Monthly Archives: September 2014

2014/09/30 (T) To Indiana

Linda was up early again and off to the bakery.  I got up just before 8 AM, showered and shaved and had a grapefruit for breakfast.  I did not have any coffee.  I do not eat or drink on lot on days when I have to drive the bus.  I checked and adjusted the tire pressures on the bus while it was still cool and cloudy.  I then hooked up the car and checked the rear lights.  I spent the rest of the morning gathering up last minute things and loading them on the bus.  My plan was to leave at noon.  There were a lot of last minute things but I was packed and ready to go by 11:45 AM.

I called Linda to let her know I was getting ready to leave, secured the house, and took care of the final departure items.  I started the car, put it in D (drive) for 20 seconds, slipped it into neutral, made sure the parking brake was off, the steering wheel was free to turn, and the Pressure Pro repeater was plugged in.  The key has to be in the ignition switch and turned to the “on” position while the car is being towed so I travel with two car keys so I can lock the car.  I turned off the shore power to the bus, disconnected the power cord, and stowed it.  I closed up the utility (shore connections) bay, checked that the air accessories circuits were open in the DS front bay, checked that the inverter was working, and made a final check that all of the bays were closed and locked.

I secured the entrance door (from the inside), checked that everything was ready for travel on the interior, buckled myself in, and started the engine.  I gave it a minute to get oil flowing through the engine and start to build air pressure and then switched it to high idle to finish airing up the suspension and brake systems.  I switched the suspension system from Level Low mode to driving mode, pulled the tag axles up, let the suspension come back up to ride height, and slowly pulled out.  (Lifting the tag tires off the ground helps the bus make slow tight turns like the 180 degree turn to pull out of our pull-through driveway and into the street pointed in the right direction to get out to the main road.)  I stopped in the street to lower the tag axles, let the suspension readjust to ride height, and was finally on my way.  (The bus is not supposed to be moving when the tag axles are raised or lowered.)  The dashboard clock turned 12:00 when I was half way down our street.  That’s the departure drill.  The morning turned out to be busier than I would have liked, but that was pretty good time management, I would say.

It had rained hard around midnight and there was a heavy cloud layer all morning with occasional mist, so it was a cool, damp morning.  I took my usual route north on Hacker Road to M-59 west to I-96 west to the southwest corner of Lansing where I picked up I-69 south.  I stayed on I-69 into Indiana where I picked up US-20 west.  I always enjoy the drive across this stretch of US-20; it’s a 2-lane highway posted at 55 MPH (except through towns) and is hilly from I-69 west to the Elkhart area.  It is not unusual to see Amish buggies along this route but they were out in force today from Lagrange to Middlebury.  There was also road construction along the way so it was a slightly trickier and slower drive than normal.

I exited US-20 onto US-31 southbound and was immediately routed onto a new section of highway.  I have seen stretches of this highway under construction on trips to Twelve Mile Indiana over the last couple of years but this was the first time I had driven on it.  The road I used to take is now “Old US-31.”  The new highway rejoined the old highway near Plymouth, Indiana.  From this point south to Kokomo US-31 has long been a four lane divided highway, but not limited access.  At the point of rejoining one side was closed with traffic routed on the other side, making a 2-lane construction zone.  In spite of that I was able to keep rolling and made good time.  I was out of the construction quickly enough.

Once the highway made the turn back to the south near Rochester I was in the home stretch.  Another 10 miles and I saw the familiar communications towers that tell me to look for the barn on the east side of the highway at SR-16.  I made the turn onto SR-16 westbound and another 7 miles brought me to the heart of downtown Twelve Mile, Indiana where Butch and Fonda’s home and business are located.  (Twelve Mile, Indiana is 12 miles from Rochester, 12 Miles from Logansport, and 12 miles from Peru, thus the name.)  I pulled into the driveway for the grain elevator across the street from their parking area, let the engine idle for a few minutes to cool down and stabilize, and shut it down while I unhooked and parked the car.

Butch and Fonda had gotten home from a day of errands and family visits just before I arrived.  They unloaded groceries while I attended to my car.  Butch then served as spotter while I backed across SR-16 into their lot and got me parked next to their bus.  As parked, the coach was level side-to-side but low in the front.  I switched the suspension to Level Low, raised the front end, and shut off the engine.

I use their spare bedroom when I am here, so I unloaded clothing and technology items and took them inside.  I left all of my food onboard the bus, however, as I prepare my own (vegan) meals and usually eat breakfast and lunch in the coach by myself (if I even have lunch).  I try to prepare dinner and bring it in the house to eat with them if the timing works out, but tonight it did not.  They had a large, late lunch and I had a small, light breakfast and a handful of pretzel nibblers and peanuts (literally) for lunch.  Linda sent a lot of food with me for such a short trip, so I had a green salad and a hummus sandwich for dinner after which I settled in to visit for the evening.  My iPad remembered how to connect to their Wi-Fi and I got my ASUS laptop connected as well.  This is the first time the laptop has been to there place and only the second time it’s been out of the house since I bought it.

It was a bit strange seeing the place somewhat emptied out although there is still a lot of stuff there.  I was surprised at what the company in Nevada did not take, but Butch and Fonda both explained that the buyer had taken the stuff they were most likely to sell, had space to store, and could afford to ship 2,000 miles to Nevada.  Some remaining items with unique value may be sold but much of the remaining inventory will be sold as scrap.  Things are a bit chaotic at the moment as they had to move a lot of stuff to get to other stuff and are now going through their stuff trying to figure out what stuff to get rid of and how to get rid of it.  They are working towards being full-timers, so they have a big task ahead of them.


2014/09/29 (M) Full Converted (Not)

Linda was up at 5:45 AM.  Hey, it’s just a number.  I mean, who needs daylight?  She quietly got dressed and slipped out of the house to drive to the bakery.  This is how it’s going to be on days when she has to be physically present at the facility.  Unless I am away working on the bus.  In that case she probably does not worry about being quiet.

I got up around 7 AM and had a nice breakfast of homemade granola, orange/grapefruit juice, and coffee and then spent some time catching up on blogs that I follow.  Keith showed up around 9:30 AM to cut the grass.  Butch had called last night to ask Linda a question and asked that I call him when I had a chance.  Our company did not leave until after 9 PM last night, which was great, but too late to call Butch back so I called him this morning around 10:30 AM.

Butch had used a stop leak additive product to try to plug a leak in his Aqua-Hot main coolant loop but it did not work.  The Aqua-Hot is a Webasto-based diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  Rather than repair the Aqua-Hot, or replace it with another one, he decided to order an Oasis Combi unit from International Thermal Research.  The Combi has a lower BTU rating than the Aqua-Hot but is smaller, simpler, and uses stainless steel for some of the components.  It should be more than adequate for their bus, which is very well insulated, and give them years of trouble free service.

Butch and Fonda’s Aqua-Hot is a very similar model to ours and I will probably buy it from them as a source of spare parts.  His burner is fully functional, which ours is not at the moment, and the short term fix for our unit may be to just swap the burners.  I can then repair the defective burner at my leisure and have it available to swap back should the replacement ever develop a problem.

As a result of our conversation I decided that I will take our bus to their place tomorrow, leaving around noon and arriving between 4:30 and 5:00 PM.  In preparation for that trip I needed to gather up and organize parts, materials, and documentation for my initial set of projects.  I also needed to do laundry and select clothes for the trip.  I may also need to do some grocery shopping this evening unless Linda already has food in the house that I can take.  Tuesday morning I will have to load clothes and toiletries, hook up the car, check and adjust tire pressures, load computers and other last minute items, and get the bus ready for travel.

My main focus for Wed, Thu, and Fri will be the Aqua-Hot (no burn and leaky exhaust).  If we have time I would also like to finish installing the Zena 24 VDC power generating system and get it operational.  I will return on Friday afternoon/evening in the car as Butch and Fonda have plans for the weekend and I still have lots of things to take care of back at the house.

Keith finished up with the lawn a little before noon.  He will be back at least two more times, once in mid-October and again towards the end of the month.  Whether he cuts the grass in November or calls it quits for the season will depend on the weather between now and then.  His basic grass mowing season is April 1 through October 31 and he has his business insured for that range of dates, but he said he would come back in November if needed.  The grass should be dormant by then, but there may be a few leaves that still need to be mulched.  There could also be a foot of snow on the ground, so it will all depend on the conditions prevailing at the time.  During the mowing season he spends the work week living at their trailer/cabin at Haas Lake RV Park, which maybe 20 miles from our house, but by November 1 he is looking to move himself and his equipment back home to Milan for the winter.  Milan is at least 60 miles from our house, maybe a bit farther.

I spent a little time at my desk and decided to re-install WordPress 4.0 on the SLAARC, FMCA Freethinker, and FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches websites.  I re-installed it a couple of days ago on this (our personal) website, but I have not tried creating or editing image galleries since then so I do not know if the broken drag-n-drop feature has magically been repaired or not.  I suspect not, but Linda says I’m a pessimist.

I had a quick bite of lunch and then read a few more blog entries while I waited upstairs for Brandon from Bratcher Electric to show up and convert the whole house generator from propane to natural gas and do the annual maintenance and multi-point inspection.  He arrived at 2:15 PM and was here for about an hour.  I had him show me how to disable the generator as it has to be turned off anytime I want to shut off the power coming into the main distribution panel in the basement.  He did not have the correct length of flexible gas line and will come back on Friday to do the LP to NG conversion.  Besides disconnecting the propane and connecting the natural gas the conversion involves attaching two wires to a pair of corresponding terminals on the gas valve inside the unit and changing a setting in the controller.

While Brandon was working on the generator I started gathering things from the garage that I needed for tomorrow and loading them in the car and the bus.  We already have quite a few things staged to take to the Surplus and Salvage Rally next week, but I will take those things with me when I return to Butch and Fonda’s early next week.

Linda called at 4:35 PM to let me know she was on the way home.  I drained the water out of the fresh water tank on the bus as it had been sitting in there since June.  (Yuck.)  The fresh water hoses needed to be cleaned before I used them so I filled their storage tub half full of softened water and added some bleach.  I coiled them up, hooked the ends together, let them soak for a while, and then wiped them off with clean paper shop towels.  Much better looking, and probably and lot more sanitary.

Linda got home at 5:30 PM, a very quick trip for that time of day.  Butch had called just as she was getting home to let me know that he had spoken to someone who has two RV spots in Quartzite we can rent for a very reasonable price this winter.  Linda and I need to discuss it, and would like a few more details, but that probably makes more sense than trying to boondock our first time out there, especially as we do not yet have solar panel on the roof of our coach.

Linda made a nice green salad and heated up some of the lasagna from yesterday.  Italian bread with garlic “butter” and a glass of the 2009 Egri Merlot completed the meal.  We talked about our respective days, reminiscent of when we both worked outside the home.

After dinner I finished cleaning the fresh water hoses, filled the fresh water tank, and then drained and stored the hoses.  While I did that Linda gathered food items, bedding, and towels and put them aboard the bus.  It will still take me a few hours to get ready to leave tomorrow, but I should not be rushed getting everything done.

Linda heated up some of the apple/pear crisp for dessert after which we sat on the sofa and looked at highway maps on her iPad.  The map app on the iPad said the trip from our house to Quartzite, Arizona was about 2,100 miles and would take “1 day, 9 hours.”  That’s non-stop, of course; i.e., 24 + 9 = 33 driving hours.  That time works out to just under 64 MPH.  I typically drive the bus at 60 to 63 MPH on Interstate highways, but we do all of our trip planning based on 50 MPH.  That usually works out well at taking into account for fuel stops, rest stops, and non-Interstate roads.  This means our travel time will be more like 42 hours.  Our preference is to only travel 200 to 300 miles per day, or 4 to 6 hours a day, so the actual number of travel days will be between 10 and 7.  We like to spend more than one night at each stop, depending on what there is to see and do in the area, so the number of days it will take us to get to Quartzite will 2 to 3 times the number of driving days.  A lot of the details of our trip will be last minute decisions based on weather, but our “plan” is to leave December 1st and arrive in Quartzite by December 21st, more or less.


2014/09/28 (N) Oh Canada

Today was all about company—getting ready for company and having company—and this time our company was from Ontario, Canada.  Okay, they actually drove down from Frankenmuth, Michigan where they are staying at an RV Park, but they are Canadian citizens who reside in Canada when they are not traveling in their motorhomes.  Bill and Karen are fellow converted bus owners and members of both the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter and the Converted Coach Owners group.  Mike and Kathy have a purpose built class C motorhome and often travel with Bill and Karen.  Kathy is Bill’s sister.

Linda spent the morning preparing vegan lasagna and apple/pear crisp for baking later in the day while I worked at my desk on secretarial and financial duties for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.

Company arrived a little after 1 PM.  Linda took the ladies on a tour of the house while I took the guys on a tour of the property and then showed them around the house.  We had guys’ chat and gals’ chat for a while and then we all gathered around the table on the deck for some grapes and pretzels.  Linda put the lasagna in the oven at 3 PM and prepared a salad.  When the lasagna was done she put the apple/pear crisp in the oven to bake while we ate.  We sat down at 4 PM for dinner and had a very nice meal that included Italian bread and olive oil seasoned with pepper.  We opened a bottle of our 2009 Egri Merlot (it may have been our last one) and four of us had a small glass with dinner.

We continued our conversation on the deck after dinner and had our dessert out there. It was an absolutely perfect late September day.  When the sun got low in the sky we moved inside as it cools off quickly and the mosquitos come out.  We sat in the living room and talked until 9 PM.  By then it was dark and they still had a one hour drive back to their RV Park.  Kathy had rinsed off the dinner dishes, so Linda loaded the dishwasher and started it.  Linda packed her computer and gathered up all of the things she needed for tomorrow so she could get an early start for the bakery.  I will be home all day waiting for Bratcher Electric to show up and convert the whole house generator.  They are supposed to be here between 1 and 3 PM.  Karen took a few photos but I did take any, so I do not have any images to post from today.


2014/09/27 (S) Eat Cut Eat

Today was VE testing day for our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club so some of the members, who conduct the volunteer examinations, got to breakfast even earlier than usual.  We had a good crowd and many simultaneous conversations.  After breakfast we drove to Ann Arbor to return the charger for the baby monitor.  It got left at our house yesterday when Linda took Madeline home.  Madeline was dressed in her Michigan colors with a blue T-shirt and maize skirt.  She gave me a tour of her backyard and toys and then we all went inside to visit for a while.  Linda and I each got to read a book to her which is always a treat for us.  We all had things to do, and we wanted to get out of town before the football game traffic clogged the streets, so we headed home before lunchtime.

Back at the house Linda straightened up and vacuumed, put together a grocery list, and then went to Meijer’s (grocery store) while I finished cutting the grass around the house.  It took me a couple of more hours, but between yesterday and today I managed to cut all of the newly planted grass and some of the more mature grass close to the house.

It was another pleasantly warm late September day and I used that as an opportunity to start the main engine on the bus.  I let it run for a while with the over-the-road air-conditioning turned on to put a load on it and bring it up to operating temperature, which helps drive off moisture.  Linda got home with groceries while the bus was running and I helped her get those into the house.

I let the bus run on high idle for about 30 minutes with the over-the-road air-conditioning on, which brought the coolant temperature up to its normal operating level.  The oil also warmed up, but not fully.  Before shutting the engine off I backed the bus up about 5 feet to rotate the tires to a different spot.  I turned the a-c off, dropped the idle to low, and let it run another 5 minutes, during which time I drained the auxiliary air tank.  I then switched the suspension system from ride mode to Level Low mode and turned off the engine.  As usual, I turned off the chassis batteries, shut off the auxiliary air to the air-powered engine accessories, and closed the shutoff valves for all of the air accessory circuits in the bay under the driver’s seat, except the circuit for the toilet.  (Yes, the bus has an air-powered toilet.)

I put a load of laundry in the washer and then spent some time at my desk checking e-mail and websites.  I had an e-mail from Gary regarding an article in the upcoming September 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  They decided to run my article on the Parker FPM-50 Fuel Polishing Module project and wanted me to proofread it and respond to a few suggested markups.  I worked long enough for the washer to finish, moved the laundry to the dryer, and then shaved and took a shower.  By the time Linda finished her shower my hair was dry enough to cut, which it really needed.  We then got dressed to go out to dinner.  I checked the dryer but it was taking longer than I expected and clearly would not be done before we had to leave for the restaurant.

We had arranged at breakfast to meet Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (NF8C) Whitney for dinner at LaMarsa in Brighton at 6:30 PM.  Bruce and I both had mango smoothies (dairy free) and we got a veggie tray with hummus to share as an appetizer.  Although two dishes would have been plenty of food for the four of us, Linda (NF8C) wanted to sample their offerings.  There are basically four dishes on the menu we can eat so we ordered one of each.  Each came with soup so we all had the crushed lentil soup.  We had Koshary, Majadra, Ghallaba (garlic almond) and Mousaka (baked eggplant).  (We did not get the spicy version of any of these.)  It took the waitress a while to catch on to the fact that we were not going to order the whole meal at one time, but by ordering our courses one at a time we managed to spend a long time at dinner and had a great chat.

Back home I the set dryer on “Touch Up” and restarted it.  I proof read my BCM article and e-mailed clarifications to the editor and publisher.  I spent enough time on e-mail and websites for the dryer to finish, hung up the clothes, and played with my iPad for a little while.  I was tired enough that I just turned in for the night and did not even work of the blog or play games.  That’s pretty tired.


2014/09/26 (F) Hope Is Not A Strategy

Linda was up at 7:00 AM, I was up at 7:15 AM, and Madeline was up at 7:45 AM.  Marilyn got up later.  Given a choice she’s not a morning/breakfast person.  Linda got up first to prepare the batter for her fabulous vegan blueberry pancakes which she planned to serve with fresh fruit and real maple syrup.

I powered up my iPad2 and discovered that Apple had released iOS 8.0.2.  Apparently I was not the only person having some issues with the release, like sluggish response and a Bluetooth keyboard that quit working properly and then quit working altogether.  I tested the keyboard with my laptop computer last night and it worked fine, so I knew there wasn’t anything wrong with it.  I downloaded the iOS update and everything was back to normal (once I figured out how to re-pair the keyboard).  With any luck perhaps WordPress will also issue a maintenance release today and fix the completely broken drag-n-drop feature of the media gallery.  As Deb Wahlstrom said once in a workshop, “hope is not a strategy,” but when things are completely beyond your control hope is sometimes all you have.

Linda tried to use the griddle that fits over the oblong center burner of the new G. E. kitchen range to cook the pancakes but forgot to turn it down from the preheat setting, which produces a LOT of heat.  It burned the first pancakes firmly to the griddle.  Madeline was already in her high chair waiting for her breakfast, so Linda grabbed a non-stick frying pan and cooked the pancakes in that.  The fact that the griddle and the preheat feature are both new and that there was a certain pressure to get Madeline her breakfast was not an ideal combination for a first attempt at using the griddle.  I doubt that she will make that mistake again, and the frying-pan-cakes were still very good.  The fresh fruit turned out to be bananas, but that was OK; we all like bananas.

After breakfast I played with Madeline while Linda cleaned up from breakfast.  Karen called from Bratcher Electric to let us know that Brandon had called in sick and she needed to reschedule our generator conversion and service for Monday between 1 and 3 PM if that would work for us.  It was not ideal from my perspective as I was thinking about taking the bus to Butch and Fonda’s on Monday, but that could obviously wait until Tuesday or later.  If necessary I could delay taking it until after the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally.

I waited until Marilyn got up at 9:15 AM to make the coffee; we all like our morning coffee.  Linda was busy with Madeline by that point so Marilyn cooked her own breakfast.  There was enough batter left for two pancakes.  She’s always very helpful that way when she comes to visit.  We often have to insist that she just sit, relax, be our guest, and let us take care of things.  It’s really not a bother; we like having company and we do not expect them to work while they are here.  Of course, if they insist on helping with the dishes, who are we to deny them the joy of being of service?

Marilyn started packing at 10:45 AM while Linda gathered up Madeline’s things.  When it was time to load the car for the trip to Ann Arbor my job was to hold Madeline’s hand (actually, she held my finger) and get her out the front door, down the new steps/sidewalk, and over to the car.  (Hey, grandpa-ing is serious work.)  Although she understood that she was returning to her house where daddy and mommy would feed and play with her, she wasn’t quite ready to leave.  She and I “marched” up and down the driveway several times before she was ready/willing to let Grandma Linda put her in her car seat.  She is now big enough that the seat gets installed facing forward, which is a very big deal as she can now see where she’s going in life instead of where she has been.  Marilyn rode in the back to keep her entertained on the drive down.

The weather this week has been spectacular; a classic late September in Michigan with lows around 50, highs around 75, clear blue skies and light breezes.  I shut off the various thermostats and opened up the house.  I spent the early afternoon editing blog posts from the last couple of weeks and then off-loaded photos from our Sony alpha 100 SLR, organized them, and backed them up.  I stopped for a bite of lunch and then decided to have another go at the lawnmower.  If I cannot get it started I will have to take it somewhere and have it repaired.  🙁

I had already installed the new spark plug last night and that did not fix the problem.  I dumped the gas tank out into an open tub and put some of the fresh gas I bought last night into the tank.  I took the tub to some of our woods a good distance from our drinking water well and spread it around on some leaves.  Most of it will evaporate rather than soak in.  Not the most environmentally sound thing to do, but a lot safer than an open tub of gasoline.

Before I tried to start the engine I checked the back discharge chute, out of habit, to make sure the mulching insert was in place.  It was but there was a lot of dried grass as well and it had obviously not been cleaned out the last time it was used.  There was also a lot of fuzzy material mixed in with the grass, a sure sign that a mouse had taken up residence there at one time.  I removed the insert and shook it off into the tub and discovered that it still had a mouse in it.  The mouse was quite dead and very stiff but did not have any obvious injuries and did not emit any odor.  It was in surprisingly good conditions, so perhaps being encased in the dried grass and fuzz helped preserve it.  It was not trapped so it is a mystery why it stayed in there and died.  The mower was in our garage all winter, and although it got very cold (-20 F) the mouse would not have been trapped in the garage either; there are gaps around the doors that would easily allow a field mouse to come and go.  (Now that we have the garage furnace, sealing the doors is on my project list.)

With the discharge chute cleaned up the mower started on the first pull !!!  (This is something Honda has bragged about in the advertising in the past.)  I let it run for a while on high throttle to warm it up and make sure it had fresh gas all the way through the fuel system.  I then brought the throttle back to idle to let it cool off and stabilize and then shut it off.  I did not think it was going to start so I was not wearing my safety goggles or gloves.  I usually wear hearing protectors as well, but I could not find them.  (I realized later they were probably in the construction equipment tub we took with us last summer.  I will look there tomorrow.)  I topped off the tank with fresh fuel and it started on the first pull again.  The new spark plug is a more aggressive design that is supposed to spark more easily and that may have helped.  Whatever the reason, I like how easily it now starts.

I spent an hour cutting the grass in the immediate vicinity of the house.  I focused in particular on the areas that Keith does not get with his riding mower and areas that were disturbed (destroyed) and re-seeded as part of the landscaping work and re-seeded again by me (twice).  The new grass is coming in fairly well at this point although there are still a few thin spots.  And even though Keith mowed most of this new grass on his last visit it was getting tall again.  I was surprised how moist much of the grass was, especially in areas that are now mostly shaded throughout the day, as we have not had any rain in the last week.  Keith had mentioned the last time he was here that the grass was very moist; “…more like April/spring grass than September/fall grass.”  I did not get everything mowed.  I still have to do the two slopes by the retaining walls in the back, which are steep and physically demanding even with a self-propelled mower, and most of the west end of the house.  It will take me at least another hour to finish but I had done enough for today and wanted to relax for a little while before Linda got home.  Besides, it will be there tomorrow, and it should be a nice day to work outside.

Linda called around 4:35 PM and left messages letting me know that she had dropped Marilyn at the airport and was starting for home.  That drive would take close to an hour in light traffic, so I figured I would not see her before 6 PM.  She pulled in the driveway at 6:10 PM.

We had three left over salads for dinner: chickpea; Farro with cranberries, and; wild rice with apples and raisins.  Easy and delightful.  Marilyn texted Linda several times to let us know her travel status.  Her flight was delayed almost an hour but eventually took off and got her safely back to St. Louis, Missouri.  We were both tired and turned in early, but I got my second wind after I located a service manual online for a model of Aqua-Hot that is very similar to the one in our bus and started reading about how to diagnose what might be wrong with our unit.  Based on the symptoms my current best guess is a stuck fuel valve or defective fuel valve solenoid.


2014/09/25 (R) Two M’s

Linda made zucchini bread and muffins a week or so ago.  We ate all of the muffins within a couple of days but she froze some of the bread.  She took the bread out of the freezer last night to let it thaw so we could have it for breakfast this morning.  She warmed it up and made a fruit salad to go with it, along with our usual fruit juice and coffee.  Marilyn took advantage of her visitor status and slept in so we had breakfast without her and she ate when she finally got up.

Madeline in her sofa-bed with her Winnie-the-Poor sleep sack.

Madeline in her sofa-bed with her Winnie-the-Poor sleep sack.

I was working on the electrical outlets in the garage when Brendan arrived at 9:45 AM with Madeline in tow.  Meghan arrived around 10 AM, so Madeline had all the “buddies” here to admire her.  I finished my electrical work, touched up some drywall compound, and then got cleaned up.  I was once again the designated reader and got to read three books to Madeline.  She had lunch at noon and her dad got her down for a nap around 12:30 PM.  Meghan is still experimenting with foods, so she left to do her grocery shopping on the way home.

The "buddies" (L-2-R): Brendan, Marilyn, Meghan, and Linda.  (Not shown: Bruce, taking the photo.)

The “buddies” (L-2-R): Brendan, Marilyn, Meghan, and Linda. (Not shown: Bruce, taking the photo.)

Brendan stayed for lunch and a long chat.  He was thinking about leaving when he decided to check out my old Toyo view camera.  He figured the students in his history of photography class at the University of Michigan had probably never seen one and wanted to take it in for them to see.  He also wanted to have it at his house to play with.  We found it and checked that all the parts were there and he loaded it into his car along with the tripod and dolly (studio roller base).  Madeline started to wake up so he made his exit.  She doesn’t seem the least bit concerned if he’s not here when she wakes up, but is momentarily distressed if she sees him leave.

Flowers along the Mill Pond boardwalk (Brighton, MI).

Flowers along the Mill Pond boardwalk (Brighton, MI).

Madeline is spending the night tonight so we will two M’s here the rest of the day and tomorrow morning.  Linda and Marilyn will take Madeline back to Ann Arbor tomorrow in time for lunch and her 1 PM nap.  Madeline has swimming on Fridays at 4 PM so Linda and Marilyn will leave before that and stop at Whole Foods Market before taking Marilyn to Detroit Metropolitan Airport for her evening flight back to St. Louis.

I took a few minutes to check e-mail while Madeline was napping.  This morning I had tightened up the Wordfence parameters on the FMCA-GLCC site and switched the caching from the faster Falcon Engine to the Basic setting in order to fully activate country blocking.  I only had a few failed login attempt e-mails so I think it made a difference, but only time will tell.  I also white listed our own IP address to make sure we did not get locked out if we mis-typed our login credentials.

Madeline with Grandma Linda on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Madeline with Grandma Linda on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

I had an e-mail from my niece, Amanda, with a couple of pictures of her daughter, Lilly, a very pretty and sweet-tempered child about six weeks younger than Madeline.  We saw them in late June and will like try to visit again en route to the southwest this winter, weather permitting.  If not, we will certainly try to stop in the area on the way back in the spring.

When Madeline awoke from her nap we let he play long enough to fully wake up and then we all went to downtown Brighton.  We walked the boardwalk along the east edge of the Mill Pond and saw a Painted Turtle, an egret, some fish, and lots of ducks and geese.  We then took the pedestrian bridge to the west side of the pond where the playscape is located.  The playscape is a wonderful place with structures built to suggest animals and Madeline explored it thoroughly with Grandma Linda’s help while I took pictures.  It also has an area with chalk boards and a mailbox full of sidewalk chalk that the kids can use to draw.  Madeline spent quite a while trying all the different colors.

Madeline with Grandma Linda at the playscape by the Brighton Mill Pond.

Madeline with Grandma Linda at the playscape by the Brighton Mill Pond.

We stopped by Lowe’s on the way home to return the spark plug I bought last night and get the correct one.  By the time we got back to the house Madeline was hungry so Linda got her dinner ready right away.  For our meal Linda prepared a green salad with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries topped with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing (one of our favorites) and a one pot meal of quinoa with black beans, corn, and onions.  Linda and I finished the Red Guitar Sangria with dinner (Marilyn does not drink alcoholic beverages).

Madline working with chalk at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

Madline working with chalk at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

Madeline played quietly with Linda for a while as I chatted with Marilyn. Before we knew it, it was time for Madeline to go to bed.  The time between dinner and bed always seem short compared to other intervals during the day.  She is always very good about bedtime and went without a fuss.  Linda spent about 30 minutes getting something ready to e-mail to the bakery software vendor while Marilyn played Words With Friends and I researched where we could buy more Red Guitar Sangria.  It is available at the Meijer’s stores in our area and is very reasonably priced so we will probably get some more.  We had apple crisp for dessert after which Linda and Marilyn played three-way online Scrabble with each other and their brother Ron in Pennsylvania.



"I think this color goes right here."

“I think this color goes right here.”

Madeline is a very good-natured and relatively calm child but when she is awake she is full engaged with the world around her.  We were all tired after a long but very satisfying day of visiting and turned in without watching any TV.


2014/09/22 (M) Hot Water

Linda was up early to beat the morning traffic heading into Detroit from our part of S. E. Michigan.  On days when she has to go to the bakery she likes to get up and go and does not have breakfast at home.  Not that she doesn’t get something to eat; she’s spending the day working at a bakery after all.

I tend to stay up later at night than she does, so I also tend not to spring out of bed at oh-dark-thirty unless I have someplace I have to be at daybreak.  My job is to hear the alarms (we set several) and make sure Linda wakes up.  I am then free to pursue the rest of my day on my own timeline.  Today, however, I wanted to make sure I was up and dressed not later than 8 AM as there was a possibility that TOMTEK would be here to convert the hot-water base-board heating system boiler from propane to natural gas and/or that D. R. Electric Appliance would deliver and install our new natural gas kitchen range.  I did not, however, know if/when either of those things would happen so I was “stuck” at the house all day either waiting for phone calls.

I was dealing with e-mail when Tom called at 9:15 AM to let me know they had the part for our boiler and that he could be at our house around 10 AM if that was OK.   “Absolutely!”  I decided to bleed out whatever propane might be left in the 1/2″ line that feeds the kitchen and outdoor grill connector.  The pipe into the house was open to the outside for a while so I did not know how much propane, if any, even remained in the line.  I opened the shutoff valve in the laundry room for that line and then opened the outside valve for the gas grill.  Nothing.

It turns out that the quick-disconnect is a self-sealing device.  When the mating part is not plugged in, no gas can get out.  I should have known that, and it’s obvious that it should work that way, but I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment.  I closed the outside valve and then closed the shutoff valve in the basement and figured I (or the installer) would deal with that branch of the piping when the new range shows up.  I did not concern myself with the pipe to the furnace, which has its own shutoff valve, as I figured Tom would bleed the line before he started the unit.

Tom arrived about 10:20 AM.  He had the right part and he knew how to replace it.  The part (an orifice plate) was just a thin piece of metal, probably aluminum, with a hole about the size of a quarter in the center of it (the orifice) and several other holes for screws to pass through or other purposes.  I’m always trying to understand our technology and he let me observe and ask questions while he worked.  Tom disconnected a small vacuum hose, removed three or four screws, lowered the blower housing, slid the old propane orifice plate out, slid the new natural gas orifice plate in, reattached the blower housing, and our boiler was converted to natural gas.  Just like that.

Once he had the new natural gas orifice plate installed and everything reassembled he put gas to the furnace and turned on the electrical power.  It took a few seconds to purge the air and residual propane from the gas pipe but the burner lit and stayed lit on the first try.  He checked for gas leaks as it warmed up.  (He used an electronic sniffer rather than soapy water.)  He did not find any gas leaks but I noticed some condensation dripping from the flue pipe onto the top of the unit.  He shut the furnace off and let it cool down enough to handle the flue pipe and found that a joint between two sections was leaking.  He pulled it apart, applied a sealant, and put it back together nice and tight.  He turned the furnace on again and the leak did not reappear.  We did notice, however, that there was a similar leak at the next joint downstream.  I moved a spare macerator pump from under that joint and put a bucket there to catch any drips, although stains on the underside of the flue pipe indicated that this leak had existed for a while and that condensation leaking at that point had run back downhill towards the boiler along the underside of the pipe.  We may need to eventually have all of the joints resealed all the way to the outside.

I turned all of the thermostats on and set the temperatures a few degrees above ambient so they would call for heat and Tom monitored the temperature and pressure of the coolant as the unit heated up.  At 140 degrees F the pressure was between 35 and 40 PSI.  Tom said it should be closer to 20 PSI at that temperature, so he drained some of the coolant out of the system into a bucket.  As water trickled into the bucket the pressure dropped accordingly. The system eventually heated up to just under 180 degrees F, which is where it normally operates, and the pressure stayed below 25 PSI.  He put the covers back on the unit and gathered up his tools while I wrote a check and paid him for the service call. After he left I took a nice hot shower, the first one since last Wednesday morning.  ;-0

While I was doing chores around the house I got a call from Marilyn in the AT&T billing department.  She called to let me know that they were crediting our bill to compensate for the lack of usable service in August.  I got a call later from Shelley from the Office of the President (of AT&T) following up on our MPSC complaint.  I told her that the POTS and DSL had been working just fine since Bill was here to repair our service.  She had requested the billing credit and said she would report back to the commission that everything was repaired to our satisfaction.  I told her I would confirm that if contacted by the MPSC.

Today was shaping up to be a very good day.  It was sunny outside with light winds, puffy clouds, and afternoon high temperatures in the low 60’s; a little brisk, perhaps, but cheerful and very refreshing.  Earlier in the day I noticed the road grader going up and down our street smoothing out the bumps and filling in the holes.  With a forecast of no rain and high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70’s for the next week the road should be decent to drive on for a while.

Some of the difficulty we have had this summer getting contractors to show up reminded me of a joke that Steven Wright told years ago on an HBO comedy show.  It went something like this:  “I walked up to the deli entrance and the sign said ‘Open 24 Hours’ so I tried the door but it was locked.  While I was standing there the owner walked up and unlocked the door.  I said to him ‘Your sign says ‘Open 24 Hours’.’  He just looked at me and said ‘We are, but not in a row’.”

I’m starting to wonder if the kitchen range is going to turn out to be another example of “tell the customer whatever you think they need to hear to get them to make the purchase.”  The difference in this case is that we have not given D. R. Electric Appliance a deposit or a credit card number, so if delivery is delayed much longer we can walk away from the deal with nothing to lose except time.  We probably won’t, as that would just further delay getting a new NG range, but it’s nice to know that we at least have that option if this drags on any longer.  We were told “three days” and based our decision to order from them in part on that information.

With respect to the conversion or our generator from propane to natural gas, our new NG fireplace logs, and our new NG outdoor grill, our hands are basically tied.  We either have parts on order, for which we have already paid, don’t have a choice of contractor, or have made the choice not to look for another contractor as that would simply involve more delay and the uncertainty of working with someone we have not worked with before.  Still, it’s a little frustrating that we can’t get this stuff taken care of.  The real issue for me is that I need to take our bus to Butch and Fonda’s place to work on it, and I cannot do that until all of the natural gas related work is done.  The other issue is that we do not want to contact Consumer’s Energy (natural gas) and AmeriGas (propane) until all of our gas appliances are switched over.  Consumer’s Energy “requires” us to accomplish this within 30 days of hanging the meter, which occurred one week ago today, so we do not have an unlimited amount of time to get this stuff taken care of.

Interestingly, I learned at breakfast on Saturday that two of our ham radio club members had contacted Bratcher Electric based on my recommendation.  Mike had already been to one of their houses, quoted them a whole house generator installation, gotten a signed contract and a deposit, and given them an installation date.  The other guy had a scheduled appointment for Mike to come out and give him a quote.  Mike looked at our job five weeks ago and I don’t have a price or a service date scheduled yet.  What’s up with that?!  I did not want to spoil today’s winning streak, however, so I chose not to make follow up phone calls today.  Tomorrow morning, however…

We were both tired and turned in early to watch episode 2 of Ken Burns “The Roosevelts: An Intimate Portrait.”  I was putting the finishing touches on this post afterwards and noted the occurrence of the autumnal equinox at 10:39 PM EDT.


2014/09/20 (S) Bus Talk

All days have the same number of hours.  How those hours are divided up between light and dark, awake and asleep, busy or at leisure, varies with each day.  Basically, our day went like this:

  • We went to our weekly SLAARC breakfast in South Lyon.
  • We returned home so Linda could get to work on the bakery software conversion project.  She did that all day except for a break to go for a walk.
  • I called D. R. Electric Appliance to check on the range.  As I had figured it did not arrive yesterday (they would have called if it did).  They supposedly ordered it on Tuesday and told me it would take three days to get.  They do not receive product on the weekend so maybe Monday.
  • I worked at my desk on editing and uploading blog posts until 11:30 AM.
  • I went to Recycle Livingston with our weekly load.
  • I stopped at Lowe’s for a 250VAC/15A circuit breaker, outlet, and box.
  • Lowe’s parking lot connects to Walmart’s parking lot, so I stopped there for ICE brand flavored sparkling water and picked up a couple of bottles of  Leelanau Cellars Witch’s Brew seasonal spiced wine.  We had this last fall and enjoyed it.
  • When I got back to the house we had a light lunch of sourdough pretzel nibblers and hummus and then resumed our work.
  • By mid-afternoon I was tired so I took a nap.  I often do better sleeping when I’m tired rather than when I am supposed to sleep.  I also wanted to be rested enough to enjoy dinner this evening.
  • We met Chuck at the Carrabba’s at West Oaks Mall at 7 PM.  He had arrived ahead of us so we only had to wait about 20 minutes to get a table.  Linda and I both had the Tag Pic Pac, one their two vegan options.  It was long, relaxed meal and a great conversation, some of which was about buses (Chuck and Barbara also own a Prevost H3-40 converted coach).  We pulled out of the parking lot a little before 10 PM.
  • Back home we watched season 5 episode 8 (final) of Doc Martin.

That was our day and did not include construction projects or taking photographs.


2014/09/19 (F) Renewed Acquaintance

After I installed iOS8 on my iPad2 yesterday morning my Logitech Bluetooth keyboard seemed to change its behavior, giving me double letters in some cases and feeling a little sluggish in its response.  The keyboard itself has not changed, so I presume this has something to do with iOS8.  I also presume the keyboard batteries have not run down already, but I suppose that is a possibility.  If so, I will be replacing them once a week.  While creating an image gallery for the SLAARC WordPress website last night I noticed that the drag and drop feature of the gallery editor did not work.  I upgraded to WP Version 4.0 about a week ago but this was the first time I had tried to use the gallery feature.  If there is a problem with this feature there is no way that I am the first person to discover it and I presume WordPress is aware of it.  I find it strange, however, that they have not released a maintenance update fixing it since an improved and more visual editor was a major feature of the 4.0 release.

A few weeks back I re-established contact through Linked-In with a colleague from 10 years ago.  Jim was Director of General Education Services at Livingston Educational Service Agency at the time and we went through NCA Ambassador training together.  It turns out that he lives and works in the Brighton area, so we are now neighbors of sorts.  He suggested we meet up for coffee and I finally called him this morning to arrange that.  We both had time at 1:30 PM today and agreed to meet at the Panera on Grand River Avenue by I-96 at that time.

Linda got the new Global Bake bakery software installed on her laptop yesterday so this morning she was able to start working on the software conversion process in earnest.  Her work requires a lot of concentration, and she gets very focused when doing it, so I went to my office to continue working on editing blog posts and photos.

In checking my e-mail I noticed that I was still getting failed login attempts from foreign countries on this site and on the FMCA GLCC website, which is sub-domain of this site, in spite having installed the premium (paid) version of the Wordfence Security plug-in.  I looked at the installed plug-ins for the GLCC website and discovered that I had one named “Limit Login Attempts” that I did not have installed on our personal website or the other two sites I manage.  I surmised that this plug-in might be doing just what the name implied and in the process preempting Wordfence from ever doing its job.  I deactivated it and saw a reduction in failed attempts, with none from outside North America, suggesting that the country blocking feature of Wordfence was now working properly.  I saw a similar drop in failed login attempts on our personal website when I activated the country blocking feature for all countries except the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  Only time will tell, however, if Wordfence is indeed blocking login attempts from outside North America.

We had hummus and apples for lunch after which I hung up one load of laundry and put another load in the washer.  I left at 1 PM to have time to stop at Best Buy to get something to clean our various touch screens and monitors.  Traffic was very heavy in the I-96 and Grand River Avenue shopping area, but Best Buy is in the same shopping complex as the Panera, so I made it there on time.  Jim and I talked for almost two hours and which covered the highlights of the last eight years.

Back home I kept my focus on getting the blog caught up.  Linda wrapped up her work for the day and we finished the bottle of Alpha Rose from Red Trail Vineyards while she fixed a simple but tasty dinner of vegan burgers and corn.  I got a call from Butch letting me know that the company in Nevada had arranged for a semi and taken all of the parts they plan to take.  Everything that is left is Butch and Fonda’s to do with as they please.  The important thing for us is that I can now take our bus down there at my convenience.  I would like to get all of the natural gas related work taken care of and put the finishing touches on the garage project before I move the bus, but I may go ahead and move it next week if the scheduling of contractors works out.

During the evening I had an exchange of TXT messages with Chuck.  He had ordered some miniature 24VDC light bulbs (1829s) that are used in our bus dashboards and the order had arrived.  Rather than go to his shop after breakfast tomorrow we arranged to meet him for dinner tomorrow night.  I also got a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint.  She had a new customer who just bought a mid-1990’s Prevost XL converted coach and she gave him my name and phone numbers in case he had any questions about the rig.  We agreed that we would try to find time during the GLCC Surplus and Salvage a Rally to work on the article I started last year about the process she used to repair the body and roof of our coach, seal and coat the roof, and paint the body.  We capped off the evening with the second to last episode of Season 5 of Doc Martin. We need to return the DVDs to the Howell Library on Sunday, so we want to make sure we get through all of the episodes for Season 5.


2014/09/18 (R) Crown Prep Anniversary

I woke up early and got up at 6 AM.  A two hour nap yesterday afternoon meant I was not going to sleep as many hours last night.  I had also set alarms to make sure I got up, which tends to make me wake up earlier than I might otherwise, almost always before the alarms ever activate.  I awoke to find that iOS8 was now available for my iPad2, so I installed six other updates first, some of which emphatically wanted to be installed before the iOS8 update.  I had some raspberry green tea while they uploaded and installed, e-mailed yesterday’s blog post to myself, updated the beginning of this blog post, and then initiated the operating system update.

I suppose “Crown Prep” might be shorthand for “The Royale Preparatory Academy” or some such place and Crown Prep Anniversary might have something to do with an important event at said place but, alas, in my case it meant, more or less, just what it says.  We bought our converted bus five years ago today, a 1991 Prevost H3-40 VIP shell converted by Royale Coach (Monaco) and finished in the fall of 1992.  I also had a dentist appointment today to prepare my recently root-canaled tooth for a permanent crown.  The appointment was at 8:30 AM some 50 miles away in Dearborn, Michigan, which meant I had to be out the door around 7 AM to allow for the heavy traffic inbound to the metro Detroit area from the northwest.  The traffic was even worse than I expected and I pulled into the dental clinic parking lot at 8:29 AM.  I really hate rush hour traffic and avoided it even when I was working full time.  It is such a colossal waste of time.

The U. S. Census Bureau considers Livingston County to be part of the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).  Locally, many people think of Metro Detroit as Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties while the MSA includes Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair Counties as well.  Washtenaw County to the south of us, where our children live, is not part of the Detroit MSA but is part of the larger Detroit “Combined Statistical Area” (CSA) along with Genesee and Monroe Counties.  Having been “west siders” since we moved to the area from Missouri in 1976, Lapeer and St. Clair Counties have always seemed far away while the communities in Livingston and Washtenaw Counties were much more accessible to us.  When I was working as an engineer I was employed by a company in Livingston County and by three different companies in Washtenaw County, specifically Ann Arbor.

I am not clear on the point at which communities, and individuals in those communities, do or do not think of themselves as living in the “Detroit Metro Area” (DMA) which is quite a different thing from the official U. S. Census Bureau boundaries.  My guess is that Howell very clearly sees itself as distinct from the DMA.  My suspicion is that folks in Brighton are split on this, although the community would no doubt like to be viewed as outside the DMA.  The western half of Livingston County is certainly much closer to Lansing, the state capital in the heart of Ingham County, both geographically and culturally.  Western Livingston County and most of Ingham County are rural/agricultural, except for the greater Lansing and East Lansing area (home of Michigan State University).  The eastern half of Livingston County has long been a place from which people commute to work in metro Detroit.

The fact is that being associated with Detroit has not been viewed as favorable by many people and communities in southeast Michigan since the riots of the late 1960’s.  Those events left deep scars on the people who were here at the time, and for many those scars remain to this day.  Not for us, of course; we were not even here then.  And we are the wrong people to ask about affiliations anyway.  We lived in an apartment in Westland for our first two years here and then bought the house in Farmington Hills where we lived for the next 35 years before moving to the “Browelland” (Brighton, Howell, Hartland) area.  Westland and Farmington Hills are clearly Detroit suburbs, like it or not.

I took a survey and Linda said she thought we still lived in the Detroit Metro Area.  I suppose I think so too, but you won’t find many five acre parcels zoned RA (agricultural residential) in the true suburbs of the big city, nor the dark skies and bright stars we have out here on a clear night.  No, we are clearly not in a suburb of Detroit, but that was not my question.  We are kind of in the country but only minutes from all three of the aforementioned municipalities.  For that matter we are not actually in the cities of Brighton, Howell, or Hartland.  Even though we have a Howell mailing address we are actually closer to both Brighton and Hartland and if we had school age children they would attend the Hartland schools.  And when we lived in the suburbs I did not have to drive 50 miles to get to the dentist, 30 miles to get to our vet or eye doctor, or 20 miles to get to our family doctor.  Of course the drive is about the same to get to our ham radio breakfasts and meetings in South Lyon as it was before and we do not have to drive 40 miles to get to our bus, which is now parked in front of the house.  We are also trying to “shop local” as much as possible, which means we are shopping at a wide variety of places we never patronized when we lived in the suburbs of Detroit.  But I digress.

After I was done at the dentist’s office I drove to our veterinarian’s office, just a couple of miles from our old house, to pick up flea and heart worm medication for our cats.  I took a quick drive through the old neighborhood.  It was a nice place to live and has not changed, at least in appearance.  I had a good experience with the local endodontist last week, however, and today’s drive reminded me that we should probably switch to service providers much closer to home for most of our medical and veterinary needs.  But that is not a decision to be made simply on convenience.  We have used our current providers for over 35 years and given how infrequently we use them we have not been motivated to change.  We have been to the dentist a lot this summer, however, so that at least has us thinking about it more seriously.

I stopped for fuel and then at Lowe’s for a keyless door latch/knob set for the utility closet.  They did not have distilled water and I tried two other places before ending up finding some at Meijer’s.  Linda was preparing lunch when I finally got home and had sorted through and organized a large stack of installation and user manuals I had pulled out of kitchen drawer this morning.  Some were left for us by the previous owners, some were for things we have bought since we moved here, and some were for things we no longer have, or have but no longer use.  We went through a small stack of items she wasn’t sure about and then stored everything we needed to keep in a drawer in the small bedroom closet organizer.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening, except for dinner, editing photographs for our personal website/blog and the SLAARC website.  I also took a few minutes to enjoy the last of the apple crisp and a glass of Alpha Rose wine with Linda.  It’s been bugging me since yesterday that I could not positively identify the very distinct nose and taste of this wine, so Linda did a little online research on the King of the North grape.  Both the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota described it as a vine that grows very well in cold northern climates but is very acidic and has a very “grapey” taste that is not really suitable for making wine.  That information helped me figure out the smell/taste.  It was grape soda; really really good grape soda.  Those descriptions did not alter my opinion of the wine.  I like fruit and I like sweet, and I love the nose and the taste as well as the acidic finish is indeed very clean and refreshing.

Linda was watching episode 1 of Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts when I came up from the basement, so we watched that instead of an episode of Doc Martin.


2014/09/17 (W) Hooked Up

I figured Darryll would be here on Friday but he called a little after 8 AM this morning to see if he could come today and finish up.  I was going to check around to see what sort of price and delivery I could get on the boiler conversion, but with Darryll coming this morning I decided it was not worth trying to save a hundred bucks and risk an even longer delay in getting the furnace converted.  I called TOMTEK back and left a message with the secretary, Virginia, to let Tom know that we were getting the gas hooked up to the house today and that we needed him to come convert the boiler at his earliest convenience.  I also assured her that we would be fine without the boiler for a few days as we are not yet into freezing temperatures at night.  The biggest inconvenience will be the lack of hot water for bathing and washing dishes.  Linda can use our microwave oven, induction cooker from the bus, and our electric toaster oven to fix a wide range of meals.  We also have a microwave oven on the bus as well as a Gaggenau 2-burner electric cooktop and we have a Jenn-Air electric range/oven/grill/fryer/etc. in the recreation room in the basement.  We checked out the Jenn-Air when we moved in but have never cooked on it.  Once I get the extension hose with quick disconnect for the new gas grill we will also be able to cook on that if we want or need to.  We do most of our laundry with cold water, so that is not an issue.

Darryll must have called us from the road.  We had just finished breakfast (re-heated homemade cinnamon rolls and fresh grapefruit) and I was headed outside to move the cars so he could back his truck up to the garage when he pulled into the other end of the pull-through driveway.  Most of his work today involved completing the connections from the natural gas meter to the new 2″ black iron pipe and the old 1″ pipe that currently feeds propane to the house.  All of that work was on the east end of the house so he parked his van there to be as close that location as possible.  His dad came with him this time to help out.

We let our dishwasher finish its cycle and then turned off the boiler, closed the gas shut off valve, closed the shut off valve for the line feeding gas to the range, grill, and old breezeway heater (since removed).  Darryll they shut off the propane to the house at the tank and disconnected the supply line and pressure regulator from the house. He disconnected the supply line on the other end from the pressure regulator at the tank and installed a plug in the outlet.  I used short lengths of 10AWG electrical wire to secure the covers on both propane tanks.  The wires are just twisted, and while easily undone, the covers cannot just be pulled up without untwisting them first.

The old pipe that carried propane into the house is below the gas meter to the left and the new 2″ pipe is at the level of the meter and to the right.  The consumer connection outlet from the meter is a 1.25″ threaded nipple coming out of a shutoff valve below the right lower corner of the meter.  Darryll came out of that nipple and installed an elbow going back towards the house, a short piece of pipe and then a T with the opposing ends horizontal.  From there he was able to adapt down to 1″ i.d. pipe going to the left behind the meter and gas line and use various fittings to bring it around and connect it to the old pipe sticking out of the wall.  He put a union in there to make it possible to assemble all of this.  He went to the right out of the T and used an adapter to go up in size to 2″ i.d. and then elbowed up and over to line up with the 2″ pipe running along the side of the house.  He extended the 2″ pipe and somewhere in there installed a 2″ union, again, to make it possible to assemble all of these pieces.  The number of fittings and the geometry of their assembly was fairly impressive but it was a very neat installation when he was done.

This was a big project, and although Darryll is done with his part of the work the project is not finished.  Rather than post photos as the work has gone along I will be creating a page on our website just for this project and posting several photo galleries illustrating the major steps.

We had a small bird of prey in the back yard this morning being badgered by four very large Blue jays.  When sitting on the ground with its wings folded in it was about the same size as the Blue jays, definitely too small to be a Red Tailed Hawk, but I could not get a good enough look at its wings, tail, or underside markings to identify it.  The Blue jays kept swooping down at it and then it would suddenly take flight and go after one of them.  It appeared to be fast and very maneuverable, so I think the Blue jays were playing a dangerous game.

I called Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting and talked to Bob.  We agreed on the 12 foot extension hose kit and Bob said he would get in on order today.  Country Squire only gets deliveries from their American Hearth distributor every other Friday and the 26th is their next scheduled delivery date.  If our order does not arrive then it will be another two weeks before it gets here.  Obviously we won’t be heating the living room before the furnace gets converted or cooking on the grill before we get the new range unless something goes very, very wrong with those items.

I got a call back from Valerie at TOMTEK to let us know they would hold a service appointment for us on Monday, assuming the part comes in by then.  By definition, that has to be acceptable as there isn’t anything I can do to change it.  I have been a bit annoyed with myself, however, for not checking on all of this sooner and contacting TOMTEK sooner so they had the part in hand when it was time.

While Darryll was working on the meter tie-in I unscrewed the brass flare fitting that connected the old propane fire logs to the 1/2″ i.d. black iron supply pipe.  I then removed the fire log unit from the fireplace and moved it to the garage.  There was already a plug sitting in the fireplace box for the end of the iron pipe, but I left that for Darryll to connect after he had spliced a shutoff valve into the pipe outside the house just before it enters the side of the brick chimney and goes into the firebox.

I noted that the dials on the gas meter had not moved since it was installed and pressurized on Monday.  Darryll finished the iron pipe connections, opened the outlet valve, and put natural gas to the house and the new 2″ iron pipe.  After the pipe filled with gas we noted the readings on the meter dials.  He checked for leaks with his soapy water solution and did not find any.  Darryll made a light pencil mark on the 1/2 cu. ft. per revolution (rotation) dial.  He then opened the gas valve to the library furnace and checked for leaks downstream of the valve.  He did not find any so he turned it on and set the thermostat up.  It took a couple of tries to purge the remaining air out of the line and get the burner to light, but once it started it ran really nice.  He then opened the gas valve to the garage furnace and checked for leaks downstream of the valve.  Again, he did not find any so he turned the power on at the ceiling switch, turned the thermostat on, and turned the temperature up to start the unit.  There was only a small amount of air left in the 1/2″ i.d. line and the unit lit right up and purred like a kitten.  (OK, roared like a small lion.)

These are not dramatic moments but they are significant ones.  After numerous visits spanning more than six weeks, and a myriad of steps integrating various technologies, you flip a switch and voila, you have a functioning furnace; or two, in our case.  Darryll let both furnaces run long enough to burn off some manufacturing oils which sometimes produce smoke from the supply registers and cause homeowners to freak out.  He shut the units off at the thermostats and waited to make sure they would actually cycle off.  They did, so there wasn’t anything left to do except pack up and head for home, stopping to get some lunch for his dad on the way.  He will mail us the final invoice once he has it figured out.  It’s nice to do business we people that trust us.

I called D. R. Appliance to let them know we had natural gas to the house and to find out what they do with the old units they haul away.  Curt said they would be able to bring the new unit and install it very quickly after they receive it.  There’s a chance that will be on Friday or Saturday, which would be really nice.  As I suspected (feared) they take the old unit to a dump.  I asked if they would drop it at Salvation Army but they were reluctant to do that, even though I did not see where it would be inconvenient for them.

According to Curt the Salvation Army is very picky about what they will take.  I figured they would go right past the donation center on their way back to the appliance store but Curt pointed out that their next delivery and installation might well be in the opposite direction and he clearly did not want his delivery/installer to go even a little bit out of their way to do this.  Fair enough.  What did not occur to me until later is that a company that sells new appliances might want to get old ones out of circulation.  If so, I think that is shortsighted; folks looking for a used (inexpensive) appliance at a Salvation Army Thrift Store were not going to be customers for a new one.

I called the Salvation Army Thrift Store and Donation Center in Brighton, Michigan, which is actually on Grand River Avenue as you go towards Howell from our house.  They said they would accept the old range as long as it was working.  I told them it was in reasonably good shape, looked OK, and worked fine except for the spark igniters for the stove top burners.  That was fine with them.  They just asked that we mention the spark igniters when we drop it off.  They also had a truck that could come get it if we were unable to get it into our personal vehicle and gave me the phone number to schedule a pickup.  Cool.  That means we don’t have to try and convince D. R. Appliance to deal with it and it does not end up in a scrap yard.

Although I did not do anything particularly physical today I was very tired by 4 PM and took a 2-hour nap.  Linda woke me up at 6 PM to have a dinner of green salad, leftover lentil stew with sweet potatoes and apples, and homemade biscuits with honey.

After dinner we opened a bottle of Alpha Rose wine that we bought in August 2013 at Red Trail Vineyard in Buffalo, North Dakota.  They are part of the Harvest Host network and it was the first place we used our membership to spend the night at a winery for free.  I posted about the place at the time.  The Alpha Rose was absolutely delightful with a very floral nose that carried over into the mouth.  Made from King of the North grapes, it was light but crisp and very pleasant in the finish.  I wish we had bought a case.  The King of the North vines were the first ones planted at Red Trail Vineyard back in 2003 and have done well in the North Dakota climate.  The Alpha Rose is only available at the winery and two other locations in the Fargo, North Dakota area, so I guess we will have to plan our travels to take us back that way.

Tonight was Season 5, Episode 6 of Doc Martin; at least it was for us.  I think Season 5 originally aired in 2010.  I really liked watching it on the TV monitor from a DVD compared to watching it on an iPad.


2014/09/16 (T) Boiled Over

Our son (Brendan) texted Linda early this morning to see if we would like to have grand-daughter Madeline spend the night while Marilyn is here next week.  It turns out that next week Thursday and Friday are Jewish holidays, and Madeline attends a Jewish run day care facility.  Of course we said “yes.”

Linda worked at her desk on our personal finances in the morning, worked on her counted cross-stitch project for a while in the afternoon, went on a couple of long walks, and managed to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table.  But as days go, it was fairly low key even for her.

I called Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting in Howell and asked for Bob as I had been instructed to do.  It was Bob’s day off but I got to talk to Mark.  Mark told me that they can get a 12′ hose with a 3/8″ flare fitting on one end and quick disconnect on the other end.  The QD includes the male fitting attached to the hose and the female fitting that gets threaded onto the supply pipe.  We already have a female QD fitting (Marshall Brass BC0102-0600) but it may not be compatible.  I had measured before I called and knew that we needed at least an 8′ hose, so 12′ will work just fine, especially since two feet of it has to go up through the base from the back and then out the top of the base and attach to the grill.  Mark asked me to call back tomorrow and talk to Bob to order it, so that is what I will do.

I double checked online that the range we had ordered was indeed a natural gas model.  It was, so there was no need to call the appliance store to confirm that.  I had a call back from Darryll at DCM Heating & Cooling.  He thought he would be able to come back on Friday or Saturday to hook up the gas from the meter to the house and the new black iron pipe and start up the two new furnaces.  All of the other gas conversion work we need done is dependent on Darryll getting his piece done first and I asked him if it would be possible to come on Wednesday.  He said he would check his schedule and see what he could do.  Darryll has been great to work with, and I try not to be demanding, but I cannot schedule other contractors until there is gas to the house.

I checked the label on our Weil-McLain “boiler” that provides heat for our hot-water baseboard heating system and domestic hot water.  It’s a GV-5, Series 1.  That allowed me to hone in on the right manuals on the W-M website from which I was able to identify the part number for the LP –> NG conversion kit.  It’s a 510-811-630 and consists of an orifice plate and an adhesive label that has to go on the unit.  The unit is a discontinued model, but service parts appear to still be available.  I found the conversion kit at the first online supplier I checked for under $31 (plus S&H) but delivery looked to be 2 – 3 weeks.  Ugh.  I placed a call to TOMTEK HVAC in Howell to see if Tom had checked on this yet.  He hadn’t so I gave him the model and serial number of our unit and mentioned that I had found the orifice plate online.

I worked at my desk for a while uploading blog posts from the last third of August, but it was such a beautiful day that I decided to work upstairs on my iPad2.  I called Bratcher Electric around 4 PM just to give them a “heads up” that we had a meter with natural gas.  Karen gave me Mike’s cell phone number and a time window during which I would likely be able to reach him.  He has been very busy doing estimates for storm damage repairs and has not been in the shop much the last month.  I got hold of him to let him know that we might be ready for them as early as next Monday, but anytime in the next couple of weeks after that would be OK.  Again, I try not to be unreasonably demanding, and I try to be truthful with folks.  Sometimes, however, that just results in us being put at the back of a long line of people who are unreasonably demanding.

Linda made maple baked lentils with sweet potato and apple for dinner.  It really hit the spot on a cool evening.  After dinner I continued working on selecting and editing photos for a gallery post on the natural gas pipeline work.  My cell phone cannot receive calls in the basement but it can receive txt messages and notifications.  Tom had called back from TOMTEK regarding the boiler conversion.  He can get the parts locally in about four days and wants $250 to do the conversion plus $59 for the service call.  A total bill of $310 to install a $30 part (retail) sounded excessive to me, so I may make a few inquiries first thing in the morning before I call him back.

We watched Season 5 Episode 5 of Doc Martin.  It was nice to see it on the TV rather than the iPad with a large screen, better sound, a DVD quality image, and no buffering.


2014/09/15 (M) Congratulations, You Have Gas

As I reported in the blog post for this past Saturday a natural gas hookup crew was at our house in the early morning but it was the wrong crew (trench/plow) installing the wrong size gas line (1/2″ id).  The correct crew (directional boring) showed up today around 9 AM and started boring the line for our neighbor’s yard across the street.  I chatted with the crew briefly and they said we were next.  They had placed a large role of the proper size gas line (1″ id) in our yard, so I knew they knew what they were doing.

Ed, who had stopped by on Friday and runs the hookup crew, was not sure whether they would hang the meter and connect the line at both ends today, but if not, tomorrow for sure.  Their presence on site, however, meant that I would need to be in contact with three contractors fairly soon to follow up on arrangements to get them out here ASAP, and in the following order:

  • DCM Heating and Cooling, to disconnect the propane from the house and tie the new 2″ black iron pipe together with the pipe into the house and connect them to the consumer side of the gas meter.  Also, to start up the new library and garage furnaces.
  • TOMTEK HVAC to convert the hot water base-board heating system to natural gas.  Tom was going to check today with Weil-McLain on the parts needed for the conversion and let me know.  Our own research suggested that a natural gas orifice plate was the only part needed, but a number of steps were involved in the installation and I doubt that W-M would sell me the part directly.  (I did find it later online for $31 plus S&H, so I could buy it if I wanted to.)
  • Bratcher Electric; to convert the whole house generator, do the annual maintenance, and run the new service entrance cable for the garage panel.

Mike Bratcher was here a month ago to look at the job but had not gotten a price to us yet for the work.  They have been slammed with repair jobs as a result of late summer storms.  The generator is the least critical component at the moment as it is on its own propane tank, but we want to get it switched in a timely fashion so we can call AmeriGas and have both tanks removed at the same time.

(Ed told me later in the day that Consumer’s Energy requires us to be switched over to natural gas within 30 days of having gas to our meter.  He also said that a recent Michigan law (last year) made it illegal to have multiple fuel sources to a house.  Since the generator is on its own propane tank and that tank is not connected to, or provide propane to, the house or anything in the house, technically we would not have two different fuels going to the house even if we left it hooked up.  Still, we are not looking to create a “situation” with Consumer’s Energy.  Presumably the multi-fuel prohibition does not include electricity and wood.)

Keith showed up around 9 AM to cut the grass.  I chatted with him briefly about cutting the new grass, which had gotten long enough in many spots that I thought it was probably time for the first cutting.  I picked up some small tree branches that were scattered about the yard from recent storms, and warned him about the trench at the southeast corner of the house.  I chatted with him some more as he was finishing up with the string trimmer.  He said the grass was “April grass, not September grass.”  The grass itself (internally) was very moist, not just the soil.

This is how Keith cuts over 4 acres of grass in a few hours.

This is how Keith cuts over 4 acres of grass in a few hours.

Linda had reserved Doc Martin, Season 5, at the Howell Library and had an e-mail that it was available and needed to be picked up by the end of today or we would go to the end of the waiting list.  She needed to be at the bakery by 11 AM so she left around 9:45 AM to be at the library when it opened at 10 AM.  I would have gone to get it but I was “stuck” at the house as long as contractors were, or might be, working here.  I also needed to be here to pay Keith when he finished cutting the grass.

Linda met with the folks at the bakery (where she was the Controller and Treasurer for the 10 years before she retired) on Friday regarding a major software conversion project that she is going to do for them and was finally feeling like we could afford a new range.  She is a very good accountant/CPA and has always worked hard for what she earned, but has always been reluctant to spend money.  We grew up in very different circumstances and that reluctance on her part has provided a good balance over the years as I tend to be less concerned about what things cost and more focused on making sure we have what we need and are getting good functionality and quality for what we spend.  One component of my formal education and work experience was engineering, and that developed a certain way of thinking about things that has stayed with me ever since.  Need is, of course, relative.

We had been deferring a decision about the new kitchen range but decided on Friday evening that, with the natural gas hookup imminent, we would get a new one rather than convert our old one.  We decided on the model we wanted, a G.E. JGB870DEFWW, and knew the price, delivery time, and installation charge from Lowe’s.  I also talked to Curt at D. R. Appliance, a local family owned appliance store, on Saturday and expected to hear back from him today with pricing and availability.  That call came late morning and their price, while a little higher than Lowe’s, was close enough to be worth the possible end-of-week delivery and installation so I told them to go ahead and order it.

By 3:30 PM the gas line to our house was in the ground and the meter was mounted on the side of the house but a crew was still digging out by the street trying to clear access to the main line so the fuser could tie our line and our neighbor’s line into the 2” main line.  My camera battery went dead while they were installing the meter so I grabbed a few shots on my cell phone while the camera battery recharged.  Linda got home around this time and got to see some of the final steps in the process.

I followed the process closely all day and tried to get photos of most of the details, especially as they hung the meter, tied the line in, and pressure tested it.  All was good, so they tapped the main line and we finally had gas in our branch line.  They purged the line, reconnected it to the meter inlet, tested the meter and connections for leaks, and then verified gas availability to the outlet connection.  At 5:30 PM they plugged the outlet, put the hang tags on, and handed me the door knocker tag that said “Congratulations, you have gas.”

We always seem to have interesting things in our yard.

We always seem to have interesting things in our yard.

Linda took a call from Bob at Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting regarding our quick disconnect for the Broil King outdoor grill.  She indicated that I was busy with the gas crew and would call them back tomorrow.

Late last week we received an invitation to a political fund-raiser for Brian Robb, an incumbent councilman in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  We do not live or vote there, but Brian is Kate de Fuccio’s significant other, and Kate is a former co-worker of mine and continues to be a very good friend of ours.  I called DCM Heating & Cooling and left a message for Darryll that we had gas to the meter.  We left around 6 PM and arrived at the Tower Inn Cafe around 7 PM.  We made a donation to Brian’s campaign and Kate ordered a small vegan pizza for us.  We visited for about an hour and then took our leave.

When we got home we relaxed in the living room thinking about how nice it will be to have our natural gas fire logs while we had some fresh strawberries and nectarines for dessert.  I also had a mug of hot apple cider which put me in the mood to go to bed.


2014/09/14 (N) Family Ham

No, we did not serve ham for brunch.  We are vegans, after all, and we don’t serve animal products in our house regardless of who is coming to visit.  We’ve got some folks in the family who are pretty funny, including Marilyn, but this is not a reference to the family joker.  No, today was about family and ham radio, but not mixed together.

Linda was up at 7 AM to finish preparing the various brunch dishes.  She made:

  • mini crustless tofu quiches;
  • rice and raisin breakfast pudding;
  • soft and chewy baked granola bars;
  • mixed fresh berries, and;
  • sliced fresh melon.

She also bought some gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread.  Our daughter is still experimenting carefully with foods trying to figure out what upsets her system and gluten is currently a no-no along with soy, dairy, and corn.

Shawna (mom), Madeline (center of attention), Grandma Linda, Great Aunt Marilyn, and Uncle Chris.

Shawna (mom), Madeline (center of attention), Grandma Linda, Great Aunt Marilyn, and Uncle Chris.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline arrived around 10 AM followed soon after by Meghan and Chris.  Everyone had a good visit and enjoyed the brunch.  Madeline was naturally the center of attention, but there were enough adults to keep her engaged and still have adult conversations.  Madeline normally naps from 1 – 3 PM, so her parents took her home a little past noon.  Meghan and Chris left shortly thereafter.  They are very big into sports, especially fantasy football, and the fall sports season is in full swing.

Aunt Meghan and Brendan (dad) looking towards Madeline (center of attention).

Aunt Meghan and Brendan (dad) looking towards Madeline (center of attention).

It had shaped up to be a very nice day so we drove to downtown Howell and parked near the Farmers Market area.  The Market was still open so we wandered through and bought some locally made apple cider to take home.  We then walked to Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting where we bought a natural gas outdoor grill and ordered a natural gas fireplace log set.  We drove back to the house and then I drove back to Country Squire to pick up the grill.  I did not realize when we bought the grill that we were buying the display model, but it was in perfect condition and I do not have to assemble it.  The store employees partially disassembled it and helped me carefully load it in the Honda Element.  We also bought a cover and quick disconnect for it, neither of which they had in stock.  The cover had to be ordered and they needed to check with another employee about the quick disconnect before ordering it, so I will pick those parts up later.

The fireplace logs also had to be ordered and will take two to four weeks to arrive.  Unfortunately that means they will not be here in time for Darryll to install them.  Country Squire has a subcontracted installer who will install them for $125.  That seemed excessive to me, but I did know how involved the installation might be.  If it involves unpacking, assembling, connecting, and adjusting the unit then it might be worth it.

We spent what remained of the afternoon visiting with Marilyn and just giving her the space to relax and recover from her new and very demanding job as the executive director of the St. Louis Province of the Congregation of St. Joseph – Carondelet (CSJ or Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet).  She assumed this role on July 1st and has been going non-stop since.  It’s a 5-year commitment.

The job involves a lot of meetings and a lot of travel as the St. Louis Province has sisters all across the United States as well as in Peru and currently has a couple of sisters doing mission work in Gulu (Africa).  Although Marilyn has been a dedicated member of this community for almost 50 years she is still very close to Linda and her brother Ron, and values being able to relax and spend time with them and their families.  Our homes have often been a holiday haven where she could escape from the very demanding jobs she has held over the years.

We had leftovers for dinner and then printed Marilyn’s boarding pass.  She had a 7:45 PM flight back to St. Louis, Missouri, so she and Linda left around 5 PM for Detroit Metropolitan Airport which is about an hour’s drive from our house.  I left around 5:45 PM for the monthly meeting of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club, which started at 6:30 PM.  Our program this evening was a presentation by Gary (WA8TJA) on the technology and process he uses to make his own printed circuit boards.

Gary (WA8TJA) explains to the members of SLAARC the process and technology he uses to design and make his own printed circuit boards.

Gary (WA8TJA) explains to the members of SLAARC the process and technology he uses to design and make his own printed circuit boards.

I got a call during the meeting from Joe Cannarozzi, the mechanic who has serviced our bus for the last four years, and called him back on my drive home.  He has relocated to the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area and is working as an RV technician and mechanic for an established business that currently services towables.  He is still servicing buses, Prevost units specifically, but the business would like to expand to servicing diesel pushers.  They are also opening a dealership for KZ RVs and he will be selling those in addition to his tech work.  He called me from Shipshewana, Indiana where he will spend the week at KZ getting dealer orientation and training.

It was a busy weekend and as much as I enjoyed all of the activity and company it was nice to come home to a quiet house.  I had been pondering the $125 installation fee for the natural gas fireplace logs so Linda Googled the model and found the Installation and Owner’s Manual on the American Hearth website.  I went there and downloaded it to my iPad2.  (This is one of the things I love about having a tablet; the ability to have lots of manuals, product spec sheets, instructions, and other documents at my fingertips.)  Although it covered several versions of our model it was none-the-less 36 pages long.  I looked through it enough to determine that $125 was probably a fair installation fee IF the installer started with a factory sealed box and then did everything that is specified in the manual.  We purchased a “millivolt” model and I saw some reference to wiring.  I was momentarily concerned that we needed to supply AC power to the unit, but more careful reading confirmed that this was not the case.

We had eaten dinner early and as I was reading and typing I realized I was a little hungry.  I should have gone to bed but instead had a couple pieces of toasted gluten-free bread with vegan margarine and a cup of hot apple cider.  I’m glad I did; toast is simple but satisfying food, and there’s nothing better than a warm beverage on a cool evening just before bedtime.


2014/09/13 (S) Overnight Guest

Linda’s sister, Sister Marilyn, called a couple of days ago to let us know she would be in the Detroit area on business this weekend.  She wanted to know if we could fetch her this afternoon and if she could spend the night at our house?  The answer was “of course,” of course.  Her flight out wasn’t until Sunday evening, so Linda put the gears in motion and arranged a brunch with the local family for 10 AM tomorrow.

Being Saturday, we went to our ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon.  Before leaving our neighborhood we drove to the other end of the street (dead end with turn-around) to see where the gas hookup crew left off yesterday.  We knew they were working down there today because we saw the trucks leave sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 PM last night.  There’s a chance they will be back today and we wanted to see how close they were to connecting our house to the main line.  It looked like they had quite a few houses to do ahead of ours, so we went to breakfast.

We got home around 10:30 AM to find a crew working in our yard trenching in the branch line to our house.  I was told yesterday they were going to bore it in, so something obviously did not get communicated.  Not only that, they were running a 5/8″ line, which was way too small for the 425 meter we are supposed to get.  I stopped the crew and the guy in charge pulled out his paperwork.  It had “425” written on it big letters, but the drawing showed a 5/8″ line.  He agreed that the 5/8″ line was way too small for that meter and that we should have 1.25″ line.  They pulled the little bit of line they had already run out of the ground, raked out some of the dirt they had already trenched, and moved their machine across the street to trench our neighbors yard.

We were lucky we got home when we did.  They had already cut through some tree roots that did not need to be disturbed and would have torn up a lot more of our yard unnecessarily if I had not interrupted their work.  They were nice about it, but I still found it troublesome that I had spoken to two different supervisors face-to-face about this, one as recently as yesterday, but this crew showed up and did something different than what I had been told, and agreed, would be done.

I was finally going to try to remove the fogged window from the bus today, but we had a lot of rain overnight and woke to overcast skies, temperatures in the upper 40’s, and a forecast high of 57 degrees F with a strong chance of rain through mid-afternoon.  That was not the sort of weather for removing a window from a vehicle parked outside.  Besides, with Marilyn arriving mid-late afternoon I did not want to work on anything messy and then have to get cleaned up.

Linda looked up the kitchen ranges we had been considering.  The GE 30″ 5-burner double-oven convention model (JGB870DEFWW) was on sale again at Lowe’s for $180 off MSRP and we would get another 5% off the sale price by using our Lowe’s credit card.  If we ordered it today delivery would be September 27, longer than I would like, but it is what it is.  We have to order this range because Linda wants a white one to match all of the other appliances in the kitchen and the appliance stores do not tend to stock white ranges with the features we want.  I called our local Lowe’s store and confirmed the free delivery and take away of our current range.  Installation is $20 plus a new flex gas line for $30.

I called TOMTEK HVAC and got hold of Tom.  He seemed put off by the fact that I have someone else doing HVAC work at the house and will have the natural gas already tied in when he comes to convert the main house furnace from propane to natural gas, but he said he would check with Weil-McLain on Monday about what parts he needs to do the conversion.  While on the phone with Tom he suggested that we try D. R. Electric Appliance Sales and Service in Howell for our new gas range.  We looked them up on the web and got their (incorrect) phone number and hours.  I got the correct number from 411 before I realized that it was also on their website.  They closed at 2 PM on Saturdays, so we didn’t make it there today, but I called and got an answering machine, left my name, number, and the reason for the call.  Curt called me back a short time later.  I gave him the model number and he said he would call G.E. on Monday.  He said he had been holding off ordering G.E. appliances waiting for Columbus Day sale pricing.  He figured he would have the range three days from ordering and could probably install it at the end of the week or early next.  They charge $25 for installation and haul away, and $25 for the new flex gas line if we need one, so it’s the same $50 as Lowe’s.  (Lowe’s assured me that they were REQUIRED to install a new flexible gas line.)  That all sounded good depending on the price of the range.  Getting it sooner has some dollar value to us, we’re just not sure how much.

I stayed home while Linda went to Meijer’s for groceries.  Finding the crew in our yard this morning doing work they were no supposed to be doing spooked me enough to not want to leave the house unattended the rest of the day.  As long as I was stuck at home, I called Bratcher Electric to give them a heads up that the gas connection to the house was imminent.  Being Saturday I got their answering machine and left a message.  I also called Darryll at DCM Heating & Cooling and left a message regarding the gas connection.  Once the meter is hung and connected everything else depends on Darryll getting his piece done first.

We checked the website for Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting in Howell and saw a 10% off coupon, so I printed that.  I wanted to go there today and buy a set of high-efficiency vent-free natural gas fire logs but it will probably be tomorrow afternoon instead.  These logs are more efficient than a typical kitchen range and are designed to be used with the fireplace flue closed, throwing most of the heat they produce into the room instead of up the chimney.  Darryll said he would hook it up for us and add a shutoff valve when he came back to tie in to the gas meter, so we need to have it here before he comes back next week.

Marilyn called and said their flights were running a little behind schedule and that Linda should pick her up around 3 PM rather than 2:30 PM as originally planned.  She called back again and said 3:15 PM would be better.  Linda got back from the grocery store and we had a quick lunch of leftover Sloppy Joe’s.

With overnight lows in the 40’s, highs only in the mid-50’s, and the connection of our natural gas somewhat imminent, we decided we could afford to use propane to heat the house.  We have been conscious of our propane use because we did not want to get in a position where we needed to have either of the tanks filled.  I turned the furnace on and set all the thermostats a few degrees above ambient to take the chill off.

While Linda drove over to Lake Orion, Michigan to fetch Marilyn I decided to work at my desk selecting photos for gallery posts on the garage/HVAC project and natural gas work, and worked a little bit on the websites for the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches and Freethinkers chapters.  I really need to have the GLCC site usable in the next three weeks and the FTH site within a month of that. That sounds ambitious even as I write it down and I suspect it won’t happen.

Linda and Marilyn got to the house around 4:30 PM and after we got Marilyn settled in her bedroom we just sat and relaxed and talked for a while.  We thought she might appreciate a good home-cooked meal but we ended up taking her to LaMarsa for dinner.  She had the Koshary, which we had last night, and we split an order of garlic almond vegetable Ghallaba with green salad and crushed lentil soup.  We all ate way too much pita bread with garlic spread and were uncomfortably full by the time we finished our meal, but it was delicious and we did not have to prepare it or clean up afterwards.

These days twilight now comes around 7 PM and it was dark by the time we got home at 8 PM.  I made a pot of decaf coffee and we settled in the living room for a long chat.  I set the thermostats back before we turned in for the evening as all three of us prefer to sleep in a cool room.


2014/09/12 (F) Posted

Linda was up very early to try and beat the morning rush inbound to Detroit from the northwest.  I took an Ibuprofen and went back to bed, finally getting up at 7 AM.  1-800-PACK-RAT was scheduled to pick up the 16 foot long storage container we have had in our driveway for the last two months and I wanted to be up and dressed when they arrived.  I did not have any problems with my teeth overnight.  They felt OK this morning but the upper right was still a bit sensitive to biting pressure.  I had a nice soft banana for breakfast and decided to keep taking the Ibuprofen and Tylenol.

I put a load of laundry in the washer and then ran out to take care of errands.  I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee, Lowe’s for solar salt for the water softener, and then Teeko’s for coffee beans.  Jeff still did not have the Sweet Dreams decaf blend even though he orders it every week.  I got a pound of the Seattle Blend 50/50 regular/decaffeinated, and a pound of regular Brazilian Serra Negra to blend with the decaffeinated beans we already had at home.

Heather, from Root Canal Specialty Associates, called around 9 AM to check on me.  I mentioned the sensitivity and she said that was normal and to keep taking the Ibuprofen/Tylenol through the weekend to counteract any inflammation and/or discomfort.  She wanted to know if I thought the temporary filing was high and making contact before the other teeth.  I wasn’t sure, but she said if it was to call them Monday morning and they would get me in to adjust my bite.

Since I was on the phone anyway I called Bratcher Electric to see about the quote/estimate for the generator service / fuel changeover and the service entrance feed from the transfer switch to the sub-panel to change it into a main panel.  They have been very busy with repairing damage caused by the storms of the last few weeks.  We did not suffer any damage beyond some dead branches breaking off from trees, but south of us folks were hit much harder.  That kind of work always takes priority.

The day was overcast and dreary with morning temps in the mid-40’s and a high of 54, but that was OK; it was a perfect day for sitting at a desk and working on a computer, undistracted by either bad or gorgeous weather.  I did, however, bring my computer upstairs and work at Linda’s desk.  My office is very nice but it is in the basement and it is a bit of a cave.  Sometimes I like that, and sometimes I don’t.  I worked on our blog until early-midafternoon and finally uploaded posts from Aug 2 through Aug 20.

My only interruption was a visit from one of Roese Construction’s field supervisors who was checking on where the runs will go to connect the houses in our neighborhood to the natural gas main.  After looking at our situation he agreed with me and Mel who had looked at this a few weeks ago, that staying to the east of the east entrance to our pull-through driveway made the most sense even through it required them to bore at an angle relative to the main line.  That conversation confirmed that they will be horizontal boring the branch line rather than trenching it in.  He did not give me a firm date, but it sounded like it could be as early as tomorrow (Saturday) and likely by Tuesday next week.

My computer battery was down to under 1 hour of charge remaining, so I took it downstairs and plugged it back in to its power supply.  While I was down there I put another load of laundry in the washing machine.  Back upstairs I made a PB&J sandwich for lunch, along with some green tea.  I got back on the RVillage Mobile development site, played with a few more features, and provided some additional feedback to the development team.  I then worked on this post using my new Logitech Bluetooth keyboard.  The Wacom Bamboo stylus is nice, but the keyboard is the way to go when creating extended text.

Juniper, our female cat, was getting into something in the library so I went to investigate.  She had cornered a yellow jacket and was trying to figure out what to do with it.  I solved the problem for her by capturing it and putting it outside.  I don’t think she was pleased with my solution, but not 20 minutes later she was at it again, and it was another yellow jacket.  We have a nest in the soffit near the library that we need to get rid of, but we have not had a problem with them getting into the house until very recently.  Hopefully that has not changed but I will have to investigate the situation.  It may be that with the onset of cooler temperatures they are finding their way into the library through the recessed ceiling downlight cans.  If so, there’s really no good way to seal those.  Fortunately we can close of the house from the library with a kitchen door and a living room doorwall that includes a screen door.

It started raining very lightly around 4 PM, but never developed into anything.  Linda got home from the bakery at 5:30 PM.  The storage container had not been picked up yet so we called the 1-800 number and left a message with our callback number.  I got a call around 6 PM from the local (Plymouth, MI) office verifying the pickup and address.  The driver arrived around 7:20 PM and had the unit loaded by 7:30 PM.  After he left we headed to dinner at LaMarsa where we had crushed lentil soup and split an order of Koshary and salad.  Even splitting the dish we both ate too much, aided by the fresh-baked pocket bread and garlic spread.   The food and service were both excellent, as always, and the garlic spread was “…the gift that keeps on giving.”

We got back from dinner a little before 9 PM, too late to start any in-depth computer work, but early enough for me to finish this post and for Linda to do some recipe research for Sunday’s brunch.  It seems like only yesterday it was still light at 10 PM at night, but we are approaching the autumnal equinox, and there are noticeably fewer hours of daylight now.


20140911 (R) Rooted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/09/10 (W) A Functioning Landline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/09/07 (N) Findlay Hamfest

I set alarms on my phone and iPad last night to make sure I got up at 5:00 AM.  My natural tendency is to stay up a little later each night, something I am now able to do as I do not usually have to get up by any certain time in the morning.  Usually.  Today, however, was the annual Hamfest put on by the Findlay, Ohio Amateur Radio Club and I needed to be at Mike’s (W8XH) QTH in time for a 6 AM departure.  We picked up Steve (N8AR) at the Park-n-Ride lot at Lee Road and US-23 around 6:15 AM and drove non-stop to Findlay, Ohio, arriving at the county fairground at 8:15 AM.  We had a good chat on the way down, which is as much of a reason for going as the bargain hunting once we got there.  I have included a couple of photos in this post.  For more photos, visit:

We each paid our $7 admission fee and got our ticket with a tear-off stub for the hourly and grand prize drawings.  We got parked and set our Kenwood TH-F6 handheld radios to 146.475 MHz (simplex).  We filled out our raffle ticket stubs, dropped them off, and started working our way up and down the rows of outside tables.  The outside sales area was essentially a flea market, sometimes referred to as “trunk sales” because people back their cars up to the road and sell stuff from their trunks.  The spots are cheaper to rent for the day, but you take a chance that the weather will be nice.

Outside vendors (trunk sales) at the Findaly ARC Hamfest in Findlay, OH.

Outside vendors (trunk sales) at the Findaly ARC Hamfest in Findlay, OH.

We worked the flea market first while the temperatures were cool and the sun wasn’t overhead but also because almost everything offered for sale was used equipment at negotiable prices.  These are often one-of-kind items and the bargains tend to disappear quickly.  By mid-morning I had purchased a good sized NEMA enclosure (steel box with weather tight gasketed door) and a Harris 22.2 telephone butt handset (tester).  I plan to use the NEMA box to create a cable entrance box with lightning protection for RF transmission lines, AC power lines, and control lines.  I got the telephone test set because it will allow me to hook up to the phone line the same way the AT&T technicians do, and because it is not the sort of thing most folks have in their home.

Bruce (W8RA) gave a short shopping list to Steve (N8AR) yesterday at breakfast.  Mike (W8XH) spotted a matched three-piece set of vintage Heathkit gear, one piece of which was on Bruce’s list.  Steve looked at it and they got Bruce on the phone.  Apparently it was close enough to what Bruce wanted that Steve bought the whole set for him as the seller was not willing to sell them separately.

We then moved to the inside vendors, most of whom were selling new merchandise at fixed prices.  There was some used equipment, however, and I bought an Icom CI-V interface set.  This device will allow me to interface our Icom IC-7000 and/or IC-706 to, and control them from, a computer using something like Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) software.

I also got to meet and talk to Norm, from Norm’s Fabrication in Adrian, and his wife, who is president of the Adrian Amateur Radio Club.  Norm is a welder, and his side business is fabricating tower parts out of steel and aluminum for fellow hams.  If I cannot get what I need from Heights Tower Systems, Norm may hold the key to getting our used tower erected.

A very classy portable ham radio station (go box).

A very classy portable ham radio station (go box).

A number of other hams from the South Lyon, Novi, Livingston, and SEMDXA radio clubs were there.  I brought my camera and tried to get photos of our club members for the club website.  None of us won anything from the hourly drawings (must be present to win) and we left shortly after noon to meet up at the local Steak-n-Shake for lunch.  I had not eaten breakfast so I enjoyed my garden salad and French fries.  I had a good chat with Dave (K8ESQ), the current president of SEMDXA, and Don (N8CAK) from SLAARC.

We had a good chat on the drive back, stopping briefly at the Michigan Welcome Center on US-23 northbound shortly after entering Michigan from Ohio.  We dropped Steve off at the Lee Road Park-n-Ride and helped him unload the Heathkit equipment.  When we got back to Mike’s I moved my purchases and personal gear to my car and then spent some time examining his Heights tower, especially the fold-over mount.  After studying the parts and the geometry of the design I had a much better understanding of how it works and what we need to get our tower erected and fully operational.

On the way back to my house I got a call from Darryll letting me know he would be out in the morning as long as someone would be home.  Back home I unloaded everything and moved Linda’s car to the side parking pad to make space for Darryll’s truck in the morning.  It was nice to have a day away from our house and property projects.

I spent a little time checking e-mail and websites and off-loading digital photos until Linda called me to dinner.  We had leftover kale salad, quinoa with pineapple and nuts, fresh steamed broccoli, and corn-on-the-cob.  After dinner I recorded the events of the last few days in rough drafts of separate blog posts.  By 10:15 PM the early start and long day finally caught up with me and I turned the lights out and drifted off to sleep.


2014/09/06 (S) Deliveries

We were up early and off to our SLAARC ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon.  There was a good turnout and good conversation, some of which had to do with our future tower project.  Mike (W8XH) was driving to the Findlay (Ohio) Hamfest tomorrow morning and had room for one more in his car so I decided to go.

Back home we broke down cardboard, loaded it into my car with the rest of our recyclables, and headed over to Recycle Livingston.  Afterwards we stopped at the Howell Bank of America branch so I could get some cash for the Findlay OH Amateur Radio Club Hamfest tomorrow.  A little farther up the road we stopped at Lowe’s for grass seed and bought three plastic tubs to replace the cardboard boxes we have been using on the floor of the kitchen pantry for recyclables.  Lowe’s is at Latson Road and Grand River Road so we hopped on I-96 East over to US-23 and headed south towards Ann Arbor to drop off the window air-conditioner and visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter.

When we exited US-23 at Washtenaw Avenue the traffic was worse than usual, and it is usually pretty bad.  Ann Arbor got hit a lot harder by the storms last night than we did and two of the three traffic signals between the highway and Stadium Boulevard were not working.  Drivers were being courteous, and everyone was taking turns, but the traffic volume through this stretch of road exceeds its capacity even when the signals are working.

We got the window air-conditioner unloaded and moved to the second floor of the garage.  We had a nice visit that included reading stories to Madeline.

Madeline and Grandma Linda read a favorite story.

Madeline and Grandma Linda read a favorite story.

We were going to stop at the Whole Foods Market on our way home but decided to avoid the traffic jam and worked our way through a subdivision up to Geddes Road and back to US-23.  Back home we had a light/late lunch of leftover rice seitan and mashed cauliflower and then worked for a couple of hours getting things out of the storage pod and organized in the garage.  We moved the shelves away from the northeast wall so Darryll could work on the gas pipe when he returns.  We knew when we put the shelves there that we were taking a small gamble that we might have to move them.  Fortunately they slid easily without being unloaded.  We must have the storage container empty by the time we go to bed on Thursday evening as it is scheduled for pickup on Friday.

For dinner we had a nice salad, roasted Brussels sprouts, and sautéed potatoes with onions, garlic, and bell peppers. We finished the no-bake (frozen) double-chocolate torte for dessert. After dinner Linda played Scrabble and Words With Friends while I researched Acme screws, nuts, and related components that we need to get the ham radio tower fold-over mount operational.

I turned in earlier than usual as I needed to be up at 5 AM in order to be at Mike’s (W8XH) QTH by 6 AM to leave for the Findlay Hamfest.

2014/09/05 (F) WordPress 4.0

We awoke to temperatures in the low 70’s this morning and by noon it was forecast to be 85 degrees F with rapidly rising humidity.  We turned our A-C on yesterday and left in on overnight and through the day today.

WordPress 4.0 was released yesterday and just before midnight I updated the four websites I manage, including this one.  I was looking forward to working with the new version today, but first things first.  Darryll called at 8:15 AM to make sure it was OK to come over.  We finished breakfast and then opened the garage and moved a few things that might be in his way. Although we would have liked to continue working in the garage during the morning, before it got really hot and humid, we were glad to have Darryll here working on the HVAC installation.

Instead of working on organizing the garage Linda worked at her desk and baked a loaf of bread while I assisted Darryll.  He wired up the library thermostat and showed me how the wires were connected.  He installed the return air grill, which required some minor drywall trimming, and installed a 6″ combustion air duct in the ceiling of the utility closet.  The duct had a screen on one end with a hood, like a dryer vent, and was open on the other end.  He installed it from the attic side with the hood in the attic and the open end sticking down through the ceiling into the closet.  I may decide to caulk or apply drywall compound to fill that gap between the duct and the hole Darryll made in the ceiling.

Darryll’s main focus, however, was hooking up the four pieces of duct, two rigid and two flexible, that will carry conditioned air into the library and installing the two ceiling registers.  That involved working in the attic which was very hot.  The flexible duct for the two ceiling registers was the same kind of product that was used in the main house; a pre-insulated flexible accordion tubing with an 8″ inside diameter that comes in 25′ lengths compressed to about 3′ for shipping.  To feed the two registers on the lower part of the west wall of the library he cut lengths of 8″ diameter (circular cross section) metal duct and assembled them.  He attached them to the supply air duct (plenum) with flange connectors.  He then slide insulation blankets (tubes) around them and connected the bottom ends of the duct into the back of the register ducts using several elbows to bring the duct around and close to the wall.  Finally, he slid the insulation down and secured it.

While Darryll was doing all of that I finished connecting the AC power to the condenser/compressor. That involved the following:

  • removing the terminal cover panel from the inside of the fused disconnect box
  • knocking out access holes on the right side and bottom
  • mounting the fused disconnect box to the side if the house
  • cutting a piece of 3/4″ plastic conduit for the cable from the soffit to the box
  • running the NM cable through the conduit
  • installing a watertight 90 degree elbow into the conduit
  • attaching the elbow to the side of the box
  • cutting, stripping, and connecting the line wires
  • cutting the plastic armor on the hookup cable to the right length
  • installing a straight screw-in watertight connector on the box end of the armor
  • installing a screw-in 90 degree elbow watertight connector on the condenser end
  • cutting, stripping, and connecting the load wires in the box
  • cutting, stripping, and connecting the load wires in the compressor.

I had Darryll check my work and then installed the fuses in the pull-out disconnect but was not able to get it to plug all the way in.  Darryll bent the blades slightly and got it to seat fully.  (I need to get two different fuses.  All he had were 30A fuses but 20A would be sufficient.  Also, the fuses he had in his truck were notched on one end.  I think fuses with full barrels on both ends would be better as they would have more contact surface than the notched ones.)  I reinstalled the terminal cover panel and closed the box.  I then re-installed the cover panel on the A-C compressor that Darryll had removed earlier.

With the power connected and most of the ducts run, we turned on the 120VAC/15A circuit breaker (for the unit in the utility closet) and the 240VAC/20A circuit breaker (for the compressor/condenser).  Darryll turned the thermostat mode switch to “cool” and the fan switch to auto and the A-C came to life.  Hooray!  I love it when that happens.

While Darryll finished installing the ducts and the registers I connected and mounted the thermostat for the garage furnace and then connected the wires on the other end of the cable to the terminals on the back of the unit according to Darryll’s instructions.  I removed the end panel from the Reznor ceiling-mounted garage furnace, removed the documentation packet from the inside, checked that the gas valve was in the “on” position, and put the end panel back on.  I also removed the protective plastic film from the bottom of the unit.

Darryll gathered up his tools, extra parts, and unused materials and loaded them in his truck. He then pressurized his portable air compressor and used it to pressurize the black iron gas pipe.  It has not been holding pressure, so he pumped it up to 15 PSI and we went in search of leaks with a spray bottle of soapy water.  We used my inspection mirror to see behind and under connections and found three leaks.  One was in a 2″ pipe fitting behind the garage, one was in a 2″ pipe fitting near the end of the run by the generator, and one was at an elbow in the 1/2″ pipe where it exits the utility closet on its way to the garage furnace.

Darryll was checking air temperature readings at the registers and in the main plenum of the library HVAC unit.  The library was 89 degrees F when he first turned the A-C on, and the attic was a lot hotter than that.  He connected his gauges to the compressor/condenser and said the readings were close enough to correct that he did not want to add or remove any refrigerant until the room had cooled down and stabilized at the requested temperature.

I was hoping he would get the job finished today but he needed some equipment, which he did not have with him, to work on the iron pipe and he was obviously tired from a long day working in the high heat and humidity.  He may be back tomorrow; if not, Monday or Tuesday. Whenever he returns, I have complete confidence that he will get it done before the gas meter is hung and that it will all work correctly for many years with very little attention other than changing a filter once or twice a year.

We deferred lunch until Darryll left.  We had chickpea salad on a slice of the bread Linda had baked earlier, corn-on-the-cob, and the last of some fresh pineapple.  Nothing says “summer” like organic, non-GMO corn-on-the-cob.

After lunch I called Bratcher Electric to check on the status of the estimate/quote that Mike was putting together to service our generator, convert it to natural gas, and run a 100A Service Entrance Cable from the transfer switch to the garage panel, converting it from a sub-panel to a main panel.  Karen said they have been really busy but he would work on it over the weekend.

I also called 1-800-Pack-Rat to arrange pickup of the storage container on Friday September 12th.  Steven was not able to schedule the pick-up during the call and said he would contact the local office and get back to me.  I made it clear that we did not want to roll over into another billing cycle and I was calling one week ahead of time as we had been instructed.  He assured me that it would not be a problem.  About an hour later we got a return call and follow up e-mail confirming pickup for Friday, September 12.

Late afternoon I checked on the library A-C to make sure it was not freezing up.  Everything looked OK.  The thermostat was set to 76 degrees F and the temperature was down to 77, so I bumped the setting up to 78 to let it cycle off and on.  Although Darryll did all of the heavy lifting on this project (literally) I spent my fair share of time in the attic on warm days installing the pull-down folding ladder and working on electrical wiring and attic lights.  It was very gratifying to see that all of this work—his, mine, and Linda’s—finally result in something that operated correctly.

We were relaxing and reading when severe weather watches and warnings for our area started arriving on our iPads.  Naturally we went outside to see what was going on.  We were both born and raised in the Midwest, the St. Louis, Missouri area, to be exact, and as kids in the 1950’s, threatening weather was a form of summertime entertainment.  Not that we were stupid; we learned from the adults around us when the show was over and it was time to head to the basement.  When I was about 5 years old we lost a plum tree in our backyard to a close encounter with a tornado.

The gathering storm.  The clouds were very dramatic in all directions.

The gathering storm. The clouds were very dramatic in all directions.

The clouds were very dramatic but eventually gave way to a formless mass of gray with swirling winds and a few raindrops.  We checked the Weather Channel app and the Weather Underground Wundermap app on our iPads.  The radar returns showed that we were likely in for some rain, and we got some, but as often happens the worst of it passed north and south of us.  The rain we did get was very welcomed.  We had heavy rain on Monday (Labor Day), Keith mowed the grass on Tuesday, I spread grass seed around on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a flock of six wild turkeys feasted on the grass seed on Wednesday and Thursday. We needed a nice light rain to help the seeds germinate and take root rather than be eaten or washed away in a thunderstorm.

Storm clouds looking east.

Storm clouds looking east.

Around 7:30 PM our power flickered several times and we received e-mail messages from our generator letting us know that utility power had been lost and then quickly regained.  We decided to check the Kohler OnCue software to see what the generator was doing.  We thought sure we had installed the software on Linda’s computer, so we could monitor it from her desk in the kitchen/dining area, but it wasn’t there.  After much searching and head scratching we checked my old laptop and there it was!  When we thought about it we realized that the generator had been installed about a week before Linda started configuring her new Samsung laptop, so there was no way we had put the software on her machine.  We’ve been very, very busy the last 20 months, so it was not surprising to us that we had forgotten the exact sequence of events.


Approaching from the southwest the clouds got more ominous.

The severe warnings expired at 8 PM and the severe watches at 9 PM, but that did not mean the rain was done.  A big fetch of moisture was located south of Chicago, Illinois and moving through southwest Michigan in our general direction.  The rain was forecast to continue into the early hours of tomorrow but be done before sunrise.  When the rains finally came it rained hard for a while.  Tomorrow is forecast to be a perfect Michigan day and I plan to buy another bag of grass seed to spot seed the areas that got washed away, again.


2014/09/04 (R) More Organized

Darryll did not call last night so we knew he would not be here today. That gave us another day to work in the garage.  We moved things around, cleaned, sorted through stuff, decided what to re-store, and where, and what to add to various disposal collections.  We are pretty sure the old window A-C unit is going to our son’s house, so we loaded it in the Honda Element, which got it out of the garage.  Linda also loaded some old video and satellite TV electronics in the car to take to Recycle Livingston tomorrow.

We were making good progress and decided to stick with it and then have a slightly later lunch.  We removed all of the doors from some old kitchen cabinets, upper and lower, in the northwest corner of the garage.  We plan to eventually remove these cabinets, but not this year.  Without the doors we will be able to see what is stored in them, or at least that something is stored in them.  We moved a set of small parts bins and a bookcase which allowed us to reposition two work benches.  That, in turn, allowed us to move the radial arm saw and finally set the saw on the base and secure it.  It is now in a place where I could use it if needed, if it had power.  It requires a 240VAC/15A outlet.  I bought and installed a 30A double pole breaker in anticipation of this, so I will have to get a 15A breaker instead.

The weather forecast for today and tomorrow was for warm temperatures becoming hot with increasing humidity and chances for rain.  We closed the house up at lunch time and turned on the A-C.  We have hardly used it this summer, but have appreciated having in on those few sultry days.

We watched our current resident flock of wild turkeys—three adults and three young that have been in the area for a few weeks now—forage in our back yard while we ate lunch.  After lunch Linda decided to make banana bread as we had several bananas that did not get eaten fast enough.  She was researching dinner recipes when I went to my office to work on computer tasks.  Except for a dinner break, I worked late into the evening on the following:

  • Cleaning up (filing or deleting) e-mails
  • SLAARC Website user maintenance
  • Updating WordPress websites (ver 4.0 was just released)
  • Social media sites (RVillage, Facebook, Linked-In)
  • Editing daily blog posts
  • Off-loading digital photographs
  • Organizing photo storage

BTW:  Dinner was a new dish, a pineapple quinoa stir-fry with cashews, ginger, scallions, a little bit of hot peppers, and several spices/seasonings including fresh basil that Linda has been growing in the northwest corner of the kitchen where there is good light. It was excellent.


2014/09/03 (W) Pine Cone Midden

After breakfast Linda downloaded the Hanks Writer to her iPad2 while I downloaded three app updates to mine.  After checking in on the blogs that I follow, I spread some grass seed around the bare and thin spots in the back and west side of the yard by the house.  I wanted to take care of that while it was cool and the ground was still damp with dew from the overnight lows in the upper 50’s.

Darryll did not call last night, so I did not expect him to be here today.  Our son might be interested in the old window air-conditioner so we moved it to the southeast corner of the garage and plugged it in to make sure it worked.  It did, so I sent him a text message to that effect.

We cleared off the table we have been using to cut drywall and got the 1/4″ birch plywood panel that will be the front of the box that encloses the electrical sub-panel and cables.  We measured carefully, twice, laid out the cut lines, and checked the measurements again.  We got the center cutout very close to correct on the first try and only had to trim it a little bit in one corner to get it to fit around the panel box.  We did not secure it place as we still need to feed the thermostat cable through the wall and put some insulation in the wall cavity to the left of the panel as this is an outside wall.

With the carpentry work done we started cleaning and reorganizing the garage, making sure that Darryll will still have access to things he needs to work on.  We plan to have the storage pod picked up on the 12th or 13th, so even though Darryll is not quite finished, we were anxious to start working on the rest of the garage.

We moved the tools and supplies we’ve been using to the three new shelving units on the east wall of the garage.  We then unloaded two shorter units and two tall units on the west wall and spread everything out on the floor.  We moved the units to the northeast wall, the shorter ones fitting nicely under the low end of the flue where it exits the utility closet wall.  We went through the stuff on the floor and put some of it in the trash, set some of it aside to recycle, designated a few things to go to the Salvation Army, collected RV parts in boxes to take to the GLCC Surplus and Salvage rally next month, and put the rest back on the shelves.

We took a break for lunch and then finished up in the garage for the day.  Linda worked at her desk and I changed out of my construction clothes into something more suitable for working at my desk.  She made marinated baked tofu cubes for dinner, with sautéed green beans and corn-on-the-cob (organic and non-GMO, of course).  We sat on the deck and watched our resident American Red Squirrel gather pine cones and move them under the cluster of three big fir trees where we presume it has a nest and pine cone midden.  These trees have never been trimmed and the lower branches are sizable and long and the ends rest on the ground.  I peeked in there the other day but did not see pine cones piled around any of the trunks like I expected, so I’m not sure where the midden is located.

I was up later than I should have been but I finished reading Big Lake Scandal.  The fifth book in Nick Russell’s Big Lake murder mystery series, it was a good read.  Nick has created an interesting place with interesting characters and reveals a little more about them with each volume.  He is particularly good at capturing the way people might actually talk to one another on a daily basis in a small western town.  He should know; he has spent a lot of time in such places over the years.


2014/09/02 (T) No More Painting

After breakfast Linda worked on the financial and membership records for our GLCC RV chapter and I took care of a couple of e-mails.  Keith showed up to cut the grass, which he managed to do in spite of the wet conditions from yesterday’s heavy rains.  After chatting with Keith for a few minutes I started to resume work on “the project” but decided to look for the tub of grass seed and fertilizer we brought from the old house.  I found it rather quickly and we still had a partial bag of grass seed, so I spread it around the front yard by hand filling in the bare and thin spots, of which there were plenty.  Our flock of wild turkeys was back today.  I think they like the grass seed I put out for them.

Wild turkeys gather in and around the fire pit.  No...we do plan to cook them.

Wild turkeys gather in and around the fire pit. No…we do not plan to cook them.

I sanded the drywall compound in the library and applied another thin layer.  I’ve been applying non-overlapping horizontal strips of mud, letting them dry, sanding them smooth while feathering the edges, then repeating the process for the areas in-between, or outside, the previous strips.  I will eventually turn this 90 degrees and apply the strips vertically.  The last set of steps will be to fill around the outside of the opening, feathering everything back to the existing wall surface and sanding it smooth with the central part of the patch.  We don’t want it to be obvious that there was ever a hole in the wall.  Once the drywall patching is done I have to prime the new compound and then paint the entire wall.

The paint on the east wall of the garage and the outside of the utility closet looked good and the paint on the inside of the utility closet looked good enough; it is, after all, the inside of a furnace closet.  I was done painting, at least for now, which should have felt like a big deal, but it just meant I could wrap up a couple of things and move on to the next thing.

The first thing was to mount the electrical box on the wall to the left of the library HVAC unit, make all the wiring connections, screw the switch into the box, and put on the cover plate.  I routed the thermostat wire alongside, and zip-tied it to, the armored AC power cable.  The second thing was preparing the mounting holes for the garage furnace thermostat on the outside of the utility closet wall.  I then cut the thermostat cable to the correct length beyond the wall, removed the outer sheath, stripped the ends of the wires, and secured the cable with a zip tie to prevent it from slipping back into the wall.  I did not actually mount the thermostat, however, since I was going to wait for Darryll to connect the wires.

Three adults and three young.  They are large and impressive birds.

Three adults and three young. They are large and impressive birds.

By then it was time for lunch, after which Linda left for her dentist appointment in Dearborn.  I wanted something easy to do, so I assembled the three plastic shelving units I bought at Lowe’s yesterday.  They went together easily, but one was missing the feet, top caps, and wall brackets and another one had a defective top cap.  I put them against the east wall of the garage and the floor was flat enough that they lined up well, so I don’t necessarily need the feet.  But the top caps are important, and it bugs me that I did not get everything I paid for.

The next thing I decided to tackle was the wood box in the utility closet that will enclose the electrical sub-panel and make it appear to be recessed and hide all of the electrical cables.  I cleared off the table we have been using to work on sheets of drywall and stood the scrap pieces of drywall against the back wall.  I got the two 8-foot 1×10’s I bought yesterday, put them on the table, made careful measurements and then marked them.  The two side pieces needed to be 52″ long x 7-1/4″ wide, with notches to create clearance for the top plate, horizontal blocking, and electrical cables passing through holes in studs.  I cut them to length with the Rockwell circular saw, and then ripped them to width using the Craftsman band saw.  The band saw had not been used in years but it had no problem ripping each board.  The notches were made with our Porter-Cable saber saw.  This kind of work is a pleasure when you have the right tools.

I screwed the two side pieces into place and then measured and cut a bottom cross member, and a trim strip to go below it, and installed those with screws.  I then cut a top cross member and a backing strip to go behind it between the two side pieces.  When I was done I had a box that would support a 48″ high by 33″ wide 1/4″ thick plywood panel with the outside face flush with the front edge of the sub-panel once I cut a rectangular opening in the plywood to allow it to fit around the box.  The plywood panel will be secured around the edges with a few screws and the sub-panel cover plate will overlap and cover any gap between the panel box and the opening in the plywood.  I will finish the plywood panel tomorrow or Thursday depending on when Darryll returns and how much I have to work with him to get the power connected to the new A-C compressor.

Jasper the cat in the kitty tent on the deck.  He spends a lot time looking around and sniffing the air when he is out here.

Jasper the cat in the kitty tent on the deck. He spends a lot time looking around and sniffing the air when he is out here.

That was the end of my project work for the day so I took a shower and put on some clean clothes.  Linda poured a couple glasses of wine and we sat on the deck and enjoyed an absolutely beautiful late summer Michigan evening.  We brought the kitty tent out so Jasper could sit outside with us.  Linda threw a green salad together, followed by the leftovers of the penne pasta dish and Italian bread she made for dinner on Saturday.  As twilight set in we moved inside and I decided to go to Lowe’s for some grass seed.  I figured if the soil was still moist first thing tomorrow morning I would spread it around the bare and thin areas in the back and on the west side of the garage, of which there are plenty. Otherwise I will wait until just after the next rain.

I started reading Big Lake Scandal last night and continued with it this evening.  It’s the 5th and latest book in the Big Lake murder mystery series by full-time RVer Nick Russell.  Nick is a good writer, but he and his wife, Terry, are personal acquaintances, which makes reading his books that much more fun.


2014/09/01 (M) A Day To Labor

One of the odd things about being “retired” is that holidays, like weekends, do not have the same significance they had when we were employed full time.  We no longer have “3-day weekends.”  We also do not have a tradition in our family of gathering on the summer holidays, so those days tend to blend into the days around them.  If not for our Saturday morning ham radio breakfast and the Sunday morning Howell Farmers Market we probably would not know what day of the week it was.

Knowing that today was Labor Day, Linda prepared vegan cinnamon rolls yesterday and baked them first thing this morning.  This was the first time she has made these and they were a real treat. Vegan, yes; whole plant-based food, not exactly.  These will be a rare treat for us.

As has been my pattern for the last few weeks, I sanded and touched up drywall first thing after breakfast.  Most of the drywall compound was finally smooth enough that I felt it was ready to prime.  I discovered that I was out of primer, so I went to Lowe’s to get some and picked up a few other things while I was there.  It was very humid today, which tends to slow the drying of paint, but primer is thinner than paint and gets absorbed into the paper drywall covering   I was hopeful that I might get a first coat of paint applied this evening.

Mike (W8XH) sent an e-mail Saturday evening to the members of the SLAARC announcing the availability of the new WordPress website and indicating that they would each be receiving a unique username and password from me in the next few days.  I wanted to wait at least 24 hours before I started creating users.  That waiting period had passed, so today I parked myself in front of my computer and registered users.

Part of the registration process required me to create a username.  That was easy for a ham radio club as (almost) everyone has an FCC call sign.  It also required a valid/unique e-mail address.  When I created an account an e-mail, with their username and a randomly generated password, got sent to the e-mail address I entered.  The e-mail also contained instructions on how to get to the website, how to login, and how to change their password.  I finished creating the last user account around 9 PM, but I did not work on this between 5 PM and 8 PM.

The vegan cinnamon rolls made for a filing and somewhat higher calorie breakfast, so we skipped lunch today and had an early dinner.  I had requested a picnic type of meal to celebrate the end of the summer tourist season, and Linda fixed a nice one.  We had vegan potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, and pan-grilled tofu slices with BBQ sauce and caramelized onions served open-faced on some of the Italian bread she made for dinner on Saturday.  Dessert was watermelon balls.  And the wonderful thing is that I am maintaining a good weight.  Eating well and eating healthy are not mutually exclusive.  However, like low-fat and fat-free foods, and then gluten-free foods, the processed food industry has discovered a “market” for foods that are free of animal products.  That, however, does not mean they are free of unpronounceable chemicals or excessive amounts of sugar and salt.  There is a growing amount of vegan junk food available in the marketplace.

We spent a little time after dinner on the back deck watching wildlife as a storm front approached from the west.  As the wind kicked up we lost our AT&T DSL connection and then our phone went out, exhibiting the same behavior we have had throughout most of August.  I shut down my computer and changed back into my work clothes to do some painting.  I put a coat of paint on the east wall of the garage and both the inside and outside of the utility closet.  It started raining really hard so I had to close the garage door, which cut down on my light, but eventually the rain let up and I was able to open the garage doors again.  The inside of the utility closet may need another coat, but I think that most of the outside of the closet, and the east wall of the garage, may be done.  That means I can finally mount the thermostat for the garage furnace and put cover plates back on switches and outlets.

I am still working on the outside of the south wall of the utility closet (with the door).  I am using drywall compound to create a smooth transition at the hinge edge of the door to correct for a carpentry error I made when installing the door much earlier in the project.  The transition will make it possible for me to install trim around the door, but I have to build up the transition in thin, tapered layers, allow it to dry, sand it smooth, and repeat the process over, and over, and over.  Ditto for the west wall of the library, which is the other side of the east wall of the garage, where I am building up a slightly recessed area where the opening was for the old window A-C unit so it will blend in with the surrounding wall surface.