking wintery with blustery winds.  The only bus project I had in mind to do today was to pull out the chassis batter tray, check the circuit breakers, disconnect the batteries, swap the upper 12 V pair with the lower 12 V pair and reconnect them.  It was not something I wanted to do alone and I did not have to do it today, especially under cool, windy, overcast conditions, so I ended up not doing it.

Linda and Fonda eventually returned, having first gone to the Walmart in Logansport.  Linda picked up some hummus and Snyder’s sourdough pretzels so we snacked on those for lunch.  Linda then hung out with Fonda while I continued to work in blog posts.  Butch finally returned from his medical appointments and busied himself with something.  Whatever it was, he was not outside working on their bus and neither was I.  I managed to get the post for April 1 – 3, 2015 uploaded to our blog.

Linda and Fonda developed a plan for dinner.  Fonda made a nice salad and baked a loaf of par-baked bread that we got from Marilyn.  Linda made black beans and rice and prepared a mix of fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert.  Linda and I each had a glass of Franzia Red Sangria.  After taking all of dirty serving containers back to our coach we returned to the house to visit a bit longer and finally returned to our coach just after 9 PM.  That left me enough time to pull together the posts for April 4 – 6 and upload it before turning in for the night.

2015/04/23 (R) Return to Michigan

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7 and put on my sweats.  The Aqua-Hot was already on so I turned up the thermostats and turned on the engine pre-heat loop.  I also turned on the Broan cube heater and pointed it into the cockpit as the temperature on the dashboard was only 50 degrees F.  I walked over to Small Town Brew, got a cup of coffee, and said “so long for now” to owner Lisa Paul.  Linda was still asleep when I got back so I fixed a couple slices of toast for my breakfast, turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, and settled in to take care of a few e-mails.  Linda finally got up and, as I suspected, had not slept well last night.  She had some toast and orange juice but had no interest in coffee, a strong indicator of just how tired she was and not feeling completely well.

When she was done with the toaster I turned the cube heater off and turned the electric block heater on.  The overnight low temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 20’s and starting the big Detroit Diesel at that temperature is hard on the engine so I wanted it nice and warm before I cranked it over.

Butch had an appointment with an ophthalmologist in Indianapolis around noon and had some other things to do down that way as long as they were there so he and Fonda planned to leave by 9 AM.  He came to our bus just before 9 AM to let us know they were close to leaving and that he put an air hose out by the automotive bay so I could fill the front tires on the bus if needed.  Based on the readings from our TireTraker TPMS, however, no adjustment was needed.

We planned to leave sometime after they did but not later than 10 AM.  The main reason for not leaving sooner was to give us time to digest our breakfast, but the other reason was our relatively short drive today to Camp Turkeyville, an RV park on I-69 just north of I-94.  This will be the first time I have been in Michigan, which I certainly consider home, since we left on November 30, 2014.  Turkeyville is only 80 miles from our house, but we will have a full hookup site so we can dump our waste tanks tomorrow morning and not need to use them on the final short drive to the house.

We started getting ready to leave around 9:45 AM.  I shut off the block heater, put Butch’s air hose away, and then took care of the chassis batteries, auxiliary air, and shorepower.  The DD fired right up and I switched it to high idle while it built air pressure.  As soon as the chassis was at ride height and the air dryer purged I pulled onto IN-16 pointing eastbound and pulled into the curb/parking lane.  That was around 10 AM.  I left the engine idling while Linda pulled the car up behind the bus.  By the time we hooked up the car for towing, checked the lights, and pulled away it was closer to 10:20.  I noted that the time was 10:30 AM EDT as we pulled onto US-31 N from IN-16 E.

Traffic was light and we had an easy run up US-31 to US-20 except for the 15-20 MPH crosswind from the WNW.  I also had a very cold breeze blowing into the cockpit by my feet and had to turn the heat up to stay comfortable.  We were an hour into our trip when I finally realized that I had not opened the air supply valve for the shutters on the two front house air-conditioner condensers which are installed in what is normally the spare tire bay.  Those shutters are held open by a spring and held closed by air pressure.  When they are open air can easily find its way into the cockpit.  There is also a mechanical damper that is supposed to regulate fresh air flow to the cockpit, or cut it off completely, but the flexible actuator cable broke some time ago and the damper/cable are difficult to access so it has not been repaired.  Either the cable broke with the damper in the closed position or I taped some sort of cover over the air inlet once upon a time because once I closed the shutters for the A-C compressors I no longer had cold air coming in by my feet.

Traffic was heavier on US-20 eastbound but it always is as it runs just south of South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana, and a bit north of Goshen.  It is still a limited access highway until east of Elkhart, so it moved along up to that point.  There was one stretch between there and Middlebury where major construction was taking place, but we got through that easily enough.  After that it was a nice, rolling, 2-lane highway and we rolled along at 55 MPH except for the occasional town on intersection.  We always enjoy driving through this part of Indiana.

We turned off of US-20 onto I-69 N, crossed into Michigan at 12:53 PM EDT, and pulled into the Michigan Welcome Center five minutes later.  We only had 37 more miles to our destination but we both needed a short stretch break and I wanted to open the air valve for the A-C shutters, which is in the bay under the driver’s seat.  We resumed our trip and exited I-69 at exit 42 around 1:45 PM, crossed over the highway, and traveled the 500 yards to the Camp Turkeyville entrance.  We followed the long, wide, winding entrance road and stopped at the office where Linda got us registered.  They put us in a 50A full hookup pull-through site with easy access that was long enough for us to leave the car hooked up for towing.

We went through our usual arrival routine and then Linda fixed a light lunch of French Country Vegetable Soup and a tofu hotdog on pita bread with mustard and relish.  She also made a pot of coffee.  We connected our WiFiRanger to the RV Park Wi-Fi system but did not seem to be able to move any data so we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it.

Linda spent the afternoon reading a book on her iPad and I mostly worked on my blog post for April 7, 8, and 9.  I had 14 photos for that post but inserted them into the post rather than put them in a WP image gallery.  I logged into our personal WordPress site, installed WordPress 4.2, and then installed updates to plugins and themes.  Once that was done I uploaded the blog post and uploaded/captioned/inserted the photos and generated the tags.  I clicked the “Publish” button about 7:10 PM.

Linda put dinner on the table about 10 after I finished working.  She made a nice tofu scramble, a dish that vaguely resembles scrambled eggs, and served it with toast and jam, a small glass of juice, and black seedless grapes.

I thought about working on my blog post for April 10th, as it is the last one for which I have photos, but I was too tired to get involved in that tonight.  We pointed our front OTA TV towards Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, found the local CBS station, and watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory and whatever else was one.  We caught some local weather and decided to enable the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot, turn the thermostats on, and set the temperatures for 60 degrees F.  The overnight low temperature was forecast to be 27 and it was already 29 when we went to bed.  Welcome to Michigan in late April.

2015/04/24 (F) Touchdown

I awoke at 6:30 AM to an outside temperature of 27 degrees F.  Our coach has several ways it can be heated if we are plugged into adequate electrical power, including three electric toe-kick heaters.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and electric heating element last night before going to bed and left the living room and bathroom thermostats turned on with the temperature dialed back to just under 60 degrees.  I also turned on the Broan cube heater, dialed back the thermostat, and set in on the step to blow into the cockpit.

I got up at 7:15 AM and put on my sweats. It was 60 degrees F on the kitchen counter, but the refrigerator adds some heat mid-coach.  The thermometer on the dashboard read 53.  I turned the thermostats up to 68 and turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  I also turned on the front electric toe-kick heater.  I made coffee and then turned on the electric block heater for the engine.  I checked e-mail and monitored our amperage while I waited for the coach to warm up and for Linda to get up.  We were drawing about 30 A on Leg 1 and 20 A on Leg 2.  On a true “50 A” RV electrical service with a main circuit breaker that functions correctly we can safely draw 40 Amps on each leg, so our usage was not going to trip any breakers.

By 10 AM the temperature was up to 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and it’s was delightfully cozy in the rig.  I got a call from Michele Henry at Phoenix Paint in response to an e-mail I sent her yesterday and talked to her for 15 minutes.  We had planned on a 10:30 AM departure but by the time I connected the sewer hose, dumped the waste tanks, and put the hose away it was 10:45.  We had the bus and car ready to travel by 11AM and pulled out of our site.  We had to wait for a few minutes until someone moved a 5th wheel which they had temporarily parked in the middle of a two-way road while waiting to get into their site.  We finally made our way out of Camp Turkeyville and pulled onto I-69 N at 11:13 AM.

We had an easy run to our house and our wheels “touched down” on our driveway at 12:45 PM.  Even the dirt roads for the last two miles of our trip were in reasonably good shape, which made for a nicer homecoming.  We opened the house, put the cats in their carriers, and took them inside.  I got the bus plugged in and the air shut off while Linda put the batteries back in the water softener and sanitizer and turned the well pump on.  I turned the gas back on for the kitchen and fireplace and then set all of the thermostats up to 65 degrees F.  We unloaded a few things from the bus and then had lunch, after which I sent text messages to both of our children and to Chuck Spera to let them know we were home.

After lunch we unhooked the car from the bus and continued unloading the bus but did not get everything taken off.  I was tired and took a long nap, only getting up when Linda told me it was time for dinner.  We had a Daiya Mushroom and Garlic pizza.  We have used Daiya vegan cheese for a while but did not know they made pizza products until we saw them at the Dierbergs Market in Edwardsville, Illinois.  It had a thin, crispy, rice flour crust (gluten-free), lots of garlic and cheese (of course), and was very tasty.  I wish we could buy them near our house.

After dinner I called Butch to let him know we made it home safe and without any new or reoccurring bus issues.  He had reassembled the driver side steer wheel and discovered that the new brake drums he got from MCI some time ago are the wrong ones, so he is going to have to track down the correct ones next week.

2015/04/25 (S) Return to Regular

Do you remember when OTA TV stations used to break in to programs with special news bulletins or emergency alert tests?  At the conclusion of such interruptions the announcer would say “we now return you to your regular programming.”  Having spent most of 61 years living in stationary dwellings we still consider being back at our house to be the baseline for our regular lives.  The last two years, however, we have spent half of the year, more or less, living in our converted motorcoach.  That fact, combined with the fact that we moved to a new-to-us house just before we started our extended traveling, has altered our perception of what constitutes “regular.”  All we know for sure is that living this dual lifestyle is our new normal and we like it.

Whether living at home or in the bus we have routines.  Part of our “at home” routine is Saturday morning breakfast with our friends from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) and that is how we started our day.  We took our usual route to South Lyon and were surprised by the extent of the construction work at the I-96 and US-23 interchange.  We knew this interchange was scheduled to be rebuilt starting this year but as of March 1st, when Linda last drove through there, work had not started.  A lot has happened since then, and from the look of things this is going to be a BIG project.

There were a LOT of people at breakfast, 24 by Linda’s count.  It was good to see our friends and ease back into ham radio talk.  The club president, Harvey Carter (AC8NO), had the personalized club jackets we ordered from Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon over the winter so we got those from him after we were all done eating.  The jackets are dark blue with fleece lining and yellow embroidery that looks very sharp.  The left breast says “South Lyon Area” on top and “Amateur Radio Club” underneath.  On the right breast is our first name (in script) on top and our call sign underneath in block letters.

We stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way home to pick up a gift for grand-daughter Katie and found two books that we thought would interest her.  One was on rocks and gems and the other was on snakes, both of which are interesting to Katie.  Both are also an integral part of the desert southwest where we spent the winter.

When we got home I set about the tasks of moving various pieces of technology from the entrance foyer to my basement ham shack/office, reconnecting it to power and our network, and starting it up.  I started up our Linux box but the video driver would not “catch” so I shut it down and restarted it in Windows 2000 Pro, updated the es|et nod32 anti-virus database, and installed three Microsoft updates.  I checked e-mail on my primary laptop, responded to a couple, and then installed updates on all of the websites I manage.  WordPress just released version 4.2 and each new release triggers a flurry of plug-in and theme updates.

Our daughter, Meghan, had arranged for us to come over mid-afternoon to visit and have dinner without the bother and fuss of fixing a big meal.  Minn, the female cat, hid immediately but Inches, the male cat, hung around for a while.  Grand-daughter Katie is working at Pizza House in Ann Arbor where he dad, Chris, has been the general manager for a long time, but she got off work and arrived just after us followed by Chris, who had run out to pick up dinner at Seva.

Our son, Brendan, daughter-in-law Shawna, and grand-daughter Madeline showed up a little later, and Inches promptly disappeared.  Madeline is very sweet and interacts with her two kitties, Gus and Iggy, just fine but our cats, and Meghan’s/Chris’s cats, disappear whenever she comes to visit.  They are just not used to the size, motions, and sounds of a 28 month old.

Seva is a vegetarian restaurant that has been a staple of the Ann Arbor restaurant scene for many years but recently moved out of downtown to a location on the far west side of Ann Arbor.  While not just around the corner from Chris and Meghan’s house it is much closer, and easier to get to, than driving into downtown.  Many of their menu items are vegan, or can be made vegan, and that is mostly what they ordered.  We had a nice visit with excellent appetizers and main dishes, a dozen choices in all, and a nice Riesling wine from Washington State.

After appetizers we distributed the gifts we had picked up for everyone.  Besides Katie’s books Madeline got a “Dr. Seuss” book about deserts and a t-shirt from Marilyn with a design on the front that changes color in the sunlight. Both of our children, who kept an eye on our house for us over the winter and took in our mail, got the following:  A bottle of Red Chile Wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico; a bouquet of pequin chiles from Hatch Chile Sales in Hatch, New Mexico; a box of Prickly Pear Cactus jellied candies and a jar of Prickly Pear Cactus jelly from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona; a bag of Green Chile Pistachios from Eagle Ranch (Heart of the Desert) in Alamogordo, New Mexico; a two box set of olive oil and peach balsamic vinegar glaze from Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona; and a non-stick grilling mat from the “Big Tent” RV Show in Quartzsite, Arizona.  We appreciate what they do when we are away which would be more complicated for us without their assistance.

We enjoy looking for gifts that are unique to the areas we visit and tend to limit ourselves to items that are consumable so no one has to find room to store or display something, at least not for very long.  We saw many wonderful art and craft objects this winter but they present a special challenge beyond simply getting them home.  We are no longer collecting “things,” as we already cannot display or store the stuff we have, and our children are in somewhat the same situation (which is why we still have a lot of stuff instead of them having it).

Then there is the matter of taste.  Both children have their own taste in art and have carefully arranged items for display on their walls and shelves.  As much as we might like something, and think someone else might like it, buying art for other people is fraught with peril because there is an implied expectation that it will be displayed.  If it is displayed but the recipient does do not like it then the gift is intrusive.  If it is not displayed the giver is disappointed and potentially offended.  Better to stay clear of all that by avoiding surprise gifts.  The exception is if we know they are looking for something in particular and we come across one.  In that case it is a simple matter to take a photo with one of our smartphones and message them to see if they want it, making it clear that “no” is an acceptable answer.

Madeline goes to bed at 8 PM so she left (with her parents) at 7 PM.  Both Minn and Inches came out shortly thereafter to have a bite to eat and get the attention they had missed for the last four hours,  We stuck around for another hour which gave us just enough time to get home before it got really dark.  Brendan and Shawna had kept/used Linda’s Honda Civic all winter. They came in two cars and went home in one so that Linda could get the Civic back to our house.  There is a chance that she will have to go into the bakery a day or two this week and I do not like be without transportation, especially when we have a lot going on.

We sat in the living room for an hour reading and relaxing with our favorite iPad apps/games but without the benefit of our natural gas fireplace logs.  I lit them when we got home and they operated for about 60 seconds and then shut off and would not relight.  I turned the pilot flame off and will deal with that tomorrow.  I went to bed, read for a while longer, and then went to sleep.

 

20150416-20 (R-M) MO, IL, IN

2015/04/16 (R) Carthage, MO to Edwardsville, IL

[Note:  There are no photos for these posts.]

I was awakened from a light sleep this morning by a change in the sound of our auxiliary air compressor and the pneumatic systems on the bus.  A valve that whines in a certain way as the system fills with air changed its tune and the compressor ran longer than it normally does and did not shut off.  I got up, turned it off, turned it back on and it finally completed its cycle and shut off automatically.  At that point I was up and wide awake so I got dressed.  Linda was awake by that point too so I suggested that we just get an early start on today’s journey, and that is what we did.  We pulled out of our site at the Coachlight RV Park at 7:30 AM and a few minutes later we were headed south on I-49.  Less than a mile later we looped around the cloverleaf interchange onto I-44 headed east.

The sky was overcast and we ran in and out of fog and mist as we traveled up and down the rolling hills of southwest Missouri with spring in full bloom.  The temperature was cool and the conditions made for easier driving than having a bright morning sun in my eyes.  Traffic was light to moderate for the first 2/3rds of the trip, albeit heavier passing through Springfield and Rolla.  About 200 miles into our trip we stopped at the Flying J at exit 226.  I-44 was now six lanes and we were at the fringe of heavier urban traffic and encountered a center lane closure on a bridge which brought traffic to a halt.  We patiently worked our way through that and a little farther along exited I-44 onto I-270 which became I-255 and took us across the mighty Mississippi River into Illinois, most of the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area to our north.

Once we crossed the river and traveled a few miles traffic thinned out but we bumped our way along as the road surface on this stretch of I-255 was very rough.  We exited I-255 onto I-55N/I-70E and then stayed with I-55 when it split from I-70.  It was a good thing, too, as I-70E was backed up all the way to the split with traffic stopped and a sign announcing long delays and advising motorists to seek an alternate route.  A few more miles and we were at our exit for IL-143, crossed over the highway, did a 180 onto the service road, and drove the last mile to the entrance to the Red BaRn RendezVous RV Park just east of Edwardsville, Illinois.

The entrance to the RV Park was a bit narrow but wide enough that I was able to swing in off the service road.  The interior gravel roads were also narrow, and I had to snake past the office, but they turned out to be just wide enough to accommodate an RV our size.  The office was closed but there was a note on the door with our name and site number.  The site had trees on either side that did not appear to be trimmed up high enough but it turned out that they were.

While not a destination park Red BaRn RendezVous is a nice little place in a location convenient to Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, Illinois, where Linda’s sister lives, and the Interstate highways that will get us to my sister’s house in 30 to 40 minutes.  The office building has men’s and women’s restrooms with showers and a small but well equipped laundry.  We had no commitments to visit anyone today and were in early enough that Linda gathered up the laundry and we carried it over to the laundry room.

Linda had some fresh blueberries that needed to be used so she made vegan blueberry pancakes for dinner.  We do not have these very often but they are a real treat when we do.  We were both tired and had headaches, unusual for me but not for Linda, and decided to drive into Edwardsville and find the Walmart.  We wanted to buy a present for Lilly and it gave us a reason/place to stretch our legs.  Back at the rig we located the OTA TV towers, oriented our front OTA TV antenna, and watched episodes of The Big Bang Theory while diddling on our iPads and computers.  I hate to lose a block of potentially useful time but I was not up to working on photos and blog posts and diddling was the best I could manage.

The only “issue” we had with the bus today involved the behavior of the air system.  There are three air pressure gauges in the cockpit—primary and secondary on the dashboard, and auxiliary to the side—corresponding to the three “systems” that operate the chassis (brakes and suspension), and accessories (belt tensioners, radiator shutters, air horns, step slides, and house components).  The air from the main engine air compressor goes through a dryer that removes moisture and then goes to the primary, secondary, and auxiliary tanks.  It sounds simple but it is a bit more complicated than that.  I returned an earlier phone call from Butch and discussed this with him.

As best I understand it (and care to take time to explain it here) a valve, or set of valves, regulates where the compressed air goes and the top priority is the brakes.  The primary tank/system supplies air to the rear brakes and the secondary tank/system provides air to the front brakes (or vice versa).  Until the air requirements of the brake systems are satisfied air does not flow to the suspension or accessories.  Once all of the systems are pressurized they are isolated from one another so that a failure of any component will not affect the other systems.  It is a clever, fault-tolerant design that works well and has stood the test of time.  The components are used on 18-wheelers, fire trucks, and all manner of heavy highway equipment, including commercial buses in passenger service.

When the system is working correctly this is what I normally see when driving.  When the systems are fully pressurized the primary, secondary, and auxiliary air pressure gauges all read ~130 PSI.  The primary and secondary gauges will stay at that pressure unless/until I apply the brakes.  The auxiliary gauge, however, will drop over time due to small leaks somewhere that I have not been able to isolate.  Once the pressure in any of the systems drops to about 90 PSI, which is almost always the auxiliary system, the main engine air compressor kicks in and brings the pressure in all of the systems back up to ~130 PSI.

What I saw for most of the drive today was different, and that is always a cause for concern and makes driving less enjoyable.  All three gauges were showing a loss of pressure and the pressure in all three systems was the same.  The compressor was still working and would kick in at ~90 PSI and bring all three back up to ~130 PSI, so that was good, but the behavior suggested that one or more isolation valves had “stuck” in a position that kept all three systems tied together, which was not good.  Because of the larger volume of air being lost through the leak(s) in the auxiliary system it took a lot longer for the pressure to bleed down and it took longer for the compressor to bring it back up.

About four hours into our six hour trip we stopped for fuel at the Flying J Truck Stop at exit 226.  When we resumed our travel I noticed that one of the gauges (primary or secondary, not sure which) was holding its pressure while the other one continued to drop along with the auxiliary gauge.  An hour after that I noticed that both the primary and secondary gauges were holding pressure while the auxiliary gauge was cycling, and this behavior continued for the rest of the trip.  Thus it appeared that whatever caused the abnormal behavior had self-corrected.  My suspicion is that a stuck valve had gotten unstuck.  Once we were parked and set up the auxiliary air compressor cycled on and off properly, confirming that the isolation valve(s) was(were) once again working correctly.

2015/04/17 (F) My Side

We were up between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, not because we had to be but because we were rested and awake.  We had a quiet, relaxed morning enjoying our coffee and granola and using our iPads to check on the world (L) and work on yesterday’s blog post (me).  We configured the bus to ensure the cats’ comfort while we were away and left at 10:30 AM to drive to my sister’s house in Bridgeton, Missouri.  We stopped for fuel just short of her house and finally arrived around 11:30 AM.

We were greeted by Patty and Maggie, her one remaining dog.  We visited for an hour and then went to a Panera (St. Louis Bread Company) not far from her house for lunch.  We returned to her house to continue our visit and await the arrival of Ryan, Amanda, and Lilly, who showed up a little after 3 PM.  They would have come earlier but Ryan had a routine work-related physical on which his continued employment depended.  To everyone’s relief he passed so everyone was relaxed.  Lilly was initially surprised to see us but immediately gave us a big smile and went to Linda’s outstretched arms.  Lilly is 27 months old and is a cheerful, happy child who interacts easily with whomever is around.

Ryan and Amanda were hungry so at 4:30 PM we headed to El Maguey Mexican Restaurant for dinner.  We had taco salads with beans instead of animal protein and everyone seemed to like their food.  It is Amanda and Ryan’s favorite Mexican restaurant.  Amanda and Ryan headed home with Lilly and we drove back to Patty’s house to wrap up our visit while we waited for rush hour traffic to subside.

Brendan called and Linda got to “chat” with Madeline and then each of us took turns talking to him.  He had received his offer letter from Eastern Michigan University and acknowledged it, so he will start his tenure track assistant professorship in the art history department in September.  The discussions about initial course assignments, however, have already started.  He also mentioned that Shawna’s application for tenure at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor is looking very positive.  Both of those pieces of information were very good news for us.

We took our leave at 7:30 PM and got back to our coach just before darkness settled in.  Having spent a long day enjoying the company of family we settled in to watch a few shows on the local PBS station’s Create sub-channel before turning in for the night.

2015/04/18 (S) LF-M-LH Day 1

Yesterday Linda (LF) talked to Marilyn (M) briefly as we (B & LF) were driving back to the rig from Patty’s house and they (LF & M) agreed that we (LF & B) would arrive at Linda H’s (LH) house around 11 AM tomorrow, which is now today.  (Hopefully the LF and LH designations will help keep straight which Linda I am referring to.  Most of the rest of this post is about today not yesterday.)

We were up this morning at 7 AM and had our usual coffee and granola.  It’s a good thing we will be getting home soon because we only have one day’s supply left of LF’s homemade granola.  It is so good that we have stopped buying commercial granolas because they do not have any taste by comparison.

After a suitably relaxing start to our day I continued plugging away at editing blog posts and selecting/processing photographs to go with them.  I dealt with some e-mails and then we gathered up our stuff and headed to (LH’s) and Marilyn’s house in Glen Carbon, Illinois.  Glen Carbon and Edwardsville flow together to form a contiguous urban area but they are distinct municipalities with Glen Carbon being to the south of Edwardsville.

We are camped just to the east edge of Edwardsville on the edge of a corn field.  The RV park is conveniently located to I-55 and just 10 minutes from LH and M’s house so we were there by 11:15 AM.  LH and M had purchased various fresh ingredients for a salad and after sitting and visiting for a while Marilyn assembled the salad.  There was something going on at the house across the street that resulted in the wife calling the police and three cars/officers being dispatched to the scene.  LH said the husband was himself involved in law enforcement so that added a certain tension to the whole situation as he almost certainly had firearms in the house.

We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting until Marilyn had to leave for a gala fundraiser for a school that her Congregation supports.  We decided to continue visiting with LH and stay for dinner.  LH had a bag of shredded vegan mozzarella “cheese” so we ordered a mushroom and onion no-cheese pizza from Imo’s and she ordered a medium supreme.  I drove into town and picked up the pizzas.  When I got back we added the vegan cheese to ours and heated it in the oven long enough to melt it.  It was very good.

In recent times Imo’s was our favorite pizza (after the demise of the Luigi’s restaurants in the St. Louis area many years ago) but the last time we tried one without cheese it was not very satisfying.  The crust is thin and crisps nicely, the way we like it, and the sauce is slightly sweet and used sparingly, the way we like it, but their normal cheese, a mozzarella and provolone mix, is (apparently) what pulls together the pie’s uniquely fabulous taste.  While the vegan mozzarella was not an exact replacement it made for a very tasty meal, bringing both taste and texture to the pizza.

We needed to do some grocery shopping so we took our leave at 7:30 PM and drove to the Dierbergs supermarket in Edwardsville.  There are three grocery stores at the intersection of IL-159 and Governors Parkway, but Dierbergs was the most likely to have what we were looking for.  Our shopping done we headed east on Governors’ Parkway almost to I-55 and took the service road back to our RV park.  We gave our cats the attention they were seeking while Linda (LF) settled in with her e-book and I worked on the blog post for our two-day visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I also proofread the final draft of the March 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and sent back my corrections.  I uploaded the blog post and then went to bed to work on the posts for yesterday and today.

2015/04/19 (N) LF-M-LH Day 2

Linda (LF) was up at 6:30 AM, earlier than usual, and I got up at 6:50 AM.  Before I had a chance to start making our morning coffee she pulled up the weather and showed me the radar.  Rain had been forecast to start just after midnight, and continue all day today and into tomorrow, but it appeared that it had not rained last night.  The radar, however, indicated that the rain was on our southern doorstep.  I needed to dump our holding tanks and refill our fresh water tank, so I took care of that while Linda made the coffee and updated her cost-of-camping spreadsheet.

The dump and fill process took me about an hour but we now have enough waste tank capacity and fresh water onboard to get us home with room to spare.  Based on Linda’s data our average nightly cost to “camp” this winter has been about $8.75.  Not bad.  Our average daily cost for our winter in Florida was over $20 which we felt was a very reasonable cost for wintering there.  We drove more miles this winter compared to last, almost double in fact, so we spent the money we saved on camping buying diesel fuel.  Fortunately diesel fuel prices in the central and western states where much lower than the prices in the southeast last year.  They were, in fact, the lowest prices we have seen in years so that was a nice break.

I updated my water usage spreadsheet while Linda got caught up on our personal accounting and bills.  Cell phones and cellular data, in conjunction with the Internet and electronic banking, have fundamentally transformed the full-time and extended-time RVing experience in ways that no one could have imagined 15 years ago.  I had an e-mail from Dropbox that Kate had joined a folder I had shared with her so I sent her a short e-mail updating her on our travel plans.  I also had an e-mail with the final draft of the print version of the March 2015 issue of BCM and verified that the corrections I uploaded last night had been made to my article.  I consolidated my blog posts for March 22 and 23 and finished editing them.  I had just started looking at the unprocessed photos for those posts when it was time to pack up and head to Marilyn and Linda’s (LH) house for the day.

The weather was overcast and gloomy and the rains eventually came, a perfect day to stay inside and eat, talk, and play games.  Marilyn has been making a real attempt at moving to a vegan diet so she prepared tomato soup and black bean burgers for lunch.  We then put the leaf in the dining room table and got out the Mexican Train dominoes game.  We brought hummus and Linda (LH) had made vegan guacamole so we enjoyed those with a few Fritos corn chips.  We also had fresh grapes and toasted almonds to munch on and a couple of bowls of popcorn.  We played 16 rounds of Mexican Train starting with the double 15 tile in the center and ending with the double “zero” (blank) in the center.  It was evening by the time we finished and everyone enjoyed having a whole day to hang out with family and friends with nothing more important to do than play a game.

We left just before 8 PM and drove through Edwardsville to get back to the RV Park rather than get on the Interstates.  There was very little on TV that interested us and we ended up watching an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  It was a very popular show in its day but is now very dated to the point of being almost silly.

Linda (LF) read and I selected/processed photos for my blog post about our visits to Ajo, Arizona on March 22nd and 23rd.  I got the post and photos uploaded and then went to bed.

2015/04/20 (M) Edwardsville, IL to Twelve Mile, IN

Linda was up a little before 7 AM and I was up a little after.  Today was a travel day, so we did not make coffee or have breakfast.  We were not hungry anyway having had our fill of food, both good and junk, yesterday.  We each had a cup of tea while we got our day started.

We started getting ready to leave around 9 AM and finally pulled out of the Red BaRn RendezVous RV Park at 9:50 AM.  We had about 330 miles to travel to get from Edwardsville, Illinois to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Since the RV park is just off of I-55 we took I-55 north to I-72 near Springfield, followed that east to I-57 and then took that north to US-24.  We followed US-24 east and moved from Central Daylight Time to Eastern Daylight Time sometime after we crossed into Indiana.  US-24 joined up with US-35 to bypass Logansport, Indiana to its south and then split off to continue east towards Peru.  We picked up US-31 just before Peru and took that north to IN-16 where we headed back west about five miles to Twelve Mile.  It was 5 PM (EDT) when we arrived at Butch and Fonda Williams’ place.  The bus ran well except for a couple of tattletale lights that started blinking briefly towards the end of the trip.  The previous problem with the chassis air systems did not reoccur.

I checked the manual after we got parked and one of the lights was for a chassis battery voltage Hi/Low condition and the other was for the upper and lower 12 V strands of the chassis battery being out-of-balance.  Both conditions, if true, might implicate the Vanner battery equalizer but the first diagnostic step will be to check the circuit breakers.  The next step will be to check all of the battery connections, including the Vanner.  One of the things on my To-Do list is to swap the upper and lower batteries as the “24V” gauge on the dashboard usually reads 29 V and the “12V” gauge usually reads 14 V or slightly less if I have the headlights turned on.

Butch and Fonda had to take his parents to medical appointments in Lafayette, Indiana today and got home just before we arrived.  We did not realize they were there but that was OK; they knew we were coming and we have a nice level spot to park on concrete with a “50 A” electrical connection when we are here.  (It’s a 240 VAC connection with a 50 A RV outlet but we can only draw about 30 amps on each leg.)  Even though we left home on November 30, 2014 Twelve Mile feels like the place where our trip to the southwest U.S. began as we left from here in a caravan with Butch and Fonda on December 3rd.

We were settled in our spot and had our WiFiRanger connected to their Wi-Fi access point when Butch and Fonda either realized we were there, or that we were not going to knock on their door, and came over and knocked on ours instead.  They came in our bus and we talked for over an hour at which point Butch needed to deal with a Facebook group admin issue.  After they returned to the house Linda started preparing our dinner while I checked e-mail and then continued working on this blog post.

Linda sautéed onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a little olive oil and added torn spinach at the end.  She cooked two baking potatoes in the microwave oven and served them with the sautéed vegetables as a topping along with some almond milk jalapeño pepper jack vegan cheese.  A simple but satisfying dish on a cool, clammy evening.  We also had some black grapes with the meal which were tasty and refreshing.  We made two large cups of hot tea and took them to the house where we visited with Butch and Fonda some more.  By 10 PM we were too tired to be good company so we returned to our coach and went to bed.

 

2014/12/01-04 (m-r) Westward Ho!

2014/12/01 (M) Back in Twelve Mile IN

As I indicated in yesterday’s post we are back in Twelve Mile, Indiana for a couple of days before heading on towards the southwest United States.  Butch and Fonda are scrambling to get ready and although there isn’t much we can do to help, we have made ourselves available.  If nothing else we can cheer them on.

We went to bed early last night, tired from our final departure preparations and 270 miles of travel yesterday, and slept in this morning.  Once we were up we had our usual granola with fresh fruit for breakfast and then walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whoever else happened in while we were there.

Well caffeinated, and pushing 9:30 AM, we checked in on Butch and Fonda.  There wasn’t anything we could help with so we both set up our computers and got online.  Linda paid bills while I updated the spreadsheet I use to track cross-purchase costs.  I hooked up their small Canon iP90 inkjet printer and printed out a copy for Butch and wrote him a check for the balance we owed them.  I showed Linda the MFJ-998 full legal limit antenna tuner that Butch wanted to sell and decided to buy it, resulting in a second check.  We plan to (eventually) use this in our base station, but it was a good enough deal that it was worth buying now and transporting to Arizona and back.  Buying it now also helped out our friends.  I logged in to RVillage and updated our location while Linda walked down to the Post Office two buildings to the west.  (Twelve Mile is a pretty small, compact town.)

Bill and Butch finished repairing Brittiny’s car this past week and she and Rock showed up mid-morning to pick it up.  We visited with them for a while and then Rock headed back while Brittiny visited with her mom.  While they were talking someone stopped across the street and off-loaded a camel.  They had three on the trailer but I’m not sure where they put the other two.  The three wise men, however, were nowhere to be seen.

Although the air temperature was in the upper 20’s it was sunny most of the day, which kept the front of the bus comfortable and well lit.  Given those conditions I decided to work on some projects in the center cockpit area.

First up was (finally) mounting the inclinometer, which turned out to be quite the little project.  I had to remove the mounting bracket from the case in order to attach it to my mounting blocks on the center windshield pillar.  That, in turn, required me to take the case apart and remove the mechanism so I could get to the ‘C’ clips that prevented the bracket retaining screws from coming all the way out of the body.  But I got it apart, mounted, and reassembled, minus the retaining clips.  Really, why would I put them back in?

Linda split the one remaining Tofurkey brand Italian sausage and served it on a couple of hotdog buns for lunch along with a couple of Clementine oranges.  A quick and simple but tasty lunch.

The inclinometer and the compass both have light bulbs in them and needed to be wired up to 12VDC accessory plugs.  The inclinometer already had a power cord but the compass did not, so I got some scrap wire from Butch and fashioned a 2-conductor power cable.  I only have four accessory outlets and three of them were already in use so I attached both power cables to a single plug using wire nuts.  I then dressed all of the wires to make for a neater looking installation that would keep them out of the way and prevent snagging and/or tripping problems.  All of this was a long-term temporary solution; I plan to eventually install a 12 VDC PowerPole distribution system for all of these accessories and hide the wiring to the extent possible or enclose it split cable loom.

I removed the four screws that hold the panel with the 12 VDC house system switches so I could get to the back side of them.  It took a while but I eventually puzzled out how the three air-conditioner switches were wired.  I removed the wire that feeds +12 VDC to the Rear A-C switch and checked for voltage at the loose end of the wire.  There wasn’t any, as expected, so I put a 2 Amp blade fuse in the 12 VDC distribution panel and checked again.  This time I had +13.2 VDC, so everything was good down to that point.  I removed the line and load wires from each switch in turn and checked to make sure the contacts opened and closed the way they should.  They did, so I checked each pin to ground to see if any of them were somehow shorted to ground.  They were not, so the problem was probably downstream from there.  I did not, however, specifically check the bulb circuit for each switch, so I don’t know if there’s a problem there or not.  The bulbs, however, get their power from the load side of each switch, so in the next paragraph the tests I did included the bulbs in parallel with whatever other loads existed.

I tested each load wire for continuity to ground and was surprised that they each appeared as a short.  I did this test with the DC- lead to ground and the DC+ lead to the wire.  When I reversed the leads each wire tested as open.  That suggested there was a diode, or something, acting as a one way current check valve.  I switched the VOM to measure resistance and rechecked each wire.  Where I had previously seen short circuits I saw 0 ohms; where I saw open circuits I now saw about 630 ohms.  Those readings might be a problem, but I don’t yet understand them well enough to know.

The bulbs are incandescent, so their resistance should measure the same in either direction.  If they are 0.6 W they would draw ~0.047 A and have a resistance of ~265 ohms (when illuminated), not the 630 ohms I saw with the red test lead grounded.  Regardless of the exact value, if a bulb was shorted I would see 0 ohms whichever way the test leads were connected.  With the black test lead to ground the 0 ohm readings were, therefore, presumably through the load wires not the bulbs.  If the relay coils were very low resistance (and protected by diodes) they would determine the meter reading in the forward direction, but I would have expected something more than a zero reading.  It seems very odd to me that all three of these loads tested as short circuits in one direction.

I had a weak Verizon 4G/LTE signal at the front of the bus so I tried calling Donn Barnes in Alvarado, Texas.  I got his voice mail and left a message indicating he could TXT message me back.  He did later and I replied that I would call him from Logansport a bit later.  Butch needed a 1/2″ x 1-1/2″ NPT male nipple so Linda and I drove to Logansport to buy one at Home Depot.  While we were there I called Donn and confirmed that he would be home this weekend and that we were still welcomed to visit and spend Saturday and Sunday at his place.  The timing looks like it will work out well as he has to work on Friday and Monday, so we will take our leave on Monday morning.

When we got back to the coach we had some pita chips with hummus while Linda prepared a green salad and started heating some lentil soup.  While we enjoyed the soup she reheated some pita bread and the leftover Koshary.  A small glass of Moscato went nicely with the meal.  After dinner we went in the house to visit with Butch and Fonda for a while and transfer some PDF files onto a flash drive for Butch.  We returned to our coach for the evening at 9 PM.  It was certainly an easier day for us than for Butch and Fonda, but we were tired nonetheless.

We were sitting quietly, reading and writing, when things suddenly got exciting.  Juniper made a sudden movement near the food bowls and I immediately glanced in her direction to see that she had caught a mouse.  We knew at least one was probably still living in the bus because yesterday we found a partially shredded blue paper shop towel in the tray where we store the shore power cords, along with two nuts that had been chewed open.

Juniper is a very skillful huntress but I was surprised that the mouse attempted to get to the cats’ food bowls, which are not in a really safe place for a mouse, with two cats on board.  Juniper is very protective of her catches, so she headed off towards the bedroom, trying to find someplace where we could not try to take it away from her.  We wanted to get it from her and remove it from the coach but our main concern was that she not kill it and try to eat it.

I got a container to try to capture it and Linda managed to get hold of the scruff of Juniper’s neck which caused her to drop the mouse.  It immediately ran further under the bed, a direction from which there did not appear to be an escape path, but we could find no sign of it save a few stool pellets.  I would have needed a much deeper container, like the trash can, to capture it.  Our best guess is that it disappeared into the OTR HVAC duct on Linda’s side of the bed.  Once in there it could travel the length of the bus with impunity, including moving from side to side and between the house and the bay’s.  With any luck it took the hint and moved outside.

Juniper took up her post by the rear corner of the dinette, where she originally caught the mouse, to wait for its reappearance.  A black cat sitting quietly on black tile at night is a pretty effective camouflage.  The problem for the mouse is that it needs to eat and even in its natural (outdoor) environment constantly takes risks to obtain food.

2014/12/02 (T) Tire(d) Pressures

Some nights we sleep better than others.  Last night was not one of our better nights.  The cats were still wound up because of the mouse and I suspect we were anticipating its return as well.  Because neither of us slept well, we slept in this morning.  By the time we were up and dressed it was 8:30 AM.  Linda was pretty sure she had left her gloves and knit hat at the coffee shop yesterday so we decided to go have coffee at Small Town Brew before we ate breakfast.

Linda’s things were there waiting for her to claim them.  We had a nice long chat with proprietor Lisa Paul and invited her to stop over after she closed the coffee shop for the day and get an inside tour of both buses.  We also inquired as to whether she had any post cards of Twelve Mile.  She did not but thought it would be nice to have a few available.  She has a friend, Derinda, who is an artist and thought she would ask her to make a few.  We were interested in one we could mail to our grand-daughter, Madeline, who will be two years old in less than three weeks.

Breakfast was raisin toast and grapefruit, simple but yummy.  We were both dressed to work and went in search of Butch and Fonda to see if we could be of any assistance.  Linda took her computer in the house to transfer some PDF manuals to Butch and then take care of some bakery-related issues.  I used Butch’s MFJ-269 SWR Analyzer to check the VSWR on his 2 meter ham antenna and his (11 meter) CB antenna.  Both antennas are glass mount.  The 2m ham antenna was tuned fairly well, showing a VSWR of 2.1 at the low end of the band (144.000 MHz) and 1.8 across most of the band (up 148.000 MHz).  That is certainly a usable range.

The CB antenna did not test nearly as well.  The CB band is channelized, with channel 1 just below 27.000 MHz and channel 40 just above 27.400 MHz.  At 27.0 MHz the VSWR was greater than 6.0.  It declined steadily as I went up in frequency but was only down to 2.9 by the time I got to Channel 40.  A reading greater than 2.0 (a ratio greater than 2:1) becomes problematic for a transmitter and readings greater than 3.0 are generally unusable.  Both of Butch’s antennas are tunable but we did not take the time to adjust them today.  Butch is taking the analyzer so we can work on the antennas while we are in Quartzsite.

Their bus is parked in between our bus and their house as a consequence of which our WiFi Ranger is not able to pick up their WiFi network signal which is already weak outside the house.  I am having a problem with the unit that has me concerned, but I won’t be able to sort it out until I can get it connected to a working Internet connection.  The problem is that the WFR finds their network and tries to connect to it, requests an IP address, and while it is waiting for a response disconnects from my iPad, which serves as its control panel.  This annoying at best since the WFR and the iPad are only 10 feet apart.

We had lunch at 1:30 PM.  Linda heated up a couple of Thai Kitchen brand hot and sour rice noodle soup bowls.  It had been cold, damp, and dreary all day and we were both feeling a bit chilled so the soup was very soothing in addition to being very tasty.  By 2 PM it was obvious we were not going to get the mid-to-upper 30’s temperatures that had been forecast and there was no advantage to waiting any longer to check/set the tire pressures.  I bundled up, put on my mechanic’s gloves, and set about the business at hand.

Butch turned the auto shop compressor on and I pulled the air hose out and connected it to our hose.  I removed the Pressure Pro sensors from all 12 tires and then worked my way around both vehicles in the same order.  When the sensors have been off for a minimum of one minute putting them back on resets the baseline pressure, which determines the pressures at which you get over- and under-pressure warnings.  I set the bus tires as follows:  front tires to 115 PSI, drive tires to 95 PSI, and tag tires to 85 PSI.  I set the car front tires to 32 PSI and the rear tires to 34 PSI.  I noted that the ambient temperature was 30 degrees F.  I then plugged in the Pressure Pro receiver and repeater and checked the pressures they were reporting.  The four car tire readings were essentially identical to the known pressures in the tires, but the sensors on the eight bus tires all registered low, in one case by 6 lbs.  As I indicated in a previous post I think the batteries are just about drained and are giving tire(d) pressure readings.  I know that I am tired of the discrepancies as I count on these readings to tell me it’s OK to drive or I need to add air to certain tires.

Bill and Bell showed up in his custom car hauler while I was working on the tires.  Bill and Butch worked on some stuff and Bell helped Fonda load food and sundries onto the bus.  Lisa Paul showed up for a brief visit and tour of both buses.  See also brought a postcard that her friend Derinda made.  It featured the building that houses Lisa’s Small Town Brew coffee shop.  Linda is going to post it to Madeline in the morning so it has a Twelve Mile, Indiana postmark.  It will be the first of what we hope are many such postcards from far away exotic places.  Being almost two years old we hope these mementos will provide a tangible connection to us while we are traveling.  I know her parents will use them as learning opportunities.

Linda and I took showers in the house to minimize the use of our stored water and waste tank capacity.  The six of us then drove down to The Old Mill restaurant just west of town for an earlier than normal dinner.  The restaurant also allowed us to use their dumpster to dispose of our accumulated household trash.  That was nice because Butch and Fonda had already suspended their dumpster service for the winter.

When we got back from dinner we got online and checked the weather forecast and road conditions along our planned route.  Bill had recently driven I-70 west of Indianapolis and strongly advised us to avoid going that way.  Our check of the INDOT website confirmed that we were well advised to avoid Indianapolis altogether.  We settled on SR-16 east to US-31 south to US-24 west to I-57 in Illinois.  From there we will take I-57 south to Mt. Vernon, Illinois where we will overnight at Wally World (Walmart).

Bill and Bell said they would be back in the morning to see us off (“watch this thing launch” is how Bill put it) and took their leave.  We hung out a while longer trying to be useful but mostly providing moral support and comic relief until it was time to winterize the plumbing.  Butch hooked up a line from his big shop air compressor, ran it through a pressure regulator, and attached it to the main plumbing line at the surge tank and pump.  Just like an RV he used air pressure to drain both water heaters and then had us open each fixture in turn and let the air blow the water out and down the drain.  We then filled the traps and toilet tanks with potable RV antifreeze.  The reason for using potable antifreeze is that it will eventually end up in the septic tank and drain field.

We finally retired to our coach leaving them to finish up some last minute things before retiring to their coach for the night.  We had some very tasty red grapes for dessert (and a couple of cookies) while we studied maps for our next few days of travel.  We had not really looked at them carefully before now and were surprised to find that we will not be in either Kentucky or Tennessee.  We had presumed that we would be, but I-57 runs into the extreme southwest corner of Illinois and then crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri, ending at I-55 in Sikeston.  From there we will continue south into Arkansas on I-55, which stays on the west side of the Mississippi river, until we intersect I-40 west of Memphis and head west towards Little Rock.  Thus we will never enter Kentucky or Tennessee and we will not drive through Memphis; at least not on purpose.

Fonda has to run to Logansport first thing tomorrow and while she is gone we will prep our bus for travel, hitch up our car, and give Butch whatever assistance we can.  We plan to be on the road by 10 AM and safely parked at the Walmart in Mt. Vernon, Illinois well before dark.

2014/12/03 (W) Finally On Our Way

We were up around 7:45 this morning anticipating a 9 AM departure even though we knew that was unlikely.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat pump to start warming the engine.  There was a dusting of snow on the ground and on our car; a sure sign that our departure had been delayed long enough.

Bill and Bell arrived a little after 8 AM so we invited them into the coach and chatted for over an hour while Butch and Fonda got their morning organized.  Fonda left for her run to Logansport at 9:15 AM followed by Bill and Bell at 9:25 AM when they decided they needed to go to Logansport to get breakfast.  Fonda returned at 9:50 AM and we started making our final departure preparations.  We had hoped to leave by 10 AM but suspected that was optimistic.  It’s Butch and Fonda’s first extended use of their converted coach and they have had a lot to do to get ready to leave.

We straightened up the interior for travel as soon as Bill and Bell left so all that remained for us to do was unhook the shorepower cord and store it, start up the main engine, move the bus across the street, and hookup the car for towing.  We can do all of that in 15-20 minutes if absolutely necessary, especially in warmer weather, but it typically takes a half hour.  We do not like to rush this process; it’s important that we do it correctly each and every time.  It is also a commonly understood etiquette among RVers that you do not try to chit-chat with, or otherwise disturb, fellow road warriors while they are hitching something up.

Butch & Fonda's MC-9 getting ready to depart Twelve Mile, IN.

Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 getting ready to depart Twelve Mile, IN.

We were idling and ready to go by 10:25 AM but Butch had to make some final adjustments to his toad towing/braking setup.  Bill and Bell were back in time for Bill to help and Bell to take pictures and give us a good send off.  We pulled out a little after 11 AM and headed east on SR-16 with Butch in the lead but only got to the edge of town before Butch pulled off the road.  We pulled off behind him and Bill pulled off the on the other side.  We had noticed that their bus was smoking but they realized something was wrong before we could even call them on our 2m ham radio.  It wasn’t the engine; the brakes on the toad were partially engaged and he could feel the drag.  He readjusted it and we were on our way again, this time for good.

The trip to Mt. Vernon, Illinois was an easy and uneventful run.  From SR-16 we turned south on US-31 and picked up US-24 westbound.  We took this same route in June 2013 when we left Twelve Mile headed to the state of Wyoming so we knew it was a good route for us.  We had to slow down going through small towns, but that gave us a chance to catch a glimpse of these quaint little places.  A couple of larger towns had stop lights, but mostly we were able to keep rolling.

We stopped at a Pilot Truck Stop just west of I-65 for a quick walk-around and so Fonda could take the dogs out.  We continued west on US-24 into Illinois and eventually got to I-57 where we headed south.  We saw occasional construction signs but very little construction and did not incur any delays.  Butch lead most of the day and we just followed along with generally light traffic.

We stopped at the rest area just north of I-70 and took a stretch break, after which we took the lead.  A few miles later we got to the construction on the short stretch where I-57 and I-70 run together.  We had to drive 45 MPH but rolled right through.  After the construction zone we took the center lane knowing that I-57 would split to the left from I-70 and continue southbound.  Slow traffic is often worse than fast traffic as the cars end up bumper-to-bumper leaving no space for larger vehicles to change lanes.

Following the directions on our GPS we took exit 95 for Mt. Vernon, Illinois, drove a quarter mile, and turned left onto a road that ran down the west side of the Wal-Mart property.  Linda had called ahead and been told it was OK for us to spend the night in their parking lot.  The first two access drives, however, had crossbars at 12 feet so we could not turn in. The third driveway was for delivery trucks so we turned in there and headed back towards the north end of the lot by Ryan’s as Linda had been instructed on the phone.  There were signs posted prohibiting semi-truck parking so we parked temporarily while Linda went in to check on the situation.

A women at customer service confirmed that we could spend the night and asked that we stay near the periphery of their parking lot away from the main doors.  No problem.  The lot we had pulled into was not the Wal-Mart lot and was a little tight but were able to extricate both coaches without unhooking our toads and moved them to the northeast corner of the adjacent/connected Wal-Mart parking lot.  I leveled up as best I could, shut the engine off, and then closed the various air valves and switched the chassis batteries off.

The house batteries were at an 89% state of charge (SOC) when we arrived.  We locked the bus and went for a walk around the east end of the building to scout out an exit route.  We stopped in the store and bought a bag of Fritos and some popcorn oil.  When we got back to the coach I started the diesel genset and turned on two of the electric toekick heaters while Linda used the induction cooker to prepare vegan burgers for dinner.

After we had eaten Linda and I sent TXT messages to several people.  We then went over to visit briefly with Butch and Fonda and look at maps for tomorrow’s leg of the trip.  When we returned to our coach we noticed that the generator had stopped running.  Not good.  I was able to restart it but each time it shut down, so I got Butch to come look at it.

There’s a solenoid that holds a fuel valve open and we thought that might be the problem, but it wasn’t.  We checked the level of the oil but it was OK.  I started it again and Butch noticed that the squirrel cage fresh air blower was not turning so I shut the engine off.  Linda had been watching the gauges inside and said the water temperature was very high (off the end of the scale).  Butch checked the blower to make sure it wasn’t stuck. I traced the wiring back to a panel with a couple of circuit breakers and one of them was popped.  I reset it and restarted the engine and the blower came on.  Linda reported that the water temperature immediately dropped.  We suspected, but did not confirm, that the same breaker controlled the power to the large squirrel cage blower for the radiator, which is located in the inverter bay on the other side of the bus.  I let it run for another hour and brought the house batteries up to 95%.  It ran fine with normal water temperature and oil pressure so I think we found the problem and fixed it.

Linda read while I changed most of the clocks to Central Standard Time.  I turned off the electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot to unload the GenSet and then shut it down for the night.  I dialed the three Aqua-Hot thermostats back to 15 degrees C (59 degrees F) and turned on the Diesel burner.  It is only supposed to get down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit overnight but Linda put an extra blanket on the bed since we will not be using the electric heating pads as they would draw too much energy from the batteries.

It was a long day but largely uneventful except for the beginning and the end.  But all’s well that ends well, and this day did.

2014/12/04 (R) Roadside Repair

I was awake at 4:30 AM and got up to check on the SOC of the house batteries and turn on the Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat pump.  The batteries were at 68 SOC.  They were at 95% when I shut the generator off around 9 PM last night, so they had dropped 27% percentage points in 7.5 hours, a rate of 3.6 percentage points per hour or 10 percentage points every 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We did not go out of our way to minimize loads, leaving some night lights on (DC), the Aqua-Hot (DC), and the main inverter loads (refrigerator, auxiliary air-compressor, microwave clock, outlets with chargers, etc.). At that rate it would take just under 14 hours for the batteries to drop to a 50% SOC, starting from 100%.  I was satisfied with the performance of the system and went back to bed.

It started to rain off and on around 5:30 AM, the first sign of a wet day.  I got up to stay at 7:15 AM and got dressed.  I checked the SOC of the house batteries and it was 58%, so it had dropped another 10% in 2 and 3/4 hours, consistent with the 4:30 AM data.  I started the generator to provide power for hot water, lights, and additional engine pre-heating.  It would also start to bring the SOC of the house batteries back up before we started driving for the day, although the Zena power generating system on the main engine should be capable of recharging them in a couple of hours while we are driving.

Since we were not leaving until at least 9 AM we decided to have a light breakfast of raisin bread and grapefruit.  After breakfast I powered up our Verizon Mi-Fi device, got my laptop connected to it, e-mailed yesterday’s blog post to myself (from my iPad), and then checked my e-mail (on my computer).

We had the coach straightened up and ready to go well ahead of our departure.  Around 8:45 Butch indicated that they would be ready to go in 15 minutes.  That was all the time I needed to get the car ready to tow, switch the coach batteries on, open the various air valves, shut off the Aqua-Hot pre-heat loop, and start the main engine.  With the main engine running I turned off all of the loads on the generator, let it run unloaded for a few minutes to cool down, and then shut it off.

We pulled out at 9 AM and worked our way around behind the store and back out the unblocked entrance we came in yesterday.  Instead of turning on Broadway to go back to the Interstate we crossed over and pulled into the Pilot Truck Stop so Butch could top off their fuel tank.  We did not need fuel yet but I pulled in right behind him so we were positioned to pull out together.

We were back on I-57 headed south by 9:25 AM with Butch in the lead.  We ran at 60 MPH through light rain and fog with overcast skies all the way to the end of I-57 at I-55 near Sikeston, Missouri, where we continued south towards Memphis, Tennessee.  We eventually crossed into Arkansas and out of the rain, although the cloudy skies continued.  About 25 miles north of the junction with I-40 Butch called on the radio to let us know that he needed to get off the road at the first safe place I could find.  His air pressure had dropped to 60 PSI and was not building.  A couple of miles later I pulled off onto the shoulder of an entrance ramp and he pulled off behind me.  The brakes and suspension most highway buses are air-powered.  Without proper air-pressure the bus cannot be driven.

The pressure in the system was holding which indicated a supply issue rather than a leak.  The usual suspect in this situation is the “governor” (or less likely the unloader valves) on the main engine air-compressor.  Butch had a spare governor in his parts kit but we were not in an ideal spot for changing it.  He decided instead to hook up his portable air-compressor to his air system auxiliary fill connector.  He put the portable air-compressor in the bedroom at the rear of the bus and had Fonda run the air hose out the passenger side window were I took it and zip tied it to the side radiator grill.  Butch then ran it through a small access door by the passenger side rear lights and connected it to the fill valve.  The portable air-compressor is an AC powered device, so Butch had to start their generator to power it.  It gradually built the pressure to 100 PSI.  The pressure was holding so Butch dial it up to 110 PSI.  He left the portable air-compressor on for the rest of the trip and allowed us to get back on the road, making this a very clever emergency roadside fix.

After a 20 minute delay we pulled back onto I-55 and finished the run to I-40 with heavier traffic.  We exited onto westbound I-40 in West Memphis, Arkansas and completed the 38 miles to Forest City, Arkansas without difficulty.  We negotiated a tight turn onto the street where the Wal-Mart was located but had an easy time getting in at the far west entrance.  From there we pulled up parallel to a north-south curb that ran the length of the west edge of the parking lot.  We leveled up the coach (using the air springs), shut down the engine, and went through our usual dry-camping arrival routine.

As soon as we were set up Butch was back looking at his main engine air-compressor and then on the phone with Luke at U. S. Coach in New Jersey.  He decided to change the governor as it couldn’t do any harm.  I helped him (as best I could) but once the new governor was installed the compressor still would not build air pressure.  The unloader valves were the next most likely (easiest to fix) culprits, but neither of us had the parts.  There was an O’Reilly’s Auto Store across the main road from the Wal-Mart so we walked over there.  They did not stock them either, but at least we got some exercise.

The house batteries were at 78% SOC when we arrived which disappointed me as I expected them to be at least at 88% like they were yesterday at the end of our drive.  We were on the inverter from the time we started up at 9 AM until I turned the generator on at about 3:30 PM.  At our normal rate of 3.6 percentage points per hour we would have been at ~72% SOC without any charging from the ZENA system, so 78% did not seem very good to me.  It appears that I am going to have to adjust the charge voltage up somewhat on the ZENA power generating system as it should be supply enough current to run any AC loads while traveling (mostly the refrigerator) and fully recharge the house batteries.  I let the generator run through dinner until bedtime.  It brought the SOC back up to 91% with the charger in float mode supplying 10 Amps of current at 26.3 VDC.  Once the charger is in float mode it can take a surprisingly long time to finishing bringing the batteries to full charge.

Some weeks back Butch bought a grandfathered Verizon unlimited data plan on Ebay using the Assumption Of Liability (AOL) process.  He also picked up a used phone and a used Jetpack MiFi device.  Both devices can use the SIM card, but he had not had a chance to connect the MiFi through to the Internet.  We removed the card from the phone, installed it in the MiFi and powered it up.  It found a strong Verizon 4G/LTE signal right away.  The menu gave us the password and we were able to connect his laptop computer and my iPad.  He started searching the web while I downloaded e-mails.

Linda and Fonda had walked to the store to buy a few things.  When they got back we chatted for a bit and then went back to our coach.  Linda made popcorn for me (she wasn’t hungry) and we relaxed for a while before going to bed.

 

2014/11/17-23 Bus Work Wrapup

2014/11/17 (M) Bypass Extension

12VDC outlets on lower center cockpit console.

12VDC outlets on lower center cockpit console.

After my usual breakfast I decided to change the drinking water filter cartridge under the kitchen sink.  The new one arrived UPS on Friday but I wasn’t really eager to change it, given the difficulty I have had with it in the past.  As I expected, the old one did not come out exactly the way the instructions said it would and I fussed with the new one for 30 minutes without being able to get it in.  Butch popped into my bus to see what I was up to and I enlisted his assistance.  We fiddled with it for another 45 minutes and finally gave up and put the old one back in, although it did not go in easily.  Clearly we were doing something wrong but could not figure out what it was.

I am not exactly sure what Butch and Fonda did for most of the rest of the day but whatever it was they did not need my help.  I know they drained some coolant from a hose on the main engine and changed a short piece of hose.  Having gotten off to a bad start with the water filter cartridge I decided to pick the coach up a bit and then work on the 12 VDC outlets for the cockpit accessories.

There’s no such thing as a “small job” on a bus conversion; there are only big jobs and really big jobs.  The installation of the 12 VDC outlets involved mechanical and electrical considerations; I needed to mount them someplace that was accessible but out of the way, and I needed to be able to get 12 VDC power to that location.  There is a vertical panel about five inches wide just to the right of the driver’s right leg.  It runs from the floor up to the bottom of the dashboard and houses two thermometers, a cigarette lighter, and a swing out ash tray.  The panel comes out after removing six screws.  To the right of that panel is a house systems switch panel that was added by Royale Coach.  It is about 10 inches wide and comes down from the dashboard half way to the floor.  After checking to see what was behind the vertical panel I decided to mount the outlets to the passenger side of the floor-to-dash enclosure.  I mounted them below the bottom of the house systems switch panel and slightly back from the front plane of the dashboard.  They are very accessible in this location but tucked back out of the way enough to avoid getting kicked.

Just above the house systems switch panel is an enclosure for the CB radio.  I had previously removed the four screws that secure the front panel and pulled the CB radio out of its enclosure.  The power leads used spade connectors so they were easily disconnected and the incoming power harness was long enough that I was able to drop it through the speaker hole in the bottom of the radio enclosure and behind the house systems switch panel.  I also disconnected the antenna coax, as it is not connected to anything on the other end, and dropped it through the speaker hole as well.  I added compatible spade connectors to the wires from the 12VDC outlets including a 2-wire pigtail so I could connect both DC negative wires to the one available DC negative line.  I drilled a hole for the outlet wires to go through into the space behind the vertical panel as I would eventually like to power them from there and reconnect the CB (once I get an antenna mounted).  For now, however, this arrangement will do what I need it to do; power the various cockpit accessories while keeping the power cables out of from under out feet.

By 1:45 PM I had completed the installation of the outlets but I had not re-installed the various panels.  I locked up the coach and the three of us got ready to go to Logansport to run various errands.  Butch was wrapping up a conversation with International Thermal Research regarding the installation of his Combi unit and getting answers to a few remaining questions.  It turned out that the reason the coolant circulation pump was running was that we had left the bypass switch on the Zone Control Board in the ‘ON’ position.  That was also why the Summer Mode light was on.  Butch turned the bypass switch off and the various indicator lights all seemed to indicate what they were supposed to show.

I ended up buying the parts for a drinking water filtration system at Home Depot.  I got a GE Drinking Water Filter Housing and filter element plus a collection of hoses and fittings to connect it to the existing 3/4″” OD copper plumbing under the kitchen sink.  I also picked up a can of flat black spray paint to use on the accessory mounting board for the windshield center pillar.  We stopped on the way back in to Twelve Mile to pick up Daffy from the local veterinarian.  Fonda had taken her there earlier and dropped her off to have her teeth cleaned.  Daffy was still pretty groggy but glad to have the comfort of her owners.

When we got back to their house Fonda helped me set up some cardboard to catch any overspray and I sprayed one side and all of the edges of my center pillar board.  I then headed to my coach and finished putting the dashboard panels back in.  After that I turned my attention to the drinking water filtration system.  It took me a couple of hours but I got the old filter head removed, mounted the new housing, and made all of the connections.  I installed the new filter element and turned the water pump on, opening valves one at a time as I worked downstream looking for leaks.  The only leaks I saw were small ones between the 3/8″ brass pipe nipples and the 3/8″ female pipe thread sockets in the plastic filter housing.  Both leaks were easily remedied with an extra turn of the right angle shutoff valves.

I had not quite finished the water filter project when Fonda came out to let me know that Linda was on the house phone.  She answered some accounting/tax questions for Butch and then we chatted for a bit.  We decided that I would move the Martin Diesel appointment from this Thursday to next Monday, if possible, as the weather should be much more agreeable.  That will also give me four additional days to work on bus projects here, which I need.

I returned to the coach, finished up the plumbing, made a quick dinner, cleaned up the dishes, and went in the house for the evening.  Butch and Fonda had already gone to bed so I did the same and dealt with e-mails and this post.

New drinking water filter and hoses under the kitchen sink (in the bus).

New drinking water filter and hoses under the kitchen sink (in the bus).

2014/11/18 (T) Holes and LEDs

We were all busy all day today but did not have as much to show for it as we have on some other days.  That’s the way it goes with bus projects.  I worked on three separate projects for our bus and helped Butch and Fonda with one project on their bus.

The first thing I did after breakfast was to spray another coat of flat black paint on the oak board I plan to use as a mounting plate for various cockpit accessories.  I then went to work on enlarging the return air openings above the shelf in the rear closet.  This turned out to involve quite a bit of work.  On the passenger side I had to cut the carpeting on the inside of the closet and peel it off.  I then drilled a hole in each lower corner to allow access for a sabre saw blade.  I borrowed Butch’s cordless sabre saw, so that involved getting the saw from the parts room.  I cut from the back side, as I had access via the rear TV cabinet, and enlarged the opening to about 10″ x 10″.

I did not have access to the back of the panel on the driver’s side so I had to take a different approach.  I removed the lower panel which gave me access to the space and the various relays mounted on the floor of the cabinet.  I needed to make sure there wasn’t anything on the back side of the upper panel where I intended to drill and cut.  I borrowed Butch’s lighted inspection camera, which required another trip to the parts room, and used it to look up inside.  It was clear, so I cut the carpet on the inside of the closet and removed it.  Working from inside the closet I did not have room to use the sabre saw, so I used my oscillating saw to cut the opening.  Once the panel was cut through on both sides and the bottom it still had the metal mesh stapled to the top back side.  I was able to use that to pull the mesh loose from the fixed panel and remove it.

The next step in this project will involve installing a pair of 12″ x 12″ return air grills after I vacuum up the debris from the drilling and cutting process.  Home Depot carries these grills but was out of stock when we were there last night.  They are supposed to be in tomorrow or Thursday.  I already have a roll of 1/4″ grid hardware cloth and I plan to cover the openings with a piece of that to make sure mouse-sized critters cannot get through the slots in the grill, which will go over the hardware cloth.

By the time I got to this point it was time for a quick lunch.  After my meal I checked in with Butch and he was at a point where he needed assistance attaching an aluminum angle to the driver’s side front ceiling.  This angle would serve as the attachment for the vertical face of the chase that will hide the wiring running along the junction between the wall and the ceiling.  With Fonda’s help we held the first piece in place and secured it with one screw near the rear end.  We then measured down from the center trim of the ceiling and adjusted the other end to keep the angle as close as possible to parallel along its entire length with the ceiling centerline.  With that piece mounted Butch clamped another piece of angle to the mounted one, giving us a nice straight extension of the line, and then clamped the second piece to be installed to the extension angle.  I then secured the second piece to the ceiling with several screws.

Butch held 3″ Wiremold channel in place from the front air-conditioner trim to the gap between the two angles we just installed and marked it for length.  Fonda cut those while Butch cut a piece of plywood to the width and length needed and then installed them.  We talked about putting up the chase on the passenger side, or at least the Wiremold channel for the fluorescent ceiling lights.  Butch said they planned to make that chase deeper, and I suggested they bring it out as far as possible and build it as a cabinet using a face frame with several stiles (vertical pieces) and one long, top-hinged, door.  They both made note of the idea but did not want to get involved in that today.

I took a short break to call Martin Diesel and move my generator service appointment from this Thursday to next Monday.  I have more to do on the bus than I can complete by Wednesday afternoon and the weather Thursday morning is forecast to still be very cold.  The cold spell is supposed to finally break on Saturday with highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s.  I should be able to hook up the care and leave early Monday morning in 43 degree weather; much nicer than 18 degrees (Fahrenheit).

I now turned my attention to the LED replacement lighting for the F72T12 fluorescent light fixture in the hallway cove.  The first thing I needed to do was locate the 12 VDC positive and negative wires that were controlled by the pair of three-way switches; one by the pantry and the other in the bedroom.  In spite of having the wiring diagram for the old fluorescent ballast on a label attached to the ballast, I was not able to trace out the wiring.  Butch came over to see how I was doing so I enlisted his assistance.  The situation had us both puzzled for a while but we eventually sorted it out by removing the two 3-way switches from their junction boxes and checking for voltage to chassis (DC) ground at various points.  It helped that there is a second light fixture in the hallway ceiling just outside the bathroom door that is controlled by these same switches as this allowed us to know when there should or should not be voltage present at the main fixture.

With the wiring sorted out I made a short jumper wire with male spade terminals on each end and used it to jumper the red and white wires together in the base of the panty.  The white wire turned out to be DC negative (ground) and the red wire ran to the far (rear) end of the chase, so this provided a ground connection at the far end of the chase.  I recoded them with black tape.  The other red wire at the far end of the chase was the switched +12 VDC so I now had what I needed to power the LED rope light in that space.  I reinstalled the switches and cover plates and put the removable bottom shelf back in the pantry.  (The old ballast and wiring is still under this removable shelf.)

The LED rope light can be cut every few inches but I decided I should test it to make sure it worked before I started cutting it into smaller pieces.  I uncoiled the rope, which is supposed to be 52.5 feet long, as the instructions said not to apply power to it when it was coiled up.  I attached male spade lugs to the free end of one of the power cords, made my best guess as to the polarity of the rope, attached the power cord to one end of the rope, plugged the spade lugs into the two red wires in the chase, and turned on the switch.  Voila, I had guessed correctly on the polarity.  I checked the full length of the rope and all of the LEDs appeared to be working.  I need to check the length of the rope tomorrow to make sure it is the correct length.

The rope light came as a kit that included power cords (10), end caps (10), center connectors (10), and mounting clips (50).  This should be enough material to eventually redo all four of the fluorescent cove lights and add lighting around the inside face frame of a closet or two.  The lower portion of the center rear closet does not currently have any lighting and the main closet in the bathroom could certainly use more/better lighting.

I tried installing the mounting clips without much success.  It was night by this time and dark enough in the hallway that I couldn’t really see what I was doing.  As much as I wanted to the have this fixture functioning before I quit for the evening, I knew I had reached the end of this work for the day.  Rather than frustrate myself, and perhaps mess up something, I cleaned up my tools and materials and made dinner.  I had a Thai Kitchen Hot and Sour Rice Noodle Soup Bowl to which I added chopped up fresh mushrooms.  It was just the thing for a chilly evening.  I gathered up the day’s dishes and took them in the house to put in the dishwasher and then locked up the bus for the night.  I put another coat of flat black paint on my mounting board and then turned in for the evening to work on e-mail and this post.

2014/11/19 (W) Radio Woes

I was up a little earlier than usual this morning and rather than start the day with breakfast I sprayed another coat of paint on the oak board that I plan to mount to the windshield center pillar and use as a base for various cockpit accessories.  With that task completed I gathered up my cooking/eating utensils from the dishwasher and went out to my bus where I made a five cup pot of coffee and had some homemade granola for breakfast.  I then got to work on the LED lights for the hallway cove.

20141118-09586

The space in the driver side rear corner of the bus. Access is difficult and it is full of wires, relays, and the bedroom a-c evaporator and blower.

I still had trouble mounting the plastic mounting brackets due to the lack of room to work but eventually figured out that I could create enough of a hole with my center-punch to get the screw started by hand.  Because of the design of the chase I mounted two clips at each end and two in the middle.  I started from the rear end of the chase, laid the LED rope into the mounting clips closest to the wall, brought the tube around and laid it into the other set of clips and capped the end.  I inserted the two pins of the power connector/cord into the free end, turned on the power, and voilà, I once again had a functioning hallway light.  I reattached the fascia board and double checked that lights still worked.  They did, so I moved on to the next task.

The other three fluorescent ceiling cove light fixtures will be much more difficult to convert due to access limitations, but they are still working, at least for now, so I will leave them as is.  I decided to add some of the LED rope light to the lower part of the bedroom center rear closet as it does not have any lights.  (The only light is a single incandescent bulb fixture on the ceiling and the light from that is blocked by the self.  Duh.)  I mounted three clips inside the vertical stiles so as not to interfere with the door hinges.  I cut and mounted 32″ LED rope light segments, inserted the power cord pins, and mounted the rope with the power cord at the top.  An existing hole in the front corners of the shelf allowed me to pass the free end of the power cords up into the top part of the closet which has the aforementioned light fixture controlled by micro-switches on each door.  I un-mounted the existing light fixture from the ceiling and identified the +/- 12VDC lines feeding it.  I separated the two conductors on the free ends of each power cord and stripped them.  I then cut the two wires feeding the ceiling fixture and stripped the ends.  I reconnected all of the +12 wires with a wire nut and then did the same for the -12 (DC ground) wires. (This kind of work is easier to describe than it is to do, and probably takes less time.)

As long as I was working in this closet and had the access panel removed for the driver side rear corner I decided to mount the TuneTrapper FM antenna for the bedroom radio and connect it to the radio.  I mounted the antenna to the ceiling just aft of the ceiling light fixture using mounting tab cable ties.  I passed the coax through the a-c return air opening, down to the radio, and plugged it in.  I turned the radio on but only got static and squeals.  I scanned for stations but never heard one.  This radio worked the last time I used it, and did not even have an antenna connected to it, so I am not sure what has happened and will need to investigate this further tomorrow.

By the time I finished all of this it was getting dark.  I had complied a short shopping list throughout the day.  Butch needed to go to Logansport but Bill had shown up to work on Brittiny’s car so Butch felt he had to stay home.  There wasn’t much else I could do so I drove into Logansport and stopped at Home Depot, Rural King, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, and Martin’s grocery store.  Home Depot finally had two of the 12″ x 12″ return air grills I needed for the bedroom air-conditioner return air project.

While I was in Logansport I was finally able to retrieve a voice message from Gary Hatt, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, and call him back.  I also called Linda to see how her day went.  I got a call from Butch asking me to pick up an order from O’Reilly’s.  While I was there I looked at car radios but did not buy one.  The situation with the bedroom radio is that it is an old two-post automotive style.  They have not been made for years, having been replaced with the 1-DIN and 2-DIN form factor units, except for a couple of specialty companies that make “vintage style” radios for vintage vehicles.  Because that is a very specialized market the radios command correspondingly high prices.  I will modify the panel where the radio is mounted before I buy something like that.

When I got back I unloaded and stowed my groceries.  I then took one of the return air grills back to the rear closet to check the fit.  It was too big; way too big.  I measured it and it was 14″ x 14″.  Apparently the 12″ x 12″ on the label referred to the louvered area not the outside dimensions.  I will be making a trip back to the Logansport Home Depot first thing tomorrow morning.  I think they have a 10″ x 10″ grill which should measure 12″ x 12.” If that is the case it will fit perfectly.

When I got back to Twelve Mile I chatted with Butch and Bill for a while and then turned in for the night.  I got online and registered the Ridgid drill/driver I bought last Saturday.  It has a limited Lifetime Service Agreement, but only if properly registered.  I then wrote this post and went to sleep.

2014/11/20 (R) Instant-Hot (Not)

My schedule has been shifting gradually since I brought the bus to Twelve Mile, Indiana at the end of September.  In spite of it now getting dark by 6 PM I have been working on the bus later into the evening.  This is partly due to the fact that I am working on inside projects and usually have ample artificial lighting.  I did not get started checking e-mail and writing yesterday’s blog post until 11 PM and I did not turn the lights out until 2 AM.  I typically get 7 hours of sleep a night, and true to my nature, I work up at 9 AM this morning.  I had already planned to head to Home Depot in Logansport as soon as I got up, and by the time I was dressed I decided to skip breakfast and just go.

Center rear bedroom closet with LED rope lights in bottom and TuneTrapper antenna in top on ceiling.

Center rear bedroom closet with LED rope lights in bottom and TuneTrapper antenna in top on ceiling.

I returned the 12″ x 12″ return air grills (that actually measured 14″ x 14″) and bought a pair of 10″ x 10″ grills (which actually measured about 12″ x 12″).  It was 10:30 AM when I got back so I went across the street to Small Town Brew and got a cup of coffee rather than take the time to make my own pot and then have to clean it up later.  I had a nice chat with Lisa Paul (the owner) and Harold, who appeared to be an elderly farmer but I could not tell if he was “retired.”

I took the new grills inside to the parts room to see if the square pieces of 1/4″ hardware cloth I cut and painted flat black would fit inside the lip of the grills.  I had to trim about 1/4″ off of two adjacent sides on each piece.  I took everything out to the bus and got the passenger side cloth/grill installed fairly easily.  The driver’s side was another story.  First I had to drill a hole above the top edge of the grill for the TuneTrapper FM antenna coaxial cable.  The opening on this side was slightly larger than on the other side and I could not get both screws, one center top and one center bottom, to bite.  I found a piece of scrap 1×1 in the warehouse and cut a 6″ length on Butch’s chop saw.  I drilled two holes through it and used wood screws to secure it to the top of the opening.  I was then able to screw the grill in place with the hardware cloth underneath it.  I also had to work left-handed, which didn’t make the job any easier.

I vacuumed up all of the sawdust, wood splinters, and carpet fuzz from all of the cutting and drilling I had done in this area in the last few days.  The grills are white but I decided not to paint them as they are inside a closet.  I installed them with the louvers facing the rear of the closet so when the doors are open you cannot see through them into the space behind.  They look OK and, more importantly, will allow unrestricted airflow into the squirrel cage blower on the bedroom air-conditioner evaporator.

As long as I was working in the rear closet I coiled and secured the extra length of FM antenna coax.  I then located the speaker wires for the radio.  There were wires for four speakers, which I presumed were the two in the bottom of the overhead cabinet in the bedroom and the two under the wall cabinet in the bathroom.  All of the power wires were also part of that harness.  I was not able to determine why the speakers quite working, so I disconnected all of the wires from the radio, removed the knobs, retaining nuts, and faceplate, and took it out of the panel from the rear.  There are a LOT of wires behind this panel and it was not easy to get the radio out.  (The radio is mounted in a panel next to an alarm clock and under a row of pushbuttom switches.  This panel is installed under the main 240/120 VAC house electrical distribution panel, above which is the evaporator/blower portion of the bedroom air-conditioner.  That’s a lot of stuff with a lot of wires in a place that is difficult to access; another brilliant Royale Coach conversion feature.)

The evaporator is installed with the coils not centered in the opening.  In particular there is a 1″ gap along the bottom edge and a similar opening along the top edge.  The problem with this is that it provides a very direct path for air coming out of the unit to be drawn back in rather than coming from the return air grill.  I purchased two different sizes of foam weather seal at Rural King intended for sealing around the edges of a window mounted air-conditioner.  I cut appropriate lengths of this material and secured it in place using double-sided tape I got from Fonda.

I decided to mount the indoor/outdoor thermometer on the wall between the refrigerator and the house systems panel.  It only needed one small screw and a small piece of double sided tape towards the bottom to hold it to the wall.  It’s a nice location and should give a more representative temperature reading, being on an interior wall at eye level and not in direct sunlight or near the kitchen counter where the cooking gets done.  It’s also next to the refrigerator so it should have a strong signal from the outdoor remote sensor, which we keep on the middle shelf of the refrigerator compartment.  As long as I was fiddling with this, I changed the batteries on the remote sensor and the base unit.

I checked in with Butch and Fonda to see if they needed my help.  They were also working on inside projects, both bus and house, and did not need my assistance today.  If they do need my help they know where to find me and are not bashful about asking, but I still like to check in with them several times a day.

My next task was to remove the Insta-Hot water heater from the kitchen sink.  It has never worked since we got the bus, which is to say no water comes out of it when I depress the lever.  I also have no idea if the electric heating element still worked as we have had it unplugged.  I shut of the water pump and closed the primary cold water inlet valve and both the inlet and outlet valves on the new water filter.  I loosened the 3/8″ tube compression nut on the supply line and pulled it loose from the supply T.  I purchased two 3/8″ compression caps yesterday at Home Depot.  I applied Teflon tape to the threads on the T, screwed a compression cap on, and tightened it.  I re-pressurized the line, checked for leaks, and found some.  I tightened the cap more but I could not get the leaks to stop.

I again shut the pump off, closed all of the relevant valves, and opened the filtered drinking water faucet to relieve the pressure.  I borrowed Butch’s Teflon pipe thread sealant, cleaned the Teflon off the threads on the T, applied the sealant, and screwed the second cap on.  I tightened the cap and re-pressurized the system.  It leaked worse than before.  I tried to tighten the cap more and the leak got worse.  It was time for plan B.

The hose coming out of the new water filter feeds a T from which a line went to the Insta-Hot.  The other end of the T is connected via 3/8″ tube to a second T.  One line from that T supplies the drinking water faucet.  The end of the second T feeds the line for the ice-maker in the refrigerator, which we have valved off behind the fridge and unplugged.  The first T was no longer necessary and the second T wasn’t really either.  Given that I could not cap the first T successfully I decided to remove it.  That left the second T with a short length of 3/8″ tube with a compression sleeve and nut already in place.  The hose coming off the output side of the new filter housing was long enough to reach to the second T.  I snugged up the compression nut and restored pressure to the system.  No leaks!  Hurray.

My final project for today was wiring up a 120VAC outlet in the bathroom closet for the InterVac built-in vacuum cleaner.  The vacuum cleaner is installed in the hallway wall just to the left of the refrigerator and below the house systems panel.  The bathroom closet is on the opposite side of that same wall.  The closet has a false bottom with a removable panel that provides access to a 6″ deep space full of wires, hoses, and heaters.  Of particular interest to me was the Cadet electric toe-kick heater which runs on 120 VAC (~10 Amps) and is on its own circuit breaker.

I removed the access panel and then removed the thermostat knob and the front cover/grill (two screws) from the toe-kick heater.  I removed two more screws and the heater slid out the front of the toe-kick board.  I removed four small screws, took the top cover off, disconnected the power wires, and pulled them out the back of the unit.  I got a surface mount duplex outlet and a square metal junction box (with cover plate) from Butch.  I drilled a hole through the bottom of the closet next to the rear wall that was tucked under the shelves to the right.  I cut a two foot length of 14-2+g NM cable and used it to wire up the surface mount outlet.  I fed the wire down through the hole, and screwed the outlet to the rear wall.  I installed a strain relief in the back of the Cadet enclosure, cut a two foot length of 12-2+g NM cable, routed it into the Cadet, and completed the AC power connections.  I then put the top cover back on, slid the unit back into the recessed toe-kick, secured it in place, and put the cover/knob back on.  I routed the original power cable and the two new cables into the metal junction box, made all of the electrical connections, and put the cover plate back on.  I put the cover on the new outlet and plugged in the InterVac power cord, which comes out of a grommeted hole in the back wall of the closet.  I turned the circuit breaker on, turned the heater thermostat up, and it came to life.  I turned the thermostat back down to shut the unit off and turned the vacuum cleaner on.  It worked too.  I put the access panel back in place, gathered up all of my tools and supplies, and then swept up all of the construction debris.

The refrigerator has been running a bit colder than I would like so I made small adjustments throughout the day.  The unit was suddenly running at 44 degrees instead of the 35-37 degrees it had been indicating.  I removed the thermometer base unit from the wall and set it up in the refrigerator next to the remote sensor.  I will check it in the morning and see if they are in agreement.

Linda called around 8:30 PM and Butch came out to let me know.  We chatted briefly and I went back out to the coach to finish up and have a light dinner salad.  I wrapped up at 10 PM, locked up the bus, and went into the house.  Butch and Fonda had already turned in for the night.  Their oldest daughter, Gene, is getting married tomorrow in Indianapolis and they would be leaving early in the morning.

2014/11/21 (F) Wedding Bells

I set my alarm for 8 AM to make sure I was up and dressed before Butch and Fonda had to leave.  Gene, the older of their two daughters, was getting married at 4 PM today in Indianapolis and there were a few details I had to go over with Butch and Fonda before they left.  They were still getting ready so I went across the street to Small Town Brew to have a cup of coffee and chat with the proprietor, Lisa Paul.

The first of two return air grills that allow air to pass through the upper portion of the center rear closet.

The first of two return air grills that allow air to pass through the upper portion of the center rear closet. The TuneTrapper FM antenna is visible upper right.

When I returned to the house Fonda showed me how to operate their washer and dryer and the various additives she uses.  She pre-measured the food for the dogs and told me what time to feed them, when they needed to be taken outside, and the policy on “cookies” (dog biscuits).  Butch gave me a house key so I could come and go as needed.  He found some audio speakers that might be useful in diagnosing the problem with the bedroom radio.  He also found a multi-probe digital thermometer that I could use to check the temperatures of the bus refrigerator and freezer compartments and ambient room temperatures against the Indoor/Outdoor thermometer we use for that purpose.  They loaded up the car at 9:30 AM and left to pick up Bill Tharpe in Mexico (Indiana).  Bill was flying out of Indianapolis to meet a friend in Arkansas (state of) and drive her back to Indiana and the timing was such that he could catch a ride down to the airport with them.

As soon as they left I sorted my laundry into lights and darks and loaded the lights into the washing machine.  I used my own detergent, which is free of dyes and perfumes, as years ago I had a bad reaction (contact dermatitis) to a name brand liquid laundry detergent.  With the laundry started I took the digital thermometer to my bus and had breakfast.  I read the directions for the thermometer, plugged in the probes, and turned it on only to discover that the 9V battery was low (depleted) and needed to be replaced before I could use the instrument.  It was a cool but sunny day!—a nice day for a drive—so I locked up the bus, transferred the laundry from the washer to the dryer, locked the house, and headed to Walmart in Logansport.

I was back in an hour, by which time the dogs needed to be taken outside.  With that chore done I put the second load of laundry in the washer and restarted the dryer on the driest setting.  I put the new 9V battery in the digital thermometer, plugged in the three probes, and turned it on.  I put one probe in the freezer, left one buy the counter (for ambient air temp) and put one in the fridge next to the base station and the remote sensor.  The digital thermometer is accurate to 1/10th of a degree Fahrenheit.  It is a serious piece of test equipment that Butch used for professional HVAC work, so I regard the temperature readings as correct compared to our indoor/outdoor consumer unit.  For the rest of the day I kept a log of the time and temperatures each time the refrigerator compressor started and stopped.

After studying the manual for the bedroom radio, a Kenwood KRC 3004, I worked for a while on the bedroom control panel where it was mounted.  After struggling with getting the radio out yesterday I realized today that the wood bezel surrounding the panel was removable, allowing the whole panel to come out and providing easier access to its back side and the wiring behind it.  That did not change my opinion about the design of this aspect of the bus conversion; it simply was not done with the idea that it would ever have to be worked on.

I had disconnected the harness for the four speakers powered by this radio yesterday so I checked at the connector for proper resistance and shorts.  Each speaker measured around 4 ohms (DC) and none of the negative lines were shorted.  (Technically the 4 ohm rating on a speaker is an AC impedance, not a DC resistance, but the resistance reading told me there was a complete circuit from the connector through the two wires and the speaker coil.)  The power supply wires appeared to be in tact so I reconnected the radio and turned it on.  I heard some static and could “move” it from the bedroom to the bathroom with the front-rear fader control but as soon as I tried to turn the volume up the speakers went dead.

This was starting to sound like a volume control component problem so I removed the top cover of the radio.  The volume control was a component about 1/2″ square and 3″ long mounted to a vertical circuit board on the left edge of the chassis.  There wasn’t much I could do with that but tomorrow I may spray it with some De-Ox-it just for grins and giggles.

I interrupted my work around 4 PM to feed the dogs and take them outside.  I was thinking about what to work on next and remembered that the latch side stile of the left closet door in the bathroom was coming loose and was difficult to latch.  I needed two “L” brackets to reinforce the upper and lower corners on the inside of the door where the stile connected to the top and bottom rails.  For the second time today I locked the bus and the house and headed to Logansport.  This time my destination was Home Depot, but it’s adjacent to the Walmart so it was still the east end of town.  I also went to Radio Shack, in McCord’s Do It Best Hardware, looking for a replacement radio but they do not sell car radios anymore.

I called Linda while I was in town and described the work I was doing.  She sent me a TXT message with data on our refrigerator at home.  Over the course of an hour the compressor cycled 7 minutes on, 13 minutes off.  That was useful information. That’s a duty cycle of about 1/3 or 33%.  Our bus fridge duty cycle was ~60% (30 minutes ON, 20 minutes OFF).  I think our home fridge is more like what I would expect, but I will discuss this with Butch.  What bothers me the most is how long the bus fridge runs when it comes on; 4x as long as the house fridge.

By the time I got back it was dinnertime.  I heated a Tofurkey Italian sausage with some diced onion and used it as a topping for a plate of salad greens, along with some roasted peanuts and raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing.  I then worked on the bathroom closet door while I continued to monitor and record the refrigerator and freezer temperatures.  I also repositioned the ball catches on the door so it now closes easily and latches securely.

I was watching the data from the digital thermometers and happened to be looking at the readings from the one in the freezer when the cycle ended.  The temperature was around 0 degrees F and as soon as the compressor stopped running I watched the temperature climb 1/10th of a degree every few seconds.  The compressor seemed to come back on when the freezer reached a temperature of 10-to-12 degrees F.  If I presume a 10 degree rise (to keep the math easy) and the off time is 20 minutes, the freezer is heating up 1 degree F every 2 minutes (120 seconds).  That’s 1/10th of a degree every 12 seconds, which seemed pretty fast to me.  I also noticed, however, that the temperature in the refrigerator compartment continued to drop a few tenths of a degree after the compressor stopped, so perhaps that’s where the cold from the freezer was going.

How a refrigerator cycles depends on a number of factors: the efficiency of the unit, the ambient temperature, where the controls are set, how much and what kind of stuff is in the freezer and fridge compartments, and how often the doors are opened and for how long.  I don’t have any food in the bus freezer but there is plenty of mass in the form of containers of frozen water.  I don’t have much food in the bus fridge compartment either, but I have a lot of bottled water, “milk”, O. J., salad dressings, mustard, etc. and I have it distributed from top to bottom, including the door shelves.  I have the thermometers on the second shelf from the top.

I had spent quite a bit of time earlier taking voltage measurements on the push-button switches in the bedroom control panel in an attempt to figure out why the aisle lights were not working.  I was fairly certain this was a 3-way circuit with a second switch.  I found the “other” switch by the dinette, changed its position, and voila, the aisle lights worked!  For some reason that switch, the rearmost switch by the fake plant, appeared to not be wired as a 3-way with the one in the bedroom but rather to be in series with it; both switches have to be on for the lights to work.  That may not be how they are wired, as there could be a relay involved, but that’s how they behave.

I wrapped up my work for the day at 8 PM, locked up the bus and went in the house.  I took the dogs out and then gave them each a treat.  I folded and packed my clothes and then settled in to write while I waited for Butch and Fonda to get home.  They arrived at 10 PM and we chatted for a while about the wedding/reception, refrigerators, and radios before finally turning in for the night at 11 PM.

Bus bedroom driver side rear corner house systems control panel with Kenwood KRC 3004 radio removed.

Bus bedroom driver side rear corner house systems control panel with Kenwood KRC 3004 radio removed.

2014/11/22(S) T Minus 2

…and counting.  Today was my second to last day to work on the bus in Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Except for a few days in October, the first full week of November, and some weekends, I have been at Butch and Fonda’s place since I brought the coach here on September 30.  We have gotten a lot done on both buses in that time, but not everything on either list.  As much as I wanted to avoid a last minute scramble, there was still too much to do to take the weekend off.  I was up at 7 AM, took a shower, got dressed, finished yesterday’s blog post, and got to work.  I stayed busy until 10 PM, with short breaks to have a bite to eat and one trip to Logansport late in the afternoon.

My major accomplishment today was mounting the oak board to the center windshield pillar and then mounting the magnetic compass and Pressure Pro TPMS receiver to it.  I needed a standoff to mount the inclinometer, so I cut two pieces of 1×1 and spray painted them flat black.  I will finish mounting the inclinometer tomorrow, and possibly the inside rearview mirror.

My other major project was the removal, disassembly, diagnosis, repair, testing, and reassembly of the driver’s side motorized windshield roller shade.  Fonda helped me remove it and Butch helped with the rest of the process.  It appears that the problem was a soldered connection to the internal motor that failed.  I will reinstall it tomorrow, probably with Fonda’s help, and try to correct some alignment problems in the process.

I sprayed the on/off/volume control in the Kenwood KRC-3004 radio with De-Ox-It and left it to dry.  I came back later, plugged the connector into the back of the radio, and turned it on.  Nothing, nada, zip; zero sound from the speakers.  I suspect the volume control or the final output transistors have failed.  Either way I am not likely to get it repaired.  While I tend to think of Kenwood as good equipment, both of the radios in the bus have something wrong with them.  The front radio is obviously newer as it has a 1-Din form factor.  This will also make it easier to replace when I get around to it.

The bedroom radio is an old style unit with two shafts that are used to mount it and control most of the functions plus a center section for the cassette player, LCD display, and a few buttons.  This style of radio is now considered “vintage.”  There are at least two companies that make modern radios in authentic vintage form factors, but they are very pricey and targeted at the vintage restoration market.  Putting a modern 1-Din form factor radio in the bedroom panel will require me to cut the appropriate size opening.  Since the panel has 10 switches mounted in it creating the opening will be non-trivial.  A better option would be a remote radio with a slim profile control head, like the one Butch has from Custom Autosound.  The control head would cover the center opening and I could mount switches in the two shaft holes.  I thought of that riding to Logansport.  Our trips to town are often useful that way.

Another thing I did today was continue to monitor and adjust the refrigerator.  Since I spent much of the day working in the bus I was able to log the time of day and various temperatures each time the compressor started and stopped.  I missed cycles, of course, as I was in and out of the house or gone to town, but I think I got enough data to determine if there is a consistent difference between the indoor/outdoor sensors and the more accurate Cooper Instruments SH66A digital thermometer, and if so, how much and in what direction.  I also have useful information about the settings of the refrigerator (thermostat) control and freezer (air control) for the temperatures I want to maintain in the two compartments.  I will continue to monitor tomorrow as I wrap up my last few tasks and organize the bus for travel.  I entered the raw time and temperature data into an Excel Spreadsheet but did not have time to analyze it.  Big day tomorrow; have to get to bed.

Bus bedroom DS rear corner house systems control panel removed.

Bus bedroom DS rear corner house systems control panel removed.

2014/11/23 (N) T Minus 1

Today was my final day working on buses in Twelve Mile, at least until we return here a week from today.  The temperature continued to be mild but by noon it was raining.  I had breakfast and got to work as I had a long list of little things to take care of today.

I continued to monitor the refrigerator/freezer temperatures and record them while working on other projects.  I taped a piece of cardboard to the back of the bedroom control panel to cover the holes where the radio used to be and reinstalled the panel.  I reinstalled the driver side access panel in the lower rear closet and then vacuumed up the sawdust and other construction detritus.  I started organizing the inside of the coach for travel, getting things in boxes and getting the boxes on the floor on the two front sofas.  Twelve Mile now has a large recycling container that accepts mixed recyclables, so I carried several bags of plastic, cardboard, and cans over there rather than haul them back to the house.

Automotion shade with motor removed from end of roller tube.

Automotion shade with motor removed from end of roller tube.

Steve showed up mid-morning and helped Butch install a new AM/FM radio and CD player in the MC-9.  They also came over and helped me reinstall the driver side windshield roller shade. We tested it and it worked.  I like it when that happens.  I wasn’t as lucky with my mounting arrangement for the inclinometer.  I ended up modifying one of the pieces and then had to repaint the two ends flat black.  I left it to dry and busied myself with getting the bus ready to go to Gallahan’s Truck Stop for fuel.  I had turned the electric block heater on earlier so I turned it off and turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump.

I used Butch’s portable air compressor to air up the chassis (suspension, brakes, and engine accessories) and used his auto shop compressor to adjust the inflation pressures of the tires.  I have the 12VDC accessory outlets in the cockpit powered off of the house batteries, so I immediately checked the Pressure Pro TPMS sensor readings against the known pressures in the tires.  The correspondence was as follows (actual:sensor):  DSF (116:112), PSF (116:111), DSOD (95:92), DSID (95:91), PSOD (95:91), PSID (95:91), DST (85:83), PST (85:83).  All of the sensors are reading low from 2 to 5 PSI.  I need to create a little card to go by the display unit with these calibration adjustments.

Butch had to take Steve to Rochester to meet up with his wife and I was just getting ready to lock up the buildings so I could drive the bus to Gallahan’s when Fonda returned from church.  I stowed the folding step stool in the back of the car, unplugged the electrical shoreline and stored it just inside the warehouse overhead door, disconnected the portable air-compressor and stored it in the parts room, and turned off the Aqua-Hot (anything with an open flame is a no-no at a fueling station).  I fired up the engine and was about to leave at 1 PM when Butch returned.

I drove to Gallahan’s in light rain.  The new speedometer/odometer worked as intended, and I did not get a Check Engine Light (CEL) during the trip out and back.  I discovered, however, that my transmission retarder was not engaging.  I suspect that has something to do with removing and reinserting the cable connectors on the DDEC II when I was trying to diagnose and fix the Fuel Temperature Sensor Voltage High code problem.  Not having the transmission retarder is not a good thing, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it today.  I will probably try to figure this out on Monday, December 1st while we are parked back at Butch and Fonda’s awaiting our group departure for the southwest U. S.

When I got back from Gallahan’s I pulled the bus in front of the automotive garage so I could pull the car up behind it.  A lake was forming behind the bus, so I pulled up farther.  Butch has a 30 A RV outlet on the front of the garage, which was plenty of power for the unoccupied bus.  I moved all of the stuff I had stored in the parts room to the overhead door for the woodshop, which is directly behind where I normally park the bus.  I backed the car up to the door close enough that I could open the rear hatch and load everything into the back of the car while staying out of the rain.  I packed up clothing I was not going to need and loaded that in the back as well.

Once the car was loaded I pulled it around behind the bus and hooked it up for towing.  By this time there was a hard, steady, rain but I just worked through it.  All of the lights tested as good and the bus/car combination was ready to roll tomorrow morning.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot and turned up the heat while I prepared a couple of tofu hotdogs for a late lunch / early dinner.

Magnetic compass mounted to the oak board on the center windshield pillar.

Magnetic compass mounted to the oak board on the center windshield pillar.

I re-mounted the inside rearview mirror high enough that I will not bump my head on it like I used to.  I retrieved the mounting part I had spray painted earlier and tried to finish the installation of the inclinometer, but could not get it to work.  I will either have to take the case apart to get the mounting bracket loose or I will have to rethink/re-engineer how I mount it.  That was my last project.  I would rather not have ended on a note of failure, but it meant I have at least one project to look forward to.  I gathered up a few cooking/eating utensils, my camera, and a notepad, shut off the lights, and locked the door on the way out.

Back in the house I took a hot shower and put on some dry clothes.  I loaded all of the wet/soiled clothes in the washer and Fonda did a small load of laundry for me, transferring it to the dryer as well.  The three of us chatted while they ate dinner.  Linda called at 8:30 PM and we discussed the weather forecast for tomorrow, which, while well above freezing (to start) was less than ideal with rain and high wind advisories.  I decided to try for an earlier start than I originally planned.  With any luck I can be at Martin Diesel by 9:30 AM and on the road for home by 2 PM.  That would get me back to the house while it’s still daylight.

 

2014/11/10-16 Even More Bus Work

2014/11/10 (M) New Heights

We rarely set wake up alarms anymore, one of the major perks of retirement, but ‘rarely’ does not mean never so this morning my alarm went off at 5:05 AM.  I grabbed a quick shower, got dressed, and got busy pulling everything together for the trip to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  I had hoped to be on the road by 6 AM but did not quite make it.  Linda left at 6:15 AM for a 7:30 AM medical appointment and I had the car packed by 6:30 AM and pulled out shortly after that.

The drive always takes me about five hours including stops.  Butch called me around 10 AM to let me know they were in Logansport and would not make it back to the house until mid-afternoon.  I was going to stop in Rochester anyway to buy groceries so I had lunch first and then took my time shopping.  From Rochester I took IN-25 south and stopped in Fulton to buy fuel.  The street I normally turn on is Aitken and the filling station was at the intersection with IN-25 so I headed east to Meridian Street and then south to IN-16 and finally east to Twelve Mile.

New ride height linkage (L) with ball ends.  Old linkage (R) with rubber ends.

New ride height linkage (L) with ball ends. Old linkage (R) with rubber ends.

I pulled up in front of the bus at 12:30 PM and unloaded all of the groceries and bus parts from the car and put them in the bus.  I changed into my work clothes and started working on inside projects.  First up was resetting the clocks since the switch from EDT to EST occurred while I was away.  I then emptied the cabinet above the refrigerator, which is currently used to store cleaning supplies, in preparation for installing an under cabinet florescent light fixture against the ceiling.  I was investigating the details of that little project when Butch and Fonda got home.  With the house now unlocked I finished unloading my car and moved my clothes and technology into the guest bedroom, which is where I stay when I am here working on buses.

Butch had fabricated one of my ride height linkages while I was away.  He made a second one and then I gathered up tools and my camera to install them while he finished the last one.  Fonda found a large sheet of corrugated plastic that made it much easier to slide under the bus to work.  The front one was easy to install, just as it had been easier to remove.  The rear ones were even more difficult to install than they were to remove.  I got the rear protection shields back on with Fonda’s help.  Some jobs just require more than two hands.

New ride height linkage ball end and mounting bolt.  Old linkage end visible upper right.

New ride height linkage ball end and mounting bolt. Old linkage end visible upper right.

Bill Tharpe showed up to help Butch work on Brittiny’s car.  Butch and Bill had retrieved it a couple of days ago with a car hauler trailer when it quit running.  It was leaking coolant and apparently needed a new intake manifold gasket.  Bill spent most of his time disassembling the top of the engine so he can eventually remove the manifold.

Although I bought fresh salad greens on the drive down it ended up being a long day so I prepared a Simply Asia Mushroom Noodle Soup Bowl for dinner along with a few grapes.  Linda called at 8:30 PM and we chatted about her audiology and ENT appointments this morning.  The audiologist said her hearing in her ‘good’ ear was essentially unchanged from four years ago, which was good news, and she had a great visit with Dr. Siedman.  I chatted briefly with Butch about the fair weather ‘to do’ list for tomorrow and then we all turned in for the evening.

2014/11/11 (T) Code 23

I was up at 7 AM and in my coach by 7:30 having a simple, but yummy, breakfast of orange juice and homemade granola with unsweetened soy milk.  With all of the projects I have going on I have very little space at the moment to prepare food or sit and eat so I decided to forego making coffee and walked across the street to Small Town Brew to get some.  Lisa (the shop owner) was there so we had a nice chat.

New ride height linkage installed on front axle and leveling valve.

New ride height linkage installed on front axle and leveling valve.

The weather forecast indicated that the best part of the day was going to be the morning with the high temperature of 54 degrees F at noon and then falling steadily with a rapidly increasing chance of rain.  I had two outside tasks to accomplish on my bus today so I wanted to get them done in the morning if possible.  My first task, however, was to attach the stinger (or whip, the long slender flexible piece at the top of an amateur radio antenna) to the base screwdriver portion of Butch’s mobile HF ham antenna.  I was able to do this from his ladder and did not have to get up on the roof.

While I worked on the antenna Butch prepped their new motion-sensing patio light.  He installed it over the entrance door to their bus with Fonda’s help.  With his assistance I removed the new fan belt from my engine, removed the two old air-conditioning compressor belts, and installed the two new a-c belts.  It was obvious from the extra slack in the inside belt that the a-c compressor was out of alignment with the pulley on the engine.  Butch suggested that we take the new belts off rather than ruin them and put the old ones back on until we can align the compressor.  That made sense to me, so that’s what we did, finally putting the new fan belt back on.

The drive side rear ride height linkage was not easy to get to with the dual drive tires on the axle.

The drive side rear ride height linkage was not easy to get to with the dual drive tires on the axle.

In the process of changing the belts I tried to us the valve that either tightens the belts when the engine is running or retracts the belt tensioners when they need to be changed.  The retract position did not appear to work and after looking at how the valve was plumbed Butch and I were of the opinion that it may not be connected correctly.  The run/tighten position works as intended, extending the air-driven belt tensioners, but it would sure be nice to be able to turn the valve and have the belt tensioners retract as intended.  I’m going to have to find out more about this valve and re-plumb it if necessary.

Butch and Fonda had to take some time to move things out of their warehouse for someone who is coming by to purchase them.  While they did that I started working on the DDEC II code 23 (Fuel Temp Sensor Voltage High) problem.  I got the diagnostic procedure from Chuck over the weekend.  The first step was to remove the harness from the sensor, short out the two pins, turn on the ignition (but do not start the engine), and see what Active Codes the ECM (DDEC II) generates.  That sounded simple enough but unfortunately the Fuel Temperature Sensor is located on the right side of the fuel pump under the ECM and behind a coolant pipe.  The only way to get to it is to unbolt the ECM mounting plate from the block and lift it up, which it turn requires all of the harnesses to be unplugged from the ECM.  Again, simple enough in concept but more difficult in practice.  Once I could get to the sensor and disconnect the harness I had to figure out a way to jumper across the two sockets.  I ended up using two pieces of small solid wire inserted into the connector and then bent to give me something to connect the alligator clips to.  Fonda helped with all of this.  Again, it was more than a two-handed job.

Access to the passenger side rear ride height linkage was a little better, but not great.

Access to the passenger side rear ride height linkage was a little better, but not great.

I turned on the ignition and read the Active Codes on my ProLink and also had them flash on the Check Engine Light.  I was looking for a code 25 (everything is OK) or either a code 23 or a code 24.  What I got was both a code 23 (sensor signal and/or return wire open) and a code 24 (signal wire shorted to +5 VDC wire).  The diagnostic procedure has you check resistance between pins in either case, just different pins, so I checked both.  The readings I got did not make a lot of sense and I did not have time to pursue it further as the temperature had started dropping and it had started misting.  (I figured out later that the code 23 test requires the jumper to remain in place but I had done the code 24 test first, which required it to be removed, and not reinstalled it, so I did not do the Code 23 test correctly.)

By the time I got the ECM bolted back in place and all of the harnesses reconnected it was raining lightly and my tools were getting wet.  I got all of them put away and closed up all of the bays and decided to start the engine to make sure it would still run.  It started right up and I let it run on high idle for 25 minutes while I had a bite of lunch.  The test procedure called for clearing all codes before starting the engine and monitoring the CEL for 8 minutes, stopping the engine, and checking the historical codes.  I was clearly done working outside for the day so I did not get to do this at this time.

It was only mid-afternoon when I shut the engine off so I set to work installing the florescent light fixture in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  As with most projects this one seemed simple enough but took quite a while to do.  I was able to use an existing hole with wires running through it to snake two more wires through from the cabinet (where the fixture was going) to the adjacent cabinet to the right over the left corner of the kitchen counter.  That cabinet already had two 12 VDC light fixtures and I had previously identified the positive and negative supply wires.  What complicated matters was that the glue holding the carpet on the ceiling of the refrigerator cabinet had failed and the carpet was falling down.  The loose carpet also led to the discovery of other 12 VDC wiring hidden underneath it.  That, in turn, led to two things:  1) I had to make sure that when I mounted the new florescent fixture I did not screw through any of these wires, and 2) I had to figure out a way to keep the ceiling carpet up.

The sunset was amazing on November 10th.

The sunset was amazing on November 10th.

I taped the existing wires to the plywood ceiling so they would be in known locations.  I then used wood screws and fender washers to hold the carpet to the ceiling.  I added insulated spade lug connectors to the fixture wires and the supply wires and connected the other ends of the supply wires to the existing supply wires using special connectors designed for tapping into an existing wire without cutting it.  I would not use these for higher current applications but for a small florescent light fixture they are fine.  I attached the fixture to the ceiling with four short wood screws, installed the F13T5 bulb, turned the switch ON, and there was light!  I love it when that happens.

As long as I was working in this area I decided to reattach the incandescent fixture in the cabinet above the kitchen sink.  It was designed to be mounted with two screws but only one was in place.  Again, this turned out to be more work than it at first appeared.  The fixture is mounted to the inside of the upper cabinet face frame, not the ceiling, so there was no way to directly see what I was doing.  That meant mirrors and flashlights, and a blown fuse when my screwdriver shorted +12vdc to DC ground.  It turned out that the wiring was interfering with the mounting.  I eventually got it tucked up under the ceiling carpet and got the fixture mounted using two screws.  My documentation indicated that the upper kitchen cabinet lights were powered by wire #51.  I located that wire in the front DC distribution panel and pulled the 10 Amp fuse that protects it.  It was indeed open, which was good as it meant my documentation was correct and allowed me to find it on the first try.

The florescent light in the hallway ceiling cove quit working the last time I was here.  I removed the bulb, with some difficulty, to see what it was.  It was an F72T12 55 Watt (72″ length) with a single pin on each end.  I needed a 10 A blade fuse to replace the one I blew so I made a shopping list and headed off to Logansport to visit Walmart, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, and Home Depot.  Since I was in town I called Linda as my cell phone does not work in Twelve Mile.  She wanted to know if I had shut off the outside water at home.  I had not, so she took photos of the valves/pipes in the utility room and e-mailed them to me.  I got a call from Butch while I was in town.  He needed a few machine screws so I picked those up.  When I got back to the house I checked the photos Linda had sent and then sent her a couple of replies which resulted in her calling the house to go through what had to be done.  She e-smiled me later that she had taken care of it.

I Replaced the F72T12 (with considerable difficulty) but it still did not work.  It was late, and dark, and I was tired, so finding and fixing the problem would have to wait until tomorrow.  Somewhere in there I had a tofu Italian sausage on a whole wheat hotdog bun with mustard and onions.  By the time I came in to the house Butch and Fonda had gone to bed.  I checked e-mail and logged in to RVillage ad saw that our “Vegan RVers (WFPB)” group was up to 100 members.  I worked on this post and then went nighty night.

2014/11/12 (W) Burrrr

The leading edge (cold front) of the polar vortex had passed through north central Indiana by the time we got up this morning.  There was a definite bite to the air, and it will get worse before it gets better, but I brought a selection of winter clothing that I can layer in various was to suit the conditions and the work that needs to be done.  All of my projects today were inside the bus or the house so I did not have to bundle up excessively.  Butch and Fonda spent a little time working on the privacy curtain system for the front of their coach but much of their time today was taken up with someone who bought a lot of metal shelving and storage racks from them.  He showed up sometime between 9 and 10 AM and brought a crew to disassemble the shelving and load everything into a trailer.  Butch had to use his forklift to help load some it.

The DDEC II ECM on our DD8V92TA with all of the harnesses unplugged.

The DDEC II ECM on our DD8V92TA with all of the harnesses unplugged.

I had cleared some space in the kitchen (of the bus) so I made coffee to go with breakfast.  That emptied out the last of three storage canisters, so I opened the three bags of custom roasted beans from Teeko’s and transferred them to the three containers.  After considering my project choices I decided to install the knob on the front TV cabinet door.  I spent a few minutes checking the installation details and dimensions of the Gaggenau halogen cooktop, which we would eventually like to replace with a built-in two-position induction cooktop if we can find one that fits the existing opening in the kitchen counter.  I had a note to get the GenSet model number for Martin Diesel so I looked that up in my documentation and found both the model and serial numbers.  I then turned my attention to the fluorescent light fixture in the hallway cove.

After studying the construction of the cove I realized that the front piece could be detached by removing seven (7) screws from underneath.  With the fascia removed I had great access to the F72T12 bulb.  I also discovered that there wasn’t an actual fixture there, just two ends to hold the bulb.  One was spring loaded and the other one was not.  The ballast was obviously somewhere else.  But where?

I vaguely recalled having seen a small metal box with wires coming out of it in the space under the bottom shelf of the pantry so I looked there and, sure enough, there it was.  It still had a label on it that was in good condition and indicated that it was a 13.2 VDC ballast for a single F72T12 fluorescent bulb.  Things were slowly starting to make sense.  There is an identical box in the back TV cabinet, with the same wires and connector but no label or markings, so I reasoned that it must power the fluorescent cove light in the bedroom.  That meant there were probably two more boxes somewhere for the two front fluorescent cove lights, although there might only be one as they are on the same switch.  Again, I vaguely recalled having seen these boxes in the bottom rear of the A-V cabinet behind the driver’s seat, so that’s where I looked first, and there they were.

Wire taps for joining a new wire to an existing wire.

Wire taps for joining a new wire to an existing wire.

It appeared that we had a bad ballast and that this would be an easy fix.  The label said the ballast was a Triad made by Magnetek in Huntington, Indiana and had the model number.  Cool.  I could drive over there and get one if I had to.  I went inside to use my iPad to search for sources of supply and found that Magnetek had divested itself of most of their product lines, including this one.  Their website gave the URLs of the various companies that acquired their product lines.  Universal Lighting picked up the DC ballast products so I tried their website but did not find one for an F72T12 bulb.  Ugh.  I searched some more and eventually found a Bodine (Philips) ballast electronic/inverter ballast that appeared to be exactly what I needed…for $98 plus tax and S$H.  Double ugh.

I would eventually like to convert most of the lighting in the coach to LEDs, so perhaps this was the time.  I found a kit with 52.5 feet of LED rope light (~10 LEDs/in) and power cords, end caps, and mounting clips to make up to 10 segments.  The description said the light pattern was 360 degrees and the illumination was 48-60 lumens per foot.  An FTC website indicated that a typical 40 W incandescent bulb puts out about 450 lumens and a 60 W bulb about 800 lumens.  Figuring conservatively at 50 lumens per foot a 10 foot length, folded back mid-point to make a five foot long light source, should give us at least 500 lumens which is plenty of light for this application.  The kit has enough materials to make four such lights and still have 12 feet to use somewhere else, such as around the inside of the face frame of the wardrobe closet in the bathroom.  I ordered it with 3-day shipping.  While I was at it I ordered an Everpure (SHURflo) ADC Full-timer bacteriostatic water filter cartridge with 2-day delivery through Amazon Prime.  I thought about ordering several, but figured I might find them cheaper in Quartzsite this winter.

There wasn’t anything else I could do on the fluorescent fixture so I decided to shorten the cable for the front OTA TV antenna and put an F-connector on the RF coax portion.  I borrowed Butches crimper with the hex jaws and opened the coax cable stripper I bought at Home Depot.  I then discovered that the RG-6 connectors I had did not fit the cable, which was smaller in diameter.  Without different connectors this would be another stalled project with my front TV unusable.  Butch told me there was a Radio Shack store inside McCord’s Hardware and Lumber so I made a shopping list and headed to Logansport.

New florescent light in cabinet above the refrigerator.

New florescent light in cabinet above the refrigerator.

Based on the connectors available at Radio Shack I determined that my cable was probably RG-59 so I got four crimp style F-connectors.  While I was in town I stopped at Home Depot for a GFCI outlet to replace the one in the bathroom, which keeps tripping.  I also spotted some packages of cover plate screws so I got one each of white, almond, and brown.  A quick stop at Walmart for some personal items and I was headed back to Twelve Mile.

When I got back Fonda was just starting to make their dinner so I went to my coach to fix a salad.  I had a large salad of power greens, fresh mushrooms, fresh strawberries, onion, peanuts, and dried cranberries with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing and a small glass of Moscato wine.  I then worked on the F-connector.

It took a while, and a couple of test fits, but I eventually figured out how to strip the coax, folding back the braided shield while leaving the foil shield in place, and get the prepped cable fully inserted into the connector and crimped it.  I stripped the three control wires, secured the little bit of extra cable inside the cabinet, and then connected the coax and control wires to the back of the controller.  Twelve Mile is a long way from everywhere but I figured I would I would test my cable construction by trying to tune in a channel.  The TV was having trouble receiving channel, 16-1 HD until I moved the antenna from position 8 to position 6.  Position 8 is just to the driver side of the nose, so given how I was parked it was facing slightly east of south.  Position 6 was more ESE, and the signal was good except when a truck went by.

Tarheel HF screwdriver ham radio antenna on motorized lift mount.

Tarheel HF screwdriver ham radio antenna on motorized lift mount.

I checked with Butch and WNDU 16-1 HD turned out to be a South Bend station.  South bend is north and slightly west of Twelve Mile.  Hummm?  I swung the antenna around to position 14, 180 degrees from position 6 and roughly NW, and had an excellent signal there too (I don’t recall it being interrupted by passing vehicles).  Clearly the F-connector was on well enough to transmit a clean signal.  The only thing I can figure is that my antenna had an unobstructed view of a large house in direction 6 that provided a very usable signal that was blocked by large trucks passing by.  Either way, South Bend is over 60 miles away, so propagation must have been very good this evening.

That was enough for one day.  I gathered up my dirty dishes and camera and returned to the house.  Fonda was just loading the dishwasher so I added mine.  I chatted a while with Butch about the DDEC II code 23 diagnostic procedure and the game plan for tomorrow and then turned in to check e-mail and work on this post.

2014/11/13 (R) Thermal Underwear

I slept in this morning so I skipped making coffee and after my usual breakfast went across the street to Small Town Brew to get some.  I then got to work on one of Butch’s projects.  We kept busy today including, in spite of the cold, some outside work.  Thermal underwear helped keep me comfortable.  I went back to STB and got a second cup of coffee around 10:30 AM.

I spent the morning helping Butch and Fonda with the wire chases for the bedroom in their bus.  Each chase is a pair of boards joined at a right angle to make a horizontal bottom and a vertical side.  They will each be mounted using a pair of aluminum angles, one on the wall for the bottom and one on the ceiling for the brackets for side.  My first task was to drill holes in the aluminum angles approximately every 12 inches.  I then helped position them, drill the holes for the mounting screws, and attach them to the bus.

Testing the DD8V92 fuel temperature sensor.

Testing the DD8V92 fuel temperature sensor.

Fonda and I moved three large wooden tables from the warehouse to the now mostly empty ‘parts room.’  All three of us moved a couple of loaded metal shelving units and then Fonda and I put the wooden tables in place.  I plan to move my all of the stuff I have in the (unheated) warehouse to the (heated) parts room tomorrow.

I worked on some minor projects in my bus and had a tofu turkey sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, lettuce, and onions.  I disconnected/removed the ballast for the bedroom fluorescent cove light and used it to test the hallway fixture.  The light worked just fine which verified that it was a ballast problem and not a wiring problem.  I needed to know that before I went to the trouble of converting this fixture to LED rope lighting early next week.  I put the good ballast back in rear TV cabinet and kept working in there, starting with the installation of the knob for the TV cabinet door.

I shortened the control/coax cable for the TV and installed the crimp-style F-connector.  Unlike the front TV (which was on and receiving WNDU Ch-16 from South Bend over 60 miles away) the rear TV was not able to detect any signals at any antenna direction.  The OTA antenna for the rear TV is in the rear roof tray and the bus is backed into its parking spot, so it is more shielded from radio frequency waves than the front antenna.  The only direction that might be good is straight ahead, which is due south.  Unfortunately there are no TV towers in the direction for a long way.

Magnatek 13.2 VDC ballast for F72T12.

Magnatek 13.2 VDC ballast for F72T12.

Butch decided to install the plate heat exchanger in the bay just forward of where the Oasis Combi is installed and needed my assistance.  The plate heat exchanger will be used to tie the Combi to the OTR bus heating system (engine coolant loop).  We also discussed possible locations for the coolant circulating pump that he plans to plumb into the OTR heating lines once he determines which line is the supply and which one is the return.

I returned to my rear TV closet projects while Butch started compiling a shopping list.  After stabilizing the back piece of plywood inside the cabinet with a couple of screws I mounted the Pressure Pro Repeater to it using a couple of self-adhesive Velcro pads that came with it.  I then mounted the dual 12 VDC outlet directly below the ballast and installed a small cube relay just behind it using its built in mounting tab.  Tomorrow I plan to connect the outlets to the relay and supply it with 12 VDC to power the repeater.  I also plan to figure out a way to drive the relay from a 12 VDC source that comes on when the 12 VDC chassis battery switch is ‘ON.”  For now, though, I will connect the outlets to the NC (normally closed) contacts so that power will flow to the outlets when the relay coil is not energized.

I was pondering my next project when Fonda let me know that Butch would be ready to head to town shortly.  I was considering how I was going to enlarge the two small openings that allow air to flow from the grate in the rear TV cabinet through the upper parts of the center cabinet and into the driver side corner cabinet where the rear air-conditioner evaporator and blower are located.  At Butch’s suggestion I looked up the specifications on the Carrier air-conditioning units; 14,000 BTUs and 465 CFM air flow.  Requirements for supply and return grates?  At least equal to the square area of the evaporator coils.  The coils are roughly 9″ x 12″, as are most of the grates.  The two small openings in the side walls of the upper closet, however, are 3″ x 10″, not nearly big enough.  This is what happens when buses are converted to “look nice” instead of to “work correctly.”

Passenger side rear corner TV cabinet with ballast, dual 12V outlet, relay, AC outlets, and PressurePro TPMS repeater.

Passenger side rear corner TV cabinet with ballast, dual 12V outlet, relay, AC outlets, and PressurePro TPMS repeater.

I rode into Logansport with Butch where we stopped at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Aldi’s market, and Home Depot.  We ran into Bill Tharpe at O’Reilly’s and saw his car again at Home Depot.  When we got back Fonda was putting the finishing touches on their dinner so I made a salad and selected a can of Amy’s split pea soup and a can of Mandarin oranges.  I returned to my coach, cleaned up the kitchen area, and locked up for the night.  I spent a few minutes studying Butch’s MC-9 manual and finally found the diagram that identified the engine coolant supply and return lines.  That was a nice way to end the day so I retired to my room to work on this post and transfer photos from the last few days to my computer.

2014/11/14 (F) Arctic Oasis Grandma

I bought a dried fruit stolen last night at Aldi’s and had a few slices for breakfast this morning.  No animal products, of course, but a few less-than-desirable ingredients like HFCS.  Still, it was very tasty and not something Linda would be likely to buy at home.  I brewed a pot of coffee with a mix of the Cafe Europe Blend and Columbian Decaf beans from Teeko’s.  I had some with the stolen and drank the rest over the course of the morning.

Stacked plate heat exchanger to left of Magnum 4024 inverter/charger.

Stacked plate heat exchanger to left of Magnum 4024 inverter/charger.

Most of our work today was focused on trying to finish the installation of the ITR Oasis Combi in Butch and Fonda’s MCI MC-9 bus conversion, and much of that work was outdoors.  The temperature was around 20 degrees F when we got up this morning and never broke the freezing mark.  It was sunny most of the day, however, without any wind and I was dressed for the conditions so I was generally comfortable in spite of the Arctic air mass sitting on top of us.

My first task was to mount the Zone Controller to the face of the ceiling tunnel above the Combi.  I then completed the cable connections and dressed the cables.  We then pulled the #10 2+g cable from the old Aqua-Hot bay to the Combi and I completed the connections for the 120 VAC electric heating element.  We pulled two lengths of two-conductor low voltage cable from the bedroom closet to the fresh water pump, which is mounted on a vertical plywood plate on the rear wall of the bay next to the Combi.  One cable brought +/– 12 VDC down from the 12 VDC distribution panel in the closet where the negative (DC ground) was connected to the pump.  The other cable was used to route the +12 VDC back to a switch in the closet and then return it to the bay where I connected it to the pump.  With this arrangement Butch has DC + and – in the bay and can add a switch later (or use a jumper) to turn the pump on from there.  Although a bit unusual there is nothing fundamentally wrong with wiring switches in parallel; it just means that ALL switches must be off for the device to be off.

While I was working on the wiring in the Combi bay, Butch and Fonda pulled a pair of #4 welding cables from the battery compartment to the bedroom closet to provide + and – 12 VDC to the low voltage distribution panel.  He and I then pulled the remote panel cable for the Combi from the bay up into the bedroom closet.  He took care of the connections at the remote panel while I took care of the ones in the bay.

Oasis Combi Zone Controller (top).

Oasis Combi Zone Controller (top).

With the Combi wiring done I took a few minutes to move all of the parts and supplies I had stored in their (unheated) warehouse into their (heated) parts room where Fonda had cleared some shelves for me.  By the time I was done Butch was ready to move to the next part of the Combi installation; running the coolant lines.  He discovered that his insulated heater hose would not fit over the fittings on the ends of the fan-coil heat exchangers but might fit if he cut off the enlarged swaged ends.  It turned out that the insulated hose still would not fit so he made a quick run to town for regular heater hose. Sometimes bus projects are just like that and you have to figure out how to make things fit and work.

While Butch was gone I spent some time working in the back TV cabinet of my coach.  I tapped into the +/– 12 VDC wires that supply power to the fluorescent light fixture to provide power to the dual 12 VDC outlets and relay I installed yesterday.  The DC negative went directly to the outlets and the DC positive went to the common terminal on the relay.  I connected the positive lead from the outlets to the NC (normally closed) contact on the relay.  All of the relay connections were made with insulated spade connectors.

When I can get a +/– 12 VDC chassis battery cable to the cabinet I will use it to control the relay and move the outlet positive connection to the NO (normally open) terminal.  With this arrangement, the power for the PressurePro Repeater will come from the house batteries (which are rarely switched off) but the unit will only be on when the chassis batteries are on.  For now, however, we will simply have to remember to plug the repeater in when we are going to drive the bus.

That's our bus!

That’s our bus!

As soon as Butch returned all three of us got busy working on the coolant lines.  First Fonda and I pulled the insulated lines out.  Butch then fed a standard line from the front heat exchanger through the floor to the front driver side bay.  Fonda and I then fed it through the access holes to the rear driver side bay and through the floor to Butch by the rear heat exchanger.  Butch connected the hose to rear heat exchanger.  He then pulled the line back up by the front heat exchanger as we removed most of the slack in the bays and connected it to the front exchanger.  Fonda and I fed a piece of hose along the back wall of Combi bay and up into the bedroom closet where Butch connected it to the rear heat exchanger.  I then routed the hose and Butch connected it to the Combi.  Butch fed a second hose from the front exchanger through the floor and we routed that one to the stacked plate heat exchanger one bay forward of the Oasis Combi.  He connected the hose to the front exchanger and I then climbed into the bay, routed the hose with Fonda’s help, and connected it to the heat exchanger.  Butch fed another piece of hose from the Combi bay to the bay where I was working.  I attached that hose to the heat exchanger and then Butch pulled out the slack and connected it to the Combi.  At that point we had a complete, closed loop with the three heat exchangers in series.  I think that was about when the UPS truck arrived with my SHURflo Everpure ADC water filter cartridge for under the kitchen sink.

It was time to make it work; sort of.  Butch had not tied the diesel fuel lines in yet, and the fresh water connections were also not done, but that did not matter.  The next step was to fill the coolant loop with coolant (anti-freeze) and purge it of air.  We thought we had to have at least one of the thermostat circuits active, and thought they worked by grounding the wire coming out of the Zone Controller, but figured out later that we had it backwards.  No harm done, just no good either.  Butch put the 3-way “Summer/Winter” valve in what he thought was the Summer position, which just connects the output (supply) port to the input (return) port, and turned the Bypass switch on the Zone Controller ON, activating the built-in coolant circulation pump.  The Combi was already full of coolant and in this configuration should have just circulated it internally.  Butch was watching the radiator cap and had additional coolant ready to add if any air got purged.  We could hear the pump running, but he could not see any fluid motion in the radiator fill tube.  Hmmm, yet another bus conversion mystery.

Close up of the dual 12VDC outlet and control relay in the passenger side rear corner cabinet.

Close up of the dual 12VDC outlet and control relay in the passenger side rear corner cabinet.

Butch turned the valve to the Winter position which is supposed to allow coolant to flow through the external loop.  This should have caused a drop in the reservoir level, requiring additional coolant, as the coolant was transferred to the coolant lines, but again, there was no flow.  The two heat exchangers in the house (living room / kitchen and bedroom / bathroom) have bleeder valves to help rid the system of air.  I opened the valve on the rear (bedroom) heat exchanger but that did not help.  Butch decided to call ITR for technical support.  He talked through the details of the installation but they did not have any definitive advice.

All indications were pointing towards some sort of blockage internal to the Combi and Butch thought it might be ice.  Kevin, in Washington passed Butch to Marcello at the factory in Canada, but still no luck.  We decided to turn on the electric heating element and set up a small electric space heater to warm up the bay and the unit while we went to dinner.  We drove to The Old Mill west of town on SR-16 where I ordered a mushroom, onion, jalapeño pizza, light sauce, no cheese, and extra thin crust.  It turned out quite well.  When we got back to the house we gave the Combi another try and it looked like it was going to work, but then didn’t.  At that point we called it quits for the night.  Linda called around 9 PM and we chatted briefly, catching up on the events of the day.  Grand-daughter Madeline finally called her “grandma” for the first time, so she was very excited about that, and it was good note on which to end another long, productive day.

2014/11/15 (S) Houston, We Have Ignition

I was up a little before 8 AM, had some more of the stolen I bought at Aldi’s for breakfast, and made about five cups of Teeko’s Seattle Blend coffee.  Butch and I then got back to work on the Oasis Combi hydronic heating system.

Butch was up earlier than me and drove into Logansport before I got up.  When he got back his first task was to remove the supply and return lines (heater hoses) so he could install shutoff valves.  It turned out that he had the wrong parts and had to go back to Logansport so I rode in with him.  When we got back we finally got to work.  It was chilly but we had another mostly sunny day on tap with light-to-no wind, so working outside was not unpleasant.

Fresh water pump on isolated plywood panel behind Oasis Combi.

Fresh water pump on isolated plywood panel behind Oasis Combi.

Butch got the valves installed and the lines reattached.  He then plumbed in the two fuel lines (supply and return).  Before he turned the unit on I pointed out what I had discovered in the manual last night; that the position of the “summer/winter” loop 3-way valve was the opposite of what we thought it was.  With the valve in the “winter” position, which would allow coolant to flow through the loop with the heat exchangers, he turned on the bypass switch on the Zone Control Board.  The circulation pump came on and the coolant level immediately started to drop in the filler neck, which meant the coolant was being moved into the loop and whatever had blocked this from happening yesterday had cleared up.  He turned the pump off so we could stage one gallon jugs of antifreeze/water mixture to finish filling the system.

Butch suspects there was an ice plug in the domestic hot water heat exchanger which is internal to the Combi box and the first place hot coolant goes before it leaves the unit and travels through the coach.  We also suspect that the use of the 1500 Watt electric heating element last night melted the ice plug.  At least that’s our best guess as to what the problem was.  The reason we thought this was the cause is that the factory apparently tests the units with water and it is probably impossible to get it all out using compressed air.  That is certainly the case with an Aqua-Hot.

Butch prepared six gallons of antifreeze/water mixture and staged them by the Combi.  With a funnel in the filler neck he turned the bypass switch on again and started adding the coolant mixture as the pump pushed it through the system.  Once the system seemed to be full I went into the house portion of the bus and barely opened the bleeder valve on the bedroom heat exchanger.  I got a three second puff of air and then coolant started to appear so I closed the valve.  I repeated this with the bleeder valve on the front heat exchanger with the same result.  These two valves are the highest points in the loop, so air tends to collect there.  The system essentially had no air in it at this point.

fan-coil heat exchanger

fan-coil heat exchanger

Butch hooked up the two fuel lines (supply and return), turned the power on to the unit, and then turned the burner on using the switch by the bedroom utility closet.  We could hear the pump trying to prime but the burner would not ignite.  The unit “flamed out” and Butch reset it several times to no avail so he turned the burner switch off.  We studied the situation and Butch realized that he had reversed the fuel lines.  He switched them and turned the unit back on.  It fully primed on the second try and ignited!  Finally, we had ignition.

Butch rigged up temporary power to the fans on the two heat exchangers and let them run.  The coach eventually got too warm to work and we had to turn the fans off.  We spent the rest of the day, with help from Fonda, completing other aspects of the system installation.  I removed an old mechanical thermostat from the warehouse and Fonda cleaned up an identical one.  We had a third one (different make) that did not need any work.

We pulled three two-conductor thermostat cables from the Combi across the bay and up through a hole in the floor of the bedroom utility closet and then to the three thermostat locations.  We used colored electrical tape to tag the ends of each cable as we pulled it so we could keep them straight later; yellow for the living area, blue for the bathroom, and red for the bedroom.  I mounted one of the thermostats in the kitchen by the front living area, the second one by the bedroom, and the third one in the bathroom.  I completed the connections in a somewhat unusual way.  The cable had a red wire and a white wire.  The white wire was left intact and provided a path from the thermostat to the Combi for DC negative (ground).  The red wire was cut in the utility closet and used to provide +12VDC to the thermostat.  The red wire in the cable from the closet to the Combi was not used.

The Combi came with pigtail harnesses that plug into keyed sockets on the Zone Control Board (box) and have butt splice connectors already installed on the loose ends of the wires.  I completed the thermostat wiring by connecting the wire for the front thermostat to Zone 1, the bathroom thermostat to Zone 2, and the bedroom thermostat to Zone 3.  Butch had connected a wire to the Zone 4 connector yesterday and planned to leave it and connect it to a switch in the bay for test purposes.

With the thermostats wired in Butch worked on the fan control relays while Fonda and I pulled a four-conductor thermostat cable from the Combi across the bay, up through the floor into the utility closet, and all the way up the center isle of the bus to the dashboard.  When then took the cable back into the bedroom and pulled it from the utility closet through the driver-side chase to the cabinet at the front end of the kitchen counter and then down through the cabinet to the very bottom and out the front facing grill to the front heat exchanger.  We left plenty of cable for hooking up the fan control relay that Butch had mounted on the fan-coil heat exchanger and left an extra coil of cable in the utility closet so I would have enough wire to make connections to the relays for the fans on the rear heat exchanger.

As with the thermostat wiring, I left the green and white wires intact all the way from the front heat exchanger to the Combi.  In the utility closet I removed the jacket from a six inch section and cut the red and blue wires.  The red wire coming up from the Combi was connected to the relay for the bedroom fan and the blue wire coming up from the Combi was connected to the relay for the bathroom fan, both of which draw air through a common radiator.  These colors matched the colors of electrical tape used to identify the corresponding thermostat cables.  I connected a separate white wire from the DC negative terminal on each relay to the DC negative (ground) bar on the 12 VDC distribution panel at the top of the utility closet.  The red and blue wires from the closet to the front heat exchanger were not used.

Adding coolant to the ITR Oasis Combi.

Adding coolant to the ITR Oasis Combi.

I mounted the relays to the outside wall of the closet; bedroom relay to the rear, bathroom relay to the front.  I do things like that when I work on projects like this.  By this time it was dark and Butch had gone inside not feeling completely well.  He was really stressed out yesterday when we were unable to fill the coolant loop and purge it of air and he did not get a good night’s sleep.  Been there, done that, didn’t even get the T-shirt.

It was going on 6 PM and I was done working for the day, the first day since I have been working here that I had finished up that early and the first day that I had not worked on any of my own bus projects.  But that was OK;  Butch and Fonda’s ability to use their bus conversion during the winter with comfort and convenience was directly related to the successful completion of the Oasis Combi installation and it felt good to have it so close to bring done.  I will finish up the little bit that remains to do tomorrow and then install another 120 VAC circuit from the inverter circuit breaker panel to outlets for the bedroom.

I need to mention that Butch has been very pleased with the treatment and communication from International Thermal Research, the manufacturer of the Oasis product line.  He was on the phone with their U.S. sales office yesterday when we ran into difficulty and they transferred him to someone at the factory in British Columbia.  The factory contact sent Butch an e-mail, which gave him an address to reply to, and his personal cell phone number.

Sometime in the late afternoon Bill Tharpe showed up to continue working on Brittiny’s car.  It needs a new intake manifold gasket, which requires the disassembly of the top half of the engine.  Bill really knows his way around cars having worked with Indy and Formula (One?) race car teams over the years.  Around 7 PM we headed into Logansport to have dinner at Pizza Hut.  I had the salad bar and some decent (smooth, mild) decaffeinated coffee.  When we got back to their house Bill got back to work on the engine and I retired to my room for the evening.  Butch and I talked earlier about possibly driving over to the Ft. Wayne Hamvention tomorrow but decided to stay here and continue working on bus projects.

2014/11/16 (N) Death of a Mouse

I was up around 8 AM and had my usual breakfast of homemade granola, some orange juice, and coffee (Teeko’s Seattle Blend).  I still had some of the stolen left, but having had that the last two mornings I felt the need to return to my normal routine.  Right after breakfast I replaced the GFCI outlet in the bathroom.  The old one had tripped a couple of times for no apparent reason and that was just one more thing I did not want to live with.  The old one was feeding two load circuits and had short pigtail wires wire-nutted to the hot and neutral conducts.  GFCI outlets are much bulkier than normal ones so that made for a very crowded box.  The new one had back connectors that allowed two wires to be inserted straight in under one screw and tightened.  That allowed me to do away with the two pigtails and the two wire nuts and make it a bit easier to get the outlet into the box.

By the time I finished installing the GFCI outlet Butch was ready for my assistance.  He finished connecting the fan relays on the front heat exchanger and I finished connecting the fan relays on the rear heat exchanger.   I then tied in the fan relay lines to the appropriate fan control lines coming out of the Oasis Combi Zone Control Board.  With the burner switch turned on I tested each zone by turning its thermostat up until it clicked, causing the burner to ignite, the circulation pump to start, and the fan(s) to come on.  All three zones worked.  Although not as dramatic or emotional as yesterday when got the unit to fill, purge, and ignite, this meant we were done with the Oasis Combi installation (except for some purely cosmetic things that Butch and Fonda may not get to for a while) and that it was fully functional.

Top of the Combi showing summer/winter valve lower right (blue handle).

Top of the Combi showing summer/winter valve lower right (blue handle).

While I was working on the Oasis Combi fan control wires Butch started working on installing a fuel gauge.  The New Jersey Transit MCI MC-9B coaches did not have fuel gauges as they made regular runs of known distances and returned to the same NJT garage every day.  For cross-country RV use, however, a fuel gauge is a very good thing to have.

To install the fuel gauge Butch had to pull the instrument cluster out of the dashboard.  These things are rarely designed/built for easy servicing, and this was no exception, but he got it out.  He had installed the sending unit in the fuel tank a long time ago but never hooked it up.  He managed to run a fishtape up from the driver-side front bay into the area behind the dashboard.  He attached a wire to it and fed the wire in as I pulled the fishtape out.  We then used the fishtape to feed the wire from the driver’s side of the generator bay to the passenger side.  From there the wire had to go through the chassis battery bay to get to the sending unit on the fuel tank.  After drilling a hole in one panel and drilling out two rivets holding an unused fuse holder to another panel we finally had a route for the wire.

There was a blank spot on the instrument cluster where the fuel gauge would have been so that is where Butch installed it.  It took us a while to decode the 24 VDC dashboard wiring diagram but we eventually figured out that there was an unused screw terminal on the load side of the Master Switch just below the fuel gauge that would very conveniently provide the +24 VDC for the gauge.  I made that connection and then Butch connected the instrument, remembering to pass the wires through the dashboard hole first.  In addition to the +24VDC, signal, and ground for the gauge he had to tap into the 24 VDC instrument lighting circuit to power the instrument light and provide a ground connection for that as well.  With everything hooked up Butch turned on the Master Switch and the fuel gauge indicated just below a full tank, which is what he expected.  These kinds of “little” projects sound relatively simply, but they always seem to take a half a day to a full day to do, even with two people working on them.

At this point it was about 2 PM so I took a quick lunch break and had a tofu hotdog with mustard, relish, and onions.  We had hints of snow flurries during the morning that became more persistent after noon.  I was thinking about installing the new Shurflo Everpure ADC water filter cartridge under the kitchen sink and opened the cabinet door to have a look at what was involved.  (Actually, I knew what was involved having done this before.)  This filter cartridge should be the easiest thing in the world to remove and install but that has not been my experience.  The location of the filter head doesn’t make it any easier.  Anyway, I turned on the light and noticed a waded up paper towel in the trash can.  I had not been using this trash can since I realized that the resident mouse had easy access to the area under the sink and regarded the waste basket as a buffet.  I figured I had thrown this used paper towel in there by mistake out of force of habit as I catch myself several times a day starting to do that.  I moved the can and reached in to get the paper towel and that’s when I noticed the dead field mouse in the corner of the trash can.

The mouse was a tiny creature, gray on top and white on the bottom.  I surmised that it had returned to this cabinet looking for the food it had found there on previous occasions, climbed up a carpeted wall or electrical cable, perhaps walked across a drain pipe and, seeing the paper towel moved to the rim of the trash can (the only place I ever actually saw it alive) and either jumped or fell in.  Unfortunately (for the mouse) the trash can did not have a plastic liner bag and so it had no way to escape.  I presume it died of thirst and/or lack of food.  It was not my intention to use the trash can as a trap.  In fact, I had purchased a live trap a few days ago but not yet set it.  My plan was to trap it, unharmed, and release it a couple of miles away near a creek so it had access to water.  Instead, I added it to my real trash bag, tied up the bag, and put it in the dumpster.  Although I was glad to no longer have it roaming around inside the coach, I was saddened to find it dead and to think that it had died this way.  I have no way of knowing, of course, if this was the only mouse in the coach so I will continue to be on the lookout for telltale signs of the presence of mice.

I returned to working on Butch and Fonda’s bus.  While they dressed up some coolant lines and tightened up some fittings on the Oasis I installed four surface mount duplex electrical outlets in the bedroom, two on the back wall above a narrow shelf at the head of the bed, one in the driver side chase at the midpoint, and one at the front end of the chase inside the utility closet.  I turned off the power to the inverter panel, removed the cover, and routed the cable down into the box.  Butch discovered that he did not have any more 20A circuit breakers so I connected the ground and neutral and left the load wire until we had an appropriate breaker.  We were done working in/on their bus for the night, so I left the cover off of the inverter panel and turned the power back on so they would have lights in the front part of the bus

Fused DC distribution house panel in MC-9 bedroom utility closet.

Fused DC distribution house panel in MC-9 bedroom utility closet.

Throughout the day Butch had been adding to a list of things he needed and at this point the list was long enough, or the items critical enough, that we made a run to town.  By this time it had been snowing for a few hours and it was accumulating on grassy areas and making the roads slick.  Unfortunately the Logansport Home Depot closed at 7 PM on Sunday evenings and we got there at 7:05 PM, having stopped first to fuel up the Suburban.  No problem, we just drove down the street to Rural King which was open until 9 PM and has free popcorn.  Bonus!  Butch found most of what he needed there.  My shopping list was short and easily filled at Walmart where Butch picked up a few other things on his list.

When we got back I made a tofu “turkey” sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, sliced onions, and power greens and got out some of the seedless black grapes.  As I was finishing the preparations Fonda came to the bus to let me know that Linda was on the phone.  I brought everything into the house and chatted with her for a little while.  We then sat down and ate dinner.  After dinner I used Butch’s chop saw to cut my oak center pillar mounting board to length and then set it up on a table in the parts room so I could stain it.  Fonda got the stain, a shallow wide mouth can, a disposable foam brush, a rag, and a pair of disposable gloves for me to use.  I was not very happy with the results, but I will see how it looks in the morning.  I suspect I will end up painting it flat black.  I would really like to get it mounted to the center windshield pillar before I wrap up working on my bus this Wednesday but, given the other things I need to do, it’s going to be close. 

 

20141030-1102 Fixing Buses in Indiana

2014/10/30 (R) To Kokomo We Go

Well…sort of.  Our actual destination was Maple Grove Distributors in Galveston, Indiana, which was in the general direction of Kokomo, but not as far.  (It’s pronounced “gal VES ten” with the emphasis on the second syllable.)  The tie rod ball ends that Butch ordered had finally come in and he wanted to get them early this morning so that: 1) We could get back and take advantage of a relatively nice late October day, and 2) He would have them for tomorrow when the weather is forecast to be lousy and thus a good day for inside work such as fabricating ride height linkages.

PS rear corner bedroom cabinet with slot in door for TV/monitor wires.

PS rear corner bedroom cabinet with slot in door for TV/monitor wires.

In spite of the nice weather I spent most of the day working inside my bus, stopping occasionally to help Butch with something.  I don’t have a lot of outside projects at the moment, or at least none that I felt like working on, and I really wanted to get the bedroom TV cabinet taken care of.  As with the front TV cabinet that I worked on for the last couple of days, the bedroom cabinet once housed a 19″ CRT TV set and a VHS tape deck.  I removed those in late 2011 while the bus was at Phoenix Paint and had Jaral Beaty make doors to cover the openings.  Once those doors were installed, I mounted 22″ diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio, LCD/LED flat panel TV/monitors on each door. The power and signal connections, however, were inside the cabinets, so for the last couple of years the cables have come out of the bottom/rear of the TVs and under the bottom edge of the doors and into the cabinets.  This arrangement prevented the doors from being closed, even though they had spring loaded ball catches, so we have held them closed with a couple of pieces of bright green Frog Tape.  The tape is sticky enough to hold the door closed but does not seem to leave any reside even after being in place for a while.

The wires from the TV/monitor pass through the slot in the door so the dorr can be closed and latched.

The wires from the TV/monitor pass through the slot in the door so the dorr can be closed and latched.

As with the front TV cabinet door, I created a horizontal slot behind the TV, positioned to allow the cables to come down out of the back of the TV and bend gently through to the inside of the cabinet.  I removed some unneeded cable and coiled up other cables and secured them with zip ties that have a mounting tab with a hole for a screw.

My two outside projects were brief.  I got back under the front of the bus between the front tires and unbolted the ride height linkage.  It unbolted from the ride height valve lever arm easily but not from the axle bracket.  Fonda got a can of Cyclo Breakaway and some paper towels for me, but even after spraying the nut and letting it sit it would not come loose.  I am not the strongest guy in the bus yard so I put some more muscle into it and broke the bolt off with the nut still stuck tight to it.  The other half of the bolt then slide out easily.

As long as I had my wrenches out I slide under the rear end of the bus to see if I could free a couple of wires for the auxiliary braking system that were pinched under a mounting pad for the rear bumper fascia.  The stud had a Nylok nut on it that was barely threaded onto the stud.  The reason, I guessed, was the stud was at an angle that made it difficult to get a socket and ratchet on it.  I was able to loosen/tighten it using a universal (swivel) adapter between the socket and the ratchet.  While I was under there I noticed a second stud with a barely threaded Nylok so I tightened it as well.  One of the things you have to watch out for on a used RV is all the work that other people have done ‘just well enough’ to get it ‘out the door’ without something falling off in the parking lot.  These are always things that are hidden and relatively inaccessible, which is why they were not done correctly or completely in the first place, but the assumption is you will never see them.

My other inside project was to separate the load wires for the lighted entrance handle and the patio light and put them on separate switches.  It turned out that the front most switch just inside the entrance door (next to the passenger seat) was supplying 12VDC power to three circuits, the two just mentioned and a third one that, as of this writing, is still a mystery in that I was unable to determine anything that was being controlled by those wires.  The first (front) switch now controls only the lighted entrance handle, the second (middle) switch controls only the patio light, and the third (rear) switch controls…well, I don’t know what it controls but it definitely puts 12VDC power onto a wire that goes somewhere.

I assisted Butch briefly in locating their front fan-coil heat exchanger relative to the bay where the coolant lines will go.  Later in the day I helped him position the front suspension of their coach to the MCI specified spacing for the air springs so he can fabricate the ride height linkage to the correct length.

I needed a few parts for projects I might want to work on tomorrow so I left at 7 PM and drove to the Home Depot in Logansport.  That also gave me a chance to call Linda and chat about cell phone data plans.  I got back to Twelve Mile at 8:30 PM.  Butch and Fonda were already having their dinner so I went to my bus and made a salad.  After I cleaned up the day’s food utensils I installed the 6-outlet surge protected adapter in the AC duplex outlet in the bedroom TV cabinet.  That completed my work for the day and I returned to the house, visited briefly, and retired to my room to check e-mail, offload photo files from my camera, and write this post.

2014/10/31 (F) Boo! Snow (Boo)

After a relatively mild October the weather decided to turn more seasonable just in time for Halloween.  I was originally going to title this post “Foot Pounds and Gigabytes” but decided to acknowledge All Hallows’ Eve instead, along with the dramatic change in the weather.

A couple of days ago I bought a torque wrench from Butch that is adjustable up to 600 foot pounds, which is the kind of torque needed to tighten and loosen the lug nuts on our bus wheels.  It’s a very big torque wrench; over three feet long.  I need to buy a compatible socket to go with it.  Today was also the last day for the Verizon and AT&T double your data plan promotions, so I planned my day to put me in Elkhart, Indiana while one of the corporate stores was still open.

I got up around 8 AM and spent 45 minutes doing some preliminary packing after which I went out to my coach and had breakfast.  We had snow flurries around 9 AM this morning and did not work outside today save the few minutes I spent adjusting the air pressure in the tires of my Honda Element.  Today was mostly about shopping.

I got a cup of coffee from Small Town Brew and then we headed to Logansport where we did most of our usual circuit:  NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Rural King, Aldi’s, and Walmart.  (The only regular place we did not go was Home Depot.)  My only purchase was a 12VDC dual outlet with a mounting flange that I found at O’Reilly’s.  I plan to use it to create power connections for the GPS and TPMS receiver.  (I realized later that I should have bought three of them as I also need to supply power to the DVD camera/recorder up front and the TPMS repeater which I plan to mount in the rear TV cabinet.)

We got back around noon and I spent the next couple of hours straightening up the inside of the bus and packing everything that was going home with me.  Around 2:45 PM I finished packing the stuff I had in the guest bedroom and began loading the car.  I wrote up a list of things we owed each other money for and, as I expected, I owed Butch more than he owed me.  (He tends to order things we need on his accounts and I pay him back.)  I bought a Variac from him, added it to the list, and put it in the car.  Fonda has been working on a wedding dress for their daughter Gene for quite some time and was done except for some trim, so I got to see it before I left, which I did at 3:15 PM.  It was very nice.

I had located a Verizon corporate store on US-33 just south of US-20 which was on my normal route home.  I arrived at that intersection around 4:45 PM and first stopped at the Burger King next door for some French Fries.  The Verizon sales associate, Hector, claimed to know nothing about the double data promotion and insisted there was no such thing available.  I called Linda from their parking lot and we discussed what to do as today was the last day for the promotion.  She had checked our account online last night, and although we could change our monthly data allowance online (for a price, of course) there was no information about the promotion available there either.  Very strange considering how much this has been in the media all month.

Linda was stuck in traffic coming home from the bakery so we chatted while I made my way over US-20 to CR-17 (IN) to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) to the I-69 exit where I had to pay my toll.  Traffic on her end had also loosened up by then so we ended our call.

My entire trip home was in some form of precipitation; mostly rain but occasionally sleet or snow, with very strong and gusty winds from the north that made for somewhat more difficult driving.  It also made it difficult to judge the effect of the adjusted tire pressures on handling although the shimmy seemed to be gone.  I stopped at the Michigan Welcome Center on I-69 and unpacked some of the food I had with me.  I stopped again at M-60 for coffee at McDonald’s and fuel at the TA/Shell station where Regular gasoline was $2.929.  It’s been a long time since we have seen gasoline prices below $3/gallon.  That was my last stop before arriving home at 8:45 PM.  The last few miles were through moderate snow and the strong winds had coated the north facing side of trees and road signs.

Linda helped me unload the car and get everything into the house.  I gave Butch a call to let him know I had arrived home safely and we chatted briefly about bus projects.  I took a shower and went to bed where I finished this post before 11 PM and went to sleep.

2024/11/01 (S) Words

Although we were both very tired we did not sleep well last night.  We awoke early to find a thin covering of snow on our rear deck and over parts of our yard with the temperature in the upper 20s.  We went to our SLAARC ham radio club breakfast this morning anyway, the first time in several weeks for Linda, and there was a good turnout.  Those members who came from east or south of us did not have snow on the ground.

When we got back to our house Linda worked at her desk on our personal finances while I worked at the dining room table on e-mail, websites, and bus project documentation.  Our son and daughter-in-law showed up around 3:30 PM with their daughter.  They had a baby shower to attend in Detroit and Madeline was spending the night with us.

Linda had given me the heads up that Madeline’s vocabulary had increased significantly since I last saw her and that certainly proved to be the case.  She finally had understandable words for many things including the counting words from one to ten.  She is now 22-1/2 months old and is a very active and busy little girl.  We played with lots of different toys, including a new little Thomas The Train locomotive that Grandma Linda bought for her.

We had dinner between 6 and 6:30 PM.  Madeline had mock chicken tenders with broccoli, cauliflower, mandarin orange segments and sliced strawberries.  Linda and I had yummy homemade chili that she had been cooking in the crockpot most of the day.  I played with Madeline after dinner while Linda cleaned up the dishes and then joined the fun.  Nighty-night is her current pre-bedtime game, but by 7:15 PM she was tired enough let Linda get her into her pajamas and then sit quietly while I read a couple of story books to her.  As always, she went to bed without a fuss.

Once Madeline was asleep Linda read and played online word games with friends and relatives and I continued working on my bus projects list, light bulb inventory, and reconciliation of purchases that Butch and I have made for each other.  By 10:45 PM I was tired and ready to do something else so I climbed in bed and worked on this post.

2014/11/02 (N) An Extra Hour

At 2 AM EDT this morning it was suddenly 1 AM EST so when Linda got Madeline out of her porta-crib at 8 AM, according to the clocks in our house, it was officially 7 AM.  We all slept well last night and Madeline woke up well rested and in a pleasant mood.  She enjoys her meals so before any playtime we had breakfast of toast and juice and fresh fruit.  Brendan called around 9 AM to see if we could keep her until after her afternoon nap as he and Shawna had professional work they needed to concentrate on.  I suggested they come for an early dinner and they agreed.  Linda checked her ingredients on hand and then agreed to make her seitan stroganoff served over rice.  This is one of my favorite vegan dishes and a standard ‘go to’ when we are having non-vegan company for dinner.

You cannot have too many bows in your hair, apparently.

You cannot have too many bows in your hair, apparently.

We played with Madeline all morning and she was a very busy girl.  She has understandable words for a few things and a much richer, if somewhat secret, vocabulary that she takes great delight in using.  She knows the names of her basic colors and has started to get the idea of counting.  She enjoys building tall structures with her Lego blocks and is still fascinated with the organ.  Running around the island in our kitchen is another favorite activity; sometimes chasing, sometimes being chased, and sometimes holding someone’s finger.

I got a TXT message from Chuck asking if I was back in town and had time to talk.  Linda let me take a break from playing with Madeline so I could call him back.  He has been working on their bus and wanted to bring me up to date on his projects and get caught up on my projects and timeline.

Our other grand-daughter, Katie, is up in the U. P. with Chris (her dad) and Meghan (our daughter) visiting Northern Michigan University in Marquette.  They visited the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore yesterday and made it out to Castle Rock.  This evening they had a banquet to attend and tomorrow she has an interview for a scholarship.  Katie is interested in animals and wants to study zoology.  NMU is one of the few universities that offer a true zoology major rather than a biology major with an emphasis in zoology.  It may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it is an important distinction to Katie.  Katie is a serious young lady who has done well in school and will certainly represent herself as such during the interview.  We are excited for her and hope she is successful in obtaining this merit-based financial support.

By 11:30 AM we were anticipating lunch and Madeline requested pizza.  We happened to have an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza in the freezer (our favorite) so Linda preheated the oven and baked it on our pizza stone.  We sat down at noon and enjoyed our pizza accompanied by seedless red grapes.  We were all full by 12:30 and Madeline was showing signs of being ready for her nap so Linda helped her wash her hands and face and then got her settled in her porta-crib.  Madeline enjoys sleeping almost as much as eating and went to bed without any fuss.

The cats, who had retreated to the basement this morning as soon as they heard/saw Madeline, are keenly aware of when she is eating and sleeping.  Once we have her in her high chair at the table we usually open the safety gate at the top of the basement stairs so they can come up.  Both of them did and walked around under the dining room table, apparently aware that she was not mobile.  They eventually went back downstairs but came back up once she was asleep.  We decided to leave the door to the middle/blue bedroom open about six inches to see what the cats might do.  Jasper immediately turned around and went back downstairs but Juniper stuck her head in the room, probably got sensory overload, and also left.

Linda needed a few grocery items and went to Meijer’s in Brighton where she topped up her gas tank for $2.919 a gallon.  If only the price of diesel fuel would pull back to corresponding levels.  It has dropped but not by the same amount.  I stayed home and worked on my bus projects spreadsheet.  When Linda got back with batteries I changed all of the clock batteries and reset the time.

Brendan and Shawna arrived at 3 PM just as Madeline was waking up from her nap.  She was thrilled to see her parents, of course, as they were thrilled to see her.  It was a beautiful, if somewhat chilly, day and they got her coat, hat, and mittens on and played in the yard while Linda started preparing dinner while I cleared the table of my computer and papers and set it for the meal.  We sat down to eat at 4:15 PM and started with a nice salad of chopped greens and cabbage, an Asian dressing, and crispy Asian noodles.  The main course was the seitan stroganoff served over white rice and accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts and a sliced multi-grain baguette.  The adults had a small glass of the Leelanau Cellars Witch’s Brew, a seasonal mulled (spiced) red wine.

After dinner Brendan and Shawna began the process of getting ready to leave which includes delay tactics on Madeline’s part and their response to them which is always gentle but persistent.  They were out the door at 5:30 PM and by 6 PM we had cleared the table, rinsed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, and picked up the few toys that were left out in the living room.  Although the clock said 6 it felt like 7.  As hard and as long as I have been working on bus projects, I am surprisingly tired after spending a whole day with Madeline.  I opened the safety gate and Jasper came upstairs right away, eager for our company and attention.  He curled up in my lap while I worked on this post.

We watched Inspector Lewis (streamed), the first TV program I have watched in quite some time.  Part of the PBS Masterpiece Mystery series, it is a really excellent production.  I did some online research on 2m/70cm ham radio antennas and dual (co-phased) CB antennas but did not come to any conclusions about what to get.  The problem remains the same; I cannot put anything tall on the roof of the bus and even if I wanted to I have little-to-no access to the underside of most of the roof.  The fact that the lower roof sections in the front and rear are part of the front and rear fiberglass caps just complicates matters even more as they do not provide a conductive path or ground plane.

 

2014/10/23-29 The Bus Work Continues

2014/10/23 (R) Close Encounter of the 1st Kind

My two main bus projects today were the lighted handle by the entrance door and the Progressive Industries remote display installation.  The lighted handle needed new machine screws and some additional gasketing on the upper securement.  It turned out that all five of the screws that I removed were stripped to a greater or lesser extent.  After trying several different screws I concluded that the threaded holes must be messed up.  Butch loaned me a 10-24 tap and I used it to re-tap all five of the mounting holes.  I cut two additional pieces of the vinyl shower pan liner and trimmed them to fit just inside the upper securement.  That allowed the piece to be reattached to the body using the 10-24 stainless steel screws I bought last night without causing interference with the LED bulb.

Some time ago I bought a remote display kit for our Progressive Industries Energy Management System (EMS).  The kit consists of a second display unit and a selector switch unit.  I mounted the selector switch in the utility bay in place of the display unit, moved the display unit to the left, and connected it to the switch with the short cable provided in the kit.  I routed the long cable from the switch through the bay to the other side by the Aqua-Hot and fed it through a small hole into the electrical bay, which is the next bay going towards the front of the coach.  I temporarily mounted the remote display in the house panel.  I then repeated the work I had done yesterday to relocate the Magnum inverter/charger remote.  This time I used serial cable #1, removed the DB-9 connectors from each end, and connected the wires on each end.  The difference from yesterday is that Progressive Industries wires their cables so that pin 1 of the RJ-11 on one end is wired to pin 1 of the RJ-11 on the other end.  That meant I had to keep the wire colors the same between the two surface-mount phone jacks, i.e., black-to-black, red-to-red, green-to-green, and yellow-to-yellow, rather than cross wiring them like I did yesterday.

ITR Oasis Combi in Butch & Fonda's MC-9.

ITR Oasis Combi in Butch & Fonda’s MC-9.

Butch’s major focus today was the ITR Oasis Combi.  He and Fonda worked for much of the day running new diesel fuel lines.  By late afternoon I was done with my projects and went to work on the fresh water plumbing for the Oasis.  Prior to the last couple of weeks I had not worked with PEX tubing and fittings.  Butch has a crimper that he showed me how to use.  By the time we quit working to have dinner we had the fresh water tank connected to the inlet of the Shur-Flo 4048 pump, the outlet of the pump connected to T-fitting that supplies cold water to the house and to the Oasis Combi inlet, and the outlet of the Combi connected to the line that supplies hot water to the house.

For dinner I fixed a salad, a Thai Kitchen mushroom noodle soup bowl, and a bowl of fresh strawberries for dessert.  I took everything in the house and dined with Butch and Fonda.  After dinner I went back to the coach to try and straighten things up a bit.  I must have opened the cabinet door under the kitchen sink a dozen times to throw away food scraps, product packaging, and paper towels.  I had bundled up the various recyclables and opened the cabinet to remove the trash bag when the mouse jumped out and ran under the passenger side couch.

I say THE mouse because I presume it is the mouse that has obviously been in the coach recently based first on getting into my loaf of bread and then finding a nest where none had been previously.  It was a cute little dark gray field mouse, not more than two inches long (without its tail), but I am going to have to find a way to catch it and remove it.  I will set a live (no kill) trap next week and see if I can find it a nice field to live in somewhere far away from Butch and Fonda’s house and both of our buses.

It was still in the upper 40s and rather pleasant outside so I straightened up the back of my car rather than wait until morning.  After retiring to the guest bedroom I organized most of my clothes.  I should be packed and on the road about an hour after I get out of bed in the morning.

2014/10/24 (F) Around the World in 80 Days

As much as I have been traveling back and forth between Michigan and Indiana I feel as if I could circumnavigate the world in 80 days but today my “journey of a thousand miles” began with a 260 mile trip home.  I was up a little before 8 AM and finished packing all of my stuff in the guest bedroom and loading it into the car.  I gathered up some last minute laundry, foodstuffs, and recyclables and put those in the car as well.  I sat and chatted with Butch and Fonda until 9:10 AM and then said farewell until Sunday evening.  I pulled my car out its normal parking spot at 9:15 AM and headed east on SR-16.  I followed my usual route home from there: US-31 north to US-20 east to CR-17 north to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) east to I-69 north to I-96 east to M-59 east to Hacker Road south and then home.

Hand cut gaskets for upper piece of lighted entrance handle on our coach.

Hand cut gaskets for upper piece of lighted entrance handle on our coach.

Our friend Kate had contacted us yesterday to see if we were available to go to the Meadow Brook Theater to see a live theatrical performance of an adaption of Jules Vern’s Around the World in Eighty Days.  Her cousin is working as an intern at the theater this season and was able to get courtesy tickets.  Linda was feeling well enough to go so we left early and stopped at a Panera on the way over to the theater where we met up with Kate.  The performance was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We wanted to have coffee together afterwards, but by the time we met her cousin and chatted for a while it was late and everything was closed.  Besides, we had an hour’s drive to get home and Kate probably had at least 90 minutes.

2014/10/25 (S) Here And There

Linda slept in to rest and try to recover from her cold so I went to the SLAARC Ham Radio Club Breakfast by myself.  She was awake by the time I got back and feeling well enough to run errands with me.  We stopped at Recycle Livingston and then picked up our new natural gas fireplace logs from Country Squire in Howell.  We got the business card of the independent technician who does installations for them and gave them a call to set up an appointment.  I left a message and they called us back later.  We stopped at our Bank of America branch enroute to Staples in Brighton in search of a larger size of graph paper, but they did not have the size I wanted.  I need larger paper to draw accurate designs for the custom desk/pantry and printer stand/table that we want to have made for our converted bus.  We fueled up at the Brighton Meijer’s and then bought groceries.  We needed a new coffee maker but decided not to purchase one until we had checked online.

Back home we searched for coffee makers in a white finish rather than black/stainless.  There were only a few choices and one of them was a Mr. Coffee programmable model that was available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  As long as we were looking for things online we found a pad of 50 sheets of 17″x22″ graph paper with a 1/4″ grid pattern and added that to our Amazon Prime shopping cart.  We also added a Camco RhinoFLEX RV sewer hose kit and various accessories.

Back side of house systems panel.  Bus conversions are complex.

Back side of house systems panel. Bus conversions are complex.

Linda had arranged for us to meet John and Diane at Camellia’s in Farmington Hills for dinner at 6 PM.  We left the house around 4 PM and stopped at the Brighton Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get the Mr. Coffee coffee maker.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Wixom and picked up the filters and then stopped at J. C. Penney’s at Twelve Oaks Mall for some necessary clothing items.  We headed into Farmington Hills but were still early for dinner so we drove through our old neighborhood, which is very close to the restaurant.  Our former across-the-street neighbor, Dan, was working on a car in his driveway so we stopped to chat.  While we were there the young man who bought our house arrived home on his motorcycle.  He never removed his helmet before putting the bike in the garage and shutting the door, so we never actually saw him.  Our daughter handled the closing in July 2013 since we were in Wyoming at the time, so we never meet the buyer or his parents.  He has apparently been a very quiet neighbor who keeps to himself.

We got to the restaurant shortly after 6 PM and John and Diane were already seated so we did not have to wait for a table.  We had the veggie fajitas, our standard choice at this particular Mexican restaurant.  While we were dining our friends, Jim and Kristine Gullen, came in and sat in a booth near us.  When we were done with dinner John and Diane headed to their house (nearby) and we lingered for a few minutes to chat with Jim and Kristine before joining them.  Diane had bought some Coconut Bliss Chocolate with Salted Caramel non-dairy “ice cream.”  It was the best vegan ice cream we have had.  By 10 PM we were all having trouble staying awake so we said farewell and headed for home and went quickly to bed.

2014/10/26 (N) Pack and Go

We both slept in this morning, the combined effect of being tired (both of us), sick (Linda), and having taken Tylenol PM last night (both of us, again).  In spite of her cold, Linda wanted to cook something for me before I took off again for Indiana, so she made her wonderful vegan blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  We used the new coffee maker and, as expected, the coffee tasted the same as with the old one.

After breakfast we sorted and folded laundry (we have such exciting lives) and I selected and packed the items I needed for the week ahead.  I had not copied photos from my laptop to the network drives since October 10th so I took care of that.  I also made more careful measurements of the dimensions of our color laser printer to use in refining the design of the printer cabinet for the bus.  Likewise, I took measurements of our Dewalt air compressor as I plan to build a wooden divider for the back of the Honda Element that will secure it on the floor and create space next to it and above it for storing other things.  Obviously the two rear seats will be removed when this insert is in use.

Junction boxes for the ME-ARC remote (bottom) and the PI-EMS-50 (top)in the house systems panel.

Junction boxes for the ME-ARC remote (bottom) and the PI-EMS-50 (top)in the house systems panel.

By 2 PM I was ready to load the car so Linda helped me with that task.  I pulled out of the driveway at 2:16 PM and followed my usual route to Indiana: Hacker Road north to M-59 west to I-96 west to Lansing Road south to I-69 south to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) to CR-17 south to US-20 west to US-31 south.  I exited US-31 at IN-25 (Rochester), topped off my fuel tank and then picked up fresh greens and fruit at the Kroger.  I headed south on IN-25 to Fulton where I took Aitken Road east to Meridian then headed south to SR-16 and finally headed east to Twelve Mile.

Butch and Fonda had their family holiday gathering today.  They had 27 family members in attendance during the day and for dinner but by the time I arrived (7:45 PM) everyone had left except Brittiny and Rock, and they departed while I was unpacking food and storing it in the coach.  I moved all of my clothes and technology into the guest bedroom, like I always do, and then visited with Butch and Fonda for a while before retiring to my room for the evening.  If the weather forecast holds true we have two unseasonably nice days in store on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week doesn’t look too bad either. We have a lot to do and could use some favorable weather.

2014/10/27 (M) Heat and Light

We had an unseasonably nice day for working outside.  It was already in the upper 40s when we got up and made it in to the 70s under partly cloudy skies with breezes from the southwest.  I was up before 8 AM and had my usual granola, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast and then got to work.

Butch worked most of the day on assembling the two fan-coil heat exchanger units that will get plumbed into their ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic furnace to provide heat to the house portion of their converted bus.  While he worked on that I worked on replacing our patio light.  The ballast on the old one was no longer working and the way the unit was designed it could not be replaced.  Butch happened to have an identical unit, so I used it as the replacement.

Old patio light fixture after being removed from the side of the coach.  Not pretty.

Old patio light fixture after being removed from the side of the coach. Not pretty.

The old unit was not removed from the coach when it was painted.  This was a nice idea at the time as it provided a paint seal on the top and both sides where the unit met the side wall of the bus.  Unfortunately, removing the unit required me to cut the paint seal with a very sharp knife.  The unit was secured with two screws, but it was stuck to the side of the coach with a generous amount of automotive putty.  Most of it came off with the fixture, but not all, so after I cut the two wires and removed the fixture I had to carefully scrape the rest of it off using the thin end of a wood shim.

I checked the voltage at the two wires coming out of the wall and I definitely had 13 VDC controlled by the same switch that turns the lighted entrance handle on and off.  I prepared the back of the new fixture using new automotive putty to create a seal all the way around the back at the outside edges.  I also placed a ring of putty around each of the screw holes in the back and the access hole for the wires.  I attached shielded spade lug disconnects to all four wires, held the fixture in place, and connected them.  I pressed the fixture into position, lined up the screw holes, and secured it.  I put the two F8T5 florescent tubes back in, snapped the cover back in place, and made sure the on/off pushbutton switch on the bottom was in the on position.  I then applied a bead of NAPA RTV Black Silicon Rubber sealant along the top seam and the two sides.  (Sorry Michele, but I had to make sure it was not going to leak.)

The switch that controls this light is one of three in a 3-gang box next to the passenger seat and is the one closest to the entrance door.  I had removed the cover plates last week so today I took another look and it appeared that the other two switches did not have any wires connected to them.  I removed them and that was indeed the case.  I think tomorrow I will re-wire this so the first switch controls only the lighted entrance handle and the second switch controls only the patio light.  If I cannot figure out something to control with the third switch I will probably leave it out and get a new cover plate that has two switch openings and a blank, assuming I can find one.

With the patio light project done Fonda helped me remove the fan belt and the two A-C compressor drive belts from the engine in our bus.  We put the two compressor drive belts (NAPA CG-96) back on but reversed their position.  The inside one seemed loose compared to the outside one last week and we wanted to see if switching them would fix that problem.  We then installed the new fan belt that I ordered/received last week.

I started the main engine and let it run for a while on high idle with the air-conditioning turned on to put some load on it.  The CG-96 that was now on the outside of the pulley still appeared to be looser than the other one, so I think I will order a replacement set.  The new fan belt ran very smoothly.  I turned the A-C off, dropped the idle down, and shut off the engine.  I started to close the rear access hatch but found that it was stiff and made a sound like an elephant trumpeting.  I sprayed some WD-40 on all the hinges and on the piston rods for the air springs.  I then put a small amount of NAPA Syl-Glide on the piston rods, worked them up and down a few times, and wiped off any excess.  The hatch now opens and closes smoothly and quietly with less effort.

Butch pressure washing the radiators for his fan coil heat exchangers.  MC-9 (L) and H3-40 (R).

Butch pressure washing the radiators for his fan coil heat exchangers. MC-9 (L) and H3-40 (R).

While I was lubricating the hatch Butch was using a pressure washer to clean the radiators (heat exchangers) for their fan-coil units.  As long as he had it out, he sprayed around all of our front windshield seals while I looked for leaks inside.  We found three for sure.  One was in the upper inside corner of the lower driver-side windshield between the center pillar and the seal.  The second one was in the lower outside corner of the upper driver-side windshield between the seal and the glass.  We were not able to identify the point(s) of entry for the third one but it appeared to be somewhere above the upper windshields near the center pillar, a least that was where the water was coming in on the inside.  I cannot see the underside of the front cowling in that area and there are lots of places water could come in: five front marker lights, two upper windshield mounts, and perhaps a dozen screws on top of the front roof holding various things down.

Leaks are annoying and potentially destructive so I am still pondering what I want to do.  We have new windshield seals but have had trouble finding someone locally to install them.  For one thing, the bus really needs to be inside for that work and most glass shops, including ones that work on “semi tractors,” do not have overhead doors high enough for the bus.  I may make judicious use of the NAPA RTV Silicone Rubber sealant or I may just use black tape as a temporary fix.

When we were done checking the windshields I used the pressure washer to clean off the coach as best I could.  The last time it was cleaned was right before we left Williston Crossings RV Resort in early April and it had accumulated a few miles, bugs, and dirt in that time.

Because the weather was so nice Butch decided to replace a short section of badly deteriorated coolant hose on their engine rather than risk having it fail on the road.  He shut some valves to isolate the engine from the coolant lines that provide heat to the coach and drained quite a few gallons out of the engine (almost three 5-gallon buckets).  The old hose turned out to be extraordinarily difficult to remove. The new piece was no easier to get in and required modification of two parts.  This was definitely not a job you want to do on the side of the road in any kind of weather.

While Butch and Fonda worked on the coolant hose I tinkered in the dashboard area of my bus.  First I replaced a couple more bulbs in illuminated switches.  I then pulled the CB radio out of the dash to see how the coaxial cable (transmission line) was marked.  That allowed me to identify the other end in the old ceiling-mounted TV cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I also looked around in that cabinet for the other end of the coaxial cable that was once connected to the antenna for in-dash AM/FM radio/cassette/CD player.  I did not see anything that looked right, so I pulled the radio out of the dash (actually the whole panel along with four switches) to get the identifying marks off of it. Even with that information I was not able to locate the other end of the cable.

Working on the bus and living in the bus are often not compatible.

Working on the bus and living in the bus are often not compatible.

By that point it was 6 PM and we had weather approaching from the southwest.  Clouds had moved in, greatly reducing our natural light, and gave the first indications of the rain that was forecast for the evening hours.  I will look again for the radio antenna cable tomorrow as I have a TuneTrapper antenna that I want to install on the underside of the front roof via the old TV cabinet and I need to plug it into the cable that goes to the radio.

I had a small glass of Moscato while I prepared my dinner.  I fixed a salad of power greens with peanuts, dried cranberries, and fresh diced onions and finished a bottle of Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.  I grabbed a can of Amy’s “No Chicken Noodle” soup, some crackers, my jar of peanut butter, and some ICE brand water and went inside to eat with Butch and Fonda.  I returned to the coach after dinner, cleaned up my dishes from the day, and bagged up my recyclables.  We bought a small container on Saturday that is intended for storing pet food but it has a gasketed lid with a snap latch that I thought would make a nice mouse-proof kitchen trash can.  (I figure the mouse will leave if it cannot get any food.)  Alas, the container does not fit in the base cabinet under the kitchen sink so it will likely end up being used for its intended purpose after all.

2014/10/28 (T) Under the Bus

In corporate life “getting thrown under the bus” is not a good thing, but if you are the owner/builder/maintainer of a converted highway coach, getting under the bus will eventually be a necessity.  Today was finally my day, but not until mid-afternoon.

The forecast for today was for rain in the morning tapering off to zero by noon and then turning sunny; and that is exactly the day we had.  Knowing that the morning would be wet, I took a couple of Tylenol PM last night and slept in a bit later than normal.  After my usual breakfast of granola, orange juice, and coffee, with some spicy V8 thrown in for good measure, I set to work on the interior of the old TV cabinet located above and behind the driver’s seat.

Yesterday I pulled the CB radio and the AM/FM radio out of the dashboard and identified how the coaxial antenna cable for each one was marked.  I located the cable for the CB in the TV cabinet but was not able to find the one for the AM/FM radio.  I got my twin tube florescent worklight and rigged up a couple of zip ties with mounting tabs to hang it from.  I looked again this morning but still could not locate the AM/FM radio antenna cable.  Rather than waste time not finding it I decided to organize the inside of the cabinet which has had an outlet strip, an OTA TV antenna controller, the Wi-Fi Ranger POE adapter, DC power supplies, and a mess of cable that has been lying around in it for a couple of years now.

Using the tab mount zip ties I coiled each cable and secured it to one of the two side walls.  The OTA TV antenna cable (signal and control) was very long, so I wound it around a 5-gallon plastic bucket to make a nice round, large coil.  The outlet strip had mounting slots on the back, so I mounted it to the wall on the lower half of the back of the cabinet.  The upper half of the back is open to the area above the driver and entrance stairs and under the front cap of the roof.

Late in the morning I took a break from the TV cabinet work and helped Butch cut access panels out of a 1/8″ aluminum sheet that will cover the inside of their entrance door.  We tried using a sabre saw but the only blade we had was not sharp enough or was the wrong type.  We used his Ryobi cordless reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade and it made much quicker, and surprisingly clean, cuts.  I then used Butch’s angle grinder to round the corners of the sheet and remove burrs from all of the cut edges.

I stopped for lunch around 2 PM and enjoyed a hummus and onion sandwich.  By the time I was done the day was as warm and sunny as it was going to get so I decided to scoot under the bus and measure the ride height linkages.  This was the first time I have been under the bus.  Please note that the bus was supported on four stands that Butch made for me out of 1/2″ steel plate and 4″ square steel tube with 1/2″ thick walls.  In other words, the bus was not supported by the tires and air springs so the bus would not move if there was a failure in one of those components.

H3-40 front axle ride height valve and linkage.

H3-40 front axle ride height valve and linkage.

The linkage in the front was easy as I could slide under the bus just in front of the driver side steer tire and then sit up between the front tires with lots of room to work.  The linkage is directly above the center of the front axle and connects the axle to a lever arm on an air valve that determines the amount of air that goes into the front airbags (when in drive mode), and thus sets the suspension at “ride height.”  Butch wanted me to remove the linkage but I chose not to.  As it turned out I should have and will probably slide back under the front tomorrow and remove it.

The rear linkages were much more difficult.  First of all, there are two on them, one for each end of the drive axle.  They are located just inside the body panel directly in front of the outside dual drive tire and are covered by a protective shield.  The shields are bolted on at four points, none of which are easy to reach and one of which ultimately required me to get under the rear end of the bus.  Access is much tighter here because of:  1) The dual drive tires on each end of the drive axle; 2) The drive axle carrier, and; 3) The exhaust pipe for the Aqua-Hot which runs under the bus from the passenger side to the driver side where it ends up next to the exhaust pipe from the generator.  I was able to scoot under the bus from the passenger side just in front of the drive tires, but just barely, and once I was under far enough to sit up there was much less room to work compared to the front.  Because of the difficulty of getting to the linkages to make an accurate measurement of the center-to-center distance between the mounting bolts I went ahead and unbolted them and removed them.

The linkages consist of a length of metal rod approximately 1/4” in diameter with a rubber bushing on each end that looks a bit like and eye-bolt.  The rubber bushings slip over the ends of the metal rods and are secured with band clamps.  They appear surprisingly fragile given the critical nature of their function, and Butch has already had one that was only a couple of year’s old break on their coach.  He ordered metal versions in both left-hand and right-hand threads and is going to assemble replacements using threaded rod and stop nuts.  With a left-hand threaded bushing on one end and a right-hand threaded bushing on the other end we will be able to turn the threaded rod one way to increase the distance between the two mounting bolts and the other way to shorten it, affecting both ends equally in the process.  The stop nuts will lock the bushings relative to the threaded rod so they do not move in operation.  All-in-all this will be a neat little project.

In spite of the lovely weather Butch needed to get to the NAPA store in Logansport before they closed at 5:30 PM.  At 4:30 PM I wrapped up my work with the linkages, put all of my tools away, washed up, and grabbed my wallet, cell phone, and shopping list.  We got to the NAPA store a little after 5 PM and took care of our business there.  We then headed to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store for a few other things.  I called Linda and chatted briefly with her and was relieved to hear that she sounded, and was feeling, considerably better.  Butch called Jaral Beatty to see if he had finished cutting the oak valences for the front of their bus.  He had, so we swung by Jaral’s shop to pick them up.

Front flat-panel TV/monitor with cabinet door closed.  Look ma, no wires!

Front flat-panel TV/monitor with cabinet door closed. Look ma, no wires!

While we were at Jaral’s he ripped a nice piece of 3/4″ thick oak for me to just under 3″ wide.  The piece was about 4′ long and he did not charge me for it.  I plan to attach this piece of wood to the center windshield pillar and use it as a mounting plate for a compass, flat panel monitor, PressurePro TPMS receiver, and the mirror that is currently mounted at the intersection of the four windshields.  I have to do this, of course, in such a way that it does not obscure my vision while driving.  From Jaral’s shop we went to Home Depot where I bought a thin (1″ thick), 13″ long, under-cabinet, single-tube florescent, AC powered light fixture.  I also got a blade for my Porter-Cable oscillating saw.

When we got back to Twelve Mile a little after 7 PM Fonda started preparing their dinner and I did the same.  I had a nice salad of power greens with onions, dried cranberries, and roasted peanuts topped with a sweet and sour dressing.  I also had a bowl of Thai Kitchen spring onion soup, some canned pears, and half a piece of pita pocket bread.  After dinner I washed my recyclable containers and went back to the coach for a while where I cleaned and dried a few utensils.  I then mounted the new light fixture in the TV cabinet.  As I expected, it provides very nice illumination for the entire inside of the cabinet.

Depending how the day goes tomorrow I plan to continue working in the front TV cabinet.  I would like to mount the TuneTrapper AM/FM antenna and get it connected to the AM/FM radio.  Butch’s brother, Tom, is coming over sometime during the day to winterize his motorhome.  Butch called and asked him to bring the faceplate from an old Kenwood radio that he had that was very similar to the one in our dashboard.  The backlight illumination bulb is burned out on ours.  I also need to create an access slot in the door for cables to pass between the back of the flat panel TV (which is mounted to the outside of the door) and the inside of the cabinet.  To create this access slot I will have to drill holes centered along a line and then use Butch’s root-zip tool to connect the holes into a slot.  The bushings for the ride height linkages are supposed to be in tomorrow, so we will be making a morning trip towards Kokomo to pick them up.  Butch is also trying to tap into the engine coolant loop that provides OTR heat for their bus as part of the Oasis Combi installation, so it is likely to be a very full day.

2014/10/29 (W) Outside In

My main project today was once again the front TV cabinet only this time the focus was on cutting a horizontal opening in the door behind the flat panel TV that is mounted on the outside of the door.  The approach I used was to drill two 1″ holes, one at either end of a horizontal line, and then use a roto-zip tool as a mini-router to connect the tops of the holes together and the bottoms of the holes together, creating a horizontal slot with rounded ends.  The slot is below the horizontal center line of the TV set and offset to the left (as viewed from the front of the TV) to line up with the area on the back of the set where the power, video, and data cables exit downward.  The position of the slot allows them to gently bend and pass from the outside of the cabinet to the inside of the cabinet where they get connected.  This also allows the cabinet door to be closed and latched with none of the cables visible.  It sounds simple but it took me a good part of the day to get it done.  We have a second flat panel TV in the bedroom mounted on a similar door that covers another old TV cabinet.  Cutting a similar slot in that door is on my task list for tomorrow.

Front TV cabinet; making use of the space where the 10" CRT was mounted.

Front TV cabinet; making use of the space where the 10″ CRT was mounted.

When I wasn’t working on the TV cabinet I spent a few minutes learning how to use an air-powered cutoff tool and giving Butch a break by using it to help cut off a piece of the center tunnel sidewall in their passenger side front bay.  Butch is removing this panel in order to gain access to the engine coolant lines that provide heat for the bus when it is underway.  He needs to tie a stacked-plate heat exchanger into these lines as part of the ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system installation.

Butch spent most of his day working on their Suburban installing a Ready-Brake auxiliary braking system and extra rear lights for towing.  I checked in with him from time to time, but he was either in the middle of one-person tasks or had Fonda helping him.  Late in the afternoon we rolled his Ryobi belt sander out of the warehouse and used it to sand his two valence boards and my piece of oak that we picked up yesterday from Jarel.  We had to change the sanding belt and it took us a few tries to get it right, but it did a nice job on the boards once we had a good piece of sandpaper on it.

By the time we finished it was twilight and very cool.  Tom and Tracy showed up about then to winterize their motorhome.  There was a locked cover over the fresh water fill connector and none of Tom’s keys would open it.  I got a long flat-blade screwdriver and was able to slip it up under the cover and pop the lock.  I left the winterizing to Butch and Tom and retreated to my coach to putter and contemplate (and eat) at a lovely 67 degrees F.  The Aqua-Hot has been working very reliably, cycling on and off automatically in response to the space and water heating demands of the coach.

Tom brought an old Kenwood car stereo that he got from Butch a while back.  Although similar in appearance to our Kenwood dashboard radio, it was not similar enough.  The electrical connector on the back of the removable faceplate was in a different location than ours.  I had a Singapore Noodles dish in the coach and then made a salad to take into the house and dine with Butch and Fonda.  It was after 9 PM by the time we were done eating and I turned in for the night shortly thereafter.

 

2014/10/16-22 More Bus Work

2014/10/16 (R) More Wiring

Butch had to go to Logansport this morning for parts and groceries.  I stayed behind to continue working on the AC wiring for their bus conversion; after breakfast, of course.

I mounted two 6-position AC main lug panels, one above the other, to the right of the 20-position panel we installed yesterday for the inverter circuits.  The panels I installed today were for AC circuits that only run on shore power or the generator, not the inverter.  The reason for two panels was: A) Butch already had them, and B) they were narrower than the larger panels and would fit in the available space on the right rear wall of the closet.

I had tied the main shore/generator power line to the inverter AC input line last night so the refrigerator, which is wired through the inverter panel, would have power overnight.  I left those tied together for most of the day so the lights would work.  I pulled all of the existing circuits that we disconnected yesterday into the boxes, dressed the wires, and connected/mounted the circuit breakers.  By the time I finished Butch had returned from his morning errands.  He connected the shoreline and I checked to see that we had 240 VAC between L1 and L2 and 120 VAC from each line to the neutral conductor.  He then disconnected the shoreline and made sure the generator was off.  Using the inverter to power a work light, I pulled the main power cable into the lower box and secured it.  I then pulled the cable that feeds AC power to the inverter into the lower box and connected it to a 30 Amp breaker.

MC-9 house wiring.  Inverter panel on the left, shore/genset panels on the right.  DC upper left, solar upper right.

MC-9 house wiring. Inverter panel on the left, shore/genset panels on the right. DC upper left, solar upper right.

I plugged the shoreline back in but got a low voltage with no current on L2 and an Error Code 6 on the Progressive Industries EMS remote monitor display.  Butch checked the plug and I just did not have it fully inserted into the outlet.  Once he fixed that we got the correct voltages and no errors.  We checked each circuit and everything checked out perfectly.

(Note: The shoreline is wired for “50 A” RV service, which is 240 VAC service from L1 to L2 but with an active neutral that provides two 50 A, 120 VAC power feeds with L1 and L2 180 degrees out of phase.  As a result the currents in the neutral wire from L1 and L2 cancel rather than add.  Butch has his generator wired for 120 VAC output and has L1 and L2 tied together on the generator side of the transfer switch.  This makes the full 100 A output of the generator available to be shared between L1 and L2 in any proportion.  Although this system can supply a full 50 A of current on both L1 and L2 at the same time, it could also supply 70 A or one and 30 A on the other unless this is prevented by circuit breakers.  Also, regardless of the distribution of current between L1 and L2 the currents will add in the neutral as much as 100 A of current.  Although sensible load management would prevent this from ever happening it is entirely possible to draw 30 or 35 A on each leg and end up with 60 – 70 A in the neutral.  Thus, when designing your house AC electrical system this way, provision should be made for a neutral conductor that is sufficient to carry this amount of current.  The advantage to doing your system this way is that the voltage regulation will be better under load than with a 240 VAC generator powering imbalanced 120 VAC loads on both legs as the 240 VAC configuration regulates the voltage between L1 and L2 but the voltage from L1 to N and L2 to N can be off substantially.)

Butch needed another non-inverter circuit for the front of the bus so we pulled a 10-2+g Romex cable from the electrical closet along the driver’s side wall/ceiling area and down into the cabinet at the front end of the kitchen counter. He and Fonda spent a bit of time cutting openings in the end of the cabinet for a two-gang outlet box and a single-gang outlet box.  The two-gang box was for a pair of duplex outlets fed from the inverter panel and the wires were already run.  The single-gang was for the new circuit we just pulled.  When they were done I disconnected the shoreline so I could safely tie the new circuit into the lower panel.  I then installed the cover plates on all three boxes and plugged the shoreline back in.  We had the breaker turned off for the new circuit while I wired the outlet.  I then energized it and it tested OK.

I repositioned a 12 VDC fused distribution box above the inverter panel and mounted it.  I then moved a terminal strip for their solar panel wiring to a slightly different location to open up a space for Butch to drill a hole.  At that point we were done working for the day.  I changed into my non-work blue jeans and relaxed for an hour before dinner.  During that time Butch called Jaral Beatty, a cabinet maker in Logansport and personal friend of Butch’s, and put me on the phone with him to see if he could come to Twelve Mile and finalize plans for a custom desk and printer cabinet for the bus.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is for mild, mainly sunny, conditions and Jaral said he could come out mid-afternoon.

Butch and Fonda’s younger daughter, Brittani, and her husband, Sterling (Rock), were expected for dinner at 7:00 PM so I fixed a salad and heated some Amy’s chili for my dinner.  Dinner was jovial and the first time I have eaten with Butch and Fonda at home on this latest round of working visits.  Butch called Joe Leibherr and put me on the phone with him.  Joe and Connie own the lot in Quartzite where we plan to spend part of the winter and I had a few questions for him.  (Dale and Sherry Leibherr bought most of Butch and Fonda’s business assets.  Dale is Joe and Connie’s son.)  I had a nice long chat with Joe and was satisfied that it will be an OK place to spend part of the winter.  Besides the full hookup 50A sites there is a laundry on site and Wi-Fi.  Verizon cellular service is also apparently very good.  Joe filled me in on some of things to do in town and suggested we bring our passports and visit Los Algodones, Mexico while we are in the area.  Brittiny and Rock stayed until 11:30 PM so it was a nice, long visit.  We were all really tired by the time they left and immediately turned in for the night.

2014/10/17 (F) VDO Air Power

After Brittani and Sterling (Rock) left last night I retired to the guest bedroom immediately but was up for a couple of hours responding to e-mails and writing my daily blog entry.  I do not shut my computer down every night but I do shut it down occasionally, especially if there are updates available.  Last night there were 28 updates.  I was not up at the crack of dawn today, which was a shame as it was the nicest weather day we’ve had for the week just past and looks to be the nicest of the week ahead.  Butch was up late last night as well, so we were both dragging a bit this morning.

Following breakfast I readied the coach for travel, securing loose objects inside and checking that all of the bays were shut tight and locked.  I switched on the chassis batteries and air valves, unplugged the shorepower cord, and went for a short test drive to calibrate our new VDO electronic speedometer.  Butch mentioned that there was a funeral home on the northwest corner of SR-16 and US-31 where he had easily turned their bus around in the past.  That turned out to be just what I needed for my test run as it kept me from having to go south on US-31 in order to make a U-turn to get headed back to Twelve Mile.

I had driven the coach last Sunday from Elkhart to Twelve Mile with the new speedometer set to its default pulses per mile and it indicated less than 1/8th of the actual speed as shown on our Rand-McNally 7710 RVND GPS.  When I got to Twelve Mile I calculated the pulses per mile I thought would be close to correct and programmed that number into the instrument.  On the first leg of my test drive this morning the indicated speed was still about 1/8th of actual.  Either my programming did not “stick” or I based my calculation on a grossly inaccurate assumption.

I pulled into the far entrance to the funeral home parking lot and made a broad turn to get lined up with the other entrance.  I switched off the ignition, held down the button on the face of the VDO, turned the ignition back on, and started the engine.  The speedometer cycled through its three calibration modes and I stopped it on ADJUST and then selected UP as the direction the needle needed to move.  The adjustment was a little tricky, especially while driving, but I figured out how to switch it between up and down.  I got it adjusted to my satisfaction before getting back to Twelve Mile and after not adjusting it for a minute or so it reset and reverted to its standard speedometer/odometer display, only this time showing the correct speed and recording the correct mileage.

When I got back to Butch and Fonda’s house I pulled the bus around, blocking the street temporarily, and backed it in next to theirs.  Fonda helped spot me for the final few feet.  Instead of shutting the engine off I let it idle while I got my four chassis stands out of the warehouse and positioned them at the four corners of the bus.  I put the engine in high idle and raised the body as high above the axles as it would go.  I slid the stands into place under four frame members, dropped the idle to low, and gently lowered the bus until it was resting firmly on the stands.  With the bus sitting on the stands it will now be safe to work underneath it when we get around to those projects.

The next project was to replace the air filter / water separator for our auxiliary air system.  Butch did most of the work on this project.  He disconnected two air lines from the existing filter assembly, which includes a pressure regulator and a Schrader valve, and then unscrewed the mounting bracket from the rear wall of the bay under the driver’s seat where a lot of the auxiliary air system is housed.

With the old unit out of the bus he was able to work in his shop to remove the inlet and outlet fittings and clean them up on a wire wheel before reusing them.  He installed the old fittings in the new housing using pipe thread compound and matched the alignment of the old unit so the air lines would fit back on to them.  The two machine screws that were used to mount the old unit’s mounting bracket to the wall were too big for the slots in the new unit’s mounting bracket so Butch used his Bridgeport vertical mill to slightly enlarge the upper slots.

With the shop work done I took everything back out to the bus and installed it, which consisted of attaching the two air lines (with compression fittings), attaching the mounting bracket to the housing, attaching the mounting bracket to the rear wall of the compartment, and then tightening the two air line nuts.  Butch checked my work and snugged the air line nuts another partial turn.

I turned on the auxiliary air compressor but it seemed to take a long time to start to build air pressure and Butch heard and felt a leak at the unloader valve coming out of the auxiliary air compressor.  I shut of the aux compressor and he hooked up his portable air compressor to the air hose fitting in the passenger side engine bay which brought the pressure up in the auxiliary system very nicely.  We turned his compressor off, turned the aux compressor back on, and bled enough air off to cause the aux compressor to run.  It finished bringing the pressure up to the cutout value without difficulty.  I sprayed all of the fittings with Simple Green and did not detect any leaks.  We had noticed earlier that the lower half of the filter housing, which locks and unlocks in only 1/8th of a turn, had a loose fit.  Once the system was pressurized, however, it tightened up.

Norgren auxiliary air filter / water separator (lower right).

Norgren auxiliary air filter / water separator (lower right).

The old unit had to be replaced because it was no longer made and the replaceable filters were no longer available.  Once we had it out of the coach and disassembled I was surprised by how badly deteriorated it was internally.  Aluminum, by definition, does not “rust” but it certainly can and does corrode (oxidize).

Butch and Fonda spent part of the day building and installing a slide out tray for one of the passenger side bays.  It will hold his tool box on top and have room for miscellaneous storage underneath.

I got the Zena power generating module wiring diagrams for Butch to study while I ate lunch.  We were just getting ready to start working on this when Jaral showed up.  He and Butch and Fonda talked for quite a while about personal stuff while I started probing around in the driver side rear electrical bay for a place to tap into an ignition switched source of 24VDC power.  I located a relay that looked like it would do the trick (R53).  I broke off working on this to spend time with Jaral, who rode his scooter from Logansport to discuss some cabinetry project.

Jaral looked at Butch’s projects first as they are immediate.  He then looked at what we want to do with the front part of our coach.  We need to have a desk and a printer cabinet built out of walnut to match the woodwork that is already in the bus and Jaral is our cabinetmaker of choice.  It sounds simple enough, but the reality is more complex.  After talking it through with him (again) and taking some measurements we agreed that I need to make very careful dimensioned drawings of exactly what we need.  I may try to do that over the winter but worst case is that it will have to wait until next spring and probably after we have removed the current furniture.

Butch and I worked on the Zena wiring for a little while after Jaral left.  We determined that the two blue wires in the electrical bay ran to the Zena control modules in the engine bay and to the fan terminals on the Zena rectifier assembly in the house electrical bay.  He had a tandem spade lug adapter that we used to tap into the power to the coil of relay 53.  With the coach batteries on but the ignition off we did not have power to the fans on the rectifier assembly or the control modules in the engine bay but with the ignition on we did.  That was a small but important success.

The weather had turned cloudy, windy, and chilly as the afternoon progressed.  We spent a little while studying my house electrical bay and discussing how I might get the large battery charging cables from the ceiling-mounted rectifier to a Class T fuse and then to the batteries.  I decided that was a problem I was not going to solve in the remaining hour of daylight and called it a day.  By then it was 6 PM so I went to my coach to have dinner which consisted of a salad, tofu hot dog, apple, and a glass of Franzia Moscato.  I retired to the guest bedroom around 9 PM, worked on my computer and iPad until about 10:30, and then turned off the lights.

2014/10/18 (S) Cold Wet & Windy

Even though I went to sleep at 10:30 last night I did not get out of bed until 8 AM this morning.  Today’s weather forecast was for a 50% chance of rain with winds out of the WNW shifting to N at 15+ MPH and a high temperature of 50 degrees F.  The 50% chance of precipitation turned out to be an all-day drizzle; not an ideal day for working outside.  Nonetheless, I spent the late morning (post breakfast) working in our house electrical bay on the wiring for the Zena 24 VDC power generating system.

The only thing I actually accomplished was mounting a Class T fuse holder (with a fuse) to the ceiling of the compartment.  That was a bigger accomplishment than it seems, however, as its location determined the lengths of the cables needed to finish the project.  With a nicer day on tap for tomorrow I expect to get those cables made and installed.  A final check of the wiring and installation of the drive belts on the alternator will complete the project, which I stated almost exactly two years ago.

20141018-09012

Zena rectifier (upper left) and Class T fuse (upper center).

 

Butch and I went to Logansport in the early afternoon.  He needed plumbing parts for his fresh water tank and ITR Oasis Combi project.  I needed 2/0 lugs for my battery cables, some 3/8 compression nuts and sleeves, and some duplex outlet expanders.  I found the lugs at Rural King (where we also got some free popcorn) and everything else at Home Depot.  These stores happen to be conveniently located across the street from one another.  The nuts and sleeves will be used to rig up a hose or tube so we can test the water flow coming out of the pipes that feed the kitchen faucet.  The flow is much lower than it should be and we want to determine if it is due to the faucet or upstream in the piping.  I found a small duplex to 6-out expander that would fit under the thermostat on the end of the kitchen counter based cabinet.  I also found a duplex to 6-outlet expander with integrated surge protection and two USB charging ports.  I bought two, one for the outlet on my side of the bed and one for the outlet on the outside wall just behind the passenger seat.  This model is not illuminated like the one I installed on Linda’s side of the bed, but that’s OK.

We stopped at Butch’s parents’ house to investigate the source of a mechanical noise. It turned out to be a dehumidifier in which the fan motor bearings were squealing.  Butch loaded it in his truck to take back to his house where he could more conveniently try to oil the bearings.  We chatted for a while and then headed to Martin’s Supermarket so I could pick up a few grocery items.

When we got back to Twelve Mile I unloaded and stored my groceries and then installed two of the three outlet expanders.  I could not install the one by the passenger seat as the outlet was too close to a wooden structure.  There is an outlet box with a solid cover plate next to the duplex outlet and I will see if the outlet can be moved over.  If not, I will install this unit behind Linda’s night stand at our sticks ‘n’ bricks house.

Butch’s brother, Tom, showed up and the two of them worked on installing the Blue Ox base plates on Butch’s Suburban.  I spent the afternoon making a scale drawing of the passenger side of the front half of the coach showing the two Lambright Comfort Chairs, custom printer cabinet/table, and custom desk with pantry.  I checked in with Butch and Tom and helped them a little bit with the base plate project.  When they reached a stopping point, or at least a point where my assistance was no longer needed, I returned to my coach and fixed dinner.

I had a salad of power greens with cranberries and peanuts, some apple sauce, and the leftover Mjadra from La Marsa, the last of my frozen leftovers from our dinner at the Brighton location with Bruce and Linda Whitney.  A glass of Franzia Moscato was quite agreeable.  Butch and Fonda had not eaten their dinner yet, so I worked in the guest bedroom at my computer while they ate.

Linda called around 8:45 PM and chatted with Butch about an accounting issue related to their business and then chatted with me about our grand-daughter, Madeline, who is finally pronouncing words clearly enough to be understood and quickly developing a spoken vocabulary.  Brendan and Shawna brought her to our house around 11:15 AM this morning and stuck around through lunch to get her down for her nap and then took off.  Grandma Linda had her all to herself the rest of the day and will have her tomorrow until they pick her up.  I chatted with Butch and Fonda for a while after that and then retired for the evening, checking and responding to a couple of e-mails, doing a little web-surfing, and working on this post.

2014/10/19 (N) Of Mice And Men

Although I really enjoy Linda’s homemade granola I decided to make toast with some of the Brownberry Country White bread I bought.  I was surprised to discover that someone, or something, had chewed a hole through the plastic bag and eaten some of my bread.  A mouse, no doubt, but I only bought this bread on Tuesday, so it was a recent visitor.  The surprise was that the bread was in a cabinet that I assumed was inaccessible to mice.

I emptied the cubby and discovered a hole in the back wall big enough to stick my finger through for some distance, which meant it was plenty big enough for a mouse to get through.  The walls are covered with the same thin carpet that is used to line all of the other cabinets in the coach.  In this case it was applied to fairly thin wood with space behind it.  Butch looked at it with me and we found that the glue used to install the carpet had lost much of its hold.  We lifted it up and found a 2″x2″ cutout in the wood with the hole in the carpet roughly centered on it.  There was a Romex electrical cable coiled up behind the wall with the ends taped.  We presumed the wire had once passed through the hole into the cubby but was now a way for the mouse to travel vertically through the cavity and get to the back entrance.

I threw the bread out, of course and cleaned the counter surface, which forms the floor of the cubby, with Lysol.  Mouse proofing the bread cubby will have to wait until tomorrow but my plan is to feed the wire through the hole in the carpet and then lift the carpet at the bottom and run a bead of caulk (or hot glue) along the joint between the counter and the wood walls.  I will then install a surface mounted outlet over the hole.  At a minimum it will seal the hole and it might prove useful someday for plugging in an appliance, assuming the wires are still energized.

Although it was in the low 30s when we got up this morning, it was finally a decent day for outside work.  The high temperature only made it to the mid-50s but it was sunny most of the day with a light breeze.  Appropriate layers of clothing made for comfort while working.

My main focus today was completing the installation of the Zena 24VDC power generating system in the bus.  I started this project two years ago this month and today was the day to finish it.  I had also written a complete draft of an article about this project for Bus Conversion Magazine but held off finishing and submitting it pending completion of the project.  Now that the work is completed and the system functions correctly I hope to finish the article in the next few weeks.

The purpose of the system is to charge/maintain the 24VDC house battery bank while we are driving the bus, during which time the refrigerator, and other minor loads, are being powered by the inverter.  The system consists of a high-output, continuous-duty, 24VAC, 3-phase alternator driven by the main bus engine (Detroit Diesel 8V92TA).  The alternator feeds a large rectifier assembly in the house electrical bay and is controlled by three interconnected modules mounted in the engine bay near the alternator.  Redundant voltage sense wires run from the rectifier back to two of the three control modules.  The system is activated by ignition switched 24VDC power which we wired up a couple of days ago.

The unfinished part of the project involved the connections between the DC output of the rectifier and the 24VDC house battery bank.  I mounted a Class T fuse on the ceiling of the electrical bay yesterday which then allowed me to determine several cable lengths.  On the +24VDC side I made three cables from 2/0 welding cable as follows:  1) Rectifier DC positive to ceiling fuse terminal A; 2) Inverter/charger fuse terminal B to ceiling fuse terminal B, and; 3) Ceiling fuse terminal B to +24VDC battery disconnect switch.  With this configuration both the rectifier and inverter outputs go through separate fuses to a common point (ceiling fuse terminal B) and that point is connected to the battery disconnect switch.  I also made a cable to go from the rectifier DC negative (ground) to the house DC electrical system ground lug; again using 2/0 welding cable.

I used a metal blade hacksaw to cut the welding cable to length and cut through the heavy rubber sheath 1/2 inch from the end to expose the copper conductors.  I attached crimp style through-hole terminals to the ends of the cables and held them in position to get the alignment correct.  I made reference marks to ensure the alignment and then crimped the lugs onto the wire using a very large hand-operated press in Butch’s shop.  Projects like this are a lot more fun with access to the correct tools.

I attached as many cable ends as I could without touching any live voltages.  I turned off the Aqua-Hot, the UPS, and the inverter/charger before disconnecting the main AC shore power.  I then turned the +24VDC disconnect switch to the off position, isolating the coach/inverter from the 24VDC battery bank.  (Note, however, that I did not disconnect the 12VDC center tap.)  With power off I completed all of the needed connections, including the small ground wire for the 24VDC fan on the rectifier, turned the 24VDC batter disconnect switch to ‘on’, and turned the inverter back on.  It immediately started supplying power so I knew my wiring was correct.

Back in the engine bay I checked all of the wiring against my diagram and everything was good to go.  I taped off two wires with bullet connectors on the ends to prevent accidental shorting.  One of the wires is used to reset the system by grounding it and the other wire is tied to chassis ground.  With all of the electrical connections verified I got Butch to help install the two drive belts from the DD8V92TA pulley to the alternator (power generating module).  That was when we discovered that the lower side of the belts were in contact with a pressurized oil hose for the Spinner II centrifugal by-pass oil cleaner.

The hose was secured with zip ties in several places so I clipped and removed those.  I disconnected the hose from the Spinner II and re-routed it to avoid the drive belts and other rotating parts on the front of the engine (which faces the rear of the bus).  I reattached the oil hose to the Spinner II and secured it with zip ties.

Butch used a pry bar to move the alternator and put tension on the drive belts while Tom and I tightened the alternator mounting bolts.  The inverter had been supplying AC power to the coach for a while and a check of the house battery voltage showed +24.5VDC.  I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessories air valve, started the DD8V92TA, and put it in high idle.  I re-checked the voltage at the rectifier output and it was 24.8, higher than before and rising, but not too high; an excellent set point at least for now.

DD8V92TA with Zena 3-phase alternator lower right.

DD8V92TA with Zena 3-phase alternator lower right.

We observed that some of the belts on the engine seemed loose and floppy.  Butch also noticed what appeared to be a stone embedded in the outside surface of the Gates Hi-Power II PowerBand A92 triple V drive belt that runs from the DD8V92TA crankshaft pulley to the drive pulley for the engine cooling fan.  Butch called O’Reilly’s in Logansport but they were unable to locate the 2.125″ wide triple-V belt in their system.

The oil dipstick tube was also too close to the new drive belts but when I tied to move it (bend it slightly) I noticed that it was very loose.  The fitting at the block was not tight and it was obvious that some oil had leaked out from there.  I slid under the engine from the rear of the bus and tightened it at the block.  (It is nice having the bus supported on stands so I can work under it without concern.)

While I was working on the Zena system Butch installed an outlet fitting on their fresh water tank.  He and Fonda, and eventually Tom (Butch’s brother), re-installed the tank in their bus and then mounted the ITR Oasis Combi next to it, securing it to the floor of the bay.  To accomplish that they had to drill holes, align holes, and determine a location for the water pump, which required more information regarding allowable pump orientation.  Sometime during the day Butch shifted his focus towards an antenna project on the roof of their bus.  He had previously purchased a Tarheel motorized fold-over mount for his large Tarheel screwdriver antenna and wanted to at least get the fold-over mount attached to the roof before they left for the southwest.

The key lock on our passenger side engine bay door was getting difficult to turn so I removed an access panel on the inside of the bay door to investigate the mechanism.  As I loosened the access panel water ran out the bottom.  We determined that the gasket surrounding the handle/lock assembly was dried out and cracked, allowing water in at the top.  I removed the handle/lock assembly by pulling it out of the door from the outside, dried it out, and lubricated it.  I reassembled it for now, but I need to apply some kind of sealant behind the gaskets or get new ones from Prevost (if they are still available).

Prevost H3-40 keyed, non-electric, door lock mechanism.

Prevost H3-40 keyed, non-electric, door lock mechanism.

Butch shifted his attention yet again, this time to their Suburban where he and Tom re-attached the front bumper.  It was removed a few days ago so he and Tom could install the Blue Ox base plate kit which will allow them to tow it with the bus.

As the sun dropped low in the western sky the temperature dropped along with it.  I buttoned up my coach and helped Butch get his tools and supplies moved inside.  I then went to my coach to have dinner which consisted of an Annie’s Spicy Mongolian noodle bowl with added peanuts and a tofu hotdog with mustard, onion, and relish.  A glass of Moscato with the meal and a cup of Oriental Treasure green tea afterwards provided a soothing and warming end to the meal.  I returned to the house and we chatted for a short while before I retired to my room to check e-mail and write.

2014/10/20 (M) Bad Timing

I have settled into something of routine on this extended visit to Twelve Mile, Indiana; up late, sleep late, eat breakfast, get to work.  Usually.  Butch spends the early morning on his computer and is usually ready to work about the same time I am.  Usually, but not always.  Sometimes he gets to work earlier than me, and sometimes much later.  Although we had a beautiful weather day (except for the brief thunderstorm around 10 AM) we were not able to take full advantage of it for various reasons.  I had left the Aqua-Hot turned off over night to see if it would start reliably when cold.  The burner fired after a short 10 second purge.  It was smokey at first, but ran its full cycle and eventually cleared up.  I turned it off and will test its cold start capabilities again tomorrow morning.

We discovered yesterday that the triple V fan belt on my bus engine was worn and had something embedded in it.  The belt was a Gates Hi-Power II PowerBand A92.  We spent some time looking for one online but were not sure we had found exactly the right one so I decided to see if Prevost had it in stock.  They did, and it was only a few dollars more, included free shipping (as always), and would be at my house before I got home.  I ordered two.  This belt drives the engine cooling fan and if it breaks the bus isn’t going anywhere until it is replaced.

Bread cubby with AC outlet base plate.

Bread cubby with AC outlet base plate.

Butch and Fonda worked on re-conditioning a pair of fan-coil heat exchangers that will get tied-in to their new ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system on the bus.  Butch and I had both been assembling shopping lists and I was at the point where I needed to get some small parts in order to move forward with some small projects.  We left around 11:30 AM and drove to Logansport where we visited NAPA, O’Reilly’s, Rural King, Aldi’s, Home Depot, and Walmart.  All of these stores are located close to one another on the east end of town except for the O’Reilly’s and NAPA which are just a bit farther down the main road towards downtown.  When it comes down to it, Logansport is just not that big.

By the time we got back it was after 3 PM and we were suddenly very busy as we tried to take advantage of the few remaining hours of daylight.  Butch and Fonda worked on installing the Tarheel fold-over mount and I worked on sealing the bread cubby, installing a Wiremold surface mount outlet over the hole in the back wall, and installing a small battery powered LED puck light in the back closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.  I cut a small triangle of thin aluminum for the hole in the corner floor of the bread cabinet and then sealed the joint between the floor (counter) and three walls with a silicone-based paintable tub and tile caulk in a convenient squeeze tube.

LED puck light in rear bedroom closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.

LED puck light in rear bedroom closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.

When I finished those tasks I checked in with Butch and Fonda and found out that they had run into problems with the Toggler(R) bolts Butch was using and had to undo what they had already done and seal up the holes in the roof for the night.  There wasn’t anything I could do to help at that point, so I started working on the wiring that will allow me to relocate the Magnum ME-ARC remote control/display module from the electrical bay to the house panel next to the refrigerator.  Rather than try to route the 4-wire telephone cable between the inverter/charger and the house panel, John Palmer had suggested two years ago that I re-purpose one of the existing cables that had previously connected the Heart Interface inverter/chargers to their remote displays.  All that was required was to attach RJ-11 plugs on each end to four off the nine available wires.  As long as I used the same four wires on each end, and got the colors in the same order, it should work fine.  Butch already had the necessary crimper and I bought a small bag of the plugs today at Home Depot.

Sunset is just before 7 PM these days.  It not only comes earlier, it comes quickly.  We were done working by 6:30 PM and I withdrew to my coach to have dinner.  I had a nice salad of power greens with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, artichoke hearts, dried cranberries, and peanuts with peanut butter and crackers on the side and a small glass of Franzia Moscato.  I cleaned up from dinner, closed up the coach, set the two small electric cube heaters for around 60 degrees F, gathered up a few things and went back to the house for the evening.  Butch and Fonda were just getting ready to eat their dinner so I retired to my room to work on my computer.

2014/10/21 (T) Fair Weather Ahead

One of the first things I do each morning, even before I have breakfast, is to check the current and forecasted weather.  The guest bedroom at Butch and Fonda’s place is an interior room with no windows and is well insulated, including the ceiling, so I have no visual or auditory reference to what is happening outside.  If not for the clock on the headboard of the bed (or my various communications and computing technologies) I would have no idea what time it was, or even if it was day or night.

There was widely scattered light rain across northern Indiana at 7:30 AM with single digit precipitation probabilities through the day dropping to zero chance of rain for Wednesday and Thursday with high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s.  That is about as good as it gets for the fourth week in October.  Hopefully it bodes well for our project work and will be a very productive few days.

Butch plans to attend a gun show on Saturday morning and needs to spend most of Friday getting ready.  Butch and Fonda’s family members (parents, siblings, children, etc.) are gathering at their house on Sunday to celebrate the holidays early since Butch and Fonda plan to be in the southwest with us this winter.  Given the weather forecast I will probably work the whole day on Thursday, spend the night, and then head for home early Friday morning, or at least as early as I can manage.

Butch’s main focus today was re-mounting his Tarheel antenna lift to the roof of their bus.  He figured out last night what parts he needed to make the installation work after his Togglers(R) broke yesterday.

My main focus was diagnosing and repairing the very low water flow from the kitchen faucet but before I got too deep into that project I called Prevost’s U. S. parts office in Elgin, Illinois to check on a couple of things.  They had the CX-96 cogged fan belts in stock in the U. S. but wanted $90 for a pair (they only sell them in pairs).  I found them last night online for $21 each, so that was a big difference.   They also had the bay door handle/lockset gaskets I needed but they were only stocked in Canada.  They were only $4 each, so I ordered the 12 I need to redo every door.

The disassembled kitchen faucet flow restrictor.

The disassembled kitchen faucet flow restrictor.

I found the installation and instruction manual for the Kohler kitchen faucet in our conversion binder.  It said that the handle and cover should slide straight off of the body once the handle set screw was removed.  Butch and I both tried this but we could not get it off.  While studying the diagram and parts list I noticed a “restrictor” that also served as an adapter from the 8mm outlet pipe on the faucet to the 1/2″ NPT fitting on the retractable hose assembly.  At Butch’s suggestion I shut off the bus fresh water pump, shut the valves on both the hot and cold supply lines that feed the kitchen sink faucet, and disconnected the supply lines from the inlet tubes that are part of the Kohler faucet.  I inserted the barbed end of the 1/2″ NPT adapter into a piece of rubber hose that I got from Butch and threaded the pipe thread into the cold supply line.  I placed the end of the hose in a bucket, turned on the pump, and then opened the cold supply valve.  I had lots of flow.  I closed the valve, shut off the pump, and repeated this for the hot supply which also had good flow.  That meant the problem was either in the restrictor, in the valve cartridge, or somewhere in the faucet body.  The good news was that the restriction was not in the upstream plumbing.

By mid-morning Butch was ready to make a parts run so I grabbed my short shopping list and rode into Logansport with him.  When we got back I disconnected the kitchen faucet hose from the restrictor/adapter and then disconnected the restrictor/adapter from the 8mm outlet tube.   The garbage disposal was in my way so I disconnected and removed it temporarily.  Initial inspection revealed that the restrictor was clogged so I started taking it apart and Butch finished the disassembly.  I reinstalled the adapter without the restrictor parts and tested the flow.  It was now very strong, which meant that the valve cartridge and valve body were OK and did not need to be serviced or replaced.  That was a good thing as we had not been able to remove the cartridge earlier when we tried.  With the water shut off I removed the flow restrictor/adapter cleaned out the entire assembly, and removed one small rubber O-ring.  I reassembled all of the pieces, turned the water on, and checked for leaks.  I did not see any so I turned off the water and cleaned up the area.

The Tarheel roof mount antenna lifter.

The Tarheel roof mount antenna lifter.

It was early afternoon by the time I finished the faucet project—too early to stop working on such a perfect weather day—so I started working on the wiring for the Magnum ME-ARC remote, which I want to relocate from the electrical bay to the house panel in the kitchen.  Because of the difficulty of running wires between these two locations I decided to follow John Palmer’s advice and re-purpose one of the two nine-conductor serial cables that connected the old Heart Interface EMS-2800 inverter/chargers to their remote panels in the house panel.

I decided to use the cable labeled #2.  I removed the snap-together Amphenol DB-9 connector from the house panel end and cut the molded DB-9 connector off of the inverter end.  I tried using Butch’s RJ-11 strip/crimp tool and discovered that the wire in the cable was one size too large to fit in the stripper so I stripped and trimmed them by hand.  The wires were stranded so I twisted them tightly but found that I could not get them inserted and lined up properly in the RJ-11 connectors I bought at Home Depot the other day.  Ugh.  Time for Plan B.

While we were working today plans got made for dinner at the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet in Kokomo, Indiana at 6:30 PM.  I decided to drive myself and leave early enough to go to Discount Tire in Kokomo and have them balance all four of my tires.  They closed at 6 PM so I stopped working around 3:30 PM, changed into cleaner clothes and headed for Kokomo at 4:15 PM.  Kokomo is about 30 miles south of Twelve Mile and takes about 45 minutes with speed limits and stop lights.  It used to be on US-31 but Indiana has made significant changes (improvements) to US-31 so that it is now a four lane divided limited access highway in many places and bypasses a lot of towns, including Kokomo.  What was US-31 is now SR-931.  Why they named it that instead of “Old US-31” as they have done in other spots is a mystery to me.

Before I got to Discount Tire I passed a Gordon Food Service (GFS) and a Menard’s located next to one another.  I needed things from both but wanted to get the car taken care of first.  Discount tire said it might be 90 to 105 minutes before they could get to me.  I could not wait that long but had them write it up anyway.  They took my car in about 25 minutes later and had it done in another 15 minutes, so I had time to do some quick shopping.

I got a package of 25 16 oz. hot cups at GFS to go with the lids we already had.  At Menard’s I got two surface mount 4-wire phone jacks and a double-ended phone cord for my Magnum inverter/remote project.  Butch and Fonda also stopped at Menard’s looking for dryer vents to use with their bathroom and shower ventilation fans.

Dinner at the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet was a family gathering.  Beside Butch and Fonda (and me) we had Butch’s mom and dad, his sister Robin and her mother-in-law Betty, Butch’s brother Tom and his wife Tracey, their son Brock and his wife, and another young couple and their kids.  I think the wife was Tom and Tracey’s daughter.  There were four or five kids whose names I did not get.  We all ate too much.  The food was OK, but Butch’s family and the conversation were more interesting.  It was 9 PM by the time we got back to Twelve Mile and I headed off to bed to take care of correspondence and writing.

2014/10/22 (W) Plan B

You always need to have a “Plan B,” or be prepared to come up with one on short notice.  Backup plans are not a sign of indecision or a lack of commitment to a primary plan.  Rather, they are an acknowledgement of the reality that things do not always work the way you thought they would no matter how brilliantly conceived, carefully planned, and skillfully executed.  So it was with my inverter/remote re-wiring project.

I spent most of the day working on the wiring that would allow me to move the Magnum ME-ARC remote from the electrical bay, where it was plugged directly into the Magnum MS4024 inverter/charger, to the house systems monitoring and control panel next to the refrigerator.  It was simple enough in concept, but I had to make sure it was correct as I did not want to damage the inverter or the remote unit.

I used four of the nine wires in one of the old serial cables (#2) that runs from the electrical bay to the house panel.  Since the phone line cables with the RJ-11 plugs on the ends used Black, Red, Green, and Yellow I decided to stick with those colors all the way through.  However, because of the way the RJ-11 connectors are assembled onto the cable the signals move back and forth between pins.  I ended up wiring the cable end in the electrical bay to the same color wires in the baseboard outlet and mounted it to the ceiling of the bay.  I cross-wired the other end of the cable to another baseboard outlet and mounted it to the side of the cavity behind the house system panel.  Fortunately the back side of the panel is accessible via a removable panel in the back of the closet that is on the other side of that wall.

With all of the wiring done I used a jumper with alligator clips on each end to bridge two of the wires in the electrical bay outlet and do a continuity check at the house panel outlet to verify the wiring.  Everything looked good so I unplugged the remote, brought it inside, and plugged it in.  It worked!  Now all I had to do was mount it.

There were already two cutouts at the bottom of the house systems panel from the old Heart Interface EMS-2800 remotes (the coach had two of these inverter/chargers when we bought it and each one had its own remote).  The cutouts measured 4.625″ W by 2.875″ H.  The housing on the ME-ARC was slightly wider than the opening but not as high.  Depth was not an issue.  I borrowed a small roto-tool from Butch with a small router bit and carefully opened up the left hand edge of the right hand cutout.  Using the remote as a template I marked the locations for the four corner screws, moved the remote out of the way, drilled out the holes, moved the remote back into position and attached it to the house panel using four #6 machine screws and Nylok nuts that I got from Butch.

The house systems panel with Magnum ME-ARC remote installed at lower right.

The house systems panel with Magnum ME-ARC remote installed at lower right.

While I was working on my project, I periodically asked Butch if he needed any assistance, but Fonda was providing the needed help.  They managed to mount an 18″ H by 24″ long piece of 3/4″ plywood to the back wall of the Oasis/water bay with a 1/4” heavy rubber separator between the wood and the metal.  Butch then mounted their Shur-Flo 4048 water pump to the plywood.  This should cut down considerably the noise and vibration transmitted from the pump to the structure of the bus and into the living quarters, but only experience will prove if that is the case.  Butch moved their fresh water tank slightly to make room for their portable water softener.  They also installed the two dryer vents, one on each side of their bus, which they picked up at Menard’s last night.  Their final project for the day was to cut a hole in the roof and install a right angle cable junction box that will be used to route coaxial cable and other lines from the roof into the passenger-side cabinet in the bedroom at the rear of their bus.

I looked at installing the remote readout for our Progressive Industries EMS-50 and decided it was more work than I wanted to start late in the day.  Butch suggested that I do it the same way I did the Magnum remote, re-purposing some of the wires in the old serial data cables.  That was going to require additional parts, so I started a list for my next trip to town.

My final project for the day was to try and fix the lighted entrance handle and the non-functioning patio light.  The lighted entrance handle had a badly deteriorated gasket behind the top securement so I fashioned a replacement from a piece of heavy vinyl shower pan liner that Butch and Fonda had.  The bulb was an LED I installed some time back.  It was still working but the socket was loose so I tried to squeeze it down a bit.  Butch pushed the spring loaded center section out, stretched the spring, and put it back in.  The bulb is now nice and tight.

The patio light proved to be more difficult.  The lens was cracked and difficult to get out but I finally did.  It’s a florescent fixture with two F8T5 bulbs.  I tried turning them in their lampholders but that did not help.  I pulled the wires far enough out of the wall to find two butt connectors.  I was able to get my multimeter probes far enough into one end of each connector to verify the presence of 13 VDC that was controlled by the same switch as the lighted door handle.  I removed the two bulbs and tested them in the fixture over the kitchen sink.  They both worked fine, so the problem appeared to be the ballast.

The way the fixture is designed there was no way to get to the ballast to replace it so I put the bulbs back in and got them to glow faintly.  I tried to replace the lens, which was already cracked, and the top inch split off all the way across.  Fonda though she could fix the cover and epoxied the two pieces back together.  While the epoxy was setting up I noticed that both lamps had come on full bright.  By the time Butch reinstalled the lens they had both gone out.  Definitely a bad ballast.

As it turned out, Butch had an almost identical brand new fixture that he did not intend to use.  The only difference was that his fixture had an on/off button on the underside whereas the one on our coach has a plastic plug in that hole.  His fixture has black end caps, which is fine, and is not painted to match the color of our coach, which is also fine.  Removing our current light fixture will be a bit of project and will have to wait until next week.

I ended up going to Logansport at 7:15 PM for a few parts that I would need tomorrow.  I got back around 8:30 PM and it took me 20 minutes to get my dinner ready and take it into the house.  I was straightening up the bus after dinner and looking for a new roll of paper towels for the kitchen when I discovered a mouse nest in the small cabinet between the sleeper/sofa and the kitchen base cabinets.  I put on nitrile gloves and cleaned it up and then inspected the compartment.  It was open at the back to the area above the HVAC chase that is part of the bus.  The more I have peaked in and under cabinets the more I have come to realize that our coach is a lot like Disney World; there is a network of passageways that are hidden from view but interconnect the bays with the areas behind and under cabinets and furniture, providing an subterranean road system for small critters.  It’s always something when it comes to bus conversions.  The long term challenge will be to figure how where the critters are getting in and see if we can plug those ports of entry.

 

2014/10/08-15 GLCC and Bus Work

2014/10/08 (W) Rally Ho!

Today was a travel day so I had a light breakfast and went to the Small Town Brew for a cup of coffee rather than create a mess making my own.  I donated $2 for this cup and did not have a refill so the three cups I consumed over the last two days averaged out to $1 each.  I spent most of the morning helping Butch investigate possible routes for the engine preheat plumbing for their new International Thermal Research (ITR) Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  I also adjusted the front bus tire pressures and all four of the car tire pressures.

As noon approached I switched to departure mode.  I changed out of my work clothes into something cleaner and more comfortable for driving, finished packing all the stuff I had in the guest bedroom, and loaded it into the bus or the car.  I targeted a 1 PM departure.  Butch had to go to town so we said farewell until Friday and he took off.  By the time I started the bus, pulled it across the street, moved the car over, hooked it up for towing, and checked the lights (with Fonda’s help) it was closer to 1:30 PM than 1:00 PM.

The drive to Elkhart was pleasant and uneventful.  The speedometer sat on zero for the first quarter of the trip, bounced around for the second quarter, indicated 85 MPH (max speed) for the third quarter, and settled in to something like the correct speed for the final quarter.  This is the way it had behaved for quite some time before it got unplugged so this confirmed that it did not work correctly and needed to be replaced.

I took SR-16 east to US-31 north to US-20 east to CR-17 north.  CR-17 becomes MI-217, the Michiana Parkway, which ends at US-12.  I took that west to Old M-204 west and followed it past Phoenix Paint back into Indiana where it becomes SR-19 south.  I turned east on CR-4 and a mile later turned into the entrance to Elkhart Campground on the south side of the road.  This route is at least 15 miles longer than necessary.  There is an exit for SR-19 north off of US-20, which is a much more direct route, but requires driving through the heart of Elkhart.  There was major road construction on this stretch of SR-19 the last couple of years, including a bridge, with narrow lanes and weight restrictions.  That work is all completed, and the road is much better now, but it is still a more urban route with stop lights, turns, and traffic.

Our coach (front, right) at the FMCA GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally, Elkhart CG (Elkhart, IN).

Our coach (front, right) at the FMCA GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally, Elkhart CG (Elkhart, IN).

I checked in to the campground and then got parked in my assigned site.  I was one of the last coaches to arrive.  I went through my arrival routine and got the coach setup to use before visiting with fellow GLCC chapter members, some of whom I had never met.  I chatted briefly with Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint to confirm her availability to work on a BCM article later in the evening and then went to Martins supermarket to get a salad for dinner.  The Martin’s supermarket on SR-19 at CR-4 has a really nice salad bar and I made a big salad with lots of ingredients, all vegan of course.

I took my salad over to the meeting room at 6 PM and had dinner with the group.  I was expecting Michele at 6:30 PM so I excused myself and went back to my coach.  She showed up a little after 7 PM.  We worked until almost 10 PM and managed to go through the entire article.  I did not have the photos on my new computer so the selection, processing, and captioning of images will occur later.

2014/10/09 (R) GLCC Surplus and Salvage

I went over for coffee around 8 AM without eating breakfast first.  By 9 AM plans had been made for car pools to visit the various RV surplus and salvage businesses in the area.  I went back to the coach and had a grapefruit for breakfast and then spent the morning taking care of e-mail and uploading blog posts starting with September 19th.

By noon I was tired of staring at my computer so I turned my attention to the speedometer.  After removing the dashboard cover I figured out a socket and ratchet combination that allowed me to remove the two Nylok nuts from the back of the instrument.  With the retaining bracket removed the old instrument slipped out the front of the dashboard.

Rear view of new VDO speedometer with custom adaptor cables.

Rear view of new VDO speedometer with custom adaptor cables.

I needed to redo the wiring so I got out my electrical tools.  I also tested to voltage to verify that the lighting circuit was 24VDC.  It was, and the actual instrument runs on either 12 or 24, so it didn’t care.  The existing connectors for the old instrument appeared to be the same 4-pin flat connectors used in personal computers for providing power to hard disk drives, CD drives, and other peripheral components.  I checked online and found that Michiana PC was located behind Menard’s a short distance away on the other side of the toll road.  I got an adapter cable with the proper connectors on it and then stopped at Menard’s for two different spade connectors.  As long as I was out driving around I stopped at Phoenix Paint to pick up coupons for Marco’s Pizza.  Since I had to drive past Martin’s on the way back to the campground I stopped and bought groceries.

The new VDO speedmeter temporarily connected.

The new VDO speedmeter temporarily connected.

Back at the coach I put the groceries away and got back to work on the speedometer project.  I cut leads from the old instrument light wiring as I needed the plug.  I then cut the unneeded end off the computer power cable.  I wired the lighting connector, spade connectors, and jumpers.  I then wired the instrument connector spade lugs to the computer power cable.  When all the wiring preparation was done I attached all of the wires except the two for the signal (#16 & #20) and connected the cables to mating chassis connectors.  I temporarily set the speedometer in dashboard hole, turn the chassis batteries on, and then turned the light switch on for the dashboard lights.  The speedometer lights worked, so I turned the ignition to ‘ON’ without starting the engine.  The gauge needle swept up to max and back to zero and the odo displayed 0.0.

I turned the ignition off and disconnected the chassis batteries.  I then pulled the instrument out of the dashboard and disconnected the two cables.  I got the H3-40 Service Manual out and figured out which wire was the + signal (#16) and which one was the ground (#20).  With the cables protruding through the mounting hole from the rear I pushed the spade terminals fully on and reconnected the cables.  It was getting to be late afternoon by this point and I decided to leave the finally assembly for tomorrow.

The new VDO speedometer (above & right of center).

The new VDO speedometer (above & right of center).

I took a shower and shaved and had plenty of hot water as the Aqua-Hot continued to cycle automatically.  I prepared an Annie’s Kung Pao noodle bowl for dinner and took it over to the meeting room at 6 PM.  I stayed there until 8 PM enjoying bus chat with a small group of chapter members that I know well.

The new VDO speedometer installed in the old hole.

The new VDO speedometer installed in the old hole.

Several members developed problems with their BCM subscriptions over the summer.  Pat Lintner gave me a flash drive so I could provide him with the issues he did not receive.  I took care of that back at the coach and then continued to upload blog posts and respond to e-mails.  I was two days behind on writing blog posts and stayed up until I was caught up which made for a very late night.

2014/10/10 (F) Bus Business

I was up way too late last night catching up on writing drafts of blog posts for the last few days.  Linda sent a text message this morning at 6 AM that I read at 7:30 AM letting me know that she was starting the drive to Elkhart.  I went over to the meeting room at 8 AM to have coffee and Linda showed up at 9 AM.  We visited with the other rally attendees until 10 AM and then went back to our coach to have granola for breakfast.

L-to-R:  GLCC secretary Tami Bruner, Newsletter editor Scott Bruner, and Treasurer Linda Fay.

L-to-R: GLCC secretary Tami Bruner, Newsletter editor Scott Bruner, and Treasurer Linda Fay.

At 10:30 AM we drove to Phoenix Paint to deliver some additional copies of Bus Conversion Magazine to Michele and visited with her and Roxanne for a while.  Josh was supposed to come look at our coach in the afternoon but had to make an unexpected trip to Chicago.  Michele called him and got him rescheduled for tomorrow morning between 9 AM and noon.

Before returning to the campground we stopped at Martin’s supermarket for salad toppings and Radio Shack for a miniature “grain of wheat” light bulb.  Radio Shack did not appear to have the bulb I was looking for, but I learned later in the day from Butch that the bulb I need comes with two bare wire leads that fold over to form the contacts.

GLCC members gathered for the Friday evening dinner and business meeting.

GLCC members gathered for the Friday evening dinner and business meeting.

When we got back to the coach we were going to have lunch but I got busy giving a tour of our bus tour and then touring the late 1990’s MCI 102D Vantare conversion parked next to us.  Butch and Fonda arrived (in their car) while all of that was going on.  We visited for a while and then they took off for Bontrager’s RV Surplus store.

Many of the GLCC members were away shopping for surplus bargains so we hung around our coach where I worked at my computer and Linda read until she got tired and laid down briefly.  I was thinking about lying down too when Pat Lintner stopped by and then Butch/Fonda returned.  Before we knew what had happened to the afternoon it was getting to be dinner time.  Linda made our dinner salads and we went over to the meeting room a little before 6 PM where we enjoyed our salads in the company of our friends.  President Larry Baker conducted a brief business meeting at the conclusion of which Linda was elected to another 2-year term as chapter Treasurer and I was elected to a 2-year term as chapter President.  Dean Chipman was elected chapter Vice-President and Tami Bruner was elected chapter Secretary.  Pat Lintner stayed on as National Director and Frank Griswold as Alternate National Director.

L-to-R: GLCC National Director Pat Lintner talks to newly elected President Bruce Fay and members Charles Martin and Ed Roelle.

L-to-R: GLCC National Director Pat Lintner talks to newly elected President Bruce Fay and members Charles Martin and Ed Roelle.

Butch and Fonda had to get back to their home to tend to their dogs and left shortly after the voting was concluded.  We visited for quite a while with the chapter members before returning to our coach for the evening where we had a glass of wine and went to bed.

2014/10/11 (S) Transfers

The day dawned clear and cold with the morning low temperature in Elkhart at 32 degrees F and frost on the ground and vehicles.  We went over for coffee at 8 AM and chatted with fellow chapter members while they had breakfast.  Josh was supposed to come look at our coach between 9AM and noon but called to see if late afternoon would be OK.  It was fine with me and he agreed to call before he came over.

We returned to our coach and had granola for breakfast.  We spent the morning chatting with folks, including the Thornton’s, who stopped by to pay their dues.  We had transferred some things to Linda’s car yesterday and transferred some more things this morning.  By noon Linda was packed and ready to leave for home.  She texted me later to let me know she had stopped in Ann Arbor to visit family and shop at Whole Foods Market before getting back to our house.

Ed Roelle and Marty Caverly came to our coach to listen to our Aqua-Hot.  Ed agreed that it should not be producing any visible exhaust after initial startup and thought a likely cause was worn bearings in the blower shaft causing reduced rpm which resulted in reduced air flow which resulted in a rich fuel/air mixture.  Ed and Marty both thought the unit sounded normal for a unit with worn bearings.

After looking at the Aqua-Hot I found former chapter President Larry Baker at his coach and we transferred quite a lot of “presidential stuff” to my car.  He had been collecting and transporting this “stuff” for the last six years and was all too eager to be rid of it.

Josh called at 3:45 PM to let me know he would be at my coach around 4:45 PM.  I made a quick run to Radio Shack to check again for the “grain of wheat” 12 VDC bulb, but they did not have it in stock.  Josh arrived a little before 5 PM and we discussed our desired interior renovation for over an hour during which time he also took measurements.  By the time we wrapped up our discussion most of the rally attendees had left for dinner at a local restaurant.  I called Linda and then had dinner in the coach; a simple green salad, a roll with garlic vegan butter spread, and grapes.

I decided to top off our fresh water tank while there was still some daylight rather than doing it in the morning when it was forecast to be cold.  After the tank was full I shut off the water, disconnected and drained the hoses, and stowed them in our fresh water tub.  I removed and stowed the pressure regulator and water softener.  I then turned each of the three Aqua-Hot loops on, one at a time, to see if I could figure out which circuit included the heat exchangers in the water bay and front storage bay.  As best I could determine, the bays are plumbed into the bedroom circuit.  I would have preferred to have them plumbed in with the bathroom as we like the bedroom cool for sleeping but want to be able to keep the bays warm enough to avoid freezing.

Scott Bruner and his dad, Richard, were out so I chatted with them about the Aqua-Hot.  The Marin’s had a propane camp fire going at their rig next to ours so we went over there to talk for a while.  I finally got cold and went in for the night around 9:45 PM.  I uploaded the blog posts for the last three days of September and then went to bed and worked on this one.

2014/10/12 (N) Arduino SBC

I got up around 7 AM, got dressed, and spent an hour packing clothes, computers, and other things that would eventually be transferred to the car for the trip home.  I went to the meeting room at 8 AM to have one cup of coffee and socialize with the GLCC chapter members who had come over for breakfast.  There are special names for breakfast on the last morning of a rally.  The one I like best is “hitch up breakfast.”  Whether you have a motorhome towing a car or a car/truck pulling a trailer, most RVers have something that has to be hitched up for towing before they can depart.  It is also a distant but quaint reference to hitching up a team of horses to a wagon; the original RV having one to six horsepower.

I do not normally have coffee or breakfast on days when I have to drive the bus, but the bus driving portion of my day was only going to be two hours and I would not be pulling out until sometime between 10 and 11 AM.  Those who wanted to eat breakfast were done by 9 AM and a crew of women busied themselves cleaning the kitchen and re-packing the supplies.  Some of those supplies were destined for my car which was already connected to the back of our bus, so everything got loaded into Pat and Vicky Lintner’s car and they brought it over to my site and I transferred it to my vehicle.

I dumped the waste water holding tanks and stowed the drain hose.  By 9:45 AM I was packed and had the bus and car ready to travel except for a few last minute details.  I joined a small group of guys for some final conversation as several coaches pulled out.  I was in a site directly behind Scott and Tami Bruner and although I could have left before them it was going to be a lot easier to wait until they pulled out, which they did shortly after 10 AM.

I went through the final steps of preparing the car to be towed, turned the coach chassis batteries on, turned the shore power off, disconnected the shore power line, and stowed it.  I had opened all the air valves earlier, so I secured all of the bay’s, locked the entrance door (from the inside), and started the engine.  While it was building air pressure for the suspension and brakes I called Linda at 10:29 AM to let her know I would be underway shortly and then called Butch.  I did not get an answer at Butch and Fonda’s house so I called Butch on his cell phone.  He had misunderstood my travel timing and indicated that they might not be home yet when I arrived at their place.

I pulled out of my site at 10:30 AM and reversed the route I had taken on Wednesday, going east on CR-4 (IN) to SR-16 (IN) north, to Old M-204 (MI) eastbound to US-12 (MI) east to M-217 (MI) south (the Michiana Parkway), which became CR-17 (IN) southbound.  I left CR-17 and got on westbound US-20 over to US-31 south which I stayed on all the way to SR-16 west towards Twelve Mile.  I had a call from Pat Lintner while I was driving regarding the dates for the 2015 Surplus and Salvage rally which will be in mid-September.

I arrived in Twelve Mile at 12:15 PM.  I got the car detached and moved it out of the way.  While I was doing that Fonda got home from church.  After tending to their two dogs (Rascal and Daffy) she helped me back the bus across the street into its parking spot next to their bus.  I plugged in the shore power cord to get AC power to the house systems but left the bus systems on temporarily so I could reprogram the new VDO speedometer.

On the drive from Elkhart the speedometer, which had not been calibrated, was indicating just under 8 MPH when I was traveling 60 MPH according to my GPS.  That meant the signal from the Allison ATEC transmission computer was putting out fewer pulses per mile than the default speedometer program.  For some reason I thought the default might be 200,000 PPM so I computed the ratio between actual and indicated speed and divided  200,000 by that number which gave me 26,316.  I programmed that in using the PULSE mode but would not be able to test it until later in the week.  If the indicated speed is in the ballpark I will use the ADJUST mode to manually move the pointer to indicate the same speed as the GPS.  There is also a CALIBRATE mode that counts the pulses over a one mile distance and then programs that into the instrument.  That is the most accurate way to calibrate the speedometer/odometer if you have someplace safe to do it with accurate mile markers.

With that done, I turned off the chassis batteries and the unneeded air circuits in the front bay but left the valve for the engine air accessories turned on.  I typically do this when I leave it with someone in case they have to start it.  I turned the Aqua-Hot electric heating element on and turned on the bedroom thermostat but set the temperature to a cooler setting.  The heat exchangers in the water bay and front storage bay appear to be tied-in with the bedroom heat exchanger.

I transferred stuff from the coach to car the car and by 1:25 PM I was ready to roll, but Butch called and said he was almost back to the house so I waited for him.  He had made progress on the Wiremold in the bus kitchen and wanted me to see it.  He had also bought a 125 A main lug electrical panel so we discussed the mounting and installation, part of which I will probably work on later this week.  He had also received the ITR Oasis Combi unit, so I had to see that too.  Fonda built a 3-D cardboard mockup and Butch had it sitting in the water bay where he plans to install the Combi.  We will probably do more work on their bus than on ours over the next two weeks, but that’s OK; their bus has more/critical projects at this point than ours and he has helped me a lot with our projects.

I pulled out at 2:05 PM and decided to take a slightly different route home:  SR-16 east, US-31 north, US-6 east, I-69 north, M-60 east, I-94 east, M-14 east, US-23 north, M-36 (Nine Mile Road) east, Pontiac Trail north, to Dorothy Street and the SLAARC monthly meeting at the South Lyon Witch’s Hat Depot.  I do not usually take US-6 across Indiana although it is a fine road known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.  It is flatter than US-20 with more towns and associated lower speed limits and stop lights, but it was a nice drive with different scenery.

I arrived at the SLAARC meeting at 7 PM.  The business meeting was already concluded and Mike (W8XH) was setting up for his program on the Arduino SBC (single board computer).  He bought the experimenters kit and had been playing with it enough to discuss it with the group.  Larry (K8UT) discussed the four projects he has built using the Raspberry Pi platform and passed around some of the hardware.

It was 9 PM by the time I finally got to our house.  Linda helped me completely unload the car as I had an 8:30 AM service appointment at Brighton Honda and she was leaving before 6 AM for the bakery.  She had fixed some strawberries for me and they made a nice treat after a long day of snacking on vegan junk food while driving.  I worked for a while on this post before turning in for the night.

2014/10/13 (M) Grain Of Wheat

Linda was up early and out the door at 5:45 AM.  I got up a little after 7 AM, started a load of laundry, had a couple of homemade muffins, and got ready to take my car to Brighton Honda for its 90,000 mile service.  I got coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from the dealership first and waited in the lounge working on yesterday’s blog post while they worked on my car.

I forgot to specify synthetic oil so the put in regular oil.  When the car was done I headed to Novi and immediately noticed a front-end shimmy that was not there when I dropped it off.  They had rotated the tires and may not have re-torqued the lug nuts correctly.  It also pulled to left, which might be a tire inflation issue.  I did not have time to take it back so I will see if it settles out on the drive to Indiana tomorrow.  If not, I will need to get at least the front tires/wheels loosened and retightened, and perhaps balanced.  Worst case I will have to get the front end aligned.

I found the FedEx/Kinko’s on Grand River Avenue just east of Novi Road and made 10 copies each of two 24″x36″ electrical diagrams; one for the DDEC I ECM (Engine Control Module) and one for the Allison 700 Series ATEC (Automatic Transmission Electronic Control).  I folded up an ATEC diagram for me and one for Chuck and rolled up the other eight and put them in a tube for safe keeping.  Chuck and I have DDEC II’s controlling our main engines so I rolled the 10 DDEC I diagrams up and put them in a second tube to protect them.  By the time I was done it was 10:45 AM and Chuck was at his shop just up the street so I drove there.

He had installed a dual battery maintainer and wanted me to see it.  He mounted it on the back wall of the small bay above the passenger side drive tire of their bus which got it close enough to the chassis batteries (in a tray above the tag tire) for the built-in charging cables to reach the correct battery terminals.  He was still pondering where to tie in the AC power source so we discussed some alternatives.  He had also put the red covers on the bulbs in his new VDO speedometer so I got to see that.  Ours are white for now but most of the dash lighting is green.  The red makes the speedo stand out, but if I change ours from white it will likely be to green.  Chuck had a supply of spare 12VDC, 1.2W “grain of wheat” light bulbs that are used in our illuminated switches and let me have four.  Our Aqua-Hot switch does not currently light up when it is turned on.

After checking out his projects we went to the Panera at Grand River Avenue and Novi Road for lunch.  We had a good chat and solved all of the world’s problems so he went back to the shop to find some new ones and I went home to take care of chores.  I continued doing laundry and worked on the SLAARC WordPress website setting up user accounts for several new club members.

Linda got home around 5:30 PM and got busy making dinner.  She started with a nice salad featuring a ginger dressing.  Dinner was 45 minutes later; a baked potato with Brussels sprouts on the side, a glass of Leelanau Cellars Winter White with Peach wine, and grapes for dessert.  She worked on something for Butch while the potatoes baked and I worked on e-mail.

We were both tired after dinner but took some time to sort and fold the laundry from which I selected and packed the clothes I will need for the next 10 days.  We were tired and turned in after that.  I had received an e-mail from Butch with seven photos attached of the place we are considering staying in Quartzite, AZ.  It took us a while, but we eventually matched them up with the correct lot on the Google Maps satellite view.  It is not the corner lot as Butch and I previously thought, but the 3rd lot north of Kenoyer on the east side of N Lollipop Lane.  With that issue resolved we turned out the lights and went to sleep.

2014/10/14 (T) A Crowning Achievement

Linda was up at 5:15 AM again and out the door on the way to the bakery at 5:45 AM.  At this hour of the morning she has clear sailing all the way to Hamtramck which is much less stressful than the parking lot that develops on I-96 inbound just a short time later.  I was up at 7:15 AM, showered, and started gathering and organizing all of the stuff that I had to load into the car for the trip back to Indiana.

Keith showed up at 9 AM to cut the grass as I was loading my car.  He was rained out yesterday and today was not looking too good either but he figured he would have a go at it.  I wrote out his check and paid him in advance as I would be gone long before he finished.  I had time for a cup of green tea and pulled out of my driveway at 9:30 AM.

My first destination was Gusfa Dental in Dearborn, Michigan where I had an 11 AM appointment.  Dr. Steve and his assistant, Margaret, installed my new permanent ceramic crown on the upper right tooth that had a root canal procedure in mid-September.  The crown fit almost perfectly and only required a little modification on the surfaces that abut the two teeth immediately adjacent.  The bite was just right.  Gusfa Dental is definitely not the cheapest clinic around, but the work is top notch and they have been our dentists for almost 40 years.

I was done and out the door at 11:20 AM and headed directly for Twelve Mile, Indiana.  The drive was wet but uneventful.  Given my starting point in Dearborn I changed my route yet again, this time taking I-94 west to M-60 southwest to I-69 south to the I-80/90 Indiana Toll Road west to exit 92 at SR-19 (IN) in Elkhart.  From there I headed south on SR-19 and wound my way slowly through Elkhart until I picked up US-20 westbound on the south side of Elkhart.  From US-20 I picked up US-31 south and exited at IN-25 south of Rochester, Indiana where I bought some groceries at the Kroger store.  I texted Linda and then called Butch.  As I was getting ready to head south on IN-25 I got a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint with some questions about the Zip Dee awnings we had installed on our coach after she finished painting it.  I took IN-25 as far south as Fulton and turned east onto a small farm road that took me to Meridian then south to SR-16 and east to Twelve Mile.

While driving down Meridian I saw one of the most intense and perfect rainbows I have ever experienced.  It was deeply colored, very clear, and an entire semicircle was visible.  A second rainbow, fainter and partial, formed above the first one on the right (south) end.  The sky was very dark to the east with bright, low sun from the west.  The trees were blazing with color, intensified by the rains, and white farm houses glistened as if they had just been freshly painted.  It was spectacular but I was not able to get a photo of it.  I arrived in Twelve Mile at 5 PM and immediately unloaded and stored my groceries.  I then brought my clothes and technology items into the house and put them in the guest bedroom where I stay when I am here.

Butch needed some parts for various bus projects so I drove us to Home Depot in Logansport.  One the drive in he got a call from his brother Tom.  He had a problem with his air compressor and wanted Butch to look at it so we went there after our stop at Home Depot, with a stop at the local Mobil station so I could fill the fuel tank in my car.  Butch quickly made a tentative diagnosis of the compressor problem as the starting capacitor and/or switch.  Tom and Butch did some pondering about details of Tom’s project in which he is converting the front half of a Crosley sedan into a trailer.

We visited for a while back at the house and looked up the grain of wheat bulb I needed for the illuminated switches in the H3-40.  Napa Auto Parts shows it in their automotive lighting catalog as a #37, 12 VDC, 1.26 W, wedge based.  Butch looked online and found a place (Bulbtown) that sells them for $0.42 each.  Orders over $50 get free shipping and handling so we discussed doing a bulb inventory of each bus and then pooling our orders.

I spent a few minutes showing Butch how the photos that Joe sent of the lot in Quartzite matched up with the Google Maps/Earth satellite and Streetview images.  By the time we were done with that it was late and we all turned in for the night.

2014/10/15 (W) MC-9 AC Wiring

Cockpit house systems switch panel.

Cockpit house systems switch panel.

Butch bought a brass nipple (NPT) last night to thread into the fitting on his fresh water tank but the fit was still too loose.  He needed the nipple in order to put the fresh water tank back in the bus.  Between that and the really soupy 54 degree F weather it was obvious that today was not going to be an outside work day.  I suggested that we work on the AC wiring on their bus instead—a nice inside project—after breakfast.

House electrical closet in Butch & Fonda's MC-9 before rewiring.

House electrical closet in Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 before rewiring.

I had homemade granola with fresh blueberries and soy milk, a glass of orange juice, and two cups of Seattle Blend 1/2 decaf coffee.  While the coffee was brewing I unscrewed the switch panel with the Aqua-Hot switch and replaced the “grain of wheat” bulbs in the Aqua-Hot switch and the Engine Preheat switch.  We then got to work on the AC (house) wiring for their bus conversion.

New 20-slot AC panel for inverter circuits.

New 20-slot AC panel for inverter circuits.

The bus had three small main lug load centers, with six circuit breakers each, mounted in a future closet in the bedroom.  We ran an extension cord through the passenger side rear slider window to power a work light, disconnected the shoreline, and switched off the inverter.  I then removed the three panels one at a time, labeling each cable as I pulled it out.  With all of the old panels out we mounted the new 20-position panel box for use with the inverter circuit.  I spent the rest of the work day, except for a lunch break, pulling old and new electrical cable into the new box and making the connections to the ground bar, neutral bus, and the GFCI circuit breakers for all of the circuits that will be fed by the inverter.  We tied in the main AC power to the inverter AC input and checked that all of the circuits worked as planned, which they did.  I will mount two of the smaller boxes tomorrow and pull the cables for the shorepower/generator only circuits into those boxes.

We quit working for the day at 7:30 PM and I washed up before making my dinner.  I had a nice salad with “power greens” and various toppings and leftover Koshary.  Yum.  I drew a glass of Moscato, did the dishes, and went back to the house.  I had a text and an e-mail from Linda so I replied to those.  We were all tired and turned in a little after 9 PM.