Category Archives: RVillage

Posts related to our involvement with the RVillage social media website. We were early beta-testers starting in January 2014 and became RVillage Ambassadors in June 2014.

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2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

I got up briefly at 6:30 AM to close the roof vents as a stray rain shower drifted over Jetty Park (JP).  I got up again around 7 to put some fresh food in the cats’ bowls so they would stop trying to get us up and then went back to bed.  Linda was up around 7:30 AM to take her last steroid pill and I finally got up to stay at 8:30.  I walked over to the office around 9:15 but it was closed until noon for store inventory.  I knew that from yesterday but had forgotten.  I walked back to our coach and brewed a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe coffee, which was much better than the office coffee anyway.

It was sunny but humid this morning and by 10 AM it was up into the 80’s in the coach so we closed up and turned on the air-conditioners.  Linda has been doing accounting work for the bakery but was waiting on a document from the controller so she walked over to use the shower facilities.  I worked on filling in yesterday’s blog post until she returned and then I walked over to get my shower.  Back at the coach I exchanged text messages and phone calls with Vickie regarding plans for today while Linda exchanged text messages with Mara regarding a possible meetup next week.

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

Pat and Vickie picked us up at noon and drove to Historic Cocoa Village on the mainland.  It was all boutique shopping and restaurants but still quaint and interesting enough.  Linda located The Garden of Eden Cafe and Bakery on Happy Cow but it was no longer in business and we ended up driving back to a Steak ‘n Shake on Merritt Island for lunch.  It was right on the 520 Causeway so it was very convenient.  Linda, Vickie, and I had garden salads and Pat had a hamburger.  I also ordered onion rings.  The salads were good but the onion rings were some of the worst I’ve ever had.  They were very greasy which was probably due to the fry oil not being hot enough.

We stopped at the Ron Jon Surf Shop (RJSS) in Cocoa Beach on the way back.  In the six years that Pat and Vickie have been coming to JP they had never visited the RJSS.  Linda wandered away from the group so I followed her, after which we could not find Pat and Vickie.  It turned out that they also got separated.  The store is big, with two floors, but not THAT big.  It is, however, crammed full of merchandise and the layout made it hard to see most of the store from any given vantage point.  It was also packed with people, which further obscured my view, but through text messages and phone calls we eventually all ended up in the same place and finally drove back to JPCG.

A little piece of Florida charm in Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

It turned out to be a very warm, humid, partly cloudy day and we were glad we had closed up our coaches and turned on the air-conditioners before we left.  Jasper and Juniper were glad too, and also glad to see us.  I walked over to the office to see if any full hookup sites had opened up, but they had not.  There wasn’t anyone else in the lounge area so I switched the TV to The Weather Channel to get a sense of the national and local weather situation.  A line of strong to severe storms was draped from Michigan’s thumb all the way to the Gulf of Mexico at the Texas/Louisiana border.  It was moving east across the continent with numerous severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, and a few tornado watches and warnings, ahead of it.  The northern tip looked like it would pass through our hometown but be below severe intensity.

Back at the coach Linda had resumed working on accounting for the bakery.  I checked e-mail, replied to one from Gary at BCM, and then logged into RVillage to deal with another one.  Scott and Tami had requested to join the CCO group, which is private, so I had to approve their request.   I also updated our checkout date at JP to Wednesday, April 6.  I updated the Excel spreadsheet that I use to track water/tank/softener usage and was just finishing up when I spotted the Carnival Victory cruise ship coming down the shipping channel from its dock at Port Canaveral.  I grabbed the camera and hurried over while Linda locked the bus and followed me.

It was hazy due to the heat and humidity but I clicked off a few photos anyway.  We knew that one of the Disney cruise ships would also be setting sail shortly so we stuck around the channel and walked down towards the pier looking for a better/different vantage point.  These ships always leave between 5 and 5:30 PM heading east down the channel so it is not an ideal time of day to photograph them as we are looking northwest if we want to see the bow.  Once they pass us we are looking northeast with the sun over our left shoulder so the lighting is much better.  I might do better driving up to the Exploration Tower area of the Port and trying to photograph the Disney ships as the leave the dock.  There’s a lot more ‘stuff’ up there (boats buildings, cranes, etc.) to provide foreground and framing, but it might also just obscure the view.  I won’t know which it is unless I investigate it, which I probably will not do on this visit.

At 5:30 PM I spotted the Disney Magic coming out of its terminal basin into the main channel.  It took a while to get into position for the photographs I wanted to take.  After it cleared the shoreline and another set of buoys it turned southeast.  Linda checked the schedule latter and found out it was headed for the Bahamas on a three night cruise.  She also learned that the Magic and the Dream are the only Disney Cruise Line ships that sail from Port Canaveral, which explained why we saw them as often as we did.

A Little Blue Heron by the jetty and shipping channel. Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral, FL.

We headed back up the channel towards the west and stopped when I spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin breaking the surface of the water by the entrance to the submarine turning basin.  We saw it three or four times as it headed back towards the ocean but then it disappeared.  While we were standing there chatting with a local resident a Little Blue Heron flew over and landed about five feet away from me.  It was looking for a handout, which we did not have, but I was able to walk around it and photograph it from different directions for a few minutes before it flew off in search of better prospects.

Back at our coach I worked on this post while Linda started preparing dinner.  She decided to make angel hair pasta with garlic, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  It’s a favorite “go to” meal that is relatively quick and easy to prepare but absolutely delicious.  Because of our late lunch, eaten between 2 and 3 PM, we did not have dinner until 7:30 PM.

After dinner we turned on the TV and put on our usual Thursday evening comedy programs.  I needed to proofread and edit a short article that someone else wrote for BCM but did not feel like doing it this evening.  I also needed to off-load today’s photos from my camera to my computer and Vickie wanted a picture of the manatees from the Merritt Island NWR, but I deferred all of that to tomorrow.  I did, however, fill in today’s activities in my blog post.  That is something I can comfortably do on my iPad while watching TV.

Around 9 PM it was still 76 degrees F outside but we turned off the air-conditioners and opened up the coach anyway.  The temperature was forecast to only drop to about 70 but we figured we would be comfortable enough, preferring fresh air and roof vent fan noise to recirculated air and the roar of the air-conditioner evaporator fans.

Around 10 PM Linda started the update of her iPad to iOS 9.3.  That took over an hour and when it finally rebooted her tablet she went to bed.  I watched channel 6.1 (CBS) long enough to see the weather forecast and then switched to 24.1 (PBS) to watch Charlie Rose.  At midnight I tuned in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a few minutes and then went to bed and fell asleep.

 

2015/12/28 (M) On to Arcadia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/28 (S) Berea to Cartersville

I did not take any Ibuprofen before I went to bed last night as I felt OK.  I was also very tired and fell asleep without difficulty around 9:30 PM.  Under the best of circumstances I was going to be awake between 4:30 and 5:30 AM and that was the case this morning.  During that hour the cats prowled around the bed, got some attention from me, and looked out the windows.  What they really wanted, however, was food.

The pickup truck / 5th wheel combination that pulled in on our passenger side last night well after sunset was making departure preparations this morning at 5:30.  The strained muscle(s) in my lower right back were nagging at me and, unable to find a comfortable position, I finally got up at 6 AM as the neighbors were pulling out.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back and worked on my iPad.

The cats still had food and water but wanted fresh kibble, as they do every morning and evening.  It was in the bathroom closet, where it always is, but took me a while to find as it was hiding in plain sight behind the lower rack of hanging clothes.  Linda finally got up at 6:30 AM.  She rarely sleeps 10 or more hours but she was very tired when she went to bed at 8 PM last night and immediately fell asleep.  She also appears to be coming down with yet another cold.  For someone who rarely gets sick she has suffered with colds this fall.

We only had 300 miles to travel today, all on I-75, between Berea, Kentucky and Cartersville, Georgia.  With a fuel stop somewhere along the way it should only be a six hour day.  We got online and checked the weather.  Rain was forecast to start in Berea around 10 AM so we targeted 8:30 to 9 AM as our departure window and decided to have coffee and breakfast.  The cold front was sitting to our west running from southwest to northeast.  It was moving slowly southeast but the precipitation (mostly rain but with some ice and snow) was along the front and sliding northeast.  Based on how it was moving we figured we would probably have rain between Berea and Knoxville and then dry conditions from there to Cartersville where the chance of rain for today was 0%.

I had the engine running at 8:30 AM.  The battery balance light came on and stayed on for quite a while but eventually turned off and did not come back on.  That may just mean the Vanner equalizer was just doing its job.  However, with the upper and lower banks of the chassis batteries on maintenance chargers since we got here yesterday that just begs the question why they were out of balance.  We may be replacing the batteries and/or the Vanner equalizer this winter.

We pulled out of our site at 8:3 AM.  I-75 through southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee was very hilly but the highway was in excellent condition and it was a scenic and pleasurable drive.  Traffic started to get heavy as we approached Knoxville, Tennessee where there was apparently a college football game being played today.  Traffic remained heavy from there to our destination, which made the driving a little more work and a little less fun, but it was still OK.

The bus ran strong all day and I was able to climb the grade at Jellico, Tennessee in 4th gear without dropping below 50 MPH or getting the engine temperature above 200 degrees F (as best I could tell from the gauge) and the exhaust manifold pyrometers not exceeding 800 degrees F.  That was a big improvement over two years ago when I recall climbing up the mountain in the right lane behind slow trucks in a lower gear and worrying about the engine temperature.

Even though I had the cruise control on for most of the drive I did well using downhill speed to go up the other side and getting on the accelerator early to get the RPMs and turbo boost up and keep them there.  I typically saw 15 PSI boost at 2000 RPM but occasionally 16 or 17 PSI.  We really need a 0-20 boost gauge for this engine but I could not find one and doubt that they exist.  Besides, the new 0-30 gauge is working for me and I have other things that need to be fixed/replaced, such as the twin pyrometer gauge.  The left needle used to stick at the bottom of the scale but now the right needle is doing that.  Tapping on the face of the gauge usually frees it up, but not always.  When the needles are both working, however, they are showing the same temperature within 50 degrees F, which is comforting.  I used to think the bus (and me) liked to run at 62 MPH but I have come to the conclusion that it likes to run 65 to 68 MPH, and I am comfortable with that.

We stopped at the rest area about 41 miles north of the Georgia border where I replied to a text from Kristine and then called John Palmer.  He answered this time, said he was glad to have us visit, and gave me the address.  He said he will have customers there but there was plenty of room and we would not have a problem getting our bus in and out.  (Note:  We are also customers, albeit from a few years ago, but this is primarily a social visit and a place to stop for two nights.)  Rather than take time to eat while sitting still we had some pretzel and peanut snacks as we finished our drive to our destination for the day.

We arrived at exit 296 in Georgia around 1:45 PM and pulled into the Pilot Travel Center just southeast of the exit with the fuel gauge sitting at 1/4.  We picked this place to refuel because it is just on the other side of I-75 from our campground for tonight and I wanted to use as much of the fuel in the tank as I could without risking sucking dirt off the bottom or running out.

I figured we would take on 150 gallons of diesel fuel so I added 2 ounces of Racor Biocide, three 16 ounce bottles of Stanadyne Performance Formula diesel fuel treatment, and three 16 ounce bottles of Stanadyne Lubricity Formula.  The PF additive treats 60 gallons of fuel per bottle and I add it to the tank before each fill up in proportion to the amount of fuel I think I will add.  The directions for the LF additive say to “use it 4 to 6 times per year” but that is presumably based on an engine operating in a tractor-trailer or other commercial / industrial use.  Still, I only added one bottle last time when I should have added three, so I added three this time.  We ended up only adding 142 gallons but the extra additive won’t hurt anything.

I reset the trip odometer before we pulled out, which I forgot to do when I filled up at home.  We used to record our mileage and fuel purchases to get an idea of our fuel efficiency in miles per gallon but have never really had an accurate figure for a couple of reasons.  One was that the speedometer/odometer was not working correctly, or at all, and only got replaced in fall 2014.  The other is that the Aqua-Hot and auxiliary power plant both burn fuel from the same tank as the main engine.  Consequently, we can get an approximate idea of fuel consumption if we fill up at the beginning of a long day’s drive and then fill up again at the end before parking for the night, or if we know for sure that we are not going to use the Aqua-Hot or Genset prior to refueling.  Since we will be boondocking from tomorrow afternoon until Tuesday morning we will definitely be running the Genset and probably using the Aqua-Hot.

Our next fill up will probably be on the drive from Williston to Arcadia in late December and the only reason for topping up then is to make sure we pull into Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia with a nearly full tank to minimize condensation while the bus sits there until early March.  This is one of the reasons I wanted to get all of the additives in the tank today.  We will have full hookups at Big Tree and do not expect to have to run the Aqua-Hot for space heating.  Even though we will have metered electric, we will use the electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot for domestic hot water except possibly for showering.  If the resort has a bath/shower house we might use it if convenient.

From the Pilot station I drove to the KOA about 3/10ths of a mile on the other side of I-75 and pulled up to the office at 2:10 PM.  The KOA is near Cartersville, Georgia.  It is a nice enough place with easy access but the facilities are not as extensive (read that as kid/family magnet) as some KOAs.  Linda got us registered and the woman in the office used a golf cart to lead us to our site.  We got a very convenient 50A FHU pull through site so getting in was easy and getting out tomorrow morning should be equally easy.

We leveled the coach and went through our arrival routine, minus the water and sewer connections.  It was 71 degrees F outside with low afternoon sun was just warm enough in the coach that Linda opened several windows and I put the screen in the door window.  We then went for a walk around the campground.  The place was almost full and seemed to have a lot of rigs that appeared to be set up for long-term stays.  The woman in the office confirmed later that they were fully booked for this evening and that 2/3rds of the campground was in use by extended stay visitors, many of whom were doing work in the area for Georgia Power.  That was certainly not the case when we were here two years ago on December 22nd, so that may have just been a matter of timing.

Back at the coach it was warm enough that we opened two of the ceiling vents and turned the fans on to exhaust air from the coach.  I went to put on a pair of shorts and discovered that we had failed to pack any.  I did bring my two pairs of convertible hiking slacks so I unzipped the lower portion of the legs on one pair and made them into shorts.  Much more comfortable.  I will be doing some shopping once we get settled.

I sent a slightly more detailed text message to Kristine and a daily update text message to Chuck which drew a reply and another text from me.  Linda got our WiFiRanger connected to the KOA Wi-Fi and then logged-in to RVillage.  She changed our location for last night to the Oh Kentucky Campground in Berea, KY and then changed it again for today to the Cartersville KOA.  We were apparently the only RVillage members at either campground.

We were a little hungry so Linda walked to the office to see if they had any hotdog buns, as we left ours behind along with a loaf of raisin bread.  They did not have hotdog buns so she cooked a couple of vegan hotdogs and served them on bread.  We also forgot to unplug the Insta-Hot in the kitchen so she texted the kids and asked them to unplug it and remove the bread products when they were next at the house.

We will be boondocking Sunday and Monday nights so Linda availed herself of the showers at the campground.  I worked for a while on this post and then went over to get a shower.  Linda warned me that it took a while to get hot water so I let the hot water run for at least five minutes but it never got warm enough to shower comfortably.  The men’s bath/shower room was also quite chilly so I took a really quick shower, dried off, and got dressed.  The office had free coffee available so I had some to warm up and mentioned the lack of usable hot water to the woman at the desk.  She seemed surprised but then asked if I let it run a long time, so they know there is an issue.  She said she would mention it to the manager.

Around 6 PM Linda heated up a couple of Amy’s brand Vegetable Korma meals.  As with all Amy’s products they were vegan and tasty, as well as quick and easy, so the quality to efficiency ratio was fairly high.

The antennapoint.com website indicated that we should be able to pick up a few OTA TV stations.  We managed to tune in the ION and PBS affiliates whose towers were NNE of our location and watched a few shows.  Linda read for a while and I checked e-mail and played games on my iPad, which is what I do to relax and/or fill time when

I don’t feel like doing anything else.  Linda was going to make an Apple crisp but did not have enough cinnamon so she added that to her grocery list and cut up an apple to eat.  Around 8 PM she popped the last of the popcorn and added that to her grocery list too.

Around 9:30 PM I closed the ceiling vents in the bedroom and bathroom and took the screen out of the entry door window and closed it.  Linda has had a cough for a few days and has been a bit congested so she went to bed at 10 PM.  I called Butch at 10:15 PM (8:15 MST) but he did not answer.  He does not have a voice mailbox and does not respond to text messages on his phone, so I went to bed.

 

2015/11/06 (F) MEF3

Rain was forecast for overnight with the highest probability between 4 and 7 AM.  I think we had some light rain starting a little after midnight but around 6:45 AM a front moved through with intense thunderstorms.  The heavy rain lasted at most 15 minutes, but while it was coming down I could not see past the railing on our deck.  The winds were also very intense judging by the sound and movement of the Crimson King Maple Tree next to the deck.

When we finally got up Linda checked the weather.  The storm front had already pushed into Ontario, Canada and it looked like we were done with the rain.  Temperatures will drop during the day and we have some below freezing lows coming up the next few nights, but it’s November so we can’t claim to be surprised and have no basis to complain.

Linda left around 9:45 AM to go to the supermarket.  While she was gone I worked on my iPad finishing my posts from Wednesday and yesterday.  I made a few phone calls and sent several e-mails before getting to work on the bus.

One call was to SLOAN’s in Linden to see about having the lawn tractor repaired.  The service tech said the normal turnaround this time of year is about two weeks depending what is needed and whether they have the parts on hand.  He said that if I brought it in soon and they did not get it finished before Thanksgiving they would store it for us until spring.  Given the limited space in our garage and the need to get Linda’s car in there for the winter having them store it would be a real bonus but would require the better part of day to borrow Mike’s trailer, haul the lawn tractor up there, and return the trailer to Mike.

The second call was to A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana.  Terry said the fabric was sewn for our spacer cushion and she was expecting the foam today or Monday.  Once the foam was stuffed into the fabric she would have to stitch the seam closed.  She figured it should be ready by Wednesday.

My last call was to Pat Lintner from our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter.  He and Vickie live just outside of Elkhart, Indiana and found several pieces for an old Nutone kitchen counter mounted multi-function appliance.  We have a Nutone power base in our bus that works and got a few accessories from Pat and Vickie at the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  They subsequently found more, and were going to bring them to Florida, but I let them know I would very likely be passing through Elkhart late next week and could pick them up.  Pat offered me the use of the guest room, as he always does, and I may take him up on it this time.  Given the number of places I have to stop it will likely be a very long day.

One of my e-mails was to our cabinet maker, Jarel Beatty, to update him on when I might be coming to Logansport and to see if he could/would get a 60″x60″ sheet of Baltic Birch plywood and cut it into four 30″x 30″ pieces for me.  I then e-mailed Bill Tharpe to let him know I would be in his part of Indiana late next week and would drop off the antique SUN Distributor Tester at his place in Mexico, Indiana.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat.  Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating.  Seat mounting rails (center) are visible.  Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat. Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating. Seat mounting rails (center) are visible. Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Linda got back around 11 AM and we finally got to work on bus-related projects at 11:15.  The POR-15 and black spray-on rubberized undercoating paint seemed to have dried adequately overnight but the wood I treated with Thompson’s Water Seal was still tacky.  The directions said it took 48 hours to dry but we don’t have that kind of time to wait.

We removed all of the painter’s plastic and painter’s tape from the cockpit of the bus and put it in a trash bag.  I then drilled a 1/4″ drain hole in the bottom of each tray area where water had accumulated.  The one under the passenger seat opened into a dark space but I was fairly certain it was outside the body behind the plastic wheel well trim.  I could see the driveway gravel through the driver side hole so I knew it was outside the body.

The next task was putting spray foam insulation in a few critical spots.  We did not need much for the bus so I sealed two holes in the floor of the bedroom in our house (under a couple of the baseboard radiators) and then added some around the back door frame of the garage.  Once I start using a can of this spray foam insulation I find it best to use it up.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Patching the floor under the passenger seat involved three pieces of wood.  The tray area under the plywood floor between the seat mounting channels is slightly raised along the inside edges of the channels.  I had cut a piece of 3/16″ SurePly to fit between the raised edges and slide under the existing floor towards the center of the bus.  I set it in place and slid it under the old floor while Linda and I help it up slightly with pry bars.  Because of the geometry of the situation I had to cut about six inches off of the end of this piece towards the outside of the bus.  I had notched this piece to fit around the drain line for the front AC evaporator, so it slipped in behind the first piece just right.  The third part of the patch was a piece of recycled 3/4″ plywood that I had cut yesterday to just fit between the mounting channels.  With that in place I screwed through the old wood into SurePly and screwed through the 3/4″ plywood into the SurePly and pulled it up tight.

By this time it was 1:15 PM and I was ready for lunch.  Linda made hummus and onion sandwiches and served them with tangerine halves.  A simple but delicious mid-day meal.

After lunch we worked on the driver side floor patch.  The driver side was trickier because the patch has to rest on and span structural members.  As with the passenger side I am trying to replace 1″ thick plywood without having access to material of that thickness.  The plywood sold as 3/4″ actually measures from 0.707″ to 0.717 inches in thickness.  As it turned out the combination of so-called 3/4″ plywood with the SurePly underlayment plywood was just thick enough to match the old 1″ stuff.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

I had to trim the piece of SurePly several times and drill holes for the seat mounting bolts.  The holes were not quite in the right place but I was able to trim it to my satisfaction and it was generally a good fit.  We then used it as a template for laying out the same shape on a piece of 3/4″ oak veneered plywood.

Hardwood veneered plywood is more expensive than regular fir plywood but it has more layers and is dimensionally more stable.  I had a piece that was flat and big enough to cut out the part we needed so I used it.  After some minor trimming it fit properly and lined up with the SurePly layer.  I turned them upside down, aligned them carefully, and screwed the SurePly to the underside of the 3/4″ piece.  I then installed them back into the open area.

We now needed another piece of SurePly, but it needed to be larger and a different shape.  It would be one of two pieces that would replace the 1/2″ thick top layer of plywood.  I removed the old piece from the bus after feeding two wires back through a hole.  We used the old piece as a template to outline the new piece and mark the four holes for the mounting bolts and the one for the wires.  I cut out the new piece and drilled the holes and then put it in place.  I was surprised by how much it was off.  It needed to be wider and longer and the holes were not as well aligned with the holes in the plywood below it as they needed to be.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment.  The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment. The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

SurePly is not expensive but it’s not free either.  It is relatively easy to work with, however, so making a second piece was not a big deal.  What was a big deal was the cloud cover, dropping temperature, wind, and diminishing light, all of which were making outside work more difficult and less enjoyable with each passing minute.  But we took our time and got it cut, and after some minor trimming it fit very nicely.  I did not, however, secure it, or the 1″ plywood sandwich under it, as I needed the top piece to use as a template for the final piece.  This last piece will not only cover the area under the driver’s seat, it will extend out towards the door and cover the landing.  Once I have that cut correctly I will secure the bottom sandwich and then use floor leveling compound to fill in gaps.  I will then install the last two layers of SurePly.  At that point I will need to go to Lowe’s for another sheet of SurePly to finish the passenger seat platform and will probably get two sheets just to make sure I have enough.  As much as I like going to Lowe’s and The Home Depot, each trip takes time away from actually working on the bus.

We quit working at 4:30 PM to get the tools put away before Brendan and Madeline arrived.  They got here at 5:15 PM and she was very excited to see us and be at our house.  Linda and Brendan got all of Ms. M’s stuff from the car to the house and Brendan transferred the car seat to Linda’s car.  Brendan entertained Madeline while Linda got the inflatable toddler bed set up.  Madeline went immediately for the cabinet under the sink in the hall bathroom where we keep the bandages and found one to put on.  She likes cartoon character bandages.

Brendan hung around until 6 PM and left just as Linda put dinner on the table.  He and Shawna are headed to Ajo, Arizona this weekend for a wedding.  Their flight to Phoenix leaves tomorrow morning so Madeline will be with us until Monday afternoon when Linda takes her back to her house in Ann Arbor.  Her parents’ flight is due in at 7 PM so Linda won’t be home before 9 PM that evening.

For dinner Linda made roasted potatoes and mock chicken tenders.  She and Ms. M had broccoli and peas but she was kind enough to only serve me broccoli.  I don’t think I will ever develop a taste for green peas.

By the time we finished dinner Madeline was a little tired and had a brief crying episode when I told her she could not use our bed as a trampoline.  Linda offered to let her watch an episode of Daniel Stripped Tiger and that seemed to ease her distress at having been told ‘no’ which is a very traumatic experience for her at this age.  She wanted to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth first, so Linda helped her with that.  The two of them climbed into our bed and watched the video on Shawna’s iPad while I stayed in the living room and wrote this blog post.

When the video was over Madeline wished me ‘good night’ and went quietly off to bed.  Linda and I lingered in the living room and I texted Chuck to inquire about their travels yesterday and today.  I then went to my office for a while where I updated our WordPress site, off-loaded photos from today’s work, logged in to RVillage and checked the forums of various groups, and dealt with a few e-mails.  I came back upstairs at 9:45 PM and we were in bed by 10 PM where I finished the draft of this post.

 

2015/11/01 (N) Brunch with Kathi, Farewell to Uncle Bob

We switched from Eastern Daylight Time back to Eastern Standard Time overnight.  It was 11:30 PM when I turned off the lights and 7:30 AM when I got up, and since I had not reset my nightstand clock I got my eight hours of beauty rest.  I put my robe on and started setting all of the clocks back one hour.  We have a LOT of clocks.

My cell phone adjusts automatically, as do the computers and satellite linked thermometers.  I reset the clocks in the microwave, range, and coffee maker, and stopped the grandfather clock, which is only supposed to be advanced, to let the time catch up to the setting.  I reset the clock on our phone system, the clock on my night stand, and on two of our thermostats.  The Wi-Fi thermostat already had the correct time so it may have adjusted automatically or perhaps was never changed to EDT last spring.  We have three battery powered clocks that I did not reset as I wanted to change the batteries and the incorrect time would serve as a reminder that I had not yet done that.  I still need to check the clocks in the two digital cameras, as I like to have correct time stamps on my photos, and there are five clocks in the motorcoach that need to be reset.  We have a lot of clocks, but I quit wearing a wrist watch when I retired.  I always have my phone with me anyway, and it usually knows what time it is in whatever time zone I happen to be in.

While I was in the basement I checked e-mail, replied to one from Gary at BCM, and then cleaned the cats’ litter tray.  Linda was up by then so I made coffee.  I turned on the fireplace and we settled in the living room to read, write, and savor our morning brew.

Kathi Slater, a long-time friend who Linda hired on at the bakery some years ago, came to our house today for brunch.  I think it was only her second visit since we moved to this house but then most of our friends have been here at most once, if at all.  Family members visit more often, of course, but that does not mean frequently.  John/Dianne Rauch and Steve/Karen Limkemann have been here the most, along with Mike Sharpe (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group.  Philip Jarrell of Precision Grading, and Keith Kish of Kish Lawn Care, have been the most frequent people here on business, along with Kerry Fear, who does our snow plowing, and Darryl Mech of DMC Heating and Cooling, who did a lot of work for us when we converted from propane to natural gas.  We do not, however, feel isolated here.  We are getting to know a few of our neighbors and we are only minutes away from three communities full of people and shopping options.  Both of our children and their families are only 30 to 45 minutes away as are the northwest suburbs of Detroit where some of our friends still live.  But most days we live quiet, undisturbed lives at our home in the country, and we like it that way.

Linda and Kathi had “things” to discuss that did not involve or concern me, so after brunch I busied myself with other things.  After checking e-mail I started downloading an update to Adobe Photoshop CC (2015).  These downloads are huge and very slow so I left it to run.  Chuck texted me and arranged to pick up his eight gallons of oil around noon.  We chatted briefly when he arrived and he took a second look at our water intrusion problem.  After he left I went to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store in Howell to buy grease.  Joe told me to get two tubes of the best stuff I could find, synthetic if possible.  O’Reilly’s had Mobil 1 synthetic grease for almost twice the price of anything else on the shelf so I bought three tubes and used my $5 off reward card.  Lowe’s was right across the street so I popped in there and got three boxes of Scott blue paper shop towels.  I use a lot of these when working on the bus.

When I got home I changed into my work clothes and got to work on the bus.  I stayed on that task the rest of the afternoon except for a few short breaks.  The first break was for linner.  The second break was to start the bus engine, raise the body, put the stands under it, set the body on the stands, and dump the air from the suspension.  The third break was to say “goodbye” to Kathi and the forth break was for another brief visit from Chuck to pick up a bus engine oil filter from me.

In the course of the afternoon I managed to cut out most the rotten water-damaged wood from the floor in the driver’s area of the bus cockpit.  Cleaning up the metal and protecting it, providing a drain for the water, and then patching in the floor is going to take several days.  Finding and plugging the entry point may not happen.  It’s November 1st and I only have about three (3) weeks to get the bus put back together to the point where we can use it this winter.  The reservations are made, winter is coming, and we are out of here before the calendar turns to December.

When I wrapped up work in the bus around 5:30 PM I had been using a two-tube fluorescent work light for an hour.  By the time I set the thermostats back, and changed the time on the microwave and the battery powered clock in the living room, it was approaching 6 PM and it was dark outside.

Linda made broccoli soup from scratch for dinner.  It was a mild, subtle dish and we both had seconds along with a few crackers and strawberry preserves.  I called Butch after dinner to update him on the floor situation in the bus and get his opinion on my idea of filling the “tray” with expanding foam.  After talking it through I decided it might be the best idea I ever had.

While I was talking to Butch I got a call from Joe and handed the house phone off to Linda.  Joe was northbound on I-275 in Michigan.  He was at most an hour from our house but getting ready to stop for the night.  He wanted to be close enough to Chuck’s house to get there easily by 7 AM and did not want to backtrack the 20 miles from our place.  As we say in ham radio “QSL” (I understand).

I got the phone back from Linda and was continuing my conversation with Butch when I got a call from a 405 area code number that showed up as “unavailable.”  I don’t usually answer those calls but they left a message and called back about 12 minutes later.  I had not even checked the message yet but figured it was someone actually trying to reach me so I gave the house phone back to Linda and took the call.  It was my nephew (by marriage), Philip Pelton, calling to let me know that my Uncle Bob had passed away a couple of hours earlier.  He was also looking for a phone number for my dad.

Bob was my dad’s younger brother by two years, his only sibling and my only Uncle, my mother having been an only child.  Bob was 88.  Linda and I saw him in April on our way home from our winter in the desert southwest.  Bob had Parkinson’s disease and was in a rehab center near his home fighting an infection.  He did not look at all well to us at the time so I was not really surprised by Philip’s call.  According to Philip, Bob had developed pneumonia in both lungs shortly after we were there and the doctors were never able to cure it.  He was at home when his blood oxygen dropped, he lapsed into unconsciousness, and expired.

Uncle Bob was an interesting and unusual guy.  He had a Ph.D. in micropaleontology and was a brilliant geologist.  Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, he moved to Oklahoma and spent his entire career studying the geology of that state.  He developed an interest in genealogy somewhere along the way, and did some significant research on the various branches of our family.  He married Helen Pelton, second marriages for both, but never had children of his own.  Helen had one son, Scott, who passed away some years ago, survived by his mother, ex-wife Linda, two children, Tiffany and Philip, Tiffany’s three daughters, and Philip’s son and daughter.  He was known to all of them as Papa (PawPaw) and they obviously adored each other.  We only had a few visits with him over the years but they were always very interesting.

We wrapped up the call with Butch and I called my sister.  Philip had already reached her but we had a long chat.  She reported that our father is doing better and has recovered somewhat from his stroke of a couple of months ago.  My grand-niece, Lilly, is having short seizures again, which is concerning to say the least.  The doctor has adjusted her medication but it will take a week to see if the higher dose is effective or they need to move to a different drug.  Lilly is six weeks younger than Madeline and just the sweetest little girl you can imagine.  It is most unfair to her, and her parents, to have to deal with these seizures.

I went to my office and downloaded e-mails (which were painfully slow).  I had two in our general contact account, which I do not check every day.  They were both from BCM readers letting me know that they enjoyed my articles and actually found them useful.  I replied to both and answered their questions as best I could.  I then logged into RVillage.  We had one message, which I responded to, and 153 notifications.  The vast majority were from the Comic Relief group and I think I will have to turn off notifications for that, and perhaps other, groups.  In retrospect I should have created a separate e-mail account for RVillage, but I didn’t.

 

2015/10/17 (S) First Snow

Last night we removed the dining table from the back of my car and put it on the bed in the bus.  We then removed the two rear seats and put them in the garage.  We wanted the back of the Honda Element empty when we got up this morning as we do not usually have time to spare in the morning before driving to South Lyon for breakfast with the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.

It’s always good to see our fellow hams and today was no exception.  We arrived just before 8 AM and stayed for over an hour.  We left around 9:15 and drove to Chuck’s shop in Novi to get the box with the two remaining lower windshields for our bus.  Chuck was already there and helped us load the box into the car.  The box was sized to hold five windshields but only had two in it so it was light enough for us to move by hand.  I knew it would fit in my car as we had measured it on a previous visit and I had checked the dimensions against the car.  We set one end on the tailgate, lifted the other end, and slid it in.  We chatted for a while, and looked at a project Chuck is working in for new front window shades, before heading home.

Phil was not at our house when we got home but he had obviously been there.  All of the concrete, and many of the rocks and boulders, were gone from the driveway extension area so I presumed he had loaded them in his truck and hauled them away.

The Converted Coach Owners (CCO) Halloween Rally was going on this weekend and today was the main day for activities.  We had intended/hoped to go to the rally but the progress on our bus remodeling has slowed over the last couple of weeks for various reasons, all legitimate, and it was not in a condition to travel or be used.  It’s not that things are not getting done; they are, just not as fast as we would like or need them to.  Among other things I have not yet secured the refrigerator and pantry.  We thought about driving over in the car but it was over two hours one way and we needed to spend what time we had available working on the bus and could not justify being gone.  Thanksgiving does not look/feel that far away anymore.  It also seemed ill-advised to be gone while Phil is here digging up the yard.

My main bus focus for today was completing the installation of the built-in sofa.  We had already set the plywood seat board on a blanket on the bus kitchen floor so I had access to the inside of the base/storage box.  I did not need Linda’s assistance for a while so she worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  Before starting on the sofa, however, I took care of a few other minor things.

First I replaced the alkaline batteries in the TempMinder thermometers with Lithium ones.  I then reset the minimum and maximum temperatures for the two remote sensors.  Sensor #1 monitors the freezer and sensor #2 monitors the fresh food compartment of the bus refrigerator.  The directions for the TempMinder suggest using Lithium batteries if the remote sensors will be in cold environments.

Next I got a piece of scrap SurePly underlayment to see how it would fit in the rabbited wood trim on the lower outside wall of the hallway.  I inserted it fully into a corner and marked the edges with a pencil.  It is approximately 3/16″ thick and fit nicely without being too tight.  With a layer of veneer it should be just right.  When I removed it the depth of the rabbits appeared to be 5/16″ to 3/8″.  I think the underlayment will make a nice base for hardwood veneer.  I will cut the panels 1/2″ wider (22-1/2″) and 1/2″ longer (28″) than the 22″ X 27-1/2″ dimensions of the framed opening and allow them to “float” just like a frame and panel door.

My last mini-task was locating the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood we removed from the old refrigerator and measuring it to see if we had pieces big enough to panel the damaged area on the wall by the co-pilot seat.  I was pleased to find that the remaining pieces are large enough for this application.

By now it was 12:30 PM and my phone reminded me that we had an RVillage Ambassadors webinar/meeting at 1 PM.  Linda heated up some Amy’s Vegetable Bean Soup and made hot lentil loaf sandwiches with ketchup.  Yum.  We got our first snow flurries of the 2015-16 winter season during lunch and they continued off and on through the afternoon.  We moved to Michigan in May 1976.  It snowed on October 15th that year and we had snow on the ground every day until early April 1977.  While that has not held up over the years as a “typical” southeast Michigan winter it was very different from what we grew up with in Missouri and formed our first and most lasting impression of our adopted state.

I retrieved the link for the Go To Meeting from the RVillage website and put it in my web browser.  1 PM came and went with no meeting.  The meeting notice said “Saturday, October 17 at 10 AM PST” but they had clarified that was actually 10 AM PDT, which is 1 PM EDT.  We decided that perhaps they really meant PST, which would be 2 PM our time.  We tried again an hour later, but no meeting ever commenced.

When I finally got to work in the bus on the sofa I removed six screws, three each from two angle brackets, and pulled the entire base assembly out from the wall, giving me complete access to the HVAC duct and wiring chase.  Much of the final installation of the sofa involved this duct.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

The ends of the plywood seat rest on two boxes with open ends that also serve as plenums for air from the OTR HVAC system ducts.  I needed to cut out rectangular openings in the vertical face of the duct to allow air into the back end of these boxes.  I used a 1/2″ drill to create starter holes at the corners of the openings and then used a manual sheet metal nibbler and a drill-powered reciprocating nibbler, both of which I borrowed from Chuck a few weeks ago, to cut out the sheet metal.  The two tools work differently but they both worked well and I was glad I had both of them for this task.  The powered nibbler created a lot of small metal debris so I vacuumed the whole work area very thoroughly when I was done nibbling.

The right (forward) end of the duct also had an extra hole in it where I did not need or want one.  I removed an old sheet metal patch plate and cut a new one to cover the area I needed to close off.  I ended up having to pre-drill holes as I spun the heads off two of my cheap sheet metal screws.  I had a heck of a time getting the shafts out, but I got it done.  This was just one more example of why seemingly simple projects always take longer than they should.

Phil returned while I was working on the sofa and continued trenching in the French drain.  I stopped to chat with him briefly and Linda came out to let me know she was headed to the grocery store.  I then got back to my own tasks and let Phil get back to his.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The open fronts of the two plenum boxes are attached to the inside of the vertical front support, which is 3/4″ walnut veneered plywood.  To get the air out of the boxes and into the coach my design called for brown plastic 4″ round louvered diffusers.  They are considered “four inch” because the two inch long cylindrical pipe on the back will just fit through a 4″ diameter circular hole.  (A 4″ flexible duct, like dryer duct, will also just fit over the pipe.)  The visible part of the diffuser is actually 5-1/2″ in diameter.

The inside width of the plenum boxes is 4-1/4″ by design.  I needed to center a 4″ hole within that space so I had to locate the center point for my 4″ hole saw very accurately side-to-side.  I also wanted the hole centered vertically.  Using my small square I marked the vertical midpoint on the edge of the front plywood at each end.  I then measured in 2-13/16″ from the midpoint mark and used my spring-loaded center punch to mark the center of the hole.   [The 2-13/16″ dimension came from half the inside width, or 2-1/8″, plus the thickness of the plywood used to make the plenums, or 11/16″.]

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

I stood the boxes on their back ends so the front board was horizontal.  I straddled the front board with my legs to hold it and drilled starter holes with a #6 countersink bit.  I then drilled the 4″ holes with a 4″ hole saw using my 1/2″ Craftsman corded drill, being careful to have the pilot bit in the starter holes and drill perpendicular to the face of the plywood.  I have had this drill for 37 years.  It is very powerful and has several ways it can be gripped quite securely.  It is large, heavy, and lacks the convenience of a cordless drill but when I need to use a bit with a 1/2″ shaft and/or need the torque, this is still the drill for the job.  The hole saw created some sawdust so I vacuumed the whole area thoroughly when I was done drilling.

I was just finishing this work when Linda got back from the grocery store.  She put the groceries away and came out to see if I needed any assistance.  I already had the roll of plastic screen in the bus and she got the Gorilla Tape from the garage.  I cut pieces of the screen large enough to cover the two rectangular openings in the HVAC duct and used lengths of Gorilla Tape to secure them.  We then slid the base/storage assembly back into position, pushed it tight to the HVAC duct, and reattached it to the wood wire chase on top of the duct.  The two support boxes and the return air box have foam weather stripping on the back edges to seal against the duct.

We picked the plywood seat up off of the kitchen floor and set it back in place but did not secure it.  We left it out several inches from its original position and got a seat and back cushion from the bedroom.  We experimented with different spacings and finally agreed that we need to have the seat out 4-3/4″ farther than originally designed.  The current hinge board is 11/16″ plywood, 2-3/4″ wide by just under 78″ long.  This board is screwed to the top of the wiring chase and to one side of the 72″ piano hinge.  I will replace it with a piece that is 7-1/2″ wide by the same length.  I will also have to provide some additional support for the seat side of the piano hinge as in the original design had both sides of the hinge resting on top of the wiring chase on top of the HVAC duct.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory.  This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory. This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

That was the end of the interior bus work for today.  By the time we were done Phil had driven his front-loader onto his flat-bed trailer and secured it so it appeared he was wrapping up for the day.  I chatted with him about the project for 30 minutes before he left.  Earlier in the afternoon I had found my site plan drawings for the bus barn and agreed to stake out the driveway tomorrow so we could review it first thing Monday morning.

Linda had invited Meghan and Chris for brunch tomorrow but it was not a good weekend for them as the Michigan vs Michigan State football game was taking place in Ann Arbor.  Chris manages the Pizza House restaurant, and being away on football Saturday is not an option.  They will come next Sunday (31st) instead.

For dinner Linda made a nice salad of mixed greens with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and diced onions dressed with raspberry vinaigrette.  The main course was pan-fried polenta with vegan puttanesca sauce.  It held its heat to the last bite and was very satisfying on a cold evening.  I opened a bottle of Cupcake Black Forest red wine.  We have had it before and, although drier than I prefer, it went well with the meal.

After dinner I got my flashlight and checked the bus for axle/hub seal leaks by looking under the bus from the opposite side to see the inside of the wheels.  I did not see anything to suggest a problem on any of the six positions and will text that information to Joe tomorrow for planning purposes as he would require a second day to work on the seals if that was needed.

We spent the last couple of hours of the day in the living room, with the fireplace turned on, reading, writing, and playing games while enjoying some red grapes for dessert.  Linda got a text from her sister-in-law, Mary, with a photo of her and Ron “standing on ‘the’ corner in Winslow, Arizona.”  Ron has been retired for many years but Mary only recently retired and they are on their first extended camping trip in their A-liner trailer and their first trip to the southwest U.S.

We went to bed around 10 PM.  Linda fell asleep quickly while I divided my attention between cooking shows on the Detroit PBS Create channel, a concert by Eric Clapton on PBS, and working on this post.

 

2015/10/15 (R) Camera Software Updates

We had breakfast and coffee as usual but Linda had to leave at 9 AM for a 10 o’clock meeting at the bakery.  I had the fireplace on and hot coffee in my cup so I just stayed put in the living room in my warm winter robe.  I was finishing yesterday’s post when I got a call from Joe Cannarozzi looking for Chuck Spera’s phone number.  My N/A/P book is in my phone so after we were done talking I looked it up and texted it back to him.

After wrapping up yesterday’s blog post and starting today’s I spent a little time with the manual for the new Sony a99v DSLT camera and added a BC-VM10 battery charger to my B&H Photo cart.  Around 10:15 AM I made a follow up phone call to John Palmer at Palmer Energy Systems regarding the terminal block for the Magnum Energy Battery Monitor Kit (BMK).  John had not had a chance to talk to anyone from Magnum and indicated that his main contacts were away at a trade show.  He will still try to follow up with them but thought I might do just as well calling them directly.  They are in Washington State but are relocating to Minnesota as a result of being purchased by Sensata Technologies so I deferred the call until later today.  John said their phone and e-mail contact information had not changed yet, but he thought it might eventually as a result of the sale to Sensata and relocation to Minnesota.

There wasn’t much I could do with the desk in the bus without Linda’s help so I gathered up the laundry and started a load.  I then worked in my office for a while.  I was going to off-load photos from both the Sony a100 and Sony a99v but the Play Memories Home software indicated that updates were available and certain features (social media website interaction) required the newest version.  While I do not plan to interact with social media very much, photographically, I might want to at some point.  Besides, I like to have my software as up-to-date as possible.

The version that came on the CD-ROM was 1.03.something and the latest version from Sony’s website was 5.03.something, so my camera body was probably sitting at B&H Photo for quite a while.  The installer was a 15.6 MB download and program was a lot bigger than that.  It took over an hour to download, install, and then re-scan all of the images in the PICTURE folder, even though it just did this on Tuesday.  While I was waiting I got a solicitation from the Michigan VFW and agreed to send them a small donation of $10.

Rather than sit and stare at my computer screen I got the mail and then called Magnum Energy and asked for technical support.  I was caller number six in line to talk to someone so I selected the return call option from their menu and left my name.  Their system had already captured my phone number but had me confirm it.

One of the things I need to do with the new Sony a99v camera is figure out whether my old flash equipment can be used with it.  I found my Sunpak ring flash, my Metz CT-45, and my two Quantum Turbo gel cell battery packs.  The battery packs had their chargers connected so I set them up in the ham shack and plugged them in.

Linda called at 3 PM to let me know she was just leaving the bakery and planned to stop at Meijer’s.  That meant we would not be finishing the desk installation until tomorrow.  At that point I had not yet heard back from Magnum Energy; so much for being number six in line for a call back.

Debris piled where the new driveway extension will go.  Phil’s truck and large excavator in the distance on the road at the discharge end of the culvert.

Debris piled where the new driveway extension will go. Phil’s truck and large excavator in the distance on the road at the discharge end of the culvert.

I was just about to return to my office when Phil Jarrell showed up at 3:10 PM.  I put on my outdoor work shoes and sweatshirt and went out to join him.  We looked at the discharge end of the culvert and agreed on a game plan.  He unloaded his excavator with the 30″ toothed bucket attached, drove it back into the woods well beyond the end of the metal culvert, turned it around, and brought it back towards the culvert.  Phil’s Caterpillar excavator is a powerful machine and he was able to dig the large root loose that was blocking the outlet of the culvert.  He then dug a trench back from there for about 20 feet, clearing out lots of other stuff as he went, and then stopped.

Linda got home at 4 PM after deciding not to stop at Meijer’s after all.  I walked back to the house and suggested she come see what Phil was doing.  She did and then went back inside to do some bakery-related work at her computer.

A closer view of Phil’s truck and excavator.  He can move a lot of dirt, rock, and anything else he wants with this thing.

A closer view of Phil’s truck and excavator. He can move a lot of dirt, rock, and anything else he wants with this thing.

Phil used a shovel to clean out the end of the culvert, which was already filled with mud, so he could determine the elevation of the top and bottom of the discharge end of the culvert.  He then set up his laser level and started taking readings.  The 12″ diameter culvert drops 9 inches from the high end to the low end.  Phil said a 2″ drop would have been sufficient and the 9″ drop is actually a problem.  If it only dropped two inches most of the discharge end would be above grade.  But that is not the situation so we started working our way into the woods checking the elevation as we went.

The excavator positioned in the woods digging the large root out from in front of the discharge end of the culvert under the road.

The excavator positioned in the woods digging the large root out from in front of the discharge end of the culvert under the road.

By sighting down the center of the road in front of our house I determined roughly where the property line was.  Phil determined that if we continued trenching straight out from the culvert to the property line we would be out a total distance of about 50 feet and would be seven inches below the bottom of the inlet side of the culvert.  He also pointed out the soil he had already dug was very sandy and should drain well.  The fact that this whole wooded area had grass growing in it provided further evidence that it drained well.  A high clay soil would have held water and created an inhospitable environment for grass.

It was well past 5 PM and with the cloudy skies the light was fading so Phil did not want to go any farther today.  He also needed to get fuel in his front loader so it was ready to go first thing tomorrow.  He parked the excavator where it was out of the way and locked it before taking off.

 

 

The discharge end of the culvert with tree roots, dirt, and other debris cleared out of the way.

The discharge end of the culvert (dark hole center right) with tree roots, dirt, and other debris cleared out of the way.  The light gray horizonal stripe at the top of the screen is the road.

Linda made a wonderful pasta dish for dinner.  She used a whole wheat linguini and added it to a sauté of EVOO, garlic, onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, greens, and Brussels sprouts.  Yup, Brussels sprouts in pasta.  It was a first for me and it was very good.  Earlier in the week she had picked up a couple of bottles of Barefoot Moscato at the store, one white and the other red, so I opened the red.  It was sweet, of course, but we both liked it and thought it went well with the pasta which was all savory ingredients.

After dinner I returned to my office and finally connected the new Sony SLT-A99V camera to my computer and transferred images to my laptop as I had set out to do this morning.  After completing the transfer I formatted both cards, changed the file system to create daily date folders, and set the USB transfer mode to Mass Storage.  I registered the body, vertical grip, batteries, battery charger, and SD memory cards along with the old Sony alpha 100 body and lens (DSLR-A100K) and then created entries in our password program with all of the relevant details.

The packaging for the SD cards indicated that there were two free software programs available to support the cards so I went to the referenced website.  One program was Memory Card Data Recovery and the other was X-Pict Story.  The purpose of the data recovery program is self-evident.  X-Pict Story is used to create slide shows.

Both programs required proof that I had qualifying media in the form of model and serial numbers in order to even download them.  I got the packaging for one of the SDXC UHS-1 memory cards and looked it over very carefully but could find either piece of information.  I took the cards out of the camera but could not see any identifying information on them.  I got my magnifying lens hood and with that extreme magnification I was able to just make out a model number (SF-64UY) on one side and 8-digit serial number on the other.

As long as I was in front of my computer I checked into RVillage and went through a dozen and a half notifications and “liked” or commented on a few.  There was an Ambassadors virtual meeting today 2 PM PDT (5 PM EDT but we were busy.  There is another one on Saturday at 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT) and we will try to arrange our day so we can participate.

I spent some more time researching harness systems for holding cameras in front of me.  I think the 2-camera harness from Cotton Carriers may be just what I am looking for.  I was having trouble navigating their website using my iPad2 so I will look at their products more closely on the computer tomorrow.  I will also investigate whether I can order their products through Amazon or be better off ordering directly from the company.

Linda stayed up reading past 11:30 PM which is unusual for her.  I finished this post just after midnight but will look it over again in the morning before e-mailing it to myself.  Lights out; big day tomorrow with lots to try and get done.

 

2015/20/04 (N) Family Trees

I was awake at 7 AM and got up at 7:20, showered, shaved, and dressed for the upcoming visit by our son, daughter-in-law, and younger grand-daughter.  We did not have breakfast, as they were bringing bagels with them, but I did make a small pot of coffee to get the day started.  While it was brewing I gathered up a load of laundry and put it in the washing machine.

We finally turned the furnace on a couple of days ago so the house was cool but comfortable.  Even so we turned on the fireplace and enjoyed our coffee while we awaited our visitors.  Brendan sent a text message indicating a 9:30 AM arrival and it was only a few minutes later than that when they showed up.  Today’s visit was the result of specific request by Madeline yesterday to see her Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.  She will be coming back on Friday after pre-school/day-care and spending the night.  She is then going to go see her Grandma B and Cliff in Denver while her mom attends a conference.

Brendan and Shawna brought five bagels, one for each of us, with cream cheese and lox for them and hummus for us.  They also brought sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.  We provided our Melt non-dairy butter substitute, a large pot of Kenya AA (single origin) coffee, orange juice, a bowl of mixed fruit, and a bowl of honeydew melon.  It was a wonderful mid-morning breakfast.

After breakfast the adults took turns playing with Madeline.  At one point Brendan reminded her to ask me something and what followed was a request to take a tour of the bus.  So we did!  Madeline is not yet 3 years old, and the bus does not really mean anything to her yet, but Brendan and Shawna wanted to see the work we had done.  We are looking forward to taking Madeline with us for short trips when she is a little older.

Madeline normally takes a nap at 1 PM and Shawna was a bit tired too so they packed up and left around 12:30 PM and drove back to Ann Arbor.  There was a “block party” taking place later this afternoon for their block and they wanted to rest before it started.

We needed to get some yard work done yet today so we changed into our work clothes.  I moved the laundry to the dryer and then got busy figuring out how to start and operate the new Poulan Pro 18″ chain saw.  The quick start guide had 10 steps, numbered and clearly illustrated.  I followed the steps carefully and it started right up.  We gathered up our rake, hand saw, wheelbarrow, and compound pruning shears along with a face shield, safety glasses, hearing protector, and heavy canvas work gloves and headed down to where the dead tree fell across the road a few days ago.

The tree fell across the road and had been moved out of the road by a neighbor shortly after it fell.  I had gone out a little while after that and cleaned up the limbs on the other side of the road and the small debris that was still in the road.  The tree, however, was still in the ditch along the side of the road and need to be cut up and moved.  Phil said he would take it and dispose of it if we cut it into pieces not longer than five feet and piled it by all the other timber and yard debris.

This turned out to be just the first of five trees that we cut up this afternoon.  Once the first tree was done we cut down a second one that was still standing but very dead and leaning out towards the road.  Better to take it down now than have it fall during the winter.  This tree was only 20 feet from the first one and not quite as tall, the top having broken off some time long ago.  These were both ash trees, killed by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.  It saddened me that all of this wonderful ash timber was going to a landfill instead of a sawmill, but we had no practical way to turn it into usable lumber.

While Linda acted as spotter for cars I made a “V” cut about three feet above the ground on the side where it was going to fall and then made a relief cut on the back side until it toppled under its own weight.  Once it was down I quickly cut it into shorter pieces and Linda got them off the road.

As long as we were working along the edge of the road I decided to prune or remove a few other saplings, bushes, vines, and deadfall so that Keith could mow the grass in the drainage ditch.  That turned out to be quite a bit of extra work but it needed to be done.  We encountered two different bushes with serious thorns and had to work carefully.  Without gloves, eye protection, and heavy weight long sleeve clothing and blue jeans it would have been dangerous and painful.

There is a complex of vines that runs all through this stand of trees.  We cut a lot of smaller runners and pulled them free form the other growth but I cut several at ground level that were at least 3″ in diameter.  A thorough cleaning and restoration of this particular stand of trees will take more time than we have to spend right now, but perhaps we can get some of this kind of work done next spring and early summer along with finishing the interior of the bus and redoing the water bay.

We have had a large tree down at the west end of our property for quite a while, and Keith has just been mowing around it, so we moved all of our equipment down there and worked on that area of the yard.  There were a lot of other small limbs scattered about and dead/broken branches hanging in several trees.  We gathered up the smaller stuff and cut it into manageable lengths and wheelbarrowed it to the disposal pile.  I then used the chain saw to remove the larger limbs and cut the tree up into four foot lengths.  It was 10 inches in diameter at the base and 30 feet long before we cut it up.  There is also a lot of pruning that needs to be done to the trees in this part of the yard, and some of it will require the pole saw and/or a ladder, and/or some careful climbing; but not today.

With that area cleaned up we moved our gear to the firepit (burn pile).  We have had a conifer tree on the ground next to the firepit for the entire summer and, once again, Keith has had to mow around it.  This tree was about 6 inches in diameter at the base and 20 feet long.  Linda found a second, smaller, tree and dragged it over.  I pruned all of the smaller limbs with the compound shears and then used the chain saw to cut off the larger branches and cut the trunk up into four foot lengths.  Rather than transport all of this material to the disposal pile we added it to the burn pile.  The pile is now about eight feet in diameter and four feet high so it should make quite a fire when we finally light it up.  I think we will wait for a chilly fall day to do that, if we get to it at all this year.  The longer the pile sits here the more of a problem it will be, however, as small animals will undoubtedly use it for shelter and to build nests.

It was 4 PM when we quit and we had only worked for three hours but it was very physical work and we were tired, or at least tired enough that we were not going to start working in the bus at that point.  By the time I cleaned off the chainsaw and we put all of the tools away it was 4:30 PM.  We changed out of our work clothes and I added them to my second load of laundry for the day.  We sat in the living room reading and writing for an hour or so until Linda pulled together our dinner.  In the interest of time she microwaved a couple of sweet potatoes (yams), steamed some Brussels sprouts, heated the last two mock chicken scaloppini, and poured a couple of glasses of Franzia Moscato.

After dinner I tended to the laundry and then settled in to work at my desk for a while.  I logged in to RVillage and saw that Curtis had posted in the Stakeholders group that he was holding Go To Meeting sessions today at 9 AM and 5 PM PDT.  That was noon and 8 PM EDT.  We had obviously missed the noon meeting, and would have anyway with company here but as it was only 7 PM we could still participate in the evening meeting.  We had an hour to wait so I decided to start uploading blog posts starting with August 1st.

I uploaded the posts for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, including a few photos, but something did not seem right as the photos did not corresponded to the posts.  I checked more carefully and observed that I had renamed photos from early September with early August dates.  I quickly edited the two posts that included photos and deleted the images from the posts.  I am two months behind again uploading posts and having to go back and select/process photos for my August posts will only delay the uploading further.  Ugh.

I launched Go To Meeting at 7:55 PM EDT and let Linda know it was time for the meeting.  Curtis was already online and we eventually had eight stakeholders checked in, some of which were individuals and some of which were couples.  Curtis, the founder and CEO of RVillage, gave us an update on recent development work, new features to be released next week, monetization of the site, and the progress of the current round of investor financing.  The meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

I was glad I caught the error with the photos for my blog but I was not in the humor to spend hours working on fixing it this evening.  Linda cut a couple of pieces of the vegan frozen chocolate torte that she made last weekend and that was reason enough to quit working at my computer for the evening.  We spent an hour relaxing in the living room eating our torte while reading and writing.  Yesterday Phil said he would call this evening and let us know whether he would be here tomorrow or at another 2-day job, but he did not call.

When we finally turned in a little before 10 PM we watched TV for a while before turning out the lights.  We caught the last half of a program on the glass blowing school at Pilchuck and “A Woman in Battle” about a Cuban born woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Civil War on the Confederate side but ultimately became a Union spy.  Tomorrow we hang wallpaper in the bus and we will need to be well rested so it was lights out by 11 PM.

 

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.

 

2015/08/13 (R) Sanding Success

Linda was scheduled to go into the bakery today but knew before we went to bed last night that the visit was postponed.  That was just as well; we were very tired from our long day yesterday and slept in this morning.

Before I even had a chance to make coffee I spotted wild turkeys by the road in our easternmost driveway entrance.  They walked past the east end of the house into our backyard.  They hung around by the deer block for quite a while so we had a good long look at them and I took a few pictures.  There was a big tom, a younger/smaller tom, and a half-dozen hens, one with a surprisingly small chick for this late in the season.  The turkeys eventually moved on and we got back to our normal routine.  While I made the coffee Linda made her own version of raisin, date, walnut oatmeal with some quick oats that she had in the pantry.  It was very good.

We read for a bit but I needed to finish the blog posts for the last several days and Linda needed to return some items to the Howell Library and run a couple other errands.  While working on the blog post for yesterday I realized that we had not loaded all of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  I checked the pieces we had against the drawings, which we should have done yesterday, and confirmed that we were missing the two top pieces (E) for the support boxes (HVAC plenums) and the top piece (H) for the return air plenum.  I texted Jarel and he replied quickly that he would try to take care of it in time for me to drive back down on Wednesday to pick up them up.  It’s a 12-17 hour, 550 mile day, for me and costs about $60 in gasoline, so hopefully he will have the pantry done by then as well.

Linda got word from our son via TXT message that Shawna’s father, Mick, had passed away.  He had an aggressive but non-cancerous brain tumor that did respond to two separate surgeries and was moved to hospice care about two weeks ago.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline are cutting their vacation short by a day to head to the Grand Rapids area but are still leaving Tuesday to fly to Denver to visit Shawna’s mother, Carol, and her husband, Cliff.  It appears that a memorial service may be in the works for the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd, in which case we will probably drive over.

My sister tried to call me today.  Linda was on the house phone quite a bit today with bakery-related business so Patty tried my cell phone but did not leave a message.  I was working in the bus at the time, did not have it with me, and Linda could not find it in time when it was ringing.  Being deaf in one ear she cannot locate where sounds are coming from.  She does a little better when she uses her BAHA, but rarely wears it around the house.  I called my sister back and left a message and she eventually called me back and we got to talk.

Our father, who is 90, had been admitted to a hospital near where he lives.  The staff said he appeared to have severe dementia, but he was fine (for his age) just a couple of weeks ago, so I suspected a stroke or some other sudden change.  Patty sent me a text latter that the CAT scan of his brain revealed two recent lesions (last few weeks), the telltale sign of two strokes.  She also said he was being transferred to Missouri Baptist Hospital, which is much closer to where she lives, for further care.

Those two pieces of news certainly put a damper on the day, and may cause an adjustment in my plans if I have to travel to St. Louis.  In the meantime there is stuff that has to get done, so even though it was warm today and I wasn’t really in the humor, I kept working in the bus, off and on.  I vacuumed up loose material, including inside the bases of cabinets, and then cleaned the wiring in the refrigerator alcove with Lysol.  I decided to make a template for the refrigerator alcove plywood base filler panels so I could cut them the right size/shape on the first try.  I then used one of the new ceramic sanding belts on the residual thin-set and mastic, and it worked!  My sense of hope was renewed that I will be able to install the new floor correctly.

By 7 PM I was feeling drained so I wrapped up my work and took a shower.  For dinner Linda made pan-grilled BBQ tofu with caramelized onions and served it open faced on a hamburger bun with a side of fresh steamed asparagus.  It was delicious.

After dinner I went to Lowe’s and The Home Depot in search of several items but only ended up buying another 36 grit sanding belt.  I needed floor leveling compound but was not prepared to choose between their limited options.  I also needed a self-centering drill bit but neither store had them.  Lowe’s and THD really are focused on the tools and materials one needs to work on a house and its surrounding property.  Things like self-centering drill bits, though useful for things like drilling holes for door hinges, are really cabinet-making tools.  As big as these stores are they can’t, and don’t, sell everything.

I talked to Butch on the drive home.  The self-centering drill bit that Jarel recommended for installing the pull-out pantry slides is a Vix and Butch suggested four places where I could buy it:  Rockler, Custom Service Hardware, McFeeley’s, and Grizzly’s.  Before ordering one I need to e-mail or text Jarel and ask him what size screw I need to mount the pull-out pantry extension slides.

Back home I thought of four other things I could have bought while I was out so I added them to my list.  I then went to my office and worked on blog posts, updated the BCM Group page on RVillage, e-mailed Gary Hatt at BCM, responded to an e-mail from Howard (PlayaDog) re: screens for sliding bus windows, and started downloading Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 updates.  Jack Conrad had responded to my earlier e-mail asking if he knew what was going on with the Arcadia rally and I sent him a reply.  By the time I dealt with all that I was ready to recline and rest.

 

2015/06/08 (M) Home for a While

It rained until well after midnight last night.  The rain was not steady but more in the form of heavy downpours associated with thunderstorms.  The gutter along the rear of our house was not able to handle the volume of water and it was spilling over onto our deck making a sound that we are not used to.  I noted that I should check the gutters for clogs at the downspouts today.  My phone chirped, which meant I had an e-mail, and I presumed it was from our whole house generator.  When I got up this morning the clocks on the microwave and range were flashing “2:06”, so my first thought was that we must have taken a power hit then, but the messages on my phone indicated that utility power had been lost and restored around 3:45 AM; at least that was the date/time stamp on the e-mails.  I got up just before 6 AM and finally figured out that the clocks probably reset to 00:00 when the power blipped (3:45 AM + 2:06 elapsed time = 5:51 AM).

I sat in the living room writing with my iPad and playing games until a little after 7 AM and then made coffee, which got Linda out of bed.  We had planned to empty out more of the bus today but the weather was gloomy and we were tired from the rally so we had a long, leisurely morning before busying ourselves with inside chores.  Linda worked at her desk and I wasn’t in the humor to work downstairs in my office so I set my computer up on the dining room table.  Other than an occasional trip to the bus or the garage I mostly sat in front of my computer and talked on the phone all day.

Linda called Alchin’s, our regular trash collection company, to see if they would pick up the old RV furniture.  They do not have a special truck they can send and could not take the steel furniture even if they could get it into their garbage truck.  Linda suggested we find a company like “Got Junk” and searched online for one in the area.  We decided to call “Chuck It Junk Removal” as they are located relatively close to our house.  Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up around 11 AM to cut the grass and Brad, from Chuck It Junk Removal, showed up around 12:45 PM to look at the furniture and flooring we pulled out of the bus and give us a quote on the cost to haul it away.  As Keith was finishing mowing the grass dark clouds were rolling in from the west and not long after he left we had more rain, although nothing like last night.

My dentist thinks my current intermittent teeth issues are the result of clenching my teeth at night so I made an appointment to get fitted for a mouth guard to wear while sleeping.  I also got hold of Phil Jarrell and he decided that tomorrow morning at 8 AM would be a good time for him to stop by and take some elevation readings for the driveway extension and a French drain for the far west end of the property.  Besides the obvious economy of having him do both jobs while he is on site, we need a place to put the topsoil he will dig out for the driveway and we need topsoil to fill in low spots on the west end of the yard.

I managed to finally get some orders placed today.  The big one was for a SureCall Fusion5s multi-band cell phone booster (transceiver) system from Cellular Solutions in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  The other was for a window seal from Prevost.  This is not the seal that holds the glass in the frame but rather a large rubber part that seals the space between the window frame and the structure of the coach.  We may need to unlatch the large fixed window on the passenger side and use it to get the old refrigerator out and the new one in.  This window frame has not been opened since we bought the bus and may not have been opened for many years before that, possibly not ever since the bus was built.  I want the new seal on hand in case the current one gets damaged trying to open the window frame.

Besides these two purchases I talked to someone at A-1 Upholstery and described our home made sofa plans.  She suggested that we would need ~9 yards of 54″ wide material for the sofa seats and back cushions.  I sent an e-mail to Josh at Coach Supply Direct reminding him of some things we had discussed at the rally last week and Rick Short at Isringhausen with questions about their 6800 series bus driver seats.  I also finally got to talk to Mike at Suburban Seating in New Jersey.  As I suspected we cannot buy the seat directly from ISRI, but I may be able to order it through Suburban Seating and pick it up from ISRI USA in Galesburg, Michigan.  That would be much nicer than having it shipped to our house on a truck from New Jersey.

I called Rupes/Cyclo to try to get answers to a few questions about the Cyclo 5-Pro Mark II Dual Head Orbital Polisher and its various pads but could not figure out how to talk to a real person.  I submitted the online Contact Form with my questions and got a speedy reply from Cory as a result of which I now know what to order.  All I have to do is figure out how many of each thing I need.  The Cyclo 5 is available on Amazon Prime, by itself, but it did not appear to be the Mark II model.  Some of the major distributors claim to give you a set of “free” ProGuard Orbital Backing Plates, but the Rupes/Cyclo website clearly states that the polisher is not sold without one of the three head options.  I prefer not to patronize businesses that misrepresent their offerings and will probably order the polisher, pads, and chemicals directly from Cyclo even if I am paying MSRP.

I got a call from Gary Hatt at Bus Conversion Magazine.  I had not looked at or replied to e-mails in over a week and he wanted to make sure everything was OK.  While we were talking we got a call from Curtis Coleman of RVillage so Linda took that initially until my other call was concluded.  I had e-mailed Curtis earlier in the day and he was responding to that communique.

Somewhere in the middle of all that we had chickpea salad on a bed of greens for lunch.  Linda then went for a walk, met Chris (K8VJ) at Lowe’s to pick up some SLAARC mail, and roasted vegetables for our dinner when she got home.  I sent Chuck Spera a short e-mail inquiring about how to open the latches on our emergency escape window and then called it a night.

 

20150411-15 (S-W) NM, TX, OK, AR, MO

[Note: There are no photos for the five days covered in this post.]

2015/04/11 (S) Relaxing Chores

We like to get up and go do things, but we also like not having to get up and do things.  Today we got up when we were ready to.  I used up the last four scoops of coffee beans from our first three pounds and opened the next/last three pounds; one each of Sweet Seattle Dreams, Cafe Europe, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.  Each of these is a half regular, half decaffeinated custom blend that Jeff at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, MI makes for us.  Linda installed iOS 8.3 on her iPad while I made the coffee.

We had toast and jam for breakfast using some more of the English toasting bread we bought at Smith’s the other day.  After breakfast Linda played several of her word games, including Words with Friends, online with Karen.  I installed iOS 8.3 on my iPad and then worked on yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  (It is still the easiest way for me to get it from my iPad to my laptop, which somehow just does not seem right.)

Mid-morning Linda started cleaning the coach.  We have been in dusty environments for a lot of the winter, especially the last few weeks, and the coach needed a good vacuuming.  We don’t vacuum as often as we would if we did not have the cats with us as the vacuum is rather loud and they are afraid of it.  They do not like the vacuum cleaner at home either but they can get a lot farther away from it and have a lot more places to hide in the house than they do in the bus.

While Linda worked on the interior of the bus I got out the water softener, pre-filter, and hoses.  I first connected everything so I could run water through the pre-filter to remove any sediment and then backwards through the softener to back flush the resin bed.  I then connected the hoses in the normal forward flow direction and added 26 ounces of non-iodized table salt to the captive filter housing on the inlet side of the softener tank.  I no longer use this housing for a filter.  Its sole purpose is to hold salt for regenerating the softener.  That way I do not have handle a wet filter while trying to keep it clean so I can reinstall it.

The regeneration procedure was the same ordeal it has been all winter, taking a few minutes of my time spread out over several hours.  Most of that time I worked on blog posts and photos, but my work was interrupted every 20 to 30 minutes to attend to the softener.  I did, however, manage to get the water coming out of the softener to finally test at 1.5 gpg TH.  That should be enough softening capacity to get us home without having to regenerate the water softener again.

For dinner Linda made a barley, split pea, and lentil dish with sautéed vegetables and a hint of soy sauce.  It was very tasty.  We had the TV on the local PBS station and I finished my consolidated blog post and image gallery post for the week of the Escapade rally and uploaded them to our website/blog.

2015/04/12 (N) Edgewood, NM to Amarillo, TX

Today was a travel day and we normally skip breakfast and coffee on such days, but not today.  I was up a little after 7 AM and we did not plan to leave until 9 AM so we had time to make, consume, and digest some coffee and toast.  I turned off the electric heating element for the Aqua-Hot and turned on the diesel burner and engine pre-heat coolant circulating pump.

When we were done with breakfast we got the Dewalt air compressor out of the car and checked all of the tires on the bus and the toad.  It turned out that all of the pressures were slightly higher than where I normally set them, due in part to our altitude of 6,700 feet ASL, and that was want I wanted.  In driving from the Route 66 RV Park in Edgewood, New Mexico to the Overnite RV Park in Amarillo, Texas we will drop just over 3,000 feet in elevation.  That, in turn, will cause the cold pressures in the tires to drop.  The current cold pressures in the tires should be sufficient to allow for that, but I will check the TireTraker monitor in the morning to be sure.

By the time I finished checking the tires Linda had the interior ready for travel.  We hooked up the car, set the car to be towed, switched on the bus chassis batteries and engine accessories air supply, checked the lights, turned off the Aqua-Hot burner and engine pre-heat coolant circulating pump, started the bus engine, and switched the Level Low system to drive mode.  A few minutes later the chassis air system was fully pressurized and the coach suspension was at ride height.  We exited our site easily, pulled out of the RV Park onto Historic Route 66 westbound, and a mile later made two right turns and accelerated onto I-40 eastbound.

Once we were underway Linda called the Overnight RV Park in Amarillo, Texas to make sure they had open sites.  They did, but not many so she gave them our name to hold a pull-through site that would accommodate our bus with the car attached.  Since we are just staying one night we do not plan to not unhook the car.

We knew from our maps and what we could not see to the east that we were done with the Rocky Mountains.  We were now in the Great Plains and would be from here all the way through Oklahoma.  Not that the terrain was flat; eastern New Mexico was rolling terrain, occasionally steep, with mesas.  Not surprisingly the terrain did not change abruptly as we crossed into Texas, although the road surface and time zone did.  For lack of a better, or more official, line of demarcation I consider the central time zone as the boundary of the middle-west.

While not as dramatic as the mountain west the Great Plains are a place where grasses and low brush dominate a natural landscape that is largely devoid of trees and that have a beauty all their own.  The other thing we noticed as we moved east was the thickening cloud cover and occasional storm clouds and virga.  Linda had checked the weather forecast so we knew there was a low, but non-zero, chance we would encounter rain while driving and/or after we got parked for the evening.  We did, in fact, drive through a couple of miles of very light rain somewhere near the New Mexico / Texas border.

We only stopped once for a bathroom/stretch break and made very good time.  The posted (maximum) speed limit for most of I-40 in both states is 75 MPH.  Back east I typically limit my speed to 62 MPH or less if the speed limit is lower.  What I have discovered out west is that the bus really likes to travel at 68 MPH turning just under 2,000 RPM and so do I, at least out here in the wide open spaces.

Linda had selected the Overnight RV Park in Amarillo for several reasons.  For one, the name and description strongly suggested that this park was set up to accommodate overnight visitors passing through the area in their RVs and looking for a place to spend the night.  For another, it was on the east edge of Amarillo, so we will not have to drive through town in the morning when we pull out.  Finally, it was right across the street from a Pilot Truck Stop, so we did not have to make a separate stop for fuel.

We pulled of I-40 at exit 75 around 2:30 PM CDT and pulled in to the truck stop.  The place was crowded with trucks but we got lucky and pulled in behind a semi that was done fueling and pulled out shortly thereafter.  There was some confusion regarding the pump number so it took a bit longer than usual to top off the tank, but we were not pressed for time as our RV park for the night was right across the street.  Linda settled the charge and we followed several tractor-trailers to the exit, back to the main road, and then turned north and drove the short distance up to the entrance to the RV Park.  We turned in and stopped by the office where Linda got us registered.  As is the case in most RV Parks we got a map of the campground with our site and entrance path marked, the login for the Wi-Fi, and the combination lock for the bathrooms.  We also received information about where to go and what to do in the event of violent weather.  Welcome to the Midwest and Tornado Alley.

Overnight RV Park is an older park with a lot of long-term residents, but it was not run down and had some nice, mature trees and plants.  I was momentarily concerned about low overhanging branches and tight turns when we pulled in but the gravel interior roads were wide enough, and the trees trimmed enough, to make access to our assigned pull-through site very easy.  I did, however, lift the tag axle to allow for the tighter turns.

We went through our normal arrival routine, got connected to the Internet, and started looking at our RV park options in the greater Oklahoma City area.  We plan to stay two nights and take part of our one full day to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen who live in Norman just south of OKC.  I had not contacted them, however, as our travel plans have been very fluid.  Now that we were a day’s drive away I called to let them know we would be in the area.  I was a bit surprised that Helen answered the phone and even more surprised to learn that Bob was in “rehab” although Helen did not say why.  She did say that we could visit him so we arranged to go to their house on Tuesday morning at 10 AM, get the address/directions to the rehab facility, and possibly take Helen with us to go visit him.

I texted my sister and niece to let them know that Friday from lunchtime to dinnertime would work well for us and accommodate their availability.  Linda texted our children to let them know we had landed safely in Amarillo and then texted Marilyn to share the same information.  Marilyn called back a bit later and Linda filled in the details.

The RV Park options around OKC were limited, which seems to be typical of urban areas including St. Louis, Missouri.  The options also seemed to be less than ideal based on reviews and expensive by our standards.  In the end we decided to try the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman.  We sent a message via RVillage to someone who is currently there in a 42′ motorhome and inquired about the place.  They wrote back and said it was fine but was near full, does not take reservations, and only has 30A electrical service.  All of that was fine by us.  The pluses are that it is only a few minutes from my Aunt and Uncle’s house and it is only $20 per night, so we are going to leave early tomorrow and see if we can snag a spot.

inda re-heated some leftovers for dinner, after which we went for a stroll around the RV park.  We had just exited our coach and got into a conversation with our neighbors to the north.  They were working on errands so after a good chat we left them to their work and went on our walk.  Getting out and moving around in the cool, fresh air was just what we needed after a long day of sitting and driving and invigorated us enough to stay up until 9 PM.

2015/04/13 (M) Amarillo, TX to Norman, OK

The weather forecast did not favor travel during any particular part of the day; it was going to be rainy and windy regardless of when we left.  Getting a spot at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, however, might depend on getting there early.  We targeted an 8 AM departure for our 4.5 hour, 270 mile trip.  We were up at 7 AM and each had a cup of tea and a banana.  We did not unhook the car last night, so all we had to do was run it through the towing procedure and it was ready to go.  We pulled out of our site at 8:20 AM.

Our route today was I-40 east to I-35 south to US-77 south to East Robinson Street.  All but the last 20 miles was on I-40 which mostly ran east to northeast.  Winds were 15 – 20 MPH and gusty out of the northeast the whole way.  That meant I almost always had a headwind component and often had a crosswind component.  The headwind requires the engine to work harder so I set the cruise control at 64 MPH instead of the 68 MPH I ran most of yesterday.  The crosswind component meant I had to actively work the steering and the lower speed made that more comfortable as well.

Most of the trip was through rural countryside with good road surface and light traffic.  We encountered a few construction zones but there was no work being done due to the weather.  As we approached the Oklahoma City metropolitan area traffic became much heavier, as expected, but the highways had more lanes and everything seemed to move along just fine.  In particular I-40 and I-35 always had at least three lanes allowing me to stay in the center, away from entering traffic, and move to the left or right as needed for an exit ramp.  The whole drive would have been easier without the rain and constant fiddling with windshield wipers, but I was always able to see well enough to maneuver safely, it was just more work and bit more stressful than normal.  I seem to handle urban road systems OK; it’s just not my favorite thing to do.

The Cleveland County Fairgrounds was easy to find and easy to access.  As soon as we pulled in we could see where the RVs were parked.  I pulled up out of the way while Linda called the Fairgrounds office.  She was told to go ahead a find a place to park and then register at the kiosk or in Building G.  I pulled up into the gravel parking area that had the RVs backed along two sides, like an “L.”  One leg of the L was paved and the other was grass/gravel.  We noticed one empty site in the paved area so I pulled around in front of it (so no one else could take it) while we unhooked the car.  (When camping in a no-reservations, first come, first served campground you have to stake your claim to an empty site.)  Linda moved the car out of the way and then spotted the rear end of the bus while I repositioned it and then backed it into site #9.  We have been towed out of two fairgrounds at the end of rallies where it rained so we were glad to get this paved site.

The sites here are all full hookup with 30 A electric and include usable Wi-Fi for $20/night.  That is a much better deal than anything else we could find in the OKC area, and is also the closest place to where my aunt and uncle live, so it was a great find.  We probably won’t use the fresh water or sewer connections and the 30 A service will be OK.  Apparently there are also some 50 A sites but we did not need that much power and did not want to take the time to see if one of them was open.  Given forecasted high temperatures that will barely reach 60 degrees F we will not need our air-conditioners.  As for heat, we will use our Aqua-Hot in diesel-fired mode for domestic hot water and space heating, if needed.

Once we had the power connected and got settled in I made a pot of coffee while Linda made roll-up sandwiches for lunch.  She then checked us in to the Fairgrounds on RVillage and made our reservation for the Red Barn Rendezvous RV Park near Edwardsville, Illinois starting on Thursday.  We will be in the St. Louis, Missouri area for four or five nights visiting family before pushing on to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  She then researched places to stay near Joplin and Springfield, Missouri for Wednesday evening.

While Linda was doing all of that I finished up yesterday’s blog post and started working on this one.  I then logged-in to RVillage.  There are three other RVillagers checked in to the CCFG so I posted to the home feed and to the park feed to see if I could make contact with any of them.  One of them (Hollywood Bob) is also a member of the SKP Photographers BOF which Linda and I help run.  (I am the owner/leader of the RVillage Group.)  I sent him a friend request and then a personal message.

The rain let up not long after we arrived at the Fairgrounds but the wind continued, with gusts occasionally rocking the bus.  The bus is fairly massive but also has a lot of surface area and sits on air springs.  We do not have leveling jacks, so strong/gusty winds can, and do, rock the bus.

Hollywood Bob and his girlfriend Barb walked by so I went outside to chat with them briefly and we arranged to walk over to a local coffee shop at 8 AM tomorrow.  I then spent the late afternoon and early evening editing the text for my March 13th blog post on our visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum west of Tucson and then worked on selecting photos for the post.  Somewhere in there we took a break and went for walk around the Fairgrounds.  It is not a large facility but has nice buildings and grounds.

Linda heated up the last of the barley and vegetable leftovers and steamed some halved Brussels sprouts and finished them with a White Peach Balsamic Vinegar Glaze from the Queen Creek Olive Mill near Arizona City, Arizona.  Yum.  After dinner we turned on the front TV and tuned in PBS to watch Antiques Roadshow.  I finished selecting and processing photos for the March 13th post around 11:30 PM but did not upload it

2015/04/14 (T) Bob and Helen

I was up at 6:30 AM and uploaded my blog post for March 13th.  We had spent that day at the Sonoran Desert Museum west of Tucson, Arizona and photographed the sunset from nearby Gates Pass.  The post was brief (by my standards) but I put over 30 photos in an image gallery.

At 8 AM we walked over to Hollywood Bob and Barb’s rigs, met up with them, and then walked the short distance to the Dora Marie Bakery and Coffee Shop just across Porter Avenue from the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.  We sat there conversing over coffee until 9:45 AM, mostly about RVs and RVing as that is generally the first and easiest conversation to have with new friends.  I already knew from a brief chat with Bob yesterday that both of them are members of the Escapees RV Club and that Bob is a member of the SKP Photographers BOF.  Bob is also a Freethinker and knew that we were as well from our RVillage Profile.  We found out over coffee that they are both members of the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) and LoWs (Loners on Wheels) which are independent groups for single RVers.  As we were walking back to our rigs we agreed to get together for SKP happy hour at 4 PM.

Our main reason for being in Norman, Oklahoma was to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen.  Uncle Bob earned a Ph.D. in micropaleontology over 60 years ago when Ph.Ds. were less common than they are now.  He moved to Oklahoma after finishing his degree and did extensive work on the Arbuckle Mountains.  A Google search on “Robert O. Fay” produced a lot of hits referencing his published work.  He was attached to the University of Oklahoma at one time and that is what brought them to Norman.

Bob just turned 88.  He and Helen have been married for 49 years but never had children.  Helen had one son, Scott, from a previous marriage.  Scott married Linda and they had two children, Tiffany and Philip.  Scott passed away a while back but Linda still lives in Norman and teaches in OKC.  Tiffany and Philip and their families also still live in Norman.

I last saw Bob and Helen four years ago on the drive back to Michigan from Livingston, Texas where I had picked up our Honda Element from Dennis and Carol Hill.  Helen was having problems with her back at the time but Bob was as sharp as I remembered the last time I saw him 26 years earlier while returning from a trip out west with Brendan.  All of our memories of that visit were a bit vague but my recollection is that Meghan and my sister, Patty, met us there so Patty must have driven Meghan to OKC from St. Louis, Missouri.

When I called on Sunday to let Bob and Helen know we would be in the area I talked to Helen and found out that my uncle was in a rehabilitation facility not far from the house but she did not say why.  When we arrived at their house at 10 AM this morning we were greeted by Tiffany, Brandy (Philip’s wife), and Helen who was up walking around and sharp as ever.  We visited briefly and then followed Tiffany and Helen over to the rehab facility.

Uncle Bob is in the facility recovering from a persistent pneumonia, which was treated with an antibiotic to which he was allergic, but he also has Parkinson’s.  He is still coherent but the decline in both his physical and mental condition was striking.  I was not shocked by that, however, and only briefly surprised by virtue of not being fully prepared.  We had a conversation nonetheless, and Bob asked, and talked, about family and genealogy which became his research passion along with geology.  Tiffany took a cell phone picture of Linda and me with Bob.  She had to get back to work so she took Helen home while Linda and I stayed a bit longer to chat with my uncle.

Bob was tired, dozing on and off, and it was getting close to lunchtime.  Staff also needed to check on Bob so we took our leave.  Although we will be back this way in future years I had the strong sense that Uncle Bob is not going to improve going forward and this may be the last time I get to see him.  It was not quite the meeting I had envisioned, but I was glad for what we had.  My dad will be 90 in June and cannot travel very far from his home so I don’t see any way he and his brother will ever meet again.  There is always a final everything but it is usually only clear in retrospect.  Such is life.

Before Tiffany and Helen left Tiffany called her mom (Linda) to see if she could be available to get together after work this evening.  Linda said she could rearrange some things with her brother and would love to meet for dinner.  We discussed meeting at the house and going out to dinner from there.

Tiffany invited us to stop by her school, which is just down the street from the Fairgrounds, so we did that right after lunch, which consisted of a couple of tofu hotdogs wrapped up in soft tortillas with mustard and relish.  Not WFPB but definitely vegan and definitely tasty.  Tiffany gave us a tour of her school and we got to meet Cody, her significant other, who also works at the school.  She had talked to her mom (Linda) and Helen and they decided that we would all be more comfortable and better able to converse at the house.  We explained how we eat and Tiffany said she and Brandi (Philip’s wife) would take care of bringing in food and make sure there were items for us.

I spent most of the afternoon working on blog posts but took time out to check the pressures of the two front bus tires.  I thought I would have to adjust all of them now that we have descended to 1,200 feet ASL, but the front tires were still close to one another and above the minimum required pressure, so I did not get out the compressor.  By 3 PM I was feeling the need for a nap and snoozed for an hour.

We walked over to Barb and Hollywood Bob’s rigs at 4:30 PM.  We were going to do SKP happy hour at 4 PM but we were not sure we could carry glasses of wine around the Fairgrounds so we went empty handed.  The Farmers Market opened at 4 PM so Bob, Linda, and I walked over to check it out while Barb started preparing their dinner.  They had to be at a dance event at 6 PM and we needed to be at Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen’s house around the same time.

Brandi has been Uncle Bob’s primary caregiver when he is at home and she brought him from the rehab facility to the house for the evening.  There was a houseful of people with laughter and energy and it was nice to see Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen surrounded by so many people who obviously love them and care about them.  Dinner was salad greens, vegetables, fresh fruit, sandwich fixings, and deserts and there was plenty for us to choose from.  Here’s how the family fits together:

  • Bob is my father’s younger/only brother (by two years).
  • Helen had one son, Scott Pelton, from a previous marriage.
  • Scott married Linda and they had two children; Tiffany and Philip.
  • (Scott passed away some years ago.)
  • Tiffany has three girls (young ladies); Alexis, Brianna, and Caitlin.
  • Brianna has a son, Liam, who is Bob and Helen’s great-great-grandson.
  • Philip married Brandi and they have three children; Cassidy, Cheyenne, and Danika.

We stayed until almost 9:30 PM and had a great visit that ended with a discussion about Linda and her three grand-daughters coming to Michigan for a visit sometime.  Tiffany texted me the cellphone photo she took of Linda, me, and Uncle Bob at the rehab facility this morning.  Caitlin set up a camera and took photos of the entire group.  When we got back to our rig I replied to text messages and provided our e-mail address and home phone number to Helen and Tiffany.

2015/04/15 (W) Norman, OK to Carthage, MO

There is always way more to do in any given area than there is time to do it, and the greater Oklahoma City area, including Norman, is no exception to that.  But our presence here proved to be the catalyst for a large gathering of people to whom we are related by marriage through Helen, my only Aunt, and only by virtue of her being married to my only uncle, Bob.  While it would have been nice to visit longer after last night’s gathering it would have been anti-climactic.

Through the serendipity that RVillage makes possible we also made the acquaintance of Barb and Hollywood Bob at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.  As much as we would have liked to have coffee with them again this morning, we don’t usually have our morning coffee on travel days and wanted to be on the road by 9 AM.

Linda had been checking the weight restrictions on the roads in our home county and noted yesterday that they will be lifted on the 16th.  That means we have a green light to return to our house whenever we want to.  We already have plans to spend four nights near St. Louis, Missouri and visit family, and at least a couple of nights in Twelve Mile, Indiana visiting Butch and Fonda with whom we started this southwestern adventure on November 30th, 2014.  We will spend our final night at the Camp Turkeyville RV Park so we can dump our holding tanks before arriving home.

All of which is to say we had over 600 miles to travel from Norman to St. Louis, which is two day trip for us, with a reservation at an RV Park in Edwardsville, Illinois starting Thursday afternoon and arrangements to visit with family on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Linda researched possible intermediate locations to split the distance roughly in half and found the Coachlight RV Park on I-49 one mile north of I-40 near Carthage, Missouri.

We did not take the time to buy an Oklahoma Turnpike pass and decided not to take I-44 northeast out of OKC.  From the CCFG we headed west on Robinson Street back to US-77 north, merged onto I-35 north, and then exited onto I-240 east.  Somewhere east of OKC I-240 ended and merged into I-40.  As urban highways go it was an easy exit from the greater OKC area.  We stopped at a rest area just before crossing the Oklahoma/Arkansas border and took a short lunch break, having vegan cold cut rollup sandwiches.

We continued east on I-40 to Fort Smith, Arkansas and then headed north on I-540, which has been re-signed I-49, through the Boston Mountains toward Fayetteville and Bentonville, the corporate home of Wal-Mart.  I-49 did not continue all the way into Missouri and became US-77 as it passed through a narrow valley and small towns.  A few miles into Missouri the road became I-49 again.  We stayed with I-49 up to where it joins with I-44 east near Joplin, Missouri.  About 10 miles later I-49/US-77 split off to the north and one mile later we exited, crossed over the Interstate, and pulled into the Coachlight RV Park.

The weather was overcast with occasional drizzle for the entire trip but it was a beautiful drive nonetheless.  Eastern Oklahoma is green and rolling and northwest Arkansas adds small mountains to that topography.  The bus ran well all day including the steepest grades.

The Coachlight RV Park is located behind the Coachlight RV Dealership with very easy access.  Linda got us registered but then we had to wait quite a while for someone to move the motorhome in front of us.  Again, we were given instructions on where to go and what to do in the event of extreme/violent weather.  The Park is built into a north-facing slope with wide paved roads behind an RV dealership of the same same.  The RV dealership was the emergency shelter.  Most of the sites are pull-through except along the two outside edges.  All of the sites are wide, long, and level gravel with full hookups including cable TV and Wi-Fi.  The Park has its own well with a water softener so the water at the sites is very soft.  The Park allows customers to wash their rigs so we got out the hose, spray nozzle, and long-handled soft brush and rinsed off the car and the bus as best we could.

We went for a walk around the Park to stretch our legs and stopped by the office to check out the meeting room.  There is a small RV rally here and we got to see the meeting room which was very nice.  For dinner Linda made a macaroni and mushroom dish with onions, garlic, and kale followed by red grapes.  Very tasty.  We watched a few TV shows and called it a day.

 

2015/03/24-25 (T-W) RVillage WHQ Redux

2015/03/24 (T) Return to Arizona City, AZ

[Note:  There are no photographs for this post.]

We targeted a late morning departure from Hickiwan Trails RV Park.  The normal checkout time is 11:00 AM but that had nothing to do with our target as we were paid through Tuesday evening and the park was empty enough that the manager did not care when we left.  The timing mostly had to do with the necessity of having some agreed target time when traveling with other RVers, not wanting to feel like we had to get up at the crack of dawn and get on the road, and not wanting to drive into the morning sun but wanting arrive at our destination by mid-afternoon.  There is a lot that goes into something as simple as answering the question “what time are we going to leave?” which was preceded by answering the apparently equally simple question “what day are going to leave?”

We only had 120 miles to travel so an 11 AM departure met all of our requirements.  We pulled out of our site about 10:45 AM and hooked up our car.  I tried to adjust the driver’s side rearview mirror and could not position it where I wanted it.  The mirror had loosened and moved on the support arm and needed to be repositioned.  Lou got out his small step ladder and I found a star bit for my screwdriver.  It took a bit of back and forth but I got the mirror repositioned and tightened so that the correct view was near the center of the motorized travel that I can control from the driver’s seat.  By the time we put everything away and were ready to pull out it was 11:20 AM.  11 AM was a target, not a hard and fast requirement.

It was a warm day and Lou decided that he wanted to keep his speed at 50 MPH because he was unsure of the spare tire he had installed on their trailer on Thursday.  That is slower than optimal for our bus, especially when the speed limit is higher than that.  He suggested that we travel at whatever speed was comfortable for us and they would meet up with us sometime later at our destination.  Once we cleaned Ajo we had a good run up AZ-85 at 55 MPH.  The road is posted 65 MPH but it is a 2-lane highway with very little shoulder, so 55 felt just fine.  Once we got on I-8 headed east the speed limit was 75 MPH.  I set the cruise control at 63 MPH and let it roll.  The bus likes that speed which has the engine turning ~1,800 RPM in the top gear of the transmission.

We did not need to stop for fuel or to rest so we rolled slowly through Arizona City to our destination and got ourselves parked at the RVillage headquarters.  Lou and Val stopped to eat lunch and take on fuel and finally arrived an hour or so behind us.  We circled our camp chairs, slumped into them, and said a collective “ahhhh.”  It was beautiful and peaceful here, as always, with warm sun and a cool breeze.  Linda captured a gorgeous sunset over the lake and mountains to the west on her cell phone.  It cooled off quickly after the sun set and soon enough we retreated to our rigs for the evening.

Curtis is a very gracious host and even though we are boondocking he lets us use his wireless Internet connection.  I wasted almost 4 GB of our 10 GB Verizon data plan last billing cycle trying to download a map update for our Rand McNally RVND 7710 GPS that failed after most of it had been downloaded.  The GPS is an excellent device but the download/update protocol is one of the most stupid I have ever encountered.  Why do I say that?  Read on.

Almost 1,000 files are involved in the update and even at that a few of them are gigantic.  The entire download of 4.4 GB has to succeed or everything is lost and you have to start over.  Even on a good Internet connection it takes one-to-two hours for the download so the chances of having it fail are definitely non-zero.  By 11 PM no one else was using the Internet and I was able to get everything downloaded in a little over an hour.  It took another 30 minutes to install the updates into the GPS, after which it indicated there were more updates available.  Thankfully those only took a few minutes to download and install and I managed to get to bed by 12:30 AM.

2015/03/25 (W) Chill’n at the Lake

In a switch from our normal routine Linda got up before me and made coffee while I slept in until 8 AM.  We have our customary ways of doing things, but they are not hard and fast rules.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with fresh grapefruit and coffee.  We opened up the windows and turned on the exhaust fans to keep the inside of the bus comfortable for the cats and then moved to the shaded table on the porch by the lake. I took my iPad and worked on drafts of posts for the last two weeks.

Linda made up a nice lunch platter for each of us and brought it to the table where Lou and Val eventually joined us with their mid-day meals.  Mid-afternoon Lou wanted to go find some tire stores and get prices for two new truck tires and two new trailer tires.  I was ready for a break so I went along.  That proved useful as I was able to use Google voice on my smartphone to research places and request navigation.  Linda uses this feature all the time, but I rarely do.  It’s pretty cool and I should probably use it more than I do.

Our first stop was the local SpeedCo truck tire and lube facility in Arizona City but they only sold 22″ and 24″ truck tires.  We stopped at the Love’s truck stop across the street where I found the 12 VDC cigarette lighter style plug I needed to wire up the TireTraker repeater we got from Darryl Lawrence at Escapade to try out.  We stopped at Discount Tire in Casa Grande next and that turned out to be the best quote Lou got.  We stopped at the Arizona City Post Office at 4:30 PM on our way back to camp so Lou could mail something.

The rest of the day and early evening was spent by the lake quietly using our technology.  Once the light faded and the temperature started to drop we returned to our rigs to have dinner.

 

2015/03/14-16 (S-M) Escapade to RVillage

2015/03/14 (S) Wrapping Up; Signing Up

I spent most of the day and evening processing photos, although I took time to dump the holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank.  Linda and Val did Laundry and then went grocery shopping after which Linda started preparing the inside of our coach for travel.  It was a long, busy, productive day but it was mostly chores and work, so not much to write about.  We did, however, sign up to be staff at the July 2016 Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont.  I signed up to be the assistant staff photographer again while Linda signed up for any job that was in a quiet environment so she can hear.  We really do enjoy the Escapade rallies.

Sunset as viewed from our campsite at the Pima County Fairgrounds near Tucson, AZ.

Sunset as viewed from our campsite at the Pima County Fairgrounds near Tucson, AZ.

2015/03/15 (N) Back to RVillage WHQ

Today was our scheduled departure date but we did not need to vacate the Pima County Fairgrounds until noon.  We would be caravanning a relatively short distance with Lou and Val and targeted 11 AM for our departure.

The more time we spend in our bus the less anxious we are the night before we are going to move to a new location, but there is still a certain anticipation about it.  Moving the bus is not like getting in a car to go to work.  It’s a big, complicated, machine and there are many details to attend to before we can move it.  It also rarely travels the same route twice so we spend time researching and planning travel routes.  Fortunately, we enjoy these aspects of the RV lifestyle and had most everything in order by the time we went to bed last night.  We both slept well enough having worked and played fairly hard all week.

We had a leisurely morning and took care of the final preparations for travel.  As it was getting to be 10 AM we had to ask someone to move a car so we could pull out.  Paul Evert’s RV dealership had moved some of the rigs they had sold during the rally to the full hookup area where we were camped all week and had folks pull there trade-in units there so they could transfer their belongings.  As a result the area was getting crowded and obstructed with cars parked wherever it was convenient (for the owner).  The RV Driving School was also busy in one of the parking lots near us teaching people how to turn, back up, and park, including teaching the “spotter” (co-pilot/navigator) how to give hand signals to the driver.  (This is actually the more difficult job requiring judgement, proper positioning, and clear/timely signals.)  As long as the driver can see the spotter all they have to do is follow directions.  Many of the Escapade staff were still at the fairgrounds and attendees who signed up for HOPs (Head Out Programs) were still camped there as well.  The HOPs are organized outings that sometimes involve a tour bus for transportation, a tour leader/guide, admission to one or more venues, and possibly food.

We pulled out roughly on time with Lou and Val right behind us.  We headed out of the fairgrounds and then north on Houghton Road to I-10 where we headed west.  They needed fuel so we took an exit on the west side of Tucson where there was supposed to be a truck stop, but it wasn’t there.  Lou pulled into a station where we could not get in/out so we found a spot a little farther down the road where we could turn around and waited for them to pull out of the station.

We followed them back on to the highway and then retook the lead.  We exited at Eloy where there were both Pilot and Flying J truck stops.  We topped up our diesel tank while Lou filled their propane tank.  We got back on I-10 for another eight miles and then exited at Sunland Gin Road and headed south into Arizona City.  A few miles, and a bunch more minutes, later we pulled into the rental property that currently serves as Curtis Coleman’s residence and headquarters for the RVillage social network.  Good things are happening for RVillage and it was good to be back here to spend a little more time with Curtis and his adorable dog Augie, a Bevar (sp? may be Biewer) Yorkshire Terrier.

A panoramic view looking west from the deck of RVillage World Headquarters.  It was very peaceful here.

A panoramic view looking west from the deck of RVillage World Headquarters. It was very peaceful here.

We got settled in and then visited a bit.  We eventually went to Duffer’s Restaurant at the golf course and then went back to the house for movie night.  The film for this evening was “The Social Network” about the founding of Facebook; a most appropriate choice given where we are boondocked.

2015/03/16 (M) Florence, AZ

Someone at the Escapade told Lou about a road that runs between Florence and Kelvin Arizona.  They said it was mostly good gravel and very scenic and Lou was determined that we find it, drive it, and photograph it.  Linda and Val packed a picnic lunch while Lou and I prepared our photography gear.  I grabbed the Garmin GPS out of our car (just in case) and we took off, leaving Curtis some peace and quiet to attend to RVillage.

I managed to navigate us to Florence where we decided it would be prudent for Lou to top off the fuel tank in his truck.  We pulled into a Circle K (Kangaroo?) and took care of that.  When Lou tried to start the truck the starter would not engage.  It would turn but made a really bad grinding sound.  Sometimes the throw-out gear binds and we tried tapping on the starter with a long stick and hammer but it did not help.  The starter had just been replaced a month ago in Mesa, Arizona and had a 60 day towing policy in addition to the parts and labor warranty.

Val, Lou, and Linda having lunch by the fuel pump island at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Val, Lou, and Linda having lunch by the fuel pump island at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Lou called the repair shop and they dispatched a tow truck.  I then called Curtis to see if he could fetch Val, Linda, and me from the Circle K and he graciously agreed to come get us.  We let the station attendants know what was going on and they were cool with the whole thing even though we were blocking one of the pumps.  It took a while for the tow truck to arrive so we ate our lunch standing in the shade at the end of the fuel island.  We must have made an interesting sight to passersby.  The tow truck eventually arrived, pulled the pickup truck up onto the flatbed, and drove off with Lou riding shotgun.  A little while later Curtis arrived.  We loaded our picnic supplies and camera gear into the back of his SUV and he drove us back to his place.

Lou photographs their pickup truck being loaded onto the flatbed hauler at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Lou photographs their pickup truck being loaded onto the flatbed hauler at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

I expected to get a call from Lou letting me know that I needed to drive to Mesa to pick him up.  What we got instead was a call that the truck was repaired and he was on his way back.  The problem was that the starter mounting bolts had not been torqued tight enough and had backed out about 1/4 inch.  As a result the throw-out gear was pushing the starter back rather than engaging with the gear teeth on the flywheel.  As we thought about it we were realized we were very lucky this did not happen on the road from Florence to Kelvin.

Bonnie was also staying at the RVillage compound and joined us for dinner last night.  This evening we did a pot luck thing and dined at the outside table by the lake.

 

2015/03/04-05 (W-R) RVillage Stopover

2015/03/04 (W) RVillage World Headquarters

World Headquarters of the RVillage Social Network and residence of founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.

World Headquarters of the RVillage Social Network and residence of founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.

We pulled into the driveway yesterday of the house that currently serves as the World Headquarters of RVillage and home of the founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.  Forrest and Mary Clark were already here and Randy Sturrock and Marianne Edwards, who run Boondockers Welcome, arrived about 20 minutes after we did.

Augie doggie strolling on the sidewalk by the lake.

Augie doggie strolling on the sidewalk by the lake.

We were not in a rush to get up this morning, made coffee once we did, and enjoyed the lovely grounds and the view of the lake.  Curtis had work to do, some of which involved Randy and Marianne, so we visited with Forrest and Mary and just relaxed and read or worked on our iPads and computers.

RVillage founder/CEO Curtis Coleman at work on his patio office.

RVillage founder/CEO Curtis Coleman at work on his patio office.

By lunchtime Forrest and Mary had left, followed by Randy and Marianne.  Not long after that Dave and Vicki McKenna arrived.  They handle membership for the Escapees RV Club SKP Boomers BOF, so it was nice to finally meet them.  We all had a nice chat with Curtis and then left him to work.

Forrest and Mary Clark visiting with Augie by their Foretravel motorhome.

Forrest and Mary Clark visiting with Augie by their Foretravel motorhome.

The five of us went to dinner at Duffers, the bar/grill/restaurant at the local golf course.  Linda and I had nice garden salads with fresh ingredients and a basket of sweet potato fries.  We sat and talked until we were the only folks left in the restaurant.  We took the conversation back to the house and continued it there much later into the evening than is normal for us.

2015/03/05 (R) Prince of Tucson

Linda holds Augie for a beauty shot.

Linda holds Augie for a beauty shot.

We spent the morning visiting with Curtis Coleman (RVillage) and Dave McKenna (SKP Boomers BOF) and then started getting ready to leave.  We turned the bus around, hitched up the car, and finally pulled out around 1 PM.  We had a relatively short drive of just over 50 miles to get to the RV Park in Tucson where we had a reservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marianne Edwards and Randy Sturrock with Linda (holding Augie).

Marianne Edwards and Randy Sturrock with Linda (holding Augie).

RVillage is run by Curtis, and Curtis runs on coffee.  :-)

RVillage is run by Curtis, and Curtis runs on coffee. 🙂

We had an easy run with good access to the RV Park.  Tucson is not a kingdom, and it does not have royalty, but it does have a street named “Prince” and it has an RV Park at the end of that street by I-10 named Prince of Tucson RV Resort.  The park was clean and attractive enough and there were some aspects of the park that were better than usual, especially the road leading in and the check-in lanes.  It was right up against a retaining wall for the entrance ramp to eastbound I-10 which we thought might be a noise problem, but it wasn’t.  The pull-through spots, which are intended for overnight guests, were very narrow, but they had full hookup 50 Amp service and were easy to pull out of when leaving, so they served their purpose.

Lou and Val Petkus were going to stay at Prince of Tucson but changed their plans and stayed at a Passport America park just on the other side of I-10 from us.  We called to let them know we were in and see if they wanted to go to dinner.  They were both tired and settled in so they took a pass on dinner.  We needed groceries so we unhooked the car and drove to a Whole Foods Market about 8 miles away and stocked up on some items that are difficult to find elsewhere.

Forrest Clark and Marianne Edwards talking on the lawn at RVillage WHQ.

Forrest Clark and Marianne Edwards talking on the lawn at RVillage WHQ.

Back at the rig we got the groceries put away.  We then scanned for TV stations and found some!!!  We could not receive OTA TV in Quartzsite and were not able to pick up any stations in Arizona City, either.

Linda, Curtis, and Dave McKenna discussing details of RVillage.

Linda, Curtis, and Dave McKenna discussing details of RVillage.

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.

 

20140911 (R) Rooted

After a breakfast of zucchini muffins and a banana (soft foods) I tried playing with the new RVillage mobile site on my Samsung Galaxy S III phone but I was unable to log in so I read a few blog posts.  We had gusty winds overnight after the rain cleared out so I checked the weather to see what might be headed our way today.  There wasn’t any additional rain in the forecast, but it looked like we would stay shrouded from the sun all day.  The wild turkeys were not put off by the weather and spent some time foraging back by the fire pit.  There were there long enough that I was able to get my good telephoto zoom lens on the camera and get this shot from the basement walkout doorwall.

These three adults and three young have been regular visitors to our yard of late.

These three adults and three young have been regular visitors to our yard of late.

My endodontics appointment was at 11:45 AM with Root Canal Specialty Associates in Brighton, Michigan.  Their offices are on Grand River Avenue just northwest of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.  That’s only about five miles from our house; much more convenient than driving to Dearborn.  Although I have been having discomfort in both the upper and lower rear teeth on my right side, the bad tooth turned out to be one of the uppers.  Once they had determined that it needed a root canal I never even had to get out of the chair; they just seamlessly moved from diagnostic mode to repair mode.  Endodontic operations are very efficient.

They were done and I was on my way by 1:30 PM.  I stopped at Smead & Son just up the road to see if they could fabricate a rebar cage for our ham radio tower foundation.  They can, and they also sell Sonotubes if we decide to use one.  They stock diameters up to 36″ locally, and have tubes up to 48″ diameter at their Pontiac location.  They can bend the round horizontal sections, fold over the ends of the vertical sections, and supply the twist ties for tying the pieces of rebar together.  They even sell a special tool for twisting the twist ties.  The pieces would not be welded, but the assured me that twist tying them together is the standard way that rebar is held in place.  They can also supply the threaded steel anchor bolts if I decide to get them locally.

My next stop was Staples in Brighton for a new touch screen stylus/pen.  I ended up getting a Wacom Bamboo stylus with no pen, and a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard to pair with my iPad2.  I create the rough drafts of all of my blog posts on the iPad, and I should have gotten a keyboard a long time ago.  I also picked up a sympathy card for a friend and co-worker of Linda’s whose father just passed away.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on the way home and got some hot apple cider but could not drink it right away as the local anesthetic had not yet worn completely off and I dribbled every time I took a sip; not a pretty sight.  Back home I took my 3 PM dose of Tylenol.  I will be taking Ibuprofen every six hours for the next 24 hours and also taking Tylenol every six hours spaced halfway in-between the Ibuprofen doses.  Between the anesthetic wearing off and the apple cider cooling down I was finally able to drink it in small careful sips.  I unpacked the wireless keyboard and got it connected to my iPad2 and used it to finishing typing this post.  The keyboard comes with a case that turns into a stand that can hold my iPad2 at two different angles in each of portrait or landscape position.  All-in-all a very nice little package.  I have generally been very happy with Logitech products over the years.

I wanted to play with the RVillage mobile development site but still could not get logged in.  On a suggestion from Linda I figured out how to tell my Samsung Galaxy S III phone to NOT remember logins for websites and was finally able to login and navigate around.  The initial login was a 2-step process and my phone was automatically providing the username and password for step 1 even though I was manually entering the information for step 2.  Once I was in I joined a test group, replied to a topic post, created a new topic and made an initial post.  I also replied to a message, searched for two members of the development team, and sent messages to each of them with some site feedback.  Based on our limited testing of the site it appears that the development team has done a great job on the mobile version.

Linda made a barley, kale, white bean stew for dinner.  She has made it before and it is a wonderful blend of tastes and textures.  Besides the named ingredients, it included onions, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  For dessert she made apple crisp.  Apple cider and apple crisp in the same day; nothing says “fall” like apples.

Butch called to bring me up-to-date on their situation regarding the transfer of parts from their business in Indiana to the buyer in Nevada.  It looks like the 53′ trailer won’t be there to pick up material until the 29th of this month but I could take our bus there any time after the 18th, when their younger daughter (Brittani) is getting married.  And once our natural gas situation is resolved.  As of this writing we have no idea when they will run the line to our house and hang the meter.  The only date we have ever been given was project completion by September 26.

 

2014/09/10 (W) A Functioning Landline

The Ibuprofen/Tylenol mix did the trick and I slept comfortably through the night.  Twinges were just starting as we were waking up, so breakfast was two zucchini muffins, half of a banana, and 800 mg of Ibuprofen, washed down with orange/grapefruit juice.  Linda went for a walk after breakfast as it was supposed to be rainy most of the day.

I spent part of the morning selecting and re-sizing photographs from the Arcadia Bus Rally 2014, uploaded them to a folder in our Dropbox, and e-mailed the link to Brenda Phelan who runs the rally with her husband Bill.  She had put out a request on Facebook for photos if anyone had them.  I did an article for Bus Conversions Magazine on that rally shot over 700 photos, so yeah, I had a few.

I registered us for an RVillage Ambassador webinar later today on the new mobile app, and then came upstairs to have lunch.  We enjoyed the vegan Sloppy Joe’s Linda had made, along with some vegan baked beans (canned) and store bought apple sauce.  It had been raining lightly for a while and the intensity increased while we ate, but it fell straight down with little to no wind.  The radar loop on Wundermap (Weather Underground) showed that we were in the leading edge of a large fetch of moisture that would likely train over our location for several hours and that is, in fact, what happened.

I took a short nap.  I rarely do that, but I always enjoy it when I do.  I worked the rest of the afternoon at my computer editing blog posts and finally getting around to selecting and processing photos to go with some of them.  I had called Kerry Fear this morning regarding snowplowing this winter and he stopped by the house around 3:45 PM to meet with us.  He lives nearby and plows our neighbor’s driveway, which is how we got his name.  We agreed to hire him for the season on a handshake; no contract or pre-payment.  He will send us a bill every now and then and we will pay it.

Linda made creamed corn for dinner and served it alongside vegan Sloppy Joe sandwiches and fresh strawberries.  Again, a soft, easy on the teeth, meal that was very tasty.

The RVillage webinar started at 7 PM EDT and lasted 45 minutes.  They wanted feedback on this latest development by Friday so they can finalize it for general release.  I continued working on photographs for the blog and installed a set of updates on our Linux box before calling it quits for the evening.  Linda had started watching the first episode of Sherlock from last year so I watched most of it with her.  Much to our disappointment Doc Martin has disappeared from Amazon Instant Video as part of our Amazon Prime account.  We can still get it, but we would now have to pay extra.  As much as we like the series we are not going to pay extra to watch it.

It spite of the rain today, we made and received a number of phone calls on our AT&T landline and were online through our DSL connection quite a bit, including streaming the episode of Sherlock, all without noise or service interruptions to the best of our knowledge.  We are hopeful that our AT&T service is finally restored and will continue to operate reliably.

One of the calls was from Chuck letting me know that Matt at Bob’s Speedometer Service had tested his VDO bus speedometer and found it to be broken and not repairable.  Chuck ordered a new one through Matt, who will take care of programming the odometer with the current mileage.  Once it comes in and Chuck verifies that it works I will likely be ordering one for our bus since ours has failed in the same way as Chuck’s.  I could go ahead and remove ours and take it in, but I have lots of other things to work on a figured it made sense to wait and see how this works out for Chuck.

 

2014/06/24 (T) Rainy Days

We had light rain overnight and woke to overcast skies and the promise of yet more rain today.  I find myself in a somewhat subdued mood on such days and am much more inclined to be a bit lazy.  I made reference in yesterday’s post to “monsoon season” but the idea applied better to today’s rain.  Around 10:45 AM it started to drizzle but by 11 AM a great quantity of rain was coming straight down.  It continued into the afternoon, though not as heavily, before finely quitting around 5 PM.

Linda made a run to the grocery store, but otherwise we stayed at home, worked at our desks, and read.  I finally got caught up on uploading blog posts.  My posts for the last few weeks have not included any photographs, so there is less work involved in uploading them to our WordPress website/weblog.  After creating so many images as official photographers at the SKP Escapade rally last month I took a break and just enjoyed the GLAMARAMA14 rally this month.  The thing about photography is that it is a serious hobby.  I enjoy it, but I do not have to do it; I am no longer compulsive about it as perhaps I once was.

We had a nice salad for dinner and then settled in for the RVillage Ambassador Program orientation webinar.  The webinar last week was an introduction for RVillage members who were interested in becoming RVillage Ambassadors.  This evening’s webinar was for members who have made the decision to be RVillage Ambassadors.  It was hosted by Curtis Coleman, CEO/Founder of RVillage, and Hillary Murray, a member of the RVillage core team and the lead staff member for the Ambassador Program.

The RVillage Ambassador Program was developed in response to members who were very enthusiastic about the site and wanted to help promote it and be of assistance to users without becoming paid staff members.  RVillage programmers developed a special color balloon (pin) to serve as an easily recognizable ambassador “badge.”  It appears on our profile page and on the EXPLORE map.  Staff also created an RVillage “Ask An Ambassador” group where members can post questions.  All RVillage ambassadors belong to this group and have been asked to keep an eye in it, and reply to questions if we know the answer.

Besides talking to our fellow RVers about RVillage as we travel and blog, and helping them with the use of the site, one of the things ambassadors are being asked to do is talk to RV park and campground owners about the benefits of “claiming” their park and helping them with the initial steps in that process.  Although some RVers want solitude, many enjoy social engagement.  RVillage wants to promote the idea to park owners that a “sociable park is a successful park.”  Once a park owner/manager claims their park, they have control over the park home page the same way a member has control of their personal profile.  They also gain the ability to send messages to any RVillage member who is “checked-in” to their park (in RVillage) and use the Get-Together feature to schedule social events at their park.  And it’s all free for them.

To support the work of RVillage Ambassadors the RVillage staff has developed promotional and tutorial videos, handouts, and support documents.  The handouts, support documents, and selected videos are available to RVillage Ambassadors for download so we can show them to people without having an Internet connection.  In the near future staff is going to create a private/closed group to serve as a place where RVillage Ambassadors can interact out of public view.  They also plan to create an area on rvfriendnetwork.com to serve as a repository for all of the resource materials.  We are very excited about RVillage and the opportunity to contribute in some small way to its growth and success.  From what we have already seen and experienced it is a unique resource for RVers that has the potential to reshape the RVing experience by creating real community among highly mobile people.

We capped the evening off with another episode of Doc Martin and turned in early as Linda is scheduled to be at the bakery all day tomorrow.

 

2014/06/23 (M) Monsoon Season

The morning was cool with temperatures just above 60 degrees F and a thin layer of high clouds.  I was tempted to work in the yard trimming low branches off a few more trees but today was supposed to be lawn care day and it did not make sense to create a mess.  That was Linda’s argument, anyway, and it sounded right to me.  Besides, the chance of rain was 0% until noon but then jumped to 60%, and the radar showed a band of storms moving out of Wisconsin over Lake Michigan and in our general direction.  Keith always mows our neighbor’s yard first, starting around 9 AM.  The first raindrops fell around 11AM.  He got part of our yard mowed but by 1 PM there was a light, steady rain, causing the grass clippings to clump and making him less than comfortable, so he called it quits for the day.  While not the steady, heavy rains of a true monsoon, late spring this year has been persistently wet.

I chatted briefly with Steve from Village Landscape Development this morning.  They have continued to be delayed in finishing projects by the recurring rain.  His newest ETA for our job was Wednesday (this week) but he was not aware of the rain that was expected for today and tomorrow.  I figure Wednesday next week; maybe.

We were sitting on the back deck enjoying our morning coffee and decided to look for some information on our Mugo Pine.  It turns out that our Mugo pine isn’t a Mugo pine after all; it’s a dwarf weeping Norway spruce.  I trimmed off a dead branch yesterday and this morning discovered that it was the right thing to do, so no harm done.  In the future I should probably follow the corollary of the carpenter’s rule: research twice, cut once.

Linda had an appointment with the dentist this morning to have her broken molar prepared for a crown.  She left mid-morning for the 50+ mile drive to Dearborn and stopped at the mall on her way back.  Between the time needed to make the crown and her upcoming jury duty she won’t be able to go back until late July to have the crown installed and all of the other work done that was postponed so the broken tooth could be dealt with last week.

Several weeks ago I bought a replacement handle and lock set for the front storm door but did not get it installed right away.  It was not a perfect fit so installation required modification of the door frame.  I’ve been putting it off but today was finally the day to get it done.  I had to drill new holes and enlarge existing ones, which never works well.  I did not get the holes in exactly the right spot the first time, which required even more drilling and enlarging.  I stayed with it and eventually got the hardware installed and working the way it is supposed to.  The trim pieces cover all of the holes, so none of my modifications are visible and the door looks fine.

I spent the afternoon at my desk catching up on posting entries to our blog and working on tasks related to several RV clubs we belong to.  I also downloaded documents and videos related to our role as RVillage Ambassadors.  The second teleconference meeting of the FMCA Education Committee today was at 4 PM, and I sent a short e-mail summary of my findings regarding the RV Trip Wizard website in advance of the meeting.  The meeting lasted 80 minutes and we had a good discussion.

We rarely go out to dinner anymore.  Besides avoiding the expense, eating at home affords us a much greater variety of ingredients prepared as healthier dishes with appropriate portions.  Tonight was an exception, though not for any exceptional reason.  Linda looked a little tired and I figured she didn’t feel like cooking, so we went to the La Marsa restaurant in Brighton.  We split an order of Koshary, a wonderful Egyptian dish with rice, macaroni, spaghetti, lentils, fried onions, and a spicy tomato sauce.  We also split the green salad that came with it, and each had a cup of crushed lentil soup.  The pocket bread was hot from the oven and the garlic spread was delicious, and it was all vegan.  Yum.

By the time we got home from the restaurant we were done working for the day.  We relaxed for a while and then turned in to watch another episode of Doc Martin.

 

2014/05/13 (T) A Full Day

The Escapees RV Club Escapade started yesterday afternoon and ends on Friday afternoon, so Wednesday evening is the middle of the event.  Many attendees arrived on Sunday, and many others, including us, on Saturday.  Most of the event staff, and many of the volunteers, arrived even before that so today probably felt like we were well into the event even though it just started yesterday.

Curtis Coleman, RVillage Founder and CEO.

Curtis Coleman, RVillage Founder and CEO.

Yesterday we crossed paths briefly with Curtis Coleman, the founder and CEO of RVillage, at one of the seminars.  Although I had communicated with him in the past via RVillage messaging, e-mail, and telephone, it was the first time we had met in person.  We were all on our way to somewhere else and agreed to meet up at the Paul Evert’s RV Country social at 4:00 PM.

Linda and I continued our work as volunteer event photographers while also trying to attend a couple of seminars that interested us.  Kelly Hogan, founder/president of WiFi Ranger, gave an excellent talk on mobile connectivity.  Chris and Jim Guld, better known as the Geeks On Tour, did a nice overview of technology tools for travelers.

 

Chris and Jim Guld, the Geeks On Tour, presenting a seminar.

Chris and Jim Guld, the Geeks On Tour, presenting a seminar.

We take a stroll through the vendor area and ordered a new regen tube and end caps for our portable water softener.  We bought the softener from A-1 Water Treatment of Michigan at one of the RV rallies in Gillette, Wyoming last summer.  The owner sold A-1 but retained the portable RV softener business and now operates as RV-Water-Treatment.

Nick and Terry Russell of the Gypsy Journal in the vendor booth.

Nick and Terry Russell of the Gypsy Journal in the vendor booth.

We had hoped to meet up with Curtis at the Paul Evert’s RV Country social at 4:00 PM, but we had to leave for the Photography BOF social before he arrived.  BOF stands for “Birds Of a Feather,” the name the Escapees RV Club uses for special interest groups.  BOFs are distinct from Chapters which are geographic in scope.  We had a dozen folks show up for the Photography social.  Most of us had never met, so we spent some time sharing our photography background and interests. By the time the social ended the weather had turned.

The gathering storm.  It's been strange weather lately.

The gathering storm. It’s been strange weather lately.

Dinner?  What’s that?  We went early to the evening entertainment to see the slide show Lou had put together from our previous day’s effort.  Once again we failed to win a door prize.  The Homestead Pickers, a bluegrass trio, gave an excellent, high energy performance.  Linda wasn’t feeling quite right and left early.  I stopped at Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel after the concert so Lou could transfer my photos from today to his computer for inclusion in an upcoming slide show.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a long, full day.

The Homestead PIckers in concert.

The Homestead PIckers in concert.

 

2014/05/04 (N) Northwest Winds

The weather yesterday was mostly cloudy with occasional light rain and the winds came up strong starting in the afternoon.  They tapered off by bedtime but resumed a hard blow this morning with low, puffy, white clouds streaming in from the northwest and making the trees dance.  It was a brighter morning than we have had most of the week as the sun played hide-n-seek with the clouds.  The temperature remained cool, making for a brisk day, but it was a nice change from the cool, overcast dreariness of the past week.  Except for Thursday, when the high temperature is supposed to hit 80, the daily high temps will be around 60 all week.

Linda made her scrumptious blueberry pancakes for breakfast and then went for a walk.  She had barely left the house when she returned, very excited, to tell me she had just seen a young albino deer running through our yard.  By the time I got outside it had moved on to the woods west of our property.  We often see the same deer day-after-day as they travel their circuit, so I also hope to see this one someday.

After checking in on the blogs I follow using the Feedly app on my iPad2 I made a couple of corrections to a recent blog post, approved a comment from our daughter-in-law (the first one has to be approved), and deleted the 59 spam comments that the Akismet plug-in/service trapped since last night.  I put a load of laundry in the washer and then spent some time looking online for a padded case for my new laptop computer and a replacement for one of our APC SmartUPS units that has failed.

With the move to tablet computers, the choice of laptops is diminishing, especially those with larger screens, and along with that fewer choices for accessories such as cases.  In the past 14 years I have always purchased larger roller cases, with separate cases for the computer that fit inside, as my laptop traveled with me every day everywhere I went.  I had the most recent of these cases with us in Florida and, after getting the computer/case and accessories out of it, I stored it in a closet (where it tended to be in the way).  The next time I touched it was when I unloaded it from the bus to bring back into the house.

It was clear from that experience that I do not need another roller case.  I do, however, want something that will protect my new laptop computer.  I think I have narrowed the choice down to the Everki Advanced or the Everki Lunar, both available through Amazon Prime.  The Advanced is very reasonably priced at under $40 and has generally favorable reviews, mentioning the ASUS “Republic of Gamers” (ROG) models in particular.  The Lunar has more storage space, and also has generally favorable reviews, but is over three times the price at just under $130.  Posts on the ASUS ROG Forum seem to favor one of the Everki backpack models, but I do not want a backpack style case.

Our failed APC uninterruptible power supply is a Smart-UPS SUA1000.  By trading it in on a SMT1000 we can save $75 off the retail price.  I need to confirm that the discounted price includes return shipping; the SUA1000 weighs 48 pounds.

I revised the RVillage Quick Start doc I created for the GLCC, CCO, and FTH RV clubs, making it generic for use by Bus Conversion Magazine or anyone else.  I then uploaded it to a new RVillage page on our website and revised a couple of other pages to link to the new one.  I then uploaded blog posts for the last three days.  I set up my new laptop in my office and installed seven more updates.

At breakfast yesterday I got a tip from Paul (N8BHT) on a used tower.  He e-mailed me the owner’s contact information later.  I called the owner, Wayne (KD8H), this afternoon and got a little more information about the tower.  It is an aluminum Heights Tower, 80 feet, with Fold-Over Kit (FOK) including the drive motor, a rotator and antenna mounting plate.  It is already on the ground and disassembled into sections.  Wayne is retired and I will likely go look at the tower tomorrow afternoon.  I e-mailed Paul (N8BHT), Mike (W8XH), and Steve (N8AR) to see if they were available to go with me.

Linda made lentil loaf for dinner with baked yams and fresh asparagus.  After dinner I drove to South Lyon for the May meeting of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.  SLAARC usually meets on the 2nd Sunday of the month but pulls the May meetings forward a week to avoid Mother’s Day.  Our topic of discussion this evening was the upcoming ARRL Field Day operating event, which takes place the last full weekend in June.  We had a couple of new hams at the meeting and afterwards several of the guys helped Christine, KD8VEA, get the PL tone set correctly on her radio so she was able to participate in a group QSO with Steve (N8AR), Mike (W8XH), Fred (AC8VL), and myself on the drive home.  In spite of what many people think, including some older/former hams, amateur radio is alive and well in the North America and all over the world.

 

2014/03/22 (S) WiFi Ants

No, not WiFi Antennas; WiFi and ants, which I will get to later.

Saturday morning the refrigerator temperature was 40 degrees F.  I moved the remote wireless thermometer to the freezer compartment and left it until it settled in around 5 degrees F.  The refrigeration system, including the controls, appeared to be working.  Linda retrieved most of our frozen food and a few fresh things.  We partially restocked the fridge and I set the thermostat a bit lower.  Linda made a tofu scramble to use up some of the fresh ingredients, in case the problem returned.  Yum.

I checked my e-mail and found several dozen post replies and a few messages from RVillage.  We both played with RVillage for a while and I reported another bug.  I also had a message from the WiFi Ranger technical support team indicating that they had successfully uploaded a patch to our WFR MobileTi and switched it to a PRO feature set.  They wanted me to try logging in to the resort WiFi system and let them know if it worked.  I followed their instructions, and it did!  Finally, success!!!  I got back on their support forum to let them know and thanked them for their persistence in identifying and correcting the problem.

As best I understand it, the problem was not a bug in their firmware but rather a design assumption they made that an RV park WiFi system would never be a class 2 network.  Based on that assumption they were doing using IP addresses to connect to other WFR devices (WFR Go) in a way that conflicted with the class 2 network operating in our RV resort. WiFi Ranger thinks the chance of us running into this again is very small (unless we come back here, in which case it’s 100%).  This may, in fact, be the only RV park where we will ever encounter this.

I do not understand all of the details, but essentially a class 2 network has 2^16 (65,536) available IP addresses. That’s a LOT of IP addresses and made me wonder if the resort WiFi system is actually part of a much larger network, perhaps for the city of Williston or even for all of Levy County.  The “explanation” the network technician gave me some weeks ago was that our WiFi Ranger, being a repeater/router, was simply “not a supported device” as a matter of park policy and he was unable (unwilling) to give me any assistance with it even though he admitted knowing what it was and having  set them up before.  He could have just told me they were running a class 2 network and that it might have something to do with my problem, but he withheld that information.

The “logic” behind his explanation of the park policy was that we could “hide” data-intensive devices behind our system, such as streaming-video, gaming consoles, or even a web-server.  That was nonsense, of course.  If the concern was data-transfer, the network could simply monitor and control that at an IP address level.  When I indicated that one of the reasons for our router was to put our devices (and data transfers) behind an encrypted hardware firewall, he told me the WiFi system connection to the Internet was encrypted, as if that was somehow equivalent.  It’s not.  The connection between the resort WiFi system and the WiFi client devices is NOT encrypted, and thus open and viewable to someone intent on doing so.  Unless people are using secure applications, such as most banking software, their WiFi connection is vulnerable.  This is true of any system that does not require you to enter a WPA or other “key,” including the free WiFi at places like Panera Bread.

We have had good Verizon 4G/LTE service here, so getting online has not been a problem, but if that had not been the case we would have been in a really bad situation.  I was anxious to get this resolved while we were still here so they could test possible solutions on a network known to have this problem.

With computer tasks taken care of, we turned our attention to fixing the roof leak.  As we were setting up the Little Giant folding step/extension ladder we noticed ants traveling up and down the cable TV wire.  Yikes!  The cable runs into the bus through a small window by the driver’s seat.  We had used Frog Tape to seal up the opening against the weather, but it was not ant proof.  We checked inside but did not see any ants where the cable came in.  Closer inspection outside revealed them moving up and down along a body seam and horizontally along the floor line just above the bay doors on the driver side of the coach.  We quickly disconnected the TV cable (we don’t use it anyway because the analog signal in the park is not very good) and closed the little window.  Dealing with the ants, however, would have to wait.

Linda packed all of the tools and supplies I needed for the roof repair into a bag that I carried up with me.  The repair was simple enough; use the small caulk gun to apply Dicor self-leveling lap sealant around and up onto all four sides of the Fan-Tastic vent fan base.  This Dicor product is universally used in the RV industry for just this purpose.  It is not “runny” like water but it does flow, especially when warm, just enough to do what its name suggests, flowing into cracks, crevices, and small holes as it smooths out.  It eventually sets up and forms a skin, but remain pliable.  Rain is forecast starting late Sunday and running through the coming week, so we will find out then if I have fixed the problem.  The real problem, of course, is that the fan base is probably not installed properly.  The correct fix would be to remove it and reinstall it, but that was not going to happen sitting here in the RV resort.

Now for the Ants!  These were, thankfully, small black ants and not fire ants, which are a widespread and serious problem here in Florida.  We hooked up a spray nozzle and tried to flush as many of them away as we could.  It’s not that we wanted to harm even these tiny creatures, but we are not willing to share our home on wheels with them.  They are tenacious, and hung on tight or hunkered down in the nearest available crack.  Linda walked to the Grocery Depot and bought a can of ant spray that I applied to the concrete pad around the bus tires as best I could and on/around the electrical and water shorelines and the waste water drain hose.  Later I went to ACE Hardware, bought a couple of boxes of Borax, and used them to establish a defensive perimeter around the coach.  This is a treatment for ants that we have come across in numerous different forums.  The coming rains will wash it away so it will have to be reapplied.

We had a light/early dinner of hummus and pita chips, went for a walk, and then eventually headed to the fire pit with our customary glasses of wine.  John played the guitar and sang for hours, often joined by the group that had gathered.  We were they again until quiet time at 10 PM, at which time John stopped playing and we turned off the lights.  We still had a small fire and I continued to coax flames out of it for a while longer.  Kevin builds the initial fire and lights it, and John was the backup fire tender, but since he is usually playing his guitar I have assumed responsibility for tending the fire.

 

2014/03/12 (W) Welcome To RVillage

Today was a big day.  The new RVillage social networking website was publicly unveiled and I am now free to talk about it online; encouraged to, actually.  We have been privately beta-testing the website for some weeks now and think it is going to be a “must have” tool for RVers looking to connect with old and new friends while on the road.  RVillage is not about making virtual “friends”; it is about creating real community with real people with whom you share real interests.

Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia have been coordinating the private beta-testing and are playing a key role in the public launch.  They posted a very comprehensive description of RVillage today and I recommend it as the best starting point.  There is a link to the website at the end for their post, or you can go directly to the website at RVillage.

My whole day was not taken up with the RVillage launch.  The RV Resort held a golf cart rodeo starting at noon.  A 2-person team had to navigate a course around traffic cones, including backing between two cones.  Easy?  Not if the driver is blind-folded!  I photographed the event for a while and then returned to the coach, photographing some of the first blooms of the impending spring.

I took advantage of afternoon high temperatures in the mid-70s, partly sunny skies, and a nice breeze to clean the outside of all the bus windows, no small task.  There is a lot of glass on this bus and most of the windows are between 6 and 12 feet above the ground so this required many trips up and down our 7 foot Little Giant folding/telescoping step/extension ladder.  Although it takes up valuable space in our front cargo bay this ladder is an essential tool in our traveling RV toolkit, and the only way we can get on the roof.

Here are some pictures from today:

Our bus on site 439, at WC RV Resort.

Our bus on site 439, at WC RV Resort.

Golf Cart Rodeo spectators and waiting contestants.

Golf Cart Rodeo spectators and waiting contestants.

Golf cart rodeo spectators at WC RV Resort.

Golf cart rodeo spectators at WC RV Resort.

Sharon (driving blind-folded) and Kevin navigating the course.

Sharon (driving blind-folded) and Kevin navigating the course.

Kevn & Sharon coming in to the finish line of the golf cart rodeo course.

Kevn & Sharon coming in to the finish line of the golf cart rodeo course.

Sharon being congratulated by Allen, one of the WCRVR owners.

Sharon being congratulated by Allen, one of the WCRVR owners.

Bob and Allen getting ready to try the course.

Bob and Allen getting ready to try the course.

Some of the first blooms in the RV park.

Some of the first blooms in the RV park.