Category Archives: Michigan

Posts related to our RV-related travels in Michigan.

2015/11/27 (F) On The Road Again

We slept on the bus last night but did not sleep well, probably due to a combination of factors.  We had too much to eat for dinner, too much to do when we got home from dinner, too much anticipation of our early departure, too much anxiety about the weather, and too much awareness of it and other sounds.  The motorcoach seems, at times, like a living thing.  It makes its own unique set of sounds and motions, even when parked, and it always takes a few days and nights to get reacquainted with it after a period non-use.  It is well enough insulated but we are still in much more intimate contact with the weather when living in the coach than we are in the house.  It rained most of the night; hard at times, and woke us up when it did.  We would normally sleep through the rain if we were not thinking about oversleeping or having to get up and complete out travel preparations in the dim light of a rainy sunrise.

Sunrise was at 7:39 AM.  Normally it would be light enough to work outside 30 minutes before that but densely overcast skies and rain kept the light level very low.  I had been awake at the bottom of each hour from 4:30 on and we finally got up at 6:45 AM.  We did not have breakfast or hot beverages but did have a small glass of orange/grapefruit juice with our vitamins.  We (mostly Linda) straightened up the interior and secured the pantry and refrigerator for travel.  There was a lull in the rain at 7:30 and we used that opportunity to make our final departure preparations.

Linda shut off the circuit breaker for the engine block heater and I shut off the Aqua-Hot burner and engine pre-heat pump.  Linda got her BAHA and calendar from the house and shut off the circuit breaker that feeds power to the RV outlet while I put on my rain pants and coat and took care of the outside stuff.  I disconnected and stored the shore power cord.  I got the car ready to tow, opened the air supply valves for the various air-powered accessories, and switched on the chassis batteries.  When Linda was back on board she arranged towels around the base of her seat for the cats.  I started the main engine, let the oil pressure come up, switched it to high idle, and switched the suspension to drive mode.  After the chassis was fully aired up I did one last walk-around to check the clearance above each tire, got back on board, secured the entry door, and got out of my rain gear.

Juniper used to get behind the old passenger seat and Jasper used to get under the edge of it by the center aisle.  Juniper can still get behind the new seat but it is narrower and Jasper cannot get under it.  With the engine running he was looking for a place to hide so Linda set his carrier on the platform next to the seat, arranged the blanket inside it, and put Jasper in but did not zip it closed.  We weren’t sure he would stay in it but it apparently provided the sense of shelter and security he was seeking and he settled in.  We buckled ourselves in, I raised the rag axle, let the suspension adjust, dropped the idle to low, put the transmission in first gear, released the parking brakes, and pulled forward.  It was 8 AM and raining lightly so our local dirt roads were muddy.  We had almost 400 miles to travel today, but only the first 2.5 miles were on dirt roads.

We worked our way very slowly down the pothole riddled ribbon of dirt that serves as an excuse for the road we live on.  North Hacker Road was in somewhat better shape, but not great.  Traffic was almost nonexistent, being the Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so I kept our speed between 10 and 15 miles per hour and got passed by two cars.  Question:  How long does it take to go 2.5 miles at 10 MPH?  Answer:  One quarter (1/4, 0.25, 25%) of an hour, i.e., 15 minutes!  We did not have any trouble turning right onto eastbound M-59 where, again, there was almost no traffic.  A couple of miles later we got on southbound US-23 and I got the coach up to 65 MPH.  Except for construction zones, 55 MPH urban speed limits, interchanges, and one rest stop, I kept the bus at 65 MPH +/- 3 MPH most of the day.  I think the rest stop was near Piqua, Ohio but we honestly do not recall where we stopped as we did not leave the coach to use the rest stop facilities.

We had persistent light rain as far south as Findlay, Ohio and intermittent light rain until somewhere between Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio.  The drive through Cincinnati and over the bridge into Kentucky is always interesting.  The road twists and turns with frequent entrances and exits and occasional interchanges but I stayed in the center lane and it was fine.  As soon as you cross the Ohio River and enter Kentucky there is a long, steep uphill grade, but I handled it a lot better than I did two years ago.  That was partly because of lighter holiday traffic and not getting stuck behind a maximum weight semi in the right lane.  I stayed in the second lane from the right, dropped the tranny into 4th gear, kept the RPMs and turbo boost up, and did not drop below 50 MPH while keeping the engine temperature from exceeding 200 degrees F.  My technique was definitely better, but perhaps having a clean air filter and having fixed a faulty turbo boost pressure sensor line last December also had something to do with how the bus performed.

The drive through Kentucky was dry with high clouds to mute the sun a bit.  There was a stiff wind of around 15 MPH all day out of the south to southwest so that undoubtedly hurt our fuel mileage a bit.  We took Exit 76 onto KY-21, went west about 0.4 miles, and turned into the Oh Kentucky Campground RV Park at 2:30 PM.

Linda got us checked in and a few minutes later we pulled into our nice 50 Amp full-hookup site.  It was a straight pull into the site and will be an easy left pulling out.  We agreed that it was the same site we were in two years ago when we stopped here on our way to Florida for the first time.  We got the coach leveled and then I connected the shorepower cord, switched off the chassis batteries, and shut off the unneeded air valves.  I started the car, ran it through its gears, shut it off, removed the key, and locked it.  As I was doing all of this I observed that the coach was very dirty.

The temperature was in the lower-mid 60s and we were both feeling the need to do something besides sit.  Linda read the campground rules and they stipulated a $10 charge for washing a rig, payable in advance.  We decided to pay it and take advantage of the near ideal weather conditions:  high overcast, light breezes, temperature in the low 60s.

Linda went to the office and paid the $10 cleaning fee while I got out the cleaning supplies and the hose and nozzle.  We mixed four capfuls of McGuire’s automotive soap with a couple of gallons of water.  Linda handled the hose and I handled the soapy long-handled brush.  We washed the bus and the car, including the tires and wheels, in about 75 minutes.  Either my wax job had held up very well since I applied it in Quartzsite, Arizona last February, the water was extremely good, or the McGuire’s soap was the right thing to use, but whatever the reason some combination of the three cleaned up the bus nicely with no hard water spots.

The site in front of ours had a small 5th wheel on it and a couple about our age (or a bit older) was installing foam insulation skirting around the space under it.  We went over and chatted with them for a while and then retired to our coach for the evening.  The Wi-Fi at the RV Park was a bit flaky so I turned on our Verizon MiFi and got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  Linda connected with some of her online word game opponents and I played some of my solitaire games.  For dinner we had leftovers from yesterday’s fabulous meal.  Afterwards I exchanged text messages with Chuck and then worked on this post.

 

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.

 

2015/10/14 (W) Frankenmuth Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/12 (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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN

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

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/07/23 (R) Wrapping Up Mara

Mara’s plan was to make this the last full day of her visit.  Our day started without her as we had cinnamon raisin toast, juice, and coffee for breakfast.  I got a call from Jarel with clarifying questions and ideas about the desk and the pull-out pantry.  After a thorough discussion we had better ways to approach a few things.  He also had a better feeling for the estimated cost of the project and I agreed to send him 50% as a deposit.

I typed up a short letter and printed off the graph that Steve made of the return loss for the M-302N V/U lightning arrestor.  I packed the unit for shipping to Morgan Manufacturing and included the letter and graph.  Linda wrote out the check for Jarel and got it in an envelope to mail.  She then went to the library, Post Office, and Humane Society where she donated cat and dog paraphernalia that we had accumulated over the years.

While Linda was gone I worked in the bus for a while and Mara worked on travel preparations.  I started by removing the old 3/4″ plywood floor from the refrigerator alcove.  The original plywood bus floor appeared to mostly be in good condition but I will put a new secondary floor in the alcove to keep the refrigerator legs above the level of the new tile floor.  There are a LOT of wires running along the floor of the alcove at the back wall and I may fashion a cover for them and seal up the holes at either end.

I removed the AC dimmer for the living room lights and the DPDT momentary contact DC switch from the floor-mounted walnut box where they were installed.  The DC switch controlled the passenger side sofa footrest.  I had to remove the wires from both switches to get them out.  The AC dimmer was easy but the DC switch had four different color wires with spade connectors.  I made careful note of which terminal each color went to and then pulled the spade connectors off.  With the switches out I was able to remove the box and its mounting cleats from the floor and wall.  This area will be tiled and the box will not be reused.

Out of curiosity I tested the switch with an Ohm meter to see how the terminals were connected internally.  I also checked the wires with a DC volt meter to see how they were being used.  Two of the wires were +12VDC and DC ground and the other two went to a connector that was originally plugged into the footrest.  The switch applied 12VDC to the two load wires in one position and reversed the polarity in the other position, making the footrest go out or in respectively.

Last year I had removed two blank outlet covers on the walnut panel next to the co-pilot seat so I knew that these two switches were originally installed there and subsequently moved to the floor-mounted box.  I unscrewed the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood panel from the wall to see what was behind it.  What I found was a LOT of wires and it was not a pretty sight.  I re-installed the two switches in their original locations and re-routed some other wires so they went up over the HVAC chase.

There was still a large bundle of wires running along the floor at the base of the HVAC chase that I needed to re-route but I decided not to mess with those today.  They are connected to four different switches and a doorbell and disconnecting everything was going to require careful attention to detail.  I pondered the refrigerator some more and decided there wasn’t anything else I could do with it for now and that I was done working in the bus for today.

There is too much to do at the moment to just sit around so I decided to install the new garage door opener for the small garage door.  New is relative; it has been sitting in the garage in its original packaging since we moved into the house, supplied by the previous owners.  The old one has not worked correctly since we moved in and the previous owners bought the new one but ran out of time to install it.  It turned out to be rather more complicated than I expected, with very comprehensive assembly and installation instructions.  It also turned out to be a two-person project so Linda worked on it with me.

We were working and Mara had started prepping dinner when a UPS truck showed up with four boxes.  The delivery included:  Mara’s refrigerator vent cover; the Cutco knives and scissors, and; the ZioTek track system for wall-mounting the monitors in the ham shack (2 boxes).  The vent cover was due for delivery today but the knives were not due until tomorrow, so we were really glad to see them as two of them were for Mara.  The monitor mounting system was also due for delivery today but I had temporarily forgotten about it.

The north wall of the ham shack/office.  This is where the ZioTek wall-mounted monitor mounting system will go.

The north wall of the ham shack/office. This is where the ZioTek wall-mounted monitor mounting system will go.

Mara was understandably anxious to see if the vent cover fit her base properly.  It was a VentMate and appeared to be identical to the old one.  She climbed up the ladder on the back of her motorhome and I handed parts and tools up to her.  I then climbed up was well.  She removed the old cover and we set the new one in place.  It was a perfect fit!  We put a small amount of putty under each screw head and then ran them down snug and congratulated ourselves on another job completed and well done.

With Linda’s help we put Mara’s kayak back in its custom carrier which fits in the receiver on the back of her motorhome (she does not tow a car).  The carrier was built by a welding shop in Mesa, Arizona to Mara’s specifications and is made from 2″ square tubular steel and powder-coated black.  The carrier holds the kayak diagonally across the back of the motorhome from lower left (driver’s side) to upper right.  The nose of the kayak sits in a pocket near the driver side rear corner of the motorhome and the midpoint is nestled in a much larger cradle.  A strap runs from the nose pocket up to the midpoint on one side and across the kayak to the other side where it is attached to a ratchet and has a hook on the end.  With the hook engaged in a ring the strap is ratcheted tight and the kayak is secure for travel.  Mara runs an anti-theft cable through an eyelet near the nose and attaches a lock for safe keeping.  The tail sticks up higher than the top of the roof-mounted air-conditioner covers but does not extend beyond the passenger side wall.  The tip of the kayak is 13′ 2″ from the ground.

We made good progress on the garage door opener but had to stop at the point where we needed to attach the motor housing to the ceiling as I needed to get some parts (angle iron and lag screws) that did not come with the unit.  The front of the track was attached to the header above the door opening and we left the motor assembly resting on top of a 6 foot stepladder.

The pieces of the ZioTek monitor mounting system laid out on the floor of the ham shack/office.

The pieces of the ZioTek monitor mounting system laid out on the floor of the ham shack/office.

While Mara and Linda prepared dinner I unboxed all of the monitor mounting components.  I was curious to see the parts and wanted to make sure everything was there and undamaged, which was the case.

Dinner was Thai vegan spring rolls in rice flour wrappers.  The prep work was in the cutting of lots of veggies (carrots, zucchini, onions, red and yellow peppers, Chinese cabbage, and mushrooms).  Mara made two dipping sauces, one with ginger, hot peppers, and other things and one based on fish sauce (so we passed on that).  Linda selected our bottle of Malvasia Bianco wine from the Heart of the Desert winery in Alamogordo, NM.  It was white, which we thought would go well with the delicate spring rolls, but very sweet with a slightly thick mouthfeel, like a late harvest Riesling or a Sauternes.  Perhaps not the best choice, but we finished the whole bottle anyway.

We chatted for a while after dinner but like most of our evening meals dinner was a drawn out affair with lots of conversation.  Everyone was tired and the women turned in for the night.  I went to my office and answered e-mails from Gary at BCM that I had seen earlier in the day.  I then went to bed and tried to catch up on blog posts for the last few days but could not stay awake long enough to finish them.

 

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.

 

SLAARC Field Day 2015

Here are 45 photos from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club’s participation in the 2015 American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day 24-hour operating event.

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.

 

2015/06/03 (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.

 

2015/05/15 (F) Hamvention

Today was devoted to the Dayton Hamvention which, as the name suggests, is a ham radio “event” that takes place in Dayton, Ohio.  I suppose it could be a gathering of Honey Baked Ham franchisees in some other state, or a convention of people who like to show off, but it’s just dozens of speakers, hundreds of vendors, thousands of flea market sellers, and ~20,000 attendees gathered to buy, sell, learn about, and talk about all things amateur radio.  It is quite an event and it always rains.  This year was no exception.

The Dayton Hamvention is the largest single annual gathering of ham radio operators in the world, and is probably also the largest gathering of ham radio related vendors.  Organized by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the Hamvention currently takes place on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the third weekend in May each year and 2015 was the 60th time the event has been held.  The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) shows up in force and the biggest manufacturers in the industry—Kenwood, Icom, and Yaesu—have extensive booths in the vendor area, along with many other manufacturers, distributors, and specialty product vendors.

Dayton’s Hara Arena is ~227 miles from our house, close enough that we can drive down and back the same day, but it makes for a long day.  We left at 5:35 AM and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels before getting on the Interstate 96 headed east.  A few miles later we headed south on US-23 which took us into Ohio and onto I-475.  We joined up with I-75 south of Toledo, Ohio and stayed on that until we exited in Dayton to head west to the Hamvention venue.  With a bathroom break about half way down we arrived at the arena around 9:15 AM.  There is no general admission parking at the Hara Arena complex but we were able to park at an automotive dealership across the street and over to the left for $10.  (The dealership directly across the street was charging $40/day to park.  Unfortunately some people were actually willing to pay that much.)

The flea market opened at 8 AM and the indoor vendor area opened at 9 AM.  Hams who are looking for bargains in used parts and equipment are always in line when the gates open at 8 AM on the first day.  Although many hams are involved with designing and building new equipment, and/or repairing and restoring vintage radios, we are not.  We had only been to the Hamvention once before and our interest today was to reacquaint ourselves with the inside vendors.  It cost us $25 each for the privilege.

We knew that a dozen of our fellow SLAARC members were here at the event but we only ran into one of them (Bill / W8NN).  We walked past every vendor booth at least once and paid return visits to several.  We did not have a shopping list and ultimately did not buy anything except lunch.  As we were getting ready to leave a thunderstorm opened up and it rained very hard for a while so we lingered and revisited a couple more vendors until it quit and then headed for our car.

We pulled out around 3 PM and headed for home, reversing the route we took to get to the Hamvention.  We stopped for gas and each got something to drink.  I was tired and sleepy from having had too many carbohydrates for lunch so we switched drivers.  We stopped at a rest area somewhere on I-75 in Ohio for a bathroom break but I’m not sure where it was as I was dozing until just before we pulled in.  We got home about 6:45PM.  The event ended at 6 PM today and we expected to be home closer to 10 PM, so getting home sooner was nice.

The cats were glad to see us; at least they both wanted our attention.  Linda cut up some fresh strawberries and pineapple and heated up some canned soup which made for a light, easy dinner.  We relaxed for a while but Linda decided she was too tired to watch an episode of Sherlock and headed off to bed.

I checked out the website of one of the vendors that interested me.  KF7P (KF7P.com) builds custom cable entry boxes with copper ground planes and lightning arresters.  I have been looking for something like that to get transmission lines into our basement ham shack while protecting all of the equipment connected to them.  I will give him a chance to get back to Utah and then give him a call and order one.  The box is going to mount on the east side of the house near the northeast corner.  It will have at least one 3” PVC pipe coming out the back and running through the wall into the basement.  Since I do not know what our long term needs are, and I do not want to have to redo this later, I will have him build something that is larger than we will probably ever need.  That will be cheaper and easier in the end than having to redo something later.

 

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.

 

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.

 

2014/11/03-09 A Week at Home

Note:  There are no photographs for this consolidated post.  Sorry.  🙁

2014/11/03 (M) Getting Ready

Linda was up early and off to the bakery.  I got up an hour later and had some raisin toast for breakfast.  Whenever I have had time since I got home on Friday I have been working on the project list for our bus.  I worked on it some more this morning but eventually had to set it aside while I made some phone calls, tried to deal with an issue with Linda’s Samsung laptop computer, and got documents ready to upload to my Dropbox for a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

I called Bill Jensen, the national service advisor for conversion shells at Prevost Car Inc., but his voice message said he was unavailable indefinitely and gave alternate contact info.  The main contact was Kevin Laughlin so I called him.  I described the shorter ride height linkage and the downward pointing position of the ride height valve lever arm in its neutral position.  He agreed that neither of these seemed right.

I called Prevost and ordered a new ride height valve and two CX-96 (Gates) drive belts for the OTR air-conditioning compressor.  I then called Martin Diesel in Defiance, Ohio and made an appointment to have the diesel generator in our coach serviced on the 20th and 21st if needed.  I also needed to call Webasto technical support but did not get that call made today; maybe on Wednesday (or Thursday).

Linda’s Samsung laptop suddenly decided to turn the screen brightness down and she has not been able to turn it back up.  It’s bright enough to see in somewhat dim conditions, but still uncomfortably dim for general office use.  I did a Google search and found that lots of other folks had encountered the same problem and had advice on how to fix it.  I shared several links with Linda but she could not get it to work.

I put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter’s financial statements, roster, and minutes of last year’s’ meeting.  I uploaded them to Dropbox and e-mailed the chapter members that the materials where there.

Linda got home later than usual from the bakery so we decided to go to La Marsa in Brighton for dinner.  It’s our favorite local restaurant but was more crowded than on a regular Monday due to the buffet they have the first Monday of each month and we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.  We ordered the almond garlic Ghallaba from the menu, one of our two favorite vegan dishes, but it was not as good as usual.  Not bad just somewhat flat, as if they had left out the garlic.  It was 8:30 PM by the time we got home and we turned in for the night fairly quickly.

2014/11/04 (T) Election Day

Linda did not go into the bakery today.  We spent much of the day together and this is what we did:

  • Had raisin toast for breakfast with Orange juice and banana…
  • ..
  • Got passport photos at Rite-Aid in Brighton…
  • Went to Panera for coffee…
  • Drove to Dearborn for dental hygienist appointments…
  • Drove back to Farmington Hills where we went to McDonald’s and had French fries for lunch…
  • Drove a mile to the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi for flu shots…
  • Drove back home where we had a few chips and hummus for an afternoon snack…

I drove to Brighton Honda for a 3:30 PM appointment to have the Element’s recalled air bag serviced.  The appointment took 45 minutes by which time the traffic was really bad.  Because of the combination of rush hour traffic and the ongoing re-paving of Grand River Avenue just west of the dealership a left turn was going to be near impossible.  I needed to get to Latson Road and Grand River Avenue so I made the easy right (and correct) turn out of the dealership and quickly got on I-96 westbound.  I took the relatively new Latson Road exit and stopped at Walmart to stock up on ICE brand water.  I went to Meijer’s for a Mega-Millions lottery ticket and then to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for two more 12VDC duplex power outlets.  It was still raining lightly, as it had been for most of the day, so I returned home by way of Grand River Avenue and Hacker Road which kept me on pavement for most of the trip.

Linda heated up the leftover chili for dinner.  She continued to try different things to get her Samsung laptop to allow her to adjust the screen brightness and return it to normal but nothing worked.  I took a little time to update WordPress websites and tweak the Wordfence login security.  We then filled out and printed our passport renewal applications and got them ready to mail.  We also figured out how to create, share, and synchronize multiple calendars on multiple devices so that we can now see the same information on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  It’s all about Google.

Linda was tired and needed to get up early but something had broken on our bed foundation and needed to be fixed, if only temporarily.  We are still using the plastic foundation that came with our select comfort air mattress years ago and one of the cross members that carry the load to the side rails had come loose from the interlocking top platform and dropped down.  We had to get the mattress off the bed to work on the platform.  We got it put back together for now, but we need to get a box spring or other foundation to replace it.  That probably won’t happen until spring.

2014/11/05 (W) The Day After

Yesterday’s election results were generally as predicted, so nothing to cheer about from our point of view, but the world did not come to an end either.  Elections change very little in the short-term and the daily tasks of living continue regardless of who does or does not get elected.  We were happy, of course, that Gary Peters won the U. S. Senate seat and that Debbie Dingle was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.  We were especially pleased that our friend, Brian Robb, won re-election to the Ypsilanti City Council and that Richard Bernstein was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court, but saddened to learn that Casandra Ulbrich failed in her attempt to get re-elected to the State Board of Education.  And so it goes with American politics.

Linda was back at the bakery today reviewing the period accounting and continuing to answer questions and monitor the use of the new software.  I took care of some e-mails and then headed to the Brighton post office to mail our passport renewals.  I refueled my car at Meijer’s for $2.899/gal and then stopped at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to exchange two Sodastream CO2 cartridges.  BB&B is in the same strip mall as the Panera, so I stopped in for some coffee.

When I got home UPS had already delivered my package from Prevost.  I took the trash can to the street first and then I opened the box and verified the contents.  I installed one of the Sodastream cartridges but the display would not reset.  The unit has an LCD display so I figured it had a battery hidden somewhere.  I released a clip at the top of the display and the whole display module came out with the nickel-sized battery was installed on the back side.  I started to remove it and the display changed, so I figured it needed a new battery.  I did not think we had any of this type of battery in the house but Linda told me later that we did.

I had not backed up all of my photo files from last week so I spent some time in the early afternoon copying files from my camera to my laptop and then from my laptop to both of our NAS units.  I printed off all of the documents I needed for the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter annual meeting and was responding to an e-mail when Tony and Mark from GSI showed up to install the new natural gas fireplace logs and hookup the new natural gas outdoor grill.

Tony and his wife own GSI but he had Mark install the fireplace while he worked on the grill.  He installed the new disconnect but when leak testing discovered that there was a small leak on the output side of the shutoff valve.  I had to shut off the gas supply to that branch circuit, which also supplies gas to the kitchen range and the fireplace, so he could work on it.  Tony removed the new disconnect, installed a new valve, and reinstalled the disconnect.  I turned the gas supply on and he retested for leaks but did not find any.  He suggested that we run it for a while to burn off manufacturing oils and other things that initially produce odors and can affect the taste of foods cooked in the unit.  I got the stainless steel heat diffuser and two cast iron grills and set them in place.  The left burner lit easily using the battery powered piezoelectric igniter and the right grill lit easily from the left one.

Linda got home at 3:30 PM while Tony and Mark were still working and took over interacting with them while I got ready for our 4 PM telephone meeting.  She got instructions on how to light/operate both appliances, paid them, and then joined me for the meeting.  By 4:05 PM we had 14 “F” numbers represented, safely exceeding our quorum requirement of 10, and Bob Pelc called the meeting to order.  The meeting was friendly but efficient.  We conducted all of the necessary annual chapter business and adjourned at 4:42 PM.  I was re-elected to another 2-year term as chapter secretary but did not run for chapter vice-president, the position I have held since the chapter was formed in June 2010.

After the meeting Linda shut off the outdoor grill and we sat in the living room monitoring our fireplace logs and discussing dinner options.  As a result Linda decided to make waffles.  She tried a different recipe and substituted pastry flour instead for regular flour.  Neither of us understand the difference, at a food chemistry level, but she apparently invented/discovered something that will stick to Teflon-coated cookware; really, really tightly. The waffles were crispy and tasted fine, once we got them out of the waffle iron, but they would not have won any prizes for presentation.

We spent a couple more hours after dinner sitting in the living room letting the firelogs operate with the flue opened a bit.  Tony and Mark said it can take up to 20 hours of use for the unit to stop producing odors and suggested that we operate it with the flue slightly open while breaking it in.  The logs are a non-vented design, just like a kitchen range, which means they are designed to operate without being vented to the outside yet not produce harmful combustion by-products such as carbon monoxide.  At 8:50 PM I turned the logs down to their lowest setting.  Linda shut the unit off at 9:15 PM (it has an On/Off/Remote switch but we do not have a remote).  The pilot light does not consume enough air or produce enough heat and combustion by-products to be a safety or economic concern, so I left it on, closed the flue, and went to bed.

2014/11/06 (R) Inductive Thinking

Linda left the house before I awoke and spent a long day at the bakery.  I spent most of the day at the dining room table working at my computer.  I typed up the draft minutes from yesterday’s FMCA Freethinkers annual meeting, generated PDFs of the chapter’s financial reports, uploaded files to the Dropbox folder, and reorganized it.

I took a break at noon and drove into Novi to have a look at Chuck’s latest bus projects and then go to lunch at the local Leo’s Coney Island.  The new wedge cabinet and Corian top look and fit great between the end of the new couch and the kitchen base cabinet.  He did a nice job replacing the outside Jenn Air electric cooktop/grill, which was mounted in a pull-out tray in one of the bays, with two Indufix 2-hob induction cooktops.  The tray has an open bottom and is supported by four heavy duty extension slides, two on each side.  The induction units are from Germany and came with European “208VAC” plugs.  They are strictly 208/240 VAC devices and do not have a neutral connection.  The wire colors are also different with brown and blue for the L1 and L2 (hot, load) and yellow/green for the ground.  Chuck had an addendum sheet explaining the color codes and how to match them up to the U. S. standard.

For lunch I had a small Greek salad without feta cheese and an order of French fries.  Chuck had a more substantial meal with a salad, chicken on skewers, and rice.  I was back home by 3:00 PM and settled back into my computer-based work.

Linda got home around 6:15 PM and made barbecued tofu sandwiches with grilled onions and corn on the cob.  We washed it down with Leelanau Cellars sweet Red Table Wine.  It was labeled semi-sweet but it reminded me of the King of the North wine from Red Trail Vineyards in North Dakota which had a distinctly grape juice taste.  I liked it and Linda said she did too, which surprised me a little, as she tends to like dryer red wines.

After dinner Linda read and played online word games on her iPad to the warm glow of our new natural gas fireplace logs.  These logs are a high-efficiency, unvented design and actually through heat into the living room rather than up the chimney.  I continued reformatting the Freethinkers chapter roster, uploaded it to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the members to let them know it was available and ask them to review their listing and get back to me with corrections.  RVillage had notified me that someone wanted to join both the CCO and GLCC groups so I logged in and approved those.

I discovered the other day that Wordfence will allow me to block individual IP addresses so I would like to find the time to go back through the “User Locked Out” notification e-mails and enter some of the most egregious repeat offenders.  But not tonight.  It’s late, Linda is already asleep, and I’m tired.

2014/11/07 (F) 50% plus

My objectives for today were the following:

  • Finish up yesterday’s blog post and start working on today’s…
  • Read a few of the blogs I follow in Feedly (I am way behind)…
  • Move the spare Aqua-Hot from the garage to the library…
  • Move any other freeze sensitive items from the garage to the library…
  • Finish the drywall compound work in the library…
  • Call Webasto technical support…
  • Measure the inside of the Honda Element…
  • Buy plywood to build the storage divider for the Element…
  • Start building the storage divider for the Honda Element…
  • Use the blower to clear the leaves from the deck and planting beds….
  • Prepare the FMCA Freethinker annual chapter certification paperwork…
  • Select a few photos to go with blog posts going back to early October…
  • Start uploading blog posts to our website…

That was obviously more than I could possibly accomplish in one day, but it helps to write it down.  Here is how I did…

  • Finish up yesterday’s blog post and start working on today’s…check.
  • Read a few of the blogs I follow in Feedly (I am way behind)…check.
  • Move the spare Aqua-Hot from the garage to the library…check.
  • Move any other freeze sensitive items from the garage to the library…some.
  • Finish the drywall compound work in the library…check.
  • Make an unplanned trip to Lowe’s and Sherwin Williams for paint supplies…Yes.
  • Prime the areas in the library where the drywall work was done…Yes!
  • Call Webasto technical support…check.
  • Measure the inside of the Honda Element…check.
  • Buy plywood to build the storage divider for the Element…no.
  • Start building the storage divider for the Honda Element…no.
  • Use the blower to clear the leaves from the deck and planting beds….no.
  • Prepare the FMCA Freethinker annual chapter certification paperwork…no.
  • Select a few photos to go with blog posts going back to early October…no.
  • Start uploading blog posts to our website…no.

That’s 6-1/2 + 2 out of 13 + 2 or 8-1/2 out of 15 which is over 50%; not bad.  I might have gotten one or two other things done, or at least started, but we ended up meeting Chuck at BD’s Mongolian Bar-B-Que in Novi for dinner at 7:00 PM.  Barbara was still attending to out-of-town family business and Chuck appreciated not dining alone.  We were at the restaurant for over two hours and had a nice meal and great conversation in spite the very loud, upbeat youthful vibe of the place.  Next time we will try Sizzling Sticks in Northville; same kind of food but a much more subdued atmosphere according to Chuck.  Overall it was another good day.

2014/11/08 (S) Steve and Karen

We had a good sized crowd at the ham radio breakfast this morning.  We did not have to be anywhere at any particular time, and we were enjoying the conversation, so we stayed a little longer than usual.  Once we got back to the house I changed into work clothes for drywall and painting while Linda gathered up the recyclables and finished her grocery list.  She left to run the errands and I got the painting tools/supplies out.

Linda dropped off the recyclables, stopped at the bank, stopped at Lowe’s to return something that it turned out we had not purchased there, and then did the grocery shopping at Meijer’s.  While she was gone I put a first coat of paint on the areas of the west wall of the library where I had repaired the drywall.  The item she planned to return was a can of Great Stuff Fire Block that broke yesterday when I tried to use it.  It turned out that I had not purchased it at Lowe’s as they do not sell it.  They sell a 3M product for the same application, which I had sitting in the garage but had overlooked.  I used it to try to fill gaps around the gas supply pipe and the condensate drain, which were open clear through to the outside, and the double-walled flue pipe and gas pipe that pass through the furnace closet wall.  I applied the foam from inside the furnace closet and will need another can to finish the job from the outside of the closet.

Linda started putting together supper while I gathered up laundry and started a load.  I spent some quiet time with Jasper, our very sweet 10-year old cat, and then settled in to write and read for a while.

Steve and Karen arrived at 5 PM and we visited while Linda put the finishing touches on dinner.  She made the warm Farro dish with kale, dried cranberries, almonds, garlic, and onions and roasted asparagus as a side.  She has the Farro dish tagged “good for company.”  We still have a few bottles of the 2009 Egri Merlot and the slightly sweet full body of this wine went very nicely with the earthy Farro.  She made a chocolate cake for dessert with raspberry sauce made from fresh raspberries.  I think the cake was her best yet; very moist with just the right texture.  Vegan baking is tricky and Linda is still figuring it out.  Sometimes the cakes are a bit dry and other times they lean towards being brownies but tonight she got it just right.

Steve brought his Raspberry Pi single board computer (SBC) and an SD card with photos of their recent (September) trip out west.  He connected the Pi to our TV/monitor in the basement so we could all comfortably see the photos.  They had excellent weather and some fall colors the days they were in Yellowstone National Park and got some nice images.  But we spent most the evening sitting in the living room enjoying the new natural gas firelogs and catching up on what we had been doing since we last saw each other.  They left around 10:30 PM and we had everything picked up by 11 PM and headed off to bed.

2014/11/09 (N) Wrapping Up

Today was mostly about wrapping up the library drywall/painting project and other minor chores, doing laundry, and getting me packed for a two week return visit to Twelve Mile, Indiana to work on our bus and help Butch and Fonda work on theirs.

Linda made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, which is always a treat.  I made a trip to Lowe’s for a nine inch disposable paint roller cover and another can of 3M Fireblock spray foam.  I used the can of spray foam to finish sealing the gaps in the utility closet wall openings where the black iron gas pipe and the double-wall flu pass into the garage.  I only needed a little more foam to finish the utility closet openings so I used the rest of the can to fill gaps around the rear entrance door in the garage.

I used some scrap packing paper from recent Prevost shipments and some frog tape to mask the opening for the library furnace return air grille.  I then used flat black spray paint to make everything that is visible through the slots in the cover disappear.  Finally, it was time to paint walls.

I used a small brush to cut in the adjacent wall and ceiling with the Sherwin-Williams Extra White satin finish paint.  I removed the cover plates from two outlets and a switch and then rolled on a new/final coat of paint.  I cleaned up my paint supplies and then we brought the outdoor grill (and cover) into the garage to store for the winter.  We also brought the patio table umbrella and base into the library and set the umbrella in the base for the winter rather than let in lie on the floor.

Linda made another batch of granola while I checked stuff on my computer and took care of laundry and packing.  We had leftovers for dinner at 5:15 PM and then headed to South Lyon for the monthly SLAARC (ham radio) meeting where I was re-elected as VP for a second year and Linda was elected Treasurer for the coming year.  The program was a presentation on Software Defined Radios (SDR) by Mike Alexander (N8MSA).  When we got home we finished the chocolate cake and raspberry sauce with a glass of Leelanau Cellars Autumn Red wine and then turned in for the night.

 

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.

 

2014/07/21 (M) Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Ron and Mary are leaving tomorrow morning so we did our Ann Arbor trip today.  Before leaving we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning, the first time we have used it this year, as the forecast was for a warm, humid day and we wanted it to be comfortable when we got back.  It was also a good excuse to run the system and make sure it really works.

Mattheai Botanical Gardens (Univ. of Mich), Ann Arbor, MI

Matthaei Botanical Gardens (Univ. of Mich), Ann Arbor, MI

We chose the Mattheai Botanical Gardens over the Arboretum primarily based on ease of parking.  The “Arb” is located near the University of Michigan campus in the center of Ann Arbor where parking can be very difficult.  The Gardens are on the east edge of town, somewhat in the country with very little traffic on the access roads, and has parking lots with plenty of spaces.  We still had to pay to park—there’s no such thing as free parking for any facility connected to U of M—but the rates are reasonable and admission to the Gardens is free.

 

Gardens and Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI

Gardens and Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI

The botanical gardens were very nice with an emphasis on native Michigan plants which we appreciated.  After walking the gardens and conservatory we hiked one of the shorter trails along the stream.  I took quite a few pictures but it was a sunny, cloudless day, so I don’t know if any of them will be any good.  The plants were brilliant to see, but this was certainly not ideal light conditions for plant photography.  We were there for two hours, long enough for a first visit on a warm day, and left in time to have lunch before visiting our son and his family in town.

 

Mattaei Botanical Gardens

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

We went to Elevation Burger on Washtenaw Avenue west of US-23 for lunch.  EB is an organic burger joint with a couple of veggie burger options, one of which was vegan, and an interesting choice of toppings.  They also have fries and ice cream offerings.  Our vegan burgers and fries were very good.

We arrived at Brendan and Shawna’s around 3 PM to find Madeline already awake from her afternoon nap and visiting with Jake and China.  (Shawna’s mom, Carol, is married to Cliff.  Jake and China are Cliff’s sister’s grand-children.)  Our daughter, Meghan, drove in from Dexter to join the family gathering.  Shawna took Jake and China to see downtown Ann Arbor while the rest of us walked to Burns Park.  Madeline played for about an hour, with lots of help from Mary and Meghan, before we all headed back to the house.  Shawna returned and we visited some more until Madeline indicated she was hungry.  We left around 5:30 PM as Madeline was beginning her dinner.

 

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

 

Madeline shows her dad where the airplane is (Burns Park, Ann Arbor)

Madeline shows her dad where the airplane is (Burns Park, Ann Arbor)

We were going to take Ron and Mary to downtown Brighton for a stroll on the boardwalk that surrounds the Mill Pond, but we were all tired so went directly home instead.  We had a lovely dinner at home of chickpea salad, wild rice salad, sliced nectarines, and whole grain bread with vegan “butter” spread.  It was an easy meal, as Linda had prepared the salads ahead of time, and the lighter, cooler dishes hit the spot on one of the warmest days we have had this summer (upper 80’s with humidity).  After dinner we played a card game called “Up the River and down the River.”  I’m not much for games, but the other three really like them so I was a good sport and played.   I lost, but I did not care.

 

 

L-2-R: Ron, Mary, Meghan, Linda (behind), Brendan, and Madeline (in stroller).

L-2-R: Ron, Mary, Meghan, Linda (behind), Brendan, and Madeline (in stroller).

2014/06/29 (N) Lilly And Company

We said our “goodbyes ’till next time” to Linda H., Ron, and Mary last night as they went off to bed.  Linda and I were up at 7 AM CDT and had the car loaded by 7:45.  Marilyn was also up so we got to visit and say goodbye to her before we left at 8 AM.  We got back on I-270 westbound and headed to Bridgeton, Missouri where my sister lives.  We stopped at the St. Louis Bread Company bakery cafe on St. Charles Rock Road for coffee and bagels first and arrived at Patty’s house a little after 9 AM.  St. Louis Bread Company is the original name of the Panera bakery cafés, and they still use the original name in the St. Louis market where the company started and is still headquartered.

Patty’s house was completely destroyed two years ago April in the Good Friday tornados that swept through the St. Louis, Missouri area.  The outbreak damaged over 700 hundred homes as well as the St. Louis Lambert International Airport.   This was a newsworthy weather event, and Patty was interviewed by The Weather Channel, but little did anyone know at the time that it was just the first of what would prove to be a very bad season of much worse tornado outbreaks across the south.  It took a year to rebuild Patty’s house and she made a few changes in the design that resulted in a nicer, more livable dwelling, a small consolation for everything see lost.

Patty’s daughter, Amanda, came over around 10 AM with her daughter, Lillian Lissette.  Lilly is only six weeks younger than our grand-daughter Madeline, so developmentally they are doing similar things.  Lilly is up on two feet and very mobile.  She is a very sweet little girl who is curious about everything and is verbalizing a lot without actually saying anything.  She has all her baby teeth and an infectious smile.  She walked over to Linda as soon as she saw her, arms outstretched, and gave her a big hug.  Apparently that is not something she does with people she does not know well, so it was a very special moment that surprised her mom and grandmother.

Patty is down to just one dog, Maggie, from the three that she had for so many years.  She lost Bootsie (17) and Rosie (14) last year which was especially hard given that they survived the tornado.  She also lost Angel, a white female cat our mother had adopted and was another survivor of the tornado.

We visited as long as we could, including staying for a light lunch of fresh fruit.  We would have liked to stay longer but needed to get back to our house today.  Although Linda did not have to report for jury duty on Monday morning, she did have to go back to the dentist to have a new mold made for her crown.  We were also expecting our landscape contractors around 8 AM and would need to move the bus out of their way.

We were back on the road and headed for home at 12:30 PM CDT.  We went back the way we came: I-270 E (MO) to I-270 E (IL) to I-70 E (IL) to I-70 E ( IN), to I-465 S (IN) to I-69 N (IN) to I-69 N (MI) to I-96 E (MI) to Latson Road N to Golf Club Road E and finally to the dirt roads that signal we are almost home.

Linda has a nerve in her right hip that is giving her a problem, especially when she sits for any length of time.  She keeps a tennis ball in the car and puts it under her hip to relieve the pain.  Saturday morning she and Mary went for an early morning walk and she pulled a muscle in her left hip.  She was having difficulty sitting comfortably and we agreed that I would drive home in order to allow her the flexibility to change her position as needed.  She also took some pain medication that rendered her unsuited to driving.  On the plus side, she got to nap on the way home.

The trip took almost 10 hours including several rest stops and a stop in Fishers, Indiana for fuel and dinner at Panera.  We brought an assortment of audio CDs with us but did not play them on the drive down as we had a lot to talk about (when I wasn’t napping).  We did, however, play them on the way back to help keep me entertained and awake.  We pulled into our driveway a little after 11:00 PM EDT.  Linda made popcorn while I unpacked the car and brought everything inside.  The cats were glad to see us once they determined we were not scary alien creatures invading their house.  We enjoyed our popcorn snack and then checked the phone messages just in case there was something important.  There wasn’t so we went to bed.