Monthly Archives: November 2014

2014/11/17-23 Bus Work Wrapup

2014/11/17 (M) Bypass Extension

12VDC outlets on lower center cockpit console.

12VDC outlets on lower center cockpit console.

After my usual breakfast I decided to change the drinking water filter cartridge under the kitchen sink.  The new one arrived UPS on Friday but I wasn’t really eager to change it, given the difficulty I have had with it in the past.  As I expected, the old one did not come out exactly the way the instructions said it would and I fussed with the new one for 30 minutes without being able to get it in.  Butch popped into my bus to see what I was up to and I enlisted his assistance.  We fiddled with it for another 45 minutes and finally gave up and put the old one back in, although it did not go in easily.  Clearly we were doing something wrong but could not figure out what it was.

I am not exactly sure what Butch and Fonda did for most of the rest of the day but whatever it was they did not need my help.  I know they drained some coolant from a hose on the main engine and changed a short piece of hose.  Having gotten off to a bad start with the water filter cartridge I decided to pick the coach up a bit and then work on the 12 VDC outlets for the cockpit accessories.

There’s no such thing as a “small job” on a bus conversion; there are only big jobs and really big jobs.  The installation of the 12 VDC outlets involved mechanical and electrical considerations; I needed to mount them someplace that was accessible but out of the way, and I needed to be able to get 12 VDC power to that location.  There is a vertical panel about five inches wide just to the right of the driver’s right leg.  It runs from the floor up to the bottom of the dashboard and houses two thermometers, a cigarette lighter, and a swing out ash tray.  The panel comes out after removing six screws.  To the right of that panel is a house systems switch panel that was added by Royale Coach.  It is about 10 inches wide and comes down from the dashboard half way to the floor.  After checking to see what was behind the vertical panel I decided to mount the outlets to the passenger side of the floor-to-dash enclosure.  I mounted them below the bottom of the house systems switch panel and slightly back from the front plane of the dashboard.  They are very accessible in this location but tucked back out of the way enough to avoid getting kicked.

Just above the house systems switch panel is an enclosure for the CB radio.  I had previously removed the four screws that secure the front panel and pulled the CB radio out of its enclosure.  The power leads used spade connectors so they were easily disconnected and the incoming power harness was long enough that I was able to drop it through the speaker hole in the bottom of the radio enclosure and behind the house systems switch panel.  I also disconnected the antenna coax, as it is not connected to anything on the other end, and dropped it through the speaker hole as well.  I added compatible spade connectors to the wires from the 12VDC outlets including a 2-wire pigtail so I could connect both DC negative wires to the one available DC negative line.  I drilled a hole for the outlet wires to go through into the space behind the vertical panel as I would eventually like to power them from there and reconnect the CB (once I get an antenna mounted).  For now, however, this arrangement will do what I need it to do; power the various cockpit accessories while keeping the power cables out of from under out feet.

By 1:45 PM I had completed the installation of the outlets but I had not re-installed the various panels.  I locked up the coach and the three of us got ready to go to Logansport to run various errands.  Butch was wrapping up a conversation with International Thermal Research regarding the installation of his Combi unit and getting answers to a few remaining questions.  It turned out that the reason the coolant circulation pump was running was that we had left the bypass switch on the Zone Control Board in the ‘ON’ position.  That was also why the Summer Mode light was on.  Butch turned the bypass switch off and the various indicator lights all seemed to indicate what they were supposed to show.

I ended up buying the parts for a drinking water filtration system at Home Depot.  I got a GE Drinking Water Filter Housing and filter element plus a collection of hoses and fittings to connect it to the existing 3/4″” OD copper plumbing under the kitchen sink.  I also picked up a can of flat black spray paint to use on the accessory mounting board for the windshield center pillar.  We stopped on the way back in to Twelve Mile to pick up Daffy from the local veterinarian.  Fonda had taken her there earlier and dropped her off to have her teeth cleaned.  Daffy was still pretty groggy but glad to have the comfort of her owners.

When we got back to their house Fonda helped me set up some cardboard to catch any overspray and I sprayed one side and all of the edges of my center pillar board.  I then headed to my coach and finished putting the dashboard panels back in.  After that I turned my attention to the drinking water filtration system.  It took me a couple of hours but I got the old filter head removed, mounted the new housing, and made all of the connections.  I installed the new filter element and turned the water pump on, opening valves one at a time as I worked downstream looking for leaks.  The only leaks I saw were small ones between the 3/8″ brass pipe nipples and the 3/8″ female pipe thread sockets in the plastic filter housing.  Both leaks were easily remedied with an extra turn of the right angle shutoff valves.

I had not quite finished the water filter project when Fonda came out to let me know that Linda was on the house phone.  She answered some accounting/tax questions for Butch and then we chatted for a bit.  We decided that I would move the Martin Diesel appointment from this Thursday to next Monday, if possible, as the weather should be much more agreeable.  That will also give me four additional days to work on bus projects here, which I need.

I returned to the coach, finished up the plumbing, made a quick dinner, cleaned up the dishes, and went in the house for the evening.  Butch and Fonda had already gone to bed so I did the same and dealt with e-mails and this post.

New drinking water filter and hoses under the kitchen sink (in the bus).

New drinking water filter and hoses under the kitchen sink (in the bus).

2014/11/18 (T) Holes and LEDs

We were all busy all day today but did not have as much to show for it as we have on some other days.  That’s the way it goes with bus projects.  I worked on three separate projects for our bus and helped Butch and Fonda with one project on their bus.

The first thing I did after breakfast was to spray another coat of flat black paint on the oak board I plan to use as a mounting plate for various cockpit accessories.  I then went to work on enlarging the return air openings above the shelf in the rear closet.  This turned out to involve quite a bit of work.  On the passenger side I had to cut the carpeting on the inside of the closet and peel it off.  I then drilled a hole in each lower corner to allow access for a sabre saw blade.  I borrowed Butch’s cordless sabre saw, so that involved getting the saw from the parts room.  I cut from the back side, as I had access via the rear TV cabinet, and enlarged the opening to about 10″ x 10″.

I did not have access to the back of the panel on the driver’s side so I had to take a different approach.  I removed the lower panel which gave me access to the space and the various relays mounted on the floor of the cabinet.  I needed to make sure there wasn’t anything on the back side of the upper panel where I intended to drill and cut.  I borrowed Butch’s lighted inspection camera, which required another trip to the parts room, and used it to look up inside.  It was clear, so I cut the carpet on the inside of the closet and removed it.  Working from inside the closet I did not have room to use the sabre saw, so I used my oscillating saw to cut the opening.  Once the panel was cut through on both sides and the bottom it still had the metal mesh stapled to the top back side.  I was able to use that to pull the mesh loose from the fixed panel and remove it.

The next step in this project will involve installing a pair of 12″ x 12″ return air grills after I vacuum up the debris from the drilling and cutting process.  Home Depot carries these grills but was out of stock when we were there last night.  They are supposed to be in tomorrow or Thursday.  I already have a roll of 1/4″ grid hardware cloth and I plan to cover the openings with a piece of that to make sure mouse-sized critters cannot get through the slots in the grill, which will go over the hardware cloth.

By the time I got to this point it was time for a quick lunch.  After my meal I checked in with Butch and he was at a point where he needed assistance attaching an aluminum angle to the driver’s side front ceiling.  This angle would serve as the attachment for the vertical face of the chase that will hide the wiring running along the junction between the wall and the ceiling.  With Fonda’s help we held the first piece in place and secured it with one screw near the rear end.  We then measured down from the center trim of the ceiling and adjusted the other end to keep the angle as close as possible to parallel along its entire length with the ceiling centerline.  With that piece mounted Butch clamped another piece of angle to the mounted one, giving us a nice straight extension of the line, and then clamped the second piece to be installed to the extension angle.  I then secured the second piece to the ceiling with several screws.

Butch held 3″ Wiremold channel in place from the front air-conditioner trim to the gap between the two angles we just installed and marked it for length.  Fonda cut those while Butch cut a piece of plywood to the width and length needed and then installed them.  We talked about putting up the chase on the passenger side, or at least the Wiremold channel for the fluorescent ceiling lights.  Butch said they planned to make that chase deeper, and I suggested they bring it out as far as possible and build it as a cabinet using a face frame with several stiles (vertical pieces) and one long, top-hinged, door.  They both made note of the idea but did not want to get involved in that today.

I took a short break to call Martin Diesel and move my generator service appointment from this Thursday to next Monday.  I have more to do on the bus than I can complete by Wednesday afternoon and the weather Thursday morning is forecast to still be very cold.  The cold spell is supposed to finally break on Saturday with highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s.  I should be able to hook up the care and leave early Monday morning in 43 degree weather; much nicer than 18 degrees (Fahrenheit).

I now turned my attention to the LED replacement lighting for the F72T12 fluorescent light fixture in the hallway cove.  The first thing I needed to do was locate the 12 VDC positive and negative wires that were controlled by the pair of three-way switches; one by the pantry and the other in the bedroom.  In spite of having the wiring diagram for the old fluorescent ballast on a label attached to the ballast, I was not able to trace out the wiring.  Butch came over to see how I was doing so I enlisted his assistance.  The situation had us both puzzled for a while but we eventually sorted it out by removing the two 3-way switches from their junction boxes and checking for voltage to chassis (DC) ground at various points.  It helped that there is a second light fixture in the hallway ceiling just outside the bathroom door that is controlled by these same switches as this allowed us to know when there should or should not be voltage present at the main fixture.

With the wiring sorted out I made a short jumper wire with male spade terminals on each end and used it to jumper the red and white wires together in the base of the panty.  The white wire turned out to be DC negative (ground) and the red wire ran to the far (rear) end of the chase, so this provided a ground connection at the far end of the chase.  I recoded them with black tape.  The other red wire at the far end of the chase was the switched +12 VDC so I now had what I needed to power the LED rope light in that space.  I reinstalled the switches and cover plates and put the removable bottom shelf back in the pantry.  (The old ballast and wiring is still under this removable shelf.)

The LED rope light can be cut every few inches but I decided I should test it to make sure it worked before I started cutting it into smaller pieces.  I uncoiled the rope, which is supposed to be 52.5 feet long, as the instructions said not to apply power to it when it was coiled up.  I attached male spade lugs to the free end of one of the power cords, made my best guess as to the polarity of the rope, attached the power cord to one end of the rope, plugged the spade lugs into the two red wires in the chase, and turned on the switch.  Voila, I had guessed correctly on the polarity.  I checked the full length of the rope and all of the LEDs appeared to be working.  I need to check the length of the rope tomorrow to make sure it is the correct length.

The rope light came as a kit that included power cords (10), end caps (10), center connectors (10), and mounting clips (50).  This should be enough material to eventually redo all four of the fluorescent cove lights and add lighting around the inside face frame of a closet or two.  The lower portion of the center rear closet does not currently have any lighting and the main closet in the bathroom could certainly use more/better lighting.

I tried installing the mounting clips without much success.  It was night by this time and dark enough in the hallway that I couldn’t really see what I was doing.  As much as I wanted to the have this fixture functioning before I quit for the evening, I knew I had reached the end of this work for the day.  Rather than frustrate myself, and perhaps mess up something, I cleaned up my tools and materials and made dinner.  I had a Thai Kitchen Hot and Sour Rice Noodle Soup Bowl to which I added chopped up fresh mushrooms.  It was just the thing for a chilly evening.  I gathered up the day’s dishes and took them in the house to put in the dishwasher and then locked up the bus for the night.  I put another coat of flat black paint on my mounting board and then turned in for the evening to work on e-mail and this post.

2014/11/19 (W) Radio Woes

I was up a little earlier than usual this morning and rather than start the day with breakfast I sprayed another coat of paint on the oak board that I plan to mount to the windshield center pillar and use as a base for various cockpit accessories.  With that task completed I gathered up my cooking/eating utensils from the dishwasher and went out to my bus where I made a five cup pot of coffee and had some homemade granola for breakfast.  I then got to work on the LED lights for the hallway cove.


The space in the driver side rear corner of the bus. Access is difficult and it is full of wires, relays, and the bedroom a-c evaporator and blower.

I still had trouble mounting the plastic mounting brackets due to the lack of room to work but eventually figured out that I could create enough of a hole with my center-punch to get the screw started by hand.  Because of the design of the chase I mounted two clips at each end and two in the middle.  I started from the rear end of the chase, laid the LED rope into the mounting clips closest to the wall, brought the tube around and laid it into the other set of clips and capped the end.  I inserted the two pins of the power connector/cord into the free end, turned on the power, and voilà, I once again had a functioning hallway light.  I reattached the fascia board and double checked that lights still worked.  They did, so I moved on to the next task.

The other three fluorescent ceiling cove light fixtures will be much more difficult to convert due to access limitations, but they are still working, at least for now, so I will leave them as is.  I decided to add some of the LED rope light to the lower part of the bedroom center rear closet as it does not have any lights.  (The only light is a single incandescent bulb fixture on the ceiling and the light from that is blocked by the self.  Duh.)  I mounted three clips inside the vertical stiles so as not to interfere with the door hinges.  I cut and mounted 32″ LED rope light segments, inserted the power cord pins, and mounted the rope with the power cord at the top.  An existing hole in the front corners of the shelf allowed me to pass the free end of the power cords up into the top part of the closet which has the aforementioned light fixture controlled by micro-switches on each door.  I un-mounted the existing light fixture from the ceiling and identified the +/- 12VDC lines feeding it.  I separated the two conductors on the free ends of each power cord and stripped them.  I then cut the two wires feeding the ceiling fixture and stripped the ends.  I reconnected all of the +12 wires with a wire nut and then did the same for the -12 (DC ground) wires. (This kind of work is easier to describe than it is to do, and probably takes less time.)

As long as I was working in this closet and had the access panel removed for the driver side rear corner I decided to mount the TuneTrapper FM antenna for the bedroom radio and connect it to the radio.  I mounted the antenna to the ceiling just aft of the ceiling light fixture using mounting tab cable ties.  I passed the coax through the a-c return air opening, down to the radio, and plugged it in.  I turned the radio on but only got static and squeals.  I scanned for stations but never heard one.  This radio worked the last time I used it, and did not even have an antenna connected to it, so I am not sure what has happened and will need to investigate this further tomorrow.

By the time I finished all of this it was getting dark.  I had complied a short shopping list throughout the day.  Butch needed to go to Logansport but Bill had shown up to work on Brittiny’s car so Butch felt he had to stay home.  There wasn’t much else I could do so I drove into Logansport and stopped at Home Depot, Rural King, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, and Martin’s grocery store.  Home Depot finally had two of the 12″ x 12″ return air grills I needed for the bedroom air-conditioner return air project.

While I was in Logansport I was finally able to retrieve a voice message from Gary Hatt, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, and call him back.  I also called Linda to see how her day went.  I got a call from Butch asking me to pick up an order from O’Reilly’s.  While I was there I looked at car radios but did not buy one.  The situation with the bedroom radio is that it is an old two-post automotive style.  They have not been made for years, having been replaced with the 1-DIN and 2-DIN form factor units, except for a couple of specialty companies that make “vintage style” radios for vintage vehicles.  Because that is a very specialized market the radios command correspondingly high prices.  I will modify the panel where the radio is mounted before I buy something like that.

When I got back I unloaded and stowed my groceries.  I then took one of the return air grills back to the rear closet to check the fit.  It was too big; way too big.  I measured it and it was 14″ x 14″.  Apparently the 12″ x 12″ on the label referred to the louvered area not the outside dimensions.  I will be making a trip back to the Logansport Home Depot first thing tomorrow morning.  I think they have a 10″ x 10″ grill which should measure 12″ x 12.” If that is the case it will fit perfectly.

When I got back to Twelve Mile I chatted with Butch and Bill for a while and then turned in for the night.  I got online and registered the Ridgid drill/driver I bought last Saturday.  It has a limited Lifetime Service Agreement, but only if properly registered.  I then wrote this post and went to sleep.

2014/11/20 (R) Instant-Hot (Not)

My schedule has been shifting gradually since I brought the bus to Twelve Mile, Indiana at the end of September.  In spite of it now getting dark by 6 PM I have been working on the bus later into the evening.  This is partly due to the fact that I am working on inside projects and usually have ample artificial lighting.  I did not get started checking e-mail and writing yesterday’s blog post until 11 PM and I did not turn the lights out until 2 AM.  I typically get 7 hours of sleep a night, and true to my nature, I work up at 9 AM this morning.  I had already planned to head to Home Depot in Logansport as soon as I got up, and by the time I was dressed I decided to skip breakfast and just go.

Center rear bedroom closet with LED rope lights in bottom and TuneTrapper antenna in top on ceiling.

Center rear bedroom closet with LED rope lights in bottom and TuneTrapper antenna in top on ceiling.

I returned the 12″ x 12″ return air grills (that actually measured 14″ x 14″) and bought a pair of 10″ x 10″ grills (which actually measured about 12″ x 12″).  It was 10:30 AM when I got back so I went across the street to Small Town Brew and got a cup of coffee rather than take the time to make my own pot and then have to clean it up later.  I had a nice chat with Lisa Paul (the owner) and Harold, who appeared to be an elderly farmer but I could not tell if he was “retired.”

I took the new grills inside to the parts room to see if the square pieces of 1/4″ hardware cloth I cut and painted flat black would fit inside the lip of the grills.  I had to trim about 1/4″ off of two adjacent sides on each piece.  I took everything out to the bus and got the passenger side cloth/grill installed fairly easily.  The driver’s side was another story.  First I had to drill a hole above the top edge of the grill for the TuneTrapper FM antenna coaxial cable.  The opening on this side was slightly larger than on the other side and I could not get both screws, one center top and one center bottom, to bite.  I found a piece of scrap 1×1 in the warehouse and cut a 6″ length on Butch’s chop saw.  I drilled two holes through it and used wood screws to secure it to the top of the opening.  I was then able to screw the grill in place with the hardware cloth underneath it.  I also had to work left-handed, which didn’t make the job any easier.

I vacuumed up all of the sawdust, wood splinters, and carpet fuzz from all of the cutting and drilling I had done in this area in the last few days.  The grills are white but I decided not to paint them as they are inside a closet.  I installed them with the louvers facing the rear of the closet so when the doors are open you cannot see through them into the space behind.  They look OK and, more importantly, will allow unrestricted airflow into the squirrel cage blower on the bedroom air-conditioner evaporator.

As long as I was working in the rear closet I coiled and secured the extra length of FM antenna coax.  I then located the speaker wires for the radio.  There were wires for four speakers, which I presumed were the two in the bottom of the overhead cabinet in the bedroom and the two under the wall cabinet in the bathroom.  All of the power wires were also part of that harness.  I was not able to determine why the speakers quite working, so I disconnected all of the wires from the radio, removed the knobs, retaining nuts, and faceplate, and took it out of the panel from the rear.  There are a LOT of wires behind this panel and it was not easy to get the radio out.  (The radio is mounted in a panel next to an alarm clock and under a row of pushbuttom switches.  This panel is installed under the main 240/120 VAC house electrical distribution panel, above which is the evaporator/blower portion of the bedroom air-conditioner.  That’s a lot of stuff with a lot of wires in a place that is difficult to access; another brilliant Royale Coach conversion feature.)

The evaporator is installed with the coils not centered in the opening.  In particular there is a 1″ gap along the bottom edge and a similar opening along the top edge.  The problem with this is that it provides a very direct path for air coming out of the unit to be drawn back in rather than coming from the return air grill.  I purchased two different sizes of foam weather seal at Rural King intended for sealing around the edges of a window mounted air-conditioner.  I cut appropriate lengths of this material and secured it in place using double-sided tape I got from Fonda.

I decided to mount the indoor/outdoor thermometer on the wall between the refrigerator and the house systems panel.  It only needed one small screw and a small piece of double sided tape towards the bottom to hold it to the wall.  It’s a nice location and should give a more representative temperature reading, being on an interior wall at eye level and not in direct sunlight or near the kitchen counter where the cooking gets done.  It’s also next to the refrigerator so it should have a strong signal from the outdoor remote sensor, which we keep on the middle shelf of the refrigerator compartment.  As long as I was fiddling with this, I changed the batteries on the remote sensor and the base unit.

I checked in with Butch and Fonda to see if they needed my help.  They were also working on inside projects, both bus and house, and did not need my assistance today.  If they do need my help they know where to find me and are not bashful about asking, but I still like to check in with them several times a day.

My next task was to remove the Insta-Hot water heater from the kitchen sink.  It has never worked since we got the bus, which is to say no water comes out of it when I depress the lever.  I also have no idea if the electric heating element still worked as we have had it unplugged.  I shut of the water pump and closed the primary cold water inlet valve and both the inlet and outlet valves on the new water filter.  I loosened the 3/8″ tube compression nut on the supply line and pulled it loose from the supply T.  I purchased two 3/8″ compression caps yesterday at Home Depot.  I applied Teflon tape to the threads on the T, screwed a compression cap on, and tightened it.  I re-pressurized the line, checked for leaks, and found some.  I tightened the cap more but I could not get the leaks to stop.

I again shut the pump off, closed all of the relevant valves, and opened the filtered drinking water faucet to relieve the pressure.  I borrowed Butch’s Teflon pipe thread sealant, cleaned the Teflon off the threads on the T, applied the sealant, and screwed the second cap on.  I tightened the cap and re-pressurized the system.  It leaked worse than before.  I tried to tighten the cap more and the leak got worse.  It was time for plan B.

The hose coming out of the new water filter feeds a T from which a line went to the Insta-Hot.  The other end of the T is connected via 3/8″ tube to a second T.  One line from that T supplies the drinking water faucet.  The end of the second T feeds the line for the ice-maker in the refrigerator, which we have valved off behind the fridge and unplugged.  The first T was no longer necessary and the second T wasn’t really either.  Given that I could not cap the first T successfully I decided to remove it.  That left the second T with a short length of 3/8″ tube with a compression sleeve and nut already in place.  The hose coming off the output side of the new filter housing was long enough to reach to the second T.  I snugged up the compression nut and restored pressure to the system.  No leaks!  Hurray.

My final project for today was wiring up a 120VAC outlet in the bathroom closet for the InterVac built-in vacuum cleaner.  The vacuum cleaner is installed in the hallway wall just to the left of the refrigerator and below the house systems panel.  The bathroom closet is on the opposite side of that same wall.  The closet has a false bottom with a removable panel that provides access to a 6″ deep space full of wires, hoses, and heaters.  Of particular interest to me was the Cadet electric toe-kick heater which runs on 120 VAC (~10 Amps) and is on its own circuit breaker.

I removed the access panel and then removed the thermostat knob and the front cover/grill (two screws) from the toe-kick heater.  I removed two more screws and the heater slid out the front of the toe-kick board.  I removed four small screws, took the top cover off, disconnected the power wires, and pulled them out the back of the unit.  I got a surface mount duplex outlet and a square metal junction box (with cover plate) from Butch.  I drilled a hole through the bottom of the closet next to the rear wall that was tucked under the shelves to the right.  I cut a two foot length of 14-2+g NM cable and used it to wire up the surface mount outlet.  I fed the wire down through the hole, and screwed the outlet to the rear wall.  I installed a strain relief in the back of the Cadet enclosure, cut a two foot length of 12-2+g NM cable, routed it into the Cadet, and completed the AC power connections.  I then put the top cover back on, slid the unit back into the recessed toe-kick, secured it in place, and put the cover/knob back on.  I routed the original power cable and the two new cables into the metal junction box, made all of the electrical connections, and put the cover plate back on.  I put the cover on the new outlet and plugged in the InterVac power cord, which comes out of a grommeted hole in the back wall of the closet.  I turned the circuit breaker on, turned the heater thermostat up, and it came to life.  I turned the thermostat back down to shut the unit off and turned the vacuum cleaner on.  It worked too.  I put the access panel back in place, gathered up all of my tools and supplies, and then swept up all of the construction debris.

The refrigerator has been running a bit colder than I would like so I made small adjustments throughout the day.  The unit was suddenly running at 44 degrees instead of the 35-37 degrees it had been indicating.  I removed the thermometer base unit from the wall and set it up in the refrigerator next to the remote sensor.  I will check it in the morning and see if they are in agreement.

Linda called around 8:30 PM and Butch came out to let me know.  We chatted briefly and I went back out to the coach to finish up and have a light dinner salad.  I wrapped up at 10 PM, locked up the bus, and went into the house.  Butch and Fonda had already turned in for the night.  Their oldest daughter, Gene, is getting married tomorrow in Indianapolis and they would be leaving early in the morning.

2014/11/21 (F) Wedding Bells

I set my alarm for 8 AM to make sure I was up and dressed before Butch and Fonda had to leave.  Gene, the older of their two daughters, was getting married at 4 PM today in Indianapolis and there were a few details I had to go over with Butch and Fonda before they left.  They were still getting ready so I went across the street to Small Town Brew to have a cup of coffee and chat with the proprietor, Lisa Paul.

The first of two return air grills that allow air to pass through the upper portion of the center rear closet.

The first of two return air grills that allow air to pass through the upper portion of the center rear closet. The TuneTrapper FM antenna is visible upper right.

When I returned to the house Fonda showed me how to operate their washer and dryer and the various additives she uses.  She pre-measured the food for the dogs and told me what time to feed them, when they needed to be taken outside, and the policy on “cookies” (dog biscuits).  Butch gave me a house key so I could come and go as needed.  He found some audio speakers that might be useful in diagnosing the problem with the bedroom radio.  He also found a multi-probe digital thermometer that I could use to check the temperatures of the bus refrigerator and freezer compartments and ambient room temperatures against the Indoor/Outdoor thermometer we use for that purpose.  They loaded up the car at 9:30 AM and left to pick up Bill Tharpe in Mexico (Indiana).  Bill was flying out of Indianapolis to meet a friend in Arkansas (state of) and drive her back to Indiana and the timing was such that he could catch a ride down to the airport with them.

As soon as they left I sorted my laundry into lights and darks and loaded the lights into the washing machine.  I used my own detergent, which is free of dyes and perfumes, as years ago I had a bad reaction (contact dermatitis) to a name brand liquid laundry detergent.  With the laundry started I took the digital thermometer to my bus and had breakfast.  I read the directions for the thermometer, plugged in the probes, and turned it on only to discover that the 9V battery was low (depleted) and needed to be replaced before I could use the instrument.  It was a cool but sunny day!—a nice day for a drive—so I locked up the bus, transferred the laundry from the washer to the dryer, locked the house, and headed to Walmart in Logansport.

I was back in an hour, by which time the dogs needed to be taken outside.  With that chore done I put the second load of laundry in the washer and restarted the dryer on the driest setting.  I put the new 9V battery in the digital thermometer, plugged in the three probes, and turned it on.  I put one probe in the freezer, left one buy the counter (for ambient air temp) and put one in the fridge next to the base station and the remote sensor.  The digital thermometer is accurate to 1/10th of a degree Fahrenheit.  It is a serious piece of test equipment that Butch used for professional HVAC work, so I regard the temperature readings as correct compared to our indoor/outdoor consumer unit.  For the rest of the day I kept a log of the time and temperatures each time the refrigerator compressor started and stopped.

After studying the manual for the bedroom radio, a Kenwood KRC 3004, I worked for a while on the bedroom control panel where it was mounted.  After struggling with getting the radio out yesterday I realized today that the wood bezel surrounding the panel was removable, allowing the whole panel to come out and providing easier access to its back side and the wiring behind it.  That did not change my opinion about the design of this aspect of the bus conversion; it simply was not done with the idea that it would ever have to be worked on.

I had disconnected the harness for the four speakers powered by this radio yesterday so I checked at the connector for proper resistance and shorts.  Each speaker measured around 4 ohms (DC) and none of the negative lines were shorted.  (Technically the 4 ohm rating on a speaker is an AC impedance, not a DC resistance, but the resistance reading told me there was a complete circuit from the connector through the two wires and the speaker coil.)  The power supply wires appeared to be in tact so I reconnected the radio and turned it on.  I heard some static and could “move” it from the bedroom to the bathroom with the front-rear fader control but as soon as I tried to turn the volume up the speakers went dead.

This was starting to sound like a volume control component problem so I removed the top cover of the radio.  The volume control was a component about 1/2″ square and 3″ long mounted to a vertical circuit board on the left edge of the chassis.  There wasn’t much I could do with that but tomorrow I may spray it with some De-Ox-it just for grins and giggles.

I interrupted my work around 4 PM to feed the dogs and take them outside.  I was thinking about what to work on next and remembered that the latch side stile of the left closet door in the bathroom was coming loose and was difficult to latch.  I needed two “L” brackets to reinforce the upper and lower corners on the inside of the door where the stile connected to the top and bottom rails.  For the second time today I locked the bus and the house and headed to Logansport.  This time my destination was Home Depot, but it’s adjacent to the Walmart so it was still the east end of town.  I also went to Radio Shack, in McCord’s Do It Best Hardware, looking for a replacement radio but they do not sell car radios anymore.

I called Linda while I was in town and described the work I was doing.  She sent me a TXT message with data on our refrigerator at home.  Over the course of an hour the compressor cycled 7 minutes on, 13 minutes off.  That was useful information. That’s a duty cycle of about 1/3 or 33%.  Our bus fridge duty cycle was ~60% (30 minutes ON, 20 minutes OFF).  I think our home fridge is more like what I would expect, but I will discuss this with Butch.  What bothers me the most is how long the bus fridge runs when it comes on; 4x as long as the house fridge.

By the time I got back it was dinnertime.  I heated a Tofurkey Italian sausage with some diced onion and used it as a topping for a plate of salad greens, along with some roasted peanuts and raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing.  I then worked on the bathroom closet door while I continued to monitor and record the refrigerator and freezer temperatures.  I also repositioned the ball catches on the door so it now closes easily and latches securely.

I was watching the data from the digital thermometers and happened to be looking at the readings from the one in the freezer when the cycle ended.  The temperature was around 0 degrees F and as soon as the compressor stopped running I watched the temperature climb 1/10th of a degree every few seconds.  The compressor seemed to come back on when the freezer reached a temperature of 10-to-12 degrees F.  If I presume a 10 degree rise (to keep the math easy) and the off time is 20 minutes, the freezer is heating up 1 degree F every 2 minutes (120 seconds).  That’s 1/10th of a degree every 12 seconds, which seemed pretty fast to me.  I also noticed, however, that the temperature in the refrigerator compartment continued to drop a few tenths of a degree after the compressor stopped, so perhaps that’s where the cold from the freezer was going.

How a refrigerator cycles depends on a number of factors: the efficiency of the unit, the ambient temperature, where the controls are set, how much and what kind of stuff is in the freezer and fridge compartments, and how often the doors are opened and for how long.  I don’t have any food in the bus freezer but there is plenty of mass in the form of containers of frozen water.  I don’t have much food in the bus fridge compartment either, but I have a lot of bottled water, “milk”, O. J., salad dressings, mustard, etc. and I have it distributed from top to bottom, including the door shelves.  I have the thermometers on the second shelf from the top.

I had spent quite a bit of time earlier taking voltage measurements on the push-button switches in the bedroom control panel in an attempt to figure out why the aisle lights were not working.  I was fairly certain this was a 3-way circuit with a second switch.  I found the “other” switch by the dinette, changed its position, and voila, the aisle lights worked!  For some reason that switch, the rearmost switch by the fake plant, appeared to not be wired as a 3-way with the one in the bedroom but rather to be in series with it; both switches have to be on for the lights to work.  That may not be how they are wired, as there could be a relay involved, but that’s how they behave.

I wrapped up my work for the day at 8 PM, locked up the bus and went in the house.  I took the dogs out and then gave them each a treat.  I folded and packed my clothes and then settled in to write while I waited for Butch and Fonda to get home.  They arrived at 10 PM and we chatted for a while about the wedding/reception, refrigerators, and radios before finally turning in for the night at 11 PM.

Bus bedroom driver side rear corner house systems control panel with Kenwood KRC 3004 radio removed.

Bus bedroom driver side rear corner house systems control panel with Kenwood KRC 3004 radio removed.

2014/11/22(S) T Minus 2

…and counting.  Today was my second to last day to work on the bus in Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Except for a few days in October, the first full week of November, and some weekends, I have been at Butch and Fonda’s place since I brought the coach here on September 30.  We have gotten a lot done on both buses in that time, but not everything on either list.  As much as I wanted to avoid a last minute scramble, there was still too much to do to take the weekend off.  I was up at 7 AM, took a shower, got dressed, finished yesterday’s blog post, and got to work.  I stayed busy until 10 PM, with short breaks to have a bite to eat and one trip to Logansport late in the afternoon.

My major accomplishment today was mounting the oak board to the center windshield pillar and then mounting the magnetic compass and Pressure Pro TPMS receiver to it.  I needed a standoff to mount the inclinometer, so I cut two pieces of 1×1 and spray painted them flat black.  I will finish mounting the inclinometer tomorrow, and possibly the inside rearview mirror.

My other major project was the removal, disassembly, diagnosis, repair, testing, and reassembly of the driver’s side motorized windshield roller shade.  Fonda helped me remove it and Butch helped with the rest of the process.  It appears that the problem was a soldered connection to the internal motor that failed.  I will reinstall it tomorrow, probably with Fonda’s help, and try to correct some alignment problems in the process.

I sprayed the on/off/volume control in the Kenwood KRC-3004 radio with De-Ox-It and left it to dry.  I came back later, plugged the connector into the back of the radio, and turned it on.  Nothing, nada, zip; zero sound from the speakers.  I suspect the volume control or the final output transistors have failed.  Either way I am not likely to get it repaired.  While I tend to think of Kenwood as good equipment, both of the radios in the bus have something wrong with them.  The front radio is obviously newer as it has a 1-Din form factor.  This will also make it easier to replace when I get around to it.

The bedroom radio is an old style unit with two shafts that are used to mount it and control most of the functions plus a center section for the cassette player, LCD display, and a few buttons.  This style of radio is now considered “vintage.”  There are at least two companies that make modern radios in authentic vintage form factors, but they are very pricey and targeted at the vintage restoration market.  Putting a modern 1-Din form factor radio in the bedroom panel will require me to cut the appropriate size opening.  Since the panel has 10 switches mounted in it creating the opening will be non-trivial.  A better option would be a remote radio with a slim profile control head, like the one Butch has from Custom Autosound.  The control head would cover the center opening and I could mount switches in the two shaft holes.  I thought of that riding to Logansport.  Our trips to town are often useful that way.

Another thing I did today was continue to monitor and adjust the refrigerator.  Since I spent much of the day working in the bus I was able to log the time of day and various temperatures each time the compressor started and stopped.  I missed cycles, of course, as I was in and out of the house or gone to town, but I think I got enough data to determine if there is a consistent difference between the indoor/outdoor sensors and the more accurate Cooper Instruments SH66A digital thermometer, and if so, how much and in what direction.  I also have useful information about the settings of the refrigerator (thermostat) control and freezer (air control) for the temperatures I want to maintain in the two compartments.  I will continue to monitor tomorrow as I wrap up my last few tasks and organize the bus for travel.  I entered the raw time and temperature data into an Excel Spreadsheet but did not have time to analyze it.  Big day tomorrow; have to get to bed.

Bus bedroom DS rear corner house systems control panel removed.

Bus bedroom DS rear corner house systems control panel removed.

2014/11/23 (N) T Minus 1

Today was my final day working on buses in Twelve Mile, at least until we return here a week from today.  The temperature continued to be mild but by noon it was raining.  I had breakfast and got to work as I had a long list of little things to take care of today.

I continued to monitor the refrigerator/freezer temperatures and record them while working on other projects.  I taped a piece of cardboard to the back of the bedroom control panel to cover the holes where the radio used to be and reinstalled the panel.  I reinstalled the driver side access panel in the lower rear closet and then vacuumed up the sawdust and other construction detritus.  I started organizing the inside of the coach for travel, getting things in boxes and getting the boxes on the floor on the two front sofas.  Twelve Mile now has a large recycling container that accepts mixed recyclables, so I carried several bags of plastic, cardboard, and cans over there rather than haul them back to the house.

Automotion shade with motor removed from end of roller tube.

Automotion shade with motor removed from end of roller tube.

Steve showed up mid-morning and helped Butch install a new AM/FM radio and CD player in the MC-9.  They also came over and helped me reinstall the driver side windshield roller shade. We tested it and it worked.  I like it when that happens.  I wasn’t as lucky with my mounting arrangement for the inclinometer.  I ended up modifying one of the pieces and then had to repaint the two ends flat black.  I left it to dry and busied myself with getting the bus ready to go to Gallahan’s Truck Stop for fuel.  I had turned the electric block heater on earlier so I turned it off and turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump.

I used Butch’s portable air compressor to air up the chassis (suspension, brakes, and engine accessories) and used his auto shop compressor to adjust the inflation pressures of the tires.  I have the 12VDC accessory outlets in the cockpit powered off of the house batteries, so I immediately checked the Pressure Pro TPMS sensor readings against the known pressures in the tires.  The correspondence was as follows (actual:sensor):  DSF (116:112), PSF (116:111), DSOD (95:92), DSID (95:91), PSOD (95:91), PSID (95:91), DST (85:83), PST (85:83).  All of the sensors are reading low from 2 to 5 PSI.  I need to create a little card to go by the display unit with these calibration adjustments.

Butch had to take Steve to Rochester to meet up with his wife and I was just getting ready to lock up the buildings so I could drive the bus to Gallahan’s when Fonda returned from church.  I stowed the folding step stool in the back of the car, unplugged the electrical shoreline and stored it just inside the warehouse overhead door, disconnected the portable air-compressor and stored it in the parts room, and turned off the Aqua-Hot (anything with an open flame is a no-no at a fueling station).  I fired up the engine and was about to leave at 1 PM when Butch returned.

I drove to Gallahan’s in light rain.  The new speedometer/odometer worked as intended, and I did not get a Check Engine Light (CEL) during the trip out and back.  I discovered, however, that my transmission retarder was not engaging.  I suspect that has something to do with removing and reinserting the cable connectors on the DDEC II when I was trying to diagnose and fix the Fuel Temperature Sensor Voltage High code problem.  Not having the transmission retarder is not a good thing, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it today.  I will probably try to figure this out on Monday, December 1st while we are parked back at Butch and Fonda’s awaiting our group departure for the southwest U. S.

When I got back from Gallahan’s I pulled the bus in front of the automotive garage so I could pull the car up behind it.  A lake was forming behind the bus, so I pulled up farther.  Butch has a 30 A RV outlet on the front of the garage, which was plenty of power for the unoccupied bus.  I moved all of the stuff I had stored in the parts room to the overhead door for the woodshop, which is directly behind where I normally park the bus.  I backed the car up to the door close enough that I could open the rear hatch and load everything into the back of the car while staying out of the rain.  I packed up clothing I was not going to need and loaded that in the back as well.

Once the car was loaded I pulled it around behind the bus and hooked it up for towing.  By this time there was a hard, steady, rain but I just worked through it.  All of the lights tested as good and the bus/car combination was ready to roll tomorrow morning.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot and turned up the heat while I prepared a couple of tofu hotdogs for a late lunch / early dinner.

Magnetic compass mounted to the oak board on the center windshield pillar.

Magnetic compass mounted to the oak board on the center windshield pillar.

I re-mounted the inside rearview mirror high enough that I will not bump my head on it like I used to.  I retrieved the mounting part I had spray painted earlier and tried to finish the installation of the inclinometer, but could not get it to work.  I will either have to take the case apart to get the mounting bracket loose or I will have to rethink/re-engineer how I mount it.  That was my last project.  I would rather not have ended on a note of failure, but it meant I have at least one project to look forward to.  I gathered up a few cooking/eating utensils, my camera, and a notepad, shut off the lights, and locked the door on the way out.

Back in the house I took a hot shower and put on some dry clothes.  I loaded all of the wet/soiled clothes in the washer and Fonda did a small load of laundry for me, transferring it to the dryer as well.  The three of us chatted while they ate dinner.  Linda called at 8:30 PM and we discussed the weather forecast for tomorrow, which, while well above freezing (to start) was less than ideal with rain and high wind advisories.  I decided to try for an earlier start than I originally planned.  With any luck I can be at Martin Diesel by 9:30 AM and on the road for home by 2 PM.  That would get me back to the house while it’s still daylight.


2014/11/10-16 Even More Bus Work

2014/11/10 (M) New Heights

We rarely set wake up alarms anymore, one of the major perks of retirement, but ‘rarely’ does not mean never so this morning my alarm went off at 5:05 AM.  I grabbed a quick shower, got dressed, and got busy pulling everything together for the trip to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  I had hoped to be on the road by 6 AM but did not quite make it.  Linda left at 6:15 AM for a 7:30 AM medical appointment and I had the car packed by 6:30 AM and pulled out shortly after that.

The drive always takes me about five hours including stops.  Butch called me around 10 AM to let me know they were in Logansport and would not make it back to the house until mid-afternoon.  I was going to stop in Rochester anyway to buy groceries so I had lunch first and then took my time shopping.  From Rochester I took IN-25 south and stopped in Fulton to buy fuel.  The street I normally turn on is Aitken and the filling station was at the intersection with IN-25 so I headed east to Meridian Street and then south to IN-16 and finally east to Twelve Mile.

New ride height linkage (L) with ball ends.  Old linkage (R) with rubber ends.

New ride height linkage (L) with ball ends. Old linkage (R) with rubber ends.

I pulled up in front of the bus at 12:30 PM and unloaded all of the groceries and bus parts from the car and put them in the bus.  I changed into my work clothes and started working on inside projects.  First up was resetting the clocks since the switch from EDT to EST occurred while I was away.  I then emptied the cabinet above the refrigerator, which is currently used to store cleaning supplies, in preparation for installing an under cabinet florescent light fixture against the ceiling.  I was investigating the details of that little project when Butch and Fonda got home.  With the house now unlocked I finished unloading my car and moved my clothes and technology into the guest bedroom, which is where I stay when I am here working on buses.

Butch had fabricated one of my ride height linkages while I was away.  He made a second one and then I gathered up tools and my camera to install them while he finished the last one.  Fonda found a large sheet of corrugated plastic that made it much easier to slide under the bus to work.  The front one was easy to install, just as it had been easier to remove.  The rear ones were even more difficult to install than they were to remove.  I got the rear protection shields back on with Fonda’s help.  Some jobs just require more than two hands.

New ride height linkage ball end and mounting bolt.  Old linkage end visible upper right.

New ride height linkage ball end and mounting bolt. Old linkage end visible upper right.

Bill Tharpe showed up to help Butch work on Brittiny’s car.  Butch and Bill had retrieved it a couple of days ago with a car hauler trailer when it quit running.  It was leaking coolant and apparently needed a new intake manifold gasket.  Bill spent most of his time disassembling the top of the engine so he can eventually remove the manifold.

Although I bought fresh salad greens on the drive down it ended up being a long day so I prepared a Simply Asia Mushroom Noodle Soup Bowl for dinner along with a few grapes.  Linda called at 8:30 PM and we chatted about her audiology and ENT appointments this morning.  The audiologist said her hearing in her ‘good’ ear was essentially unchanged from four years ago, which was good news, and she had a great visit with Dr. Siedman.  I chatted briefly with Butch about the fair weather ‘to do’ list for tomorrow and then we all turned in for the evening.

2014/11/11 (T) Code 23

I was up at 7 AM and in my coach by 7:30 having a simple, but yummy, breakfast of orange juice and homemade granola with unsweetened soy milk.  With all of the projects I have going on I have very little space at the moment to prepare food or sit and eat so I decided to forego making coffee and walked across the street to Small Town Brew to get some.  Lisa (the shop owner) was there so we had a nice chat.

New ride height linkage installed on front axle and leveling valve.

New ride height linkage installed on front axle and leveling valve.

The weather forecast indicated that the best part of the day was going to be the morning with the high temperature of 54 degrees F at noon and then falling steadily with a rapidly increasing chance of rain.  I had two outside tasks to accomplish on my bus today so I wanted to get them done in the morning if possible.  My first task, however, was to attach the stinger (or whip, the long slender flexible piece at the top of an amateur radio antenna) to the base screwdriver portion of Butch’s mobile HF ham antenna.  I was able to do this from his ladder and did not have to get up on the roof.

While I worked on the antenna Butch prepped their new motion-sensing patio light.  He installed it over the entrance door to their bus with Fonda’s help.  With his assistance I removed the new fan belt from my engine, removed the two old air-conditioning compressor belts, and installed the two new a-c belts.  It was obvious from the extra slack in the inside belt that the a-c compressor was out of alignment with the pulley on the engine.  Butch suggested that we take the new belts off rather than ruin them and put the old ones back on until we can align the compressor.  That made sense to me, so that’s what we did, finally putting the new fan belt back on.

The drive side rear ride height linkage was not easy to get to with the dual drive tires on the axle.

The drive side rear ride height linkage was not easy to get to with the dual drive tires on the axle.

In the process of changing the belts I tried to us the valve that either tightens the belts when the engine is running or retracts the belt tensioners when they need to be changed.  The retract position did not appear to work and after looking at how the valve was plumbed Butch and I were of the opinion that it may not be connected correctly.  The run/tighten position works as intended, extending the air-driven belt tensioners, but it would sure be nice to be able to turn the valve and have the belt tensioners retract as intended.  I’m going to have to find out more about this valve and re-plumb it if necessary.

Butch and Fonda had to take some time to move things out of their warehouse for someone who is coming by to purchase them.  While they did that I started working on the DDEC II code 23 (Fuel Temp Sensor Voltage High) problem.  I got the diagnostic procedure from Chuck over the weekend.  The first step was to remove the harness from the sensor, short out the two pins, turn on the ignition (but do not start the engine), and see what Active Codes the ECM (DDEC II) generates.  That sounded simple enough but unfortunately the Fuel Temperature Sensor is located on the right side of the fuel pump under the ECM and behind a coolant pipe.  The only way to get to it is to unbolt the ECM mounting plate from the block and lift it up, which it turn requires all of the harnesses to be unplugged from the ECM.  Again, simple enough in concept but more difficult in practice.  Once I could get to the sensor and disconnect the harness I had to figure out a way to jumper across the two sockets.  I ended up using two pieces of small solid wire inserted into the connector and then bent to give me something to connect the alligator clips to.  Fonda helped with all of this.  Again, it was more than a two-handed job.

Access to the passenger side rear ride height linkage was a little better, but not great.

Access to the passenger side rear ride height linkage was a little better, but not great.

I turned on the ignition and read the Active Codes on my ProLink and also had them flash on the Check Engine Light.  I was looking for a code 25 (everything is OK) or either a code 23 or a code 24.  What I got was both a code 23 (sensor signal and/or return wire open) and a code 24 (signal wire shorted to +5 VDC wire).  The diagnostic procedure has you check resistance between pins in either case, just different pins, so I checked both.  The readings I got did not make a lot of sense and I did not have time to pursue it further as the temperature had started dropping and it had started misting.  (I figured out later that the code 23 test requires the jumper to remain in place but I had done the code 24 test first, which required it to be removed, and not reinstalled it, so I did not do the Code 23 test correctly.)

By the time I got the ECM bolted back in place and all of the harnesses reconnected it was raining lightly and my tools were getting wet.  I got all of them put away and closed up all of the bays and decided to start the engine to make sure it would still run.  It started right up and I let it run on high idle for 25 minutes while I had a bite of lunch.  The test procedure called for clearing all codes before starting the engine and monitoring the CEL for 8 minutes, stopping the engine, and checking the historical codes.  I was clearly done working outside for the day so I did not get to do this at this time.

It was only mid-afternoon when I shut the engine off so I set to work installing the florescent light fixture in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  As with most projects this one seemed simple enough but took quite a while to do.  I was able to use an existing hole with wires running through it to snake two more wires through from the cabinet (where the fixture was going) to the adjacent cabinet to the right over the left corner of the kitchen counter.  That cabinet already had two 12 VDC light fixtures and I had previously identified the positive and negative supply wires.  What complicated matters was that the glue holding the carpet on the ceiling of the refrigerator cabinet had failed and the carpet was falling down.  The loose carpet also led to the discovery of other 12 VDC wiring hidden underneath it.  That, in turn, led to two things:  1) I had to make sure that when I mounted the new florescent fixture I did not screw through any of these wires, and 2) I had to figure out a way to keep the ceiling carpet up.

The sunset was amazing on November 10th.

The sunset was amazing on November 10th.

I taped the existing wires to the plywood ceiling so they would be in known locations.  I then used wood screws and fender washers to hold the carpet to the ceiling.  I added insulated spade lug connectors to the fixture wires and the supply wires and connected the other ends of the supply wires to the existing supply wires using special connectors designed for tapping into an existing wire without cutting it.  I would not use these for higher current applications but for a small florescent light fixture they are fine.  I attached the fixture to the ceiling with four short wood screws, installed the F13T5 bulb, turned the switch ON, and there was light!  I love it when that happens.

As long as I was working in this area I decided to reattach the incandescent fixture in the cabinet above the kitchen sink.  It was designed to be mounted with two screws but only one was in place.  Again, this turned out to be more work than it at first appeared.  The fixture is mounted to the inside of the upper cabinet face frame, not the ceiling, so there was no way to directly see what I was doing.  That meant mirrors and flashlights, and a blown fuse when my screwdriver shorted +12vdc to DC ground.  It turned out that the wiring was interfering with the mounting.  I eventually got it tucked up under the ceiling carpet and got the fixture mounted using two screws.  My documentation indicated that the upper kitchen cabinet lights were powered by wire #51.  I located that wire in the front DC distribution panel and pulled the 10 Amp fuse that protects it.  It was indeed open, which was good as it meant my documentation was correct and allowed me to find it on the first try.

The florescent light in the hallway ceiling cove quit working the last time I was here.  I removed the bulb, with some difficulty, to see what it was.  It was an F72T12 55 Watt (72″ length) with a single pin on each end.  I needed a 10 A blade fuse to replace the one I blew so I made a shopping list and headed off to Logansport to visit Walmart, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, and Home Depot.  Since I was in town I called Linda as my cell phone does not work in Twelve Mile.  She wanted to know if I had shut off the outside water at home.  I had not, so she took photos of the valves/pipes in the utility room and e-mailed them to me.  I got a call from Butch while I was in town.  He needed a few machine screws so I picked those up.  When I got back to the house I checked the photos Linda had sent and then sent her a couple of replies which resulted in her calling the house to go through what had to be done.  She e-smiled me later that she had taken care of it.

I Replaced the F72T12 (with considerable difficulty) but it still did not work.  It was late, and dark, and I was tired, so finding and fixing the problem would have to wait until tomorrow.  Somewhere in there I had a tofu Italian sausage on a whole wheat hotdog bun with mustard and onions.  By the time I came in to the house Butch and Fonda had gone to bed.  I checked e-mail and logged in to RVillage ad saw that our “Vegan RVers (WFPB)” group was up to 100 members.  I worked on this post and then went nighty night.

2014/11/12 (W) Burrrr

The leading edge (cold front) of the polar vortex had passed through north central Indiana by the time we got up this morning.  There was a definite bite to the air, and it will get worse before it gets better, but I brought a selection of winter clothing that I can layer in various was to suit the conditions and the work that needs to be done.  All of my projects today were inside the bus or the house so I did not have to bundle up excessively.  Butch and Fonda spent a little time working on the privacy curtain system for the front of their coach but much of their time today was taken up with someone who bought a lot of metal shelving and storage racks from them.  He showed up sometime between 9 and 10 AM and brought a crew to disassemble the shelving and load everything into a trailer.  Butch had to use his forklift to help load some it.

The DDEC II ECM on our DD8V92TA with all of the harnesses unplugged.

The DDEC II ECM on our DD8V92TA with all of the harnesses unplugged.

I had cleared some space in the kitchen (of the bus) so I made coffee to go with breakfast.  That emptied out the last of three storage canisters, so I opened the three bags of custom roasted beans from Teeko’s and transferred them to the three containers.  After considering my project choices I decided to install the knob on the front TV cabinet door.  I spent a few minutes checking the installation details and dimensions of the Gaggenau halogen cooktop, which we would eventually like to replace with a built-in two-position induction cooktop if we can find one that fits the existing opening in the kitchen counter.  I had a note to get the GenSet model number for Martin Diesel so I looked that up in my documentation and found both the model and serial numbers.  I then turned my attention to the fluorescent light fixture in the hallway cove.

After studying the construction of the cove I realized that the front piece could be detached by removing seven (7) screws from underneath.  With the fascia removed I had great access to the F72T12 bulb.  I also discovered that there wasn’t an actual fixture there, just two ends to hold the bulb.  One was spring loaded and the other one was not.  The ballast was obviously somewhere else.  But where?

I vaguely recalled having seen a small metal box with wires coming out of it in the space under the bottom shelf of the pantry so I looked there and, sure enough, there it was.  It still had a label on it that was in good condition and indicated that it was a 13.2 VDC ballast for a single F72T12 fluorescent bulb.  Things were slowly starting to make sense.  There is an identical box in the back TV cabinet, with the same wires and connector but no label or markings, so I reasoned that it must power the fluorescent cove light in the bedroom.  That meant there were probably two more boxes somewhere for the two front fluorescent cove lights, although there might only be one as they are on the same switch.  Again, I vaguely recalled having seen these boxes in the bottom rear of the A-V cabinet behind the driver’s seat, so that’s where I looked first, and there they were.

Wire taps for joining a new wire to an existing wire.

Wire taps for joining a new wire to an existing wire.

It appeared that we had a bad ballast and that this would be an easy fix.  The label said the ballast was a Triad made by Magnetek in Huntington, Indiana and had the model number.  Cool.  I could drive over there and get one if I had to.  I went inside to use my iPad to search for sources of supply and found that Magnetek had divested itself of most of their product lines, including this one.  Their website gave the URLs of the various companies that acquired their product lines.  Universal Lighting picked up the DC ballast products so I tried their website but did not find one for an F72T12 bulb.  Ugh.  I searched some more and eventually found a Bodine (Philips) ballast electronic/inverter ballast that appeared to be exactly what I needed…for $98 plus tax and S$H.  Double ugh.

I would eventually like to convert most of the lighting in the coach to LEDs, so perhaps this was the time.  I found a kit with 52.5 feet of LED rope light (~10 LEDs/in) and power cords, end caps, and mounting clips to make up to 10 segments.  The description said the light pattern was 360 degrees and the illumination was 48-60 lumens per foot.  An FTC website indicated that a typical 40 W incandescent bulb puts out about 450 lumens and a 60 W bulb about 800 lumens.  Figuring conservatively at 50 lumens per foot a 10 foot length, folded back mid-point to make a five foot long light source, should give us at least 500 lumens which is plenty of light for this application.  The kit has enough materials to make four such lights and still have 12 feet to use somewhere else, such as around the inside of the face frame of the wardrobe closet in the bathroom.  I ordered it with 3-day shipping.  While I was at it I ordered an Everpure (SHURflo) ADC Full-timer bacteriostatic water filter cartridge with 2-day delivery through Amazon Prime.  I thought about ordering several, but figured I might find them cheaper in Quartzsite this winter.

There wasn’t anything else I could do on the fluorescent fixture so I decided to shorten the cable for the front OTA TV antenna and put an F-connector on the RF coax portion.  I borrowed Butches crimper with the hex jaws and opened the coax cable stripper I bought at Home Depot.  I then discovered that the RG-6 connectors I had did not fit the cable, which was smaller in diameter.  Without different connectors this would be another stalled project with my front TV unusable.  Butch told me there was a Radio Shack store inside McCord’s Hardware and Lumber so I made a shopping list and headed to Logansport.

New florescent light in cabinet above the refrigerator.

New florescent light in cabinet above the refrigerator.

Based on the connectors available at Radio Shack I determined that my cable was probably RG-59 so I got four crimp style F-connectors.  While I was in town I stopped at Home Depot for a GFCI outlet to replace the one in the bathroom, which keeps tripping.  I also spotted some packages of cover plate screws so I got one each of white, almond, and brown.  A quick stop at Walmart for some personal items and I was headed back to Twelve Mile.

When I got back Fonda was just starting to make their dinner so I went to my coach to fix a salad.  I had a large salad of power greens, fresh mushrooms, fresh strawberries, onion, peanuts, and dried cranberries with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing and a small glass of Moscato wine.  I then worked on the F-connector.

It took a while, and a couple of test fits, but I eventually figured out how to strip the coax, folding back the braided shield while leaving the foil shield in place, and get the prepped cable fully inserted into the connector and crimped it.  I stripped the three control wires, secured the little bit of extra cable inside the cabinet, and then connected the coax and control wires to the back of the controller.  Twelve Mile is a long way from everywhere but I figured I would I would test my cable construction by trying to tune in a channel.  The TV was having trouble receiving channel, 16-1 HD until I moved the antenna from position 8 to position 6.  Position 8 is just to the driver side of the nose, so given how I was parked it was facing slightly east of south.  Position 6 was more ESE, and the signal was good except when a truck went by.

Tarheel HF screwdriver ham radio antenna on motorized lift mount.

Tarheel HF screwdriver ham radio antenna on motorized lift mount.

I checked with Butch and WNDU 16-1 HD turned out to be a South Bend station.  South bend is north and slightly west of Twelve Mile.  Hummm?  I swung the antenna around to position 14, 180 degrees from position 6 and roughly NW, and had an excellent signal there too (I don’t recall it being interrupted by passing vehicles).  Clearly the F-connector was on well enough to transmit a clean signal.  The only thing I can figure is that my antenna had an unobstructed view of a large house in direction 6 that provided a very usable signal that was blocked by large trucks passing by.  Either way, South Bend is over 60 miles away, so propagation must have been very good this evening.

That was enough for one day.  I gathered up my dirty dishes and camera and returned to the house.  Fonda was just loading the dishwasher so I added mine.  I chatted a while with Butch about the DDEC II code 23 diagnostic procedure and the game plan for tomorrow and then turned in to check e-mail and work on this post.

2014/11/13 (R) Thermal Underwear

I slept in this morning so I skipped making coffee and after my usual breakfast went across the street to Small Town Brew to get some.  I then got to work on one of Butch’s projects.  We kept busy today including, in spite of the cold, some outside work.  Thermal underwear helped keep me comfortable.  I went back to STB and got a second cup of coffee around 10:30 AM.

I spent the morning helping Butch and Fonda with the wire chases for the bedroom in their bus.  Each chase is a pair of boards joined at a right angle to make a horizontal bottom and a vertical side.  They will each be mounted using a pair of aluminum angles, one on the wall for the bottom and one on the ceiling for the brackets for side.  My first task was to drill holes in the aluminum angles approximately every 12 inches.  I then helped position them, drill the holes for the mounting screws, and attach them to the bus.

Testing the DD8V92 fuel temperature sensor.

Testing the DD8V92 fuel temperature sensor.

Fonda and I moved three large wooden tables from the warehouse to the now mostly empty ‘parts room.’  All three of us moved a couple of loaded metal shelving units and then Fonda and I put the wooden tables in place.  I plan to move my all of the stuff I have in the (unheated) warehouse to the (heated) parts room tomorrow.

I worked on some minor projects in my bus and had a tofu turkey sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, lettuce, and onions.  I disconnected/removed the ballast for the bedroom fluorescent cove light and used it to test the hallway fixture.  The light worked just fine which verified that it was a ballast problem and not a wiring problem.  I needed to know that before I went to the trouble of converting this fixture to LED rope lighting early next week.  I put the good ballast back in rear TV cabinet and kept working in there, starting with the installation of the knob for the TV cabinet door.

I shortened the control/coax cable for the TV and installed the crimp-style F-connector.  Unlike the front TV (which was on and receiving WNDU Ch-16 from South Bend over 60 miles away) the rear TV was not able to detect any signals at any antenna direction.  The OTA antenna for the rear TV is in the rear roof tray and the bus is backed into its parking spot, so it is more shielded from radio frequency waves than the front antenna.  The only direction that might be good is straight ahead, which is due south.  Unfortunately there are no TV towers in the direction for a long way.

Magnatek 13.2 VDC ballast for F72T12.

Magnatek 13.2 VDC ballast for F72T12.

Butch decided to install the plate heat exchanger in the bay just forward of where the Oasis Combi is installed and needed my assistance.  The plate heat exchanger will be used to tie the Combi to the OTR bus heating system (engine coolant loop).  We also discussed possible locations for the coolant circulating pump that he plans to plumb into the OTR heating lines once he determines which line is the supply and which one is the return.

I returned to my rear TV closet projects while Butch started compiling a shopping list.  After stabilizing the back piece of plywood inside the cabinet with a couple of screws I mounted the Pressure Pro Repeater to it using a couple of self-adhesive Velcro pads that came with it.  I then mounted the dual 12 VDC outlet directly below the ballast and installed a small cube relay just behind it using its built in mounting tab.  Tomorrow I plan to connect the outlets to the relay and supply it with 12 VDC to power the repeater.  I also plan to figure out a way to drive the relay from a 12 VDC source that comes on when the 12 VDC chassis battery switch is ‘ON.”  For now, though, I will connect the outlets to the NC (normally closed) contacts so that power will flow to the outlets when the relay coil is not energized.

I was pondering my next project when Fonda let me know that Butch would be ready to head to town shortly.  I was considering how I was going to enlarge the two small openings that allow air to flow from the grate in the rear TV cabinet through the upper parts of the center cabinet and into the driver side corner cabinet where the rear air-conditioner evaporator and blower are located.  At Butch’s suggestion I looked up the specifications on the Carrier air-conditioning units; 14,000 BTUs and 465 CFM air flow.  Requirements for supply and return grates?  At least equal to the square area of the evaporator coils.  The coils are roughly 9″ x 12″, as are most of the grates.  The two small openings in the side walls of the upper closet, however, are 3″ x 10″, not nearly big enough.  This is what happens when buses are converted to “look nice” instead of to “work correctly.”

Passenger side rear corner TV cabinet with ballast, dual 12V outlet, relay, AC outlets, and PressurePro TPMS repeater.

Passenger side rear corner TV cabinet with ballast, dual 12V outlet, relay, AC outlets, and PressurePro TPMS repeater.

I rode into Logansport with Butch where we stopped at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Aldi’s market, and Home Depot.  We ran into Bill Tharpe at O’Reilly’s and saw his car again at Home Depot.  When we got back Fonda was putting the finishing touches on their dinner so I made a salad and selected a can of Amy’s split pea soup and a can of Mandarin oranges.  I returned to my coach, cleaned up the kitchen area, and locked up for the night.  I spent a few minutes studying Butch’s MC-9 manual and finally found the diagram that identified the engine coolant supply and return lines.  That was a nice way to end the day so I retired to my room to work on this post and transfer photos from the last few days to my computer.

2014/11/14 (F) Arctic Oasis Grandma

I bought a dried fruit stolen last night at Aldi’s and had a few slices for breakfast this morning.  No animal products, of course, but a few less-than-desirable ingredients like HFCS.  Still, it was very tasty and not something Linda would be likely to buy at home.  I brewed a pot of coffee with a mix of the Cafe Europe Blend and Columbian Decaf beans from Teeko’s.  I had some with the stolen and drank the rest over the course of the morning.

Stacked plate heat exchanger to left of Magnum 4024 inverter/charger.

Stacked plate heat exchanger to left of Magnum 4024 inverter/charger.

Most of our work today was focused on trying to finish the installation of the ITR Oasis Combi in Butch and Fonda’s MCI MC-9 bus conversion, and much of that work was outdoors.  The temperature was around 20 degrees F when we got up this morning and never broke the freezing mark.  It was sunny most of the day, however, without any wind and I was dressed for the conditions so I was generally comfortable in spite of the Arctic air mass sitting on top of us.

My first task was to mount the Zone Controller to the face of the ceiling tunnel above the Combi.  I then completed the cable connections and dressed the cables.  We then pulled the #10 2+g cable from the old Aqua-Hot bay to the Combi and I completed the connections for the 120 VAC electric heating element.  We pulled two lengths of two-conductor low voltage cable from the bedroom closet to the fresh water pump, which is mounted on a vertical plywood plate on the rear wall of the bay next to the Combi.  One cable brought +/– 12 VDC down from the 12 VDC distribution panel in the closet where the negative (DC ground) was connected to the pump.  The other cable was used to route the +12 VDC back to a switch in the closet and then return it to the bay where I connected it to the pump.  With this arrangement Butch has DC + and – in the bay and can add a switch later (or use a jumper) to turn the pump on from there.  Although a bit unusual there is nothing fundamentally wrong with wiring switches in parallel; it just means that ALL switches must be off for the device to be off.

While I was working on the wiring in the Combi bay, Butch and Fonda pulled a pair of #4 welding cables from the battery compartment to the bedroom closet to provide + and – 12 VDC to the low voltage distribution panel.  He and I then pulled the remote panel cable for the Combi from the bay up into the bedroom closet.  He took care of the connections at the remote panel while I took care of the ones in the bay.

Oasis Combi Zone Controller (top).

Oasis Combi Zone Controller (top).

With the Combi wiring done I took a few minutes to move all of the parts and supplies I had stored in their (unheated) warehouse into their (heated) parts room where Fonda had cleared some shelves for me.  By the time I was done Butch was ready to move to the next part of the Combi installation; running the coolant lines.  He discovered that his insulated heater hose would not fit over the fittings on the ends of the fan-coil heat exchangers but might fit if he cut off the enlarged swaged ends.  It turned out that the insulated hose still would not fit so he made a quick run to town for regular heater hose. Sometimes bus projects are just like that and you have to figure out how to make things fit and work.

While Butch was gone I spent some time working in the back TV cabinet of my coach.  I tapped into the +/– 12 VDC wires that supply power to the fluorescent light fixture to provide power to the dual 12 VDC outlets and relay I installed yesterday.  The DC negative went directly to the outlets and the DC positive went to the common terminal on the relay.  I connected the positive lead from the outlets to the NC (normally closed) contact on the relay.  All of the relay connections were made with insulated spade connectors.

When I can get a +/– 12 VDC chassis battery cable to the cabinet I will use it to control the relay and move the outlet positive connection to the NO (normally open) terminal.  With this arrangement, the power for the PressurePro Repeater will come from the house batteries (which are rarely switched off) but the unit will only be on when the chassis batteries are on.  For now, however, we will simply have to remember to plug the repeater in when we are going to drive the bus.

That's our bus!

That’s our bus!

As soon as Butch returned all three of us got busy working on the coolant lines.  First Fonda and I pulled the insulated lines out.  Butch then fed a standard line from the front heat exchanger through the floor to the front driver side bay.  Fonda and I then fed it through the access holes to the rear driver side bay and through the floor to Butch by the rear heat exchanger.  Butch connected the hose to rear heat exchanger.  He then pulled the line back up by the front heat exchanger as we removed most of the slack in the bays and connected it to the front exchanger.  Fonda and I fed a piece of hose along the back wall of Combi bay and up into the bedroom closet where Butch connected it to the rear heat exchanger.  I then routed the hose and Butch connected it to the Combi.  Butch fed a second hose from the front exchanger through the floor and we routed that one to the stacked plate heat exchanger one bay forward of the Oasis Combi.  He connected the hose to the front exchanger and I then climbed into the bay, routed the hose with Fonda’s help, and connected it to the heat exchanger.  Butch fed another piece of hose from the Combi bay to the bay where I was working.  I attached that hose to the heat exchanger and then Butch pulled out the slack and connected it to the Combi.  At that point we had a complete, closed loop with the three heat exchangers in series.  I think that was about when the UPS truck arrived with my SHURflo Everpure ADC water filter cartridge for under the kitchen sink.

It was time to make it work; sort of.  Butch had not tied the diesel fuel lines in yet, and the fresh water connections were also not done, but that did not matter.  The next step was to fill the coolant loop with coolant (anti-freeze) and purge it of air.  We thought we had to have at least one of the thermostat circuits active, and thought they worked by grounding the wire coming out of the Zone Controller, but figured out later that we had it backwards.  No harm done, just no good either.  Butch put the 3-way “Summer/Winter” valve in what he thought was the Summer position, which just connects the output (supply) port to the input (return) port, and turned the Bypass switch on the Zone Controller ON, activating the built-in coolant circulation pump.  The Combi was already full of coolant and in this configuration should have just circulated it internally.  Butch was watching the radiator cap and had additional coolant ready to add if any air got purged.  We could hear the pump running, but he could not see any fluid motion in the radiator fill tube.  Hmmm, yet another bus conversion mystery.

Close up of the dual 12VDC outlet and control relay in the passenger side rear corner cabinet.

Close up of the dual 12VDC outlet and control relay in the passenger side rear corner cabinet.

Butch turned the valve to the Winter position which is supposed to allow coolant to flow through the external loop.  This should have caused a drop in the reservoir level, requiring additional coolant, as the coolant was transferred to the coolant lines, but again, there was no flow.  The two heat exchangers in the house (living room / kitchen and bedroom / bathroom) have bleeder valves to help rid the system of air.  I opened the valve on the rear (bedroom) heat exchanger but that did not help.  Butch decided to call ITR for technical support.  He talked through the details of the installation but they did not have any definitive advice.

All indications were pointing towards some sort of blockage internal to the Combi and Butch thought it might be ice.  Kevin, in Washington passed Butch to Marcello at the factory in Canada, but still no luck.  We decided to turn on the electric heating element and set up a small electric space heater to warm up the bay and the unit while we went to dinner.  We drove to The Old Mill west of town on SR-16 where I ordered a mushroom, onion, jalapeño pizza, light sauce, no cheese, and extra thin crust.  It turned out quite well.  When we got back to the house we gave the Combi another try and it looked like it was going to work, but then didn’t.  At that point we called it quits for the night.  Linda called around 9 PM and we chatted briefly, catching up on the events of the day.  Grand-daughter Madeline finally called her “grandma” for the first time, so she was very excited about that, and it was good note on which to end another long, productive day.

2014/11/15 (S) Houston, We Have Ignition

I was up a little before 8 AM, had some more of the stolen I bought at Aldi’s for breakfast, and made about five cups of Teeko’s Seattle Blend coffee.  Butch and I then got back to work on the Oasis Combi hydronic heating system.

Butch was up earlier than me and drove into Logansport before I got up.  When he got back his first task was to remove the supply and return lines (heater hoses) so he could install shutoff valves.  It turned out that he had the wrong parts and had to go back to Logansport so I rode in with him.  When we got back we finally got to work.  It was chilly but we had another mostly sunny day on tap with light-to-no wind, so working outside was not unpleasant.

Fresh water pump on isolated plywood panel behind Oasis Combi.

Fresh water pump on isolated plywood panel behind Oasis Combi.

Butch got the valves installed and the lines reattached.  He then plumbed in the two fuel lines (supply and return).  Before he turned the unit on I pointed out what I had discovered in the manual last night; that the position of the “summer/winter” loop 3-way valve was the opposite of what we thought it was.  With the valve in the “winter” position, which would allow coolant to flow through the loop with the heat exchangers, he turned on the bypass switch on the Zone Control Board.  The circulation pump came on and the coolant level immediately started to drop in the filler neck, which meant the coolant was being moved into the loop and whatever had blocked this from happening yesterday had cleared up.  He turned the pump off so we could stage one gallon jugs of antifreeze/water mixture to finish filling the system.

Butch suspects there was an ice plug in the domestic hot water heat exchanger which is internal to the Combi box and the first place hot coolant goes before it leaves the unit and travels through the coach.  We also suspect that the use of the 1500 Watt electric heating element last night melted the ice plug.  At least that’s our best guess as to what the problem was.  The reason we thought this was the cause is that the factory apparently tests the units with water and it is probably impossible to get it all out using compressed air.  That is certainly the case with an Aqua-Hot.

Butch prepared six gallons of antifreeze/water mixture and staged them by the Combi.  With a funnel in the filler neck he turned the bypass switch on again and started adding the coolant mixture as the pump pushed it through the system.  Once the system seemed to be full I went into the house portion of the bus and barely opened the bleeder valve on the bedroom heat exchanger.  I got a three second puff of air and then coolant started to appear so I closed the valve.  I repeated this with the bleeder valve on the front heat exchanger with the same result.  These two valves are the highest points in the loop, so air tends to collect there.  The system essentially had no air in it at this point.

fan-coil heat exchanger

fan-coil heat exchanger

Butch hooked up the two fuel lines (supply and return), turned the power on to the unit, and then turned the burner on using the switch by the bedroom utility closet.  We could hear the pump trying to prime but the burner would not ignite.  The unit “flamed out” and Butch reset it several times to no avail so he turned the burner switch off.  We studied the situation and Butch realized that he had reversed the fuel lines.  He switched them and turned the unit back on.  It fully primed on the second try and ignited!  Finally, we had ignition.

Butch rigged up temporary power to the fans on the two heat exchangers and let them run.  The coach eventually got too warm to work and we had to turn the fans off.  We spent the rest of the day, with help from Fonda, completing other aspects of the system installation.  I removed an old mechanical thermostat from the warehouse and Fonda cleaned up an identical one.  We had a third one (different make) that did not need any work.

We pulled three two-conductor thermostat cables from the Combi across the bay and up through a hole in the floor of the bedroom utility closet and then to the three thermostat locations.  We used colored electrical tape to tag the ends of each cable as we pulled it so we could keep them straight later; yellow for the living area, blue for the bathroom, and red for the bedroom.  I mounted one of the thermostats in the kitchen by the front living area, the second one by the bedroom, and the third one in the bathroom.  I completed the connections in a somewhat unusual way.  The cable had a red wire and a white wire.  The white wire was left intact and provided a path from the thermostat to the Combi for DC negative (ground).  The red wire was cut in the utility closet and used to provide +12VDC to the thermostat.  The red wire in the cable from the closet to the Combi was not used.

The Combi came with pigtail harnesses that plug into keyed sockets on the Zone Control Board (box) and have butt splice connectors already installed on the loose ends of the wires.  I completed the thermostat wiring by connecting the wire for the front thermostat to Zone 1, the bathroom thermostat to Zone 2, and the bedroom thermostat to Zone 3.  Butch had connected a wire to the Zone 4 connector yesterday and planned to leave it and connect it to a switch in the bay for test purposes.

With the thermostats wired in Butch worked on the fan control relays while Fonda and I pulled a four-conductor thermostat cable from the Combi across the bay, up through the floor into the utility closet, and all the way up the center isle of the bus to the dashboard.  When then took the cable back into the bedroom and pulled it from the utility closet through the driver-side chase to the cabinet at the front end of the kitchen counter and then down through the cabinet to the very bottom and out the front facing grill to the front heat exchanger.  We left plenty of cable for hooking up the fan control relay that Butch had mounted on the fan-coil heat exchanger and left an extra coil of cable in the utility closet so I would have enough wire to make connections to the relays for the fans on the rear heat exchanger.

As with the thermostat wiring, I left the green and white wires intact all the way from the front heat exchanger to the Combi.  In the utility closet I removed the jacket from a six inch section and cut the red and blue wires.  The red wire coming up from the Combi was connected to the relay for the bedroom fan and the blue wire coming up from the Combi was connected to the relay for the bathroom fan, both of which draw air through a common radiator.  These colors matched the colors of electrical tape used to identify the corresponding thermostat cables.  I connected a separate white wire from the DC negative terminal on each relay to the DC negative (ground) bar on the 12 VDC distribution panel at the top of the utility closet.  The red and blue wires from the closet to the front heat exchanger were not used.

Adding coolant to the ITR Oasis Combi.

Adding coolant to the ITR Oasis Combi.

I mounted the relays to the outside wall of the closet; bedroom relay to the rear, bathroom relay to the front.  I do things like that when I work on projects like this.  By this time it was dark and Butch had gone inside not feeling completely well.  He was really stressed out yesterday when we were unable to fill the coolant loop and purge it of air and he did not get a good night’s sleep.  Been there, done that, didn’t even get the T-shirt.

It was going on 6 PM and I was done working for the day, the first day since I have been working here that I had finished up that early and the first day that I had not worked on any of my own bus projects.  But that was OK;  Butch and Fonda’s ability to use their bus conversion during the winter with comfort and convenience was directly related to the successful completion of the Oasis Combi installation and it felt good to have it so close to bring done.  I will finish up the little bit that remains to do tomorrow and then install another 120 VAC circuit from the inverter circuit breaker panel to outlets for the bedroom.

I need to mention that Butch has been very pleased with the treatment and communication from International Thermal Research, the manufacturer of the Oasis product line.  He was on the phone with their U.S. sales office yesterday when we ran into difficulty and they transferred him to someone at the factory in British Columbia.  The factory contact sent Butch an e-mail, which gave him an address to reply to, and his personal cell phone number.

Sometime in the late afternoon Bill Tharpe showed up to continue working on Brittiny’s car.  It needs a new intake manifold gasket, which requires the disassembly of the top half of the engine.  Bill really knows his way around cars having worked with Indy and Formula (One?) race car teams over the years.  Around 7 PM we headed into Logansport to have dinner at Pizza Hut.  I had the salad bar and some decent (smooth, mild) decaffeinated coffee.  When we got back to their house Bill got back to work on the engine and I retired to my room for the evening.  Butch and I talked earlier about possibly driving over to the Ft. Wayne Hamvention tomorrow but decided to stay here and continue working on bus projects.

2014/11/16 (N) Death of a Mouse

I was up around 8 AM and had my usual breakfast of homemade granola, some orange juice, and coffee (Teeko’s Seattle Blend).  I still had some of the stolen left, but having had that the last two mornings I felt the need to return to my normal routine.  Right after breakfast I replaced the GFCI outlet in the bathroom.  The old one had tripped a couple of times for no apparent reason and that was just one more thing I did not want to live with.  The old one was feeding two load circuits and had short pigtail wires wire-nutted to the hot and neutral conducts.  GFCI outlets are much bulkier than normal ones so that made for a very crowded box.  The new one had back connectors that allowed two wires to be inserted straight in under one screw and tightened.  That allowed me to do away with the two pigtails and the two wire nuts and make it a bit easier to get the outlet into the box.

By the time I finished installing the GFCI outlet Butch was ready for my assistance.  He finished connecting the fan relays on the front heat exchanger and I finished connecting the fan relays on the rear heat exchanger.   I then tied in the fan relay lines to the appropriate fan control lines coming out of the Oasis Combi Zone Control Board.  With the burner switch turned on I tested each zone by turning its thermostat up until it clicked, causing the burner to ignite, the circulation pump to start, and the fan(s) to come on.  All three zones worked.  Although not as dramatic or emotional as yesterday when got the unit to fill, purge, and ignite, this meant we were done with the Oasis Combi installation (except for some purely cosmetic things that Butch and Fonda may not get to for a while) and that it was fully functional.

Top of the Combi showing summer/winter valve lower right (blue handle).

Top of the Combi showing summer/winter valve lower right (blue handle).

While I was working on the Oasis Combi fan control wires Butch started working on installing a fuel gauge.  The New Jersey Transit MCI MC-9B coaches did not have fuel gauges as they made regular runs of known distances and returned to the same NJT garage every day.  For cross-country RV use, however, a fuel gauge is a very good thing to have.

To install the fuel gauge Butch had to pull the instrument cluster out of the dashboard.  These things are rarely designed/built for easy servicing, and this was no exception, but he got it out.  He had installed the sending unit in the fuel tank a long time ago but never hooked it up.  He managed to run a fishtape up from the driver-side front bay into the area behind the dashboard.  He attached a wire to it and fed the wire in as I pulled the fishtape out.  We then used the fishtape to feed the wire from the driver’s side of the generator bay to the passenger side.  From there the wire had to go through the chassis battery bay to get to the sending unit on the fuel tank.  After drilling a hole in one panel and drilling out two rivets holding an unused fuse holder to another panel we finally had a route for the wire.

There was a blank spot on the instrument cluster where the fuel gauge would have been so that is where Butch installed it.  It took us a while to decode the 24 VDC dashboard wiring diagram but we eventually figured out that there was an unused screw terminal on the load side of the Master Switch just below the fuel gauge that would very conveniently provide the +24 VDC for the gauge.  I made that connection and then Butch connected the instrument, remembering to pass the wires through the dashboard hole first.  In addition to the +24VDC, signal, and ground for the gauge he had to tap into the 24 VDC instrument lighting circuit to power the instrument light and provide a ground connection for that as well.  With everything hooked up Butch turned on the Master Switch and the fuel gauge indicated just below a full tank, which is what he expected.  These kinds of “little” projects sound relatively simply, but they always seem to take a half a day to a full day to do, even with two people working on them.

At this point it was about 2 PM so I took a quick lunch break and had a tofu hotdog with mustard, relish, and onions.  We had hints of snow flurries during the morning that became more persistent after noon.  I was thinking about installing the new Shurflo Everpure ADC water filter cartridge under the kitchen sink and opened the cabinet door to have a look at what was involved.  (Actually, I knew what was involved having done this before.)  This filter cartridge should be the easiest thing in the world to remove and install but that has not been my experience.  The location of the filter head doesn’t make it any easier.  Anyway, I turned on the light and noticed a waded up paper towel in the trash can.  I had not been using this trash can since I realized that the resident mouse had easy access to the area under the sink and regarded the waste basket as a buffet.  I figured I had thrown this used paper towel in there by mistake out of force of habit as I catch myself several times a day starting to do that.  I moved the can and reached in to get the paper towel and that’s when I noticed the dead field mouse in the corner of the trash can.

The mouse was a tiny creature, gray on top and white on the bottom.  I surmised that it had returned to this cabinet looking for the food it had found there on previous occasions, climbed up a carpeted wall or electrical cable, perhaps walked across a drain pipe and, seeing the paper towel moved to the rim of the trash can (the only place I ever actually saw it alive) and either jumped or fell in.  Unfortunately (for the mouse) the trash can did not have a plastic liner bag and so it had no way to escape.  I presume it died of thirst and/or lack of food.  It was not my intention to use the trash can as a trap.  In fact, I had purchased a live trap a few days ago but not yet set it.  My plan was to trap it, unharmed, and release it a couple of miles away near a creek so it had access to water.  Instead, I added it to my real trash bag, tied up the bag, and put it in the dumpster.  Although I was glad to no longer have it roaming around inside the coach, I was saddened to find it dead and to think that it had died this way.  I have no way of knowing, of course, if this was the only mouse in the coach so I will continue to be on the lookout for telltale signs of the presence of mice.

I returned to working on Butch and Fonda’s bus.  While they dressed up some coolant lines and tightened up some fittings on the Oasis I installed four surface mount duplex electrical outlets in the bedroom, two on the back wall above a narrow shelf at the head of the bed, one in the driver side chase at the midpoint, and one at the front end of the chase inside the utility closet.  I turned off the power to the inverter panel, removed the cover, and routed the cable down into the box.  Butch discovered that he did not have any more 20A circuit breakers so I connected the ground and neutral and left the load wire until we had an appropriate breaker.  We were done working in/on their bus for the night, so I left the cover off of the inverter panel and turned the power back on so they would have lights in the front part of the bus

Fused DC distribution house panel in MC-9 bedroom utility closet.

Fused DC distribution house panel in MC-9 bedroom utility closet.

Throughout the day Butch had been adding to a list of things he needed and at this point the list was long enough, or the items critical enough, that we made a run to town.  By this time it had been snowing for a few hours and it was accumulating on grassy areas and making the roads slick.  Unfortunately the Logansport Home Depot closed at 7 PM on Sunday evenings and we got there at 7:05 PM, having stopped first to fuel up the Suburban.  No problem, we just drove down the street to Rural King which was open until 9 PM and has free popcorn.  Bonus!  Butch found most of what he needed there.  My shopping list was short and easily filled at Walmart where Butch picked up a few other things on his list.

When we got back I made a tofu “turkey” sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, sliced onions, and power greens and got out some of the seedless black grapes.  As I was finishing the preparations Fonda came to the bus to let me know that Linda was on the phone.  I brought everything into the house and chatted with her for a little while.  We then sat down and ate dinner.  After dinner I used Butch’s chop saw to cut my oak center pillar mounting board to length and then set it up on a table in the parts room so I could stain it.  Fonda got the stain, a shallow wide mouth can, a disposable foam brush, a rag, and a pair of disposable gloves for me to use.  I was not very happy with the results, but I will see how it looks in the morning.  I suspect I will end up painting it flat black.  I would really like to get it mounted to the center windshield pillar before I wrap up working on my bus this Wednesday but, given the other things I need to do, it’s going to be close. 


2014/11/03-09 A Week at Home

Note:  There are no photographs for this consolidated post.  Sorry.  🙁

2014/11/03 (M) Getting Ready

Linda was up early and off to the bakery.  I got up an hour later and had some raisin toast for breakfast.  Whenever I have had time since I got home on Friday I have been working on the project list for our bus.  I worked on it some more this morning but eventually had to set it aside while I made some phone calls, tried to deal with an issue with Linda’s Samsung laptop computer, and got documents ready to upload to my Dropbox for a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

I called Bill Jensen, the national service advisor for conversion shells at Prevost Car Inc., but his voice message said he was unavailable indefinitely and gave alternate contact info.  The main contact was Kevin Laughlin so I called him.  I described the shorter ride height linkage and the downward pointing position of the ride height valve lever arm in its neutral position.  He agreed that neither of these seemed right.

I called Prevost and ordered a new ride height valve and two CX-96 (Gates) drive belts for the OTR air-conditioning compressor.  I then called Martin Diesel in Defiance, Ohio and made an appointment to have the diesel generator in our coach serviced on the 20th and 21st if needed.  I also needed to call Webasto technical support but did not get that call made today; maybe on Wednesday (or Thursday).

Linda’s Samsung laptop suddenly decided to turn the screen brightness down and she has not been able to turn it back up.  It’s bright enough to see in somewhat dim conditions, but still uncomfortably dim for general office use.  I did a Google search and found that lots of other folks had encountered the same problem and had advice on how to fix it.  I shared several links with Linda but she could not get it to work.

I put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter’s financial statements, roster, and minutes of last year’s’ meeting.  I uploaded them to Dropbox and e-mailed the chapter members that the materials where there.

Linda got home later than usual from the bakery so we decided to go to La Marsa in Brighton for dinner.  It’s our favorite local restaurant but was more crowded than on a regular Monday due to the buffet they have the first Monday of each month and we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.  We ordered the almond garlic Ghallaba from the menu, one of our two favorite vegan dishes, but it was not as good as usual.  Not bad just somewhat flat, as if they had left out the garlic.  It was 8:30 PM by the time we got home and we turned in for the night fairly quickly.

2014/11/04 (T) Election Day

Linda did not go into the bakery today.  We spent much of the day together and this is what we did:

  • Had raisin toast for breakfast with Orange juice and banana…
  • ..
  • Got passport photos at Rite-Aid in Brighton…
  • Went to Panera for coffee…
  • Drove to Dearborn for dental hygienist appointments…
  • Drove back to Farmington Hills where we went to McDonald’s and had French fries for lunch…
  • Drove a mile to the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi for flu shots…
  • Drove back home where we had a few chips and hummus for an afternoon snack…

I drove to Brighton Honda for a 3:30 PM appointment to have the Element’s recalled air bag serviced.  The appointment took 45 minutes by which time the traffic was really bad.  Because of the combination of rush hour traffic and the ongoing re-paving of Grand River Avenue just west of the dealership a left turn was going to be near impossible.  I needed to get to Latson Road and Grand River Avenue so I made the easy right (and correct) turn out of the dealership and quickly got on I-96 westbound.  I took the relatively new Latson Road exit and stopped at Walmart to stock up on ICE brand water.  I went to Meijer’s for a Mega-Millions lottery ticket and then to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for two more 12VDC duplex power outlets.  It was still raining lightly, as it had been for most of the day, so I returned home by way of Grand River Avenue and Hacker Road which kept me on pavement for most of the trip.

Linda heated up the leftover chili for dinner.  She continued to try different things to get her Samsung laptop to allow her to adjust the screen brightness and return it to normal but nothing worked.  I took a little time to update WordPress websites and tweak the Wordfence login security.  We then filled out and printed our passport renewal applications and got them ready to mail.  We also figured out how to create, share, and synchronize multiple calendars on multiple devices so that we can now see the same information on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  It’s all about Google.

Linda was tired and needed to get up early but something had broken on our bed foundation and needed to be fixed, if only temporarily.  We are still using the plastic foundation that came with our select comfort air mattress years ago and one of the cross members that carry the load to the side rails had come loose from the interlocking top platform and dropped down.  We had to get the mattress off the bed to work on the platform.  We got it put back together for now, but we need to get a box spring or other foundation to replace it.  That probably won’t happen until spring.

2014/11/05 (W) The Day After

Yesterday’s election results were generally as predicted, so nothing to cheer about from our point of view, but the world did not come to an end either.  Elections change very little in the short-term and the daily tasks of living continue regardless of who does or does not get elected.  We were happy, of course, that Gary Peters won the U. S. Senate seat and that Debbie Dingle was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.  We were especially pleased that our friend, Brian Robb, won re-election to the Ypsilanti City Council and that Richard Bernstein was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court, but saddened to learn that Casandra Ulbrich failed in her attempt to get re-elected to the State Board of Education.  And so it goes with American politics.

Linda was back at the bakery today reviewing the period accounting and continuing to answer questions and monitor the use of the new software.  I took care of some e-mails and then headed to the Brighton post office to mail our passport renewals.  I refueled my car at Meijer’s for $2.899/gal and then stopped at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to exchange two Sodastream CO2 cartridges.  BB&B is in the same strip mall as the Panera, so I stopped in for some coffee.

When I got home UPS had already delivered my package from Prevost.  I took the trash can to the street first and then I opened the box and verified the contents.  I installed one of the Sodastream cartridges but the display would not reset.  The unit has an LCD display so I figured it had a battery hidden somewhere.  I released a clip at the top of the display and the whole display module came out with the nickel-sized battery was installed on the back side.  I started to remove it and the display changed, so I figured it needed a new battery.  I did not think we had any of this type of battery in the house but Linda told me later that we did.

I had not backed up all of my photo files from last week so I spent some time in the early afternoon copying files from my camera to my laptop and then from my laptop to both of our NAS units.  I printed off all of the documents I needed for the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter annual meeting and was responding to an e-mail when Tony and Mark from GSI showed up to install the new natural gas fireplace logs and hookup the new natural gas outdoor grill.

Tony and his wife own GSI but he had Mark install the fireplace while he worked on the grill.  He installed the new disconnect but when leak testing discovered that there was a small leak on the output side of the shutoff valve.  I had to shut off the gas supply to that branch circuit, which also supplies gas to the kitchen range and the fireplace, so he could work on it.  Tony removed the new disconnect, installed a new valve, and reinstalled the disconnect.  I turned the gas supply on and he retested for leaks but did not find any.  He suggested that we run it for a while to burn off manufacturing oils and other things that initially produce odors and can affect the taste of foods cooked in the unit.  I got the stainless steel heat diffuser and two cast iron grills and set them in place.  The left burner lit easily using the battery powered piezoelectric igniter and the right grill lit easily from the left one.

Linda got home at 3:30 PM while Tony and Mark were still working and took over interacting with them while I got ready for our 4 PM telephone meeting.  She got instructions on how to light/operate both appliances, paid them, and then joined me for the meeting.  By 4:05 PM we had 14 “F” numbers represented, safely exceeding our quorum requirement of 10, and Bob Pelc called the meeting to order.  The meeting was friendly but efficient.  We conducted all of the necessary annual chapter business and adjourned at 4:42 PM.  I was re-elected to another 2-year term as chapter secretary but did not run for chapter vice-president, the position I have held since the chapter was formed in June 2010.

After the meeting Linda shut off the outdoor grill and we sat in the living room monitoring our fireplace logs and discussing dinner options.  As a result Linda decided to make waffles.  She tried a different recipe and substituted pastry flour instead for regular flour.  Neither of us understand the difference, at a food chemistry level, but she apparently invented/discovered something that will stick to Teflon-coated cookware; really, really tightly. The waffles were crispy and tasted fine, once we got them out of the waffle iron, but they would not have won any prizes for presentation.

We spent a couple more hours after dinner sitting in the living room letting the firelogs operate with the flue opened a bit.  Tony and Mark said it can take up to 20 hours of use for the unit to stop producing odors and suggested that we operate it with the flue slightly open while breaking it in.  The logs are a non-vented design, just like a kitchen range, which means they are designed to operate without being vented to the outside yet not produce harmful combustion by-products such as carbon monoxide.  At 8:50 PM I turned the logs down to their lowest setting.  Linda shut the unit off at 9:15 PM (it has an On/Off/Remote switch but we do not have a remote).  The pilot light does not consume enough air or produce enough heat and combustion by-products to be a safety or economic concern, so I left it on, closed the flue, and went to bed.

2014/11/06 (R) Inductive Thinking

Linda left the house before I awoke and spent a long day at the bakery.  I spent most of the day at the dining room table working at my computer.  I typed up the draft minutes from yesterday’s FMCA Freethinkers annual meeting, generated PDFs of the chapter’s financial reports, uploaded files to the Dropbox folder, and reorganized it.

I took a break at noon and drove into Novi to have a look at Chuck’s latest bus projects and then go to lunch at the local Leo’s Coney Island.  The new wedge cabinet and Corian top look and fit great between the end of the new couch and the kitchen base cabinet.  He did a nice job replacing the outside Jenn Air electric cooktop/grill, which was mounted in a pull-out tray in one of the bays, with two Indufix 2-hob induction cooktops.  The tray has an open bottom and is supported by four heavy duty extension slides, two on each side.  The induction units are from Germany and came with European “208VAC” plugs.  They are strictly 208/240 VAC devices and do not have a neutral connection.  The wire colors are also different with brown and blue for the L1 and L2 (hot, load) and yellow/green for the ground.  Chuck had an addendum sheet explaining the color codes and how to match them up to the U. S. standard.

For lunch I had a small Greek salad without feta cheese and an order of French fries.  Chuck had a more substantial meal with a salad, chicken on skewers, and rice.  I was back home by 3:00 PM and settled back into my computer-based work.

Linda got home around 6:15 PM and made barbecued tofu sandwiches with grilled onions and corn on the cob.  We washed it down with Leelanau Cellars sweet Red Table Wine.  It was labeled semi-sweet but it reminded me of the King of the North wine from Red Trail Vineyards in North Dakota which had a distinctly grape juice taste.  I liked it and Linda said she did too, which surprised me a little, as she tends to like dryer red wines.

After dinner Linda read and played online word games on her iPad to the warm glow of our new natural gas fireplace logs.  These logs are a high-efficiency, unvented design and actually through heat into the living room rather than up the chimney.  I continued reformatting the Freethinkers chapter roster, uploaded it to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the members to let them know it was available and ask them to review their listing and get back to me with corrections.  RVillage had notified me that someone wanted to join both the CCO and GLCC groups so I logged in and approved those.

I discovered the other day that Wordfence will allow me to block individual IP addresses so I would like to find the time to go back through the “User Locked Out” notification e-mails and enter some of the most egregious repeat offenders.  But not tonight.  It’s late, Linda is already asleep, and I’m tired.

2014/11/07 (F) 50% plus

My objectives for today were the following:

  • Finish up yesterday’s blog post and start working on today’s…
  • Read a few of the blogs I follow in Feedly (I am way behind)…
  • Move the spare Aqua-Hot from the garage to the library…
  • Move any other freeze sensitive items from the garage to the library…
  • Finish the drywall compound work in the library…
  • Call Webasto technical support…
  • Measure the inside of the Honda Element…
  • Buy plywood to build the storage divider for the Element…
  • Start building the storage divider for the Honda Element…
  • Use the blower to clear the leaves from the deck and planting beds….
  • Prepare the FMCA Freethinker annual chapter certification paperwork…
  • Select a few photos to go with blog posts going back to early October…
  • Start uploading blog posts to our website…

That was obviously more than I could possibly accomplish in one day, but it helps to write it down.  Here is how I did…

  • Finish up yesterday’s blog post and start working on today’s…check.
  • Read a few of the blogs I follow in Feedly (I am way behind)…check.
  • Move the spare Aqua-Hot from the garage to the library…check.
  • Move any other freeze sensitive items from the garage to the library…some.
  • Finish the drywall compound work in the library…check.
  • Make an unplanned trip to Lowe’s and Sherwin Williams for paint supplies…Yes.
  • Prime the areas in the library where the drywall work was done…Yes!
  • Call Webasto technical support…check.
  • Measure the inside of the Honda Element…check.
  • Buy plywood to build the storage divider for the Element…no.
  • Start building the storage divider for the Honda Element…no.
  • Use the blower to clear the leaves from the deck and planting beds….no.
  • Prepare the FMCA Freethinker annual chapter certification paperwork…no.
  • Select a few photos to go with blog posts going back to early October…no.
  • Start uploading blog posts to our website…no.

That’s 6-1/2 + 2 out of 13 + 2 or 8-1/2 out of 15 which is over 50%; not bad.  I might have gotten one or two other things done, or at least started, but we ended up meeting Chuck at BD’s Mongolian Bar-B-Que in Novi for dinner at 7:00 PM.  Barbara was still attending to out-of-town family business and Chuck appreciated not dining alone.  We were at the restaurant for over two hours and had a nice meal and great conversation in spite the very loud, upbeat youthful vibe of the place.  Next time we will try Sizzling Sticks in Northville; same kind of food but a much more subdued atmosphere according to Chuck.  Overall it was another good day.

2014/11/08 (S) Steve and Karen

We had a good sized crowd at the ham radio breakfast this morning.  We did not have to be anywhere at any particular time, and we were enjoying the conversation, so we stayed a little longer than usual.  Once we got back to the house I changed into work clothes for drywall and painting while Linda gathered up the recyclables and finished her grocery list.  She left to run the errands and I got the painting tools/supplies out.

Linda dropped off the recyclables, stopped at the bank, stopped at Lowe’s to return something that it turned out we had not purchased there, and then did the grocery shopping at Meijer’s.  While she was gone I put a first coat of paint on the areas of the west wall of the library where I had repaired the drywall.  The item she planned to return was a can of Great Stuff Fire Block that broke yesterday when I tried to use it.  It turned out that I had not purchased it at Lowe’s as they do not sell it.  They sell a 3M product for the same application, which I had sitting in the garage but had overlooked.  I used it to try to fill gaps around the gas supply pipe and the condensate drain, which were open clear through to the outside, and the double-walled flue pipe and gas pipe that pass through the furnace closet wall.  I applied the foam from inside the furnace closet and will need another can to finish the job from the outside of the closet.

Linda started putting together supper while I gathered up laundry and started a load.  I spent some quiet time with Jasper, our very sweet 10-year old cat, and then settled in to write and read for a while.

Steve and Karen arrived at 5 PM and we visited while Linda put the finishing touches on dinner.  She made the warm Farro dish with kale, dried cranberries, almonds, garlic, and onions and roasted asparagus as a side.  She has the Farro dish tagged “good for company.”  We still have a few bottles of the 2009 Egri Merlot and the slightly sweet full body of this wine went very nicely with the earthy Farro.  She made a chocolate cake for dessert with raspberry sauce made from fresh raspberries.  I think the cake was her best yet; very moist with just the right texture.  Vegan baking is tricky and Linda is still figuring it out.  Sometimes the cakes are a bit dry and other times they lean towards being brownies but tonight she got it just right.

Steve brought his Raspberry Pi single board computer (SBC) and an SD card with photos of their recent (September) trip out west.  He connected the Pi to our TV/monitor in the basement so we could all comfortably see the photos.  They had excellent weather and some fall colors the days they were in Yellowstone National Park and got some nice images.  But we spent most the evening sitting in the living room enjoying the new natural gas firelogs and catching up on what we had been doing since we last saw each other.  They left around 10:30 PM and we had everything picked up by 11 PM and headed off to bed.

2014/11/09 (N) Wrapping Up

Today was mostly about wrapping up the library drywall/painting project and other minor chores, doing laundry, and getting me packed for a two week return visit to Twelve Mile, Indiana to work on our bus and help Butch and Fonda work on theirs.

Linda made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, which is always a treat.  I made a trip to Lowe’s for a nine inch disposable paint roller cover and another can of 3M Fireblock spray foam.  I used the can of spray foam to finish sealing the gaps in the utility closet wall openings where the black iron gas pipe and the double-wall flu pass into the garage.  I only needed a little more foam to finish the utility closet openings so I used the rest of the can to fill gaps around the rear entrance door in the garage.

I used some scrap packing paper from recent Prevost shipments and some frog tape to mask the opening for the library furnace return air grille.  I then used flat black spray paint to make everything that is visible through the slots in the cover disappear.  Finally, it was time to paint walls.

I used a small brush to cut in the adjacent wall and ceiling with the Sherwin-Williams Extra White satin finish paint.  I removed the cover plates from two outlets and a switch and then rolled on a new/final coat of paint.  I cleaned up my paint supplies and then we brought the outdoor grill (and cover) into the garage to store for the winter.  We also brought the patio table umbrella and base into the library and set the umbrella in the base for the winter rather than let in lie on the floor.

Linda made another batch of granola while I checked stuff on my computer and took care of laundry and packing.  We had leftovers for dinner at 5:15 PM and then headed to South Lyon for the monthly SLAARC (ham radio) meeting where I was re-elected as VP for a second year and Linda was elected Treasurer for the coming year.  The program was a presentation on Software Defined Radios (SDR) by Mike Alexander (N8MSA).  When we got home we finished the chocolate cake and raspberry sauce with a glass of Leelanau Cellars Autumn Red wine and then turned in for the night.


20141030-1102 Fixing Buses in Indiana

2014/10/30 (R) To Kokomo We Go

Well…sort of.  Our actual destination was Maple Grove Distributors in Galveston, Indiana, which was in the general direction of Kokomo, but not as far.  (It’s pronounced “gal VES ten” with the emphasis on the second syllable.)  The tie rod ball ends that Butch ordered had finally come in and he wanted to get them early this morning so that: 1) We could get back and take advantage of a relatively nice late October day, and 2) He would have them for tomorrow when the weather is forecast to be lousy and thus a good day for inside work such as fabricating ride height linkages.

PS rear corner bedroom cabinet with slot in door for TV/monitor wires.

PS rear corner bedroom cabinet with slot in door for TV/monitor wires.

In spite of the nice weather I spent most of the day working inside my bus, stopping occasionally to help Butch with something.  I don’t have a lot of outside projects at the moment, or at least none that I felt like working on, and I really wanted to get the bedroom TV cabinet taken care of.  As with the front TV cabinet that I worked on for the last couple of days, the bedroom cabinet once housed a 19″ CRT TV set and a VHS tape deck.  I removed those in late 2011 while the bus was at Phoenix Paint and had Jaral Beaty make doors to cover the openings.  Once those doors were installed, I mounted 22″ diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio, LCD/LED flat panel TV/monitors on each door. The power and signal connections, however, were inside the cabinets, so for the last couple of years the cables have come out of the bottom/rear of the TVs and under the bottom edge of the doors and into the cabinets.  This arrangement prevented the doors from being closed, even though they had spring loaded ball catches, so we have held them closed with a couple of pieces of bright green Frog Tape.  The tape is sticky enough to hold the door closed but does not seem to leave any reside even after being in place for a while.

The wires from the TV/monitor pass through the slot in the door so the dorr can be closed and latched.

The wires from the TV/monitor pass through the slot in the door so the dorr can be closed and latched.

As with the front TV cabinet door, I created a horizontal slot behind the TV, positioned to allow the cables to come down out of the back of the TV and bend gently through to the inside of the cabinet.  I removed some unneeded cable and coiled up other cables and secured them with zip ties that have a mounting tab with a hole for a screw.

My two outside projects were brief.  I got back under the front of the bus between the front tires and unbolted the ride height linkage.  It unbolted from the ride height valve lever arm easily but not from the axle bracket.  Fonda got a can of Cyclo Breakaway and some paper towels for me, but even after spraying the nut and letting it sit it would not come loose.  I am not the strongest guy in the bus yard so I put some more muscle into it and broke the bolt off with the nut still stuck tight to it.  The other half of the bolt then slide out easily.

As long as I had my wrenches out I slide under the rear end of the bus to see if I could free a couple of wires for the auxiliary braking system that were pinched under a mounting pad for the rear bumper fascia.  The stud had a Nylok nut on it that was barely threaded onto the stud.  The reason, I guessed, was the stud was at an angle that made it difficult to get a socket and ratchet on it.  I was able to loosen/tighten it using a universal (swivel) adapter between the socket and the ratchet.  While I was under there I noticed a second stud with a barely threaded Nylok so I tightened it as well.  One of the things you have to watch out for on a used RV is all the work that other people have done ‘just well enough’ to get it ‘out the door’ without something falling off in the parking lot.  These are always things that are hidden and relatively inaccessible, which is why they were not done correctly or completely in the first place, but the assumption is you will never see them.

My other inside project was to separate the load wires for the lighted entrance handle and the patio light and put them on separate switches.  It turned out that the front most switch just inside the entrance door (next to the passenger seat) was supplying 12VDC power to three circuits, the two just mentioned and a third one that, as of this writing, is still a mystery in that I was unable to determine anything that was being controlled by those wires.  The first (front) switch now controls only the lighted entrance handle, the second (middle) switch controls only the patio light, and the third (rear) switch controls…well, I don’t know what it controls but it definitely puts 12VDC power onto a wire that goes somewhere.

I assisted Butch briefly in locating their front fan-coil heat exchanger relative to the bay where the coolant lines will go.  Later in the day I helped him position the front suspension of their coach to the MCI specified spacing for the air springs so he can fabricate the ride height linkage to the correct length.

I needed a few parts for projects I might want to work on tomorrow so I left at 7 PM and drove to the Home Depot in Logansport.  That also gave me a chance to call Linda and chat about cell phone data plans.  I got back to Twelve Mile at 8:30 PM.  Butch and Fonda were already having their dinner so I went to my bus and made a salad.  After I cleaned up the day’s food utensils I installed the 6-outlet surge protected adapter in the AC duplex outlet in the bedroom TV cabinet.  That completed my work for the day and I returned to the house, visited briefly, and retired to my room to check e-mail, offload photo files from my camera, and write this post.

2014/10/31 (F) Boo! Snow (Boo)

After a relatively mild October the weather decided to turn more seasonable just in time for Halloween.  I was originally going to title this post “Foot Pounds and Gigabytes” but decided to acknowledge All Hallows’ Eve instead, along with the dramatic change in the weather.

A couple of days ago I bought a torque wrench from Butch that is adjustable up to 600 foot pounds, which is the kind of torque needed to tighten and loosen the lug nuts on our bus wheels.  It’s a very big torque wrench; over three feet long.  I need to buy a compatible socket to go with it.  Today was also the last day for the Verizon and AT&T double your data plan promotions, so I planned my day to put me in Elkhart, Indiana while one of the corporate stores was still open.

I got up around 8 AM and spent 45 minutes doing some preliminary packing after which I went out to my coach and had breakfast.  We had snow flurries around 9 AM this morning and did not work outside today save the few minutes I spent adjusting the air pressure in the tires of my Honda Element.  Today was mostly about shopping.

I got a cup of coffee from Small Town Brew and then we headed to Logansport where we did most of our usual circuit:  NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Rural King, Aldi’s, and Walmart.  (The only regular place we did not go was Home Depot.)  My only purchase was a 12VDC dual outlet with a mounting flange that I found at O’Reilly’s.  I plan to use it to create power connections for the GPS and TPMS receiver.  (I realized later that I should have bought three of them as I also need to supply power to the DVD camera/recorder up front and the TPMS repeater which I plan to mount in the rear TV cabinet.)

We got back around noon and I spent the next couple of hours straightening up the inside of the bus and packing everything that was going home with me.  Around 2:45 PM I finished packing the stuff I had in the guest bedroom and began loading the car.  I wrote up a list of things we owed each other money for and, as I expected, I owed Butch more than he owed me.  (He tends to order things we need on his accounts and I pay him back.)  I bought a Variac from him, added it to the list, and put it in the car.  Fonda has been working on a wedding dress for their daughter Gene for quite some time and was done except for some trim, so I got to see it before I left, which I did at 3:15 PM.  It was very nice.

I had located a Verizon corporate store on US-33 just south of US-20 which was on my normal route home.  I arrived at that intersection around 4:45 PM and first stopped at the Burger King next door for some French Fries.  The Verizon sales associate, Hector, claimed to know nothing about the double data promotion and insisted there was no such thing available.  I called Linda from their parking lot and we discussed what to do as today was the last day for the promotion.  She had checked our account online last night, and although we could change our monthly data allowance online (for a price, of course) there was no information about the promotion available there either.  Very strange considering how much this has been in the media all month.

Linda was stuck in traffic coming home from the bakery so we chatted while I made my way over US-20 to CR-17 (IN) to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) to the I-69 exit where I had to pay my toll.  Traffic on her end had also loosened up by then so we ended our call.

My entire trip home was in some form of precipitation; mostly rain but occasionally sleet or snow, with very strong and gusty winds from the north that made for somewhat more difficult driving.  It also made it difficult to judge the effect of the adjusted tire pressures on handling although the shimmy seemed to be gone.  I stopped at the Michigan Welcome Center on I-69 and unpacked some of the food I had with me.  I stopped again at M-60 for coffee at McDonald’s and fuel at the TA/Shell station where Regular gasoline was $2.929.  It’s been a long time since we have seen gasoline prices below $3/gallon.  That was my last stop before arriving home at 8:45 PM.  The last few miles were through moderate snow and the strong winds had coated the north facing side of trees and road signs.

Linda helped me unload the car and get everything into the house.  I gave Butch a call to let him know I had arrived home safely and we chatted briefly about bus projects.  I took a shower and went to bed where I finished this post before 11 PM and went to sleep.

2024/11/01 (S) Words

Although we were both very tired we did not sleep well last night.  We awoke early to find a thin covering of snow on our rear deck and over parts of our yard with the temperature in the upper 20s.  We went to our SLAARC ham radio club breakfast this morning anyway, the first time in several weeks for Linda, and there was a good turnout.  Those members who came from east or south of us did not have snow on the ground.

When we got back to our house Linda worked at her desk on our personal finances while I worked at the dining room table on e-mail, websites, and bus project documentation.  Our son and daughter-in-law showed up around 3:30 PM with their daughter.  They had a baby shower to attend in Detroit and Madeline was spending the night with us.

Linda had given me the heads up that Madeline’s vocabulary had increased significantly since I last saw her and that certainly proved to be the case.  She finally had understandable words for many things including the counting words from one to ten.  She is now 22-1/2 months old and is a very active and busy little girl.  We played with lots of different toys, including a new little Thomas The Train locomotive that Grandma Linda bought for her.

We had dinner between 6 and 6:30 PM.  Madeline had mock chicken tenders with broccoli, cauliflower, mandarin orange segments and sliced strawberries.  Linda and I had yummy homemade chili that she had been cooking in the crockpot most of the day.  I played with Madeline after dinner while Linda cleaned up the dishes and then joined the fun.  Nighty-night is her current pre-bedtime game, but by 7:15 PM she was tired enough let Linda get her into her pajamas and then sit quietly while I read a couple of story books to her.  As always, she went to bed without a fuss.

Once Madeline was asleep Linda read and played online word games with friends and relatives and I continued working on my bus projects list, light bulb inventory, and reconciliation of purchases that Butch and I have made for each other.  By 10:45 PM I was tired and ready to do something else so I climbed in bed and worked on this post.

2014/11/02 (N) An Extra Hour

At 2 AM EDT this morning it was suddenly 1 AM EST so when Linda got Madeline out of her porta-crib at 8 AM, according to the clocks in our house, it was officially 7 AM.  We all slept well last night and Madeline woke up well rested and in a pleasant mood.  She enjoys her meals so before any playtime we had breakfast of toast and juice and fresh fruit.  Brendan called around 9 AM to see if we could keep her until after her afternoon nap as he and Shawna had professional work they needed to concentrate on.  I suggested they come for an early dinner and they agreed.  Linda checked her ingredients on hand and then agreed to make her seitan stroganoff served over rice.  This is one of my favorite vegan dishes and a standard ‘go to’ when we are having non-vegan company for dinner.

You cannot have too many bows in your hair, apparently.

You cannot have too many bows in your hair, apparently.

We played with Madeline all morning and she was a very busy girl.  She has understandable words for a few things and a much richer, if somewhat secret, vocabulary that she takes great delight in using.  She knows the names of her basic colors and has started to get the idea of counting.  She enjoys building tall structures with her Lego blocks and is still fascinated with the organ.  Running around the island in our kitchen is another favorite activity; sometimes chasing, sometimes being chased, and sometimes holding someone’s finger.

I got a TXT message from Chuck asking if I was back in town and had time to talk.  Linda let me take a break from playing with Madeline so I could call him back.  He has been working on their bus and wanted to bring me up to date on his projects and get caught up on my projects and timeline.

Our other grand-daughter, Katie, is up in the U. P. with Chris (her dad) and Meghan (our daughter) visiting Northern Michigan University in Marquette.  They visited the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore yesterday and made it out to Castle Rock.  This evening they had a banquet to attend and tomorrow she has an interview for a scholarship.  Katie is interested in animals and wants to study zoology.  NMU is one of the few universities that offer a true zoology major rather than a biology major with an emphasis in zoology.  It may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it is an important distinction to Katie.  Katie is a serious young lady who has done well in school and will certainly represent herself as such during the interview.  We are excited for her and hope she is successful in obtaining this merit-based financial support.

By 11:30 AM we were anticipating lunch and Madeline requested pizza.  We happened to have an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza in the freezer (our favorite) so Linda preheated the oven and baked it on our pizza stone.  We sat down at noon and enjoyed our pizza accompanied by seedless red grapes.  We were all full by 12:30 and Madeline was showing signs of being ready for her nap so Linda helped her wash her hands and face and then got her settled in her porta-crib.  Madeline enjoys sleeping almost as much as eating and went to bed without any fuss.

The cats, who had retreated to the basement this morning as soon as they heard/saw Madeline, are keenly aware of when she is eating and sleeping.  Once we have her in her high chair at the table we usually open the safety gate at the top of the basement stairs so they can come up.  Both of them did and walked around under the dining room table, apparently aware that she was not mobile.  They eventually went back downstairs but came back up once she was asleep.  We decided to leave the door to the middle/blue bedroom open about six inches to see what the cats might do.  Jasper immediately turned around and went back downstairs but Juniper stuck her head in the room, probably got sensory overload, and also left.

Linda needed a few grocery items and went to Meijer’s in Brighton where she topped up her gas tank for $2.919 a gallon.  If only the price of diesel fuel would pull back to corresponding levels.  It has dropped but not by the same amount.  I stayed home and worked on my bus projects spreadsheet.  When Linda got back with batteries I changed all of the clock batteries and reset the time.

Brendan and Shawna arrived at 3 PM just as Madeline was waking up from her nap.  She was thrilled to see her parents, of course, as they were thrilled to see her.  It was a beautiful, if somewhat chilly, day and they got her coat, hat, and mittens on and played in the yard while Linda started preparing dinner while I cleared the table of my computer and papers and set it for the meal.  We sat down to eat at 4:15 PM and started with a nice salad of chopped greens and cabbage, an Asian dressing, and crispy Asian noodles.  The main course was the seitan stroganoff served over white rice and accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts and a sliced multi-grain baguette.  The adults had a small glass of the Leelanau Cellars Witch’s Brew, a seasonal mulled (spiced) red wine.

After dinner Brendan and Shawna began the process of getting ready to leave which includes delay tactics on Madeline’s part and their response to them which is always gentle but persistent.  They were out the door at 5:30 PM and by 6 PM we had cleared the table, rinsed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, and picked up the few toys that were left out in the living room.  Although the clock said 6 it felt like 7.  As hard and as long as I have been working on bus projects, I am surprisingly tired after spending a whole day with Madeline.  I opened the safety gate and Jasper came upstairs right away, eager for our company and attention.  He curled up in my lap while I worked on this post.

We watched Inspector Lewis (streamed), the first TV program I have watched in quite some time.  Part of the PBS Masterpiece Mystery series, it is a really excellent production.  I did some online research on 2m/70cm ham radio antennas and dual (co-phased) CB antennas but did not come to any conclusions about what to get.  The problem remains the same; I cannot put anything tall on the roof of the bus and even if I wanted to I have little-to-no access to the underside of most of the roof.  The fact that the lower roof sections in the front and rear are part of the front and rear fiberglass caps just complicates matters even more as they do not provide a conductive path or ground plane.