Category Archives: beer

BP20160327-28-n-m-v1-squirrel-nuts-ent-markets

2016/03/27 (N) Squirrel Nuts

Jasper started trying to get my attention around 7:15 AM.  He comes up close to my head on either side to get his head “scritched” and goes eyeball-to-eyeball with me from just a few inches away.  I finally got up at 7:30 AM and Linda got up around the same time.  She took her morning medications and returned to her seat bed while I tended to the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  Linda was hungry and wanted breakfast so I cut the grapefruit in half only to find out that she cannot have grapefruit while taking the steroids.  No problem, it needed to be eaten and I can certainly eat an entire small grapefruit all by myself.

I did not feel like getting dressed right away to walk over to the office and get a couple of cups of free, but not very tasty, coffee so I ground up some of our beans and made a pot.  I have not done that since we got to Jetty Park and it was nice to have our own, special coffee again.  Once the coffee was brewed I plugged in the toaster and heated a couple of cinnamon raisin bagels for breakfast.  Linda went back to sleep after breakfast while I lingered on the sofa, enjoying my coffee, working on my blog post drafts, and playing a few games.  I eventually got a shower, got dressed, and took the trash to the dumpster.

The long range forecast was for afternoon high temperatures in the mid-80’s, plus or minus, with high humidity and rain chances.  The TV weather people have been describing the current whether as “summer like” which simply confirms for me that Florida is not someplace I want to be in the summer.  (Overnight low temperatures at home, however, are still dropping below freezing, so we are OK with where we are.)  I am tired of listening to our air-conditioners but this was going to be a mostly stay-at-home day given the weather conditions, the fact that Linda is not up for going anywhere or doing anything, and that today is Easter Sunday and many businesses are closed, even in Cocoa Beach.  At least the air-conditioners are keeping the humidity in the coach at a comfortable level, it’s the evaporator fan noise that is irritating.

A stay-at-home day is usually a good opportunity to upload some more posts to our blog and update the BCM page on our website.  The posts for the last third of December 2015 still needed to be edited before uploading so I started working on them.  I had just finished the ones for the 21st and 22nd when Linda wanted to go for a walk.  We walked over to the dumpsters to throw away our daily bag of trash and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s site where we found them sitting outside in the shade but without any breeze.  They decided to join us on our walk and we headed to the beach.  There was a steady offshore breeze but the sun was hot so we headed back to the campground in search of shade and a breeze.

We found both on the other side of the street from our site.  We got out our four folding chairs and set them up over there along with our little plastic folding table.  Yes, we own an old Prevost, but in many other ways are RVing lives are simple.  Vickie went back to their coach and returned with a beer (Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy) and a bag of pretzels.  At the same time I brought out pretzel nibblers, peanuts, and almonds along with water for Linda and a beer for me (Yuengling Traditional Lager).

The air temperature was in the lower 80’s with somewhat elevated humidity, but we sat in the shade with the cool, pleasant breeze enjoying our snacks and beverages.  The squirrels here are used to people and one approached quite close to us looking for a handout.  For whatever reason I decided to share the remaining peanuts with it, which immediately attracted a couple more squirrels.  When I ran out I went inside and got more and washed off some grapes.  When the squirrels started having a territorial dispute over the peanuts I decided to quit feeding them.  About that same time we were all feeling a bit tired (relaxed?) and decided to go take naps.  Naps are good; I like naps.

At 5 PM we walked over to the shipping channel to see if one of the Disney Cruise Line ships was departing.  We got to watch The Disney Magic come all the way down the channel, led by the harbor pilot boat and followed by the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas.  As the Magic was just rounding the bend from its dock into the straight portion of the channel someone spotted a pair of dolphins swimming up the channel.  We saw their dorsal fins but I was not able to get a photo of them.  After the two cruise ships were clear of the channel we walked to the pier.  Along the way the tugboat American Champion pulled in a barge with Scow 6 stenciled on the side.  A small derrick boat then came in from the ocean and a little while later chugged back out again.

By 6:30 PM Linda was thinking about her next steroid pill, which she had to take after dinner, so we walked back to our coach.  A can of Amy’s Chili with some Soup & Oyster Crackers made for a quick, easy, tasty meal along with some black grapes.  After dinner I was able to tune in one of the PBS affiliates.  We watched a documentary on Harry Gordon Selfridge and Selfridge’s Department Store in London, England.  That was followed by an episode of Grantchester, another of the BBC Masterpiece Mystery series.  We split an apple for a late night snack.  At 10 PM we switched to CBS and watched an episode of Elementary followed by the evening news, during which Linda converted the living room captain’s chairs into her nighttime convalescence bed.

The only part of the news that interested yes was the weather as a significant front was draped from northeast to southwest and pushing east out of the Gulf of Mexico across central and northern Florida with heavy rain and lots of lightening.  The TV weatherman said it would impact Orlando between midnight and 3 AM before finally moving out into the Atlantic Ocean.  I figured that meant any impact on us wouldn’t start until at least 1 AM and peak between 3 and 4.  Once I had a sense of the weather I turned off the lights in the front of the coach and retired to the bedroom for the evening.  I did not feel like writing or playing games so I flipped channels for a while.  I could not tune in either of the PBS affiliates, and nothing else caught my interest, so I turned off the TV and the lights and went to sleep.

2016/03/28 (M) ENT Markets

I was up at 7 AM and discovered that Linda had also just gotten up to take her morning steroids.  I put on my robe, put away the clean dishes from last night, fed the cats, cleaned the litter tray, and made a pot of coffee.  Once the coffee was brewed I toasted the last two cinnamon raisin bagels and we had those for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda played word games and I finished up yesterday’s blog post draft.

After two days of steroids Linda’s voice and hearing were slightly improved, but not much, and she continues to be tired, even listless, and sleep off and on through the day.  Today, however, she got dressed and settled in to work at her computer reconciling our charge receipts and bank balances.

We had decided that we would leave Jetty Park on Friday and were discussing where we might go next.  We knew that Linda needed a follow up appointment with her ENT back home so I called to arrange that.  We were surprised to find out that Linda’s ENT, Dr. Michael Seidman, was no longer at Henry Ford.  I was able to get an appointment with a different ENT for late April, but in the course of doing that I found out that Dr. Seidman had moved his practice to Celebration, Florida.  That’s the home of Disney World and is only about 50 miles from where we are camped!

By searching online we located the practice Dr. Seidman has joined, the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida (HNSCF), which is affiliated with Florida Hospital, a 7th Day Adventist facility.  I called and was informed that Tuesday, April 5 was the first day he would be seeing patients, so apparently his relocation was in-process.  We got an appointment for 11 AM.  The clinic asked me to contact HFHS and request a copy of Linda’s medical records which I decided to take care of later.  For now our immediate concern was figuring out where we were going to be camped between now and then.

At about this time Vickie called to let me know they had decided to leave on Monday, April 4 and that we could have their site starting that day if we wanted.  The trick was that we needed to go to the office together so she could cancel their reservation starting that day and I could immediately pick it up.  That prompted me to meet her and Pat at the office where I signed up for site #303 for Monday and Tuesday evenings with departure on Wednesday, April 6.

We were already set to move to site #358 tomorrow at noon for three nights so I needed a site for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  The only sites that were big enough to accommodate our bus and available for all three nights were in the boondocking area by the shipping channel.  I preferred that to having to move one or two extra times, and trying to squeeze into sites that were marginal in size, so Pat, Vickie, and I walked out to look at the available sites.  I selected site #3 and went back in to complete the registration process.  Vickie thought we would enjoy being parked with a view of the channel and Pat noted that the lack of trees was offset by a constant breeze.  We would also be parked facing north, so we would not have the sun on our windshields.  It came up later that we might have tried Sherwood Forest RV Park near Celebration, but at this point I did not want to move the bus very far prior to Linda’s appointment and risk having a problem which I would then have to deal with.

With all of the reservations taken care of I returned to our coach and explained the arrangements to Linda and then settled in at my computer to edit the blog posts for the last nine days of December 2015.  Around 2 PM I called the Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield ENT clinic to request a copy of Linda’s medical records be faxed to the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida.  I was transferred to the medical records department, where I was informed that they could not send records to a hospital or clinic based on a patient request and that the request would have to come directly from the receiving clinic.  The medical records clerk provided me with a phone number for the clinic to use.  We had exchanged a couple of e-mails with Sylvia at HNSCF so I replied to one of them with the relevant information.

Mid-afternoon Vickie called again to see if we wanted to ride to town with them.  Linda was feeling up to it so we agreed to go.  Our first stop was at the Sunseed Food CO-OP on N. Atlantic Avenue.  We bought a few things that did not need refrigeration and Linda made note of their extensive selections of Amy’s frozen entrees and pizzas as well as the Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream.  Out next stop was the small Coastal Produce market in downtown Cocoa Beach where Linda and Vickie bought some fresh produce.  We stopped at Sunseed Food CO-OP again on the way back to the campground and stocked up on Amy’s frozen entrees, got a couple of pizzas, two pints of non-dairy ice cream, and some nutritional yeast.  Vickie also bought some nutritional yeast as she had seen several recipes that called for it but was not familiar with it.

On the way back to Jetty Park Pat detoured through the western end of Port Canaveral on the south side of the shipping channel to show us the various dining options (restaurants, bars, and grills) located there.  The Disney Cruise Line terminals are a bit farther west and on the other side of the channel but we did not drive over there as we had fresh and frozen food that needed to get into our refrigerators and freezers.

With the food put away I resumed editing my blog posts from late December and managed to finish the one for December 31st just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.  I pushed the wrong button on the convection microwave oven and screwed up the sequence but the pizza still came out OK.  The fact that she felt like fixing dinner at all was one of the first good signs we have had in two weeks regarding her health.  Dinner wasn’t fancy, just a nice salad and vegan pizza, but it was tasty and it was nice to sit at the table and eat it.

After dinner we met up with Vickie and went for a long, slow walk.  Linda got to see site #3 and thought it would be nice for three nights.  We also walked the entire length of the paved sidewalk that meanders through the southern edge of the park property and saw lots of the feral cats that live here.  The cats are fed by official volunteers and we spotted numerous plastic bowls at several locations with cats hanging about nearby.  (My understanding is that feral cats and not “wild” cats; they are domestic cats that have returned to the wild.)  When we eventually made it to the beach the ocean was just an hour past low tide so there was more beach exposed than we had yet seen.  There were dark clouds visible from southwest to northwest moving slowly east so we walked north along the beach and the over the dunes to the concession building.  Linda spotted the sun just setting and it was enormous and orange-red.  We scurried up to the observation deck to get a better look and tried to take a few photos with our smartphones.  They generally capture good images with proper exposure, but the correct exposure for sunsets and sunrises can be very tricky.

With the sun out of sight we walked back along the channel to the campground office where Vickie and I each got a cup of coffee.  We then headed back towards our coach and finally went our separate ways at the fork in the road.  We were back at our coach at 8 PM and turned on the TV to watch our Monday night CBS shows.  Almost all of our TV viewing this winter has been CBS and PBS and we have been fortunate to be able to receive these signals almost everywhere.  Linda decided to try sleeping in bed for the first time in a week.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert but turned the TV off at midnight and went to sleep.

 

2015/10/30 (F) 21AA

Linda was up and out the door at 6:15 AM.  I got up an hour later, got dressed to work, and had the last banana-nut muffin and a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins.  I turned on the fireplace and settled in to do a search for Chevron Delo 100 conventional SAE 40 motor oil.  O’Reilly’s Auto Parts had it listed online and available in some of their stores locally but not the ones closest to me.  I called the store in Howell and Ron checked the warehouse.  The inventory showed 32 ‘units’ but he said they were packaged with three one-gallon bottles to a box.  I needed 8 gallons to change the oil in the bus’s DD8V92TA engine so I ordered 3 boxes.

I thought I had heard a heavy truck earlier as I was getting dressed but did not investigate.  Around 8:30 AM I heard another one and eventually the gravel hauler pulled into sight.  That meant Phil was already here so I put on my coat and hat (it was chilly outside) and grabbed my camera.  Phil had already spread out some of the construction fabric and the gravel hauler was backing in to the third driveway entrance to dump a load of 21AA road gravel.  He pulled out, unhooked the rear trailer, backed in with the front trailer, and dumped a second load.  The sun was up but low in the sky.  It was brilliant, lighting up the fall colors against darker gray skies to the west but blue skies and white clouds overhead, so I snapped a few photos.

Construction fabric in place on the upper and lower portions of the driveway extension.

Construction fabric in place on the upper and lower portions of the driveway extension.

The gravel hauler reconnected his rear trailer, drove down the street, and turned around by backing his double trailer into the road that leads to the court.  Phil had told me the driver was incredibly skilled but I was impressed watching me maneuver his tractor-trailer train.  After he was gone I helped Phil (a little bit) position some of the construction fabric.  The gravel train was due back in an hour with another load so Phil started up his Takeuchi front loader and started moving the large pile of gravel into place.  I took a couple more photographs and then went inside to have granola for breakfast.  I did not feel like making coffee so I had some Stash China Black tea with soy creamer.  While the water was heating I turned up the thermostats in the bus and the garage.

While I was chatting with Phil he mentioned that he gets all of the things he needs to maintain his Peterbuilt truck and other equipment from Southwest Brake on Haas Lake Road off of Grand River Avenue.  That is certainly closer than driving to W. W. Williams in Dearborn so I checked it out.  I talked to Jack but he could not tell me if they had the filters I needed without part numbers to cross reference.  While I was at it I Googled W. W. Williams and checked the distance to their Dearborn and Saginaw locations, which were 53 and 63 miles respectively.  I also checked the website for A & L Systems in Redford, which is where I get the replacement elements for the Racor fuel filter / water separators.  Before I went to any of these places, however, I checked my existing supply of filters as I try to keep these on hand.

The gravel train returned at 10:05 AM and unloaded two more trailer loads of material.  I checked my stock of filters and appeared to have an oil filter, a spin on fuel filter, and two filter elements for the Racor fuel filter / water separator, but I wasn’t sure.  I spent the rest of the morning checking websites and making phone calls to track down the ones that I needed.

W. W. Williams in Dearborn had the oil filter and secondary fuel filter based on our engine serial number.  That’s pretty cool, and I have confidence that these relatively inexpensive, but critical, parts are the right ones for our engine and the best quality available. They could not identify the spin on coolant filter or the air filter, however.  The air cleaner assembly is apparently determined by the vehicle manufacturer and the two coolant filters on our bus are threaded on to a manifold that is not part of the engine.  I let Chuck know that I might be going to W. W. Williams this afternoon and he asked me to pick up 8 gallons of Detroit Diesel PowerGuard 40 weight oil for him, which I agreed to do.

I had a box in the tub where the filters were stored for a NAPA 4070 Coolant Filter / Conditioner.  I found it on NAPA’s online store but it turns out that Brighton Ford is also a NAPA store so I ordered it from them for pickup tomorrow morning.  They did not have the 6623 (546623) air filter and could not get one for pickup tomorrow.  Their price was higher than I recalled paying for the last one, and I did not need it right away, so I did not order it.

My last call was to A & L Systems, a small company that carries specialty products for heavy trucks and construction equipment.  I got our T. F. Hudgins Spinner II centrifugal oil cleaner from them but they are also a Racor dealer so I get the Racor fuel filter / water separator products from them as well.  John helped me figure out what I already had, which included two replacement elements for the large water separator on the main engine that also serves as the primary fuel filter.  The NAPA 2276 turned out to be the air filter for the generator.  I did not ask about the filter / separator for the Aqua-Hot as I am not going to have Joe change it (I can do it myself when I have time).

At 12:30 PM I chatted briefly with Phil to let him know I was leaving.  He figured he would be done placing and compacting the stone before I got back.  I think he was also going to level out some of the sand he placed at the west end of the yard but I wasn’t sure about that.  He still needs to bring in topsoil to fill in and grade both sides of the driveway and the low areas at the west end of the yard, but he needs the west end to dry out first.

I drove to W. W. Williams in southeast Dearborn.  I bought two secondary fuel filters and two oil filters for me, and eight gallons of Detroit Diesel PowerGuard SAE 40 oil for Chuck.  I then drove home.  It was just under an hour each way plus my time there, so it was a big chunk out of my day, but I did not have a choice as I needed to have the filters on hand by the time Joe got here.

Phil was, in fact, gone when I got back around 3 PM.  It appeared that he had finished spreading the gravel out, leveled the parking area, and driven over it with his track loader to compact it.  The track loader leaves ruts from the tracks so I drove up and down the driveway many times with my car to compact them and even out the surface.  It was mostly for cosmetic purposes, but it looked better and that made me feel better.  I took the filters into the garage and then used one of our metal toothed rakes to even out a few remaining ridges in the gravel.  When I was done I texted Chuck that I had his oil.

Linda called a little before 4 PM while I was working with the rake to let me know she had left the bakery and was stopping at Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner.  I suggested we go out to dinner instead and she quickly agreed.  I figured she would be at least an hour getting home with Friday rush hour traffic so I took a shower and put on my going-out clothes.  Traffic was heavy, as I expected, and she was tired, so it was long, hard drive home for her, as I expected.  We spent over half an hour considering our limited restaurant options without coming to a decision when Linda got a text message from Diane about walking tomorrow morning.  Linda texted back to see if they wanted to have dinner at Camelia’s, the little Mexican place near their house.  It took a phone call to confirm and finalize the arrangements but we agreed to meet them there at 7:30 PM.

Camelia’s is a nice little Mexican restaurant and we had a good meal over good conversation with old (long-time) friends.  Linda and Diane had Margaritas while John and I had draft beers (Dos Equis, of course).  Linda and I split an order of vegetarian fajitas.  They were smoking hot, literally, when they came to the table and very tasty.  We lingered at the restaurant until 9:30 PM.  John and Diane invited us to their house, which is near the restaurant, for tea but we deferred as we were tired, had a half hour drive to get home, and had to be up at 7 AM to drive to South Lyon for breakfast with our fellow amateur radio operators.

We got home a little after 10 PM and went straight to bed.  We caught a few minutes of weather and then went to sleep.

 

2015/10/20 (T) Pop-X Pickle

It’s a good thing there are still five weeks until we depart for Florida; there are a lot of unfinished items that need to be taken care of on the bus and around the house/property before we go.

When Phil is here my attention tends to be on what he is doing.  He really knows his stuff, and is an excellent contractor to work with, but since he is not working from drawn plans there are inevitably questions and discussions about just exactly what it is I want and whether that is the best idea or even doable.

Phil had ordered a load of sandy soil for delivery first thing this morning and the “train” (double trailer) showed up not long after he did.  The sandy soil he wanted was not available so he got clean sand instead.  The train driver of the backed it over our third culvert and into the part of our yard were Phil wanted the material dumped.  That took a lot of skill and was impressive to watch.  I took a few photographs but video was really required to capture what was happening.  The Sony SLT-a99v does video in several different modes but I am just beginning to learn how to use it as a still camera and did not want to mess around with shooting video.  Besides, I am not a videographer; it’s a completely different way of thinking than being a still photographer.

Phil digs the trench for the electrical conduit from the SW corner of the garage to the far side of the driveway extension where he also dug a hole for the post that will support the RV outlet box.

Phil digs the trench for the electrical conduit from the SW corner of the garage to the far side of the driveway extension where he also dug a hole for the post that will support the RV outlet box.

With the material on site Phil was at the point where he needed to dig the trench for the RV electrical feed.  That meant I had to quickly make some final decisions.  I had an 8 foot 4″x4″ treated post and the PVC conduit pieces I needed to go from the post under the driveway to the other side but not enough to go all the way to the garage.  If I only put conduit under the driveway I could cap it, let Phil bury it, and then dig it up later and finish trenching from there to the garage.  I would not do that by hand, however, so it would mean having Phil come back next year just to dig this little trench.  Although I could have him dig the foundation hole for the ham radio tower at the same time that still did not make any sense to me.  Among other considerations I would have to fill the trench in by hand after I ran the cable.

Another option was to still use conduit just under the driveway but go ahead and run direct burial cable like we did two years ago for the pull-through driveway in front of the house.  I would need three (120VAC) or four (240/120VAC) large wires (or equivalent service entrance cable, each at least 80 feet long to get from the outlet box location in the post to the riser pipe on the garage and through the wall into a circuit breaker box.  Not only would I have to get the wire, which would be expensive, I did not have the outdoor outlet box or other parts I needed, so it would take me quite a while to go buy everything.  I also did not know exactly where/how I would feed the circuit.  (I had some ideas about that but they depended on just what the electricians do tomorrow.)

The most expeditious, and least expensive, option was to get more conduit and additional fittings and run the conduit all the way from the post to the southwest corner of the garage.  I left at 9:30 AM for Lowe’s as Phil started digging the trench and the hole for the post.

At Lowe’s I picked up five more 10′ pieces of 2″ PVC conduit, a 45 degree elbow, another 90 degree elbow, a right angle entry box, and a bag of 2″ conduit clamps.  By the time I got back to the house Phil had the post set in place and most of the trench dug.  I got all of the conduit pieces laid out on the ground and got the PVC cement, a hack saw, and the rope and weight.

Since Phil could not do anything else on the driveway until the conduit was installed he helped me install it (or vice-versa).  We joined 10′ sections to both ends of one of the 90 degree elbows and then dropped the weighted rope through it.  We then set the elbow and one of the straight sections in the trench with the elbow at the base of the post and the other straight section going straight up the post where I secured it with two clamps.  We proceeded to drop the weighted rope through additional straight sections of conduit, applied PVC cement to the ends, and put them together.  The conduit had to be inserted about 3″ into the mating piece and twisted as it went in.  I was glad Phil was there to help with this as I did not have the grip strength to do it by myself.  (I don’t have a lot of physical limitations but the arthritis in the base of my thumbs makes itself known in specific situations.)

When we got near the southwest corner of the garage we measured and cut a section of straight pipe to get us to a turn in the trench.  Because of a decorative grass plant the trench could not go directly to the desired location on the west side of the garage and had to go between the grass plant and a nearby small evergreen bush and then turned towards the garage.  We installed a 45 degree elbow to get around the corner and it ended up in the center of the trench.  When I said Phil knew what he was doing I meant it.  We again measured carefully and cut a short section of straight pipe to get us to a 90 degree elbow that would turn up and bring the conduit out of the trench and up the side of the garage.  I measured and cut the vertical riser section and we cemented it into the elbow.  We now had a complete run with conduit coming out of the trench vertically on both ends.

Phil back fills the trench for the electrical conduit from the corner of the garage to the RV electrical post.

Phil back fills the trench for the electrical conduit from the corner of the garage to the RV electrical post.

While Phil used his excavator to scoop and push dirt back into the trench and tamp it down I closed off both ends of the conduit.  At the garage end I removed the gasketed cover from the entry box, cut a short piece of 2″ conduit, and put it in the fitting hole on the back side.  Next I brought the weighted rope up through the bottom fitting hole of the box and used Gorilla tape to secure it inside the short back pipe.  I put a cap on the other end of the short back pipe and then put the entry box on top of the riser sideway.   I coiled up the extra rope, taped it inside the box, and put the gasketed cover back on.   I did not cement any of these connections.  When permanently installed the gasketed cover will point away from the wall and the hole in the back will have a longer piece of paper 2″ conduit cemented in and going through a hole into the wall of the garage.

At the post I used a Rigid brand pipe cutter, designed specifically for cutting large plastic pipe and conduit, to cut off the vertical riser at a convenient height above the top of the post.  I threaded the rope through a 3/8″ hole in the center of a 4″ disc of 3/4″ plywood and tied a big knot in it.  I modified the 2″ cap by drilling three adjacent holes lengthwise from the bottom up and cutting out material with a hacksaw to make a slot.  With the rope hanging over the edge of the conduit I lined up the slot in the cap with the rope and put the cap over the end of the conduit.

Since I decided to not have Phil build the area leading up to the planned barn location I wanted to pull all of the unneeded yellow plastic stakes out of the yard and put them away.  Re-staking the layout, however, is a time-consuming task so I put 10″ metal (iron) spikes at the locations of the front corners of the barn and the center point for the curved transition into the driveway.  I drove them flush with the soil so Keith would not hit them with his mower but we can find them later with a metal detector.

With the conduit installed and the trench filled and tamped, Phil filled started building the “curbs” for the driveway.  He had excavated parts of the driveway path and filled in other areas to create a base for the construction fabric and road gravel that was eight inches below the finish grade.  The construction fabric is 12’6″ wide and Phil likes to wrap it up on the sides about 8″ so when he staked out the driveway to be 11′ 2″ wide.  Phil used the sand to build up the areas along both sides of the driveway so that it looked like he had cut the driveway out, but that is not, in fact, what he had done.

My main bus project today was cleaning up the kitchen and living room, which mostly involved moving tools back to the garage.  It is a confined workspace and tends to get cluttered over time as we fetch tools for this and that.  I also wanted to be able to see the desk and its Corian countertop.

Two of the three sets of cushions in place on the new built-in custom walnut sofa/storage base.

Two of the three sets of cushions in place on the new built-in custom walnut sofa/storage base.

I called Butch in Quartzsite, AZ regarding the distributor tester.  He suggested that I send him an e-mail requesting Bill’s e-mail address and he would send it in his reply.  We then discussed the refrigerator and he suggested that I set the freezer to a colder setting, leave the fresh compartment setting as is, and monitor it for a while to see if it changes.  I did that and reset the min/max memory for both compartments.

Phil is not done with the French drain yet and spent part of the afternoon working on that instead of the driveway.  He made lots of trips back and forth with the front loader to take the topsoil he had removed to create the driveway, spread it out along on top of the pea gravel that fills the drain trench, and grade it off to blend with the undisturbed yard along either side of the drain.  Before he is all done with these two separate, but inter-related projects, he will have to bring in several truckloads of topsoil.  It will be used to fill low spots, especially at the west end of the property, and to cover everything that has been disturbed.  All of the topsoil will be finish graded to blend into the existing contours of the property and then seeded with grass seed.

The view from the living room looking towards the hallway.  The new built-in custom walnut desk has its Corian countertop in place and the new refrigerator is in place next to the built-in custom pull-out pantry.

The view from the living room looking towards the hallway. The new built-in custom walnut desk has its Corian countertop in place and the new refrigerator is in place next to the built-in custom pull-out pantry.

I did not want to get involved in any complex or time-consuming projects so I hung out on the west half of our yard where Phil was working and took lots of pictures with the new camera.  Actually, I had been doing that all day trying to document the work as it progressed.  When I wasn’t taking photos I gathered up broken branches and larger deadfall and carried or dragged it to the brush pile on the west side of the line of large fir trees that separate the east and west halves of our five acres.

Linda called around 3:30 and asked me to see if her wallet was on her desk.  She thought she had it with her but could not find it.  She finally located it in her car where it had been since falling out of her case this morning.  She was on her way home by 3:50 PM.

I had a final chat with Phil, who won’t be back until Saturday, and then closed up the bus and the garage.  We were headed to Ann Arbor this evening and I needed to get cleaned up and put on nicer, more appropriate clothes for our evening out.  I used to wear Oxford shirts and nicer pants every day for work, and sometimes a sport coat and tie or even a suit.  These days it’s mostly polo shirts and blue jeans or sometimes REI ripstop nylon convertible cargo pants.  And this summer it has mostly been my work jeans and work shirts.

We left around 5:15 PM and were parked in Ann Arbor before 6 PM.  We agreed to meet Kate at the Lab Cafe which was just around the corner from the Thompson Street parking garage.  (This garage is behind the former Border’s book store #1 which also housed the company’s corporate headquarters.  Our daughter started with Border’s as a cashier at this store and within four years was a regional manager for their PaperChase product line before the company imploded and went bankrupt.)

Kate was sending Linda text message updates on her travel status and ETA so we ordered a couple of decaf coffees to go.  At $3.75 each they were pricier than we are used to paying for coffee but they were “hand-crafted” and the coffee was very good.  It took the barista at least 10 minutes to make our cups, grinding the beans just before brewing and then slowly pouring hot water through individual filter holders after pre-wetting the filters.  In the time it took to make our coffee I would have been on my second cup at Panera.

Linda (front) and Kate (behind) take in the interior of one of the Pop-X art exhibit sheds.

Linda (front) and Kate (behind) take in the interior of one of the Pop-X art exhibit sheds.

The music was too loud and really awful, a bad combination in our opinion, so we sat outside in spite of the occasional attempt to rain.  When Kate showed up we walked the short distance to Liberty Park to see the Pop-X Art Exhibit.  Organized by the Ann Arbor Art Center, all of the art was displayed in “sheds” designed by an architect, one artist per shed.  The sheds were approximately 10 feet square with steep pitched roofs.  The roofs, and the two sides they pitched down to, were covered in clear wavy plastic panels to let in a lot of natural light.  The back end was solid and the front had a pair of sliding “barn style” doors hung from tracks.  There was a solid floor that was elevated relative to ground level and provision for electrical power.  They were designed to be sold as potting sheds after the exhibit was removed at the end of the week.  Although the light was fading I was still able to get some decent shots with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.  It has much greater light sensitivity than the Sony alpha 100 it is replacing as my primary camera and this was my first opportunity to take advantage of that since getting it.

Our main reason for coming to Ann Arbor was to have dinner with Kate but Pop-X was a nice bonus.  Ann Arbor has a LOT of dining options; hundreds I would guess just in the very walkable downtown area.  We decided to try the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company after Linda confirmed that they had some things on the menu we could eat.  It was a bit of a walk but the rain held off and it was an otherwise pleasant evening.

Linda had a dark Porter with definite chocolate tones and I had a hard cider with distinct cinnamon/vanilla tones.  It was also supposed to have roasted pecan notes but I did not detect that.  Kate had a red beer that was not hoppy and thought I might have liked it.  I had a sip of Linda’s Porter and it was very agreeable.  We both had small couscous and greens dinner salads, which were very nice, and both had wild mushroom burgers, which were excellent.  Linda said her chips were also very good and my French fries were tasty and generously portioned.  Kate had a burger and all of our meals came with pickles.  Kate does not care for pickles, which I knew, and does not care for vinegar in general, which I did not know, so Linda and I split her pickle rather than have it go to waste.  The waiter was very attentive and a good sport when I asked for a gallon of ketchup for my fries.  He brought two very full bottles for the table and a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce.  We tipped him accordingly.

At 9:30 PM we started a slow stroll back to the parking garage and chatted a while longer by our cars, which coincidentally were parked very close together.  It was 10:40 PM by the time we got home.  I fed the cats and we went straight to bed.  I was up later than I wanted to be trying to outline this post but I had not had much opportunity to work on it throughout the day.

 

2015/09/19 (S) Rally Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/09/01 (T) Tiling Kate

We both slept until 8 AM this morning and even then got up slowly and reluctantly.  We probably need a day off to rest, relax, and catch up on some not-so-physical tasks, but now is not the time.  There is too much to do and time is slipping by.  The fact that hot weather, muggy weather is forecast for the rest of the week probably had some effect on our enthusiasm for getting back to work.  We should probably get up at 6 AM and quit working by early afternoon, but I am not on a sleep schedule that accommodates those hours.

We had our usual homemade granola with blueberries, split a banana, and had OJ/GFJ to wash down our vitamins.  I made Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff coffee, but not as much as usual.  We enjoyed our coffee in the living room with our cats and finally got back to work at 10 AM.

Dry fit of Armstrong Alterna floor tiles.  The starting point was where the kitchen was where the kitchen transitions into the hallway.

Dry fit of Armstrong Alterna floor tiles.  The starting point was where the kitchen was where the kitchen transitions into the hallway.

Today was one of the milestone days we have been working towards all summer; we (finally) started laying out (dry fitting) the new floor tiles.  I had done two layouts on 1/4″ grid paper back in early June; one with the sides of the tiles parallel and perpendicular to the centerline of the bus floor, the other with the sides turned 45 degrees.  We both liked the turned layout better so I used it to estimate the number of tiles we needed and placed the order back in mid-June.  They took a few weeks to arrive but they have been sitting flat in their boxes since early July waiting to be installed.

My original drawing has tiles lined up with opposite corners on the centerline of the floor, although it looks good on paper there was no way I could draw it at a scale that allowed me to accurately account for the 1/8″ grout spacing.  The drawing was just a “proof of concept” and a starting point for the actual layout.

We laid tiles out according to the plan from a starting point in front of the refrigerator that would allow one of the grout lines to go down the center of the hallway in front of the pantry.  Unfortunately that did not allow the tiles to reach the front edge of the floor by the cockpit or work out well for the toe kick space under the kitchen base cabinets or hallway running back to the bathroom and bedroom.

A famous problem in mathematics is finding convex polygons that can “tile the plane.” What this means is that the polygon can fit together with itself perfectly so that there are no gaps.  Some of Escher’s artwork was based on the use of such polygons and that is the context in which most people would be familiar with this concept.  Among “regular” polygons, which are equilateral and equiangular, triangles, squares, and pentagons can tile the plane.  So can right triangles and parallelograms, which includes the rhombus.  Beyond that it gets a bit tricky and someone just recently discovered a previously unknown irregular pentagon using a computer program to systematically examine a very large number of possibilities.

What does that have to do with our bus remodeling project?  Not much, really, beyond the obvious fact that the new vinyl floor tiles for our motorcoach are squares with an edge length of 16 inches.  Floor tiles are almost universally square in shape because they are easy to manufacture and can be laid out on a floor in several different ways. Finding a way that fits a particular space in a balanced way is the tricky part, however, and more so in this case because the tiles need to form a continuous pattern of grout lines (if possible) while working their way down the hall and into the bathroom and bedroom.

We shifted the string of tiles running down the centerline towards the kitchen cabinets on the driver’s side of the bus so the corners just reached the recessed base.  We then shifted them towards the rear of the coach to get reasonable size pieces at the front edge by the cockpit.  We filled in some tiles to either side of the main fore-aft string to make sure they would make it to the edges with reasonable size pieces.  When it was clear that this positioning was going to provide a balanced installation in the kitchen and living room we started working our way down the hallway and into the bathroom.

The tiles continued to fall into place and fit well in the bathroom but did not flow into the bedroom quite the way we wanted.  We may have to offset a grout line as we transition from the hallway to the bedroom but were otherwise satisfied with our dry fitting.  We returned to the front of the coach and placed every full tile that we could.  We then started trimming tiles to fill in smaller pieces.  We limited ourselves to pieces that had one or two straight cuts and no notches or tabs.

It was 4:30 PM by the time we got to the door of the bathroom and bedroom threshold, where a critical decision would need to be made regarding the offsetting of a grout line.  We have learned that the end of the work day is not a good time to make critical decisions.  With company coming in a couple of hours we quit working and got cleaned up.

I sat in the living room and worked on this post.  Kate sent a text message at 5:30 PM that she was leaving Wayne RESA and heading our way.  We figured she would get here at 6:30 and that is when she arrived.  She brought a dip that she made from cannelloni beans, garlic, and lemon juice, some baby carrots, and some pretzel chips.  We enjoyed the appetizers with some Bell’s Oberon beer while we chatted about work, travel, and family.  Kate travels every chance she gets, usually with her S.O. Brian but sometimes by herself.  Europe is a favorite destination but she frequently visits family members all across the U.S.A. and sometimes overseas.

After catching up a bit we gave Kate a tour of the bus interior.  She liked the new floor tiles and our choice of seat fabric but was suitably impressed with the pull-out pantry which pleased us.  I turned off the three residential air-conditioners as we exited the bus.  Linda then got busy preparing dinner while I showed Kate the pieces of the custom desk and built-in sofa.  I turned on the A-C in the library (where the desk and sofa pieces are stored) to cool it off and lower the humidity.  It had been off all day since we were running the main house A-C plus the three A-C units in the coach.

Dinner was ready at 8:30 PM, a simple but tasty meal of burgers and fries with a second round of Bell’s Oberon beer.  (Linda bought a real beef patty and got a slice of real cheddar cheese for Kate.)  We had fresh strawberries and Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream for dessert and then continued to chat about photography, cameras, travel, and the low power Radio station, AM 1700, that Brian runs in Ypsilanti.  A local blogger does a weekly interview show that Brian then podcasts.  The most recent one was an interview with a professor from U of M Ann Arbor who wrote a book that was recently made into a movie (Diary of a Young Girl).  The podcast was “liked” by Sarah Vowel, who is sometimes featured on “This American Life.”  Very cool.

Kate had to go to work in the morning and left around 10:15 PM.  Linda went straight to bed but I had a couple of things to take care of first.  I had initiated the download of an updated NVidia GeForce driver for my ASUS laptop computer.  I e-mailed several documents to my sister Patty, and then downloaded the final draft of the August/September Bus Conversion Magazine, proofread my two articles, and e-mailed a couple corrections to the publisher.   I installed the driver update and then went to bed.  I wrote for a while and finally turned out the light at midnight and fell asleep.

 

2015/06/18 (R) Chiseled Bikinis

The light rain that started late yesterday afternoon continued off-and-on through the overnight hours.  We awoke to heavily overcast skies but a forecast that called for dry conditions until the early afternoon.  We were up at 7:15 AM and had our usual granola breakfast.  I took some more Ibuprofen in advance of working in the bus.  We were just getting ready to have our morning coffee when I noticed several cars in the driveway.  It was 7:45 AM and the roofers were arriving.  Pat Davidson was among them so I went outside to chat briefly with him.

We had our morning coffee and then got to work, Linda at her desk and me in the bus. I spent another two hours using the Makita 11 pound power chisel.  By 11 AM I had removed as much material from the floor as I felt was worth the effort.  Linda brought the camera out and took a few photographs of me at work after which I packed up the equipment, closed up the bus, and went to Home Depot in Howell to return it to their rental department.

I stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and ordered the new Frigidaire refrigerator for the bus, an FFHT1621QB (16.3 cu. ft., top freezer, black, no ice maker or water).  I scheduled delivery for Friday July 3rd to Chuck’s shop in Novi.  I will arrange with Chuck to take the bus their sometime after that when he is available to operate his fork lift and I can get Brendan or some friends to give us a hand.

Me using the Makita 11 lb power chisel to remove thinset and mastic from the floor of our H3-40.  (Photo by Linda)

Me using the Makita 11 lb power chisel to remove thinset and mastic from the floor of our H3-40. (Photo by Linda)

Work continued on the roof through the morning and then the crew tarped off the roof and left in a few of their vehicles for a long lunch.  As forecast it started to sprinkle around 2 PM as they returned from their lunch break.  It never rained hard and they kept on working but always with the tarps at the ready in case they were suddenly needed.  One of the guys finished installing our two Velux Sun Tunnel skylights which required a tall step ladder in our living room.  They looked very nice when he was done.

I had a chat with Jarel Beatty in Logansport, Indiana about the custom desk he is going to build for the bus.  I sent him a follow-up e-mail describing the pullout pantry we also need him to build.  I then spent an hour working on drawings before I had to quit and change clothes.

Kate had secured tickets through her cousin, Michaela, for this evening’s performance of The Bikinis at the Meadow Brooke Theatre at Oakland University in Rochester Hills.  Kate suggested O’Conner’s Public House (Irish Pub) in Rochester for dinner.  The roofers had been working in the living room installing the Velux Sun Tunnel skylights but were done by 3:45 PM.  That allowed us to get cleaned up, dressed for the theatre, and out the door at 4:30 PM even though the roofers were still working up on the roof.

We got to the pub at 6 PM.  Kate got there shortly before us and had ordered a soft pretzel appetizer before the happy hour prices expired at 6 PM.  Conveniently there were three large sticks so we each got one.  Kate got the cheesy dipping sauce and we split the spicy horseradish mustard, which really had a kick to it.  Linda and Kate each had a Smithwicks ale and I had a pineapple ale.  To paraphrase “the world’s most interesting man”:  I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer a fruit beer.  Not as mysterious as Dos Equis, or as authentic as Guinness, but it’s what I like.  Kate had a regular (beef) burger and we both had black bean burgers on soft pretzel buns with fresh hand-cut French fries.  The burgers and fries were both really good and the pretzel buns, which had been toasted on a grill, did not get soggy.

The musical was a lot of fun with a wonderful performance by the cast of four women.  All four of them were on stage singing and dancing with a lot of energy for most of the performance.  Their singing was excellent, each voice having its own unique quality but blending well, and they carried 4-part harmonies in tune with one another and the small 4-pieces band.  Two of them, Bambi Jones and Jeanne Tinker, were also in the Meshuggah Nuns musical we saw a month or so ago at the Meadow Brooke Theatre.

The Bikinis is the last production that Kate’s cousin Michaela will work on at the MBT.  The production run ends on Sunday and one week later she leaves for a summer stock gig in New England.  Meadow Brooke Theatre is a wonderful venue but not convenient to where we live, even less convenient to where Kate works, and very inconvenient to where she lives.  All of which is to say, I doubt that the three of us will be going there very often now that Michaela is moving on.  That is too bad in a way as we have all enjoyed the shows we have seen.  The fact that Michaela, as a cast/crew member, was able to get us tickets did not hurt.

Michaela met us in the lobby where Kate gave her a nice assortment of flowers.  She then gave us a behind the scenes tour of the wardrobe area where she has spent the past year working on costuming.  We walked out to our cars and by the time we all drove off it was 11 PM.  Even with light traffic it took us almost an hour to get home but we arrived while it was still Thursday, albeit just barely.