Category Archives: Wine

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

2016/02/16–20 (T–S) Friends, Food, and Good Times

[ Note:  There are no photos as part of this post. ]

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

Mara needed to get to a medical appointment in the Miami area today and stop at the veterinary clinic where Maui was being treated a few weeks ago.  We were going to let her borrow our car but Linda offered to accompany her on the rather long round trip and Mara gladly accepted.  She was not going to ask us to go along and thereby possibly inconvenience us, but she was glad to not have to make the trip by herself.  They worked out the arrangements yesterday and Linda was up, dressed, and gone this morning before I got up at 7:45 AM.

I made a smaller pot of coffee, had a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins, and had toast with apricot preserves for breakfast.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and e-mailed the postcard photo to Linda’s Gmail account and responded to an e-mail from Butch.  I also had a couple of e-mails back from Scott Neader at QTH.com in response to my support requests yesterday for the SLAARC account and WordPress website.  I then turned off the Mi-Fi.

Having to manage a limited data plan is a pain but the overage charges are worse.  The upside is that it allows (forces) me to do something else.  In this instance, I worked the rest of the morning on my iPad catching up on blog posts.  Linda texted me relative to the timing of their travels and asked me to send the postcard photo.  I already had, but it had obviously not gotten to her yet.  She expected to be back around 6 PM and we agreed to go out to dinner once she returned.

I had some hummus, sourdough pretzel nibblers, and grapes around 1:30 PM and then settled in to edit blog posts from the end of October and started working on the ones for November.  Linda texted me around 2 PM to let me know they were leaving and would be home around 5 PM.  I turned the Mi-Fi on and checked e-mail.  Mara had sent me a photo of Linda sitting in front of a very tasty looking plate of food but did not mention what restaurant they were at.

I continued editing blog posts and got a couple days into November (2015) by 4 PM.  I quit working and walked over to the swimming pool to use the showers.  There are only two stalls and they were both occupied so I had to wait.  Even so, I was done, back at the coach, and changed into nicer dinner clothes before Linda arrived.  We waited until 5:30 PM to drive to the Magnolia Street Seafood and Grill restaurant in downtown Arcadia.

We arrived at the restaurant early enough to get a good parking place and not have to wait for a table but late enough to be hungry.  We both had a large salad, minus the blue cheese crumbles, and shared a basket of French fries.  On the way back to our coach we stopped at the mail room and Linda connected her iPad to the resort Wi-Fi system to download e-mail.  The e-mail I sent her at 9 this morning had still not arrived.

We were back at our coach by 7 PM and turned on the PBS NewsHour.  I sent the post card photo again and it still did not arrive in her inbox.  We knew that both e-mails were sent because I cc:d one of our other accounts and received them there.  Linda finally checked her Junk folder and found it; twice.  She then created a post card for Madeline using the PostCardApp on her iPad.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs while working puzzles on our iPads.  Linda had a long day of driving and riding in the car and was tired.  With overnight lows forecast for the mid-50s and no rain (but some early morning fog) we left the windows and bathroom roof vent open.  We watched Limitless in bed, caught a little local news and weather, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

We did not get up until 8 AM this morning so, once again, we did not go to the weekly coffee/donut meeting at the activity building; not that we usually go anyway.  I made coffee and we wiled away the morning playing games and solving puzzles on our iPads.  I turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi long enough to check e-mail and send a few replies.  We eventually had toast and preserves for breakfast.

Bill and Brenda Phelan’s availability did not coincide with ours so I e-mailed her our shipping address here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and then called her with our credit card number.  I also arranged for us to meet Ed and Janet Roelle tomorrow afternoon at their winter home in Sarasota and then go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

The weather pattern for the next week was forecast to be dry and sunny with overnight lows in the mid-to-upper 50s and highs in the mid-to-upper 70s F.  That’s what I’m talking about! and that is why snowbirds come here in the winter.

Linda went for a morning walk and dropped off the trash.  She returned in time for lunch and made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also had some orange juice to wash down our vitamins, which we had not taken at breakfast.

Linda made arrangements to meet Mara at the pool today at 1 PM and then spend time with her afterwards showing her how to set up and use Quicken for her personal financial records.  I spent the first half of the afternoon editing blog posts from early November (2015).  Just before 3:30 PM I dialed in to the meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I was still engaged in that when Linda returned around 4:15 PM.  My meeting wrapped up around 4:45 after which Linda and I went for a walk.

We stopped by the activity building where Mara was in the library trying to get her computer online via the resort Wi-Fi and we were able to get her connected.  Linda and Mara had agreed to meet at 5:30 PM for a power walk but it was already 5:25 so they pushed the time out to 5:45 and we finished our stroll.

Dinner was an improvisation based on ingredients Linda had on hand.  Basically it was a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and kale, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano in EVOO and finished with some Egri Merlot.  Dessert was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We drank the rest of the bottle of wine before/during/after dinner.  Yummy.

Wednesday evening is PBS nature/science night, after which we were quickly to sleep.

2016/02/18 (R) Ed, Janet, & Nathan

We left the coach windows open last night and slept well until around 5:30 AM.  By then it was cool enough to need the extra blanket and the cats were fully awake and engaged in their usual morning routine dividing their attention between the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world and their persistent attempts to get us out of bed to feed them.  Our neighbors were also up early to take Ron’s mom to the airport for her flight back to Portage, Indiana.  Since the head of our bed is on their side of our coach we were aware of their departure conversation and preparations.  Even so, Linda was asleep last night before 11 PM and I was asleep by 11:15 so we got plenty of sleep.

I made our morning coffee while Linda turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got us connected.  We had used 11.2 GB of our 12.0 GB data plan with two days to go in our billing cycle.  We will get through the end of the cycle tomorrow at midnight without any overage charges, but the monitoring/management of our data usage for the last couple of weeks has been an unwelcome limitation and nuisance.  In particular I have been editing blog posts but not uploading them, which I very much need to do.

I did check my e-mail and respond to ones from Brenda Phelan and Ed Roelle.  We are going to Ed and Janet’s winter home in Sarasota this afternoon.  It turns out they are just down the road from our friends, Ed and Betty Burns.  Brenda had e-mailed us the UPS tracking number for our tire cover shipment.  She indicated that they could make/install our windshield covers the morning of March 8th at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster and we accepted the appointment.

I had an automated e-mail indicating that one of the websites I manage had been updated to WordPress version 4.4.2.  That meant all four websites had been updated and probably had plug-in updates available that needed to be processed.  As long as we were online I logged in to each site and initiated the updates.  The actual update process occurs between the web server and the WordPress server, so the only data usage for me is sending the update request and receiving back the status messages.

We eventually had our standard breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down our vitamins.  I have been having problems with my coffee “creamer.”  I know this is not a really big problem in the context of larger world events, but it is a problem nonetheless that is impacting my quality of life.  The problem is that my soy creamer has been curdling, and that just does not make for good eats.  To make matters worse, it does not happen all the time nor does it happen in a consistent way, at least not that I have been able to figure out.

For my first cup of the day I always add the creamer to the cup first and then swirl in the coffee as I pour.  This almost always results in the creamer blending smoothly with the coffee; almost, but not always.  Adding more coffee to the cup before it is empty, however, often produces the curdling; often, but not always.  Sometimes I can get the creamer to re-blend by adding a little more; sometimes, but not always.

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.

 

2016/02/12-15 (F–M) Everglades Update

2016/02/12 (F) Full Circle

We got up, showered, got dressed, and went down to breakfast around 8 AM.  We were packed, checked out, and had the car loaded by 9 AM.  We headed north on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, exited at some miles later, and headed west.  FL-94 ended at FL-997 where we headed north.  In looking at a map later, we would probably have been better off to get on FL-997 right from the hotel.  There was major road construction on FL-997 all the way to US-41, but traffic moved along at the 50 MPH posted speed limit.

At US-41 we headed west.  This is Miccosukee Indian territory, as indicated by the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming facility (Casino) at the NW corner of Fl-997 and US-41.  A short way to the west this stretch of US-41 (the Tamiami Highway between Tampa and Miami) is bordered by Everglades National Park on the south and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area on the north.  It eventually leaves both of these and runs through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

We pulled in to the ENP entrance for the Shark Valley Visitor Center and immediately and got stuck in the line of cars waiting to get in.  The parking lot had filled a few cars ahead of us and it was now a one car out, one car in situation.

Once we were in we checked out the tram ride to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower seven miles one way due south into the Everglades.  It was a two (2) hour narrated round-trip and cost $24 per person ($19 for seniors).  You can hike or bike out to the tower for free (after gaining admission to the NP).  We did not have that much time so we walked part way down the road along an open channel of water about 15 feet wide and found lots of wildlife photo opportunities, including birds, a large turtle, and alligators.  The most interesting thing we saw was a cluster of at least a dozen young alligators, ranging from one to two feet in length, piled up on top of one another.

A little farther west we left US-41 and drove a small 2-lane road for 38 miles.  The first half was paved and the second half was good gravel.  It was a lovely, slow drive with a maximum speed limit of 30 MPH and a few nature photo opportunities along the way.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

After rejoining US-41 we continued west through the Big Cypress National Preserve as far as FL-29 with Everglades NP once again on our left.  We then headed south through Everglades City and re-entered the park.  The Gulf Coast Visitor Center was very small and did not have the ENP shirts we had seen at the Flamingo Visitor Center and were now hoping to buy.  The vendor operated gift store did not have them either.  The only things you can do from this point in the park are explore the NW coastal portions by canoe, kayak, or pontoon boat.  We did not have time for any of that on this quick visit so we pulled up the address for our RV park in the GPS unit and pushed on.

We had a better look at Everglades City on the way out of town and decided that it was an interesting looking little place.  A traveling carnival of some considerable size was setting up in the middle of town, literally.

Back at US-41 we continued west as we were still somewhat east of the north-south line through Arcadia.  The only other route home from here would take us north on FL-29 and then back east on I-75 and eventually back through LaBelle and up the west side of Lake Okeechobee.  That would be a much longer trip and it was already starting to feel like it had been a long day.

We left US-41 at Collier Blvd. and traveled north about seven miles to I-75 north.  Traffic was heavy, congested, and stop-n-go initially but eventually freed up.  We traveled about 39 miles to exit 141 at Ft. Myers and headed east a few miles to FL-31.  Our final 38 miles were straight north to Arcadia where FL-31 ends at FL-70 just west of our RV resort.

From the Shell station in Arcadia on Tuesday morning to our coach at 5:45 PM today we put 919.4 miles on the car’s trip odometer.  The speedometer on the car reads slightly high, probably because the tires are not factory original specifications, so our actual mileage may have been slightly less by about one mile for every 60 miles traveled.  That would be approximately 15 miles for our trip, making the actual mileage perhaps 905 for the four days, for an average of 225 to 230 miles per day.  That’s a lot of driving, but the purpose of our trip was to get a first glimpse at a lot of south Florida that we had not seen before.

We brought a few things in from the car, spent some time with our cats, and then visited with Ron and Vera (who did not even realize we were gone), before walking over to Mara’ rig for dinner.  Mara made a pot of vegan chili and a wonderful salad which we enjoyed with a glass of her favorite Malbec.  We talked about our trip, how the kitties did in our absence, and discussed the logistics of Michael’s upcoming visit.  We returned to our coach around 9:15 PM, finished unloading the car, unpacked a few things, adored our cats, and relaxed with our iPads for an hour before going to bed.

2016/02/13 (S) Yard Sale

I was up at 7:30 AM, partially prepped the coffee, and then unpacked clothes and hung them up or put them in the laundry hamper.  Linda got up sometime after, after which I ground the coffee beans and finished making our morning coffee.

We noticed last night that a few folks had things sitting out in their front yards suggestive of a garage sale.  This morning there was quite a bit of commotion outside and we noticed several yards just from our rig with lots of stuff sitting out on tables and/or the ground.  Clearly Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was having an official yard sale event today.

We had granola for breakfast and then strolled through the resort.  Based on one comment we overheard we got the impression that the yard sale might have started yesterday but there was still lots of stuff available.  We are not yard sale people, as a rule, and our real destination was the laundry room.  Most of the parking spaces were taken but the room was empty and none of the machines were in use.  We walked back to our coach, loaded our laundry, computers, and iPads in the car, and drove over to the laundry room.

I got the laundry into a washing machine while Linda got her computer going and connected to the park Wi-Fi system.  I then started my computer and got online.  Her computer screen came up dark.  It has done this many times in the past, but not recently.  We think it may be related to the battery, but we are not sure.

Our main reason for bringing our computers over was to download our e-mails from the last four days.  BCM, in particular, has a habit of sending me large files as e-mail attachments or links to large files in a Dropbox, which I prefer.  I had at least 118 e-mails but no large attachments.  I did not get a count from Linda.  Both of our computers are also set up to automatically sync our Dropbox account, and one of the things it does is automatically backup four WordPress websites.  We only had 2.5 GB of data left on our Verizon account to get us through February 19th, so we wanted to transfer as much data as possible via the park Wi-Fi system.

Once the laundry was dry, folded, and hung, we returned to our coach where Linda put on her swimsuit and then joined Mara at the pool.  After putting the clean clothes away I rebooted and reconnected our computers and iPads to our local network and turned on the NAS.  Once everything was up and running I connected the camera and off-loaded all of the photos from the last four days; just over 400 total.  I got a bite to eat and then put on my swimsuit, gathered up my towel and a pair of dry shorts, and went over to the pool to join the ladies.

BP20160212_01732_400x300

A Purple Gallinule near the Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

When I arrived Linda and Mara were sunbathing.  The pool was cool even though it is heated but once I was in and swimming gently I generated enough heat from muscle activity to be comfortable.  I swam for about 1/2 hour and then sat in the hot tub with the whirlpool turned on and positioned myself to vigorously message my lower back.  Linda had taken the soap when she went so I took that along with my towel and shorts and used to shower to rinse off the chlorine and get cleaned up.  I returned the soap to Linda and walked back to our coach.

I doodled on my iPad while Linda read a book when she returned to the coach.  She left at 4 PM to walk to the grocery store with Mara while I laid down on the sofa to take a nap and Jasper curled up next to me.  I was aware of Linda’s return, gradually woke up, and finally got up.

Linda invited Mara to come for dinner.  While she busied herself with the preparations, I went through all of the photos from our trip to Everglades National Park and Key West and backed them up to our NAS.

While I was looking at photos ESET Smart Security kept popping up messages letting me know that it needed my attention.  I opened it and it presented me with a loooong list of critical and recommended updates.  Given our data situation this month I deferred those until I can take my computer back to the office/laundry/activity building and use the resort Wi-Fi system.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a “pasta” dish using an edamame and mung bean fettuccine style noodle.  Mara came to our coach around 6:45 PM and brought a vegan chocolate mousse for dessert.  It was based on blended avocados and it was a delicious finale to a scrumptious meal.  There was a nice orange glow in the western sky but it was too dark by then to eat outside.  It was also getting chilly following sunset so we ate inside and polished off a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio between the three of us.

Mara left a little before 9 PM and we turned on the TV to see if anything interesting was on.  One of the PBS stations was showing a three part drama titled Arthur & George based on a true life event in the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and starting Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as Doyle.  Linda went to bed part way through the third episode but I stayed up to watch it as it was very well done.  I flipped channels for a while after that but nothing else held my attention and I finally went to bed sometime after midnight.

2016/02/14 (N) Valentine’s Day

We were still tired from out whirlwind trip to south Florida and slept in this morning.  When we finally got up Linda made pancakes for breakfast, this being Sunday and all.

It’s a good thing we have our 2 GB of bonus data for the next couple of billing cycles.  Between the Windows 10 upgrade on two computers (most of which we did using the RV resort Wi-Fi), the upgrades to the iOS on both iPads, the inevitable updates to applications on all four devices, and quite a bit of work on BCM articles as well as our personal website/blog, we have had to monitor/manage our data usage very carefully for the January 20 through February 19 billing cycle.  Even with being gone for four days to the Everglades and Keys, and taking our devices to the activity building to use the Wi-Fi, we will be very close to our limit by this Friday, which is the 19th.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

My computer was indicating that I had 22 updates available which meant that Linda’s computer probably had a similar number.  One of them was a Windows 10 cumulative update which I knew would be large so I took both computers to the library and did the updates there.  I then spent part of the day processing and backing up photos before turning my attention to blog posts.  Even with our data situation I uploaded several from mid-October and prepared several more.

We had a relatively easy day otherwise and I did not record all of the details which are now mostly lost to me.  Brenda Phelan called around 5:15 PM to let me know our tire and windshield covers were ready but she and Bill were headed out for a couple of days on windshield cover appointments.  They would be back on Wednesday and we deferred dealing with delivery until then.

For dinner Linda made a mushroom bourginione with macaroni.  She used a Lindeman’s 2014 Shiraz to make it and we also drank some before/with our meal.  She bought a pint of Soy Delicious Cookie Dough non-dairy “ice cream” the other day and we had that for dessert.  After dinner we settled in to watch our Sunday evening TV programs, including Downton Abby.

2016/02/15 (M) Ready, Set, No

We had our usual morning of coffee, juice, and granola for breakfast.  Our fresh water tank had dropped below the 1/3 level yesterday or the day before.  The monitor only indicates Empty, 1/3, 2/3, and Full so once it drops below 1/3rd I have to check it visually.  Fortunately the tank is translucent polyethylene and is located behind a door such that I can see the water level when the lighting is right.  Given how we are parked, facing southwest, the light is best in the morning as access to the tank is from the driver side of the bay.

The tank was down to the 1/8th level, which is about 15 gallons.  We might have gotten one more day’s use but there was no reason to run the tank dry and the pump works better with a full tank.  I dumped both waste tanks and refilled the fresh water tank.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after the tank was full and it was indicating somewhere between 0 and 1.5 gpg.  I updated my Excel spreadsheet accordingly.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

Linda had work to do today on family tax returns and set up her computer on the temporary dining table while I continued to work at my computer on the desk.  I selected and processed a couple of photos from our visit to Everglades National Park for Linda’s weekly postcard to Madeline.  I then selected and processed photos to include in the blog posts for the dates of our visit to the Everglades and Keys.

Brenda Phelan had also sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding our tire covers.  I replied to that and indicated that we might pick them up on Wednesday when she and Bill are back at their shop in Lakeland.  With that done I started preparing for a 3:30 PM telecom meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I printed off six documents:  meeting notice, agenda/notes, short survey results and sampling information, and the long survey results and sampling information.  All told it was 55 sheets of paper, but I wanted/needed to see the survey results printed out.

At 3:29 I dialed in and was the first caller, which I though was odd.  I doubled checked the meeting notice and realized the meeting was Wednesday the 17th.  I knew that, but historically we have always met on Monday afternoons and I just had it in my head that we were meeting today.  The upside us that I have more time to digest the data and think about how I want to handle the fact that the sample/response was too small (in my expert opinion) for the results to be considered representative of the FMCA population.

We had leftovers for dinner, after which we settled in to watch the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX as our usual Monday evening programs on CBS were preempted by the Grammy Awards, which did not interest us.  At 10 PM we switched to PBS and watched a documentary on Stephen Hawking, followed Charlie Rose.  Rose’s show was focused on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scilia, who passed away over the weekend.

 

2016/02/01 (M) – 2016/02/04 (R) Southwest Florida

2016/02/01 (M) Tabbed

We had coffee and then granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  After breakfast we gave Jasper his nose drops.  Linda then went for a walk that took her to Walmart where she picked up a few grocery items.  I continued working on photos for Dave Aungier’s BCM article.

When Linda got back I decided to put the new tabs on the license plates (car and bus).  We were able to renew the registration/tabs online and have them mailed directly to the RV resort.  Putting the new tabs on was a bit more work than just peel and stick as I keep protective plastic covers over the license plates and secure them with “tamper proof” bolts and Nylok nuts.  That required special tools which I had to get out.

Once I got the plates off the vehicles and separated from the covers I washed them and stood them up to dry.  While they were drying I washed off the areas of the vehicles where the plates mount.  I peeled four layers of old tabs off of each plate so I could put the new tabs directly on the plates.  I reassembled the protective covers on the plates, mounted them back on the vehicles, and put the tools away.  The final step was to remove the expired registrations from our wallets and replace them with the new ones.  The whole process took about an hour but it felt good to have it done.

While I was outside I drained the auxiliary air system water separator (which I do every few days).  I also opened the drain on the auxiliary air tank but it was dry.  That was good, and meant the water separator is doing its job.

Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  She read for a half hour and I continued working on photos while we digested our lunch before changing into our swim suits and walking over to the pool.  There were quite a few people in the pool so we stayed in the shallow end, walking and swimming from side to side.  When we were done exercising we spent a few minutes in the spa (hot tub / whirlpool) and then showered and changed into dry clothes that we brought with us.

We stopped at the mail room and found our electric bill for January in our mailbox.  Linda walked back later and paid the bill and also our rental fee for February but realized later that they did not charge us enough.  She thought they might have charged us for someone else’s campsite.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Gary at BCM.  He forwarded one from Jorge with a Dropbox link to a draft of the March 2016 issue and a request to proofread both of my articles and provide any needed corrections ASAP.  I finished the task before dinner, uploaded the PDF file, and e-mailed them back.

For dinner Linda made Farro with dried cranberries, onions, garlic, greens, and hot pepper flakes.  We finally finished the Franzia Crisp White boxed wine, which went well enough with the dish.  After dinner I washed some of the grapes that Linda bought today and we settled in to watch the PBS Newshour, the X-Files, Lucifer, and NCIS Los Angeles.  We went to bed and tuned in PBS for coverage of the Iowa Caucuses before going to sleep.  I don’t recommend political coverage as a way to fall asleep peacefully.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

2016/02/02 (T) Mara Arrives

The humidity rose sharply as the temperature dropped last night.  That made for cool, but sticky, conditions at bedtime; the one combination that we do not have a way to counteract.  We woke around 7:30 AM to dense fog and were less than fully rested, but a nice pot of coffee at least cleared away the cobwebs.  The fog disappeared soon enough to reveal partly cloudy skies.  The sun was bright and hot but there was a mild breeze, making the morning feel somewhat tropical.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with our usual orange-grapefruit juice.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast and stopped at the office to correct our rental payment for February.  While she was walking I resumed my work on Dave Aungier’s article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  I finished selecting, processing, and inserting photos for the print version of the article and then set it aside.  It had been nine days since I dumped the waste tanks and filled the fresh water tank and we were down to 1/6th of a tank of fresh water.  That’s about 20 gallons so we could have gone one more day, but we are not boondocking and do not have any reason to run the tank all the way to empty.  Besides, the water pump works a lot better when the tank is full.

Linda stopped at Walmart on her walk and returned carrying four small bags of groceries while I was servicing the tanks.  She also got a text from Mara indicating that she was about to pull out and head our way.  Once the fresh water tank was full I left the water hose turned on and added the tank treatment to the toilet and sinks while Linda did the dishes.  Once we were done I shut off the shore water and we returned to operating off of the fresh water tank using the onboard pump.

As long as I was doing chores I cut the power to the coach, waited 30 seconds, and turned it back on to reset the Progressive Industries EMS Previous Error (PE) Code 2 (open ground).  This error occurred during the last storm while we’re away from the coach.

With our chores done Linda thought we should go for a swim so we changed into our suits and walked over to the pool.  Some of the Quebec residents were playing Petanque (pronounced “p’tunk”) and there was a shuffleboard tournament about to commence.  I gathered from the instructions being given to the teams that Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was hosting teams from another RV park.  There was no one else at the pool when we arrived and we had it to ourselves for about 10 minutes.  A woman showed up and asked if it was OK with us if she put on her water aerobics music and did her exercises.  Sure!  Why not.  Linda joined in and eventually a third woman joined them.  I went to the deeper end of the pool and swam back and forth from side to side.

I got out of the pool while the ladies were still exercising, took a quick dip in the hot tub, and then showered.  I changed into my other pair of swim trunks (XXL) and cinched them tight.  They make a very comfortable pair of shorts for warm days and it doesn’t matter if they get wet

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We were back at our coach by 2:30 PM and Barb, across the street, invited us to hang our suits and towels on their clothesline, which we did.  Linda made roll up sandwiches with garlic hummus, onion, and lots of dark, leafy greens for a later-than-usual lunch.  After lunch she sat outside and read while I updated my water usage spreadsheet.  Linda got another text from Mara that she had arrived so we moseyed over to her site behind the swimming pool.  Mara passed us in her motorhome going the other way as she was being led away from the office to her site.  We stopped at the office on the way to make sure they had cleared up our February billing correctly and to check our mailbox.  They had; no mail.  The Québécois were done playing Petanque for the day but the shuffleboard tournament was in full swing.  The parking volunteer was just getting Mara backed in as we arrived at her site.  We left her alone while she blocked and leveled her motorhome, extended the slides, shut down the engine, plugged in the shorepower cord, and deployed the awnings and windshield sunshades.  Good RV etiquette is to not bother people while they make/break camp.

We visited briefly but did not stay.  Mara had stopped at the Walmart for groceries before entering the resort and needed to put them away and then have something to eat.  Linda invited her to come down for dinner and she accepted.

When we got back to our coach the inside thermometer read 89 degrees F.  That was just a bit too hot for my comfort, and for the cats too.  I turned off the electric heating element for the domestic hot water.  We closed up the coach and turned on the front and center air-conditioners, but not the one in the bedroom.  The front and center units are on separate legs of the 240/120 VAC system.  Even before I turned the units on the voltage was 115 VAC on L1 and 112 VAC on L2 with very little current draw.  With A-C units on these voltages dropped to 112 and 109 respectively.  That is very marginal for our PI EMS, especially the L2 voltage.  This was the first situation we have been in where I wished I had a Hughes Autoformer boosting transformer.

I opened the bottle of Beringer Red Moscato that we have had in the refrigerator for a while and Linda and I had a glass while we waited for Mara.  Linda called Mara at 7 PM and she was not sure how to find our coach in the dark so I walked over to the activity building at 7 PM to meet her and we walked back together.  We gave Mara the grand tour of our remodeling efforts and then poured some more wine.  Both cats allowed Mara to interact with them, which was unusual and perhaps a sign that Jasper’s health was finally improving.

For dinner Linda made a salad, seitan stroganoff, and fresh strawberries for dessert.  We chatted before, during, and after dinner about where we had each been and what we had been doing since we last crossed paths in July and what our plans were for 2016 and beyond.  By 8:45 PM we had covered a lot of ground but had not been for our after dinner walk.

It had been a long day for Mara and she was ready to get back to her cats so we walked back to her rig with her and extended our walk through the Resort before returning to our coach.  We watched a fascinating program on the assassination of President James Garfield and then turned off the air-conditioners, opened a couple of bedroom windows, opened the roof vent-fan in the bathroom, and turned the fan on in exhaust mode.  We went to bed and watched Charlie Rose before finally turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2016/02/03 (W) Laundry Swimming

 

Jasper woke me up early with his sniffles and sneezing and I had trouble falling back asleep.  Our little guy is obviously uncomfortable with whatever it is that he has and I stroked his back and scratched his chin for quite a while.  I finally got up a little after 7 AM and walked over to the Wednesday morning coffee, as much out of curiosity and to have something to do as anything else.  I noticed as I was leaving that the gasket in the rear vertical edge of the entry door window was coming out at the top again and made a mental note to fix it later today.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

While I was gone Linda got up, got dressed, stripped the bed, and decided to go for an early morning walk.  I know, because I met her about half way back to our coach.  I ground the coffee beans and prepped the coffee pot.  When I saw her walking down Front Street towards our site I started brewing the coffee so it would be ready shortly after she arrived.  We had granola with blueberries for breakfast but did not have fruit juice or take our pills.  Later.

It was already 72 degrees F outside and anywhere from 75 to 79 degrees F inside, depending on which thermometer or thermostat I looked at.  I don’t believe any of them anymore but I figured collectively it was somewhere between 74 and 80 degrees F in the coach.  The forecasted high for today was 86 degrees F and based on the low level clouds streaming in from the south looked to be a humid day as well.  It’s always better to keep a space cool and dry than it is to try to cool it off and dehumidify it after the fact.  I turned off the bathroom ceiling exhaust fan and closed the roof vent and closed the two open windows in the bedroom.  I noticed that the bottom horizontal gaskets on these windows are not staying in their mounting grooves.  Ugh.  I love our old bus, but there are some aspects of it that I seem to have to keep fixing, which is not my most favorite thing to do.  Oh well, at this point we are definitely “in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

We doodled on our iPads until it was time for Linda to walk to the swimming pool for the 10 AM water aerobics class.  While she was exercising I selected and processed a couple of photos for her to use with her weekly postcard to Madeline.  She normally takes care of this on Tuesday.

We will be away from the coach and Resort the next two days so I needed to do laundry today.  While I was gathering up the soiled clothes and linens I got a call from Dave Aungier.  He was following up to see that I got the draft of his article from Bonnie.  I brought him up to date on the status of the work, which I hope to have finished before I go to bed this evening.

I also had an e-mail from Jorge with the correct Dropbox link for the final version of the March 2016 issue of BCM.  I needed to do a final proofread on my two articles and get back to him by the end of the day.

Linda got back from exercising and swimming just as I was getting ready to leave for the laundry room.  The washers and dryers were all in use and I had to wait a while for washing machines to open up.  Linda texted to see if I needed help and walked over to assist.  I brought my computer and continued working on Dave Aungier’s BCM article while our clothes were being washed and dried.  I got all of the digital edition bonus photos selected and processed, so I should be able to wrap the article up tonight and make it available for Dave to proofread.  I also got two small Windows 8.1 updates downloaded and installed, but the Internet connection was not fast so that’s all I was able to do.

 Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We folded and hung all the dry clothes and loaded them in the car, which I drove back while Linda walked (no room to ride).  We were back at our coach by 2:45 PM, three hours and 15 minutes after I left to take care of this chore.  After putting the clean clothes away Linda walked back to the pool to look for her Tilley hat.  While she was gone I checked the level of the kitchen counter.  It was level, so starting the engine and re-leveling the coach was not something I had to do today.  Linda returned, hat on head, so we avoided the inevitable sadness of a lost Tilley hat.

The two front air conditioners were not able to keep up with the heat, in large part because the middle unit is not working very well.  Presumably it needs to be charged, but Butch has done that before so the root cause has to be something that needs to be repaired, such as a refrigerant leak and/or a bad seal that is reducing the pumping effectiveness of the compressor.  A secondary problem is that we cannot run the bedroom A-C unit at the same time as the front one since they are on the same leg (L1) and the voltage at our coach is already too low with just the one unit running.

At 4 PM we walked to the pool for an afternoon swim.  When we returned to our coach I retrieved the latest, and hopefully final, draft of the March 2016 issue of BCM and proofread my two articles.  I had one minor correction for each article and e-mailed them back to the publisher and layout person.  While I was working on this I got an e-mail from Kristine Gullen with a question for Linda which resulted in a group text message conversation.  We received a “hold the date” notice at our house, which our daughter let us know about, for the October 22 wedding of Kristine’s son Nickolas.  We will make a point of being back by October 15 from our trip to the Canadian Maritimes and New England.

For dinner we had a salad and the left over Farro with cranberries and seitan stroganoff.  After dinner we retracted the large patio awning as a precaution in advance of rain and possible thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow in association with a cold front approaching from the northwest.  We then emptied out the back of the car and removed the passenger side rear seat and the wooden storage structure to allow the driver side rear seat to be lowered into position and secured.  We rearranged the things stored in the front bay of the bus to make room for the car seat, and several other things that were stored in the car, moving a few things to the passenger side engine bay.  We should have done this earlier in the day when it was light but doing it in the morning would have been a disaster.  We should have done this as soon as we got settled at Big Tree RV Resort but it wasn’t pressing then and we got busy with other things.

We went for a stroll around the resort and dropped off the trash along the way.  Back at our coach we had a glass of Beringer Red Moscato wine and watched Nova on PBS.  Mara sent Linda a text indicating that Sabra (one of her cats) was still having issues and she had decided not to go with us tomorrow to the Ringling Brothers museum in Sarasota.

After Nova we put the linens back on the bed.  I then converted Dave Aungier’s article from Word to PDF, uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox, and sent him an e-mail with the link.  I caught some news, weather, and Charlie Rose and then went to sleep.

2016/02/04 (R) A Ringling Birthday

We were up by 7:15 AM this morning but I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast.  We got dressed for a day away from our coach and I repacked the camera bag.  We left at 8:30 AM and stopped at the local Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bite to eat.  We were on our way to Sarasota a little before 9 AM.  We took FL-70 west to I-75 and headed south to the University Blvd. exit.  We headed west to the end of the road at Bayshore Drive, and arrived at the John and Mabel Ringling Estate at 10 AM.  Steve and Karen arrived just ahead of us and we parked right next to them.NOko

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The 66 acre estate was the location of John and Mabel Ringlings’ winter home, Ca’ D’Zan, starting in 1926 when it was finished.  Mabel died three years later and John continued to use the house until 1936 when he passed away.  John was one of the seven Ringling brothers of circus fame.  In addition to their 36,000 square foot home the estate includes an amazing art museum to house their extensive collection.  There is also a circus museum and a building that houses the Tibbels scale model circus that Howard Tibbels spent 60 years creating.  John and Mabel did not have any children and the entire estate was left to the people (State) of Florida when John died.  The entire estate is now part of The Florida State University and the Ringling Art Museum is the official art museum of the State of Florida.

Ca’ D’Zan sits on Sarasota Bay and is a wonderful home in the Venetian Gothic style.  We went on one of the longer, guided tours, so we got to see more of the house than we would have on a self-guided tour but not as much as the even longer (and more expensive) “behind-the-scenes” tour.

The Tibbels circus model is 1/16th scale, i.e., 3/4″ to the foot.  The model covers a large area and illustrates every facet of an early 20th century major circus of the type that traveled from town to town by rail.  Not only is the model an amazing thing to see, and an amazing thing for one man to have created, but it gave us an understanding of how a major circus of this period functioned.  The logistics involved were impressive to say the least.

We finished our day at the Ringling Museums complex around 4:30 PM with a visit to the gift shop where Linda bought a book for Madeline for Valentine’s Day.  Back at our cars we drove north on US-41 (Tamiami Trail) about three miles to Vertoris’ Pizzeria for my birthday dinner.  Vertoris’ turned out to be a small, unassuming place with seating for maybe 24 people.  They offered quite a variety of pizzas, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free, but had lots of other Italian dishes.  I had vegan butternut squash ravioli, Linda had a vegan pizza, Karen had baked ziti, and Steve had the largest piece of lasagna I have ever seen.  Karen and I had a glass of Chianti, and Linda had a different Italian red (but did not recall the name when we got home).  The restaurant had vegan cupcakes so Linda, Karen, and I each had one while Steve had a cannoli.

 Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Our son called last night to wish me happy birthday and our daughter texted me at 3:40 PM today to do the same.  I saw the text at 5 PM after we were at the restaurant and texted her back.  My phone battery was depleted, which is unusual for my phone, so I turned it off.

We were done with our meal by 6:30 PM, made arrangements for our next get-together, and went our separate ways.  Steve and Karen headed south on Tamiami Trail 28 miles back to Nokomis and we headed north three miles to FL-70.  Three tenths of a mile shy of FL-70 we encountered a serious traffic backup and I could see a large assemblage of emergency vehicles up ahead.  We were already in the right hand lane and eventually got to FL-70 (53rd St.) and made the turn.  US-41 beyond the intersection was blocked by the police.  We did not slow down to gawk, which I find really annoying, and all we saw were emergency vehicles; lots of emergency vehicles.

It was raining when we left Vertoris’ and it got a lot heavier as we traveled east on FL-70.  Somewhere east of Myakka City we drove out of the rain and did not encounter any more the rest of the way home.  We arrived around 7:45 PM to find the grass at our RV site was wet, so we knew it had rained at some point.  After bringing our stuff in from the car we started our Verizon Mi-Fi, started up our various technology devices, and I plugged in my phone to charge.  Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go with us to Ed and Betty’s tomorrow morning.  Mara replied that she did so Linda communicated the plans and timing for the morning.

Linda checked the weather and the rain was moving our way from whence we had just come.  It was forecast to arrive around 9 PM, which it did, and be done by 11, which it was.  In between in oscillated between heavy and light.

 

2016/01/21 (R) – 2016/01-25 (M) East and South

2016/01/21 (R) Lake Okeechobee

The weather forecast for today was for very nice conditions and we thought it would be a nice day to go for a ride in the car and explore the area of the state to our east, specifically Lake Okeechobee.  We were up a bit earlier than has been typical for us lately and did not make breakfast or coffee in favor of getting an early start.

The Defraggler disk defragmenter had finally completed its task.  I restarted my computer but it was not behaving correctly.  Besides the disk check and defrag I had also updated the NVIDIA graphics card driver, installed operating system updates, and updated Skype, which configured itself to auto-start on initial boot up.  I had to restart my machine again and suggested to Linda that we drive to the Shell station to top up the rank and then get coffee and bagels at the Dunkin Donuts next door.  I stopped back at our coach to check my e-mail and then shut my computer down.  I was looking for an e-mail from Herb, a member of the FMCA National Education Committee, about his visit to Lakeland, Florida today but he had not replied.  It was a long shot whether we would get to Lakeland today anyway.

We headed east on FL-70 as far as US-27 and then headed south towards Moore Haven and Clewiston.  Most of the drive was through the citrus groves, ranch lands, and fields of crops that make up most of this part of Florida.  The citrus groves eventually gave way to a tall plant with a wheat-like top that we did not recognize but thought might be wheat.  We passed a couple of fields that had been cleared and the organic matter mounded into burn piles.  When we saw large plumes of smoke later in our drive we assumed it was related to more land clearing.  Only later did Linda determine that the plants were sugar cane and the smoke was most likely from controlled burns of the cane fields which is the first step in harvesting the sugar cane.

We had not done a lot of research on Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding area.  What we did know was that it is the largest fresh water lake in the U. S. contained entirely within the borders of a single state.  What we did not know until we saw it was that the entire lake is surrounded by the Herbert Hoover Dike, a massive levy some 50 feet high with flood control gates and canals leading from it.  Construction was begun late in Herbert Hoover’s presidency as a result of a hurricane that pushed an enormous amount of water out of the lake to the southeast and killed thousands of people.

The first place on our drive where we were near the lakeshore was in Moore Haven but as a consequence of the dike there are only a few places where you can actually see the lake.  From Moore Haven to Clewiston US-27 ran right along the levy and we could see nesting boxes on top of tall poles.  All of them had nests and most of them had large birds roosting on them.  I presumed they were probably Osprey or possibly Eagles.

The first place we stopped was a county campground at South Bay, a small community at the southwest tip of the lake.  We were able to drive over the levy to a boat launch area, but the western and southwestern portions of the lake have extensive marshes and we could not see open water even from the top of the levy.  We also drove through the campground, which impressed us as a nice place to spend a couple of weeks to a month, depending on what else there was to do in the area.

We continued around the south end of the lake to Belle Grade, picking up US-441 to Pahokee where we drove over the dike to a marina that was part of a state park with an RV campground.  Before us was the lake and, like looking at a Great Lake or an ocean, it was indeed an endless expanse of water to the horizon.  Okeechobee is a big lake.

From Pahokee we continued up US-441 through Canal Point and along the edge of the levy up to the town of Okeechobee.  This stretch of highway was lined with RV parks, most of them small and not very nice looking.  We weren’t counting but I estimated somewhere between 18 and 24 “parks,” one right after another.  Many of them were full of old, closely spaced, rigs that appeared to be in very poor condition that was matched by the run down, trashy appearance of the properties themselves.

There were a few parks that looked OK and one of them was a park that Linda had called to inquire about openings and rates.  We always check out websites, Google Maps, and Google Earth, but they don’t always reveal the true appearance of a place or surrounding area.  Now that we were seeing this area first hand we were glad (relieved?) that we did not book a spot here.  At the risk of appearing snobbish, the east side of Lake Okeechobee did not impress us as a place we would stay or even need to visit again.  That said, we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and folks do the best they can.

Yes, we own a Prevost bus conversion, but we bought it very used and we do not think of ourselves as “those” kind of people; you know, snobbish towards those who own SOBs (some other brand).  But we are aware that we have a fairly negative reaction to places that are trashy.  Trashy and old are not the same thing; we have nothing against old.  We are old ourselves, and hope to get a lot older before our time is up.  Trashy suggests a lack of self-respect and a lack of respect for others.  We will take a pass on that.

By the time we reached the town of Okeechobee it was 2 PM and we were hungry.  Rather than continue on to Sebring we headed west on FL-70 where we found a Subway just before reaching the edge of town and stopped to have lunch.  After our meal we headed back to Arcadia 63 miles away on FL-70.  Along the way we saw more Osprey near the Kissimmee River and later on a group of Wood Storks and a few Sandhill Cranes along with the usual Egrets, Vultures, a Kingfisher, and other local birds.  Florida really is a great state for seeing birds.

Once we got back to our coach we relaxed for a while and then decided to go to the jam session at 7 PM.  The jam sessions here are different from what we have experienced other places.  We found out from talking to the attendees sitting around us that the four musicians (two guitars, bass guitar, and drums) are not from the park and are brought in (hired) for the jams.  People from the park took turns singing but no other musicians joined in during the hour we were there.  There were also a lot of people dancing, including singles and couples line dancing.  We left just before 8 PM and returned to our coach to watch our Thursday evening TV programs.

Another major storm was winding up across the south and taking aim on the mid-Atlantic and New England.  The worst effects of this storm were forecast to be ice and snow accumulations of 12″ to 36″ from northern Georgia north and east to the Canadian Maritimes.  As with the last few storms the impact on Florida was forecast to be strong storms associated a quickly moving cold front draped off of the low pressure system and extending far into the Gulf of Mexico.  Rain was expected in Arcadia starting around 4:30 AM.  Several bands were expected, with the strongest from late morning to early afternoon.  Behind the front would be strong winds and much cooler temperatures.  We left the awning style windows open an inch, closed the roof vents, and went to bed.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/22 (F) Desoto Veterinary Clinic

Heavy rain moved through our location starting at 4:30 AM, exactly when the weather forecasts said it would.  It arrived along with some wind and woke me up but it was not severe and I eventually fell back asleep.  The cats had their usual morning crazies starting around 5:30 AM so that woke me up again, and probably woke Linda up too, but they eventually calmed down and we all went back to sleep.

We finally got up at 8:15 AM and Linda got dressed right away.  It was cool enough that I put on my sweats but not cold enough to run the toe-kick heaters or the hydronic heating system.  I made our morning coffee and we had Linda’s yummy homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  I got dressed after breakfast and at 9:45 AM we put Jasper in his carrier and drove to the Desoto Veterinary Clinic for his 10 AM appointment.  There was a lull in the rain with the heaviest, potentially severe, weather expected between late morning and early afternoon so we got to the clinic and back without getting rained on.

We only had to wait a few minutes while Dr. McNulty finished up with another patient.  Jasper rarely goes in his carrier at the house or on the bus, even though we leave it out and accessible, but tends to stay in it at the vet’s office.  Dr. McNulty was a bit of an eccentric character but we liked him.  He spent as much time talking to Jasper as he did to us and checked him over to make sure he did not have other undetected health issues.  His diagnosis of Jasper’s fur loss was that he had been bitten by a flea.  He recommended a small corticosteroid injection to help relieve the itching and reduce Jasper’s need to scratch.  He also suggested that we discontinue the use of the Revolution medication while we are in Florida and switch both cats to Cheristin.  We agreed to all of his recommendations.

Unlike Revolution, which also prevents heartworm, Cheristin is a flea medication only.  Even though Florida is the flea and mosquito capitol of the U. S. Dr. McNulty said that heartworm, acquired from infected mosquitos, is extremely rare here while cats being affected by fleas is quite common.  His concern with Revolution is that the fleas have become resistant to it.  He quit prescribing Frontline and Advantage years ago and has now stopped prescribing Revolution for the same reason.  Jasper and Juniper are strictly inside cats so their exposure to mosquitos, fleas, and ticks is minimal as those critters can only gain entry to the coach via the front door when it’s open or hitch a ride in with one of us.  Still, they do not live in a hermetically sealed environment.

The rains resumed around 11 AM.  Linda complied a grocery list while I worked at my computer on some e-mails and did a little additional work on photos for my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  We had hummus and onion sandwiches for lunch around 12:30.  Linda waited for the rain to subside and finally headed to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket around 1:15 PM.

I had not worked on blog posts yesterday so I finished up the one from the 20th and worked on the ones for yesterday and today.  When Linda got back I helped get the groceries up into the coach.  I off-loaded the photos I took yesterday but was tired and did not feel like getting deeply into any computer-based work.  I laid down on the sofa instead and took a nap.  I like naps; naps are good.  While I was napping Linda went for a long walk.  I finally woke up as she was starting to prepare dinner.  The preparations were going to take a while so I went for a walk.

Dinner was butternut squash burritos and Mexican rice and was very tasty.  After dinner Linda applied the Cheristin to both cats.

PBS had back-to-back episodes of Endeavour, the series detailing the beginning of the career of the Inspector Morse character.  Linda slept through most of the second episode and went to bed as soon as it was over.  I stayed up and watched a show about the Neon Sign Museum in Las Vegas and two companies that are each restoring a sign for the museum.  I watched the weather for a few minutes and then went to bed.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/23 (S) Pelican Lake

It was a wild day today, wind wise.  Sustained winds of 25 to 35 MPH, with gusts 10 to 15 MPH higher than that, swept across southwest Florida behind the cold front that brought yesterday’s rain.  And it was a cold air mass, with temperatures this morning in the low 40’s F.  After getting up and putting on our sweats, which is what we do on chilly mornings, I made a pot of coffee, which is what I do almost every morning.  Linda decided it was a good morning for pancakes.  Vegan baking can be a bit tricky, but they turned out really well.

We did not have any plans for today.  We had thought about attending the Fort Myers RV Show, at the Lee County Expo Center on FL-31, but decided there would not be anything new to see after having been to the Tampa RV Supershow the previous weekend.

After breakfast I called Chuck to catch up on things generally, discuss leaky windshields in particular, and see if we could arrange a time to visit.  While we were talking a gust of wind opened our patio awning about 12″ and then let it slam shut.  I realized immediately that I had not latched the roller tube at either end when we retracted it a few days ago in advance of the latest round of storms.  I told Chuck I would call him right back and went outside to latch the tubes.  We always latch the roller tube when stowing it prior to moving the coach so I found it to be an interesting oversight on our part that we had not done this when stowing it while stationary.  We were lucky that we were home when this happened and that I was seated where I could see exactly what had happened and quickly figure out why.  You can be sure we will latch the roller tube from now on whenever it is retracted.

With yet another problem diagnosed and fixed I called Chuck back.  As it turned out there was also an RV show taking place at their motorcoach resort this weekend; mostly new and used Prevost conversions from Millennium, Marathon, Liberty, and Featherlight, with a few others and some high end motorhomes thrown in for good measure.  The show was open until 4 PM and Chuck was doing volunteer shuttle service with his golf cart from 2 – 4 PM.  It was a nice day, except for the wind, and we decided to drive down for a visit, look at some of the coaches, and then go out to dinner.

We left around 11:30 AM and stopped at the Shell station to top up the fuel tank.  We then headed down FL-31 to its terminus at FL-80 and headed west for a few miles where we picked up I-75 southbound.  We exited I-75 at exit 101 and drove another nine miles on Collier Blvd, finally crossing Tamiami Trail (US-41) before arriving at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort.  While we were stopped at the light at Tamiami Trail Linda called Chuck as requested.  When we got to the resort entrance he and Barbara were waiting for us in their golf cart.  Rather than parking with the other RV show attendees they led us back to their site and let us park there.  By the time we got to their site it was approaching 1:30 PM.  They gave us a tour and we sat outside in the sun chatting, their extensive landscaping sheltering us from most of the wind, which had blown us around on the drive down and was still blowing strongly.

At 2 PM Barbara took their car and headed to the grocery store and Chuck drove us to the coach display area in his golf cart.  While he performed his volunteer service we looked at all of the Prevost conversions but did not bother with the motorhomes other than the Newells.  The only coach we saw that would have tempted us to trade in our Royale Coach was a Featherlight that was done in walnut laminate (not real wood) with light wall and ceiling treatments and no mirrors on the ceiling.  It had a light, clean, modern feeling that appealed to us.  Being new, it was in better condition than ours and had a much newer technology Volvo 4-cycle engine.  It was also way out our price range, even if they gave us what we had invested in our coach in trade-in value.  New Prevost conversions are very expensive toys.

We did pay attention, however, to the induction cooktops that most of the coaches had and took pictures of the name plates for future reference.  Replacing our Gaggenau halogen cooktop with an induction unit is high on our list of future upgrades.  Ideally it will be a 120 VAC unit so we can use it on a 120 VAC / 30 Amp electrical service.  At least now we have some things to check out.

A few minutes before 4 PM we walked back to Chuck and Barbara’s site.  I paused long the way to take a few pictures as the resort really is visually stunning.  We sat at their patio table and enjoyed the setting in the late afternoon sun.  Chuck eventually called me on my cell phone to let me know he was done with his volunteer service and find out where we were so he could drive us back.  He was surprised we had walked, but then we are always amazed that people use their golf carts for short trips.

When Chuck returned we went inside to chat and he opened a bottle of Santos Sparkling Moscato (white).  Wow, that was a nice cocktail wine!  The buy it at Costco so that may finally be the reason we need to join.  Barbara returned with the groceries and after putting them away we had a second glass of wine.  After some research and discussion we determined that The Loving Hut restaurant, on the north side of downtown Naples, was, in fact, still open for business and was acceptable to all four of us.  The restaurant is just off of Tamiami Trail, so easy enough to find, but traffic in the Naples area is heavy all the time and it took a while to get there.  Once we arrived we settled in for a long meal with good conversation.

There are three things we like about The Loving Hut restaurants, not in any particular order.  For one, the menu is essentially Chinese and SE Asian cuisine.  Second, the menu is extensive with page after page of dishes to choose from.  Third, the entire menu is vegan; we can, literally, pick dishes at random and know that we can eat them and that we will like them.  As a bonus, they also have a nice assortment of European style vegan desserts.  It’s a chain, and we really wish we had one of these near our house, but it’s probably just as well that we do not.

We drove separate cars to the restaurant since it was in the direction we needed to go and neither of us had a car that would seat more than two people.  We said “farewell until next time” in the parking lot at 8:15 PM and headed our separate ways.  We only had a few miles to travel to the east to get back to I-75.  From there we retraced our route and finally arrived back at our coach around 9:40 PM.

We had left the windows cracked so it did not too hot inside for the cats but by the time we returned it was 66 degrees inside.  Not freezing cold, to be sure, but just chilly enough to warrant the application of heat for a while.  We changed into our sweats and watched some old British comedy programs on PBS/Create as there was nothing else on that looked interesting and I was too tired to start working on anything, including this post (which I deferred until Sunday).  I shut off the hydronic heating system and the electric toe-kick heaters, and turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, before turning in for the night.  Juniper (our female cat) very quickly got under the covers between us and spent the rest of the night there.  Jasper (our male cat) alternated between our pillows and the foot of the bed but never got under the covers.  Juniper likes the warmth and security but I think it’s too hot for Jasper and makes him feel trapped.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

2016/01/24 (N) Snowmagedon Exchange Rate

We woke to an outside air temperature of 38 degrees F, our coldest morning yet since we arrived in Florida, but we were not complaining.  We closed all of the windows before going to bed last night and the temperature only dropped to 59 degrees F in the coach, which is actually a nice temperature for sleeping.  We put on our sweats and turned on the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fan-coil heat exchangers for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, along with the front electric toe-kick heater.  The Aqua-Hot diesel burner was still “on” from yesterday when we showered but the electric heating element kept it from running so I turned the element off.

The strong, sustained winds yesterday had caused no more damage than a temporary power outage while we away from the coach, for which our house battery/inverter system took over as it is supposed to do.  Our weather related problems were few by comparison to what others’ experienced.  Just 200 miles north of us it was 28 degrees F in Williston and colder still Nashville, Tennessee with a low in the mid-teens.  Temperatures back home where around 20 degrees F, but that’s typical for SE Michigan this time of year, perhaps even a bit on the warm side of normal.

By far the worst weather, however, was the major snow/ice/wind storm that affected a large area from NW Mississippi up to Ohio and east across Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to the eastern seaboard from Georgia, through the Carolinas, Washington D. C., Philadelphia, New York City, and on into New England.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just west of Hershey and Annville, where Ron and Mary live, got 28″ of snow, and a small town in West Virginia got 40.5″, while places along the coast experienced significant flooding.  Thousands of flights were cancelled and transportation in D. C. and New York was at a standstill.  All things considered we felt like Arcadia was a really good choice for our winter base this year.

Linda checked in with Ron and Mary and they reported 30″ of snow at their house which they were in the process of clearing from their driveway.  Linda also checked in with Meghan, who reported no serious weather back home.  More importantly their male cat, Inches, had finished his round of medication and was doing much better.

Having visited Pelican Lake yesterday we were thinking about where we might go when we leave Big Tree RV Resort at the end of the first week in March.  Our thoughts drifted back to the conversation we had at the Tampa RV Supershow with the representatives from Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort.  Like Pelican Lake, Florida Grande is an ownership park.  It’s located near Webster, Florida about 100 miles north of Arcadia and a similar distance southeast of Williston.  The prices for lots there are more in our price range than Pelican Lake but we are a long way from buying an RV site anywhere.

Linda checked the website and saw that Florida Grande was offering a 2-for-1 special at the moment; pay for one week at the regular price (~$267) and get a second week free.  It also appeared that they had openings for the second and third week of March.  We were thinking of stopping there for a few days to check it out on our way to the FMCA national rally the third week of March in Perry, Georgia.  We have been reconsidering our attendance at that rally, however, as we really do not want to be that far north that early in March.  The 2-for-1 deal now has us thinking that Florida Grande might be a good place to spend the second and third weeks of March and then try to get into Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral for the last week of the month.

Linda took over the desk to work on some things for the bakery so I spent the late morning writing my blog post for yesterday and starting today’s post.  The high temperature today only reached 59 degrees but that was plenty warm enough to dump the holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank, which are on the sunny, southeast facing side of the coach.  Before I even got started, however, I ended up in a conversation with Dave whose 5th wheel trailer is across the street from us.  He and Barb are from New Hampshire and this is their 8th season at Big Tree RV Resort.

Dave said that the resort residents used to be about 60% from Quebec Province but the number has dropped to about 30% in recent years.  Most people “age out” of this lifestyle, whether mobile or stationary, due to declining health, strain on their financial resources, or loss of interest.  In the case of the folks from Quebec (and Ontario) the exchange rate to the U. S. dollar, which is currently 60%, is making it prohibitively expense for them to come south of the border for the winter.  When they exchange $1,000 CA they get $600 US.  That makes it really tough to come here and is one of the reasons our friends, Bill and Karen Gerrie, did not return to Florida, or anywhere else in the U. S., this winter.

All of the park models and permanent trailers here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort are owned by individuals, not the park, so beyond the nice climate and social connections the owners have a real monetary investment here.  Dave said that 17 to 24 units are typically for sale each year but so far people are buying them.  The largest contingent in the park now appears to be Michiganders (aka Michiganians). One of the couples we were talking to at the jam session on Thursday was from Jackson, Michigan and told me that in recent years they have been getting 75 attendees at the Michigan dinner, and that is probably not everyone in the park who calls Michigan home.

While I was out talking to Dave and tending to our tanks I took a closer look at our new windshield and discovered that the caulk the Safelite installers used was coming loose from everything, i.e., it was not adhering to the glass, the rubber gasket, or the body.  Chuck has had the same issue with his two windshields and has a “claim” in progress with Safelite.  He had e-mailed me all of his correspondence with the company so I e-mailed him back to let him know what I had just found.

When I tested the water coming out of the softener after filling the tank it indicated somewhere between 7 and 15 grains per gallon.  When I tested the water coming out of the park supply faucet on our arrival I estimated the hardness at 11 gpg.  If that was accurate, the water had not changed, and today’s test was accurate, it meant our 8,000 to 10,000 grain water softener was exhausted in less than 5,000 grains by my calculations.  That did not seem reasonable to me so I plan to retest the water and the output of the softener, but today’s reading suggested that the water might be harder than I thought and that the softener was exhausted and needed to be recharged.

My main focus today, however, was laundry.  For Linda’s part she wanted to clean the inside of the coach, take care of something for our FMCA GLCC chapter, and then work on something for the bakery.  I decided to take my laptop computer to the laundry room and try to download Windows 10.  It’s a 3 GB download so there was no way we were going to do this using our Verizon data plan.  I did not know, however, if the resort Wi-Fi system would allow me to download that much data or have a fast enough data rate to complete the download in a reasonable amount of time.  What I discovered was that the public Wi-Fi only downloaded 2.65 MB in 45 minutes and ultimately disconnected me from the Internet.  I turned off the Wi-Fi radio in my computer and looked to see if there was some way to cancel the download.  Unfortunately I did not find one.  Not good.  Shame on you, Microsoft (once again).  Stuff like that is an advertisement for Linux.

Linda put the NFL AFC championship game on our living room TV and Ron, on our driver side, set up one on a table under his patio awning, so I got to listen to the game in surround sound.  Yippee.  I was going to take a nap (in the bedroom) but decided to stay up and continue working on today’s blog post, which was getting quite lengthy.

Around 4 PM we had sourdough pretzel nibblers and hummus for lunch.  It’s going to be another week before Gary can have Stacy proofread the three articles I have in the queue for Bus Conversion Magazine so I decided so spend the later part of the afternoon editing my blog posts for October 2015 and get them ready to upload.  I only got a few of them done and decided to take a nap after all.  I was not feeling well, which made it hard to concentrate and made this work an unpleasant chore rather than something I enjoyed doing.

I napped for a couple of hours, which I really needed, but I still did not feel right when I got up.  The late afternoon and early evening disappeared without accomplishing much of anything and we finally had granola for dinner around 8 PM.  We watched Downton Abbey from 9 to 10 PM on PBS and then watched the first of six episodes of The X-Files on FOX once the NFL NFC championship game ended and the talking heads ran out of things to say afterwards.  In truth, they ran out of things to say before they ever got started.

We were in bed with the lights out by 11:45 PM.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and was toasty warm in spite of the dropping temperature outside and inside the coach.  Juniper (our female cat) immediately climbed under the covers between us with her head between our pillows and settled in for the night.

2016/01/25 (M) TV Dilemma

The forecasted low temperature for last night was 37 degrees F.  The low temperature usually occurs just before sunrise; around 7 AM this time of year in Arcadia.  We woke up around then and checked the current weather on our phones which reported the temperature as 40 degrees F.  The temperature inside our coach was 56, three degrees colder than I have seen so far this winter, so I suspected the outside temperature dropped down into the upper 30s overnight.

I was feeling a little “off” last evening and did not sleep well last night, but not for lack of warmth.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and I was comfortable enough that way.  I had taken a nap during the afternoon, so I wasn’t really tired at midnight, but mostly I was unable to find a comfortable position.  Juniper (our female cat) got under the covers between our heads as soon as we went to bed, so that constrained somewhat my ability to change positions, which I did almost constantly; at least that was my perception.

We got up and put on our sweats, which is our standard routine for cold mornings unless we are leaving early to go somewhere.  I turned the Aqua-Hot on, turned on the three zone controllers, and set the thermostats to 70 degrees.  I then made our morning coffee and checked my e-mail while it was brewing.  The FMCA National Education Committee meeting that was tentatively set for today or next Monday (February 1st) was being rescheduled for February 8th or 15th.  That was fine with me; I have other things to work on right now and I am not looking forward to our committee’s discussion of meaningless survey data.  It’s not that I enjoy bring a nay-sayer, but there’s a science (and art) to doing surveys and as best I can tell the survey was not distributed in a way that allows us to treat the responses as representative of the larger population of FMCA members.

While we were enjoying our first cup-a-Joe a crow landed on the power pole just north of our rig (two sites away except that there is only one more site north of us).  Juniper spied it right away and began chattering the way she does when she sees birds and gets excited.  The crow eventually left and was replaced by our resident Pileated Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was clinging to the side of the pole, rather than sitting on the wires, where the pole has been pecked away and reduced in diameter for a length of some 10 inches (estimated) all the way around.  Pileated Woodpeckers are large, magnificent birds and are always a treat to see.  It eventually left and was replaced by a smaller woodpecker or Flicker but I was not able to see it well enough to be sure which one it was.

We like something hot and substantial on a cold morning, and oatmeal is our go to choice, so that was what Linda made for breakfast.  We did not have plans to travel today so we stayed in our sweats for most of the morning.  I finished my blog post for yesterday, started on this one, and then settled in at my computer to edit posts for October 2015.

I took a break and tested the water from the tap and softener.  Both readings were once again between 7 and 15 gpg so the hardness of the tap water had not changed since my original test and the softener was definitely depleted.  I checked to see if the clear filter housings I bought at the Arcadia rally would fit the pre-filter.  They did, so I cleaned them and substituted one for the opaque housing.  I configured the pre-filter housing with the flow constrictor tube, added 26 ounces of table salt, and started the water flow, allowing the discharge to drain on the ground.

After a couple of hours most of the salt was still in the bottom of the housing and I could see the top of the flow diverter tube so I knew there was a problem and had a good idea what it was.  The tube was not sealed at the top allowing water to enter the filter housing and go right back out without being forced down through the salt and into the slots at the bottom of the flow diverter tube.  I added an O-ring under the bottom of the tube and a rubber flat washer at the top.  I recovered the washer from one of the old filter elements.

I added another 26 ounces of table salt to the housing and reassembled it.  When I turned on the water pressure it pushed about half of the salt into the softener even with the outlet valve closed.  This was probably the first time since I made the diverter tube that my regeneration system actually worked as intended and, because of the clear housing, the first time I was able to visually observe it.  Because so much salt got pushed into the softener I ran just a little more water and then shut it off to let the brine develop and exchange ions with the resin.

For dinner Linda made a couscous dish with grape tomatoes and other yummy ingredients.  I was still not feeling 100% right but this dish was light enough and tasty enough to be appetizing.

We had a TV dilemma this evening; X-Files vs. Supergirl.  After many years absence FOX brought back a 6-episode season of The X-Files.  Episode 1 was Sunday evening after the NFL NFC Championship game but episode 2 was this evening at 8 PM, placing it opposite Supergirl on CBS.  Episodes 3 through 6 will also air on Mondays at 8 PM.  Buggers.  Our other Monday evening shows were all repeats but we watched them anyway.

The low temperature for overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F with no storms.  That meant we could leave the windows open and the furnace/heaters off and get a good night’s sleep.

 

2015/12/21 (M) John and Marian

Linda was up at 7 AM this morning and I got up at 7:30.  It was 66 degrees F in the coach so I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and turned up the thermostats.  I made our morning coffee and got to work finishing yesterday’s blog post.

John and Marian Hagan would be visiting this afternoon and staying for dinner.  Given the large meal we had for dinner last night we wanted to take it easy today so a little after 9 AM we had a light breakfast of grapefruit and English muffin with apricot preserves.  So good.

After breakfast Linda did some light cleaning.  I was going to do a load of laundry and recharge the water softener but Linda reminded me that I had decided to do all of those chores tomorrow.  Deal.  I started working on this post but eventually got dressed and settled in at my computer.  I spent the rest of the morning updating my BCM article status tracking Excel spreadsheet and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  I also cleaned up the organization of the files to match the status sheet and backed them up to the NAS.

As planned, we skipped lunch.  John had indicated they would arrive around 2 PM.  I asked him to call when they got to the office and he did.  I was going to drive up and escort him in but getting to our site is very straight forward so I just gave him the directions.  A few minutes later they pulled up and I got them parked next to our car, which Linda moved to one edge of the pad when she returned from Winn-Dixie this morning.

After giving John and Marian and tour of the interior remodeling project we spent most of the afternoon sitting outside.  Linda thought about using the induction cooker to make dinner outside and remain in the conversation but realized she needed two burners.  When it was time to prepare dinner Linda went inside and Marian went with her to help.

For dinner Linda made a salad and risotto with olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, and dark greens.  She bought a frozen vegan cheesecake at Earth Origins the other day and served that for dessert.  John and Marian brought a bottle of Barefoot Riesling wine and between Marian, Linda, and me we finished it.  That’s only 250 mL per person, so not really that much.

We eventually moved inside and continued our conversation over coffee.  John and Marian were members of our FMCA Freethinkers associate chapter until they bought a house in Dunnellon and sold their motorhome.  Since we saw them two years ago they have gotten more involved in the humanist group that meets at The Top of the World (an adult planned community) and joined the Unitarian Universalist church just south of Dunnellon, both of which have given them the opportunity to make new friends in the area.  They had a half hour drive to get home and left at 6:30 PM.

After cleaning up the dishes we watched TV and doodled on our iPads.  I probably should have worked at my computer but did not feel like it.  I did check my e-mail and had a reply from Butch with his edits for the BCM article on the ITR Oasis Combi Installation he did last fall (2014) in their MCI MC-9 NJT motorcoach.  I also looked at, and commented on, several posts/comments on RVillage.  Linda was off to bed at 11 PM and I was tucked in with the lights off by 11:30.

 

2015/12/08 (T) Hudson and Back

The outside air temperature dropped into the 40’s last night.  I closed the roof vents before turning in but we left the windows open a bit.  It was 61 degrees F in the kitchen when I got up at 8 AM so I turned on the Aqua-Hot, turned up all three thermostats, and turned on the front electric toekick heater.  I fed the cats and then made our morning coffee.  Linda got up around 8:20.  After our first cup of coffee we had granola for breakfast.  When the temperature in the coach reached 70 I turned off the thermostats and the electric heater and shut off the Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  (The electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot stays on whenever we are plugged in and living in the coach.)

I called Suncoast Designers and talked to Donna.  She talked to the technician and reported back that the bus window would be ready for pickup at 3 PM.  The office closes at 3:45 PM, so I would need to be there close to 3 to get it and settle the bill.

I found my water usage spreadsheet, which I last updated on April 19 of this year, and edited it to include the dump and fill activity since then.  I had to go back to my blog posts from late April to confirm just what I had done and when I had done it.  I checked my most recent post drafts and discovered that I had not made mention of dumping here at WCRVR.  Linda and I agreed that it was not the day we got here and not the following day so I recorded it as the 3rd.  Since there had been large time gaps in our use of the coach, and I had dumped the fresh water tank and refilled it the day before Thanksgiving, I had to reset the spreadsheet to known starting points.

After entering the missing data I determined that, with two people living in the coach, we continue to use fresh water at the rate of approximately 12 gallons per day and fill the waste tanks at the rate of approximately 12 gallons per day; five for the black tank and seven for the gray tank.  With 120 gallons of fresh water that means we can boondock for about 10 days, during which time we would use up the 120 gallons of fresh water and add roughly the same number of gallons to the two waste tanks, 50 to the 80 gallon black tank, and 70 to the 120 gallon gray tank.  I also determined that we have used about half the capacity of the water softener.

The numbers for the waste tanks are very rough as our tank level monitors do not work and I cannot see the levels in the tanks, even though they are translucent white plastic, as they are hidden behind “beauty panels.”  Still, I think my estimates are reasonable.  Given the 3:4 ratio of fresh:waste tank capacity I am inclined to redo the water bay next spring as a 300 gallon, 2-tank, system replacing the current 330 gallons of combined tank capacity (125 fresh, 125 gray, 80 black).  I could reuse the current 125 gallon fresh tank but I would probably replace it with one of a different shape to make room for the water softener and filters to be built in and to relocate the fresh water pump to the driver side floor at the level of the bottom of the fresh water tank.

At current usage rates a 125 gallon fresh water tank and a single 175 gallon waste tank would, hypothetically, allow us to boondock for 13 days, running out of fresh water just as our waste tank reached capacity.  We might be able to stay out longer if we could reduce fresh water usage and waste generation proportionally.  In practice, however, we would probably not go more than 13 to 14 days and only then if the new tank monitors worked accurately.  Still, that would allow us to stay out two full weeks before we had to dump and fill, which seems like a good amount of time.

The other benefits of reconfiguring the tanks in the utility bay include slightly different tank shapes that would create some space for the water softener and filters and provide access to the tanks for servicing and monitoring.  It would also allow me to install rotating spray heads for the waste tank and drain it through the macerator pump, allowing use to “dump” our tanks at our house or anywhere we could get a garden hose into a waste drain.  We might even gain space, or access to space that is already there, to store drain hoses, and other utilities-related things, in the bay.  I would, for instance, love to have a shorepower reel but I do not think I can create that kind of space without making the tanks too small.

What we would lose in the redo is a separate gray tank that could, hypothetically, be drained onto the ground in some places.  The number of places where that is legal, however, is too small (in my opinion) to justify keeping that capability.  The other main argument for keeping separate black and gray waste water tanks is that the contents of the gray tank can be used to flush the drain hose out after first dumping the contents of the black tank.  Indeed, some bus converters set up their waste tanks with the gray tank above the black tank and plumb them so that the gray tank can be drained into the black tank to help flush it out, or drained directly (which leaves open the option of draining it in on the ground).

We heard another interesting take on water management for boondocking at a seminar in August 2012 at the FMCA national rally in Madison, WI.  The presenter described his system, which involved three tanks, fresh, gray, and black.  His twist on this was that he ran the gray water through a filter (or set of filters) and then used it to flush the toilet.  The advantage is that all of the fresh water becomes available for gray water use, i.e., cooking and cleaning.  As an example, consider a setup (such as we might have in our bus conversion) with a 150 gallon fresh water tank, a 100 gallon gray tank, and a 50 gallon black tank. Since the first 50 gallons that go into the gray tank will potentially end up in the black tank the entire 150 gallons of fresh water can ultimately end up in the 100 gallon gray tank.  With careful management of water usage, that could really extend the amount of time the rig can be used without hookups.  These tanks could be sized differently, larger waste and smaller fresh, if you had a fresh water bladder that could be used to retrieve additional fresh water and refill the tank without moving the RV.  Lot’s of interesting possibilities, all of which involve engineering design tradeoffs.

I opened the box of BCM back issues that arrived yesterday and went through them.  There were two of each issue but I won’t know if they are all there until I can integrate them into the partial sets I brought from home.  Those sets were under the bed and there was a cat on the bed so retrieving them would have to wait until later.  I worked on this post for a while instead and stopped at noon to have lunch.  Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sliced an apple.  Simple but delicious.

I looked through the articles in my BCM “in process” folder and opened the one on tips for taking photographs to see how complete it was.  While not finished, the article was much more than an outline.  I spent about 20 minutes reviewing what I already had and doing some additional editing but did not feel like digging into in it.

I left at 1 PM for Hudson, taking the same route I took yesterday, and arrived at 2:45 PM.  I was 15 minutes early but the window was done.  There was no charge for the repair, which I appreciated, as the seal failed not long after the window was originally fixed in April 2014.  The technician wanted the window to stay horizontal for at least another day, supported by its frame, before being reinstalled in the bus.  Because the back of the car was full and could not be rearranged I moved the passenger seat all the way forward and leaned the seat back as far as it would go.  I used the blanket to plug the gap between the front edge of the seat and dashboard and set the window in place, outside up, with one short edge on the blanket and the other one on the seatback.  It traveled very well that way on the drive home and I decided it was safer to leave it there than setting it out on the picnic table overnight.  I got back to the rig around 5 PM even though I stopped twice, once for popcorn at Rural King, and then at McDonald’s for a diet pop.

Linda made seitan vegan stroganoff for dinner which we enjoyed with a glass of Mimbres Red table wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico.  In retrospect we should have bought more bottles while we were there.  Every wine we bought from them was a red and very much to our liking, especially mine, which is unusual.

We had both spent most of the day sitting on our butts (not our hands) and went for a brisk stroll after dinner.  We watched a few TV programs, went to bed at 10:30, and finished watching Rick Steves’ Europe before turning out the lights.

 

2015/12/06 (N) Multiple Threads

I got out of bed at 8 AM, fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made some hot soapy water for dishes and then measured out and ground our morning coffee beans.  Once I had the coffee brewing I cleaned the grinder, which I had not done in a while.

Linda got up around 8:30 and we both sat with our iPads and enjoyed our first cup of coffee.  I had a reply to the e-mail I sent our son last night and replied back.  I also sent the photo I created on Thursday to him and our daughter.  It is a 3-image panorama looking north out of our passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

At 9:30 Linda started making pancakes, which has become something of a regular treat for our Sunday breakfast.  I got a call from my sister at 10 letting me know she was heading to the hospital where our dad is in the ICU.  We finished our coffee around 10:30 and got dressed.  Linda settled in to work on her counted cross-stitch project and I checked our fresh water tank.  The level was finally below 1/3 on the monitor so I decided to test the park water.  As I expected, based on our previous time here, the hardness was at the maximum on the test strip so I got the water softener out and connected it to the supply valve.  The quick disconnect, while a nice idea, is made of plastic.  It was finally worn to the point where it would not seal so I unthreaded it from the pressure regulator and put it back in the fresh water tub where it joined a dozen other components that I should throw away.  Someday.

I have read in multiple publications and blogs that the RV sewer hose, and especially the bayonet connectors used on RV sewer hoses, is the weakest component on an RV, both by design and manufacture.  While these components may be in contention for that status, I submit that the garden hose fittings that are universally used for the fresh water connections may actually be the worst.  My fresh water connections always leak even when I tighten them (gently) with a wrench.  My sewer connections do not generally leak.

But I have digressed once again.  When I had the softener connected I tested the output and it appeared to be fully charged so I connected it to the inlet of the coach and refilled the fresh water tank.  In Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter I kept track of the details of when I dumped and filled tanks, including the hardness was of the water coming out of the softener before and after each fill.  This data served two purposes.

One purpose was to compensate for our waste tank level monitors, which do not work.  We were trying to determine the rate at which we were filling them so we could calibrate how long we could reasonably boondock before we had to dump them.  That turned out to be about nine days, conservatively, which is how long we went before hooked up here and dumped.

 

Because the water softener can only remove a certain number of grains of hardness before it is exhausted the number of gallons it can soften before it has to be recharged depends on the hardness of the water coming in.  At 25 grains of hardness per gallon, which is what we had in Q and what we have here in Williston, the softener, which has a capacity of about 10,000 grains, can process about 400 gallons.  If the hardness is higher than 25 gpg we will not be able to process that many gallons.  400 gallons is about four refills if I refill it when the level is down to 1/6 (20 gallons).  Our usage data from Q indicated that we used about 9 gallons per person per day on average (18 gallons per day) and that I was filling the tank every 5 to 6 days and recharging it every three weeks.

While setting up the water softener I noticed an active nest of red ants.  I saw John drive by and a few minutes later saw him headed back our way and flagged him down.  He did not have the ant poison on his cart but offered to get it and come back, which he did.  He also brought a rake.  It turned out that he buys this product at his own expense and uses it to treat sites before folks check in, so I will buy a bag for ourselves and one to replenish his stock as part of my trip to Hudson tomorrow.

With the refill underway I resumed working on the photos for the BCM article on the International Thermal Research (ITR) OASIS Combi hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Willams’ 1987 MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The hospital tried to reach me at 12:14 PM but the call went directly to my voice mail.  After a few text messages back and forth with my sister and niece I received a phone number for the doctor and was able to get her on the phone.

Brendan texted me at 1 PM to let me know he was headed to our house.  He called when he got there and I called him back on our house phone.  He spent about half an hour searching through brief cases looking for certain papers and telling me what he was finding.  He found the case I needed and took it back to his house where he can go through it more comfortably and ship it to me if needed.

I had resumed working on the BCM article when John and Ali showed up.  We invited them into the coach to see the remodeling work we have done and they stayed long enough to chat awhile and have a small glass of wine.  I opened the bottle of Viva La Rojo from the Heart Of The Desert winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we all agreed it was very nice.  It is at such moments that I am left to wonder why we did not buy more than one bottle.

After they left I continued working on the article until I was too tired to concentrate.  It was well into the second half of the afternoon so we both put our projects aside and removed the fogged living room awning style window/frame, wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in the car.  I need to leave early in the morning and drive to Suncoast Designers in Hudson to have the window repaired and did not want to be messing around with it at 6 AM in the morning.

Getting the window out required the step ladder and a small screwdriver to remove two C-clips so it was a bit more involved than it sounds.  Linda put the screen back in place, covered it with a piece of the silvered bubble insulation, and taped it around the edges.  The RV resort is very safe so someone getting into our rig was not our concern.  Rather, the low temperature overnight Monday into Tuesday is forecast to be in the 40’s so we really cannot have an uninsulated opening in the side of the coach.  The chance for rain is low to zero, and we have the awning out over most of that window, so we are hopeful we will not have to seal the outside with plastic.  Our other concern was our cats.  The screens do not fit as tight as we would like and if this one fell out the cats could jump to their “freedom” with potentially dire consequences.

Linda made stuffed Poblano peppers for dinner.  The preparation took a while so I laid down on the sofa and watched Martha Bakes and Ask This Old House on the Create channel from the University of Florida, Gainesville PBS station.  What can I say?  I find TV that teaches me things entertaining, even if I can’t eat anything Martha bakes.  At home Linda would normally cook the peppers on our outdoor or indoor grill but tonight she pan-seared them.  The peppers were stuffed with a mixture of rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan cheddar cheese, and vegan sour cream.  The peppers brought just enough heat to the dish and we finished the bottle of Viva La Rojo, which smoothed everything out.  We had a nice salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette as a first course.  We had sliced fresh strawberries for dessert.  It was a really good meal.

We watched President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office, an interesting episode of 60 Minutes (which I have not seen in years), and the Sinatra 100 Grammy tribute.  It was an unusual evening of television for us but very enjoyable and a nice conclusion to a day that was broken up into multiple threads.

 

2015/12/05 (S) Saturday Night Fire Circle

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7:15.  I fed the cats and cleaned their litter tray, both of which are chores but I don’t mind doing them.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and finished yesterday’s blog post draft.  Linda got up at 8 AM having been awake since I got up.  At 8:20 I was going to make coffee but Juniper climbed in my lap so Linda took care of that chore, which is certainly one of our more pleasurable.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked on our Holiday Letter all morning.  I had a finished draft by lunch time and Linda read through it.  I have it set up for 8.5×14 inch legal size paper, but printing it that way will depend on whether we can get high quality glossy color laser paper in that size.

Linda reheated the last of the red beans and rice for lunch after which I washed some grapes.  After lunch Linda continued to work on her project and I turned my attention to another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I had some correspondence with the publisher, Gary, yesterday regarding my article on servicing the Webasto burner bearings and decided to finish my article on Butch Williams’ installation of an International Thermal Research OASIS Combi in their MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The work was done in October and November 2014 and the article was basically written in January 2015 but I had not selected or processed any of the photos.

I read through the article, highlighted several places with missing information, and rewrote some things.  I then selected 36 photos and started processing them.  The processing involved various adjustments such as alignment, lighting, and color followed by resizing and sharpening in two different sizes.  The larger size is typically 1900 x 1272 pixels as that will fill the screen of a 17 inch monitor and I don’t feel a larger size is needed or supported by the level of detail in the images.  The smaller size is typically 300×200 pixels.  I embed the smaller images at the end of the Word document with the image number and a caption.  I used to embed them into the article but the editor and layout person need the ability to fit them into the layout and I ultimately developed enough confidence in them to do that.  This is always subject to change, however, as is everything connected with this magazine.

We had dinner at 5 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, sautéed and lightly glazed some baby carrots, and heated some Amy’s vegan macaroni and cheese.  The reason for the early dinner was the holiday parade down Main Street in Williston at 6 PM.  We left at 5:30 and walked to the corner of NE 5th Street and Main Street.  NE 5th Street is the street that leads back to the front entrance of the resort and is towards the end of the parade route, which comes down Main Street from west to east.  There were already people there, all from the RV Resort as near as we could tell, but we were early enough to get seats on the low brick wall that borders the parking lot for the funeral home.

Main Street is also US-27 but the police closed it down at 5:45 PM.  The parade started at the west end of Main Street by the high school so the lead police motorcycles did not reach us until 6:20 and the front of the main parade did not get to us until 6:30.  There were cars with beauty queens, simple floats with seasonal themes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, politicians, fire trucks, horses, and an elephant with Santa Claus riding on top.  It was a classic small town holiday parade.  It was all over by 7 PM and we walked briskly back to the firepit.

The firepit at WCRVR is about eight feet in diameter, surrounded by a concrete floor ring about six feet wide and covered by an inverted conical roof about 24 feet wide at the lower eaves.  A massive 8 foot diameter inverted conical hood is suspended over the firepit and the 12″ diameter flue pipe runs out the center top of the roof.  The outside perimeter of the floor has large wooden rocking chairs (think Cracker Barrel restaurant), a bench, and a few other chairs and there is a little bit of lighting up in the ceiling.  It’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fire, visit, and listen to people play their guitars and sing.  The flue does not draft correctly so it tends to be smokey, but that is the only downside.  If not for that it would be perfect.

John was there with a couple of other people and had a nice fire going.  Even though it was in the mid-to-upper 60s there was a strong north breeze and the fire felt good.  Lots of other people eventually showed up and filled almost all of the seats so John got his guitar and started playing and singing.  Linda walked back to our rig to fetch our plastic wine glasses and opened a bottle of Egri Merlot.  It’s a good life.

I got a call from my sister and stepped away from the firepit.  She called to let me know that our dad was back in the hospital.  When I returned to the fire circle John was busy playing and singing and some folks had left so I tended the fire.  By 9 PM everyone had left except for John, Ali, and us.  I continued to tend the fire while the four of us talked.  Just before 10 PM I spread out the last embers of the fire and we all returned to our rigs for the night except John, who does the closing rounds on weekends.

Back at our motorcoach Linda put on the Michigan State vs Iowa Big 10 Championship football game.  Though not particularly interested in football I was too tired to work so after sending an e-mail to our son I laid down on the sofa; the first time I have done that since we built it into the coach.  By the time the game was over it was 11:45 PM.  We watched a few minutes of Cook’s Country on Create and went to bed.  I turned the TV on in the bedroom then turned it off.  I turned down the brightness of my iPad display and with only the dim light of the ceiling vista, and whatever light could get in around the window shades, worked on my blog post until 1 AM.

 

2015/11/22 (N) Repackaging

My lower back bothered me all night, so I did not sleep well, but we both got up at 8:15 AM, took showers, and got dressed.  My right lower back seemed to have gotten worse overnight.  I pulled a muscle yesterday and they tend to take quite a while to heal.  Not good.

The view of our rear deck from our dining room the morning after our major snowstorm.  It’s pretty if you don’t have to go outside to pack a bus or drive in it.

The view of our rear deck from our dining room the morning after our major snowstorm. It’s pretty if you don’t have to go outside to pack a bus or drive in it.

According to the National Weather Service newsfeed on The Weather Channel iPad app Howell, Michigan got 16.5 inches of snow from yesterday’s winter storm, the highest in Michigan.  The highest accumulation in the country was 18 inches somewhere in South Dakota, so we were very close to that.  The official amount was no doubt recorded at the Livingston County Airport about 11 miles west of us on the west side of Howell, but based on what we see on our deck we got at least a foot of snow here at the house.  It was sunny but only 25 degrees F when we got up.  The high temperature was forecast to only reach 30 and the low tonight is forecast to be 18.

Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  She cooked blueberries into hers but I had mine on the side.  I think the blueberries add additional liquid to the batter and keep the pancakes from cooking properly, but Linda likes the way they turn out.  I made a pot of coffee with the last of our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans.  I took some Ibuprofen along with my usual morning pills.  Linda got the heating pad out and I sat with it against my lower right back on the living room sofa while we drank our coffee.  In spite of having a lot to do between now and Thanksgiving Day, we got a slow start to our day.

Linda cleared our front sidewalk so she could get to the front door of the bus.  She also shoveled a path to my car, which I parked behind the bus yesterday, and cleared the snow off of it.  She checked the snow depth with a ruler at several places on our rear deck.  It was 13 inches.  Not 16.5 inches, but it’s still a lot of snow, and it could certainly have been deeper out in the yard.

Her agenda for the day was to vacuum the inside of all the cabinets in the bus, dust the woodwork, and clean the counters and mirrors.  I exchanged some text messages with Chuck including a couple of photos.  I sent one of our bus buried in snow and he sent one of the palm trees and lush vegetation on the unoccupied lot next to theirs at Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort.  Chuck said it has been too warm to play golf.  I did not know that was even possible but I did not feel too sorry for him.  I sent an e-mail to Butch to let him know I had delivered the antique SUN Electric distributor tester to Bill a week ago Friday.

I resumed working in the garage and spent most of the day repacking my tool boxes.  My objective was to reduce the number of boxes from five to four while maintaining some sort of reasonable logic to how they were organized.  I took short breaks throughout the day to get off my feet and had a few pretzels with hummus for lunch.

Sometime during the afternoon Kerry showed up and plowed as much of the concrete driveway as he could.  Linda must have been vacuuming in the back of the bus and I was working in the garage (with doors closed) so neither of us realized he was there until after he was gone.

I decided that I needed some additional storage boxes for organizing small parts so I drove to Lowe’s hoping to find the Stanley boxes I already have.  They had similar boxes from a different manufacturer but not the exact ones.  I tried The Home Depot but liked the boxes at Lowe’s better so I went back there and bought six, three with 10 deep bins and three with 17 medium bins.  I stopped at Meijer’s for orange juice and picked up a few other things.

When Linda was done cleaning the bus she started loading the things onboard that she had ready.  She got almost everything on board that was staged in the middle bedroom and the kitchen.  She then made three more batches of granola.  That made nine batches since Friday evening, eight of which are in the freezer.  Linda thinks a batch will last at least two weeks if have granola every other day.  If that proves to be true we should have enough granola with us in the bus to get through the end of March.

By 5:30 PM we were both ready to stop for the day.  I changed into my robe and sat on the living room sofa with the heating pad on my lower right back.  We spent 45 minutes considering possible waypoints between here and Williston, Florida.  We did not come a decision but it is very likely we will stop at two of the same places we used two years ago, the Oh Kentucky campground in Berea, Kentucky and the KOA near Cartersville, Georgia.

The Oh Kentucky RV Park in Berea is just west of I-75 at an interchange.  It wasn’t fancy but provided easy in/out access and would allow us to plug in for the night.  Just east of the Interstate at the same exit is a Walmart where our friends, Chuck and Barbara, stayed on their way south a few weeks ago.  The RV park options north of Atlanta, Georgia are surprisingly limited.  The Cartersville Castle-White KOA is convenient to an exit off of I-75 and also provided easy in/out access.  Staying there Saturday night means we can drive around Atlanta on I-285 on Sunday morning, our favorite time to bypass major cities.

Our final waypoint before going into Williston Crossings on Tuesday, December 1st will probably be Mayo, Florida where we can boondocks for two nights at John Palmer’s place.  This itinerary would have us traveling about 400 miles on Friday, 300 miles on Saturday, 340 miles on Sunday, and 75 miles on Tuesday.  Friday would be a longer drive by about 2 hours than we normally plan, but very doable.  Also, this time of year we like to get as far south as quickly as possible.

Linda opened a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Mixed Berry Winter White wine to have before, during, and after dinner.  For dinner Linda cooked a squash and heated up some frozen corn and mock chicken tenders (vegan).  After dinner I tried to check my e-mail but our Internet connection had slowed to an unusably slow speed.  At 8 PM I participated in the SLAARC Information Net and then came back upstairs and went to bed.  We both took some Tylenol PM at 11:30 and then turned out the lights.

 

2015/11/18 (W) Fuel Run

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I was up at 7:45 AM and skipped breakfast and coffee.  I put on Weather Nation and took stock of the forecast while I folded the clean laundry.  I took a shower, got dressed, made a cup of tea, and had a small glass of orange juice to wash down my pills.

My main objective for today was to get the bus fueled which would also serve as a test run.  The forecast had the chance of rain increasing through the morning and heading towards certainty by early afternoon, albeit intermittent and not very intense.  I wanted to take care of the fueling before the rain settled in but wanted to wait long enough for the temperature to rise so I set 11 AM as my target departure time.  Before I moved the bus, however, several things had to be done.

First on the list was turning on the electric block heater for the main engine.  It wasn’t cold enough for this to be necessary but having the oil warmed up a bit never hurts, especially with the straight 40 weight oil.  It helps the engine crank over and get oil to the bearings more quickly.

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

Next was simply cleaning up the interior so the coach could be safely moved and nothing would get broken.  I gathered up all of the tools and materials that I no longer needed and moved them into the house and garage.  I then installed the solid brass door stop on the bottom of the pull-out pantry.  Finally I mounted the two aluminum angles to the inside of the refrigerator alcove, one by the freezer door and the other by the fresh food door.

The angles were 1/2″x3/4″ with holes drilled in the 3/4″ flange for #6 SR self-drilling wood screws.  I had carefully countersunk (chamfered) each hole so the screw head would be close to flush with the surface of the flange.  The aluminum was only 1/16″ thick so I had to be careful not to overdo it.  With the freezer door open I set the 1/2″ flange against the face of the refrigerator case (on the side opposite the hinges) and held the 3/4″ flange square to the side of the alcove.  I used a #5-6 self-centering VIX drill bit to drill three holes about 3/8″ deep and installed the 5/8″ #6 screws with a manual screwdriver so as not to over torque them.  I repeated the procedure for the second angle which was longer and had five mounting holes.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

I had a little spare time so I drove my car up and down the new driveway to compact the gravel.  I won’t drive the bus on this new driveway until next year but it already supports the cars very nicely and the weight of the Honda Element was sufficient to knock down some of ridges and compact the surface.

I checked all of the tire pressures and they were OK so I did not have to get out an air compressor and adjust them.  I will have to do this next week before we leave, however, as the temperatures will have cooled off significantly by then.

Around 11 AM I turned on the coach batteries and opened the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  I turned off all of the electric heating elements and made sure the inverter was turned on and then started the main engine.  I let it run for one minute and then switched it go high idle.  While the engine was warming up and the air pressure was building I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the power cord, and stowed it.

I pulled out at 11:15 AM and headed for the Mobile Truck Stop at exit 122 on I-96, approximately 22 miles from the house.  While there are a couple of closer places I could get fuel this truck stop has very good egress and is fairly busy, which means the fuel is being turned over frequently and is thus relatively fresh.  The drive is a mix of Interstate and Michigan Highways with a few stoplights and a couple of miles of dirt road, so the bus has to run up and down through its gears.  It is also a long enough round trip to get the engine up to normal operating temperature under load.

I estimated that the tank would take on about 120 gallons of diesel fuel so I added two bottles of Stanadyne Performance Formula and one bottle of Stanadyne Lubricity Formula.  The tank started whistling at 112 gallons, which meant it was getting full.  I added the last few gallons by controlling the flow manually and stopped at 119.990 gallons, so my 120 gallon estimate was pretty good.  I paid for the fuel and got a free beverage to go with it.

I had some occasional light rain on the drive out and on the drive back but the trip was otherwise uneventful.  I was back at 12:45 PM, parked the coach, and started the auxiliary generator, which I had not done for several months.  To load the generator I turned on all three electric toe-kick heaters, the engine block heater, the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and front bay electric heater.  I let it run for 90 minutes with an average current draw of 25 Amperes on each leg, which is about 35% of its full load capability.

I got the shorepower cord out and connected it but did not turn it on.  As long as I had water and air pressure I flushed the toilet and then ran a little water through the various faucets in the coach.  I set a rubber door mat under the drain for the fresh water tank to keep the water from drilling a hole in the driveway and then let the tank drain slowly.  While it was draining I got the long fresh water hose out and connected it to the spigot on the front of the house and the water port for the coach.  With the fresh water tank empty I checked that the outside water spigot was configured to provide filtered/softened water.  I closed the drain valve, opened the fill valve, and opened the valve at the house.  I then went in the house, set a timer, and had a bite of lunch.

I had a phone call while I was driving back from the truck stop but did not answer it.  The caller left a message so I listened to it and then called him back.  Kevin Stufflebeam, from the southwest part of Michigan, had a 1995 Marathon Prevost conversion with a non-functioning Webasto system.  It turned out that he had the system worked on by a company in that area and the guy from the company had called me during the summer.  They got my name and contact information from Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct, with my permission.

The fresh water tank has an overflow tube so that is how I knew it was full.  I closed the fill valve on the bus, closed the spigot valve at the house, and then opened the fill valve to relieve the pressure in the hose.  Sure, it was a lot of back-n-forth, but it eliminated the spray that occurs when unscrewing a fitting on a pressurized hose.  It also makes the fitting easier to unscrew.  I removed the hose from the coach and then from the house.  The spigot is about four feet higher than the driveway so I pulled the hose up towards the spigot, allowing it to drain as I coiled it up.  Once it was coiled I connected the two ends together, put it back in its storage tub, and put the tub back in the front bay.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to say she was on her way home.  It had been raining, off and on, all afternoon so I took about 45 minutes to drive on the new driveway with my Honda Element and compact it even more.  But first I got the metal toothed rake and evened out the few remaining ridges and valleys.  Besides going up and down the driveway I drove across it at various angles at both ends.  Most of the driveway has fresh topsoil along both edges, which is soft and has grass seed and straw on top of it, so I stayed off of those areas as they definitely should not be compacted.  The end of the new driveway by the house ties into our concrete driveway and some solid, undisturbed lawn with a flare.  The far end, which ties into the street at our third culvert, is much wider (to allow the bus to make the turn), relatively flat, and ties in to solid, undisturbed lawn.  The concrete, road, and undisturbed lawn allowed me to drive beyond the edges of the driveway in these areas and go across them at various angles.

Any kind of weather always slows commuter traffic and Linda did not get home until 6 PM.  It had been a long day for both of us and she just wanted to relax for a while.  She opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and poured each of us a glass.  For dinner we had mock oriental orange chicken with reheated frozen broccoli and white rice with soy sauce.  It was an easy but very tasty meal.

After dinner I finally settled in at my desk to finish updating the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter roster, financial statements, and minutes from the 2014 annual meeting.  Linda reviewed the financial statements and helped me reconcile them to the bank statements.  Once we were satisfied they were accurate I saved everything as PDFs, uploaded them to our Dropbox, and sent the folder link to the members via e-mail.  We then headed to bed and watched the last episode of The Brain on Detroit PBS.  Linda went to sleep and I wrote for a while, finally turning the light out at 11:30 PM.

 

2015/11/15 (N) Tiling the Cockpit, #2

Having had a larger than normal meal later than usual last night, and gotten to bed later than usual, we did not get up this morning until a little after 8 AM.  I made coffee but we were not hungry.  By the time we finished our coffee it was approaching 10 AM but once we got to work in the bus we were on task until 7:30 PM with only a short lunch break at 1:15 PM.

Bruce dry fits floor tiles on the navigator seat platform.  (Photo by Linda.)

Bruce dry fits floor tiles on the navigator seat platform. (Photo by Linda.)

We cut and dry fit the tiles for the platform floor and walls.  We had to take time out to use the oscillating saw to undercut the bottom edge of the face board on the passenger side front vertical wiring chase.  With all the tile cut and fitted we determined the order in which we would install them.  We started with the platform floor and the first six tiles of the landing.  I also had to fashion some shims to make sure the tile in the driver-side rear corner of the platform would be installed in exactly the right location.  This would be the first tile installed and if it was even slightly misaligned it would throw all of the other tiles off.

Bruce spreads Armstrong vinyl adhesive on the navigator platform.  (Photo by Linda.)

Bruce spreads Armstrong vinyl adhesive on the navigator platform. (Photo by Linda.)

I marked the edges of all the tiles on the underlayment and then we pulled them up in the reverse order of installation.  Linda prepared some soapy water to use for cleanup of the tools and tiles.  I spread the Armstrong vinyl adhesive and Linda cleaned the trowels when I was done.  We waited for it to cure to the point where we could set the tiles.  Even with two heaters going in the front of the bus the adhesive took about 50 minutes to cure to where it would not transfer when touched.  Once it reached that point we had roughly an hour to set the tiles but it only took about 20 minutes to install them.  I used a large rubber mallet to help set them, pulled the spacers, wiped the edges with a wet paper towel, and then walked on them in lieu of using a 100 pound floor roller which would have been awkward at best to use on such a small area and not worth the time and expense to rent from The Home Depot in Howell.

Bruce installs intricately cut floor tiles in the cramped front of the driver’s area.  (Photo by Linda.)

Bruce installs intricately cut floor tiles in the cramped front of the driver’s area. (Photo by Linda.)

As soon as the first group of tiles was installed we pulled up the remainder of the floor tiles from the landing and driver area.  Linda got some paper grocery bags and painter’s tape and masked off the platform floor along the back and side wall.  I spread adhesive on all of those areas and then Linda once again cleaned the tools.  Approximately 50 minutes from when I started spreading adhesive l started setting the tiles and about 20 minutes after that they were all installed.  Once again I used a large rubber mallet to help set them, pulled the spacers, and wiped the edges with a wet paper towel.  I walked on the floor tiles but had no way to further set the wall tiles.

We were done by 7:30 PM.  Linda cleaned up the tools and water bucket while I closed up the bus.  She started fixing diner and I got out of my work clothes and put on my robe.  Dinner was a nice salad and an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza; vegan, of course.  We finished the Organic Natural White wine from Frey, but we did not necessarily enjoy it.

Following dinner we relaxed in the living room for a while and I responded to a series of text messages from Kristine Gullen.  I missed the SLAARC information net at 8 PM because it just slipped my mind.  We were in bed by 10 PM and I watched Part 1 of the 2-part PBS American Experience program on Walt Disney while I finished this post.

 

2015/11/05 (R) POR-15

Linda was back at the bakery today, so she was up early and gone before I even thought about getting out of bed.  Having her homemade granola as our standard breakfast means I can feed myself under such circumstances with very little time spent on preparation and cleanup.  I made a cup of Stash China Black tea instead of coffee; it’s quicker and cleaner.  I like tea, and only started drinking coffee at age 50, but this morning the choice was motivated by ease and quickness of preparation and minimal cleanup as I was anxious to get busy working on the bus.

My focus today was getting the areas in the cockpit where I cut out the old water-damaged plywood ready for the installation of new wood.  That meant getting POR-15 applied to the areas of rusted metal in the cockpit and spray painting over it with black rubberized undercoating paint.  I also wanted to start cutting and fitting the wood pieces that I will use to patch the floor.  I finished building a pair of sawhorses and set them up in the driveway just outside the large garage door so I could measure, mark, and cut wood at waist height.  I was working on one of the pieces when the whole house generator came on at noon, ran its exercise cycle, and shut down 20 minutes later.  Shortly thereafter I heard the rumble of a big truck coming down the road and a few seconds after that Phil’s truck and trailer drove past.

Phil drove to the west end of the property, turned around, and parked down there.  He brought his Takeuchi front loader and used it to spread the large pile of topsoil around the part of our yard where the French drain starts.  He filled in low spots and graded everything off to blend in nicely.  He then worked his way up the drain line towards the culvert that goes under the road.  When Phil was done moving dirt around he spread grass seed and loosely distributed three bales of straw.  That gave him a good idea of how much more straw he would need.

I eventually took a break and walked down to chat with him in the middle of all that work.  He finished moving some dirt and also took a break for lunch.  He will have a load of screened topsoil delivered as soon as he can to use on both sides of the new gravel driveway.  He also clarified that the 40 foot parking pad portion of the driveway is probably not flat/level as it is not finished yet.  When he places and grades the topsoil his equipment will tear up the driveway a bit.  He will then use his bulldozer to finish the driveway, making sure the pad is flat and level.  That was a relief as I thought he was done and I was fairly certain the pad was not flat or level.

By 2:30 PM I finally had the areas of rusted metal prepared and masked off with painter’s plastic.  I applied the POR-15 with a foam brush.  In spite of being careful I got some on my hands and in retrospect should have worn disposable gloves.  The only way to get this product off of things, including skin, is with the POR-15 solvent, which I had failed to purchase.  Once dry it is permanent, so my right hand is going to look like I just changed the oil on the bus until the old skin gets replaced with new.  The drying time for the POR-15 is 2 to 6 hours.  The afternoon high temperature was 72 degrees F so I figured I would check at 4:30 PM.  The directions said I could paint it while it was still tacky as long as it set enough not to transfer.

Linda got home around 3:30 PM and changed into her work clothes.  Phil was still here working but we left him alone.  The weather forecast for overnight and into tomorrow was for rain, possibly heavy, so we did not want to cause any delay in Phil’s work.  I had cut and fit four pieces of wood earlier.  We put painter’s plastic over the sawhorses and laid them out bottom sides up.  Linda put 2×4 blocks under them to get the edges off of the plastic and I coated them with Thompson’s Water Seal.  I am doing what I can to protect this new wood from water damage.

I needed to finish masking off the cockpit with painter’s plastic before spraying the black rubberized undercoating paint so Linda helped me with that.  The plastic is very thin and much easier to handle with two people.  While we were doing that Phil drove past.  We took a break and walked down to west end of the property to see what Phil had accomplished today.  Back in the bus we had the area masked off to my satisfaction by 4:45 PM.

The base of my thumbs were bothering me (arthritis) so Linda shook the paint can for the required three minutes.  Although the light was fading due to the hour of the day and the cloud cover, I was still able to see well enough to spray the paint where needed.  That was the end of our work for the day, except for cleaning up, and I was satisfied with what we had accomplished.  We put some painter’s tape over three areas where we thought water might be getting in and then started putting everything away.

The wood pieces we treated with Thompson’s Water Seal were still wet so I picked them up from underneath and carried them into the back of the garage.  Linda brought the blocks in and set them on the floor and I put the pieces back on top of the blocks.  The directions said to allow at least 48 hours for drying but I plan to flip them over and coat the other side tomorrow if possible.  We are running out of time and I cannot wait two days to seal the other side and then another two days for it to dry.  We put the various tools away, removed the plastic from the sawhorses, and moved the 2×4 stringers and the sawhorses into the small garage bay.  It was 5:45 PM when we closed up the garage and it was getting dark, a clear reminder that summer was behind us and winter was approaching.

We relaxed for a while before dinner.  Linda made a nice salad and reheated the whole wheat linguini she made the other night.  We opened the bottle of Frey Natural White wine to try it.  I liked it even less than their Natural Red, if that’s possible.  It was very dry and since I do not care for dry wines I was not able to judge its other qualities.  Linda did not care for it either, and she tends to be OK with dry wines, so I suspect it is just not a very good wine.  I suggested she find a recipe that calls for white wine and use the rest of it in the dish.

One of our favorite TV shows is The Big Bang Theory.  It has moved to Thursday evenings this season, so we went downstairs to watch it.  The problem is that once we are in front of the TV set we tend to stay there.  I use the time to multi-task and work on my blog post for the day, so it’s not a complete waste of time.  Besides, we do not consider being entertained a waste of our time.  I am enjoying working on the bus, and although some aspects of the work appear humorous in retrospect, I am rarely laughing while in the middle of it.  I like things that make me laugh, and The Big Bang Theory is a very cleverly written show that is well acted and very funny.

 

2015/11/02 (M) Driveway Joe

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I got up at 6:45 AM, got dressed, and went to the bus to turn on the block heater and Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat loop.  I then made coffee and had breakfast, after which I e-mailed Mike (W8XH) to let him know Joe would be here all day today.  I then reset the clocks in the two digital cameras.

Joe was at Chuck’s a little before 7 AM to change the engine oil and filter and figured it would take one hour.  I started the main engine in our bus at 7:45 AM to warm up the oil and make it easier to drain.  I let it run for 20 minutes on high idle, dropped it to low idle for a minute and shut it down.  The block will hold heat for quite a while.

Chuck texted me at 8:15 AM to let me know that Joe was on his way to our place and Joe called about five minutes later.  He was on our street but called because he wasn’t sure he was in the right place.  He pulled in to our first driveway entrance just before 9 and pulled his van up behind the bus.

I had dumped the air in the suspension yesterday when I put the coach up on stands so Joe had me start the engine and air up the suspension as a safety backup should one of the stands fail.  I raised it up off of all four stands and then set it back down but quit dumping the air as soon as it was on each stand.

The work for today was routine annual chassis and engine maintenance.  Joe needed to have diesel fuel on hand so I drove to the Shell station and bought four gallons.  While I was there I picked up a large coffee for him at the co-located Dunkin Donuts.

When I got back from my errand run Joe was already lubricating everything on the chassis and engine that had a grease fitting using the Mobil 1 synthetic grease I bought yesterday.  He was starting to generate messy trash so I fetched a large plastic trash bag.  He drained the engine oil, removed the old filter, filled the new filter with oil, and spun it on.  He then added six gallons of Chevron Delo 100 SAE 40 Heavy Duty Engine Oil that I bought on Saturday.  I added 2 to 3 more quarts from the reservoir to use up the oil that had been in there for a while.  I then refilled the reservoir as it is very handy for topping up the oil.

Joe removed and replaced both coolant filters while I fetched a bottle of Detroit Diesel PowerCool engine coolant.  He added coolant to the expansion reservoir while I watched the sight glass on the side of the tank and told him when to stop.  He then had me help him with the secondary fuel filter, which we pre-filled with diesel fuel.  Last, but not least, we replaced the filter element in the Racor fuel filter / water separator.  Joe installed the new filter element and gaskets and topped off the fuel in the housing before putting the cover back on.

I started the main engine and let it run for 30 seconds to circulate the oil, coolant, and fuel.  Joe added a little bit more oil to bring the level up to just over half way between the L and H marks on the dipstick.  This is where the engine likes to run and if I fill it to the H mark it will get rid of the extra oil on its own.

With the maintenance on the bus completed we transferred all of the old oil from the drain pan into the one gallon plastic jugs that had contained the new oil and put them back in the 3-jug cardboard boxes for convenient transport.  Our local O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store accepts waste oil and filters so I will take them there for disposal.  Although I had my own bus work to do I hung with Joe until he was done.  I stayed near the bus and trimmed trees when he did not me to assist with things.

Joe offered to come back next year to do our annual service and suggested that we take an extra day to replace as many grease fittings as possible either with better fittings or with small lines running back to one or more conveniently located manifolds.  The manifolds would have an input for grease and a valve for each line allowing most of the chassis and engine to be greased without getting under the bus.  I must say that I liked the sound of that.  It would be a nice upgrade to the bus and would make a good article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I did NOT have Joe remove driver side front tire so I could get the splash guard off and inspect the area under the tray behind the driver’s seat.  I will have to deal with that on my own.  I also noticed that the fuel tank was down to 3/8ths so I will have to take the bus out and refuel it at some point and may have to turn off the Aqua-Hot and use the electric toe-kick heaters instead until I can refuel.

Keith called at 1 PM to let me know he would not make it out to mow the grass today.  He will be here tomorrow morning, probably for the last time this season.  Joe was packed up and on his way at 1:45 PM.  He was headed to Chicago where he has a house but has not been there in the last 18 months.

After Joe was done I went to Painter’s Supply and Equipment in Howell to buy POR-15 and the POR cleaner/degreaser.  POR is a brand but stands for “Paint Over Rust.”  It reacts chemically with rusted metal to stabilize the metal and prevent further rust.  I bought a can of spray on rubber material to put over it.  The POR-15 was pricey at $33 for a pint, but it is serious stuff and is used by the U. S. Navy.

My next stop was Lowe’s for a foam brush.  I picked up a 4-foot length of angle, four U-bolts, two pulleys, some miscellaneous nuts and bolts, and a 100 foot length of 3/8″ polypropylene rope, all of which was in preparation for ham radio projects tomorrow on the small tower.  After Lowe’s I stopped across the street at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store to dispose of the oil and filters.  Their parking lot was being seal-coated and I could not get to the disposal bins so I will have to try again tomorrow.

By the time I got home it was 4:30 PM.  Rather than start working on the bus I did a little more trimming on the trees by the road in front of the house and then put the yard tools away.

For dinner Linda made a whole wheat linguini with mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes lightly sautéed in EVOO.  We opened the bottle of Frey Natural Red organic/vegan wine.  It was very dry which made it difficult for me judge its other qualities as I do not care for dry wines or wines with noticeable tannins.  Still, it went well with the dish and I finished my glass.  I don’t think I will ever develop a taste, however, for dry wines and/or wines with a lot of tannins.

After dinner I worked on an article for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM) about our experience on the Habitat for Humanity build we participated in back in July 2013.  The article has been done for a while but the publisher (Gary) had someone (Teresa) proofread it a couple of days ago and she found some minor things that I needed to correct.  Gary and I are also discussing whether to split the article into two parts and/or cut down a bit on the number of photos, which currently number about 60.  I took a break from 8 to 11 PM to watch television with Linda and then returned to working on the article before going to bed.

 

2015/10/31 (S) Boo!

We overslept a bit this morning and did not get up until 7:20 AM.  We dressed quickly and drove to breakfast separately as we had to go to separate places afterwards.  We got there at 8 AM and had a nice chat with the folks at our end of the table.  It was a big group this week, at least 24 people, maybe more.

Linda left breakfast at 9:15 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark at 9:30 and go walking.  I lingered at the restaurant until after 9:30.  I drove back to I-96 and Grand River Avenue in Brighton, where I filled my fuel tank at the Shell station, and had a nice QSO with Mike (W8XH) while driving.  I then drove across the street to Brighton Ford to pick up the four spin-on coolant filter/conditioners I ordered yesterday.

Brighton Ford’s parts department is a NAPA outlet but they do not have any signs to that effect as Ford Motor Company won’t allow it.  My next stop was up Grand River Avenue towards Howell at the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store where I picked up the nine (9) gallons of Chevron Delo 100 SAE 40 engine oil I ordered yesterday morning.  I drove home and chatted a bit more with Mike on the way.  I found out that he gets his Lawn tractor serviced at/by Sloan’s in Linden and is very pleased with them.  He has a trailer for transporting his lawn tractor and is willing to let me borrow it to transport ours when I am ready.

When I got home I unloaded the oil and filters and then emptied the dishwasher, refilled it, and started it.  I then went to my office to work.  I had an e-mail reply from Byron Pigg with information I needed to finish the article for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM) about his 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion.  I incorporated the new info into the Word docx and then called Byron on the phone.  We spent at least an hour going over the article and chatting about bus conversions.  After we wrapped up our conversation I worked a bit longer on the article making the last few edits and removing blemishes from two of photos.  I uploaded the article (Word docs) and all of the photo files (jpgs) to my BCM Dropbox folder at 2:15 PM and then e-mailed Gary (publisher), Mike (editor), and Jorge (layout).

Shawna gets Madeline into her Bumblebee costume for Halloween Trick-or-Treat in their neighborhood.

Shawna (back to camera) gets Madeline into her Bumblebee costume for Halloween Trick-or-Treat in their neighborhood.

While I was doing all of that Linda firmed up our Halloween plans with our son.  We left the house at 2:45 PM and drove to Ann Arbor, arriving at their house around 3:30.  Shawna got Madeline into her bumblebee costume and Linda gave her a Halloween gift bag with a rag doll, some candy, and a card.  At 4:15 we walked over to a neighbor’s house for a gathering that included snacks/dinner.  We talked to host Laurel’s parents, Tom and Kendra, who were there from San Diego, California.  All of the kids and most of the adults left at 5:15 to go door-to-door trick-or-treating on Granger Street.  Granger was closed off to vehicles for several blocks with policeman at each barricade and there were hundreds of people out and about.  Many of the adults were in costume, some quite elaborate, and it was quite a sight.

Madeline caught on very quickly to her role in all of this and would often walk past other, larger children right to the front of the line to get her treat.  She is just shy of three years old so it was cute.  One of the houses had two large pumpkins out front, appropriately carved.  They were real pumpkins and each weighed about 1,500 pounds when they were delivered by a truck.  Madeline is above average height for her age but these pumpkins towered over her.  The homeowners are well known in the neighborhood for having these giant pumpkins each year and bring in mind-boggling large quantities of candy in crates.  You gotta love neighbors like that.

The rain held off for most of the prime trick-or-treat window from 5 – 6 PM but I was cold and went back to the house a little ahead of everyone else.  It started to drizzle around the same time Madeline’s endurance was waning and they got back to the house at 6:30 with the umbrella deployed.  Madeline was eager to take stock of her Halloween “loot”.  We enjoyed watching her excitement at having different items to choose from and then “negotiating” with her parents over having to select just one item for this evening.  Halloween trick-or-treat is perhaps best appreciated while watching a three year old experience it.

We left around 7 PM and stopped at the nearby Whole Foods Market for soy creamer.  We picked up two bottles of Frey brand wine, a white and a red, and two pieces of vegan cake.  Frey makes organic wines without the use of animal products and are a sponsor of “Cooking School” with Christina Perillo on the PBS Create channel.

I got a call from Joe as we were getting ready to leave Whole Foods.  He was packed and ready to hit the road first thing in the morning.  He wasn’t sure if he would make it all the way to our house on Sunday or finish the trip early Monday morning.

It rained on the drive home and I took the wheel as Linda has a hard time with dark/wet roads.  We were reminded, once again, of the poor condition of Michigan’s roads, many of which need to be repainted and have reflectors installed such as the ones we saw in Florida the winter before last.  (I suspect that the reason Michigan does not use them is because of snow plows, but they really make it safer to drive dark roads at night.)  We got home sometime after 8 PM and had dessert.  I checked the bus for leaks buy did not find any new water.  I texted Joe our address, checked e-mail, and then opened the package from Rockler Woodworking that our postal carrier had delivered earlier in the day.

The maple veneer from Rockler was a bit darker than I had hoped, but it will still be a nice contrast to the walnut trim when suitably finished.  The two shelf brackets were certainly substantial enough but it remains to be seen if the wall of our coach is adequate to support the table without a leg to the floor.  The main issue will be the fasteners near the top which will be in tension and trying to pull out of the wall.  Of secondary concern will be the lower tip of the brackets, which will be in compression, trying to push through the wall and possibly puncturing it.  I may have to use expanding bolts or toggles rather than screws for the upper (tension) fasteners.

We had some hot tea and went to bed.  Although I did not get to work on the bus today I got a lot accomplished and we had a great time watching our younger grand-daughter experience Halloween.

 

2015/10/27 (T) The Pilot’s Seat

My morning started at 8 AM in its usual fashion.  I fed the cats, made coffee, started a load of laundry, made/ate breakfast (orange/grapefruit juice and granola with fresh blueberries), drank my coffee in the living room with the fireplace on and Jasper at my side, day-dreamed about high quality used Sony alpha lenses, and finally got to work on the bus a little after 10 AM.  Rain is coming tonight and forecast to stick around into Thursday so today would be a good day to do some more trimming, felling, and cutting up of dead trees.  The temperature this morning was still in the 40’s, however, and there is still much to be done in the bus.

A few days ago I installed a new AC outlet on the forward side of the cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I wired it into the outlet on the aft side of the cabinet and then discovered that the original outlet was cracked.  I had also used an oversized cover plate on the new outlet and it interfered with the Corian cabinet top.  I finally got around to replacing the cracked outlet this morning.  I also switched the cover plates.  The regular size one still interfered slightly with the Corian top so I cut 1/8″ off of the top edge and added strips of felt on the three edges of the cabinet to raise the Corian top slightly and cushion it.  Everything fit nicely.  I turned the circuit breaker on and checked for power.  The outlets were good to go and I checked this mini-project off my (mental) project list.

I took a break and called the Escapees RV Club to register Linda and me as staff for the July 2016 Escapade.  I then called Josh at Coach Supply Direct regarding extra brackets for our MCD shades/brackets, the wiring of the passenger seat switch, and the correct orientation of the swivel bearings.  I learned that the flange, which wraps around the other piece on the inside of the ring, goes down.  (I had puzzled out that it should go the other way so I am glad I asked.)  When I was done with my phone calls I had a quick lunch of Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Snyder sourdough pretzel nibblers.

My next task was unbolting the driver seat pedestal base from the floor.  The pedestal is secured by four large carriage bolts that go through holes at the four corners of the base plate and thread into nuts that I presume are welded into the floor structure.  The base had to be removed in order to remove the old vinyl floor tile which was installed under the base.  To get the old tile out I also had to remove a plastic cover around the steering linkage and a floor mounted bracket that retained the bottom if it.  Last, but not least, I had to unscrew the accelerator bracket from the floor by removing three small lag screws.  The accelerator is electrical, with a cable that runs through the floor, but other than limited access it was easy to detach.

Removing the old vinyl tile from the driver’s area of the cockpit was relatively straightforward.  It’s somewhat flexible and wasn’t glued down that tightly.  When Creative Mobile Interiors installed the tile they laid it out in a way that allowed the pieces to be trimmed in reasonable ways to fit around the steering column and brake pedal.  The brake pedal is mechanically linked to a complex multi-port air valve in the compartment under the floor and any finished floor has to be installed around it.

The plywood under the driver’s seat area was depressed directly under the base.  It seemed unlikely that this was the result of the base being bolted down.  It may indicate that this area also got wet like the area under the passenger side seat base.  I plan to install SurePly underlayment on the floor under the passenger seat but not the under the driver’s seat so I will either have to replace this piece or use floor leveling compound to fill the depressed area.  Replacing the plywood is probably the correct, but more involved, solution.

I started thinking about installing the new tile so I laid out all of the old tiles on the floor in the garage, kind of like putting a simple jigsaw puzzle back together.  I plan to use them as a pattern to cut the new tiles.  With a clear view of the whole driver’s area I became intrigued by the lower sidewall counsel next to the driver’s seat.  The more I looked at it the clearer it became that Royale Coach had cut the top off of a bumped out area, removed the upper three inches of the wall of the bump out, replaced the top piece, and tried to fill in the three inch gap in the side wall.  They had also cut out an access plate and then screwed it back in.  It eventually became obvious to me that they had done this to create horizontal space for the wide Villa driver’s seat that was in the coach when we bought it.  Had Royale Coach left the ISRI seat in place these modifications would not have been needed.  They were originally hidden under carpet but once the carpet was removed the really poor quality of the workmanship in this area was all too apparent.

I probably should have applied adhesive remover to the stairs and walls around the cockpit but it has to sit for 1 to 3 hours and the timing wasn’t right.  The weather was still decent and I needed to finish working on the trees at the west end of our property.  The adhesive remover can be left on for up the 24 hours so applying it at 5 PM with the intent of removing it the next morning might be ideal.  The weather forecast for overnight, through tomorrow, and into Thursday, however, is for rain and colder temperatures, so they will not be good mornings for working with the door of the bus open.

Around 3:30 PM I had a banana nut muffin and then called Phil at Precision Grading.  I got his voice mail and left him a message.  I was getting ready to use the chainsaw to cut down a small dead tree at the west end of the property when Linda texted that she was leaving the bakery.  A few minutes later Chuck called.  He had some carpet remnants for us and was nearby so he came over.  He could not stay long but took the time to look at what I was working on in the bus before he left.  It would still be awhile before Linda got home so I took the chainsaw to the west end of the yard, cut down the tree, de-limbed it, and cut it up into manageable size pieces.  I then cut up another tree of similar size that has been on the ground for a while and cut up some of the larger branches that I trimmed off the trees yesterday.

Linda got home while I was finishing the tree work and started fixing squash and a lentil/quinoa pilaf for dinner, both of which would take some time.  After cleaning the saw and putting it away I took one of the carriage boots from the bus driver’s seat and went to Lowe’s to see if I could find slightly longer replacements.  The old ones were somewhat rusted and some of the threads were in less than ideal condition.  The new Armstrong vinyl tiles are also a bit thicker than the old ones and I wanted to make sure I had bolts that were long enough to completely thread into the retained nuts.  It turned out that the bolts are metric, specifically M12-1.75×80.  Lowe’s had Grade 8 M12-1.75×90 bolts (10 mm longer than the 80s) so I bought four.  I also bought some thick M12 fender washers that were larger than the old ones.  While I was there I picked up a role of red electrical tape.

Dinner was excellent.  The squash was baked without butter (vegan) or brown sugar but was very tasty.  The pilaf had onions, garlic, and mixed greens and was very good.  We finished the Witch’s Brew wine from Leelanau Cellars that Linda used to poach the pears on Saturday.  The squash did not look that big, but neither of us was able to finish our half so we saved it for tomorrow’s lunch.

I checked e-mail after dinner and then we settled in to watch our Tuesday night TV programs.  We caught the weather report at 11 PM and then turned off the television and lights.  I turned down the brightness on my iPad display and worked for another 30 minutes before going to sleep.  I did not hear back from Phil this evening but I already knew he would not be here on Wednesday if the rain came as forecast as he had another job to work on that was better suited to working in rainy conditions than ours.

 

2015/10/19 (M) Flashless

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:15.  I woke up but went back to sleep and finally got up at 7:30 and got dressed.  I turned on the furnace in the garage and turned up the thermostats in the bus and then had breakfast.  Rather than grind up a small quantity of coffee beans and get the coffee maker dirty I had a cup of tea.  I retrieved Butch’s e-mail and called Clyde in Canton to arrange pickup of the antique Sun distributor tester that Butch bought from him last night on Ebay.  I will drive down Friday to pick it up.

Phil showed up around 8:30 AM, unloaded his front loader, and got to work on the French drain.  I went out around 10 AM and talked to him briefly.  I then walked through the southwest corner of our property looking for a corner marker.  I did not find one but I did discover some REALLY big trees with REALLY BIG vines woven through them.  The base of the vines was as big as one of the trees, about 30″ in diameter.  I had never seen a vine root that size.

Back at the house I called John Palmer, of Palmer Energy Systems in Florida, to update him on my recent call to Magnum Energy technical support.  He said he would talk to Tom in the next couple of days and try to get me the connector (terminal block) I need.  We agreed I will call him back on Friday.

Next I called A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana and talked to Terry.  I ordered a bolster cushion to fill in the space behind the sofa seat cushions and below the sofa back cushions.  It will be 6″ high x 4-3/4″ deep x 78″ long and will be one density of firm foam rather than a firm center layer with softer outer layers on top and bottom (like the seat cushions).  She will use a plain beige fabric as it will not be visible and so it does not have to match the other sofa cushions.  She said it would be ready in early November, which is plenty of time for us to drive down and get it.  The price was $125, which sounded like a fair price to me.

I got out my old Sunpak DX-8R ring flash and connected it to one of my Quantum high voltage battery packs but the battery pack appeared to be dead.  The two battery packs I have are almost unused but have apparently self-discharged and are now dead.  This also happened to my original battery packs.  The only flash equipment I have is set up to run off these packs but I am not inclined to replace them again as I do not use them enough to keep them charged which makes it hard to justify the cost as they are expensive.  Unfortunately that leaves me, for the moment, without any flash capability for the new Sony SLT-A99V DSLT camera.  Buggers.

I sent a TXT message to Joe to let him know that I did not see any indication of axle/hub seal leaks on the inside of the bus wheels.  I then called Bill in Mexico, Indiana and left him a message regarding the antique Sun distributor tester.  I will drive it at least as far as Elkhart, Indiana when I pick up the bolster from A-1 Upholstery and transfer it to Bill if he can meet me there.  There is also the possibility that I will drive it all the way to Bill’s place in Mexico, Indiana and stop by Jarel Beatty’s cabinetry shop in Logansport to have him cut down the connector on the passenger side HVAC duct cover.  If I do I will also pick up the drawings for the desk, sofa, and pull-out pantry as long as I am there.

Phil checks the grade of the new driveway extension.  The laser level is set up by the utility pole.

Phil checks the grade of the new driveway extension. The laser level is set up by the utility pole.

I went back outside and walked through the layout of the driveway extension with Phil.  He then set up his laser level, took elevation measurements at various points, and made an annotated sketch.  He needed to think about the data and figure out what we could actually do given the change in grade from the existing concrete driveway to the road at the third culvert and the need to flatten out before reaching the culvert to tie in with where the barn will (might) eventually go.

Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up around 11 AM to mow the grass.  I got out our leaf blower and let Phil know that I would be occupied for a little while with yard work.  I blew the leaves off of the rear decks, out from under/around various bushes, and off of the two boulder retaining walls into the yard where Keith could mulch them with his riding lawn mower.

About the time I was done blowing leaves Phil had a plan to discuss.  The elevation drops 7-1/2 feet from the concrete driveway (that goes from the street to the garage) to the street at the third culvert some 200 feet away.  Phil thought that our best bet was to slope down from the driveway over a distance of 40 feet, level out for 40 feet, and then gently slope down for 70 feet to the area in front of the future barn location.  That would leave another 50 feet with a slight drop to get to the street.  Some of the area down there will be close to level, however, so another RV could park down there.

We also discussed running power and agreed that I would buy about 40 feet of plastic conduit to get under the level area and headed towards the southwest corner of the garage.  We would need the conduit first thing tomorrow morning so I decided I would go to Lowe’s this evening.

I finally got to work in the bus around 1:30 PM.  I positioned the sofa seat, secured the piano hinge to the stationary backboard with four screws and then drilled all of the other screw holes using my smallest VIX bit.  I installed all of the little screws, dialed back the thermostats, and closed up the bus.  My time-on-task was short but it was a big item to check off of my “list.”

The Sunpak DX-8R ring flash can operate on four AA batteries so I put a set in and connected it to the hot shoe on top of the camera.  The camera was able to trigger the flash (more than once) but the shots were seriously overexposed.  I did not take the time to try and figure out if the flash can be controlled by the camera based on light coming through the lens.  If not it won’t be usable in most situations.

It was a mild day with blue skies and white puffy clouds so I took the new camera outside to capture some images of the work Phil is doing.  I shot a few frames of the more colorful trees in our yard while I was at it.

Linda texted me at 3:40 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery and stopping at the store on the way home.  Phil continued to find rock, concrete, and brick debris as he dug out the driveway extension.  He used the 30″ toothed bucket on his excavator to sift out the larger pieces and pull them into a pile and then used his front loader to put all of it into his dump truck.  I got a metal tine rake and raked out some of the smaller stuff, not because it needed to be removed but because I needed to do something physical and wanted to smooth it out to get a better idea of how it will look when finished.

Phil started securing his equipment at 5 PM and we were wrapping up our last discussion of the project for the day when Linda got home at 5:30.  After unloading a few groceries she started fixing dinner.  Phil took off and I continued raking for another half hour until dinner was ready.  Linda served the rest of the polenta with puttanesca sauce and steamed sliced parsnips.  I thought we finished the Cupcake Black Forest wine last night but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we still had enough for our meal this evening.

After dinner I went to The Home Depot looking for a fuel filter for our Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  THD sells Cub Cadet equipment but only had generic fuel filters so I did not buy one.  I went to Lowe’s, where we get a 5% discount on everything we buy! and bought the following:  four 10-foot pieces of 2″ PVC non-conductive conduit, a 90 degree elbow, a coupler, two end caps, 1″ and 1-1/4″ self-drilling screws, an 8′ long pressure treated 4×4′, and a clamp on saw guide.  The saw guide was an impulse purchase but I had a $10 Off card for a total purchase of $50 of more.  We have struggled with makeshift saw guides all summer and fall and I still have more careful cutting to do.  I already have a saw guide but could not find it and should have bought a new one at the beginning of the bus remodeling project.

Phil called the house while I was out so I called him back.  He had figured out that extending the driveway to within 10 feet of the front of the proposed bus barn would add 25% to the cost of the project.  That was more than I was prepared to spend at this time so we will defer that work until we build the barn, probably in summer 2017.  We watched Scorpion and NCIS Los Angeles and then went to bed.

 

2015-10-18 (N) Homage to FLLW  

We got up at 8 AM.  I made Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe coffee while Linda prepared vegan pancakes.  We had talked yesterday about going to the Howell Farmers Market this morning but did not feel like going out in the early morning chill.  When we finished our coffee I turned the fireplace off and we got dressed to work.

Our focus in the bus today continued to be the built-in sofa.  We decided yesterday to move the plywood seat out from the wall 4-3/4″ from its original position.  The original stationary board on the back side of the piano hinge, which was only 2-3/4″ wide, was designed to place the front edge of the plywood seat (which has a 3/4″ walnut hardwood edge) 3/4″ beyond the cabinetry on both ends of the sofa with an overhang of just a few inches beyond the vertical front support board.  It was a nice design which tied in well with the cabinetry and kept the sofa from intruding into the living room aisle.  It resulted, however, in a seating depth of 16″ which turned out to be too short.  It was my homage to Frank Lloyd Wright: integrated, attractive, cantilevered, and uncomfortable.

As much as I like and admire FLLW’s work, I also like the Bauhaus maxim “form follows function.”  We needed a 3/4″ thick (11/16″ actually) board 7-1/2″ wide by 77-7/8″ long to locate the plywood seat in its new position.  The only wood we had on hand that we could cut this from in one piece was a 24″ X 96″ piece of walnut veneered plywood.  Since the board will not be visible I did not want to waste the walnut veneered plywood for this piece.

We also had a half sheet (4′ X 4′) of good plywood and after thinking about it for a while I decided to make the stationary board in two pieces.  The key was that I would use a third piece, cut from that same 4′ X 4′ sheet, as a splicing plate to join the other two pieces together.  But I was trying to accomplish more than that.  With the original design the pivot line of the piano hinge was over the top of the wiring chase, about 1-3/4″ back from the front edge.  That meant the back edge of the moveable seat board, when closed, was resting on the wiring chase for its entire length.  With the new stationary board the pivot line of the piano hinge is unsupported except for 5-3/4″ on each end.  The third piece of plywood would be at least a partial solution to that problem.

We worked in the garage with the overhead doors closed and the furnace on.  I cut two 7-1/2″ wide pieces off of the 4′ X 4′ sheet of plywood and then cut them to lengths of 38-7/8″ each so they would be just shy of 77-7/8″ when butted together end-to-end.  We took the two pieces to the bus and set them in place on top of the writing chase which sits atop the HVAC duct.  They just fit, which was nice.  I marked the underside along the edge of the wiring chase with a pencil.   We then took the pieces back to the shop.

I found a relatively flat portion of the garage floor and laid the two pieces end-to-end face down.  I set the third piece on top of the first two so that it was of equal length in both directions from the center and was at least 1/4″ forward from the line I had marked.  This third board extended beyond the front edge of the other two boards by at least two inches along its entire length of four feet.  With Linda holding it in place I inserted four self-drilling wood screws, two for each of the main boards, to hold the three pieces in position.

We placed the old 2-3/4″ wide board along the edge of the new boards and marked the locations of all of screw holes for the piano hinge.  I then center punched and drilled countersunk holes for lots of screws being careful to keep them in between the hinge holes.  I ran all of the screws in until the points just protruded from the other side.  I then applied Titebond II wood glue to the two main boards, positioned the third board using the screw tips as alignment guides, and ran all of the screws down pulling the pieces tightly together.  Linda got a paper shop towel wet and I used it to clean off the excess glue that oozed out from between the boards.

We took the new stationary backboard to the bus and set it in place upside down.  I marked the underside along the edge of wiring chase and then we flipped it end-for-end and set it in place right side up.  We pulled it forward so I could mark the locations of the existing screws securing the top of the wiring chase to the two long sides and then slid it back against the wall.  The line served as my guide for where to screw the backboard to the wiring chase.  (The chase has two long “1×2″ sides on edge with a 3/8″ thick plywood top that is about 4-1/2″ wide.  For maximum strength I needed to screw through the backboard into the 1x2s.  I also needed to avoid the space between the 1x2s as that is where all of the AC wiring is run.)

I center tapped a lot of locations and drilled them with a #6 countersink bit even though I was using #8 self-drilling outdoor screws.  The reason for the drilling step was to make sure I did not split any wood.  I screwed the backboard to the wiring chase with lots of 1-1/4″ #8 screws in two rows corresponding to the front and back side boards of the wiring chase.

The backboard pieces had oozed a small amount of additional glue so I used a piece of scrap aluminum sheet metal to scrap it out of the joint.  When the plywood seat is closed the back couple of inches will rest on the third piece of plywood so there cannot be any interference along there.  We set the moveable seat board in place and marked all of the hinge holes on the stationary backboard and then pulled it out gain.  We did not, however, attach the piano hinge to the stationary backboard as I wanted to let the glue cure for at least 24 hours.

By this point it was 1 PM so we stopped to have lunch which consisted of vegan hotdogs with mustard, onions, and relish and both red and green grapes.  We got these grapes at Meijer’s and their produce is usually good, but the green grapes had almost no taste.  Oh well; there will be days (and foods) like that.

After lunch we shifted our attention to the driveway extension project.  I gathered up a box of plastic and wood stakes, a mallet, a 100 foot tape measure, and the site plan for the bus barn and driveway.  It took us about three hours to stake out the location of the pull-through driveway, locate the front corners of the bus barn, and stake out the approach/apron for the barn.  Phil will be back early tomorrow morning and the first thing on the agenda is going over the layout and figuring out elevations for the two planned level pad areas.

At this point Linda went inside to work on dinner while I cleared the margin of the woods along the south side of the driveway extension.  I added bar/chain oil and a 40:1 fuel:oil mixture to the chain saw and got out the compound loppers, pruning saw, pole saw, and safety glasses.  I initially used the loppers to cut down small saplings, cut off small branches, and trim back bushes and vines.  I used the chain saw to cut down slightly larger trees, up to 3” in diameter at the base, and finish cutting out three bushes and some entwined vines.  I then used the pole saw to trim low overhanging branches.  I dragged all of the cuttings to a spot on the west side of the fir trees and used the chain saw to cut the larger trees into smaller pieces.

It was 6:30 PM by the time I was done and had the tools put away.  Dinner was almost ready when I got a call from Butch.  He was following up on how our refrigerator was performing and also needed my assistance with a possible Ebay purchase.  The item he was interested in was in Canton, Michigan about 45 minutes from our house, and the seller was not willing to ship it.  He wanted to know if it would fit in our Honda Element and if so, would I be willing to pick it up if he decided to buy it.  Of course I was willing to help as long as my car was able to handle the item.  While he was on the phone I measured the clearance for the rear hatch and gave him the dimensions.  As soon as we got off the phone he e-mailed me the link to the auction, which still had 85 minutes remaining.

For dinner Linda started with a really nice salad that had slivered almonds and pumpkin seeds and dressed it with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.  The main course was an amazing soup.  She roasted a golden acorn squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, and shallots.  She then put these in a pot, added vegetable broth, and heated the mixture.  To finish the dish she used an immersion blender to purée everything into a smooth, thick, hearty, and delicious soup.  After working outside all afternoon on a chilly day it really hit the spot.  We finished the bottle of Cupcake Black Forest red wine we opened yesterday.

After dinner I retrieved Butch’s e-mail, checked out the item, and e-mailed him back.  I then spent a little time reading and replying to posts in various RVillage groups.  I called Butch back just before 8 PM and then turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 to join the SLAARC Info Net at 8 PM.  Unfortunately all I heard was noise.  I have not used the radio for the last few weeks so I don’t know if the net did not take place (unlikely but possible) or if a problem has developed with our system.  If the later, it is most likely the Morgan I.C.E. lightning arrestor (again).  Whatever the reason, I was not going to figure it out this evening.  I went to bed at 9 PM and wrote this post.  It took some time to write but if I do not record the details the same day they slip away quickly.

 

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.

 

2015/09/14 (M) Final Prep (for now)

We were up at 8 AM and had breakfast but I did not take the time to make coffee.  I gathered up the laundry and started a load.  I then headed to Lowe’s to buy an outlet strip that I could easily hardwire.  I looked at angle iron to support the upper back edge of the interpedestal desk cover at the wall but did not buy any.  The iron has holes and slots manufactured into it that I thought might allow me to adjust its location vertically without having to move the location of the screws.  Alas, the slotted openings were horizontal rather than vertical.

Linda was cooking a batch of granola when I got home and made a pot of coffee.  I decided to tend to some travel preparation items before getting back to work on the remodeling project.  I wanted to check/adjust the tire pressures while it was still cool.  The tires were all down about 1.5 PSI, which was very good given how long it has been sitting.  I used the new 6-gallon air-compressor to bring them up to the pressures I like to run and it worked OK.  I will have to pause a little more often while it re-pressurizes but it is less than half the size of the 15-gallon DeWalt and will travel with much more easily.

My next task was to unload the front bay which I did while Linda continued to work on our food for the week.  We find it much easier to deal with food at rallies if she “cooks ahead” and “reheats to serve.”  I set everything in the driveway in front of the bus and tried to sort it into two groups; things were staying home for this trip and things that were going with us.

I then opened the drain valve on the fresh water tank, which goes through the floor of the water bay, and let the water run onto a container lid so it wouldn’t dig a hole in the gravel driveway.  I was getting ready to deploy the fresh water hose(s) when I noticed that they were in need of some serious cleaning.  Linda agreed to take care of that and cleaned their storage tub too.  Ditto for the waste water (sewage) hoses and their storage tub.  Her taking on this task allowed me to return to working on the installation of the desk.

I had a 12″ long piece of 1/8″ aluminum angle and decided to use it to support the upper back edge of the interpedestal shelf/cover.  I drilled and countersunk five holes in one of the flanges.  Linda finished cleaning the hoses and then got our wireless thermometer from the house.  It has a base thermometer and two wireless remotes so she put one remote in the freezer and the other one in the fresh food compartment.  We wanted to monitor the temperature and dial it in to where we needed it before loading the refrigerator with food.

The stacked mending plates used to create a tongue-&-groove alignment system between the center cover and both the left and right desk pedestals/bases.

The stacked mending plates used to create a tongue-&-groove alignment system between the center cover and both the left and right desk pedestals/bases.

I removed the interpedestal cover and set the left pedestal aside so I could complete the AC wiring connections.  I mounted the outlet strip to the wall centered between the two pedestals and about two inches below the level of the underside of the plywood that will support the Corian top.  The outlet strip had a 15 foot cord.  I determined how much of that length I needed to get through the right pedestal and forward along the wiring chase to where the other wires were located.  I cut off the extra length, routed the power cord into the right pedestal at the left upper rear corner, down the inside left rear corner, and out the left end of the upper base.  From there it ran forward to the other wires where I connected them.  I turned on the circuit breaker and then turned on the outlet strip.  The switch lit up, indicating the presence of 120V AC.  I used my Etcon tester to check the duplex outlet by the passenger seat.  It also had power so the wiring was good.

I set the interpedestal shelf/cover back in place, aligned with the right base, and then aligned the left base to it.  I checked the distance from each end of the base to the HVAC duct and adjusted it to be the same.  We then adjusted the position of the left pedestal until we were satisfied with the alignment with the interpedestal cover.  We checked the alignment of the front top edges of the pedestals with a 6′ metal ruler.  Everything looked OK so I secured the pedestal to the base using two screws that will be hidden by the laser printer in normal use.

I needed to screw the pedestal to the wall in the two upper corners to minimize the visibility of those screws.  It was not flush to the wall at those points so I used a shim in the upper right.  We will have to cover the vertical gap at the left rear with molding.

Bruce finds the center of a drawer front by finding the point where the diagonals of the face intersect.  The handle mounting holes were located horizontally 1-1/2” to either side of this center point.

Bruce finds the center of a drawer front by finding the point where the diagonals of the face intersect. The handle mounting holes were located horizontally 1-1/2” to either side of this center point.

We put the removable plates back in the bottom of each pedestal.  I drilled the holes for the pulls in the four desk drawers, installed the pulls, and put the drawers back in the desk.  To find the correct location for the holes Linda suggested that we put a piece of painter’s tape in the center of the face and then draw a small segment of the two diagonals to find their intersection.  For the two small drawers that was all we needed as they got single knob style pulls.  For the two larger drawers we needed to locate the holes 1-1/2″ to either side of the center on a line through the center parallel to the top and bottom edges.  I measured carefully and I think we did a pretty good job.

Sometime during the morning I texted Jarel the dimensions for a 3/4″ thick piece of walnut 1-7/8″ high by 34″ long to use as a face for the edges of the three layers of plywood under the refrigerator.  He texted back and said “no problem” which lead to an exchange of a dozen e-mails clarifying just exactly what I wanted.  I did not mind, better that than assumptions that result in wasted time making parts that don’t fit.  Jarel is an experienced cabinet maker and is meticulous in his work.  He knows all the questions to ask about things I did not specify and does so before cutting any wood.

Our last construction task before departure tomorrow was rehanging the bathroom door.  I measured the distance from the bottom hinge to the bottom edge of the door and compared it to the distance from the hinge in the door frame to the floor.  It looked like it should fit without rubbing so we hung the door.  (The old ceramic tile rubbed as the door was swung to its fully open position, but the thickness of the underlayment and vinyl tile is less than the ceramic and thinset, at least in that area.)

Linda was still trying to prepare our food for the rally as there will be very little of the included food that we can eat.  She made a grocery run while I returned to emptying out the front bay of the bus.  I plan to leave most of the stuff that was stored in that bay at home so Josh has access to the ceiling to see if we can through-bolt mount the two captain’s chairs in the living room.  I might also store all of the GLCC stuff down there as Linda will be coming down on Wednesday in the car with the cats and we want to minimize the amount of other stuff in the car.

I thought about sanitizing the fresh water system by using the 12V DC water pump and the winterizing valves/tubes to draw a dilute chlorine solution from a bucket and pump it through the fresh water pipes.  I decided against it based on available time and higher priority items that needed to be done.  I connected the clean fresh water hoses to the coach and started filling the tank.  I checked that the fuel polishing pump was off and checked the air springs and latch on the generator.  I made a mental note that the aft air springs (front of the Yanmar diesel engine) needed air and made sure the slide tray was latched in place.  I was going to start the generator and let it power the air conditioners but decided to forego for now that as well.

We had unlatched and removed the towbar from the bus receiver earlier in the summer.  I used one of our hand trucks to move it over by the car.  I put the passenger side rear seat down and loaded the towbar in behind it along with the bag that holds all of the other pieces.  That left plenty of room for the two cat carriers, litter tray, and any miscellaneous things she may bring along on Wednesday.

We put the mattress back onboard and Linda made the bed, but forgot the electric heating pad.  Linda did some cleaning and then we loaded clothing and food.  Computers, cameras, and other technology will go on first thing tomorrow morning.  We then got the various GLCC items out of the garage and staged them by the passenger side of the bus.  I loaded our personal items onto the driver’s side half of the slide tray and loaded the GLCC stuff onto passenger side half.

Our goal was to be done by 5 PM but it was 6 PM when I finally had the pressure washer ready to use.  It took me a little over an hour to spray the car and the coach and I wrapped up for the day at 7:30 PM.  We had seitan stroganoff for dinner with the 2013 Egri Merlot and had watermelon for dessert.  It was another long day but we got a lot accomplished and most it did not require me to work on my hands and knees, for which I was grateful.

 

2015/09/06 (N) Grouting

We got up quietly at 7:30 AM as Madeline was still sound asleep.  Linda did not want to let her sleep too long and get off schedule so I got the “all clear” to grind the coffee beans just before 8 AM.  I made the Costa Rican half-caff because I am trying to use it up so we can replace it with something we like better.  Madeline emerged with Grandma Linda a few minutes later.  After stretching they decided to sit quietly on the living room sofa and read stories while everyone woke up and the adults enjoyed our coffee.

Sometime between 9:30 and 10 AM we left for the Howell Farmers Market.  We walked from one end to the other, with Madeline in her stroller, scoping out this week’s bounty. We then walked back through and Linda bought a few things including hard stem garlic which we had never seen before.  We stopped and chatted with our favorite vendor, Marjorie.

When we got home and put the produce away Linda prepared a snack lunch for herself and Madeline.  The two of them then went on an outing to the farm at Kensington Metropark (KMP) while I stayed behind to work on bus projects.  I decided to start by finishing the assembly of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  I attached the center support for the return air shelf as follows:

  • I determined the center of the long edges of the shelf and drew a line between them.
  • I carried these center marks to the other side and then measured 3/8″ to either side.
  • I connected corresponding marks to create a pair of parallel lines 3/4″ apart and centered on the underside of the shelf.
  • I placed the support in position, determined its fore-aft position, and marked the ends.
  • I then marked a piece of scrap wood, cut it into four pieces, and used them to hold the support in place; two long pieces the same length as the support, and two short pieces across the ends.
  • This allowed me to turn the shelf right side up with the center support held in the correct place and then mark and drill countersunk pilot holes for the screws.
  • I removed the support piece, sanded off any rough spots, put Titebond II wood glue on the edge, and replaced it between the temporary blocking.
  • I stood on the shelf to force the pieces together and ran all the screws down tight.
  • I then removed the temporary blocking.

After sleeping on it last night I decided I would attach the plenum/support boxes to the vertical front panel and the wood wire chase on top of the HVAC chase rather than to the adjacent cabinets or to the floor.  That meant I could go ahead and assemble them as complete, single units.  Easier said than done.

Even though I used right angle corner clamps the two halves I built for each box did not want to go together perfectly.  I managed to get one of them assembled but could not complete the other one by myself.  The problem was that I needed both hands to pull the pieces into alignment and two more hands to operate the drill and screw gun.

By now it was 1 PM, which is Madeline’s normal nap time, but they were not back from the Metropark yet so I gathered up all of the tools and materials I needed to grout the floor tiles in the bus.  That included the special Armstrong S-288 Glacier White sanded vinyl grout, a flat blade screwdriver, the 4″x8″ hard edge float, the smaller margin trowel, the 2″ putty knife (wall scraper), the ScotchBrite sponges, the Revel scrubber, two large buckets for rinse water, paper towels, a large cloth towel, and paper bags.

Madeline pets one of the sheep at the Kensington Metropark animal farm.

Madeline pets one of the sheep at the Kensington Metropark animal farm.

Since Linda and Madeline had still not returned I had a few pretzels with hummus.  They finally got home around 1:30 PM and I heard all about the farm and the animals Ms. M got to see and touch.  The 2-day old piglets were apparently a big hit but so was the playroom.  It was a good outing and I wish I could have gone but I got stuff done that needed to be done.

Madeline finally laid down for her nap at 2 PM but Linda could not help me with the tile grouting as she needed to be within earshot of Madeline’s bedroom.  I decided that we could not afford any further delay for this aspect of the interior remodeling project and resolved to do it by myself.  Without Linda to walk me through the steps, have materials ready, and clean the tools, I needed to be very clear about the steps and their timing.  I must have read the directions on the container of grout a dozen times in an attempt to internalize them but they just would not stick with me.  I needed a spray bottle for water so Linda found one for me.

The afternoon was very warm so I turned off the air-conditioning in our home library, closed up the coach, and turned on two of the three air-conditioners, making sure they were on opposite legs of the electrical service.  I staged all of the stuff in the bedroom storage box as I planned to start on the back side of the bed in the driver side corner by the head of the bed and work my way out.

I finally got started at 2:30 PM.  The grouting involved a specific set of steps that got repeated many times as the directions said to only do 6 – 10 sq. ft. at a time.  That range had to do with the time required to apply and strike the grout, setup time (3 – 8 minutes), misting with water, waiting 20-30 seconds, scrubbing, and finally wiping with a square edged cellulose sponge.  I had to divide the U-shaped bedroom floor into six sections and it took me until 5:30 PM to do that much so my average time was 30 minutes per section, each of which was smaller than 6 square feet.

I took a short break, had something to drink, and checked with Linda on the timing of dinner.  We settled on 6:30 PM and I returned to my grouting.  I had to do the bathroom floor in two sections, which got me into the hallway and joined up with the work from the bedroom.  I went in to clean up for dinner and was greeted by the smell of something baking.  Madeline wanted to make cupcakes so Linda assembled the ingredients and walked her through the steps, letting her do as much of the work as possible.  For not even being three years old yet she is very interested in cooking, but only if it is something she will get to eat! 🙂

Dinner was vegan cheeseburgers, corn-on-the-cob (from the Farmers Market), left over black beans and edamame, and sliced pears.  I worked in the bus from 7 to 8 PM and finished the hallway as far as the bend that transitions into the kitchen.  I cleaned all of the tools and sealed the grout container using Cling-Wrap pressed down onto the surface of the grout to keep air away from it, and locked up the bus.

I washed up and turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm radio in the ham shack while Linda helped Madeline take a bath.  Steve, N8AR, was serving as net control for the weekly SLAARC information net and had already started the net but not yet called for check-ins so I got to participate in the entire net.  We had a small group this evening, most likely due to it being a holiday weekend, but it was still a good net.

I came upstairs to have dessert with Linda and Madeline; chocolate cupcakes (vegan) with sprinkles.  Yum.  I then returned to my office to re-read an article I wrote about replacing the speedometer in the bus and editing it to indicate where the pictures should be placed.  I dealt with several BCM related e-mails and then came upstairs.

Madeline was in her pajamas and sitting in her portable bed while Linda read a story.  She decided that she wanted me to read a couple stories too, so I did.  We got her tucked in with her stuffed animals arranged at the four corners of her bed, turned on the night light, and left her to fall asleep.

I opened the bottle of Apricot wine that Brendan and Shawna picked up from Leelenau Cellars and we each had a small glass.  I worked on this post while Linda cleaned up the kitchen.  It had been a long and very tiring day for both of us but a very satisfying and productive day as well.  We don’t mind that kind of tired.

 

2015/08/29 (S) Up and Down

When we arrived at the South Lyon Senate Coney Island just before 8 AM there were only five other SLAARC members there but we had 16 by the time the last two people showed up.  Linda (K8LMF) got to sit next to Linda (NF8C) for the first time in quite a while and they had a long chat.  All but one person stayed until 9:45 when we got up to leave and everyone else followed suit.

We were back home by 10:15 AM, changed into our work clothes, and got back to work on the bus remodeling project.  It was a very overcast and cloudy day with a high probability of rain that was forecast to be an all-day event.  That altered our plans a little in that we did not want the pieces of underlayment to get wet and our air-compressor could not be out in the rain as it has an electric motor.

Yesterday we marked and cut the underlayment panels in the driveway, laying them across 2x4s to create space for the circular saw blade.  In order to keep the project moving forward we decided to use the temporary “workbench” in the garage for this work.  Since the workbench was covered with drawer fronts that had to be moved we decided to take a little time to put the new handles on them and reattach them to the drawer boxes.  Sometimes it’s true that “there’s no time like the present” to get something done.

Linda has worked hard on cleaning and waxing the walnut drawer fronts and fixed cabinetry in our motorcoach.  The results so far are amazing and we are feeling like all of our work will be worthwhile as the interior of the coach is going to look very nice when we are done with this project.

We had cut the piece of underlayment for part of the hallway last night but needed to trim it to get it to fit correctly.  I think we took it out of, and back into, the bus at least four times, each trip requiring us to go up and down the seven steps in the entryway/cockpit plus the stool outside the door.  I do not know how many times we went up and down those steps today but it was a quite a few.  To add to our enjoyment and bus conversion physical fitness program we were usually carrying something and it was often heavy and/or large.

The next pieces of underlayment to be cut would fill out most of the living room.  I had planned to cut them a certain way but changed my mind after talking it through with Linda.  We took measurements and I made drawings that were close to scale.  We ended up using the full 48″ width of a 4’x8′ sheet and about 86″ of its length for the piece that fills the alcove where the built-in sofa and storage base will go.  It had two large corner cutouts, one to make it fit with two other installed pieces and the other to go around the base of the media cabinet that doubles as an end table for the forward end of the sofa.  After test fitting it we had to trim a couple inches off of a back corner because of a wire bundle and create a notch for several wires that ran through the floor just in front of the driver’s side HVAC chase.  We waited for a lull in the rain and took it back into the coach.

It fit just right but unfortunately there were defects in the subfloor, such as small gouges and depressed screw heads, that needed to be repaired.  Since we could not use the air-stapler today I did not have a good excuse for not patching the floor correctly so I worked on that while Linda resumed working on the woodwork.  The quart of “ready to use” floor patch was not as ready to use as I would have liked.  The directions said to stir thoroughly and when I opened the container there was a half inch of milky white liquid on top of somewhat drier and stiffer material with the consistency of fine wet sand.  The directions also said the open (working) time was about 15 minutes.

I set the timer on the microwave for 20 minutes, spent five of those trying to stir and mix the floor patch ingredients, and then tried to patch everything that really needed it in the allotted time.  I did not care for this material and wish I had used the Universal Patch and Skimcoat that I used everywhere else.  It was gritty and did not feather out or finish as smoothly as I wanted, but there was nothing to do now but wait for it to dry which would take three hours.

Linda decided to work in the house and eventually fix dinner while I worked in the bedroom (of the bus) trying to remove very old masking tape from the subfloor using a 1.25″ putty knife.  After an hour I had about half of it off but called it quits as my hands were sore.

For dinner Linda cooked a couple of ears of corn-on-the-cob, heated some vegetarian (vegan) baked beans, and cooked two vegan “burgers” topped with vegan cheese.  Mustard, ketchup, pickle relish, and four large leaves of romaine lettuce made for a tasty sandwich.  We each had a glass of the Cupcake Black Forest Decadent Red wine with the meal.  Dessert was fresh sliced strawberries with non-dairy (vegan) peach mango “yogurt.”  It was a tasty summertime meal.

After dinner I tried sanding the floor patches even though the directions said not to sand the dried material.  I used a very old piece of 120 grit sandpaper in my orbital sander and went over the entire area.  I vacuumed the whole area but I could still feel a residual grit on the floor.  I got Linda’s vacuum from the house and tried that.  I then got the Revel wet/dry mop and tried wet moping the area, but it was still gritty.  I was preparing to go over the entire area with the new 80 grit sandpaper but Linda managed to get it clean using the brush attachment on the house vacuum cleaner.

With the area cleaned up we put the piece of underlayment for the sofa nook in place and it fit very nicely but we did not staple it.  We redid our measurements for the passenger side front piece and made some minor adjustments to the dimensions on the drawing.  What I have tried to do wherever possible is to keep at least two factory edges with a common vertex (corner) and use that point and those sides as the basis for my measurements.

It looked like heavy rain was going to hit us from the west but must have tracked north of us.  We continued to get rain, off and on, but nothing heavy every materialized.  Working in the garage we measured and cut the last piece for today.  We made extensive use of the circular saw running it along a saw guide.  By the time we had the sheet cut there was a lull in the rain so we took it to the bus to test fit it.  The fit was close but needed minor trimming in the front outside corner.  By now it was 8:30 PM and we did not want to haul the sheet back out of the bus and into the garage to work on it.  That will be our first task tomorrow followed by stapling the three pieces that we cut today, weather permitting.

We turned in at 10 PM.  There wasn’t anything on TV that interested us, so Linda read for few minutes before falling asleep and I wrote until 11:30.

 

2015/08/17 (M) Wallpaper Search

 

 

We awoke this morning to find wild turkeys in the yard behind our bedroom.  The deer feed block and natural mineral rock initially attracted a doe and her faun but has been a much stronger attraction for the wild turkeys and crows.  Both the turkeys and crows also like to clean up the bird seed that falls to the ground under the seed block that Linda hung from a branch on one of our White Pine trees.  The turkeys eventually moved on and we sat down to a breakfast of fresh mixed berries, juice, and coffee, which we took to the living room while we used our iPads to read, write, or play a few games, as is our morning habit.

I had a text message exchange with Chuck regarding the moving of our old bus refrigerator out of his shop.  He and Barbara are headed off to Oscoda on Friday with their race car so I e-mailed Harvey (AC8NO) from our SLAARC ham radio club to see if he could help us move the refrigerator on Friday.

We had quite a few downed branches, and a couple of downed trees, scattered about the property as a result of winter snows, spring/summer storms, poor drainage, and age.  With Keith coming this morning to mow the grass I decided I should pick up as many of them as I could.  When I started at 9:30 AM it was already warm and muggy.  Keith showed up at 10 AM and got right to work but I managed to stay ahead of him and got everything of any size picked up except for one tree.  It was at least 8″ in diameter at the base and at least 30′ long so I will have to de-limb it, cut up the trunk with a chain saw, and haul the pieces away using the lawn tractor and utility dump trailer.  That, however, won’t happen anytime soon.

We skipped last week’s mowing because it had been dry and the grass had not grown noticeably, but we got rain during the past week and the grass responded accordingly.  The yard looked good when Keith was done and the timing of his visit was fortuitous as there is rain in the forecast for the next few days with slightly cooler temperatures.

We had a light lunch and then Linda settled in to work at her desk while I worked in the bus.  I spent a couple of hours using the belt sander to grind down the residual thinset and mastic on the floor.  I wear a dust mask, hearing protector, and safety glasses when sanding, which is even less comfortable than normal when the temperature and humidity are elevated.  But I needed to have the floor prep finished by the end of this week, and the new floor installed by the end of next week, or I risked not being ready for the installation of the new seating on September 14 and 15.

I suggested to Linda that we go to Ann Arbor to look at wallpaper, visit Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline and then pick up some things at the Whole Foods Market that we cannot get locally.  Linda researched wallpaper stores and made arrangements with our son while I took a shower and got dressed for visiting.

We left around 3:30 PM and drove down US-23 to the Washtenaw Road exit.  If we had put the address in the GPS sooner we would have taken M-14 west instead of staying on US-23 as the Delux Drapery and Shade Co. is on West Stadium Boulevard.  Still, we got there in a reasonable amount of time.  We told the sales associate that we were looking for something that would stand up to use in a motorhome, preferably something that could be wiped, washed, or scrubbed.  We wanted something light and neutral (off white) without a pattern that had to be matched, but with some texture.  She pulled out several sample books and we looked through them.  We ended up signing out three books each of which had one or two papers that we liked and thought might work well with our woodwork, floor tiles, and upholstery.

We drove back across town to our son and daughter-in-law’s house.  Our daughter’s car was also there but no one was around so Linda called Brendan.  As we suspected they were at Burns Park so we walked over there and found them.  Madeline was very excited to see her Grandma Linda and ran over to give her a hug.  As we were heading towards the park exit that most directly leads back to their house we spotted Madeline’s friend Maya and her dad Jason.  That unplanned encounter resulted in 20 minutes of child play and adult socializing before we finally resumed our homeward trek.

Back at the house we continued to visit until dinner time.  Meghan left to go fix dinner for herself and Chris.  Madeline had her dinner and then let her dad read a Curious George story.  Brendan and Shawna had packing to do for their flight tomorrow so we took our leave.  The three of them are flying to Denver to visit Shawna’s mom (Carol) and her husband (Cliff), who live nearby in Golden, Colorado.  Madeline is well-traveled for a 30 month old child.

We stopped at the Whole Foods Market on Washtenaw Avenue, which is close to their house and conveniently located on our route out of town.  The main item on our list was plain soy creamer.  We used to be able to get this at both the Meijer’s and Kroger stores near our house but they are only carrying the vanilla flavored version which I do not like.  We picked up a bag of sauerkraut to go with the vegan beer brats, six bottles of wine, because you get a 10% discount on six or more bottles (mix and match), two pieces of vegan cake, and some other stuff.  It’s probably a good thing that we do not have a Whole Foods closer to our house.

By the time we got home it was 7:45 PM.  Linda heated the sauerkraut and the vegan beer brats and served them open-faced on hot dog buns with mustard, of course.  Black grapes provided a sweet contrast to the savory main dish.  We sat for a while in the living room, playing iPad games and writing blog posts while we had some of the vegan cakes, before turning in.  I continued to write while we watched a TV program and then went to sleep.

 

2015/08/15 (S) Steve and Karen

As we were backing out of the driveway to go to our weekly ham radio breakfast we noticed a large mailbox sitting on the ground next to ours.  It was still attached to the upper half of its wood support structure.  The number was 593, which is not an address that occurs on our street.  We left it there and went to breakfast.

We had a mid-sized group of 15 people at our SLAARC breakfast this morning.  On the drive into breakfast we lost power to our GPS every time I transmitted on the 2m ham band.  The GPS and cellular booster worked fine all day yesterday with the new 12VDC extension splitter, but I did not use the mobile ham radio.

After breakfast we went directly to Chuck’s shop in Novi to see if we could retrieve the old refrigerator using our car.  A measuring tape quickly revealed that the fridge would not fit without removing the seats.  Even then it would be too long to close the rear gate and hatch on the Element.  At breakfast Harvey (AC8NO) offered the use of his van and labor to help move the fridge and I will probably take him up on it.

On the drive home I chatted with John (NU8M) on the South Lyon 2m repeater and we were joined by Mike (W8XH).  After John signed and dropped off Linda tried different combinations of power connections while I talked with Mike.  Based on that test the splitter appears to be the problem but we could not determine if it was a voltage drop issue or some form of RFI.

I stopped on the way home to fill the gas tank in my car.  When we got home I put the mailbox in the back of my car and we drove to the end of the street but it clearly did not come from one of our neighbor’s yards.  When we got back to the house we also noticed that there was a footprint on the side of our mailbox.  Closer inspection revealed that the post was slightly loose in the ground and the box was leaning (bent) slightly to one side.  Clearly someone had tried to kick it over (and failed) and there was a very high probability that it was the same person(s) who probably broke the other mailbox and left it on the ground next to ours.  We discussed whether we should report it to the Livingston County Sheriff Department but did not take the time right then to do so.

Linda needed to make a grocery store run and then prep the food for dinner and pick up the house.  With company coming later I did not want to get all sweaty working in the bus and garage so I worked in my office editing and uploading blog posts.  I quit around 3:30 and was writing blog posts when Steve and Karen Limkemann arrived at 4 PM.

We always have a nice visit with Steve and Karen and they are good sports about eating the vegan food that Linda prepares.  Linda made a sweet and sour collard greens cole slaw and vegan potato salad ahead of time.  She cooked corn-on-the-cob on the stovetop and heated vegan beer brats on the grill along with onions and green peppers.  Steve and Karen brought a Malbec wine which we enjoyed before, during and after the meal.  Dessert was fresh strawberries with cashew milk snickerdoodle ice cream.  Really, what’s not to like?

Steve and Karen have rented a house trailer in a trailer park near Venice, Florida for the last few winters.  I think they rented it for January, February, and March and split the time with another couple, but I may not have my facts completely straight.  The owners of the trailer are from England and decided after this last winter that they want to start using it during the winter so Steve and Karen lost the use of it.  They really liked the park and its location so they bought a trailer that was for sale and already set up.  We visited them two winters ago, but we were several hours north of them.  This coming winter we will be much closer to them while we are in Arcadia during January and February and plan to see them more often.  Venice is a very upscale place and there is an excellent vegan restaurant within easy walking distance (a mile) from their trailer park.

We talked about trying to catch the tail end of the Perseids Meteor Shower but the peak was earlier in the week, they would not be visible at our location until midnight, and then only low in the northeast sky, which is not an ideal viewing direction from our yard.  Steve and Karen had a 45 minute drive to get home and left around 10:30 PM.  By that point it had been a long but very satisfying day for us and we were straight away to bed once they were safely on their way.

 

2015/08/02 (N) No Swap Sunday

The forecast for today was for warm, humid weather so we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioners as soon as we got up.  We left around 9 AM for the Howell Farmers Market so I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast.  At the market Linda bought a nice assortment of fresh vegetables.  I bought a bag of Kenya AA coffee beans from Teeko’s and some apricot and raspberry Rohlicky from the Czech Bakery.  It turns out they are not vegan so I won’t buy them again.

We decided to see if John and Diane were available for dinner.  We had no sooner made these arrangements when I got a text message from Chuck indicating that the coast was clear at his shop in Novi and we were good to go on the refrigerator swap.  I talked to him shortly thereafter and indicated that we had assumed it would not be today so I had not yet cut the support 2x4s or found the additional help that we would need and, in light of that, had made other plans.  That was fine with him and we agreed to aim for next weekend.

Linda surveyed her inventory of ingredients and decided that the warm Farro with dried cranberries and nuts would be a good dish to have Diane help make.  Diane retired at the end of the school year in June and had asked Linda if she would show her some of the ingredients and prep/cooking methods she uses.  Linda likes working with friends in the kitchen, sharing what she has learned and learning new things herself in the process.  Diane is her longest term, non-family friend.  As an English teacher she had lessons to prepare and papers to grade almost every evening.  As a result John, who has worked most of his adult life as a framing carpenter, took care of preparing their evening meals.  Now that Diane is free of her teaching obligations she would like to learn more about cooking.

Linda wanted some non-dairy ice cream for dessert so I was sent to get it.  I went to the Home Depot in Brighton first where I bought some thin (1/8th inch thick) rubber sheet material, a small tool pouch, and 2-person forearm lift strap.  The rubber material will be for the edges of the plywood in the new built-in sofa, cushioning the seat when it is closed.  The tool pouch is for working on the tower (my carpenter’s tool belt is too big) and the lift strap is to help with the refrigerators and anything else heavy we might need to move.

The only place within a seven mile radius of our house that consistently has the non-diary “ice cream” we like is the Kroger on M-59 at Old US-23, so that’s where I headed next.  In addition to the Coconut Bliss they had a cashew milk based product so I bought some of each.  I bought vanilla and salted caramel in the CB brand and snickerdoodle in the cashew product.  By the time I got home I only had a couple of hours left before John and Diane were due to arrive so I worked in my office and uploaded blog posts for June 16 – 20.

John and Diane arrived right on time at 4 PM.  I opened our bottle of Viva La Roja from Heart of the Desert Winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we settled in to easy conversation.  I found this red table wine particularly to my liking; very smooth with a hint of sweetness and no tannin.

Linda and Diane eventually started preparing dinner.  John and took that as an opportunity to go look at the bus project.  The ladies made a mixed greens salad with dried cranberries and other add-ins and put out a choice of dressings and sliced a loaf of Italian bread that they brought, along with a bottle of Pinot Grigio that we opened to have with the meal. The main dish was Farro with dried cranberries, almonds, onions, garlic, and kale.  It was all very tasty and well received.

By the end of the meal it had cooled off enough to sit on the deck comfortably.  Linda served the cashew milk snickerdoodle non-dairy ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries and it was very good.  I showed them what we had done with antennas on the tower and the cable entrance box and then we went back inside.  John still works full-time so they left around 9 PM as it takes at least 30 minutes to get back to their house in Farmington Hills which is about a mile from our old house.

 

2015/07/23 (R) Wrapping Up Mara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/07/20 (M) Chuck It

Our morning got busy right away.  We had breakfast and I made coffee while Linda entertained Madeline.  Brad, from Chuck It Junk Removal, dropped off the dumpster trailer at 9 AM.  Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up at 9:30 to cut the grass.  Linda took Madeline to the Mill Pond to use the playscape and Mara started scrapping old caulk and putty from around the base of her refrigerator roof vent.  I tried using another set of tools for removing the stripped screw in the stop block on the bus to no avail.  I even managed to break off two drill bits in the hole I was drilling in the screw.  The more I work on this the worse it gets.

When Linda and Madeline got back Madeline had lunch and then laid down for her nap.  The three adults then had vegan hotdogs for lunch after which I put the finishing touches on my design drawings for the pull-out pantry.  Mara and I then went on an errand run.

Our first stop was the FedEx store in Novi where I made copies of all of the drawings for the desk and the pullout pantry.  We then stopped at General RV to return the refrigerator vent cover as it did not fit the base section on Mara’s roof.  They had a Camco cover that claimed it would work, and looked like it might fit, so she exchanged them and got a small credit.  When we got back at 3:15 PM Brendan and Shawna were already there.  They got Madeline up at 3:20 PM and stayed until about 4 PM.  After they left I got up on Mara’s roof to help with tasks there.

First we checked the refrigerator vent cover.  The mounting holes lined up but the flanges (shields) on the long sides were not wide enough to fit outside the base flanges.  The proper fit requires the upper flanges to be outside the lower flanges by at least 1/4″ so heat can escape and extend below the lower flanges to keep rain from getting into the refrigerator cavity.  I was going to install the 24″ x 24″ piece of thin sheet steel for the magnetic cell phone booster antenna when I discovered that the antenna would stick to the old satellite dish.  We experimented some more with the location of the inside antenna but could not improve on yesterday’s placement.  The performance was as good as with the metal sheet so I decided not to install the metal sheet.  Mara then caulked around the refrigerator vent base and touched up a few other spots around tank vent caps.

Linda grilled a variety of veggies for dinner.  I opened a bottle of Pinot Noir wine and we ate outside.  It was cloudy and 76 degrees F with light winds; very pleasant and bug free.  We had fresh strawberries with the meal and dark chocolate for dessert.  We eventually moved inside to chat but did not stay up late as I needed to be up early in the morning and on my way to Indiana.

 

2015/07/19 (N) Another Buddy Visit

Linda was up at 6:30 AM to get showered before Madeline woke up at 7 AM.  Once Madeline was up they got busy right away making vegan blueberry pancakes.  I was up at 7:20 AM, got a quick shower, and was dressed and seated at the table just in time for breakfast.  The pancakes cooked especially well this morning although I would like to try them sometime without the blueberries cooked in.  After we were done eating I made coffee while Linda and Madeline prepared vegan sloppy Joe’s in the crock pot for lunch.

Mara has been getting up when she feels like it and eating breakfast by herself.  By 9 AM she was outside emptying the passenger side storage bays on her motorhome.  She spent the rest of the morning going through the stuff she had removed, deciding what to keep, organizing it, and putting it back.  I gathered up our laundry, sorted it, and started a load.

Aunt Meghan (our daughter) and Uncle Chris (her husband) arrived at 10 AM and I brewed another pot of coffee.  This was the second buddy visit of Madeline’s stay (the first was Cousin Katie on Friday).  Meghan provided a lot of child care during Madeline’s first 18 months and Madeline adores her “buddy.”  She took Meghan on a tour of the house showing her where various things, like snacks and kitty cats, were to be found.  It was a sure sign that Madeline is finally feeling very comfortable at our house.

Having other adults around gave Linda a break and some time to finish preparing lunch, although once Madeline realized Grandma Linda was at work in the kitchen she had to help.  I went out around 11:45 AM to fetch Mara.  We all sat down at noon and enjoyed a simple but delicious meal of vegan sloppy Joe’s (based on textured vegetable protein aka TVP), corn on the cob, raw baby carrots, and black grapes.

Madeline had very busy days yesterday and the day before and got up a little tired this morning so by 1 PM she was more than ready for her nap.  Meghan and Chris had things to do and took their leave.  Mara went back to work on her rig and Linda laid down for a nap.  I tended to the laundry and then went out to work on our bus and Mara’s motorhome.

I used the Speedout set to try and remove the screw with the stripped head from the stop block on the passenger side fixed glass frame.  I was not successful with this tool so I switched gears and worked on Mara’s cell phone booster system.  I climbed on the roof and she handed me the 12″ x 18″ thin galvanized sheet steel plate.  I took it to the front of the roof, set it down on the fore-aft centerline, and positioned the 4″ magnetic mount antenna in the center.  I dropped the coax over the edge by the driver’s side window and climbed back down from the roof.

Mara opened the sliding side window and screen by the driver’s seat and I passed the coax in to her.  Inside the rig we positioned the amplifier on the driver’s seat and started experimenting with various positions for the inside antenna.  We found one that worked well and left it for her to try.  I checked the laundry and then laid down for a nap.

I skipped dinner as I had a SLAARC meeting at 6:30 and had to leave before 6 PM which is when Madeline was having her evening meal.  Our ham radio club meetings start with social time from 6:30 to 7:00 PM.  The meeting was called to order at 7 PM by president Harvey (AC8NO) and I agreed to act as recording secretary.  Linda was not able to attend because she was taking care of Madeline so I gave the treasurer’s report in her absence.  The meeting adjourned at 7:10 PM.  We reconfigured the room for the program which was a presentation and debrief of our recent field day activity.  Larry (K8UT) reported on the N1MM Logger Plus networked computer logging software.  Steve (N8AR) reported on the radios and antennas and conducted the debriefing.

I got back home before 9 PM.  Madeline was asleep and the ladies were each enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio on the back deck.  I poured one for myself and joined them.  The mosquitoes eventually appeared and we retreated indoors.  I reheated the bowtie pasta from the other night and finished it for dinner.  We said “good night” at 10 PM after which I checked e-mail and websites and then headed to bed.  I wrote for a while before turning out the lights.

 

2015/07/09 (R) Graduation Celebration

My main focus this morning was my dentist appointment at 10:30 AM.  I wanted to leave the house at 9 AM so I had plenty of time to get there and actually left at 9:15.  Once I was on I-96 eastbound and clear of the construction at US-23 I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back to my call.  I-96 was very slow as I approached Wixom Road so I exited at Beck Road and dropped down onto Grand River Avenue (GRA).  I got off GRA at M-5 in Farmington Hills and took that to where it ended and rejoined GRA.  I continued to Telegraph Road and headed south.  My QSO with Steve lasted until there by which point there was too much noise and not enough signal for a pleasant conversation.  In spite of the change from my intended route I was still at the dentist’s office by 10:10 AM and they were able to take me in early.

On the way home I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Mike (W8XH) responded to the call.  As a result of differing weekend plans I decided to head to his QTH and pick up his climbing harness.  While I was there I took a few minutes to look at his reconfigured ham shack and his Canon EOS D7 Mark II DSLR.  To say that I am unhappy about Sony’s failure to release the alpha 99 II FF DSLT would be a gross understatement and I am not alone in the sentiment.

Back at the house we had a light lunch of sourdough pretzel nibblers and roasted red pepper hummus.  I then went to my office to continue working on the custom desk design for our bus.  But first I was taking care of e-mails when Williston Crossings RV Resort called back and said they had a spot for us for December.  We had not heard back from Suncoast Designers regarding an appointment to have a fogged window repaired so I called them.  They said they had replied to my e-mail letting us know that we were scheduled for December 7 but the e-mail had not come through, so I need to check the spam filter.

Linda called back and accepted the spot at Williston starting December 1st.  We will have to leave for one to three days to have the window taken care of and we will depart on the 26th for the Arcadia Bus Rally but the monthly rate will still be cheaper than paying for three weeks at the weekly rate.  Besides, they did not have a two or three week opening.

I did get a couple of hours of work done on the desk design and then had to quit.  A month ago our elder grand-daughter, Katie, missed her high school graduation due to a sudden illness.  Meghan and Chris (Katie’s dad) made reservations at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for 5:45 PM today and we gathered to celebrate this milestone in Katie’s life.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline also joined us and we all enjoyed quizzing (and teasing) Katie about her upcoming college experience at Northern Michigan University where she plans to major in Wildlife and Fisheries within the larger biology program.

Linda and I had the black bean burger with fresh, hand-cut fries.  Although it was tasty, and vegan, it did not have any binders and completely fell apart when I tried to assemble it as a sandwich.  We ordered them on sourdough bread as the buns had an egg wash.  Zingerman’s has excellent bread, but it is the rustic style with crusts that are so tough you cannot cut them with a knife (or a chainsaw).  Thus the “burger” was difficult to eat even as an open faced sandwich and was basically a messy pile of “stuff” on my plate.  Linda seemed to enjoy hers but I regretted ordering it even though I ate the whole thing.  I did, however, have a glass of Schramm’s Raspberry Mead made by my friend, and former colleague, Ken Schramm.  It was excellent.  The hand-cut fries were also good and the waitress was delightful, which is always a plus.

Back home I worked for a couple more hours in my office and then worked on this post.  I put my new N.T.I. dental appliance on my lower front teeth just before going to bed.  It obviously felt a little strange but did not keep me from falling asleep.

 

2015/07/04 (S) Another Fourth

Linda was up at 7 AM and grabbed a shower as Madeline is usually awake by 7:15 and up between 7:30 and 7:45.  Madeline tends to wake up hungry so Linda likes to have breakfast ready to go.  I was up by 7:20 and also grabbed a quick shower.  When Madeline was finally ready to get up she let Grandma Linda carry her into the living room and hold her in her arms for a while.  When she was ready to sit up Linda brushed her hair and then Madeline returned the brush to the master bathroom.  Linda got her changed into her day clothes and then we all had breakfast.  Linda and I had our usual coffee, orange juice, and granola with fresh berries plus some vegan sausage links.  Madeline also had the sausage links and berries but her main course was toaster waffles with a little bit of real maple syrup.  Yum.

One of the swans at the Brighton Mill Pond.

One of the swans at the Brighton Mill Pond.

After breakfast Madeline wanted to go look for chickens so she and Grandma Linda went for a walk.  When they got back I learned that they saw three chickens, a duck, some bunnies, and a chipmunk (ground squirrel).  We then read a couple of stories and built a fort in the living room.  We talked about going to the Mill Pond in Brighton to see/feed the ducks but there was some sort of running event this morning, a parade at 10 AM, and then a rubber ducky race at the Mill Pond following the parade.  It is the 4th of July, after all, and most communities have celebratory events going on all day and into the evening, ending with fireworks displays.  That sounded like a crowd to me, with the attendant parking hassle, but we figured the crowd might have thinned sufficiently by 10:30 AM to make the experience a good one and decided to chance a visit.  Linda made PB&J sandwiches and packed some grapes and cookies.

Madeline sitting at a picnic table at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

Madeline sitting at a picnic table at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

We parked in the lot behind the La Marsa restaurant, which is far away from the Main Street part of the Mill Pond, and walked down the boardwalk to the playscape.  There were a lot of people gathered around the Pond for the rubber ducky race and quite a few children at the playscape with their adult chaperones.  Madeline explored the entire playscape with great enthusiasm.  By the time she was done it was 11:30 AM and she was hungry so we had lunch at one of the picnic tables under the shade of a big tree.

After lunch Grandma Linda stood in line with Madeline to use the bathroom.  We then walked around the Mill Pond and paused to cover our ears while the emergency sirens were tested, this bring the first Saturday of the month.  We had a leisurely stroll back to the car and I had a nice chat with a fellow photographer along the way.  He is a local artist/writer with a deep interest in the Mill Pond and the wildlife that calls it home.  He wrote down his website URL for me: http://Words4It.com.  I checked it out when we got home and it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the flora and fauna of the Brighton Mill Pond.

The various shades of green with a few orange flowers caught my eye while strolling the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

The various shades of green with a few orange flowers caught my eye while strolling the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

Back at the house Madeline had some soy yogurt and fresh berries before taking her nap.  I don’t know if she fell asleep and woke up or never completely fell asleep but around 2 PM I heard her fussing.  When I checked on her she said she needed to go to the bathroom.  Linda had fallen asleep but that is a duty she takes care of so I woke her up.  Madeline took care of her business, laid back down, and fell asleep.  Linda stayed awake.

With Madeline asleep I took the opportunity to go to my office and check e-mail.  There was one from Scott at QTH.com indicating that the SLAARC website had been copied to the QTH web servers and was ready for testing.  I think that meant the GoDaddy DNS had been changed to point to the QTH installation but I don’t think the domain name registration had been moved yet.  I will need to clarify that with Scott on Monday.  I also had an e-mail from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine with the draft of the June 2015 issue attached.  This issue has part 3 of my 4-part article on the 2011-12 exterior renovation of our Prevost H3-40 motorcoach.  I replied that I would proofread it and submit corrections before I go to bed tomorrow night.

Madeline takes the high road and Linda takes the low road on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Madeline takes the high road and Linda takes the low road on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Although Linda is much more physically active with Madeline than I am I was feeling the need for a nap and laid down at 3 PM.  I heard Madeline get up around 4 PM and I finally got up at 4:15.  Linda enlisted Madeline’s help preparing dinner while I took pictures.  The first task was shucking the whole ears of corn.  Next, Linda let her put them in a large pot of water, add a little bit of sugar, and stir.  While the pot started to heat up on the stove Madeline helped prepare the strawberries by washing them.  Linda then got the vegan burgers ready to grill (inside on our stove top griddle) and prepared the garnishes.  Madeline does not get to help with things that are sharp or hot.  Soon enough it was time for dinner and we all enjoyed our corn-on-the-cob and vegan cheeseburgers. For dessert we had some more of the chocolate cake that we made yesterday with fresh strawberries.

We spotted this young bunny along the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

We spotted this young bunny along the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

After dinner I cleaned up the dishes and we went out on the deck to sit in the chairs and enjoy a near perfect Michigan summer evening while we watched the bunnies eating grass.  Around 7:15 PM we watched another Sesame Workshop DVD.  This one was on Shapes and Colors.  It was over by 8 PM and Madeline started getting ready for bed which was a very jovial affair.  First the potty, then jammies, then tooth brushing followed by finding blankies, “bebes” (pacifiers), and stuffed animals, all the while laughing and giggling.  Linda finally got her to sit quietly and read her a story which calmed her down enough to go to bed.  If her thoughts drift to her mommy and daddy she will get weepy—it’s part of being two and a half—but we have been successful on this visit keeping her engaged enough to avoid anything more than some occasional brief tears.

Madeline washes the strawberries.

Madeline washes the strawberries.

We split the remainder of a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Winter White wine we had opened some time ago but had vacuum sealed and it was still fine.  Linda finished the dishes and loaded the dishwasher while I filled in the day’s details on this blog post.  Both cats came out of hiding and sought our attention.

We have been hearing fireworks, and/or gunfire, for many weeks now and today was no exception.  Two nights ago someone in the neighborhood was firing off, or shooting, something until well after midnight.  There were more fireworks tonight, as expected, and the activity intensified after 9 PM as dusk gave way to night.  The cats were not completely relaxed about the noise but seemed to tolerate it.  As far as we know Madeline slept through all of it as she is a very sound sleeper.