Monthly Archives: June 2014

2014/06/30 (M) Happy Birthday L

Today was Linda’s “Medicare minus one” birthday and she started it off by Facetiming on her iPad with our son and grand-daughter.  I put the coffee on to brew and joined the Facetime session.  Madeline was initially engaged in consuming a great quantity of blueberries and getting most of them in her mouth.  She was obviously feeling much better than the last time we saw her.  Breakfast was followed by a good face washing and then active exploration of the house and the wearing of adult size flip flops, which is one of the most fun things to do at the moment.  Their plans for the day included her first visit to the local water park, which has hours reserved for very small children.

Linda called the dentist’s office and got a call back just after 9 AM.  They said they could see her at 1:30 PM and she accepted the appointment.  A little while later I went outside to get the mail and discovered a fawn curled up on the door mat in front of our front library doorwall.  Its eyes were open and it was clearly alive as it watched me carefully but did not otherwise move.  I searched online and found a list of wildlife rehabilitators on the Michigan DNR website.  It was arranged by county which made it easy to locate Diane Solecki in Pinckney.  She was listed as specializing in fawns so I called her and she talked me through what to do and what to look for and directed me to her website where she had all of that information, and a lot more, for our reference.

Linda and I went out to examine the fawn according to the directions Diane gave us.  To our surprise, as soon as we started to handle it, it got to its feet, ran away to the east, and disappeared into thick cover.  That was probably unfortunate for its survival, but its odds were not very good where it was, lying exposed and very visible in the hot sun all day.  Per Diane’s instructions Linda mashed some strawberries with bread and put it over by the woods along with a bowl of water in the hope it would find it and eat and drink.  There was plenty of evidence of deer in that area so there was also some small hope that the mother might wander through there on her regular circuit and find her baby.  I checked the bowl and paper plate several times but there was no sign of it having been visited by any animals.

I got a call from Steve at Village Landscape Development letting me know they had to attend to another job first thing this morning and would be at our house around noon.  He called back around 3 PM to let me know it would be tomorrow morning between 8:00 and 8:30 AM.  It was hot and humid today, and by 3 PM the workers were drained.

Since today was Linda’s birthday, and she was still sore and tired from not sleeping well, we went out for dinner.  There is a salad shop in Brighton named Toma’s.  I had been there once and based on Trip Advisor reviews she wanted to try it.  As we were pulling out of the driveway we noticed an adult deer go into the woods to the west of our neighbor’s yard across the street.  There is a lot of evidence of deer in and around our yard and neighborhood but we only see them occasionally.  We wondered if it might be the fawn’s mother but there was no way to tell.

At Toma’s we each had a “create your own” salad with a piece of grilled pita bread.  The cook reversed our greens, but we didn’t realize it until we had each eaten half our salads. Our waitress was delightful but a bit math challenged.  I gave her $16.50 to cover a $16.29 bill and had to help her make the change.

We stopped at Staples on the way home to get a pad of large graph paper.  I am drawing plans for an alternative design for the bus barn that might make it easier for me to build myself.  Back at the house I spotted an adult deer lying down by the marsh at the NE corner of our yard near NW corner of the pond to our east.  I spent the rest of the evening editing photos from Saturday to post on our blog.  We had vegan ice cream to celebrate Linda’s birthday.


2014/06/29 (N) Lilly And Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/06/28 (S) CSJ Gallery

Here are a few photos from the leadership installation ceremony for the St. Louis Province of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph – Carondelet.  Click each thumbnail to see the full image.  Most of the photos are 400 pixels maximum dimension although a few are as large as 600 pixels.

2014/06/28 (S) CSJ Leadership Installation

We are all gathered for Marilyn’s installation ceremony as a member of Leadership Team and the Director for the St. Louis Province of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph – Carondelet.  The CSJs are an order of Roman Catholic nuns that originated in LePuy France in 1648 and came to the St. Louis, Missouri area in 1836 to set up a school for the deaf.  The St. Louis Province is one of four that makes up the current Federation of CSJ’s in the U. S. The St. Louis Province has sisters in 18 states, South America and Africa.

The ceremony was today at 2 PM CDT at the Motherhouse in south St. Louis.  It was both a celebration of the service rendered by the current leadership team over the last six years and a call to leadership of the new team.  It was not a mass but it was certainly a religious ceremony, planned and executed by the Sisters in accordance with the principles and traditions of their order.  I have posted pictures from the event in a separate Gallery post with today’s date.

There was a reception following the ceremony after which Marilyn gave us a tour of some “public” parts of the building, including her new office.  By then it was time to head to the TreeHouse where we had a 5:00 PM dinner reservation for 10 people.  Mike had to work today and was not able to attend the celebration or dinner, so we ended up with nine: Marilyn, Linda H., Ron and Mary, Clayton, Judy and her daughter Mary, and finally Linda and me.  Judy is Marilyn, Ron, and Linda’s cousin.  Marilyn had selected this restaurant for several reasons.  For one, she and Linda were familiar with it as it is only a few miles from the two hospital complexes where they worked (Linda still does).  It was also convenient to the CSJ – Carondelet Motherhouse.  But mostly they selected it because it was a very good vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan dishes and options.

We ordered the last four of the special salad of the day and shared them.  The ingredients were very fresh and very tasty.  Linda had the “beef bourguignon” stew and I had the “jambalaya” as did several other people.  Both were made with seitan (a wheat gluten product) and both were excellent.  The TreeHouse makes their own seitan and vegan cheeses.  Since I was driving I had a Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic).  It came out of a can, but it was also very good.  For dessert Linda had a vegan cheesecake and I had a vegan ginger/pear crisp.  Both of them were disappointing; definitely not on par with the salads and entrees.  Those who had the chocolate desserts said they were excellent, although not quite as good as Linda’s chilled double-chocolate torte that she made Thursday evening and served after dinner on Friday.

After dinner we exchanged contact information with Judy, Mary, and Clayton, said our farewells, and drove back to Linda and Marilyn’s house.  We relaxed and chatted until the effect of the long wonderful day finally settled in.  We said our good nights and farewells with Ron, Mary, and Linda before they drifted off to bed as we would likely be gone in the morning before they arose.


2014/06/27 (F) Family Finances

Linda H. was up very early to go to work.  We would not have heard her get up and leave if not for the three dogs, which make quite a ruckus anytime someone comes or goes from the house.  Marilyn, Linda, and I got up a few hours later and had toast and coffee for breakfast.  I worked at my computer until 9:30 AM when we had to get ready to leave for an 11 AM appointment with our financial advisor.

We have worked with John Christensen for at least a decade.  We first met John at A. G. Edwards when my parents’ stockbroker decided to leave and John was assigned to handle their accounts.  We liked him right away and ended up moving all of accounts there, including accounts for our children.  My sister and Marilyn eventually opened accounts with John as well.  A. G. Edwards was an excellent local brokerage that unfortunately got absorbed by Wachovia.  Wachovia ultimately failed and the remnants were acquired by Wells Fargo Advisors.  John and his administrative assistant, Maggie Smith, had an opportunity to move to a new office being opened by Stifel-Nicholas in O’Fallon, Missouri and our family moved all of our business to S-N along with them.

We usually manage to make at least one trip to the St. Louis area each year, often around this time, and we always try to arrange a meeting with John if our schedules permit.  We arrived at 11AM, talked for an hour and then walked to Bristol’s for lunch.  Maggie joined us, which was great.  We have interacted with her for as long as we have worked with John, but do not know her as well on a personal level.  We got to know her a little better today.  Linda and I both had a grilled vegetable platter with asparagus, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, and sliced green tomatoes.  They were some of the best restaurant vegetables we have ever had.

We returned to John’s office around 1:00 PM and spent another couple hours going over reports, plans, and projections before finely making a few decisions about our portfolio.  All told we were there for four hours.  I don’t know if that’s typical for financial advisors, but we appreciate that John has extensive reports prepared when we arrive, has already developed recommendations, and takes the time to go over everything with us.  Most of our financial interactions are easily handled by phone and secure e-mail during the year so having our financial advisor three states away is not a problem, especially as John and Maggie are real people with whom we have a real, face-to-face, relationship.

By the time we left the afternoon rush hour was well under way.  St. Louis is a midwest city with east coast ties.  Normal business hours here are 8 AM to 4 PM which corresponds to 9 AM to 5 PM in New York.  Kansas City, Missouri, only 240 miles west of St. Louis on the Kansas border, is a decidedly more western city, and the southern part of the state, which borders Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, is decidedly southern.  We fought our way back to Illinois through stop-and-go traffic and by the time we got back to Glen Carbon Ron and Mary had arrived from Pennsylvania.  Linda H. got home from work not long after we arrived and Mike and Clayton arrived not long after that.  They live and work in St. Louis area.  Linda, Marilyn, and Ron are siblings and Mike is their nephew.  Their other nephew, Rick, was unable to attend.  Marilyn had spent the afternoon making vegan Sloppy Joe’s.  For dinner we had a nice summer meal of green salad, Sloppy Joe’s, and chips, followed by Linda’s vegan double chocolate torte, accompanied by white and red wines.

By the time we finished dinner, wine, and conversation we had all had a long day.  For us it was a day of family finances and family.  When we finally went to bed we did not even watch an episode of Doc Martin.  As an aside, today was the SLAARC pre-setup for the ARRL Field Day event.  The main setup will be tomorrow morning and the operating event begins at 2 PM EDT.  It is the single largest, and most public, amateur (ham) radio event of the year.  We are missing it for the second year in a row because family comes first.


2014/06/26 (R) Westward Ho

We were up by 6 AM and started loading the car for our trip to St. Louis, Missouri.  Breakfast consisted of a banana and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down a pill and a vitamin.  We had planned to leave at 8 AM (EDT) in order to arrive in Glen Carbon, Illinois around 4 PM (CDT). We had the car loaded and the house secured by 7 AM and decided to hit the road.  We took Golf Club Road over to Latson Road and stopped at Teeko’s to pick up coffee and a couple of bagels.  A short distance south from there put us at the new Latson Road interchange on I-96 where we headed west towards Lansing.

We picked up I-69 at the southwest corner of Lansing and headed south-southwest towards Indiana.  About half way to the border we crossed I-94.  From that point on our route was one we have driven many times in the car over the last 38 years.  We stayed on I-69 to the northeast corner of Indianapolis and then continued down the east side of the metropolitan area until we got to I-70.  We took I-70 through the heart of the city and out the southwest corner.  From there we continued on I-70 westbound all the way to the Glen Carbon/ Edwardsville, Illinois exit.  In spite of our morning coffee stop, several stops at rest areas, and a stop for food and gasoline, we arrived in Glen Carbon at 3:35 PM CDT.  As we did not expect anyone to be home until 4 PM we drove into Edwardsville and stopped at Walgreen’s ad Walmart.

Linda eventually exchanged text messages with her sister, Marilyn, who let us know that she was home from work.  We were there not long after 4 PM and had our welcome greetings with Marilyn and the three dogs.  We unloaded our car, got everything situated in our room, and settled in for a chat while we waited for Linda H., who owns the house, to get home from work.  She eventually did and we had more greetings and more talk.  By 6:30 PM everyone realized they were hungry and we went out to dinner at the Pasta House restaurant in Edwardsville.  Linda and I had a veggie pizza without cheese.  The crust was thin and a bit crispy, the way we like it, and the pizza was loaded with lots of good vegetables but not too much sauce, also the way we like it.  We both had a small garden salad to go with the pizza and it was all very good.

When we got back from dinner we got the wireless networking turned on and our various devices connected and working.  We settled in for more conversation in the kitchen while Linda made her vegan double chocolate torte which we will have for dessert with dinner tomorrow night.  Eventually everyone was tired and retreated to their respective bedrooms.  We watched another episode of Doc Martin before turning off the lights.


2014/06/25 (W) Summer Start

I am normally aware of the two equinoxes and the two solstices each year and take note of their passing.  I just realized today that the summer solstice happened four days ago (on June 21st).  I checked several online sources and discovered that it occurred at 6:51 AM in the Eastern Time Zone, although it wasn’t clear if that was standard or daylight savings time.  Since that time the hours of daylight have been declining slightly each day.  Perhaps that is why I am not getting as much accomplished as I need to.  Although the summer vacation season begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through the Labor Day weekend, and climatologically “summer” corresponds to this, solar summer runs from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox.

Linda went to the bakery today while I sat at home and waited to see if the landscape contractor would show up.  I left a message for him at 9 AM and had not heard anything by 9:30, so I headed to South Lyon to help move the SLAARC Field Day equipment out of the water tower and into Steve’s (N8AR) trailer.  We were done by 11:15 and I was about to head to Scotty’s (AC8IL) shop to return a couple of chargers when the landscaper called to let me know they would be at the house around noon.

Steve, who owns Village Landscape Development, showed up with four young men who looked up to the initial tasks that needed to be accomplished.  Three of them were not long out of high school, but the forth one, Lucas, was a few years older and more experienced.  He was the crew chief.  I indicated that we wanted to save four hosta plants, a large group of day lilies, and a large decorative grass plant, and had to show Steve where I wanted them re-planted.  I also had to indicate where I wanted the blocks from the existing retaining walls stacked.  Once that was sorted out I went inside and left them alone to do their work.

Mid-afternoon I heard the sound of Keith’s riding lawn mower and went out to check on his progress as well as the landscaping crew.  I had loaned our string trimmer and wheel barrow to the landscaping crew to clear the two slopes above the retaining walls and move the plants they were transplanting, but they needed Keith to mow the flat grass areas where they be working.  I flagged Keith down and got that sorted out with him and then went back inside and left everyone to their work.

I was not as productive during the afternoon as I would have liked to be.  I worked at my desk dealing with e-mails, RVillage groups, and computer apps, but having people at the house working is always somewhat distracting.  Linda eventually got home from the bakery and we settled into conversation about our days that took my mind off of the landscape work and other projects, at least for a while.

Steve had indicated earlier in the day that he would be back in the evening to check on the progress of the work.  His original target was 7 PM but he called around then to say that it would be around 9 PM.  He typically has 3 or 4 crews working, weather permitting.  The persistent rains this spring have carried over into summer and created big challenges for builders and landscapers.  To catch up, he puts in 14 -16 hour days.  When he got to our house at 9:20 PM there was just enough light to see and we made a quick inspection of what had been accomplished during the day.  Considering that the work did not really get underway until 1 PM, he seemed satisfied that the crew had put in a good effort and followed the directions he gave them.  That was good enough for us too.


2014/06/24 (T) Rainy Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/06/23 (M) Monsoon Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/06/22 (N) Outside Inside

We split our time today between outside work and inside work.  The temperature was 60 degrees F when we got up so after a light breakfast of homemade granola with fresh fruit and some coffee we resumed our tree trimming work from yesterday.  While Linda gathered up branches from yesterday’s trimming, I worked on our Norway Crimson King Maple.   This is a magnificent tree, one of the nicest on our property, but it is close to our rear deck at one end and has grown out over the deck such that low branches are at or below eye level and block access to part of the deck as well as the stairs that lead down into the northeast yard.

In the same general area as the maple tree are several large White Pine trees.  The lower limbs had grown out and down to reach sunlight, placing their extremities at or below eye level.  We want to be able to walk under these trees without getting poked in the eye and we want Keith, who cuts our grass, to be able to drive his zero-turn riding mower under these trees without getting poked or knocked out of the seat.

While I was trimming the maple and pines for clearance I also removed as many dead branches and limbs as I could reach with the pole saw.  I had noticed yesterday that our pear tree and our apple tree also had quite a bit of deadwood so I turned the pole saw on them next.  Linda continued to gather the smaller branches and pile them in manageable size bundles around the outside of the fire pit.  She also dragged the larger limbs over near the fire pit.  Once I was done pruning I used our bow saw to remove the smaller branches from these larger limbs and then cut the limbs into 3-to-4 foot lengths.

Linda was going to shovel the ash from yesterday’s fire into a plastic bag but discovered that it was still quite hot.  We stirred up the ash cone, made a big pile of small branches on top of it, and then stacked the larger pieces of wood on top of that, teepee style.  It took a while but the amount of smoke steadily increased until we finally had a small flame.  It did not take long from that point for it to develop into a good size fire.  We also recalled that ash from a burn pile is good to add to the soil for some flowering plants and decided we would use it rather than dispose of it in the trash.

We needed to work at our desks today and did not want to exhaust ourselves doing outdoor work so we quit at 1 PM and put our tools away.  We had lunch at 2 PM and then spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening doing various tasks at our desks.  Part of that time I investigated a web-based RV trip planning tool called RV Trip Wizard.  Making recommendations relative to this program is one of the things the FMCA education committee has been asked to do.  The website had a demo available, as well as a tutorial and a user’s guide, so I was able to get a good feel for what it does and its ease of use.  The Geeks On Tour also had a review available which filled in some details and highlighted a few deficiencies.

Overall I found the website well conceived and nicely implemented, having most of the features needed to plan an RV trip without a lot of unnecessary clutter.  Features included routing with: turn-by-turn directions, mileage, overnight stops (17,000 in the database and growing), points of interest, and estimated expenses.  Trips can be exported as Excel spreadsheets and as files that can be imported into a GPS.  The trip preferences section allows you to specify key parameters about our RV, travel “style”, and estimated costs.  Missing from the parameters, however, was weight and propane.  It also allows you to indicate a prioritized order for RV parks and campgrounds when looking for places to stay overnight.  When planning a trip it will alert you if your rig is incompatible with part of your route, but does not automatically route you around it.  That would be unacceptable in a GPS, but is probably OK in this case as you can drag the route around on the map or add waypoints to change it.  Finally, you can save an unlimited number of trips indefinitely, recall one, do a “save as,” and then modify it if you want to repeat a previous trip with modifications.  RV Trip Wizard is a web-based subscription service and you must have an Internet connection to use it.  You cannot save your trips to your local device, and if you do not renew your subscription all of your saved trips are gone forever.

We had fresh fruit at 7 PM (bananas, blueberries, and strawberries) and a glass of wine, after which I worked for a couple of more hours before turning in to watch season 3 episode 2 of Doc Martin.

2014/06/21 (S) Happy Birthday

Today was my dad’s 89th birthday and I called to wish him a happy one.  He was 18 years old on D-Day when he landed at Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast of France; June 6th, 1944.  His unit suffered 90% casualties during the invasion, but he survived to celebrate his 19th birthday in a foxhole in France.  Not long after that he was wounded during the push inland and spent 6 months recovering in a hospital in England before returning to duty.  He was awarded a Purple Heart for is injuries.  Only a few years ago his unit also received medals of commendation, most of them posthumously.

For all of my youth and most of my adulthood he has not discussed the events of June, 1944.  He tried to see Saving Private Ryan but had to leave the theater.  He said the invasion scene was the most realistic he had ever seen in a movie, too close to the truth for him to watch, but that the real thing was far more horrible than any film could capture.  He still doesn’t talk about his combat experiences, but in his later years he has found a great sense of pride in his former military service.

He was recalled to active duty during the Korean Conflict, but did not serve in the Korean theater.  He had finished his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and was assigned to an Army Corps of Engineers unit where he taught soldiers how to construct various kinds of bridges and other structures in the field.

When I talked to him today he said he had come across some interesting statistics recently regarding World War II.  During the course of the war, which I took to mean from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the global end of hostilities, 16 million American men and women served on active duty.  Of those 16 million, slightly less than one (1) million are still alive today, and the youngest of them, like my dad, are in their late 80’s.  Millions more worked on the civilian side of the war effort, and I suspect the statistics for that group are very similar.


We went to breakfast in South Lyon with our ham radio club friends as we do most Saturday’s.  The group varies in size from week to week; sometimes it’s as small as eight and sometimes, like today, over 20.  Our club was holding a volunteer examiner (VE) testing session at 9 AM, as we do on the 4th Saturday of most months, so a few folks had to leave early to run the session.  After breakfast five of us went to the Field Day site at the Lyon Township Atchison Memorial Park.  We helped Steve (N8AR) unload his riding lawn mower and four of us moved heavy metal picnic tables out of the way so he could mow the field where the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) will set up on Friday for the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day event.

Field Day is a 24 hour operating event to showcase the capabilities of amateur (ham) radio nationwide.  It starts at 2 PM EDT on the last Saturday in June and ends at 2 PM EDT the next day.  This is the second year in a row that we will miss Field Day, so we wanted to at least help with some of the site preparations

We finally had a day without rain and decided to work in the yard.  We have a lot of trees and bushes on our property that are in need of serious trimming, including the removal of dead limbs and branches.  We also have a lot of organic debris from previous trimmings lying around the yard in various places.

While Linda made a run to the recycling center I started trimming a red honeysuckle bush in front of our living room that was badly overgrown and blocked our view of the driveway from one of the windows.  When she got back from the recycling center we worked on a tree that had grown out into our pull-through driveway and down towards the ground, making it difficult-to-impossible for Keith to mow the lawn under and around the tree.

While we were working on this tree Linda found a Painted Turtle resting in the shade under one of the branches that almost reached the ground.  We wondered if it was the same one we had rescued a month ago as it tried to cross the road in front of our house.  I had relocated that turtle to the northeast corner of our yard near our neighbor’s pond.  We worked around the turtle for a while and enjoyed observing it, but once I was done with the trimming I relocated it to the northeast corner of the yard by the pond.  I then worked on another, smaller tree near the driveway that had a lot of dead branches.  We had several other trees on that same side of the house that had low hanging branches so I trimmed those as well.  I then moved to the area just northwest of the house and did the same for a couple of trees there.

We gathered up all of the trimmings and separated them by green (with leaves) and dead (dry and able to burn).  We hauled the dry trimmings back to our recently constructed fire pit where Linda made a pile of kindling from the smallest/driest material and started the fire.  I kept trimming trees and cutting up larger limbs into smaller pieces for the burn pile while Linda hauled them to the fire pit.  It was almost 5 PM by the time we quit working.  We were tired and a bit sore, but it felt good to have accomplished tasks that needed to be done.  There is a lot more to do, of course; we are learning just how much land five acres really is, especially with as many trees as we have.  It will take more than one summer to fully prune our arbor, but that’s OK, we have time.

If the weather holds we will likely work in the yard again tomorrow.  Keith will probably be here on Monday to mow the grass and we need to make sure all of the larger trimmings have been picked up before he arrives.  I also want to prune our pear tree and apple tree before we get any deeper into summer.  They both produced abundant and usable fruit last fall, but we were unable to reach most of it because the trees are badly shaped with too much tall, vertical growth in the center.  But that is for another day; tonight we finished season 2 of Doc Martin and started season 3.


2914/06/20 (F) Couch Potatoes

Over the last few months I managed to connect our friends and fellow Prevost H3 owners, Chuck and Barbara Spera, with our friends and fellow Prevost XL owners, Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Chuck was looking for a sofa to replace the one in their motorcoach and Pat and Vickie had one they were looking to sell.  Today was the day for consummating the deal, which necessitated a road trip from the Detroit, Michigan area to the Elkhart, Indiana area to pick up the couch, pay for it, and bring it back to Chuck’s shop.

Chuck and I drove down in his Ford Excursion.  I went along to keep him company, for the opportunity to catch up on a lot of conversation, and to help load and unload the couch.  We arrived in Elkhart just after noon and grabbed a quick bite to eat at Burger King.  I had French Fries, thus today was about couches and potatoes.

While I was away on the road trip, Linda went to Ann Arbor to visit our 18 month old grand-daughter and her parents (our son and daughter-in-law).  By dinner time we were both tired so we had Amy’s Pad Thai and turned in to watch two episodes of Doc Martin.  We did not get to watch any episodes while we were at the rally in Goshen, Indiana so we are catching up.


2014/06/19 (R) Visitors

We got to visit several times with John and Marian Hagan while we were in Florida this past winter.  They were members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter until they decided to stop full-timing, bought a house in Dunnellon, Florida, put their motorhome up for sale, and did not renew their FMCA membership, which meant they could no longer be members of any FMCA chapters.  But we had established contact with them by the time all of that transpired and as Dunnellon was only 25 miles south of Williston, it was easy to meet up with them, which we did on several occasions.

John has a daughter who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan and she has twin 4-year olds, so he and Marian had indicated that they would be visiting them sometime in June.  I e-mailed John as soon as we got back from the GLAMARAMA rally to check on their status and found out that they had arrived in Michigan about the time we left for the rally.  They were planning on staying for several more weeks, but we invited them to come to our house for dinner and a visit as soon as mutually possible.  That turned out to be today!

We had cloudy skies leftover from the storms of the day before but no additional rain.  John and Marian arrived mid-afternoon and stayed until almost 9 PM.  We had a good, wide-ranging chat and enjoyed a nice meal of mixed greens salad, lentil loaf, baked potatoes, and roasted asparagus.  We had the Franzia Sweet Red wine with dinner and capped off the meal with fresh strawberries, Lotus Biscoff cookies (the same ones they serve on the airliners), and our Sweet Seattle Dreams 1/2 caff custom coffee blend from Teeko’s in Howell.

Since John and Marian are in the area for an extended period of time, they have been visiting a lot of local attractions, especially things connected with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  We all agreed that we would get together at least one more time while they are here, perhaps meeting them in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area and dining at a local restaurant.


2014/06/18 (W) Weather Delays

We had some serious thunderstorms overnight which meant that Village Landscape Development would be delayed yet again in starting our front sidewalk/stairs and rear retaining walls drainage projects.  At this point it will very likely be early July before they start, assuming it ever stops raining.

We are expecting company tomorrow, so today was house cleaning and repair day, along with more laundry and some pole barn related work.  Gary from GM Construction finally made it over and we had a long chat about the pole barn project.  He seemed to have a good understanding of what we are trying to accomplish and a good understanding of how to get it done in Oceola Township, Livingston County, where he also lives and works.

The pole barn is proving to be a difficult and discouraging project.  Conceptually it is a relatively simple building.  In practice it is a medium-large building with very high side walls.  The trusses have to span 32 feet with 2 foot overhangs, so they will be 36 feet long and 6 feet high from the bottom cord to the ridge.  Building 16 foot high walls requires scissor lifts to do it efficiently and safely.  Getting the trusses on top of walls that high requires a crane, while securing them to the walls requires a scissor lift on each end.  I got a quote from Chelsea Lumber for the building materials and it was 80% of what we hoped to spend on the whole project.  I already have the site prep and finish grading quote and it’s a third of what we hoped to spend on the whole project.  I don’t even have prices yet for concrete, electrical, or spray foam insulation.  What this is adding up to is a project that may cost 150 – 200% of what we were prepared to spend, and I’m not sure we are prepared to do that.  That’s money I would rather put into the bus, yet the fact remains that one of main reasons for moving was to have property on which we could build a pole barn for the bus, not just to get it out of sight, but to get it out of the weather where I could work on it.  Ugh.


2014/06/17 (T) Oral Tradition

We had dentist appointments this morning…in Dearborn.  That’s 50+ miles from where we now live, and we try to schedule our appointments to avoid the rush hours at the beginning and end of the workday.  We had 11:00 AM appointments about a month ago but had to reschedule because we were both ill.  The next available appointments (together) were today at 9:30 and 10:30 AM.  We had to leave the house at 8:00 AM which put us in the late morning rush.  (The morning rush starts by 7:00 AM and usually thins out by 9:00 AM unless there is an accident or really bad weather-related road conditions.)  From where we live if we need to head into the Detroit metropolis we try to leave by 6:30 AM or wait until 9:00 AM if possible.  Unfortunately that is not practical or possible if we need to be somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 AM.

We were both scheduled for the same procedures involving work on multiple teeth.  Unfortunately Linda developed a problem with a tooth during the rally last week and needed that looked at first.  It turned out that she broke a molar that was mostly filling and will need a crown.  She goes back next week for the prep and then has to return at least three weeks after that for the crown plus all of the work she was supposed to have done today.  The purpose of plans is so we have something to do each day in case nothing else presents itself, which it almost always does.

We did not eat breakfast before our appointments and had to wait for the local anesthetic to wear off afterwards before we could eat.  We did not accomplish much beyond our appointments other than some time spent at our desks.  We had “lunner” (or “linner”) around 3:00 PM and vegan cupcakes with strawberries around 6:30 PM.

At 7:00 PM (EDT) we participated in an RVillage webinar for prospective RVillage Ambassadors.  We were already approved for this role based on our interactions with Curtis Coleman, the founder and CEO of RVillage and the RV Friend Network, but wanted to participate like everyone else.  Curtis, along with Hillary Murray, were online for an hour and 20 minutes explaining the “why, what, and how” of the ambassador program.  Hillary will run the program and be our main point of contact.  After the webinar we turned in early and watched an episode of Doc Martin from season two.

2014/06/15 Family Time

We were parked in a fenced compound area next to the regular “campground” at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  The campground has gravel sites with 50A full hookups, and we were allowed/encouraged to use the sewer connections to dump our holding tanks before departing this morning.  We had checked out the campground last night and decided that it would be easier for us to pull around to the dump stations on the outer road than to maneuver into and out of one of the open campground sites, all of which were back-ins.

I have mentioned before what a nice facility this is.  Several of our GLCC members are from north central Indiana and explained to us that the fairground is as nice as it is because it is booked every week for most of the year, winter being the exception.  Elkhart is considered the center of the RV industry in the U.S., but the reality is that RV-related industry is located throughout north central Indiana, and a little bit of southern Michigan, with a few facilities in other parts of Indiana and Ohio.  There is also significant RV industry in California, Oregon, and Florida, and to a lesser extent in Pennsylvania and Alabama.  By “RV Industry” I am referring to manufacturing, not RV parks, resorts and campgrounds, or RV dealers and service facilities, which are obviously located all over the place.

We skipped breakfast and coffee, as we always do on travel days.  Linda prepared the inside for travel and then we visited for a while with our GLCC friends.  Around 9:00 AM I unplugged the electrical power, stowed the cord, turned on the chassis batteries, opened the air valve for the engine accessories, and fired up the engine.  I did not have any trouble getting out of our parking spot or the compound.  I drove over to the dump station, which can accommodate nine RVs at one time, and Linda followed in the car.  While the holding tanks were emptying we hooked up the car for towing.  With everything stowed and secured for travel we checked the toad controls and lights and were on our way, exiting the fairgrounds at 9:25 AM.

We followed the same route home that we used when we left the Escapade rally a month ago: CR-34 (Monroe St.) east to CR-29 north to IN-4 east to IN-13 north to US-20 east to I-69 north to I-96 east to M-59 east and finally a couple of miles of dirt roads to our house.  We stopped at the Travel America (T/A) truck stop on M-60 at I-69 to put biocide and Stanadyne diesel additive in the tank along with 75 gallons of diesel fuel.

We had just over 1/4 tank of fuel indicated on the fuel gauge when we pulled in to the T/A.  If the gauge is anywhere near accurate that was approximately 50 gallons of fuel, enough to travel another 200 miles and still have 15 – 20 gallons in the tank; more than enough to get us to the Mobil truck stop on I-96 about 25 miles before our house.  I wanted to use as much of the fuel in the tank as I could before adding more but did not want to risk running out or sucking sediment off the bottom and clogging the fuel filters.  In the end we decided it was safer to stop and add fuel while we still had the 1/4 tank.  The 75 gallons brought the fuel gauge up to 5/8ths, which is what I expected.  The fuel tank capacity is 235 gallons, but I assume the full mark on the gauge corresponds to 200 gallons.  That makes every 1/8 of a tank on the gauge correspond to 25 gallons.  We also presume that our average fuel economy, based on prior data, is 6 MPG which equates to 150 miles per 1/8 tank.

We did not fill the tank because the bus is going to be sitting for a while and we did not want to have all of that fuel onboard aging in the summer heat.  There is a reason, however, to keep the fuel tank as full as possible.  Most of the fuel that is pumped to the engine is used to cool the injectors and the DDEC engine computer and returned to the tank. The more fuel in the tank, the less frequently any particular molecule passes through the engine giving the fuel in the tank more time to dissipate the heat.

Our trip was easy and un-eventful other than the powered driver-side windshield shade quite working.  Add that to the list.  We got home by 1:30 PM which gave us time to unload food and a few essentials from the bus and take showers.  Since Linda spent Saturday morning preparing food, she only had minimal cooking to do for dinner.  Our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter arrived at 3:30 PM and our daughter and son-in-law arrived at 4:00 PM.  Madeline had a cold, wasn’t feeling well, and had only had a short nap, but she was fine as long as she was busy.  This was a combination birthday and Father’s Day gathering, but mostly an excuse to gather our small, immediate family.  We had a lovely summer meal of potato salad, collard greens cole slaw, baked beans, and cheeseburgers with chocolate cupcakes (from a local bakery) and fresh strawberries for dessert.  All vegan, and all delicious.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline left shortly after dinner and Meghan and Chris left around 8:00 PM.  Although our morning departure and drive home had been quite routine and the family gathering had been relaxed and relatively easy, it all added up to a long day.  I started the download of an update to my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription that looked like it was going to take a while, so we skipped watching an Episode of Doc Martin and turned in for the night.


2014/06/14 (S) Day 4 Rally Conclusion

Each rally has a slightly different approach to food.  On the last full day of the GLAMARAMA they switch the breakfast carbohydrate delivery mechanism from donuts to pancakes and serve them with sausage links.  The coffee and tea are still there, of course, so we had coffee.  Other rallies, like the Escapades, have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, with coffee and donuts.  When Nick and Terry Russell were running their Gypsy Journal Gathering rallies they also had coffee and donuts on departure day as I recall.

In order to serve a lot of pancakes to a lot of people in a relatively short period of time GLAMARAMA hires a specialized food service.  The one they hired this year had long griddles with an overhead depositor that moved the length of the griddle like a gantry crane.  It would precisely deposit the batter to make a row of 5″ pancakes.  The operator would then move it by hand and deposit the next row, repeating this as they moved along the griddle.  Another worker followed behind the depositor with a pancake turner (flapjack flipper) and turned the pancakes when they were done on the first side.  Although hand labor was still involved it was an efficient, high volume, production process that did not require an army of volunteers.

When we were done drinking coffee and chatting Linda headed back to our motorcoach to prepare food for our family gathering on Sunday afternoon.  I headed over to the seminar building for a presentation by Jason and Nikki Wynn of Gone with the Wynn’s.  They were joined by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia and did a panel discussion on earning income on the road.  They also covered work-camping and volunteering in exchange for a camp site.  They did an excellent job, relaxed and low key, and streamed the event live to the web.  The logins indicated that 68 people viewed the presentation online, which was probably more people than were in the room.

Geeks on Tour got their flash drives in (Nick and Terry Russell brought them down from Elkhart).  I wanted to restart our subscription, but wanted the flash drive instead of the CD as Linda needed it to store some files.  I ended up with both.  Their Tutorial Video series ( ) is an amazing resource for learning how to use a wide range of technologies for Planning, Preserving, and Sharing you RV adventures.

At 10:45 AM I met with Jerry Yates, Executive Director of FMCA, in my role as a member of the national education committee, to talk about RVillage.  It also gave me a chance to further explore making online education available to FMCA members, such as that provided by the Geeks On Tour, either directly from the FMCA website or through discounted subscriptions to provider websites.

Linda helped Alma Baker get situated for the Fleetwood hot dog lunch and had a tomato and onion sandwich while she was there.  I had a couple of tofu hot dogs in our coach and eventually headed over to a 1:30 PM seminar on 120 VAC by Gary Bunzer.  It was very good, as usual, but by Saturday afternoon seminar attendance had thinned.  This was a repeat of a session he had done on Wednesday, so many attendees who wanted to see probably already had.

Linda hung around the coach waiting for Butch and Fonda, who drove over from Twelve Mile, Indiana to work with her on some aspects of their pending business sale.  I came back to the rig to say hello and around 4:45 PM we gathered up some hummus, chips, and beverages and headed over to the 5:00 PM RVillage get-together.  The volunteer dinner started at 4:30 PM, but we decided not to go as we knew there would be little-to-nothing we would be able to eat.

Nikki Wynn had scheduled the RVillage get-together in the Dog and Cat Pavilion and we ended up with a nice turnout of 17 people.  It was not a pot luck, but enough folks brought munchies and extra beverages that everyone had something.  We milled around conversing in shifting groups and eventually formed chairs into a (sort of) circle.  Chris Guld suggested we go around and introduce ourselves and say where we were when we were 15 years old and whether we had any notion that we would find ourselves where we are now.  It turned out to be a fun, low key, way to get to know each other by filing in a few personal details.

We disbanded by 6:30 PM, went back to our coach for a few minutes, and then headed over to the final evening’s entertainment.  The Walker Family hails from Nashville and we saw them a few years ago at the G.L.A.S.S. rally in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  Dad, mom, and seven kids; four girls and three boys.  The “girls” are now young women; two are married and one just had her first child.  They perform as “The Redhead Express.”  The boys are now 15, 13, and 11.  The older two play drums for their sisters and perform as a trio with guitar backup from one of their sisters.  Mom and dad joined the sisters for a couple of numbers, but the entire family never performed together.  My recollection was that they had the last time we saw them, but that’s been at least four years, maybe five, and Linda disagrees with my memory.  Regardless, they are very talented and put on a spirited show of country songs with a bit of gospel and patriotic stuff mixed in; just what you would expect from a Nashville-based group.  They did not, however, use any pre-recorded sound tracks.

Following the concert there were drawings for prizes and the 50/50 raffle.  The Grand Prize was a gift certificate for an 11-day Adventure Tours Mega-Rally worth $3,000 (one motorhome with two people).  One of our GLCC members won $200 in the raffle.  Those of us “camped” in the GLCC area gathered by our rigs after the drawings and stood around talking until it cooled of to the point that everyone was ready to retreat into their rigs for the evening.


2014/06/13 (F) Day 3 Shop-Learn-Eat

Day 3 of the 2014 GLAMARAMA kicked off with coffee and doughnuts at 7:30 AM.  Those attendees going on the morning tour of the Jayco factory had to assemble early.  We had coffee and visited with friends until the vendors opened at 9:00 AM.

At the 2013 GLAMARAMA last September I had decided to buy a small video camera/recorder to mount on the inside of the windshield and record what is happening in front of the coach.  By the time I went to buy it on the last day at 3:00 PM the vendors were closed.  I did not make the same mistake this time and bought one this morning.  We still need to get a 32 GB high speed SD card to go with it.

We had spotted some Velcro straps at another vendor and decided to buy a pair to use for securing the Pressure Pro TPMS repeater to the inside rear view mirror in our Honda Element.  The same vendor had an LED light that looked like it might fit in our downlights.  They loaned us one to try.  It fit well and the light was OK.  I returned the sample and bought a new one.  Lloyd De Gerald had his Aqua-Hot service booth right next to the Aqua-Hot factory booth and I purchased an inline secondary fuel filter from him.

Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint ordered some silver (white) reflective tape for us as it was on sale and we thought it might look OK around the lower portion of our bus.  (There is a channel on all of the lower body panels, as well as the front and rear bumpers, where this reflective tape is intended to go.)  Our hope was that the tape would reflect the adjacent paint color while making the bus much more visible at night.  Alas, it did not pick up the surrounding color and the tape was a little wider than the channel, which would complicate the installation.  I did not see it, but Linda did, and did not like the way it looked.

Josh Leach specializes in interior projects and is currently working out the Phoenix Paint facility.  He teamed up with Darin Hathaway (the Aqua-Hot technician who serviced our Aqua-Hot system on Monday) and Michele Henry (who painted our coach two years ago) to get a booth at the GLAMARAMA.  We discussed our interior remodeling ideas and agreed to have him come by the coach to see it.

Just after noon Linda drove to the Whole Foods store in Mishawaka, Indiana to get ingredients for dishes she planned to serve back at the house on Sunday.  I attended two seminars, both by Gary Bunzer (the RV Doctor).  The first one was on balanced battery systems.  The key concept of that seminar was that there are poor, OK, and optimal was to interconnect multiple batteries to form a battery bank of the required voltage and energy storage capacity (Amp-Hours).  The second seminar was on controlling/eliminating holding tank odors.  Linda dropped in on this one for a little while and then headed over to the reception for vendors and chapter officers.  I joined her at the reception after the seminar concluded.  Gary has published a column somewhere on RV maintenance and operation every month for the last 38 years.

The vendor and chapter officers reception was very nice, with fresh fruit and veggies, cheese and crackers, some deli meats, and a choice of wines.  We returned to our coach for a little while after the reception before heading over to the evening entertainment.  Keith Longbothum and his sidekick, an excellent harmonica player, put on a high energy show that was initially Nashville country but morphed into gospel and patriotic.  One thing I noticed about entertainment tonight and on Wednesday was the use of pre-recorded instrumental soundtracks which make it possible for a small ensemble to produce a very full sound without having to pay a lot of musicians.

There was a door prize drawing after the entertainment.  We did not win.  The head of the parking crew also gave instructions for departure on Sunday.


2014/06/12 (R) Rallying Day 2

First of all, yesterday was our daughter’s 33rd birthday.  Happy birthday, Meghan!

At most rallies “breakfast” consists of coffee and doughnuts, with a pancake and sausage meal thrown in somewhere.  We like our own coffee a lot better than what is typically served at rallies, but these breakfasts are included in our rally fee, so we go have coffee and sit and talk with folks.  Mostly it’s about sitting and talking with folks.  Larger rallies are social/educational events.  Smaller rallies tend to just be social events.

The GLAMARAMA organizers had arranged for a morning and afternoon tour of a local Dometic factory today, with tours of a local Jayco factory tomorrow.  Slots were limited, requiring an advance reservation, and a single school bus was contracted to transport each group.  We did not go, but our GLCC friends who did said it was an excellent tour of a very impressive factory.

We went through the vendor buildings when they opened at 9:00 AM and took stock of who was there and what they were selling.  We usually check out the vendors early in the rally but do not buy anything right away, giving us time to ponder possible purchases.

We did not attend any seminars today.  Most of the chapter socials were scheduled to start at 4:00 PM including our Great Lakes Converted Coaches meeting.  Linda and I were responsible for the food, most of which we had ordered from Pizza Hut on Tuesday.  At 2:15 PM we drove to the Kroger on the northwest side of Goshen to get ice, bottled water, and diet Coke.  (Pizza Hut is part of PepsiCo, so they only sell Pepsi soda products.  I do not care for Pepsi and usually forego a soda beverage if Pepsi is the only thing available.)  The food was supposed to be delivered to Gate 5 of the Fairgrounds at 3:35 PM but the driver was delayed by trains blocking his route.  (This is common in Goshen.)  He finally arrived at 3:50 PM.  We transferred all of the food to our car, paid him, and headed for the pavilion.  A few people had already arrived and they helped us unload the food and set it up on two tables.  By the time we had it ready to serve most folks had arrived and most of them were hungry.  We did not take a head count but I estimated 35 people, plus or minus.  Once everyone had a chance to eat we had a short business meeting.  By the time we were done and had everything cleaned up it was 6:30 PM.  We went back to our GLCC parking area and visited a little longer with our immediate neighbors before retire to our buses for the evening.  On the day of the chapter socials there is no evening entertainment; those who want to usually gather for cards or bingo.


2014/06/11 (W) GLAMARAMA14 Day 1

Although the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) area rally (GLAMARAMA14) took place at 7:30 PM, the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds were busy with activity all day.  The golf cart shuttles started running at 7:30 AM and the parking crew members were at their stations and started parking motorhomes at 8:00 AM.  The registration building was open at 8:00 AM, the indoor vendors were open at 9:00 AM, and the food vendors were open at 10 AM.

The Fleetwood Motorhome Association (FMA) had rolled their rally into the GLAMARAMA, and as part of their participation they sponsored Gary Bunzer, the RV Doctor, as the featured speaker.  Gary normally only does national rallies and GLAMARAMA14 was the first time he had agreed to speak at an FMCA area rally.  He was scheduled for a full set of presentations starting at 1:30 PM today.  There were no other seminars at that time and he drew a large crowd, as he usually does.  He had a second seminar starting at 3:30 PM but we could not attend as we were scheduled to drive golf carts from 4:00 – 6:30 PM.  Fortunately he is repeating that seminar on Saturday.

Sometime during the last day or so I received a draft copy of the June 2014 Bus Conversion Magazine for review of my cover/centerfold article on the Cool Cruiser; a GM PD4106 I photographed at the 2014 Arcadia Bus Rally in late December.  I sent back a few minor corrections.  The editor had some health issues that delayed the May issue and they are working very hard to get the caught up so I got my comments back to the ASAP.

We had received an e-mail a week or so ago regarding the RVillage Ambassador Program and had responded that we were definitely interested in participating.  Earlier this week we were notified that a webinar was scheduled for Saturday May 14 at noon.  I e-mailed back that we could not participate in the webinar at that date/time due to GLAMARAMA activities.

At 4:00 PM we picked up our golf carts and headed out for two and a half hours of fun driving around the fairgrounds meeting people and providing rides and/or directions.  There had been a threat of rain all day but it held off until after our shift ended.

The evening entertainment was provided by New Odyssey, an extremely high-energy three-man group out of Chicago, Illinois that plays 30 different instruments.  They put on a great, but slightly familiar, show and we finally figured out that we had seen them a few years ago at a G.L.A.S.S. rally in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  (Great Lakes Area Spring Spree.)

Before the show ever started the skies opened up and it rained very hard.  We had left the roof vents/fans open/on, with a running computer sitting directly under one of them, so I ran back to the coach to close everything up.  It was a short distance, but I was soaked by the time I went 10 feet.  Ironically, but luckily, not a single drop of rain had entered the coach, perhaps because we were parked under a very large tree.  Still, I closed everything, dried off and changed into my rain gear for the walk back to the assembly hall.


2014/06/10 (T) Early Entry

Today was early entry day for the FMCA Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) area rally, known as the GLAMARAMA.  Following our usual departure routine I dumped our holding tanks and prepared the outside of the bus for travel while Linda secured the inside.  We pulled out of Elkhart Campground around 9:30 AM and headed west on CR-4 to IN-19 where we turned north back towards Michigan.  IN-19 becomes M-205 at the border and we followed it around to US-12 east.  A few miles down the road we turned onto M-217, the Michiana Parkway, and followed that south back into Indiana where it became CR-17.  We exited CR-17 at US-20 and headed east towards Middlebury, Indiana.  The reason for going this way was to avoid driving through Elkhart and Goshen.  Monroe Street in Goshen is closed at the railroad tracks forcing detours to get to the fairgrounds when approaching from the west.  We knew from our recent visit to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds for the Escapees RV Club Escapade rally that the easy way in and out of the venue was from/to the northeast.

GLAMARAMA14 is the second rally organized by GLAMA.  The first one was in September 2013 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  I wrote an extensive article about that rally that appeared in the January 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  A version of that article also appeared in the November 2013 newsletter of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) Chapter.

We encountered unexpected road construction on eastbound US-20, but we had no particular time constraints and patiently worked our way through.  At IN-13, south of Middlebury, we turned south, drove down to IN-4, and headed east.  Before getting to Goshen we turned south on CR-29 and followed that to its terminus at CR-34 (Monroe Street) where we headed east a short distance to the northeast entrance to the Fairgrounds (Gate 5).  The trip took us a little over an hour whereas the direct route, without road closings, would have taken 30 minutes.  But it was an easy, stress-free drive and we arrived relaxed and ready to enjoy the rest of the day.  Northern Indiana is a particularly easy place to drive a large RV; the roads are relatively flat with very few overhead clearance or weight restriction issues.  The one thing you have to watch out for are the Amish buggies; they are everywhere in this region.

We indicated on entry that we were with the Great Lakes Converted Coaches Chapter.  After unhooking the car in the staging area the parking crew escorted us to the sites reserved for our chapter in the fenced area directly behind the vendor and entertainment buildings known as “the compound.”  We were the second bus to arrive; the Lintner’s having already been here for a few days.  A short while later Bill and Karen Gerrie (1965 GM Transit) arrived with Mike and Kathy Dickson and Joe and Mia Temples (GM 4905 “Buffalo”).  Later in the day Don and Sandra Moyer arrived in their 1948 Spartan with John and Paula Lingafelter in their 1958 Flxible Starliner.

In the early afternoon Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard (Technomadia) walked over from the FMA area to the GLCC area with Jason and Nikki Wynn (Gone with the Wynn’s).  I introduced them to Bill Gerrie and Linda joined us for a brief chat.  It’s always good to cross paths with Chris and Cherie and it was nice to meet Jason and Nikki.

We volunteered to drive golf carts during the rally and our first shift was today from 2:30 to 5:00 PM.  Although the rally does not start until tomorrow the registration office was open and attendees from all over the fairgrounds needed to go there, without knowing where “there” was, so we had our share of customers.


2014/06/09 (M) Mobile Service

One of the interesting things about RVing is the availability of mobile service providers.  The mechanic who maintains our bus chassis, Joe Cannarozzi, travels all over the U. S. from his base in Chicago, Illinois.  Other vendors, many full time RVers themselves, travel the RV rally circuit providing on-site service.  We stopped by Phoenix Paint late in the morning to visit with Michele Henry, who painted our motorcoach in 2011/12, and met Darin Hathaway there.  Darin is an independent Elkhart-based factory trained/authorized Aqua-Hot service technician.  Our Aqua-Hot has not been running well the last few of times we have tried to use it, even failing to ignite once and producing copious amounts of white smoke for as long as five minutes if/when it did.  I described the symptoms we’ve experienced and what we have done to try and diagnose the situation.  Darin had time in his afternoon schedule to service our unit so we arranged to have him come over to Elkhart Campground to do the work there.

Darin arrived around 2:15 PM and performed the standard annual maintenance / tune up.  He let me watch and ask questions and I learned a bit more about the unit and how it functions.  He removed the burner and then removed the swirl chamber which had a buildup of carbon soot.  He removed the nozzle, flame sensor (photo eye), igniter electrodes, and the photo (mounting) disk.  He also noticed a small inline final fuel filter that needed to be replaced.  He clamped off the lines, removed it, and installed a new one.  I wanted a spare, but he only had the one with him so he said he would order one for me.

He disconnected the two main electrical harnesses, plugged in his service control box, and then installed a pressure gauge into the nozzle port.  He activated the fuel pump and the fuel pressure was just over 160 PSI.  It was supposed to be 145 PSI so he showed me the adjustment screw and backed it down to the proper level.

The photo disk was slightly wrapped which is not unusual, but could prevent it from sealing the combustion chamber, so he installed a new one showing me how to make sure it was loose enough that it could position itself correctly when the main blower/pump housing was re-installed.  I got a second disk to keep as a spare.  He installed a new nozzle and then reinstalled the two igniter electrodes and showed me how to set the spark gap.  He also pointed out that the cable clamp on top of the main blower/pump housing is the spark gap tool.  Nice touch.  He said the old nozzle was a bit loose which might have allowed a little fuel to get into the combustion chamber without going through the nozzle.  His tips for nozzle installation were to always use two wrenches and to tighten the nozzle, back it off, and tighten it a second time.  Apparently this helps the threads seat and seal.

He checked the four rubber grommets around the housing and said they were still in good shape and probably relatively new.  I got four for spares, two lefts and two rights.  I might as well get parts while I can.  He cleaned up the swirl chamber and re-installed it, seam side up.  Very important.  He checked the spark igniter and it worked and then failed.  He spent some extra time that was not part of the routine service diagnosing and fixing this issue.  He thought it might be a marginal or failed coil, but after tightening the wire connections and flexing the wires a bit, it seemed to work fine with repeated testing.  The coils are relatively expensive and decided not order one as a spare at this time.  Hopefully I don’t regret that decision somewhere done the road.

With critical components replaced, and everything cleaned and adjusted, Darin inspected the main combustion chamber for signs of fuel or coolant leakage but did not see anything out of the ordinary.  He secured the main blower/pump housing to the combustion chamber / “boiler” assembly using a short quarter-inch socket ratchet with a 12″ extension and suggested that I do the same.  Apparently it is very easy to over-torque these bolts and break the mounting tabs, which is a very bad thing to do.  A final test resulted in the unit starting up immediately with clean exhaust; no smoke, black or white.

We spent a few more minutes trying to determine which thermostats in the house (there are three) controlled which of the three circulating pumps, but did not figure it out.  The is important because the radiator for the water bay (where the Aqua-Hot is installed) is clearly part of one of the coolant circulation loops controlled by one of the thermostats in the house (the leftmost of the three at the top).  The radiator for the front bay is also part of one of the house loops but I do not know if it is tied in with the water bay radiator or with a different zone.  Darin said there was usually a separate thermostatically controlled zone for the bays, but I assured him that our coach was not configured that way.  Our unit does have a forth circulation pump that is tied in with the main engine coolant.  It can be used to pre-heat the engine or to provide heat from the engine to the coach.  Darin indicated that anytime the burner is lit one of the circulation pumps will be running, usually the middle one.  In our unit it seemed to be the engine pre-heat pump, but I later discovered that I had the pump turned on.

It was after 3:30 PM by the time Darin was finished and I had a 4:00 PM conference call meeting of the FMCA national education committee.  We turned the diesel burner on from its normal control switch and let it run for one complete cycle while he finished up the paperwork.  As the cycle finished I saw a little white smoke in the bay, which was still open.  I opened the door to the small compartment underneath the Aqua-Hot and it was full of white smoke.  I have the battery for the fuel polishing module installed in there but the compartment us otherwise empty save for a large diameter tube (5″?) that runs from the bottom of the Aqua-Hot through the compartment, and out the floor.  This tube provides fresh air to the combustion chamber and also provides a conduit for the exhaust pipe.  There was obviously a double problem:  1) exhaust gas was leaking from the exhaust pipe somewhere, and 2) the large outer tube was not sealed.  Add that to the project list.

I called in to the FMCA national education committee meeting at 4:00 PM and by 4:10 PM (EDT) we had enough members for a quorum.  Committee chair Gaye Young worked us through the agenda and we were done with our first meeting an hour after we started.  The committee is charged with looking at four topics, one of which is RVillage.

We had a quiet evening and had pan-grilled tofu with caramelized onions and bar-b-que sauce for dinner, followed by a final stroll around the campground.  We got online with the campground WiFi via our WiFi Ranger and took care of e-mail, RVillage, and WordPress tasks before turning in for the evening.


2014/06/08 (N) Positioning

We were up around 7:00 AM, showered, dressed, and gathered up toiletries and other last minute items for our outing.  I did a last minute check of e-mail and RVillage and then shut down the computers, printers, and NAS units and packed up my laptop.  We started our final loading process at 9:00 AM and had everything on board by 9:20 AM.  While Linda configured the car for towing, I turned the chassis batteries on, disconnected the shorepower line, stowed the cord, checked that the inverter was operating, and opened the air valves for the engine accessories and the air line to the car auxiliary braking system.  While Linda closed up the utility bay I fired up the main engine and drained the moisture out of the auxiliary air tank.  We checked the lights and finally checked that all of the bays were closed and locked.  GPS and TPMS on with all tires reporting in, all gauges reading normal, and side mirrors adjusted.  Tag axle up for the tight 180 degree turn exiting the driveway and all ahead slow while Linda verified the car wheels were turning.  She was on board and buckled in at 9:30 AM and we were on our way.  We have gotten reasonably efficient at this departure routine, but when driving a bus with a car in tow you do not simply turn the key and drive away.

We had light rain overnight and it was still drizzling as we pulled out.  No problem; cloudy skies often make for easier travel.  We drove up to M-59 and headed west, picking up I-96 westbound on the west edge of Howell.  By the time we turned onto I-69 southbound at the southwest corner of Lansing, Michigan we had run out from under the rain and the overcast gave way to partly cloudy skies with patches of blue making for very pleasant driving conditions.  At Coldwater, Michigan we headed west on US-12, a route we have driven many times and always enjoy.  Just north of Elkhart, Indiana we exited US-12 onto M-205 which swings south and becomes SR-19 as it crosses into Indiana.  About two miles into Indiana we turned east on County Road 4 and 0.7 miles later turned into the entrance to Elkhart Campground.  It was a little before 1:00 PM and we had made the 160 mile trip without rest or fuel stops.  I set the cruise control at 60 MPH on the Interstates and 55 MPH on M-59 and US-12, but had to slow down for interchanges and lower posted speed limits going through small towns.  We usually base our expected travel time on an average speed of 50 MPH which seems to account surprisingly well for all of these variations.

We got checked in to the Elkhart Campground using our Escapees membership to save 15% off of their overpriced 50A FHU grass sites.  They put us in a new part of the campground we have not used before.  The spot was level so I but the tranny in neutral, set the parking brake, and shut the engine off.  I shut off the air and chassis batteries and hookup up the shorepower line while Linda got the inside ready to use, our standard arrival routine.  In all fairness, Elkhart Campground is not a fancy RV resort but is nice enough, and one of only two RV parks in Elkhart, Indiana, so part of what you pay for here is location.  We have been here at least 9 times, usually for Great Lakes Converted Coaches rallies.  It is centrally located for much of our membership and has a building with meeting rooms and kitchen facilities that they let us use for no additional charge.  Our reason for being here now is to add a couple of days of RV use to the GLAMARAMA rally and position ourselves for an easy, early morning entry into the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds on Tuesday.

For lunch Linda served some of the cold three bean salad she made yesterday along with tofu hotdogs (with mustard, relish, and onions, of course).  After lunch we got our WiFi Ranger connected to the campground WiFi network and checked in to the campground on RVillage.  The website indicated that there were 11 other people checked in here, but we knew that some of them had been here after the recent SKP Escapade and subsequently left.  We went for a walk around the campground and found the FMCA Frustrated Maestros (Great Lakes Chapter) camped by the activities building.  It was obvious that they were having a pre-rally and using it to rehearse before heading to the GLAMARAMA rally in Goshen on Tuesday.  We recognized Ron and Meredith Walker’s Prevost XL bus conversion but did not see them outside.

As we were finishing our walk we ran into Nick Russell of The Gypsy Journal and he invited us in to their motorhome for a brief chat.  Terry was busy removing their old combo washer/dryer to make room for the new one they are supposed to get tomorrow, but she put her work aside to visit.  We finally got to see her loom which we have read about on Nick’s blog.  Considering what a sophisticated device it is, it fits surprisingly well in their Winnebago Ultimate Advantage (which has slides).  Terry was obviously very excited to have it and enjoyed describing its operation to us.  She is mostly self-taught and already producing some very intricate designs.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad to go along side a bowl of the vegetable chili she made yesterday, served with crackers and a glass of Franzia Sweet Red wine.  We went for a walk after dinner and ended up having a conversation with several of the Frustrated Maestros, including Ted (K0DDB) who took up the banjo at age 56.  As we walked past Nick and Terry’s motorhome Terry was outside talking to Greg and Jan White.  Greg was “parting out” the combo washer/dryer that Terry had just removed from their rig to salvage as many usable spare parts as possible since they have the same model in their American Eagle coach.

We got back to our motorcoach just before 8:00 PM and tried to connect to the Technomadia live UStream videocast they were doing for the Mobile Internet Aficionados private membership Facebook group, but the WiFi at Elkhart Campground was not up to the task and I did not feel like turning on our Verizon MiFi device.  Linda turned the TV on instead and checked out the stations available to us.  We had all of the major networks and decided to watch the final episode of Cosmos and then turned in for the night.


2014/06/07 (S) D-Day Plus 70

Today was the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy; D-Day.  The youngest soldiers in that invasion, if they are still alive like my father, are now in their late 80’s.  The event is quickly slipping into history; in another decade, more or less, there will not be anyone left with a firsthand knowledge of the events of that day, or indeed of the whole of WW II.

As we do most Saturdays when we are home we went to our ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon.  We meet at a local Coney Island restaurant and we go for the company and conversation, not the food.  The service is excellent, however, as we have the same server every week and she knows everyone’s usual order and keeps the coffee flowing.  Linda’s standard breakfast is coffee and toasted rye bread with orange marmalade, although occasionally she has oatmeal.  My standard breakfast is coffee and a toasted English muffin with strawberry jam, but today I had a toasted bagel.  Sometimes you just have break with tradition.  On rare occasion I have the oatmeal, but it’s not really cooked the way I like.  When I want to splurge I have hash browned potatoes, cooked until a bit crispy, which I smother in ketchup laced with Tabasco sauce.  That dish is as much about the spicy ketchup as it is about the potatoes.

When we got back to the house Linda headed off to the grocery store while I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and got busy prepping the bus for travel.  The temperature had risen into the 70’s but all of the bus tires were in the shade, a good situation for checking and adjusting the tire pressures.  I removed the Pressure Pro sensors from all of the bus and car tires, checked and adjusted the cold pressures, and put the sensors back on, re-establishing the baseline settings for alarm purposes.

We had quite a bit of rain on our last outing and the bays were a bit musty so I opened all of them to let them air out.  I also opened all of my tool boxes for the same reason.  The inverter bay door has screened openings with shields on the inside that are open on the bottom.  The large shield by the GenSet radiator is secured with three screws across the top, none of which were holding.  I looked around in the garage for some suitable drywall anchors to put in the holes but I did not have (or could not find) any the right size.  A quick trip to Lowe’s, with stops at Walmart and Meijer’s for grocery items, and I had some viable options.  I had to fuss with it for a while, but I got it secured.  It was a small project to be sure but one that had been bugging me for quite some time and it felt good to put it in the done column.

Linda spent the early afternoon working on the accounting records for our GLCC chapter and then turned her attention to cooking meals for the upcoming week.  For rally situations, where we are away from our coach much more than we are there, it is easier for her to prepare dishes in advance that can be quickly and easily re-heated rather than cook from scratch.  I called Elkhart Campground and made a reservation for Sunday and Monday evenings.  Over the course of the afternoon and evening we selected clothes for the week, gathered up various items that travel with us, and loaded everything on board.  I positioned the Honda Element behind the motorcoach and connected them together for towing.  We will have a few last minute things to put on board in the morning but the final loading should be quick and easy.  It was a relaxed loading process and as we sat on the rear deck enjoying a glass of wine we reflected on how glad we were to have found this house and decided to move.  We had some of the vegetable chili for dinner and then watched Season 2, Episode 2 of Doc Martin before turning in for the evening.


2014/06/06 (F) Chapter Business

I spent a good portion of the day working on the membership and financial records for the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  My work as VP/Secretary of the chapter is sporadic.  Weeks-to-months go by where there is very little that needs to be done, but when something pops up I have to take care of it in a timely manner and it often takes half a day to do it.  This usually involves updating the roster and notifying the members and FMCA HQ when a new member joins.  It also involves updating the financial reports as people pay their dues.

We have a chapter treasurer who handles the money and maintains the checking account but I maintain the membership records, which include keeping track of how much members have paid in dues and what calendar year those dues are for, and prepare the financial statements.  The busy times of the year for me, however, are September and October, when we prepare for and hold our annual meeting, and December through March, when I have to certify our roster to FMCA HQ and most members pay their dues.

Linda had more work to do for the bakery today but was able to do it at home.  She heated up an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza for lunch.  This is now my favorite pizza and cheese, vegan or dairy, would not improve it.

When I bought the Apple TV unit last night I also bought a Logitech wireless (Bluetooth) t630 optical Touch Mouse that I have been considering since I got my ASUS laptop.  I let it charge overnight (USB port) and today paired it with the computer, which was very easy.  There are some things about Windows 8/8.1 that I like and this is one of them.  I downloaded Logitech’s software package and installed it, which was also very easy.  Besides the usual cursor movement and left/right click functionality this mouse supports “touch” movements for vertical/horizontal scrolling and single/double finger soft taps for switching between the Start and Desktop screens and for switching between apps.  It’s very thin, but large enough to fit my hand comfortably, and feels solid and substantial.  So far I really like it.

Linda made a one pot dish for dinner with potatoes, black beans, kale, onions, and spices, including cumin, and probably some other ingredients.  It was delicious and healthy with lots of dietary fiber.  Earlier in the day we watched the latest segment on the typical protein-rich, fiber-deficient American diet.  Most Americans, including vegans, consume way more than the recommended daily average of 42 grams of protein, but very few come anywhere near the recommended daily intake of fiber.  Vegetarians and vegans are the exception as dietary fiber comes only from plants, and the more whole-food the plant-based diet, the better.

We watched Season 2, Episode 1 of Doc Martin before turning in for the evening.  As with any TV series it has a formula, but it’s a formula I like.  I’m waiting for the episode where Doc Martin finally accepts and embraces the dog.  The dog is very loyal and will obviously win the day in the end.


20140605 (R) Apple Roku

Linda had to go into the bakery today which left me to catch up on phone calls and errands.  I made more phone calls to contractors this morning and had better luck than yesterday reaching people or at least leaving messages.  I rescheduled with Gary from GM Construction to come discuss the pole barn project.  I also got hold of Bratcher Electric and determined that the annual maintenance on the whole house generator could wait until we are ready to do the conversion from propane to natural gas, which they can handle.  In talking to Mike Bratcher I also determined that we can install a main panel in the garage just after the transfer switch and then run power directly from there to the pole barn rather than from the main panel in the basement.  While we are at it, we could redo the sub-panel in the garage, feeding it directly from the new main panel rather than the main panel in the basement.  The basement panel is very crowded and we have wires carrying electricity back and forth unnecessarily.

I got a call from Butch with an update on the negotiations of the sale of the major portion of their business assets.  Linda has been advising them relative to valuation, accounting, and tax issues and we have been helping them with purchase agreement language.  It looks like they are in the final stages leading up to a closing of the deal.  Their big annual event is coming up in early July and they will likely be busy with the transfer of inventory and training of the buyer during and after that event.  I need to get our bus down to their place to work on some projects and help Butch work on getting their bus conversion done enough that they can live in it this winter in the southwest.  Based on things going on at both ends, it looks like the window for that work will be mid-September to sometime in November, weather permitting.

Our converted coach friends, Pat and Vickie, have some older Motorola GMRS handheld radios that they like but the charger bases have disappeared.  My ham radio friend Scott (AC8IL) is in the commercial mobile communications business so I checked with him to see if chargers were still available.  They were and he had a couple of the drop-in style charger/bases in stock!  Scotty is just that kind of guy.  I picked them up this morning and will deliver them to Pat and Vickie at the GLAMARAMA rally.

Apple Roku sounds like an interesting dessert, but it’s not.  It might be an either/or situation, but it could be a both/and.  John Dewey was a both/and kind of guy, so I favor that approach.  We were intrigued by Steve and Karen’s Roku Internet TV streaming device last night so I stopped at Best Buy today on my way home from running my errand to see if they had them in stock and if so at what price.  Not only did they have them, they had three different models.  The “stick” was $50, the Roku 2 was $70, and the Roku 3 was $100.  (The Roku 3 does not have A/V connectors like the Roku 2, only HDMI, but it has a five times faster processor.)  But that was not all, oh no.  They also had the Apple TV device for $100 and two other similar products, one of which looked like an Amazon/Kindle thing and the other one a WD thing, whatever that is.

The Roku units (2 and 3) have access to a lot of content on a free, subscription, and pay-per-view basis.  The Apple TV unit has access to content on the same basis but the selection may not be as extensive; it’s hard to say for sure as the devices are not easy to compare directly.  The Apple TV unit, however, has one huge, unique feature; it can mirror anything on an iOS device, such as our iPads, to a TV/monitor.  The iPad can also be used as a control panel for the Apple TV device.

We do not have to choose between a Roku and an Apple TV unit, of course, we can get and use both if we want; it’s just a matter of money.  Between the two TVs in the house and the two in the bus it could be a lot of money if we wanted dedicated units of both types on all four TV/monitors.  We always have the option of moving things back and forth, but in general I prefer not to do that.  To the extent we can afford it I prefer to have the house and the bus set up so that the only things we move between them are the things we have to, such as ourselves, our food, our laundry, our computers, our cats, and some of our ham radio gear (at least for now).  The best solution, however, may be to get one of each device and move them around as needed.  That would give us the best cost/benefit ratio, but not the most convenience.

When Linda got home from her day at the bakery we finished the Egri Merlot we had opened the other night and caught up on the day’s events.  We decided to try the Apple TV device first and see how it worked in our situation.  Linda made an onion, mushroom, tomato Ragu, and served it over the leftover power grains.  It was very tasty.  After dinner I went to Best Buy to get the Apple TV device while Linda prepared fresh strawberries for dessert.  Fresh strawberries are a favorite treat of ours.  She served them with small pieces of Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate made from 70% Ambanja Madagascar 2013 Harvest beans.  The chocolate was excellent and unique.  It was a thank you gift from our son and daughter-in-law for Linda’s babysitting services while they were in San Francisco, California.

We connected the Apple TV box to one of our HD TV/monitors and went through the setup procedure.  We decided to test it on some PBS content, which required us to set up an account with PBS and enter a validation code that the Apple TV box provided.  We also downloaded an app onto Linda’s iPad2 that allowed it to mirror whatever was on its screen to the Apple TV.

We used the mirroring feature to watch Season 1, Episode 5 of Doc Martin, but it proved to be unusable.  The image was fine on the iPad2 but the Apple TV could not keep up.  I found that to be odd as our home WiFi network should have more than enough bandwidth to deliver the data stream between the devices, but maybe not.  I presumed that the limiting factor in our network was the data rate coming into our DSL gateway from our AT&T landline, but that was obviously fast enough to deliver the content from the gateway to the iPad without buffering hesitation.

We turned off the mirroring and finished watching the episode on the iPad.  Still, the content delivered directly from the gateway to the Apple TV looked great, and the mirroring will be useful for showing photos and anything else on our iPads.  We may reconfigure the Apple TV to use one of our other wireless networks and see if that helps.


2014/06/04 (W) Indian Street Food

After working hard on our fire pit project the last three days we took it easy today.  I put a load of laundry in to run while we had breakfast and browsed our blog and news feeds.  A couple of recent installments from reminded us yet again why we are following a whole-food plant-based way of eating.  I made follow up phone calls to various contractors and left messages as no one seems to answer phones anymore.  We often do not answer our phones if we don’t recognize the number or the caller ID is blocked, but we are not running businesses.  I did get hold of Ed and we had a nice chat about the restricted water flow problem in his Aqua-Hot and what he did to fix it.  I’m starting to form the impression that these are “fussy” high maintenance units.

I got a call from Chuck in reply to my e-mail to him yesterday.  He is working on a project to replace the conventional bulbs in his side cargo lights with LEDs.  He found a source for a double contact base that fits in place of an 1157 bulb.  He can solder the wires from the LED arrays to the base and plug it in; no modification of the cargo light housing or wiring needed.  I like those kinds of solutions.

I got a call back from Darryll Mech at DCM Heating and Cooling.  Darryll installed a garage heater and a furnace/air-conditioner for the addition to our previous house.  He is going to schedule a time to come back to the new house and figure out exactly what we need to do to prep the house for natural gas.  It is going to involve running additional black pipe, installing a garage furnace and a small furnace/air-conditioner for the library, and then converting the kitchen stove, whole house generator, and hot water baseboard furnace to natural gas.  We have a local guy (TOMTEK) who services the hot water baseboard furnace, so we will probably have him do the conversion on that unit.  We also have a company that installed and services the whole house generator and will probably have them do the conversion on that unit along with the annual maintenance.  We would like to have all of this done, except the appliance conversions, in August.  The natural gas pipeline and hookup is scheduled for “late summer to early fall.”  When I talked to the contractor it sounded like that meant the end of August to early October.  I hope it’s closer to the former than the later.

Scott Barnes from The Renewal Group in Hartland, Michigan retuned my call.  He wasn’t able to work today due to the rain so he came over to discuss our pole/bus barn project.

We got together with Steve and Karen Limkemann for dinner this evening and then went to their house in Westland to visit.  As we moved to being vegetarians and then vegans Indian food rose towards the top of our list of favorite cuisines, and one of our favorite restaurants in all of SE Michigan is Neehee’s in Canton.  Neehee’s is a small, unassuming semi-fast food place that serves “Indian vegetarian street food.” As the name implies, you will not find any dishes with meat, fish, or fowl.  You will, however, find dishes made with paneer (an Indian cheese) and yogurt.  They also serve ice cream.  They have a nice selection of vegan dishes, however, and some of the vegetarian dishes can be made vegan on request.  It’s a long way for us to drive just to have dinner, but very much on our way to Steve and Karen’s place.  They were good sports and agreed to try it.

The menu had changed since the last time we were there.  The “Indo-Chinese” section was gone, and with it one of our favorite dishes, a fried cauliflower in a spicy sweet and sour sauce.  We had the Special Gujarati Thali which consisted of nine different curries and sauces, two types of puri (crepes, thin breads), and rice.  It was very good.  Steve and Karen were not as thrilled with their dishes, but the issue seemed to be a bit too much “heat.”  Almost all Indian food (that we have had) is spicy, in the sense of being pungent and aromatic, and some of it is “hot”, in the sense of having a burning sensation in the mouth.

We drove to Steve and Karen’s house after dinner, looked at photos from trips, and talked at length about past and future travels.  Steve had resurrected some very old computer games and had them running on his Raspberry Pi and displayed on their large screen TV.  We played one for a while based loosely on A Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.  It would have been a trip down memory lane if I had any memory of having played it years ago, but I didn’t, so it was a new old experience for me.  He also demonstrated their Roku device, which connects to their WiFi network and streams a wide variety of programming to their television.  Much of it is free, some of it involves a monthly subscription, and some of it is “pay-per-view.”  It might be part of a solution for us at home.


2014/06/03 (T) Work-n-Play

Linda made a tofu scramble for breakfast with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and asparagus.  Nutritional yeast, soy sauce, salt, and pepper rounded out the dish.  The texture and taste is very similar to the same dish made with eggs.

We resumed work on the fire pit at 9:30 AM and had it finished by 1 PM with the original burn pile raked out level.  I did not count the number of bricks we used but I think it was around 80.  The weather was much more pleasant for this work than the previous two days with highs in the 70’s, lower humidity, and brisk west winds.  I would like to get a six foot diameter metal fire ring and install it centered in the fire pit and flush with the top of the top course of blocks.  The space between the blocks and the metal ring would be filled with dirt and a top layer of rock such as egg rock.

We had a light lunch of apple slices and chickpea salad spread on rye toast and then got cleaned up.  I worked at my desk for a few hours, off-loading photographs from the Sony alpha 100 and onto my Dell laptop.  I edited blog posts going back to May 26 and uploaded the ones through May 31st.

Ed Roelle (Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter) called and left a message while were working in the yard.  The message indicated that he had spent the last five days working on his Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system.  Apparently the fresh water tubing was clogged, severely restricting the water flow.  He attributed this to the extremely hard water in Florida where they have spent most of their winters in their Royale Coach bus conversion.  He knew we had just spent the winter there and wanted to make me aware of the potential issue.  I was vaguely aware of having read, or been told, that the Aqua-Hot units really prefer to have softened water run through them.  We have a portable water softener that I used to fill the fresh water tank most if the time we were in Florida, so I am hopeful that we are avoiding this problem to some extent.

We met Kate at The Pound in downtown Brighton at 6:30 PM.  The rooftop patio was being used for a private party so we had to sit downstairs.  They had the roll up doors open, so there was plenty of fresh air.  Kate brought her official certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records for her participation in the Rosie The Riveter event last year at Willow Run Airport.  She brought her iPad and shared photos of some of the places she and Brian had been in the last six months, including the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.  Kate is a very good photographer, and SXSW affords unique photographic opportunities due to the stage lighting at the various venues.

Linda and I had large dinner salads that were excellent and Kate had a chicken wrap.  A few bottles of beer were consumed as well.  After dinner we went for a stroll on the boardwalk along the Mill Pond.  There were lots of Mallards and Canadian Geese with young but the highlight for use were the turtles and 30″ carp.  As best we could identify them the smaller and more numerous turtles were painted turtles, Michigan’s state reptile.  We also saw half a dozen common snapping turtles, a couple of them quite large.  We strolled around Main Street until we found ourselves in front of Two Brothers Coffee Shop and decided to have an after dinner cup of coffee.  By the time we finished it was after 9:30 PM and Kate needed to get back to Ypsilanti, tomorrow being a work day for her.  We got home and watched the next episode of Doc Martin on Amazon Instant Video.


2014/06/02 (M) Fire Pit Project

I resumed work on our fire pit today.  The probability of rain jumped up and back down at 10 AM, but the rain held off.  The revised forecast had the probability back up starting in the late afternoon and remaining elevated through the evening and overnight.  Clouds streamed in from the southwest all day.  It was warm (~80) with 70% humidity, but the clouds provided much needed relief from the direct sun.

The fire pit being constructed around the old burn pile.

The fire pit being constructed around the old burn pile.  View to NE towards the marsh,

Keith was mowing our neighbor’s lawn, which he does every week, and I waved him down to see if he had time to also do ours.  Our normal schedule is every other week, but our clay soil is holding a lot of water that, combined with the abundant sunshine of the past five days, has caused everything to grow; a lot.  He got it all done before the rains came, which was great.

Looking NE towards the marsh.

Looking east towards the pond.

Linda made her scrumptious chickpea (garbanzo bean) salad/spread and we had some for lunch while Keith mowed the area of the yard around the fire pit.  She served it on toasted rye bread with fresh Bing (sweet) cherries on the side.  Linda loves rye bread and will eat anything on it including peanut butter and jelly.  I really like rye bread for certain things, but not others.  Hummus and onion; yum.  Chickpea spread; absolutely.  PB&J; no way.  Of course in a former culinary life it was always my favorite for a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich.  Rye bread is still an agreeable choice for sandwiches made from the “fake” cold cuts we occasionally buy, including “ham and Swiss” and “pastrami'” both with mustard, of course.

Looking SSW towards the house.

Looking SSW towards the house.

I took a few photographs after lunch and then worked for another hour or so until I hit my personal wall and knew I was done for the day.  I gathered all of my tools into the wheelbarrow and rolled it back up to the garage.  A cool shower and a long nap had me feeling almost human again just in time for dinner.  A quiet evening with a small glass of Egri Merlot and a piece of the (vegan) chilled double chocolate torte, followed by Season 1, Episode 4 of Doc Martin.  What’s not to like?


2014/06/01 (N) Farmer’s Market

As of today I have been “retired” for two years.  It has been a very busy, and very satisfying, couple of years and I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon.

Madeline in her Junior Park Ranger outfit.

Madeline in her Junior Park Ranger outfit.

Starting around this time of year the Howell Farmer’s Market sets up outdoors every Sunday morning around the old courthouse in the heart of downtown and operates from 9:00 AM to ~1:00 PM.  During the colder months the market moves indoors and only operates every other week, featuring crafts and prepared foods, such as baked goods, jams, and pickles rather than locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.  When we were both still working we used to spend Sunday mornings at Panera.  We still go there on occasion, but if we are around, and the weather is nice, we prefer to spend an hour walking through the market and buying locally grown fresh organic produce.

Our son, Brendan, called last night to check on our health and we suggested that he and Shawna, and Madeline drive up in the morning and we could all go to the Howell Farmer’s Market and then visit at the house.  Shawna is deep into her professional life as a professor and researcher at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and is currently putting her tenure package together, so Sunday is not really a day off for her.  Brendan drove up with grand-daughter Madeline and met us at the market around 9:45 AM.  She was finally big enough to wear the “Park Ranger” outfit we bought for her at Yellowstone National Park last summer.  Too cute.

Madeline in her new Adirondack chair with matching table.

Madeline in her new Adirondack chair with matching table.

June 1st is still early for the fresh produce that will eventually be available in abundance at the Farmers Market, but it’s a great time of year for locally grown organic asparagus.  Linda bought some to use for dinner along with onions, potatoes, and eggplant.  One of the things we like about the Howell market is that several local area farms set up stalls and sell produce they harvested the day or two before.  Other vendors sell fresh baked goods that they made or preserved foods that they personally prepared.

On our way to the market we stopped at Meijer’s to get a blow up beach ball for Madeline to play with in the yard.  While we were there we found a small plastic “Adirondack” chair with a matching table that she was just big enough to use.  Back at our house she picked up quickly that this was her special chair and seemed to enjoy using it.  Brendan and Madeline stayed until about 12:30 PM.  She is usually down for her only nap by 1:00 PM, so Brendan changed her outfit, got her buckled into her car seat, and headed back to Ann Arbor.

Madeline and her dad.

Madeline and her dad.

We had a light lunch after which I decided to work on our fire pit project.  I am not sure why I felt I had to do this in the afternoon sun on an 84 degree day, but I did.  I believe my thinking was that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and thought the physical activity and deep breathing would be good for me, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment at getting some blocks set in the ground nice and level.  The base course is where all the work is; it requires digging a trench in the dirt and then filling  it in with gravel and sand and compacting it to create a proper base that allows the first course of block to be firmly planted, fully supported, level side-to-side (block-to-block), and sloping back slightly towards the inside of the curve; all while making the curvature of blocks as circular as possible.  I worked all afternoon, with help from Linda, and by 4:30 PM had seven first course blocks set with six second course blocks on top.  We are building the fire pit into the side of a slight hill, so the second course of blocks will be the first one that forms a complete circle and should take about 28 blocks for the diameter of fire pit we are creating.

Madeline knows about cameras.

Madeline knows about cameras.

We are using the blocks for the fire pit from the old retaining walls by the basement walkout as these walls are being replaced with low boulder walls with proper drainage and grading.  We will have many more of these blocks than we can use in the fire pit project and most of them will be used to edge planting beds around the house.

We have been thinking about getting an umbrella for our patio table so Linda looked for one online.  Lowe’s had a selection, so we headed to our local store to see what they had in stock.  We found one we liked, got a base to go with it, and picked up four bags of paver base and two bags of paver sand.  There is a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the forecast, but if we get a break on the weather we will have the materials on hand to continue working on the fire pit tomorrow.  We would also like to get a small street-legal utility trailer that we can tow behind the Honda Element and the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  Lowe’s did not have anything like that so we stopped at Tractor Supply Company.  They had what I was looking for, sort of, but they were not street legal (no lights) and used a pin rather than a ball coupler.  We will keep looking.

Looking to the north.  There is a lot yard in that direction.

Looking to the north. There is a lot yard in that direction.


Linda made roasted vegetables for dinner (asparagus, onions, potatoes, and eggplant with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper) and served it with a simple green salad and a side of “power grains” consisting of red and white quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.  We finished off the evening with Season 1, Episode 3 of Doc Martin on Amazon Video, which we get as part of our Amazon Prime account.  Our AT&T High Speed Internet is not very fast, but it seems to be able to keep up with streaming video to an iPad, at least most of the time.




Lots of yard to play in at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Lots of yard to play in at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.