Monthly Archives: May 2015

2015/05/31 (N) Age of Disco Camping

We were up around 8 AM.  Linda took a shower after which I started the last load of laundry while she made coffee.  We had our usual granola breakfast.  When the washer finished I trimmed up my beard and shaved and then took my shower while Linda moved the wash to the clothes dryer.  Once we were both dressed we got very busy loading the bus and preparing it for travel.

I put on my work clothes and selected my clothes for the week.  Linda took care of loading the bus while I attended to preparing it for travel.  The preparations went something like this.  First I loaded our GLCC banner, flags, T-shirts, door prizes, tools, and our new 6 gallon pancake style Porter-Cable air compressor into our Honda Element.  I turned on our TireTraker TPMS monitor and plugged in the power cord for the TPMS repeater which is installed in the passenger-side rear corner cabinet in the bedroom.  I then got out our long fresh-water hose, connected it to the faucet on the front of the house, ran it under the bus, and connected it to the fresh water inlet.  I got a mat to put under the fresh water tank drain and emptied about 40 gallons of water that had been in the tank since we got home on Friday, April 24.  I closed the drain valve and then opened the fresh water tank fill valve.

At 3.4 gallons per minute the 120 gallon fresh water tank takes about a half hour to fill.  While that was happening I got our DeWalt 15 gallon upright tank air compressor out of the garage and rolled it over to the front of the bus (it has wheels).  I got our long extension cord out of the front bay and ran it from the front porch outlet to the air compressor.  I then got the air hose out of the bay where it was stored along with the air chuck, and digital tire pressure gauge, and retrieved a knee pad and slip pliers from two other bays.  I removed the TT TPMS sensor from each wheel in turn, checking and adjusting the pressure as I went.  I always do both dual drive tires on each side at the same time to make sure they are the same.

The inside duals have valve stem extensions so I use the pliers to keep them from loosening while I unscrew the sensor.  The two front tires were at 111.5 and 112.0 PSI, both above the minimum required 110.0 PSI, but I brought them up to 115.0 PSI.  I like to run the tires 5 PSI over the correct pressure to allow for changes in overnight low temperatures and to provide some margin against slow leaks.  The two tag axle tires were around 82.5 PSI so I reset them to 85.0 PSI.  The four drive tires were around 92.5 PSI so I brought them up to 95.0 PSI.

By the time I was done with the tires the fresh water tank was full so I shut off the water and stored everything back where it came from.  I then pulled the Element around behind the bus.  Everything was on board by this point except the cats, the cat tree, and us.  We hooked up the car for towing and checked all of the lights.  I switched on (connected) the chassis batteries, opened all of the air valves, switched off the Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump and diesel burner, started the main engine, and switched the suspension to drive mode.  While coach was airing up I pulled the 50 A shorepower cord and stowed it away.  Back in the house we put the cats in their carriers and left them in the front hallway while we took their “tree” out to the bus.  We then brought them out, locking the house behind us, and put them on board.  Both cats immediately went under the front passenger seat which is their “go to” spot while the coach is moving.

All of what I have just described took place with intermittent light rain.  We could not recall the last time we had to load the motorcoach, or our previous motorhome, in the rain, but we agreed that having it parked with the entrance door opposite the sidewalk to the front door of the house made it much more convenient.  Still, it was reminiscent of the “age of camping,” a time in our lives when we camped frequently in a tent with our pre-teen children.  While not a constant companion, rain was a frequent visitor on these outings and yet it never deterred us from going and never lessened our enjoyment.  Indeed, we tried to show our children the special beauty of a hike in a Michigan woodland in the rain or the power of standing near the shore of a Great Lake during a storm.  Cooking was more of challenge, to be sure, but we had a screen room in addition to our tent and made preparing and eating meals part of the adventure.  Our friend Chuck said to me once that we were different from most of the other Prevost owners he and Barbara know because we were “campers.”  True enough, although what we do now hardly seems like camping to us. Still, we are quite comfortable with having the furniture and flooring removed from our motorcoach, sitting on lawn chairs instead, and dining at our fold up plastic side table.

We pulled out of our driveway at 12:30 PM and made our way slowly down our muddy, pot marked dirt road to N. Hacker Road.  It was nice not having to worry about scratching the side of our rig as a result of our tree trimming raid late last night.  Instead of taking our usual route north to M-59 we went south on Hacker which got us on pavement a short distance later.  Most of the trees on the west side of S. Hacker Road were trimmed up high enough but just before getting to Grand River Avenue we got clunked.  Our front OTR TV antenna is the highest thing on the bus.  It is centered side-to-side near the front and probably took the branch.  I should check it for damage the next time I am on the roof.

We went south on Grand River Avenue towards Brighton and less than a mile later took the entrance ramp to I-96 west.  Twenty-three miles later we took exit 122 and stopped at the Mobil Truck Stop for fuel.  We were at 3/8ths of a tank and rather than fill it we only put 80 gallons on board.  That was enough added fuel for approximately 480 miles and our round trip to/from the RV rally would be less than that.

We will not be using the coach for a while after this week and it is not clear what the best thing is to do relative to long term storage.  Filling the tank with fuel minimizes the air in the tank and thus the opportunity for moisture to condense out.  Moisture is a bad thing in diesel fuel as it enables the growth of algae.  I use a biocide additive to inhibit that growth, especially at a fill up just before it is going to sit for a while, and we have a fuel polishing pump to slowly circulate the fuel and remove water and other gunk while the coach is sitting.  That would seem to solve the problem, except for the fact that it is not ideal to store diesel fuel any longer than necessary before using it.  I suspect that we will fill the tank at the Mobil Truck Stop just before returning home, using an extra dose of biocide, and then run the fuel polishing pump all summer.

We continued west on I-96 to the southwest corner of Lansing and then exited onto southbound I-69.  It continued to be overcast with a noticeable wind out of the east.  We thought we were done with the rain but continued to get an occasional sprinkle.  We exited I-69 at US-12 and headed west through Coldwater and the southern tier of Michigan counties.  US-12 is a good 2-lane highway with some left and right and some up and down, sometimes at the same time.  It is a fun drive with nice scenery and passes through three other small towns:  Bronson, Sturgis, and White Pigeon.  We eventually left US-12 onto Old 205 (M-205) and a couple of miles later entered Indiana where the road became SR-19 (IN-19).  A few more miles and then left (east) on CR-4 and a mile later we pulled into Elkhart campground at 4:10 PM.

Linda checked us in and then we drove to site 738, leveled the coach, and shut down the engine.  We went through as much of normal arrival routine as we could, setting up the cat tree, two folding lawn chairs, and our plastic folding side table.  Linda got our WiFi Ranger connected to the RV Park WiFi and got online with her iPad while I used mine to write.

We snacked on pretzels while we were traveling and by 5:30 PM we were ready for dinner.  Linda made a simple salad and then cooked a couple of vegan “burgers” and served them with the remainder of the potato salad she made the other day.  We went for a walk around the campground after dinner and thought we spotted Nick and Terry Russell’s Winnebago Ultimate Advantage motorhome but did not see any sign of them.  The rig had Florida plates but there was a new Honda SUV parked in front.  The last time we saw them they had a Ford Explorer but I have not been keeping up with Nick’s blog so they could have gotten a new car without us knowing about it.

When we finished our walk we unhooked the car.  I forgot to pack my toothbrush so we drove back to the intersection of CR-4 and SR-19 where there is a CVS, a Walgreen’s, and a Martin’s supermarket.  The CVS was the most convenient, and we have a discount card there, so we bought my toothbrush and picked up some pistachios and almonds on sale.  Back at the coach we had small glasses of Moscato and some red grapes.  It’s been a very physical week for us and by 8:30 PM Linda was ready to lie down and watch a little TV.

The TV stations here serve the area surrounding South Bend and Elkhart including the area of Michigan along the Indiana border.  It took me a while to figure out where to point the antennas but I eventually remembered that there a quite a few very tall towers on the south side of US-20 about half way between Elkhart and South Bend.  That was roughly southwest of our location and we were parked facing southwest so it was a simple matter to point the antennas straight forward.  Bingo!  (I should have remembered that the website will give you the bearing and distance to all of the broadcast TV towers with a certain radius of a specified location, but I didn’t at the time.)

The local PBS station was in the middle of a fund raiser (they probably all were nationwide).  That usually means vintage (nostalgic) musical performances and tonight was no exception with a reunion concert by the BeeGees (Brothers Gibb).  Although best known (to my generation) as the “sound of disco,” personified in the movie Saturday Night Fever, the BeeGees performed actively for many years and have a very deep catalog of surprisingly familiar songs.  This concert was filmed in Las Vegas in 1997 and several of the brothers have since passed away.

Good music is good music but popular music tends to take on significance for individuals based on where they were and what they were doing at the time it became popular.  The BeeGees, like Ernest Hemingway, we’re so popular that it became popular to put down the music of the disco era.  Thankfully that time has passed (in both cases) and we can remember fondly “the age of disco” and enjoy the art and artists for what they are, enjoyable and talented.

The BeeGees concert was followed by Motown 25.  I was 12 in 1964 and although I studied and played classical music I was definitely listening to popular music on the radio and that included the new Motown sound.  I was enjoying this concert as well but it was late and even I get tired and sleepy so I turned it off and went to bed.


2015/05/30 (S) Chuck and Barbara

There were thunderstorms west of Lansing just before midnight last night but they did not reach our house during the overnight hours and we slept OK.  We were up at 7 AM and off to our weekly SLAARC breakfast.  Linda had a phone message yesterday from Nancy at FirstMerit Bank indicating that there was still a problem with the SLAARC bank account so we stopped there after breakfast but Nancy wasn’t in.  They have frozen the account while we sort out the paperwork, causing our annual insurance check to not clear.  Linda has been in touch with the insurance company, so they are aware of what is going on.  When we got back to the house she wrote a personal check for the insurance premium and put it in the mail.

I gathered up the laundry, sorted it according to color (light/dark) and temperature (cold/warm), and started the first load.  I downloaded and installed updates last night for my ASUS laptop computer so they finished installing when I started it this morning.  I developed the habit a long time ago of checking for additional updates any time I install some and sure enough there were 11 more optional ones available.  I did not install Skype for Windows Desktop 7.3 since I have Windows 8.1 and I did not install the update for a Ricoh printer as we do not have one.

There was an 80% chance of rain starting at 11 AM but the rain did not wait until then to start.  Around 10:45 AM the skies opened up and the rain came down as if poured from buckets.  By noon it was partly sunny, but steamy.  I checked the national radar on my Wundermap iPad app and it looked like we would have more rain as the day went along.

Linda loaded a few things on the bus before the rain started and then busied herself with food preparation.  Larger RV rallies have multiple activities going on every day and evening and Linda does not have the time to prepare meals from scratch.  Being as we will only be gone for a week she prepared enough food to see us through and will only require reheating in the microwave.  It’s a good approach; we still eat well and she has the time to fully participate in the rally.

In spite of the threat of rain I decided to wash the exterior of the bus.  It was already wet anyway and the conditions were otherwise good with a heavy overcast, no direct sun, and moderate temperatures.  I got the outside water turned on, got out some hoses, and connected the pressure washer.  A bucket of McGuire’s Deep Crystal automotive soap (purple bottle) and the long, adjustable handle brush completed my bus cleaning arsenal.  The water softener only had 137 gallons remaining when I started and I ran it down to zero by the time I had cleaned the bus and the Honda Element, so I do not know exactly how much water I used cleaning the vehicles but I’m guessing it was 150 gallons.  That sounds like a lot of water but it is surprising how much water we go through in a typical day, especially if we are doing laundry or running the dishwasher.

I was finishing up washing the bus around 3:30 PM when Linda let me know that around 3:20 PM Chuck Spera had texted me and left a voice message letting us know that he and Barbara were in our general part of town and asking if they could stop by.  Linda replied to the text message and said “sure” and Chuck replied that they would be here around 4:30 PM.  I started the regeneration cycle on the water softener, got all of my equipment put away, and changed clothes.  I uploaded my blog post for May 28th and was sitting in the living room using my iPad when they arrived.

The reason for their visit was to see what we were up to with the remodeling of the interior of our bus.  I had extended an open invitation to Chuck a week ago and today worked for them.  We showed them the bus and explained what we planned to do.  Linda and Barbara went inside to sit and chat while Chuck and I continued the bus conversation in the bus.

Chuck and I finally came in the house and I showed him the ham shack/office which he somehow missed seeing on previous visits including our open house.  By 6:30 PM we were all hungry and Linda suggested La Marsa in Brighton.  It had started raining again and that, combined with the slightly later dinnertime, resulted in available parking spaces and immediate seating.  After studying the menu we suggested the Koshary and salad.  They accepted the recommendation so we each had lentil soup and split an order of Koshary.  The only difference was that we had ours’ spicy and they had theirs’ regular.  They also liked the garlic spread and warm pocket bread.  We finished the meal with coffee and Barbara sweet talked the manager, Gordon, out of complimentary baklava, this being their first visit to a La Marsa restaurant.

We got home around 9:30 PM.  The water softener finished regenerating around 8 PM so I put the next load of clothes in the washing machine.  Driving on our street we noticed that a branch on the south side about 0.2 miles in from the main road was hanging out farther and lower than usual to the point where we would not be able to navigate past it in the morning without scraping (scratching?) the side of the bus.  I located a small saw and Linda drove me back down there to try to cut it off.  At the point where I could reach the branch it was over 2″ in diameter and my little saw was not up to the task of cutting through it.  I did make enough of a cut, however, that I was able to bend it and get it to crack.  That allowed me to pull it down and tuck it into some other low branches and keep it off the road.  Not the nicest pruning job, but it was raining steadily and it was dark and I was standing in a ditch.

Linda transferred the laundry to the dryer and then started the dishwasher.  We finally got to bed at 11 PM where Linda read while I worked on this post and played a few games on my iPad.  We still have quite a bit to do to get ready to leave but should be able to pull out of here tomorrow around noon.


2015/05/29 (F) Many Celebrations

I was up late last night so Linda got up this morning before me, made coffee, and moved all of her plants to the front porch.  I got up a little while later and we had grapefruit and toast for breakfast.

Today was a day of many celebrations, starting with a mutual “happy anniversary.”  We were married on this date in 1971; 44 years ago.  The wedding took place in the lobby of the St. Louis (Missouri) Ethical Society at 5 PM on a Saturday with about 50 people in attendance.  The reception was held in the basement.  It was a simple affair with about 200 people.  A lot has happened in those 44 years.  As we approach our mid-60’s it is unlikely we will see 44 more anniversaries but a 75th anniversary is at least possible and is a goal.

We loaded up the plants and left around 9:20 AM for Ann Arbor.  We arrived at Madeline’s daycare center a little after 10:00 AM.  She is in the “Ducks” group and they were outside in the play yard when we arrived.  It was fun to see Madeline in this context interacting with other children around her age.  The Ducks eventually joined the other groups in the assembly room for the Welcome Shabbat which was already in progress.  The rabbi, whose name we did not get, was patient with his young audience and did a nice job.

Lunch followed the singing and ceremonies and Madeline got to eat with us instead of going back to the Ducks room.  The food at the daycare center is always vegetarian (not vegan) but we had plenty to eat.  After lunch we took Madeline back to the Ducks room and read stories while the other children ate their lunch.  The teachers set up the cots for nap time and we left at 12:25 PM, about five minutes before the nap time routine got started.  We enjoyed the “grandparents and special friends Shabbat.”

We went to Brendan and Shawn’s house to drop off the plants and pick up the electric pressure washer.  Brendan is going to take care of Linda’s plants while we are at the Great Lakes MotorCoach Association GLAMARAMA RV rally next week.  We have a higher pressure (3500 PSI) gasoline engine powered pressure washer but I have not used it in years and did not want to mess with it.  I need to wash the bus on Saturday and the electric pressure washer just makes that a lot easier.

We left for Westland Mall at 2:30 PM to allow plenty of time to buy cards for Ken, Brendan, and Shawna before arriving at Ashley’s Beer & Grill for Ken Schramm’s gathering.  Today was Ken’s last day at the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency where we were colleagues for the 12 years that I worked there.  Ken was the TV and Media Production Manager and was one of the truly good guys.

Besides Ken and our friend Kate de Fuccio I had a chance to reconnect with former colleagues, including:  Bill Heldmyer, Andy Henry, Jeff Gnagy, and Brenda Hose from the media department.  Greg Johnson, Cheryl Yokum, and Libby Pizzo were there from my former Instructional Services department and Libby’s husband Vince from the computer group was there too.  Maggie Mateer, Shirley Dushane, and Sandy Ellis were also there and my first secretary, Sheri Bartz, arrived just as we were leaving around 4:45 PM.  I had a ginger-pineapple cider (hard) and Linda had a Dogfish 90 beer.  I think her’s was more alcoholic than mine.

We headed back to Ann Arbor and traffic was a mess as we expected it would be.  Brendan and Shawna’s employment/tenure celebration was at Dominic’s across from the University of Michigan Law Quad.  I dropped Linda at the door and found a parking spot around the corner but did have any change for the meter.  I texted Brendan and Linda and a few minutes later Meghan came out with some change.  I only needed to feed the meter for 15 minutes, but failing to do so is risking a parking ticket in this town.  The only thing I like less than driving in Ann Arbor is parking in Ann Arbor.

We sat and chatted with Meghan and Chris and watched Brendan and Shawna greet and mingle with their friends and colleagues.  Many of their friends have children close to Madeline’s age so there were lots of kids for Madeline to interact with, especially Fiona.  By 7 PM Madeline was getting tired so we swapped keys with Brendan and took her back to their house in their car.  By the time we got her home and she had some black raspberries for a snack she was showing signs of being tired after a long, busy day.  Linda took her upstairs to use the bathroom but ended up getting her ready for bed.  There was some tearful “I want my mommy and daddy” but Grandma Linda is able to handle such situations very well and got her calmed down and into her crib.

Brendan had picked up some hummus, pretzel nibblers, and grapes for us so Linda and I had a snacky 44th anniversary dinner once she came downstairs.  We used our iPads until Brendan and Shawna got home around 10:25 PM, visited briefly, and then drove back to our house.  There was a message on our answering machine from FirstMerit Bank which handles the account for our SLAARC ham radio club.  Tomorrow starts early with our ham radio club breakfast followed by a trip to the bank so we went straight to bed.


2015/05/28 (R) Ice Cold Internet

I was up until after 1 AM last night fussing with my computer but the OS was updated and was running better (I think) when I finally went to bed.  I need my beauty rest so I did not get up until 9 AM this morning.  Linda had already made coffee so I checked the temperature of the refrigerator (41.4 degrees F) and then got out the soy creamer.  41 is better than 45 but given where the thermostat was set the temperature in the fresh food compartment should have been 35 degrees or lower.  We had a very late breakfast of homemade granola and small glasses of orange juice to wash down our vitamins.

Because I did not get to upload any blog posts last night I switched up my routine and spent the morning working at my desk.  The weather was very nice so Linda went for a long walk.  My computer was back to normal and I managed to upload nine posts to my blog (May 10 through 18) by 1 PM.

I had an e-mail back from Ken Schramm yesterday letting me know that his “last day at Wayne RESA” gathering would get underway around 3:30 PM at Ashley’s Beer & a Grill at Westland Mall.  Brendan and Shawna’s celebration is from 5 to 8 PM in Ann Arbor so we will be able to attend both events although we might not make it to Ann Arbor until 6 PM.

Today was our friends’ 44th wedding anniversary.  Butch and Fonda were married the same year we were one day before us.  We did not know each other then but are now friends through our mutual passion for converted highway buses.

Brendan called and talked to Linda.  It turns out that tomorrow is grandparents/special friends Shabbat at Madeline’s daycare center and Brendan thought we might want to attend.  It starts at 10:30 AM and includes lunch.  The food at the daycare center is vegetarian but not vegan so we will see how that works out.  Brendan is going to take care of Linda’s plants so we will take these with us and go to his house when we are done at the daycare center.  I will pick up our electric pressure washer while we are there so I can wash the bus on Saturday.  We were going to buy cards today for Ken, Brendan, and Shawna but decided we would do that tomorrow on our way to Ken’s gathering.

Linda made large green salads with chickpeas for lunch.  We both put on a few pounds over the winter and really want/need to take them off.  After lunch I worked in the bus.  I removed the wood trim along the top of the beveled strip mirrors on the wall in hallway.  The strips were glued directly to the wall so I put the trim back on.  If we do not want to see these mirrors we will have to figure out some way to cover them.

There was a triangular horizontal panel between the upper edges of the J-lounge and the dinette with four switches mounted in it.  Two of those switches no longer control anything but the other two still do.  I secured the panel above the passenger side HVAC chase and blocked it in so it could not move.  I dressed all of the loose wires with cable ties and cable clamps and secured them to the floor.  I cut two grates from a piece of expanded metal and secured them over the two holes in the driver side HVAC chase where the sleeper-sofa was installed.  That sealed up the last of the holes that the cats might get into.  If one of them got into the HVAC system we would have disassemble half the bus to get them out.

I removed all of my tools and miscellaneous parts from the bus and set them on steps leading to the house.  I had put one of our folding chairs inside the bus to sit on and moved it to the location of the passenger chair as a safety barrier after I moved the trash can out yesterday.  I folded it up and put it back in the bay where it is stored.  While Linda vacuumed the inside of the coach with our Shop-Vac I put tools and parts in the garage or back into the appropriate tool boxes.  When she was done we got the Shop-Vac out of the bus and put it in the garage.

There is a maple grab handle on the right side of the entrance stairs (as you enter the bus) attached to a piece of maple trim from the back side.  The finish is worn and the handle is loose.  I wanted to tighten it, which required access to the back of the trim board.  Linda recalled that we had Creative Mobile Interiors (CMI) tighten this handle when we first got the coach so we figured there had to be a way to get to the back of the trim board.

We removed the cockpit HVAC access panel just below the trim board but it did not appear to provide access to the back of the trim board.  I removed the only two screws I could see (at the right end of the trim) but it still would not come loose.  I figured the trim board had to be screwed on somewhere else and the only possible place was under a piece of inset brass finish trim.  This brass trim is used throughout the bus, including around the edges of the Corian counters, and has an adhesive backing.  I have found screws under it in other places so I pried the end up and peeled it out, revealing three screws.

I thought I was on the verge of success until I removed the three screws but still could not get the trim board loose.  I tried prying it at various points with a screwdriver but it would not budge and we finally came to the unhappy conclusion that it was glued on.  Perhaps it is secured from underneath in some manner that we did not see but I will have to return to this when I have more time.  Linda suggested that we cut the handle off and install a new one that can be screwed on from the front.  She’s a clever girl.  As long as the access panel was off we vacuumed out the cockpit HVAC system and then replaced the panel.

About this time a UPS truck went by headed deeper into our neighborhood.  Since we live on a dead end street I knew the truck would be coming back so I waited for it and flagged down the driver.  I explained to the young man that we had two packages delivered to the wrong house in the same week about a month ago and that I had called the 800 number and talked to customer service but I would appreciate it if he would mention it to his colleagues as we will be ordering a lot of stuff starting in the second week of June.  He was very nice and said he would.

Our last bus task for today was the hard one.  We moved the passenger chair from the garage back to the bus using a hand truck so we did not have to carry it.  It is very heavy but with Linda guiding the top and me supporting the base we got it inside and set in position.  We tilted it fore and aft so I could slide the mounting studs into position and line them up with the holes in the base.  I then bolted it down to the support rails by tightening the four nuts.

This was all trickier than it sounds.  The bolts have square flanges that have to engage in the open slot of the channel to keep them from turning while being tightened or loosened.  But that required me to pull up on the studs as the nuts were not going on that easily.  As when I took the nuts off, I had to wedge one of them up with a screwdriver while I got the nut tight enough that the bolt would not spin.  I reconnected the power to the chair and we checked that all of the adjustments still worked, especially the footrest.

With the installation of the passenger seat we were done working on the bus until after GLAMARAMA and have two seats with seatbelts so we can tow the car rather than drive it separately.  This will be much nicer for us and the cats, although I expect the modified interior will freak them out initially.  We will be gone most of Friday but have Saturday to prepare food, reload the coach for the week, and wash the exterior.  Oh the joys of owning a converted coach.

For dinner Linda served the last of the whole wheat capellini with Portobello mushrooms and asparagus and steamed some broccoli.  A piece of whole wheat bread and a small glass of Leelanau Cellars Winter White wine completed the meal.  We had watermelon for dessert later.

I returned to my office after dinner and updated our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS.  I then continued uploading blog posts.  By the time I quit working around 10 PM I had uploaded nine more posts and was caught up!  I think 18 posts in one day may be my all time record.  I did not get to work on articles for BCM, or copy files between our NAS units, but I was satisfied with what we had accomplished today.


2015/05/27 (W) The Root of all Things

Yesterday I used up the last of the coffee beans that Jeff at Teeko’s shipped to us in Quartzsite in late February so this morning I transferred the beans we had roasted last week into our airtight containers and started using them.  Grinding our own custom roasted coffee beans is how my mornings usually start and is just another small thing I like about being retired.

We rarely made coffee at home in the morning when we were employed outside the house.  It took too much time and made a mess that had to be cleaned up later, including the travel mug that we had to remember to rinse out at work and then bring home.  Besides, Linda got free unlimited coffee and tea at the office and I found it easier to stop at Panera and get a large coffee to go; half hazelnut and half decaf.  It was part of my morning routine that I found comforting and the cup was disposable when I was done.

I had a follow-up appointment and evaluation at the endodontist today, so I did not work in the bus this morning other than to take a few pictures of the old dinette corner, where I removed the mirrors yesterday, and the area under the bed, which I also worked on yesterday.

After morning coffee and breakfast I went to my office to work at my computer.  I off-loaded the pictures I just took, selected a few, processed them, and copied them to the folder for this blog.  I then downloaded and installed Adobe FlashPlayer in order to view the Gilbreath Upholstery Service website.  The download also installed a McAfee virus checker that I did not ask for or want and I don’t recall being given an option to opt-out.  I really dislike it when programs do things like that.  In fact, I think it should be illegal and companies who do it should be subject to heavy fines.  I tried to download the PDF catalog but Adobe Reader said it had an unrecoverable error.  Arrrgh!  I e-mailed them to request one that worked.  We will see if that results in anything.

I was responding to a few e-mails when Butch called.  He was trying to figure out the best way to connect up the eight L-16 6 VDC batteries he bought in Quartzsite to make a 24 VDC battery bank with a 12 VDC center tap.  Working only from verbal descriptions we finally ended up with the same diagram of a series-parallel interconnection scheme with equal electrical path lengths through all of the batteries.  The difference between series-parallel and parallel-series is not important when the batteries are operating correctly but each connection scheme is vulnerable to a different battery failure mode.  I happen to prefer the series-parallel scheme as I think it results in better battery charging, but that’s an often debated subject.  The equal path lengths through the batteries, however, is something that is worth accomplishing if at all possible.

By the time we were done talking I needed to leave for my endodontist appointment.  Dr. McWatters said the root canal they did on my upper right rear (tooth #4) last September looked good.  They tested the upper rear teeth on my left side but did not find any indication of a problem.  That would normally be good news, except that I had an intermittent problem in that area all winter so I know something is wrong and will eventually require attention, most likely when it is least convenient for me (middle of the night on a weekend).  But for now there is nothing more to do.

hen I got home I had a few pretzels and hummus and some red grapes and then got back to work at my desk.  I copied my blog post drafts for the 17th through the 26th from e-mails to Word and started editing them.  I took a break to have some tea and write while Linda cooked dinner.  She grilled two veggie burgers along with the rest of the asparagus we bought on Sunday and served the potato salad she made earlier in the day.  Most of the asparagus was mushy except for the tips which I attributed to the plants not the cook.  These were very large purple stalks, not the usual somewhat thinner green ones so maybe that had something to do with it.

After dinner I returned to my desk and finished editing all of my blog posts for May 10 through 26.  Somewhere in the middle of that work Phil Jarrell returned my phone call from yesterday.  We agreed that I will call him back after the GLAMARAMA Rally and he will bring his laser level and we will shoot some elevations.  With a little luck and a bit of perseverance we may get a gravel driveway connecting the 3rd (westernmost) culvert to our concrete driveway with a level spot for one or two guest RVs to boondock. We will also get a dozen tree stumps removed, get a French drain installed to remove water from the western end of the property, and get a hole dug for a ham radio tower foundation.  That last bit of digging will also require a rebar cage, hinged tower base, and coordination with a supplier that can pump concrete immediately after the hole is dug.

When I was done editing my blog posts I logged into our WordPress site, deleted 181 spam comments, and installed an update for our Fast Secure Contact Form plugin.  I started creating the post for May 10 but half way through the Chrome browser became non-responsive indicating that it might be out of memory.  That seemed unlikely, but I closed all of the program’s I had open, shut down my computer, and restarted it.  When I logged back in nothing was responding so I sat and waited until I was eventually able to do things.  The first thing I did was uninstall the McAfee Security Scan app that got installed along with the Adobe FlashPlayer earlier today.  I then proceeded to download three updates for Windows and MS Office, or tried to.

The three updates were only 27 MB total, but after 35 minutes they were only 53% done.  My guess was that the data rate on our AT&T “High Speed Internet” (DSL) connection had slowed to a barely usable trickle, perhaps because of all the rain we had the last few days, but whatever the cause it was almost midnight so I left it to finish at its own pace and went to bed.  I worked on this post and played a few games by which time it 12:45 AM so I got up, put on my robe, and went back to my office.  The download had finished and two of the three updates had installed.  The third one reported an error but Windows Update needed the computer to be restarted to finish the installation so that’s what I did.

Windows updates normally install during shutdown and finish installing on startup and that is precisely what happened this time as well.  I let the system startup completely (until the hard drive light was not on) and then downloaded, installed, and ran the latest version of CCleaner.  It downloaded much faster so maybe it was the Microsoft update server that was slow, or perhaps the McAfee app was causing the problem.

We had rain yesterday and more rain today, including some thunder.  The lights flickered a few times both days but the generator never came on.  If out Internet performance is still sluggish in the morning I will reset the AT&T gateway and see if that helps.  I also noticed that our home refrigerator was suddenly showing 45 degrees F instead of 40.  Linda had loaded it up with food yesterday, and added the potato salad today, but the temperature should not have changed by that much and should have returned to the 40 degree set point within a few hours.  Even adjusting the thermostat down did not rectify the problem over the course of the day so perhaps something else has changed, such as a blocked vent.  I will have to check for that tomorrow.  Hopefully the power blips did not blip some control circuit.  I think I will pull the fridge away from the wall and cycle the power.  We can vacuum off the back while it is out.  If it still won’t hold the temperature we want Linda might get a new refrigerator for the house sooner than expected, although a call to AAA Appliance Service Network in Howell might a more prudent first response.

2015/05/26 (T) Reflections

I decided to put off doing the laundry until later in the week.  Linda made a grocery shopping list while we had our morning coffee.  I called Pat Davidson at Apex Roofing to discuss the installation of a roof access hatch.  We did some online research for pest control companies in the Brighton-Hartland-Howell area and decided to call Best Pest Control LLC.  I talked to the owner, Ryan, about his perimeter defense package, and decided to give his company a try.  They will spray outside the house for ants, spiders, hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets.  I called Phil Jarrell from Precision Grading and left him a voice message regarding some additional driveway work, a French drain for the west end if the property, and a hole for a ham radio tower foundation.

I showed Linda the pullout pantry slide hardware I found last night on the Rockler website, a German made top-bottom pair specifically designed for this application and able to support up to 450 pounds.  It’s pricey, but it looks like the right stuff for the job.  We also found some assembled pullout pantries online, including some that were 5″ wide, but they were not deep enough and getting just the right height looked tricky.  We really want to maximize the use of our available cubic inches.

Keith showed up around 10 AM with his new Scag riding lawn mower.  He is still going to have the Hustler repaired as a backup, but the Scag is a nicer/better machine.  It is fuel injected, which should be more reliable, and it is faster, which makes more efficient use of Keith’s time.  It also has a seat that can be adjusted from soft to firm, making for a more comfortable operator experience over the course of a long day.

As much as I need to work at my computer and drafting table I need to work even more in the bus right now.  I started by reassembling the inside of the cabinet above the refrigerator, except for the liner carpet, and reinstalled the fluorescent light fixture on the ceiling.  I am keeping the carpet pieces for now, but mostly to use as templates for new material.  I would have preferred white Formica interior surfaces, as they are brighter and easier to keep clean, but the bus has a lot of curves and carpet is a very conformable and forgiving material.

The interior of the bus deconstructed in preparation for a new floor, seating, and custom desk.

The interior of the bus deconstructed in preparation for a new floor, seating, and custom desk.

My next task was cleaning out and securing the area under the bed platform.  I removed the half box covers, the flexible ducts, and the floor-mounted cleats.  I threw the ducts away and stored the other pieces in the garage.  I then reattached the strip light on the top edge of the forward side of the base, reinstalled the two circular HVAC registers (so the cats could not try to get under the bed through the holes), put the cover plates back on the two duplex AC outlets and reinstalled the outlet expanders which also have dual USB charging ports.  I need to put some sort of temporary netting over the port holes in the section of the HVAC chase under the bed, but I need to find a suitable material for that.  The long term plan is to seal those holes and install registers in the sections of chase outside the bed base.  I thought about disconnecting the lift struts for the bed platform so I could raise it higher and reinstall a drawer onto its glides, but decided to leave that for another day.

While I was working in the bus Ryan from Best Pest Control called me back and said he had a crew that could fit us in within the hour so I said “sure.”  I closed up the house as they would be spraying around all of the windows, doors, and doorwalls.  Two guys showed up a little while later and I walked them through the job, wrote a check, signed the work order, and they got busy.  They found two hornet nests by the east end of our deck and destroyed them.  I hate to kill even a hornet but they have been buzzing around our windows and doors, poking at voids in the mortar on the face brick, and occasionally getting into the house and we need to put a stop to their use of our residence as a place to build their homes.

The pest control guys were already gone and Keith was driving away as Linda returned from the supermarket.  I helped get the groceries into the kitchen.  After they were put away we had a light lunch around 1 PM of fresh baby carrots, mini bell peppers, sourdough pretzel nibblers, hummus, and red grapes.

The dinette seat used to fit in this corner The strip mirrors have been removed from the outside wall next to the window.

The dinette seat used to fit in this corner The strip mirrors have been removed from the outside wall next to the window.

I have been taking a lot of short breaks while working on the bus.  It was warm and humid again today and warmer still in the coach even with windows open and the roof vent fans exhausting air.  But the breaks are not just to rest, they are also to ponder the details of how the interior will get rebuilt and what additional deconstruction still needs to take place.

In the front of the coach there was a 120 VAC electrical cable coming out of an access hole in the passenger side HVAC chase, passing through a 4″ flexible duct adapter, and disappearing through a hole in the floor.  I originally thought the cable came from the duplex outlet on the wall just above the access hole but I discovered that it did not.  It was routed through the chase from somewhere farther back in the bus.  I determined that that the hole in the floor appeared to go into the OTR HVAC bay and sure enough, when I opened the bay there was the cable coming through the ceiling.  It turned towards the center of the bus and then went through the wall into the bay to the front.  It was then easy to determine that it was the power feed for the electric heater mounted on the rear wall of the front bay.

The storage area under the end platform with the 4" flexible ducts and cover boxes removed.

The storage area under the end platform with the 4″ flexible ducts and cover boxes removed.

At that point I knew which circuit breaker to turn off and was able to cut the cable in the living room without risking an electrical shock.  I slipped the 4″ duct adapter off and set it aside.  We don’t generally use the electric heater in the front bay, and certainly do not need it this time of year, so I wire-nutted the ends of the hot and neutral wires, coiled them up, and stowed them in the HVAC chase for the time being.  I coiled the end of the wire coming out of the floor around one of the Aqua-Hot coolant hoses so it would not drop into the bay below.

The area of the bus that was the outside rear corner of the dinette kept drawing my attention.  That corner was decorated with vertical strip mirrors with beveled edges.  There are also strip mirrors used as wainscoting on the lower portion of the outside wall of the hallway and at the end of the hallway opposite the bathroom door.  The strip mirrors are the one thing in this bus we have never liked but they did not bother us enough to not buy the coach.  Now that we are involved in a major interior remodeling, however, we are looking for ways to remove them or cover them up.  We really do not like them.

In the case of the former dinette mirrors, I had previously determined that the ones against the wall of the coach were mounted (glued) onto a sheet of plywood that appeared to be mounted to a pair of cleats along the two vertical edges.  I tried prying under the bottom of the first strip but it cracked and chipped.  It quickly became apparent that removing these strip mirrors from whatever they are glued to was probably not a viable option.

The beveled strip mirrors in the hallway of our bus.  We really do not like these things.

The beveled strip mirrors in the hallway of our bus. We really do not like these things.

[p4 R]  After removing a 1-1/4″ wide piece of thin trim wood I was able to loosen the left (forward) edge at the bottom.  The walnut trim around the fixed window just forward of the mirrors, however, prevented me from pulling it out any farther.  I had a reasonably good idea how the window trim was attached but first I had to remove another piece of 1-1/4″ thin trim that covered the gap between the window trim I needed to remove and the trim for the next window forward.  With Linda’s help I removed eight screws and the 3-sided window trim came right off.  We set it carefully aside and returned to the mirrors.

With the window trim removed we were able to pull the left (forward) edge of the plywood mirror backing out enough to see behind it.  Our lucky “break” (no pun intended but, whoops, there it is) was that the screws holding the plywood to the left cleat pulled out of the cleat.  I say lucky because the screw heads were under the glass mirror strips and none of the mirror strips broke.  We kept working it out until the upper edge bumped into the return air grill trim on the underside of the upper cabinet.  We removed the grill and set it aside.  We were then finally able to pull the left edge out far enough that I could remove a couple of screws that were holding the right cleat to the panel that forms one of the back walks of the pantry.  Something was still holding it and when I changed position I saw that there was another screw near the top.  I removed that screw and the whole panel came out with the right cleat still attached.  Three more screws and the left cleat was also out.  We reattached the return air grill to the underside of the upper cabinet and then reattached the window trim.

The wallpaper behind this panel was in very good shape except for the screw holes where the cleats were attached.  We plan to put shelves in this corner to utilize the space and they may get used for some ham radio equipment.  Regardless of what ends up there having the mirrors out gives us more room for the shelves and will just plain look better.

A view from the kitchen of the dinette corner and hallway.  A custom desk will go where the dinette seating used to be and double as work surface for the kitchen.

A view from the kitchen of the dinette corner and hallway. A custom desk will go where the dinette seating used to be and double as work surface for the kitchen.

The mirrors on the other wall of this corner are glued directly to the walnut panel that forms one of the backs of the pantry.  I tried loosening the bottom edge of the one in the corner and it cracked.  That area will be concealed by the desk, but we will cover all of the mirror strips with some sort of thin panel.  We have the same problem with the mirror strips across from the bathroom door and may just have to live with those as I have not come up with an attractive way to cover them.  I need to investigate the strip mirrors in the hallway.  There is a good chance that they are glued to plywood panels that are screwed to the wall at locations covered buy wood trim.  If we are lucky removing the trim will allow us to unscrew and remove the mirror panels.  If not, we will just put the trim back on.

I have had the idea for a while that we could make another low pantry or shallow storage area along the hallway wall above the HVAC chase where the strip mirrors are currently located.  Linda does not like the idea as she is concerned it will make the hallway to narrow.  The storage would not be any deeper than the HVAC chase is now, and would not be any higher than the wood trim along the top of the strip mirrors, which serve as a kind of wainscoting.

By this point it was 5:30 PM.  Linda headed inside to fix dinner while I got trash and materials out of the coach and carried them to the garage.  Linda let me know that a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued effective until 10 PM.  It rained lightly off and on until we sat down to eat and then the downpour came but we did not have anything severe, just heavy rain for a while.  She made a dish using garbanzo beans, garlic, kale, salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice.  It was delicious and the fresh lemon juice really made it sparkle.  She also served the last of the risotto she made for dinner when Steve and Karen were here on Saturday.  We had strawberries with Lotus brand Biscoff cookies for dessert.  I worked on this post on my iPad, took a shower, and went to bed.  I never did make it to my office today.


2015/05/25 (M) Memorial Day

We spent the morning lounging around drinking coffee and enjoying the holiday.  Hey, even retired people need a day off.  Actually, we continued to research refrigerator, seating, and upholstery options for the bus, taking a break to have a tofu scramble and toast for breakfast.

We stumbled upon the Yale Appliance blog which proved to be very informative.  Yale is a very large appliance store in the Boston area and maintains a blog about appliances.  After reading what they had to say in some fairly recent postings we realized that we should probably not be looking for a “counter depth” refrigerator.  It also appeared that our best bet in terms of case dimensions and interior volume might be a standard top freezer design and our best bet in terms of both price and reliability might be a Frigidaire.

We went to the Frigidaire website and found that the FFHT1621QB might fit our needs perfectly.  It is a 16.3 cu. ft. top freezer design available in black, white, or stainless steel with doors that can be hinged left or right.  (We need a fridge with doors the hinge on the left.)  It is 28″ W x 30-1/8″ D x 64-3/8″ H and only needs 3/8″ clearance on the top and sides and 1″ in the rear.  The depth includes the doors and handles; the depth of the case alone is only is 26-5/8″.  Our refrigerator alcove is 33-3/4″ W x 29-1/2″ D x 66-3/4″ H so it will fit easily, recessing a bit more than our current 22.6 cu. ft. Jenn-Air and leaving 5″ to its left for a pull out pantry.  The pantry will have be custom built and measure approximately 5″ W x 28″ D x 66″ H including top and bottom mounted slides/guides.  Also of importance, we will not have to modify the cabinet above the refrigerator alcove.

In terms of seating we checked out Gilbreath Upholstery’s website but then concentrated on the Bradd & Hall website.  Bradd & Hall is a well-known RV (& marine) furniture supplier in Elkhart, Indiana.  They handle the Flexsteel RV and marine product lines and also sell the Lambright Comfort Chair product line, although the latter is available directly from Lambright in Shipshewana, Indiana.  We have sat in the Lambright Lazy Relaxor Lite swivel recliner (wall hugger) at RV rallies and found it nicely sized and very comfortable for us.  It is 24″ W x 33″ D x 38″ H and needs 2.4″ clearance from the wall.  It is normally a free-standing chair so we are unclear whether it can be secured to the floor or be used with seat belts.  We plan to visit Bradd & Hall on Monday, June 1 before we check into the GLAMARAMA rally and this is one of the things we will ask about.

Bradd & Hall also sells a Flexsteel Barrel Chair with a bolt down pedestal base that locks in different positions and includes a bar for attaching seat belts.  It is 26″ W x 30″ D x 34″ high and might be a better fit for our bus and what we are trying to accomplish with our remodeling project.  Last, but not least, they sell Flexsteel Captain’s Chairs (which Flexsteel calls “bucket seats” on its website).  We need a chair of this type to replace the oversized front passenger chair and possibly to replace the driver’s chair.  My hope, however, is to get an ISRI 6800 seat for the driver’s position.  These are the seats that are normally installed on tour buses.

An advantage to getting everything from Bradd & Hall, except for the ISRI driver’s seat, is that we can get the same fabric on the passenger Captain’s chair and living room chairs and buy additional materials to have the seat and back cushions made for the sofa that I will build (with storage underneath).  We will probably find a folding chair for the desk and can have the seat recovered in the same material so that everything is coordinated.

Linda called the J. C. Penney’s salon to see if Renee was working and had openings.  She was, and she did, so Linda booked a time, grabbed her car keys, and headed to Twelve Oaks Mall.  That seemed like an opportune time for me to head to the bus to double check measurements and ponder design solutions.  I checked the dimensions of our refrigerator alcove and the Frigidaire FFHT1621QB will definitely fit very nicely.  The front part of the passenger side of the bus has 13′ 3″ of flat floor space available for a desk and two chairs with a small dining table between them.  On the driver side of the bus the aft end of the sofa nook is 7′ 2″ from the entrance step.  If I can fit both chairs and the table in the first 7′ 2″ on the passenger side we will have room for a 6′ long desk that is 26-1/2″ deep.  That’s long enough to have a file drawer on one end and a printer shelf on the other end with plenty of room in between for a chair.

We have been planning on reusing the Corian top from the old dinette table so I decided to disassemble the top from its base.  I had never really looked at the construction before now and discovered that the Corian is glued to a wood panel that is secured to the two massive posts that are screwed to the base.  I was able to disconnect the base from the posts easily enough but there did not appear to be any way to separate the Corian from the support structure.  I took a few whacks at it with a pry bar and small sledge hammer and it was clearly not going to come loose.

The good news is that we can now select a new table top in whatever size, shape, and material suits us and use the same material for the desk top, which will double as additional kitchen counter space.  Our assumption has been that we will use Corian, but Corian is heavy so we will consider other options before making a final decision.  We discussed extending the desk top all the way down the wall to the front of the living room, although it would only be about 6″ deep at most, and building shallow cabinetry to go under it and fill in the space above the HVAC chase and below the window trim.  That space will essentially be wasted otherwise, and have to be finished in some way, so building small storage spaces is worth considering with or without the extended desk top.

What all of this comes down to is that we have to select the two chairs we want to use in conjunction with figuring out the table size and support system, and then finalize the design of the desk.  We plan to recondition all of the woodwork (with Touch of Oranges and Touch of Beeswax) and replace the refrigerator before we install the new floor, which has to go in before the furniture.  That’s the order in which decisions have to be made and the work has to be done.  Chairs and custom woodwork are potentially long lead items so we need to get them finalized and ordered, but they are the last things to get installed, so it should work out OK in the end.

It rained hard for a brief time mid-afternoon, after which Linda went for a long walk.  She was walking almost daily this winter in Quartzsite, Arizona but has not walked much since we got home.  That gave me time to work on this blog post.

Earlier in the day we snacked on nuts instead of having lunch.  Linda made whole wheat capellini for dinner using the Portobello mushrooms and some of the asparagus we bought yesterday at the Howell Farmers Market.  It was delicious.

I had intended to work at my computer most of the day but that obviously did not happen.  When I finally went to my office after dinner I had a long chat on the phone with Butch about hardware for the slide out pantry and other bus-related things and then checked a few websites that he suggested as good sources of specialized hardware.  I then e-mailed GLCC members about parking with the chapter and took care of some other e-mail.  In addition to computer-based work I need to keep working on the bus but I am also at the point where I need to order some things and then settle in and work on drawings for the desk, pantry, and sofa.


2015/05/24 (N) Nuts to That

We had our usual coffee and breakfast granola but made a more leisurely morning of it than normal.  We finally got dressed around 11 AM and headed to the Howell Farmers Market at 11:20 where we bought another bar of soap from Marjorie.  I got to pick this time and chose the ginger-grapefruit.  We bought the Eucalyptus soap two weeks ago and Marjorie suggested letting them air dry for two weeks before using them.  We will see how long the Eucalyptus bar lasts once we start using it and that will tell us how often we need to purchase from her to stay ahead of our usage, allowing for drying time.

We stopped at Lowe’s to return the “white” toilet seat and buy a “biscuit” colored one.  We looked at pipe wrenches but did not buy one.  I did by a 14 TPI, 6″ long blade for my Sawz-All that said it would cut metal up to 1/2″ thick.  I still hoped to get the nut off of the trailer ball on the lawn tractor without having to cut the threaded stud, but the blade was my backup plan.

We had a brief confab regarding the motorcoach refrigerator alcove and cabinet.  I found my small plumber’s toolbox and it had several pipe wrenches inside.  I took the largest one and checked to see if/how it would fit the trailer ball on the lawn tractor.  It opened more than wide enough and looked like it would snug down tight around the throat of the ball (between the ball and the hex flange base).  Linda kept the pipe wrench from slipping out of position on the ball while I used the torque wrench with the 3/4″ drive, 1-1/8″ socket to remove the nut.  It was still a bit of work but we got the ball off without cutting, cracking, or heating.  I then backed the lawn tractor up to the utility trailer and Linda connected the trailer yoke to the tractor tow plate.

Next we tackled the hall bathroom toilet seat replacement.  Once again we encountered nuts that would not come off.  This time the nuts were a hard plastic but the bolts were rusted and the nuts would not turn.  I eventually cut through the two plastic nuts with a utility knife and pried them apart allowing us to remove the old retaining bolts.  We installed the new seat/lid which came with its own special bolt and elongated plastic nut.  The nuts had special tips designed for 1/2″ sockets and engineered to break off when tightened to just the right point.  We had both nuts torqued down and broken off but the seat was slightly crooked so I had to loosen then, reposition the seat, and re-tighten them by feel.  What should have been a simple, short job ended up being a long and difficult one, in part because there was not a lot of room on the sides of the toilet bowl to get under here and work.  As we were cleaning up Linda noticed that the toilet tank was leaning slightly to the right relative to the base/bowl and thought we should adjust it.

I was already aware of the leaning tank, and the fact that it was not as tight as it should be.  The tank is held to the bowl by two bolts that go through the bottom of the tank and are sealed by gaskets under the heads.  I tried tightening the wing nut on the left bolt.  Even though it was rusty I was able to turn it, but the tank immediately started leaking from the bolt hole in the bottom.  We shut off the water and flushed the toilet to get most of the water out of the tank.  Linda held the left bolt head with a long flat blade screwdriver while I turned the wing nut on the underside of the bowl, first by hand and then with pliers.  I was careful not to over torque it and the tank was still a bit wobbly, but it was straighter and it did not leak when we refilled it.  We will keep an eye on it.  A leaky tank will result in water continuously running onto the floor and causing major damage of not detected quickly and stopped.

Linda cleaned up the bathroom while I put the tools away.  We then changed the primary whole house water filter.  The filter we use is the same 10″ length as a standard potable filter element but is about 5″ in diameter and has two micron ratings.  It’s a spun polypropylene media that is 50 microns at the large outer surface and 5 microns at the small inner surface.  In principle it filters better and longer than a single micron rating element by filtering out larger particles first and thus not clogging up the 5 micron material with large particles.  The same thing would be accomplished, of course, with two filters in series, or three, or four, each with progressively smaller micron ratings.

The Post-It note by the filter said we had last changed it on 11 November 2013.  If that was true it was way overdue to be replaced.  The element was completely black from outside to in so it had been in there longer than the fall of 2014 for sure.  We are starting to get some slime in the toilet tanks again and the water seems to have a slight black tinge, but that may have been due to the filter element needing to be changed.  I may need to have Adams Water Treatment come out again to discuss installing an iron filtration system.  Our drinking/cooking water still goes through a reverse osmosis system, so it is very pure.

Having accomplished several rather physical tasks I decide to sit in the living room and work on my blog posts for the last few days.  Linda made hot tea for us to enjoy while iPading, after which she reheated the leftover risotto and asparagus from last night’s dinner and we finished the open bottle of 2013 Egri Merlot.  After dinner I finally settled in to work on computer-based tasks.  I had a long list of things to do but did not get to most them.  I did manage to off-load recent photos of the bus interior from my camera to my computer, select a few to use in blog posts, and processed them.  I edited a few more blog posts but did not get them uploaded to our website.  I then dealt with e-mails and went to bed.


2015/05/23 (S) Radio Cabinet Company

Today was “V. E.” testing day (volunteer examiner) so a half-dozen members of our amateur radio club were at breakfast even earlier than usual.  (Our club does not test volunteer examiners, we have members who volunteer to give amateur radio licensing exams to people who want to get or upgrade an amateur radio license.)   We were later than usual and ended up at the far end of a very long table arrangement, as there was a large turnout, but that gave us a chance to chat with a different group of people.

Mike Sharpe (W8XH) had a flyer he printed on his mother’s car, a 2005 Ford Taurus in excellent condition with only 21,000 miles.  He was asking $5,800 which is slightly below the suggested Blue Book value.  I texted our son to see if they might be interested in the car.  Linda and I both had Ford Taurus cars starting in 2000.  I had a beige station wagon with a beige interior and Linda had a red sedan with a gray interior.  Our children eventually ended up with these vehicles, Brendan with my car and Meghan with Linda’s.

Back at the house Linda made a shopping list and headed to the grocery store while I changed into my work clothes and got to work in the bus.  My focus today was deconstructing the cabinet above the refrigerator.  I could tell from the dimensions that it was probably a box-within-a-box, but did not know how it was built.  I removed all of the carpeting from the inside surfaces, labeling the back of each piece in case I decided to reinstall them.  With the carpet out it became obvious that the floor, sidewalls, and back of the cabinet could be removed as I could see the screws and angle brackets that held them in place.

The cabinet above the refrigerator in our bus with the inside panels removed revealing lots of wiring.

The cabinet above the refrigerator in our bus with the inside panels removed revealing lots of wiring.

The floor was in two side-to-side pieces which were narrow, each sidewall was a single piece, and the back was in two pieces.  All of the pieces were sized to fit through the front openings in the face frame, a very clever design.  There were cleats supporting the floor and spacing the back and side walls out from the larger permanent structure of the refrigerator alcove.  The panels I removed served the dual purpose of getting the bottom and sides to line up with door openings and providing space to run wires while concealing them.  Things got trickier after that.

The walnut face frame was assembled with glue and pocket screws.  It had cleats along both rails and the two end stiles, all of which appeared to be glued and screwed to the face frame.  In addition, the piece of walnut veneered plywood that separated the refrigerator space from the cabinet above was glued and screwed to the underside of the lower rail cleat.  In other words, it was a solid and very professionally assembled cabinet.  The bottom board was attached to the two sides with angle brackets and it appeared that I might be able to remove the face frame and bottom board once the side and top cleats and brackets were unscrewed.  The top rail of the face frame, however, was tucked up behind some ceiling trim, preventing me from pulling the whole assembly straight out.  I loosened the trim and found that pulling it straight out was probably not my best option.  To get it out I would have to drop it straight down which will require the refrigerator to be out of the alcove.

The Aqua-Hot has been on with the thermostats set to 55 degrees F in case it got too cold.  It was cool today so I turned the engine preheat pump on to warm up the main engine.  When it was time for lunch I started the main engine and let it high idle while we ate.  After we were done with lunch I moved the coach backwards (to release the brakes if they were bound up) and then forward enough to put the tires at a different spot.  I set our electronic level on the centerline of the floor and then lowered the front and passenger side rear to level the coach.  When I walked around it actually felt level, which it rarely did when trying to level off of one of the floor tiles or the kitchen counter.

I quit working around 2:30 PM as Linda was getting ready to prep ingredients for the risotto she planned to make for dinner and got cleaned up.  I used to cook a lot but since we switched to a vegan diet Linda has done almost all of our cooking and, except for making coffee, tea, and popcorn, the kitchen has been her exclusive domain since she retired and we moved to the new house.  But I offered to help and she agreed to let me so I diced an onion and five cloves of garlic while she sliced mushrooms and other things.  By the time I was done I had about 40 minutes before Steve and Karen were due to arrive, so I updated my medical history for Root Canal Specialty Associates.  I have a follow up visit with them in Wednesday.

Steve and Karen arrived at 4 PM and we settled in to conversation and munchies (they brought a mixed fruit salad, pistachios, and mixed nuts).  We finished up the open bottle of Malvasia Bianca from Heart of the Desert Winery (Eagle Ranch) in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  After chatting for a while about our respective winters—ours in the Southwest and theirs near Venice, Florida—we gave them a quick tour of the inside of the bus.  It looks quite a bit different now compared to January 2014 when they spent a couple of nights in it at Williston Crossings RV Resort enroute to Venice, Florida.  It will look even more different (hopefully) once we are done with the remodeling.

Linda eventually had to attend to the final preparations for dinner.  Karen helped by stirring the mushroom risotto while Steve and I stayed out of their way chatting in the living room.  Linda roasted refresh asparagus and sliced a baguette to go with the risotto.  I opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot to go with dinner.  Steve does not drink alcoholic beverages or coffee and Karen prefers drier red wines, but she seemed to enjoy the Merlot all the same.

The weather had been beautiful all day and we sat on the rear deck after dinner enjoying our last sips of wine.  Once the sun dropped behind the trees it cooled off to the point where it was uncomfortable and we went back inside.  I turned on the natural gas fireplace logs but left a window open which seemed to strike the right balance of temperature and mood.  By 10:30 PM we had caught up on travels, families, and hobby interests.  They had a 45 minute drive to get home and usually leave around that time.  We had a long but very satisfying day and were quickly to bed once they were safely on their way home.


2015/05/22 (F) Stuck Nut

Our day started, as it usually does, with coffee and breakfast.  When we finally got to work on our tasks for the day we started by putting various things in the house back where they belonged, many of them having been piled on beds or put in uncarpeted areas while Jack cleaned the carpets on Wednesday.  Linda settled in at her desk to deal with paperwork while I got out our Honda self-propelled lawn mower and finished cutting the grass around the house.  She then turned her attention to straightening up the house and cleaning the kitchen in anticipation of tomorrow’s dinner guests.

I puttered in the bus for a bit trying to figure out how the cabinet above the refrigerator was constructed and might, therefore, be deconstructed but did not solve that puzzle and turned my attention to our Cub Cadet 1000 Series (LT1040) lawn tractor.  The mower deck is badly out of adjustment, sitting very low on the right side even with the height adjustment lever in the highest position.  I wanted to remove it rather than try to adjust it so I could use the tractor to more easily tow the new utility cart around the yard.

I already had the PDF version of the manual on my iPad and studied the directions for removing the mower deck.  It appeared to be an easy procedure that could be done by one person but I had Linda help me.  Once it was out from under the tractor we cleaned it off as best we could.  It had what looked like many years of grass clippings packed into every nook and cranny.  One of the idler pulleys was broken, a wheel was loose and its bracket slightly bent, and the drive belt was in very bad shape.  If we ever want to use it again those things will have to be replaced and repaired.  The suspension mechanism on the tractor will also have to be adjusted.

The tractor is leaking something, either oil or hydraulic fluid, so now that the mower deck is out of the way I will try to identify the location of the leak.  The tractor came with the house when we bought it so it was “free” (in a sense).  It was not in the best of shape, so there is a limit to how much time, effort, and money we will put in to fixing it.  Besides, for now Keith mows the grass and we have the self-propelled Honda walk-behind mower for trimming up the yard, if needed, between major cuttings.

My next task was to get the trailer ball off of the back of the lawn tractor.  The ball had a 2-1/8″ hex base flange and the nut was 1-1/8″.  I did not have a 1-1/8″ socket or a 2-1/8″ open end wrench, so I went to Lowe’s in search of said items.  I found a deep 1-1/8″ impact socket with a 1/2″ drive but they did not have open end wrenches the size I needed so I bought a very large slip wrench.

The nut was initially coming off easily but then bound up.  Even with Linda’s help we could not turn it.  We own a torque wrench that is over 3′ long and will work up to ~800 lb-ft of torque, but it has a 3/4″ drive.  So we went back to Lowe’s to get a 1-1/8″, 3/4″ drive socket.  Fortunately they had one.  While we were there we also bought a 6 gallon pancake style Porter Cable air compressor and a new American Standard toilet seat for the upstairs hall bathroom.  The air compressor is smaller than the 15 gal Dewalt and may fit in the passenger side engine bay.  It has regulated output pressure to 150 PSI so it should be sufficient for inflating the front bus tires.  The toilet seat was the right shape but the wrong color, so it will get returned.

The torque wrench gave us enough leverage to move the nut a bit more but then it bound up again.  I suspect the threads are mangled.  We sprayed some WD-40 on it but it did not help.  I called Butch to see what suggestions he might have.  Heating it might help but I do not have anything that would get it hot enough fast enough.  Plus, the ball/nut are just below and behind the plastic gas tank; not a good place for intense heat.  Butch has an induction heater that would be ideal for this situation, but it is five hours away in north central Indiana.  I asked about a nut splitter but Butch said he has not had much luck with those.  He suggested a large pipe wrench.  They are self-tightening (when used correctly) and could grip the ball directly if needed.  I do not plan to reuse the ball so I do not care if it gets mangled, I just want it off the tractor.  If all else fails Butch said I can cut off the bolt with my Sawzall reciprocating saw.

I had planned to work on computer-based tasks today but was not in the humor by the time I was done working on physical tasks.  Linda made fajitas with sautéed onions and bell peppers, vegan gyro “meat”, and vegan sour cream.  Yum; that’s a keeper.

2015/05/21 (R) Cats, Cars, and Tenure

Linda got up around 6 AM and got ready to go to the bakery.  I was aware she was up but I slept in.  Once up I showered and dressed for the day.  I did not plan to work in the bus today so I did not put on my work clothes.  Instead I needed to catch up on blog entries and take the cats to a 2 PM appointment at Plaza Veterinary Hospital in Farmington, Michigan.

I was putting a few things back in the master bedroom closet and noticed that the air-conditioning return air grill was stuffed full of insulation.  We had found this in the other return air grills and removed it but we overlooked this one.  I removed the grill and then removed the insulation and threw it away.  There was a 1/2″ thick filter material stuffed up in the register behind the insulation.  I trimmed the filter to just fit inside the grill and reattached it to the ceiling.  Putting the rest of the house back together will take both of us so we will do that this evening.  Besides, we like to give the carpets as much time as possible to dry out.

I went out around 9:30 AM to fuel my car and get a cup of coffee at the co-located Dunkin’ Donuts.  Back home I put my floor mat back in front of my main computer station and settled in to check e-mail and work on my blog.  There was a new driver available for the NVIDIA GeForce GPU in my ASUS laptop, so I initiated the download.  AT&T was providing me with a 160 KB download speed and the 277 MB driver said it would take an hour to download.  No point tying up the Internet connection until the download finished so I used my iPad while I waited.

The driver downloaded a little sooner than predicted and then installed quickly.  When I finally opened my e-mail and had another 50 MB of stuff to download; a lot of it BCM related.  They are trying to wrap up the April 2015 issue and sent me several drafts since I last checked my e-mail.  I have not been 100% successful in getting folks attached to the magazine to transmit large files via Dropbox instead of attaching them to e-mails.

Tim Olsen from our GLCC chapter called yesterday to let me know he had registered for GLAMARAMA and wanted to park with the chapter.  I updated my spreadsheet and need to e-mail a few folks to clarify their intentions before giving an updated coach count to the rally parking coordinator.  As often happens, I did not have much time left to work on blog posts before I had to round up the cats and take them to the vet.

Both cats complained for most of the trip to Plaza Veterinary Hospital, but they are cats and that is what they do.  I weighed them on the scale in the lobby and gave the receptionist the pertinent facts concerning their health.  Once in the exam room I opened their carriers.  Juniper immediately came out and explored the room.  We were early and had to wait a while but Juniper stayed very busy.  Perhaps she was looking go for a way out.  Jasper did not leave his carrier.  Perhaps he figured he was safer staying in there.

Dr. Carron examined Juniper first since she was already out of her carrier.  The cats both got a clean bill of health other than some tartar on their teeth.  Dr. Carron did not suggest, however, that they needed to be cleaned at this time.  They each got vaccinated albeit for different things.  Jasper also had blood drawn.  He is just a month shy of being 11 years old and Dr. Carron likes to do annual blood work on cats 8 years of age and older.  Juniper is due for a 3-year rabies booster in December of this year but Jasper is not due again until sometime in 2017.  Besides rabies certificates we may need an International Health Certificate for each cat to get them into Mexico and/or back into the United States if we decide to make the trip to Puerto Penasco in February 2016.

I had just left Plaza Veterinary Hospital when Linda texted me that she was wrapping up at the bakery.  It was already after 3 PM at that point and traffic was thick and slow in the usual places.  I had a nice QSO with Mike (W8XH) on the South Lyon 2 meter ham radio repeater for the last six miles of my trip.  He and several other club members bought Yaesu digital radios at the Dayton Hamvention to use with the new Yaesu Fusion 2m repeater that five of them bought from Yaesu for a special promotional price of only $500.

I got home around 4 PM and replied to Linda’s TXT message.  I got the cat carriers inside and set them free.  There was no hesitation about leaving the carriers this time.  Linda got home around 5 PM, 90 minutes after she left the bakery, and I filled her in on the cats’ veterinary appointments.  While we were chatting we got an e-mail from our son letting us know that Shawn’s tenure at the University of Michigan had been approved by the Board of Regents at their meeting today.  We were understandably pleased (and relieved) to finally receive this news and texted back our congratulations.  Shawna sent back a cell phone photo of themselves celebrating at a local Ann Arbor establishment.  They looked very happy.

Most car dealerships in this market are open until 9 PM on Mondays and Thursdays, and neither of us was ready for dinner yet, so we paid a visit to Champion Chevrolet on Grand River Avenue between Brighton and Howell.  We were greeted by Ken, but he only dealt in used cars and handed us off to Dan Danaher.  He had a Chevy Colorado on the lot so we checked it out.  It was not the 4-door crew cab Z71 off-road model, but it did have 4-wheel drive.  We climbed in/out of the front and back seats and played with the tailgate.  The front seats were fine but I could not sit in the back without the driver seat being all the way forward.  The 4-door Crew Cab adds about 7″ of rear leg room but it would still be tight.  That is one of the tradeoffs with mid-size trucks.  The front seats fit us nicely but this is not a truck for tall and/or large people IMHO.  The Z71 off-road version may sit slightly higher but we should still be able to get in/out without needing an accessory step or running board.

The MSRP for the truck we saw was just over $30,000 and overall felt very similar to the Nissan Frontier, nice but not luxurious.  In other respects, however, the trucks were very different.  The Colorado 4×4 models have a transfer case and can be towed four wheels down with an automatic transmission.  We liked the Frontier but it can only be towed 4-down with the manual transmission and for that reason alone is not a viable alternative for us.

Dan gave us a brochure on the Colorado and made a few notes on what we are looking for.  We would obviously like to see the 4-door crew cab and drive the Z71 4×4 off-road model before deciding to buy one.  He said he would call if/when he had those available for us to see and test drive.  If we ordered by the end of the month we would get a 2015 model but it would take 8 – 10 weeks to arrive.  Starting June 1st orders will be for a 2016 model and still take 8 – 10 weeks for delivery.  Recent history suggests a 0.5% to 1.0% price increase for the new model year.  We do not plan to order a new car before the end of May and a 1% price increase would not motivate us to change our minds about that.

On our way back to our car we took a quick glance at the Camaro sitting outside the showroom door.  If we were buying a nostalgia car thus would be it.  Linda’s first car, purchased before we were married, was a used 1967 Chevy Camaro convertible.  It was white with a red interior and had a 327 cubic inch V8 under the hood.  No emissions controls in those days, just raw power and $0.35/gal gasoline.

We drove to Panera in Brighton and had black bean soup and Mediterranean veggie sandwiches for dinner.  By the time we got home we were ready to relax.  First we took the spacers out from under the living room furniture, so we had someplace to sit, and put a few items back where they normally go.  I opened one of the bottles of Malvasia Bianca white wine from the Heart of the Dessert (Eagle Ranch) winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we celebrated our daughter-in-law’s attainment of tenure.  It’s been a good year for our son and his family and it is nice to see things finally falling into place for them.  The wine was very similar to the late harvest Rieslings we get from Michigan’s Leelanau peninsula; very sweet and thus a good cocktail or dessert wine.  We watched the final episode from season 1 of A Touch of Frost before turning in for the evening.


2015/05/20 (W) Duraclean

Today was carpet cleaning day.  Linda had been picking up the house for the last week getting ready but we still had a lot of last minute stuff to move, including the cats.  We put them in the library along with their food, water, and litter tray.  We also moved their cat “tree” out there.  They were confused and unhappy about the arrangement but we figured it would be less stressful for them than constantly trying to find new places to hide as Jack moved about the house with his big, noisy carpet cleaning machine.

Jack Hoskins runs a one-man carpet and upholstery cleaning business named Duraclean.  Located in Farmington Hills near our previous house, Jack took care of our cleaning needs for the last years we were there.  When we bought the house in Oceola Township we had him clean all of carpets after the painters were done but before we moved anything into the house.  We did not have him clean the carpets in 2014 but had him out today to do all of them, including my office / ham shack, which was under construction when he was here in 2013.  Jack arrived right on time at 8:30 AM, walked through the job with both of us, and then spent most of the rest of the day cleaning.  Jack works hard and always does a nice job.

Once Jack was squared away we bagged up the pieces of carpet and pad from the bus that would not fit in the trash container and took the container and the bags to the curb.”  (We live on a dirt road and don’t really have curbs, but it doesn’t sound right to say we took the trash to the edge of the street.)  We then unloaded the box from my car with the garden trailer I bought at Lowe’s yesterday, opened it, removed all of the parts, and assembled it.  Linda broke down the cardboard packaging, gathered up some other cardboard and our usual recyclables, and we loaded them into my car to take to Recycle Livingston later.

Keith Kish (Kish Lawn Care) showed up mid-morning to finish cutting our grass.  His Hustler zero-turn riding mower was not repaired yet but he borrowed an articulated stand-behind mower from his son.  Something failed in the hydraulic pump on his Hustler and blew a 1 inch hole in it.  The cost to replace the pump and put the mower back in service will be significant but his business is primarily based on that machine.

I mostly puttered in the bus while Jack worked in the house and Keith worked in the yard.  Linda eventually went to the recycling center and then stopped at Lowe’s to buy some plants, pots, and potting soil.  She is going to try growing some tomatoes, which are one of her favorite summer things, and some herbs.  She moved the hummingbird feeder away from our deck and hung it on a stand in the shade of a tree we can see from our outdoor table.

I boxed up the ceramic tile pieces that were still spread out on the floor of the bus and moved the box to the garage.  That stuff is heavy!  I turned on the chassis batteries so I could move the driver’s seat forward to get access to the seatbelt attachment bolts.  I unbolted the two seatbelt straps and removed them so I could remove the last pieces of the old white carpet from behind and next to the seat.  I then reattached the seatbelts, moved the driver’s chair back, and turned off the chassis batteries.  Refinishing the area around the driver’s seat will be its own special challenge and may not get done with tile as I may need something more flexible.  It will not, however, be heavy carpet intended for use on floors.

My next task was to remove the flexible duct adapters from the HVAC chases.  One of them has an AC electrical cable passing through it, so I will have to undo the cable from a nearby outlet box to get the adapter free.  While I was working on these relatively minor tasks I was also thinking about furniture options.  It finally dawned on me that we did not have buy an expensive custom made sofa-bed or use chairs instead and try to figure out how to finish that area.  I could build a simple but very effective sofa out of wood and have a bottom and back cushion made to the exact dimensions we need using a fabric of our choice.  That opened up the possibility of the fabric matching whatever we get on the chairs.  The seat cushion could double as a bed for one person, with the back cushion removed, and the seat could hinge up to reveal a large storage area rather than dealing with the complexity of a drawer on suspension glides.  The HVAC supply and return could also be easily be accommodated and I would not have to figure out how to finish the chase or conceal all of the wires that run along the floor in front of the chase.  I discussed the idea with Linda and she liked it.

I moved the dinette table up front and we considered its size and placement relative to the seating we would like to use on the passenger side of the coach across from the sofa. We agreed that one of the things we would do while we are at the GLAMARAMA rally is visit Lambright Furniture in Shipshewana and Bradd & Hall in Elkhart.  We also discussed buying a carpet remnant and trimming it to fit in the front part of the bus while we attend the GLAMARAMA rally.

I called Butch to see how his cataract surgery went on Monday.  Apparently it went well, at least his world is suddenly brighter and more colorful.  We talked through various bus projects, including approaches I might take to get a flat, level underlayment for the floor tile.

Keith wrapped up his work, collected his payment, and moved on to Sean’s yard just north of ours.  I suggested that he come every week instead of every other week as long as the grass is growing as quickly as it has the last two weeks and he agreed.  Keith normally does a nice job with our lawn but was now a couple of days behind schedule and trying to catch up using equipment that was not his.  He did not want to drive the stand-behind mower over or near gravel, so some areas along the pull-through driveway did not get cut.  He was also not able to work around obstructions as tightly as he can with his zero-turn mower, and appeared to not overlap some rows.

Jack wrapped up his work not long after Keith and took off for another short job before calling it a day.  I let the cats back into the house and then decided to get out our self-propelled Honda walk-behind mower and trim up the yard in front of the house and some of the areas Keith had missed.  It took a while to get the mower started but I eventually did.

Linda made a nice salad and baked an Amy’s pizza for dinner.  It was 6:30 PM by the time we finished eating.  Linda gathered up the plastic wine glasses and toilet paper holders she bought yesterday at IKEA and we drove to the store in Canton to return them.  The glasses were too tall to fit in our wine glass display case in the bus and the toilet paper holders did not fit in the places we needed them to go in the house.  While we were at the store we looked at their selection of refrigerators, none of which will fit through the entrance door on the bus, and just wandered through looking for ideas.  We were not up that long after we got home, it having been a long but productive day.


2015/05/19 (T) More Ceramic Tile

We were up by 7:30 AM.  A cold front moved through here last night with gusty winds and much cooler temperatures.  The overnight low was 49 degrees F so I closed up the house and made coffee while Linda got ready for her girl’s day out with our daughter, Meghan.  We had toast for breakfast and enjoyed our coffee in the living room to the warmth and glow of the gas fireplace logs.  We both agree that this was a good purchase.

Linda left round 9 AM.  I put a load of towels in the washing machine and then called Kate at work.  I left a message asking her if she would check with Brian about an X-Plan PIN.  I then returned a phone call from Kelly at Brighton Ford and had a nice chat about the F-150.  She worked hard to provide me with additional pricing information as a follow-up to our meeting with Frank on Saturday.  She was able to get the price on an in-stock $46,000 F-150 XLT 4×4 off-road down to $40,000 (with X-Plan but before tax, title, and destination charges).  Six grand is a significant difference, and the F-150 is a nice truck, but forty grand is way more than we were thinking about spending on a vehicle.

Kate called me back while I was on the phone and I returned the call as soon as I finished talking to Kelly.  Kate had already checked with Brian and he was willing to get us a PIN.  One of the odd things about shopping for vehicles in Michigan, especially the Detroit area, is that Ford, GM, and Chrysler all have several “plans” that provide non-negotiable pricing for employees, vendors, and family/friends.  These plans are so widely available that dealers practically assume that you have access to one of them.  I think Ford is making good vehicles and the availability of X-Plan pricing certainly makes them that much more attractive.  Unfortunately they are not selling the mid-sized Ranger in North America, just Europe and Australia.  Mid-size trucks are more our size.

View of kitchen floor looking toward rear from living room.  Black Ceramic tile has been removed to just past the refrigerator.

View of kitchen floor looking toward rear from living room. Black Ceramic tile has been removed to just past the refrigerator.

I moved the towels to the dryer and then got to work in the bus.  The high temperature today was forecast to be 57 degrees F so I figured it would be a bit more comfortable working on the ceramic tile removal.  I opened all three roof vents and set the front and middle fans on exhaust.  With the front door open there was plenty of airflow.  I put on my Tyvek jumpsuit and gloves and carried the unbroken tiles I got out the last couple of days to the garage for safe keeping.  I then put the pieces of the ones I broke in a laundry basket to get them off the floor.  They will eventually go in small boxes for disposal.

With all of that material out of the way I vacuumed up the small pieces and tiny shards as best I could along with carpet pad staples and tiny pieces of carpet, pad, and wood.  I then removed the small base molding from the hallway which turned out to be more difficult than I expected.  I put on my safety glasses and face shield, grabbed my floor chisel and 3-pound sledge hammer, and continued removing tiles from the floor.

Getting the tiles out of the hallway was more difficult than the kitchen/dining area.  The narrow hallway limited the directions from which I could position and strike the floor chisel and the result was a much higher percentage of broken tiles.  I did a little better as I moved into the area in front of the bathroom and bedroom doors and then into the bathroom.  I stopped when I got to the tiles under the toilet.  I will have to remove the toilet to get those tiles out and that is not going to happen until after the GLAMARAMA rally.  I do not to remove and reinstall the toilet more than once so it will not get reinstalled until after the new floor is in place.

It was 1:30 PM when I quit chiseling for the day and I left the cleanup for next time.  I got cleaned up and went out to take care of errands.  I picked up our freshly roasted coffee beans from Teeko’s, had French fries at McDonald’s for lunch, and then went to Lowe’s.  I was looking for some sort of grinder to grind down the thinset mortar that is adhered to the plywood subfloor but did not buy one.  I bought a wheeled cart to pull behind our lawn tractor instead.

By the time I got home Linda had returned from her girl’s day out.  She showed me all of the things she bought at Ikea, including four long-stem plastic wine glasses.  We took them out to the bus but they would not fit in our wine glass holder.  She also saw an 18 cubic foot refrigerator (Frostig) that might fit in our fridge alcove.

I turned on the gas fireplace logs, made some tea, and put a second load of towels in the washer.  We sat in the living room researching the IKEA refrigerators on our iPads to the warmth of the fireplace.  I had searched for roof access hatches this morning and found several places that sell them online so I showed that to Linda.  I need to call Pat at Apex Roofing and discuss thus approach.

For dinner Linda made very nice salads with raspberries and walnuts.  She then heated up the leftover risotto and lightly sautéed baby carrots as a side dish.  We sat in the living room after dinner for a while and then watched the 1st and 2nd episodes of season 1 of A Touch of Frost.  Although not a BBC production, it was very engaging.


2015/05/18 (M) Ceramic Floor Tile

I plugged my laptop in, started it, put a load of laundry in the washer, and then made our morning coffee.  We are finally running out of the six pounds of beans we had shipped to us in Quartzsite, Arizona at the end of February and will need to get more from Teeko’s sometime soon.  While we were enjoying our morning coffee I pulled up some information online on how to remove ceramic floor tiles.  What I found was a bit discouraging but what was clear was the need for certain equipment and safety precautions.  Linda needed to return the Sherlock DVDs to the Howell Library today so we went on an errand run to Howell.

At the Library we did some more vehicle research in the April 2015 Consumer Reports.  The Chevy Colorado / GMC Canyon mid-size pickup truck was Motor Trend Magazine’s 2015 Truck of the Year, but being a new model CR had no data on predicted repairs or user satisfaction.  Ditto for the 2015 Ford F-150 and its 700 pound lighter aluminum body.  We liked the size of the Nissan Frontier but the manual transmission required for four-flat towing behind our bus will keep us from buying one.  We have not looked at the Colorado/Canyon yet but it is similar in size to the Nissan Frontier.  CR gave good marks to most of the Subaru models and the Forrester was one of their top picks.  Years ago we wanted a Subaru Outback but they were always just slightly too expensive.  Compared to the vehicles we have been looking at recently, the Subaru’s are less expensive.  Right now, however, we are focused on the utility of a 4-door pickup truck.  Yeehaa!

We checked out the DVDs for Season 1 of the British detective series A Touch of Frost. It is not a BBC production so we will see how we like it.  We stopped at D-R Electric Appliance Sales and Service just up the street to look at refrigerators.  We bought our new gas range/stove from them last September.  They had a 16 cubic foot top-freezer GE (GTE16GTHxx) whose dimensions looked like they might work.  With the doors removed it was under 26″ deep so it would fit through the door of the bus sideways.  It is available in white, black, and stainless steel.  Kurt Richards helped us and said he would search the units he can order if I give him the dimensions of our enclosure.  D-R Electric Appliance is not a dealer for Fisher and Paykel so we would have to get one of those through Lowe’s if we decide to go that route.

Lowe’s was our next stop.  Linda looked at plants but decided not to buy any on this trip.  We picked up a couple of 40 W appliance bulbs for the microwave as one of the two bulbs that lights the top of the range burned out the other day.  I picked up a new face shield, dust masks, a Tyvek jump suit, a floor chisel with shield, and a 3-pound short-handle sledge hammer.

Teeko’s Coffee and Tea is kitty corner from the Lowe’s/Walmart shopping center so we stopped there and ordered one pound each of our three half-caffe blends: Sweet Seattle Dreams (Seattle Blend + Sweet Dreams decaf blend); Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and Cafe Europe.  Jeff wasn’t there but his mom (Mary) took our order and his dad (John) was starting to put together the roast when we left.  I will pick the beans up tomorrow afternoon.

By the time we got back to the house it was time for lunch so Linda fixed grilled “cheese” sandwiches.  She is still using up the non-dairy cheddar cheese we bought a while back.  It is not Daiya brand and it does not taste like cheddar.  Actually it doesn’t taste like much of anything.  Keith was there mowing the yard as we thought he might be.

Me in the Tyvek jumpsuit removing the black ceramic floor tiles.  (Photo by Linda.)

Me in the Tyvek jumpsuit removing the black ceramic floor tiles. (Photo by Linda.)

[p1 L] It was once again 1 PM by the time I got to work in the bus removing the black ceramic floor tiles.  I suited up and Linda took a couple of photos.  I was over dressed under the Tyvek jumpsuit so I changed into something cooler.  Even then it was a hot, sweaty afternoon.  Houses get wrapped in Tyvek to prevent air movement between the interior and exterior, so a jumpsuit does not really breathe.  Neither did I with the dust mask in place so I settled for my wrap-around safety glasses, full face shield, Tyvek jumpsuit, and leather gloves.

I had hoped to get most of the floor tiles out intact.  They are nice 12″x12″ black ceramic with a hint of silver flake in them and they were probably expensive when they were installed in the bus in 1990-91.  They were installed just the way they would be in a house, on a troweled bed of thin set mortar, with one difference; they were set directly on the factory original plywood subfloor of the bus rather than on an underpayment layer.  The information I found online this morning indicated that removing tiles installed this way might require removal and replacement of the subfloor.  That is not an option in the bus so I was curious, and a bit nervous, to see how they would come out.  The other caution was to NOT smash them with a sledge hammer to break them into smaller pieces for easier removal, even though there are lots of websites that tell you to do this.  Ceramic tiles with a high quartz content will shatter sending tiny razor sharp shards flying in every direction; thus the Tyvek jumpsuit, face shield, and gloves.

I took a few tiles out yesterday and most of them came out intact.  The first few today, however, came out in two or more pieces.  Either way I was committed to removing them, so I kept at it.  I developed a technique that seemed to work more often than not.  I would chisel along one free edge and when I got the first indication that the tile was loosening I would switch to an adjacent free edge (if there was on).  Proceeding in this manner I was able to work my way down a row getting most of the tiles loose in one piece.  The tiles were laid in rows with aligned joints running across the coach and staggered joints running the length of the coach.  Thus the rows were short and easier to work on, my work was interrupted by something I will describe next, but I returned to the task and removed the tiles from the entire kitchen/dining area back past the refrigerator.  This part of the deconstruction will take a while but based on the progress I made today it will not take as long as I thought it might, all things being equal (which they never are).

While I was working Keith came to the bus in need of some assistance.  His zero-turn Hustler mower had quit moving and started smoking and was stranded in the northeast corner of our yard.  This particular mower is all hydraulic; the gasoline engine simply turns a hydraulic pump and fluid pressure is used to drive/steer the mower and turn the cutting blades.  Keith had oil on his arms and needed some paper towels.  He suspected a hydraulic hose had failed and the smoke was from the hot oil.  The immediate problem, however, was to get the mower back into its trailer some 400 feet away.

Keith got the mower stuck once last year in wet/soft soil along the north property line.  I was able to use our Cub Cadet lawn tractor to pull him out then so we figured we would try that again.  Just this past weekend I had charged the starting battery and moved the lawn tractor outside to make room in the garage for the furniture we took out of the bus.  It complained for a moment and then started up.  Keith had tow straps so I drove it over to his mower and we hooked the straps to the trailer ball on the back of the lawn tractor.

Keith’s mower weighs 1,200 pounds.  I doubt that our Cub Cadet weighs half that much even with me sitting on it.  I was able to pull it part way across a level-to-slightly-downhill part of the yard but once we hit an upslope my back tires started to slip.  Keith went to get Linda because the lawn tractor would stop if I got off and I was too far from the house to conveniently jump start it.  I continued to drive while Linda helped Keith push although we should have figured out a way to trade places.  It was very hard work for them but the Cub Cadet proved to be “the little engine that could” and we got the mower down by the third culvert (where the driveway for the barn is supposed to go).  We chose that location because it was downhill and close to Keith’s truck and trailer.

Keith’s trailer has a large rear ramp and pointed front like the bow of a boat with smaller ramp that opens at an angle on the driver’s side.  I tried pulling his mower up the rear ramp into the trailer.  The plan was for me to drive out via the front ramp.  Unfortunately the Cub Cadet could not maintain enough traction.  We unhooked it and I drove out the front and put it back in its parking spot.  I got a pair of wheel chocks from our bus and placed them in front of the trailer wheels while Keith unhooked the trailer from his truck.  He then attached the tow straps to the trailer ball on his truck, brought them I through the front ramp opening just off the nose of the trailer, and tied them around the front frame of the mower.  It took a few tries, and one repositioning of the strap on the mower, but Linda and I were finally able to guide it into the trailer while Keith pulled it up the ramp with his truck.

Linda got water for all of us while I helped Keith reload the trailer.  Keith is retired and doesn’t mow lawns for the money.  He’s a good guy who charges us a very reasonable price for the service he provides and we were glad to help him get his mower back in his trailer so he could go home, take a shower, and have a cold beer.  We should have done the same, but he probably took the trailer someplace to have the mower fixed and we both went back to what we were working on.

By 4:30 PM I was too warm and too sweaty to remove any more tiles.  I was also at the point where I was starting down the hallway and needed to remove some quarter round base molding that was installed over the edge of the tiles.  Tomorrow I plan to work earlier in the day when it is cooler, but I say that every day.

Linda cooked most of our dinner on the outdoor grill using the grilling mat to cook potatoes, zucchini, and Japanese eggplant that had been sliced in half lengthwise.  She also made Farro and served it as a side dish.  I think that is the first time she has done that; she normally uses it as an ingredient.  While the vegetables were grilling we sat quietly on the back deck enjoying the last of the first bottle of 2013 Egri Merlot we bought at Whole Foods last week.  The robin eggs in the nest under our deck have hatched so we are trying not to disturb the parents too much.  They need to fly back and forth constantly to feed their young but are understandably weary of us.

I had a call after dinner from Darin Hathaway, the Aqua-Hot technician who worked on our unit in June 2014.  It appeared to have an intermittent ignition coil then and would not fire at all when I had the bus a Butch and Fonda’s in the fall.  Butch and I replaced the burner in October 2014 with the one I bought from him.  That burner was running rich until I replaced the blower bearings while we were in Quartzsite.  Old bearings = slow fan speed = inadequate air supply = rich air:fuel ratio = inefficient combustion and sooty/smoky exhaust.  I still need to repair the original one but for now that is not a priority.  Darin said he could bench test/repair it but Lloyd DeGerald has the same capabilities.

Butch had eye surgery this morning at a clinic in Indianapolis.  I will call tomorrow and see how he is doing.  Linda is having a girl’s day out with our daughter tomorrow, Jack will be here to clean the carpets on Wednesday, Linda has to go to the bakery on Thursday, and I have to take the cats to the veterinarian Thursday afternoon.  I also expect Keith will return sometime this week to finish mowing the grass.  Saturday morning will be our usual ham radio club breakfast and Linda invited Steve and Karen for dinner on Saturday.  Somewhere in there we will probably go look at the Chevy Colorado (GMC Canyon), Toyota Tacoma, and the Subaru Forrester and Outback.  In between all of that I will be doing a load of laundry or two, working on the bus floor, and trying to figure out refrigerators, furniture, and wall treatments, so it is shaping up to be a busy week.  Heck, it’s going to be a busy summer, and maybe a busy fall.


2015/05/17 (N) A Tale of Two Sittings.

Our day had two parts.  Part 1 was at home and Part 2 was in Ann Arbor.  The first part started with our normal morning routine:  coffee, breakfast, and iPads.  I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and then checked/replied to e-mails, which I had not done for a couple of days.  We then got busy on tasks and chores.

Linda’s focus for the first part of the day was cleaning and straightening up the house in advance of Jack coming on Wednesday to clean all of the carpets.  Jack Hoskins runs Duraclean as a one-man business and has done our carpets and upholstery for a while.  My focus was the bus and my first task was to carry all of the “stuff” that came out from under the bed into the house.  All of that stuff then went various places downstairs, but not on the carpets.  By the time we finished the morning chores it was almost 1 PM so we had a few pretzels with hummus for lunch.

I only worked in the bus for a few of hours but I got some things done.  First I broke all of the carpet tack strips into pieces small enough to fit in a trash can.  Linda then helped me get the Shop-Vac into the bus and I vacuumed up most of the loose debris.  I had not yet removed the carpet from the right wall of the entry stairs so I did that next.  To remove it I had to take a light fixture loose and remove a piece of upholstered trim from around the bottom door hinge.  The two door hinges have thick rubber covers and after I removed the carpet I pulled back the rubber cover of the lower hinge and measured the width of the opening from the left edge of the door frame to the hinge.  It looks like we have 27″ to work with if needed.  I put the trim back on and re-installed the light fixture.  I then spent the rest of my time pulling carpet pad staples and carpet strip nails out of the plywood subfloor.  Removing the staples was tedious but it was part of what had to be done.

I quit working around 3:30 PM and took a shower and then relaxed for a bit while Linda was busy in the kitchen making a mushroom and power greens risotto.  She often uses barley in her risottos but this time she used Arborio rice which is the type normally used to make risotto.  I really like her barley risotto, but the rice version was outstanding.  After our early dinner I set an alarm on my iPad and we both took short naps.  We up at 5:30 PM and I gathered up my laptop computer, digital camera, and iPad while Linda closed up the house and got her iPad.  At 5:45 PM we were off to Ann Arbor to entertain (and supervise) grand-daughter Madeline while her parents went to a friend’s house for dinner.  We stopped at Whole Foods for some Almond Dream non-dairy ice cream.

Madeline was very excited to see us and showed us her house and back yard.  We went for a short stroll with her in her tricycle and then again in her car.  She had a Little Tykes kitchen playset on the back porch, just outside the real house kitchen, and she made “coffee and tea” for us to enjoy on the veranda.  Brendan has been working on the back yard and slowly but surely getting it into shape.  Yards are a lot of work.

Madeline was a little teary when Brendan and Shawna left but she settled down quickly as Linda got her engaged with some of her puzzles.  I sat on the floor with her and helped build the giant animal puzzles.  (The puzzles are large and have large pieces, they are not puzzles of giant animals, although giraffes are rather large.)  We learned that lions are nice but we do not pet “dinos” (alligators).

Linda prepared a bedtime snack for Madeline of grapes, strawberries, pineapple, and crackers and we had a few grapes too.  By 8 PM Madeline was tired and Linda got her ready for bed, which is a whole routine unto itself.  While they did that I got out my computer and set it up.  I checked my e-mail and then copied the photos I had taken since May 1st from my camera to my laptop.  I had photos of the work on the bus from four separate days so I selected a few photos from each day and post-processed them.  I then copied my draft blog posts for May 10 through 17 from my e-mail to separate Word documents and edited all of them.

I was spell checking my blog post drafts when Brendan and Shawna got home around 10:20 PM.  I shut down my computer and we visited while I packed up.  By 10:45 PM we were ready to be on our way.  We drove down in Linda’s car so she drove us home.  It rained several times between 8:30 and 10 PM but riding home we had clear skies in some directions (we could see stars) and lightning in other directions.  The roads were mostly wet and we drove in and out of a few showers.  We were hoping the rain would hold off as we have had a wet week and Keith is supposed to cut our grass tomorrow.


2015/05/16 (S) Trucks and Buses

To paraphrase, “If it’s Saturday we must be in South Lyon” and that was, indeed, the case.  Most of the regulars were missing from our weekly breakfast gathering of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC), but six of us showed up and had a great conversation.  By the time we headed towards home it was starting to rain lightly.

We stopped at Brighton Honda to get some information on the Honda Ridgeline pickup truck.  The salesman was very nice, but unfortunately Honda has stopped making the Ridgeline.  They are reintroducing it in the fall of 2016, but we will likely make a decision about a new car/truck sooner than that.  There are still a few in stock around the country but we already have an orphaned Honda Element.  We like the car, but would be happier if they were still being made.  In this case, however, it was a moot point as the Ridgeline is not towable four wheels down.

We drove next door to Brighton Ford to look at F-150 pickup trucks.  We were assisted by Frank Stapleton and he was easy to work with.  He insisted that we meet his new car sales manager, Eric Wilkinson, before we left.  We felt that was unnecessary at this stage in the process, but he also seemed like a nice enough guy.  The entry level XL 2-door may be reasonably priced (not really, but what car is?), but the slightly nicer XLT 4-door short bed with 4-wheel drive, towing package, and off-road package looks like it would price out at $45,000 give or take three grand.  Without X -Plan pricing that is simply not going to happen, and even with X-Plan pricing it is not a sure thing.  Frank really wanted us to test drive one but given the rainy weather we were not in the humor to do that today.

The F-150 is a nice truck, nicer in fact than many cars, and perhaps nicer than a pickup truck needs to be or should be.  On the plus side it certainly has ground clearance, but on the negative side (for us) it is also BIG.  The back seat room in the four door body style is cavernous, made larger by fold up seats, and that would be very useful for us when traveling in the bus.  Between the back seat and the bed we could store a LOT of stuff.  It has well-placed handles by all four doors, and it is a god thing as we both needed them, along with the running boards, to get in and out.  There are several engine options including the 2.7 L and 3.5 L Eco-Boost models, both of which feature twin turbochargers.  These are high-tech engines, with incredible power and torque and decent fuel economy. I liked the sound of that, but unfortunately that technology comes at a significant price premium.  Interestingly, Ford is using an aluminum body and the truck weighs in at about 4,700 pounds.  Our Honda Element weighs over 4,000 pounds and it is not nearly as big as the F-150.  How well the aluminum will hold up is unknown.

We were almost home when we decided to keep driving and visit LaFontaine Nissan.  While not as convenient as the Brighton dealerships, it is only 15 miles from our house, 13 of those headed east on M-59.  Linda checked their hours on her phone and they were open until 4 PM.  The purpose of our visit was to look at the Nissan Frontier pickup truck and the Nissan Xterra SUV, both of which suggested were viable off-road alternatives to a Jeep Wrangler while Consumer Reports indicated they were more reliable and more practical than a Jeep Wrangler.  Bobby Lundwall, the Commercial Manager, assisted us and we met the General Sales Manager, Don Poley, before we left.  Bobby was very helpful and brought a Frontier and Xterra around front for us to see.  Again, we were not interested in test driving one at this stage, especially in the rain.

The Nissan Frontier pickup has an available 4-door, 4-wheel drive, short bed model.  It is considered a mid-size truck and is noticeably smaller than a Ford F-150 in every way.  The Pro-4X off-road version has 10.1 inches of ground clearance at the differential, which should be adequate for our needs.  It has a transfer case but is only towable four wheels down with the 6-speed manual transmission.  We looked at the Xterra but found it harder to get in and out of, especially the back seat.  It is taller than the Frontier and after due consideration we agreed that we were not really in the market for an SUV.

The Frontier does not have the bewildering array of options that the F-150 has and would be more suitable for the 95% of our driving that is on local paved and dirt roads.  It would be perfectly adequate for hauling materials from Lowe’s to the house and has an available tent option for camping.  We presume that aftermarket bed covers, canopies, and even small truck campers are available but we would check on that before buying one.  Ditto for Blue Ox base plates and the ability to install an SMI Air Force One auxiliary braking system.

We did not test drive one, but it was easy to get in and out of, and comfortable to sit in, at least in the front seats.  It weighs about 4,500 pounds, basically that same as the much larger F-150.  The only negatives at this point are the manual transmission and lack of choice on interior fabric; the Pro-4X only comes with a charcoal interior, either cloth or leather.  The bottom line was that it is probably a better fit for us than a Jeep Wrangler or a Ford F-150 and could be acquired for under $35,000 equipped the way we want it.  Nissan also has zero percent financing available at the monument, although that is often in place of other incentives.  The fact that it requires a manual transmission to be towed four wheels down, however, probably knocks it out of contention.

Storage compartment under the lift-up bed platform.  The two boxes concealed and protectd 4" flexible HVAC ducts.

Storage compartment under the lift-up bed platform. The two boxes concealed and protectd 4″ flexible HVAC ducts.

Once we got home we had a light lunch.  I then changed into my work clothes and got back to work deconstructing the inside of our motorcoach.  (I like the term deconstructing as I think it is more descriptive of what I am doing that demolishing or even disassembling.)  My goal for today was to finish removing all of the carpet and all of the carpet tack strips.  I accomplished all of that except for a piece of carpet on the wall behind the driver’s seat and a piece on the front wall of the entry stairwell.  My first task, however, was to cut a short slot in the 3/8″ plywood filler that was under the dinette in order to free an AC electrical cable that ran through it and then through the floor.

Getting the carpet off of the sides of the bed platform was interesting.  There was a piece of wood trim installed along the top edge of the side of the bed base facing the front of the bus and just under the plywood bed platform.  The trim strip is rabbited on the underside and conceals a 12VDC strip light that is tied in with toekick lights in the bathroom and the floor lights in the hallway.  The power for the lights comes from inside the bed base through a small hole in the plywood and carpet.  The trim strip also appeared to be installed over the carpet and needed to be removed to get the carpet loose along the top.

Under-bed storage compartment with bot HVAC ducts uncovered.

Under-bed storage compartment with bot HVAC ducts uncovered.

There was also an adjustable HVAC louver on each side of the bed.  The louvers were installed from the outside and had flexible heater ducts slipped over them on the inside and secured with screws.  The flexible ducts were in the storage area under the bed and were covered by wood boxes to protect them.  The boxes, in turn, were carpeted to match the rest of the storage compartment.  To disconnect the wiring for the strip light and remove the boxes I had to first empty out all of the stuff stored under the bed so I could get in there to work.  The bed platform is hinged about one foot from the head end and the foot end lifts up, supported by two gas struts, so there was plenty of room to work once I emptied it out.

I have disassembled enough of the bus at this point to have some idea of how the conversion was built.  The cover “boxes” for the flexible ducts were actually half-boxes with a long side and top and one small end.  They were installed into a corner using a cleat screwed to the floor that the bottom edge of the long side was then screwed into.  There was a similar arrangement to catch the free edge of the top and it was screwed to the inside wall of the platform base.  All of these screws were put in through the carpet that covered the boxes and were essentially invisible so I had to find the screw heads by touch and back them out.

The area just forward of the bed base with the bed platform raised and facing the driver side of the bus.

The area just forward of the bed base with the bed platform raised and facing the driver side of the bus.

Once I got the protective boxes loose I discovered that the floor and wall were also carpeted.  There was a small bump out in each rear corner that served as wiring chases for AC electrical outlets on each side of the bed, and these bump outs were carpeted.  It seemed clear to me that the HVAC ducts, which are part of the OTR HVAC system, may have originally been installed directly into the HVAC chase outside the bed base and later repositioned to the sides of the bed thus requiring the louvers, flexible ducts, and cover boxes.  They also greatly reduced the available storage space under the bed.

The OTR HVAC chase runs along the floor-wall junctions on both sides of the bus for most of the length of the coach and a 12″ section of it is accessible on either side of the bed.  Removing the two flexible ducts, sealing up the openings, and installing the louvers outside the bed platform will free up additional storage space under the bed which is a good thing as we can always use for storage space.  That’s a nice bonus but adds some additional work to the remodeling project.  Such is the nature of remodeling; you never really know what you have until you have completed the deconstruction phase.

The aft side of the bed base.  There is not a lot of room to work in here so I will remove the bed platform when I install the new tile floor.  I plan to use the same tile on the sides of the bed base.

The aft side of the bed base. There is not a lot of room to work in here so I will remove the bed platform when I install the new tile floor. I plan to use the same tile on the sides of the bed base.

It was overcast all day with humidity near 100% and rained off and on into the evening.  It was also warm so I kept opening the roof vents and running the fans to make it more comfortable in the coach, but every time I did it started raining shortly thereafter.  When I was done working on the bus for the day I moved the ten concrete blocks that had been supporting the propane tank for the whole house generator and pulled up the utility marker flags for the underground gas line to our meter.  Keith will be here to cut the grass this coming week and I want him to be able mow these areas.

Linda spent the afternoon thoroughly cleaning the kitchen.  She also prepared a sugar-water solution, filled the hummingbird feeder we bought at Lowe’s the other day, and hung it off the railing of our rear deck.  A hummingbird found it almost immediately which was very cool.  For dinner Linda made pan-grilled tofu slices with caramelized onions and sweet BBQ sauce served on tortillas.  She also sautéed fresh broccoli and sliced up some fresh strawberries and pineapple.

After dinner Linda went to the website to see if she could get a better feel for dealer cost and Fair Market Value for the Ford F-150 and Nissan Frontier.  While she was at it she looked up the Chevy Colorado (GMC Canyon), and Toyota Tacoma.  The Chevy Colorado was Motor Trend Magazine’s 2015 Truck of the Year.  Both the Colorad0/Canyon and Tacoma are mid-sized pickup trucks.  Toyota’s full-size pickup is the Tundra.

Brendan called while we out to see if Linda could sit with Madeline tomorrow night while he and Shawna had dinner with their friend Jorge.  Depending how the day goes tomorrow I may go to Ann Arbor with her.  We had two episodes of Sherlock left to watch and the DVDs have to go back to the library on Monday, so we watched both of them this evening.  It was a double feature so I made popcorn in-between episodes.


2015/05/15 (F) Hamvention

Today was devoted to the Dayton Hamvention which, as the name suggests, is a ham radio “event” that takes place in Dayton, Ohio.  I suppose it could be a gathering of Honey Baked Ham franchisees in some other state, or a convention of people who like to show off, but it’s just dozens of speakers, hundreds of vendors, thousands of flea market sellers, and ~20,000 attendees gathered to buy, sell, learn about, and talk about all things amateur radio.  It is quite an event and it always rains.  This year was no exception.

The Dayton Hamvention is the largest single annual gathering of ham radio operators in the world, and is probably also the largest gathering of ham radio related vendors.  Organized by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the Hamvention currently takes place on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the third weekend in May each year and 2015 was the 60th time the event has been held.  The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) shows up in force and the biggest manufacturers in the industry—Kenwood, Icom, and Yaesu—have extensive booths in the vendor area, along with many other manufacturers, distributors, and specialty product vendors.

Dayton’s Hara Arena is ~227 miles from our house, close enough that we can drive down and back the same day, but it makes for a long day.  We left at 5:35 AM and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels before getting on the Interstate 96 headed east.  A few miles later we headed south on US-23 which took us into Ohio and onto I-475.  We joined up with I-75 south of Toledo, Ohio and stayed on that until we exited in Dayton to head west to the Hamvention venue.  With a bathroom break about half way down we arrived at the arena around 9:15 AM.  There is no general admission parking at the Hara Arena complex but we were able to park at an automotive dealership across the street and over to the left for $10.  (The dealership directly across the street was charging $40/day to park.  Unfortunately some people were actually willing to pay that much.)

The flea market opened at 8 AM and the indoor vendor area opened at 9 AM.  Hams who are looking for bargains in used parts and equipment are always in line when the gates open at 8 AM on the first day.  Although many hams are involved with designing and building new equipment, and/or repairing and restoring vintage radios, we are not.  We had only been to the Hamvention once before and our interest today was to reacquaint ourselves with the inside vendors.  It cost us $25 each for the privilege.

We knew that a dozen of our fellow SLAARC members were here at the event but we only ran into one of them (Bill / W8NN).  We walked past every vendor booth at least once and paid return visits to several.  We did not have a shopping list and ultimately did not buy anything except lunch.  As we were getting ready to leave a thunderstorm opened up and it rained very hard for a while so we lingered and revisited a couple more vendors until it quit and then headed for our car.

We pulled out around 3 PM and headed for home, reversing the route we took to get to the Hamvention.  We stopped for gas and each got something to drink.  I was tired and sleepy from having had too many carbohydrates for lunch so we switched drivers.  We stopped at a rest area somewhere on I-75 in Ohio for a bathroom break but I’m not sure where it was as I was dozing until just before we pulled in.  We got home about 6:45PM.  The event ended at 6 PM today and we expected to be home closer to 10 PM, so getting home sooner was nice.

The cats were glad to see us; at least they both wanted our attention.  Linda cut up some fresh strawberries and pineapple and heated up some canned soup which made for a light, easy dinner.  We relaxed for a while but Linda decided she was too tired to watch an episode of Sherlock and headed off to bed.

I checked out the website of one of the vendors that interested me.  KF7P ( builds custom cable entry boxes with copper ground planes and lightning arresters.  I have been looking for something like that to get transmission lines into our basement ham shack while protecting all of the equipment connected to them.  I will give him a chance to get back to Utah and then give him a call and order one.  The box is going to mount on the east side of the house near the northeast corner.  It will have at least one 3” PVC pipe coming out the back and running through the wall into the basement.  Since I do not know what our long term needs are, and I do not want to have to redo this later, I will have him build something that is larger than we will probably ever need.  That will be cheaper and easier in the end than having to redo something later.


2015/05/14 (R) Deconstructing the Bus

The entry stairwell and passenger seat area of our H3-40.  Note the two mounting channels for the passenger seat

The entry stairwell and passenger seat area of our H3-40. Note the two mounting channels for the passenger seat

I spent most of the day continuing to disassemble the inside front half of our motorcoach while Linda split her time between working in the yard and helping me.  But before we got started on that work I made a follow-up appointment with the endodontist who did my root canal last fall.  I also indicated that I had been having some issues with my teeth in that area and they scheduled me for an evaluation as well.  I got my weekly follow up call from Diane at SteelMaster.  She was not very happy when I told her I wanted to consider an arched metal roof for a pole barn type structure and started to argue with me about foundations and poles.

Driver side sleeper sofa unscrewed from the floor and laying on its back.  Both end panels are off and the drawer and slides have been removed.

Driver side sleeper sofa unscrewed from the floor and laying on its back. Both end panels are off and the drawer and slides have been removed.

Wrong move.  If you are not going to give me the information I need to make a decision then you are not going to sell me any of your products.  She did admit, however, that I could purchase the stamped engineered design drawings without putting a deposit on a materials order.  The drawings would cost about $500 which I think is still unreasonable.  If the County denies my building permit SteelMaster will not take the drawings back and give me a refund.  It makes me wonder how they have ever sell a single building.  It’s not like I can take their drawings to another company and have them fabricate the materials at lower cost.  I can understand charging something, perhaps $200, just to keep people who are not serious from wasting their time, but $500 seems excessive to me.




Driver side sleeper-sofa with everything removed so I can disassemble it to get it out of the bus.

Driver side sleeper-sofa with everything removed so I can disassemble it to get it out of the bus.

Diane passed me off to Greg who handles the arched steel roof systems.  He has not dealt with me before so he was not frustrated with me.  For a 25′ wide x 50′ long building with a 25″ snow load he figured the roof system would be $10k to $13k.  The roof profile would be similar to their “Q” style building, which is shaped more like a Quonset hut, and attached to the top of the wall with plates that are similar to the base plates they use for their metal buildings.  The stamped drawings only would be $575, so if we decide to pursue this we will just have to spend that money to get these and hope the County Building Department approves the plans.  Of course, Diane was willing to sell Chuck and me two complete S Model buildings 32’ x 56’ without end walls for $20,400 total, so $10K – $13K for a roof seems expensive by comparison.

Passenger side of the bus looking towards the rear from the cockpit.  All of the furniture is out.

Passenger side of the bus looking towards the rear from the cockpit. All of the furniture is out.

We needed the space in garage where the lawn tractor is parked to store the furniture from the bus until we can dispose of it.  The tractor hasn’t been started since last fall (or summer?) so I hooked up the battery charger and let it charge while we worked.


This motor (center) was used to drive two geared pullies via flexible drive shafts (green) to open/close the drawer under the sleeper-sofa.  (One of the pullies is visible upper left.)

This motor (center) was used to drive two geared pullies via flexible drive shafts (green) to open/close the drawer under the sleeper-sofa. (One of the pullies is visible upper left.)

By the time we quit working around 6 PM we had disassembled the sleeper-sofa and unbolted the passenger chair.  We got the chair, both parts of the sleeper sofa, and both parts of the J-lounge out of the bus and into the driveway.  I started the lawn tractor and moved it out of the garage and parked it outside behind a thick grove of large trees and dense undergrowth so it was mostly hidden from view.  Once we got everything into the garage I removed the flexible HVAC ducts and threw them away.  I then started pulling up the old carpet and padding from the living room floor and steps, and removing the carpet from the walls in the entry stairwell and cockpit areas.


The base of the passenger side J-lounge.  This was a complicated piece of custom furniture.

The base of the passenger side J-lounge. This was a complicated piece of custom furniture.

[p6 R] I got all of the old material out and into the trash or garage and then removed one of the two filler panels from passenger side front floor and took that to the garage.  I could not remove the other filler panel because it had a hole drilled in it with an electrical wire running through it.  I will have to cut a slot to get it out and eventually shut off the power to that circuit and reroute the wire as it also passes through one of the HVAC 4” flexible duct adapters and into the HVAC chase.  A never cease to be amazed by the things that bus converters do in places they think you will never look.

The upper portion of the passenger side J-lounge sitting in the driveway waiting go in the garage.

The upper portion of the passenger side J-lounge sitting in the driveway waiting go in the garage.

We spent some time in the bus considering our remodeling plans.  With all of the furniture out we were finally able to see what we had to work with and some new possibilities emerged.  The wall paper is badly stained behind the sleeper-sofa area and the wall behind the J-lounge/dinette is unfinished as it was never visible or intended to be.  A lot of the woodwork needs to be cleaned and reconditioned.  We will do that with the Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner and steel wool, after which we will apply a nice coat of Touch of Beeswax.

Passenger chair and drawers waiting to go into the garage.

Passenger chair and drawers waiting to go into the garage.

We have assumed from the beginning that we would replace the sleeper sofa with a new one custom designed and built to fit the available space, including a notch for the HVAC chase that would allow it to go all the way to the wall and fit under the window trim.  The only way we would be likely to get such a sofa is from Villa and their furniture is very expensive and takes an unreasonably long time to get.  Most of the furniture we removed from the bus was Villa, but it was all worn out.  We are now considering putting two barrel chairs where the sleeper-sofa was located, perhaps with a small cabinet between them.  We need to cut cardboard or heavy paper to match the footprint of possible chairs, cabinets, and the custom desk and set them in the bus to see how they will fit.



The "living room" of the bus looking forward from the kitchen.  All of the seating has been removed.  Note the black ceramic tile at te bottom of the frame.

The “living room” of the bus looking forward from the kitchen. All of the seating has been removed. Note the black ceramic tile at te bottom of the frame.

Sooner rather than later we will have to make some final decisions so I can draw up final plans for the desk and floor cabinets and get them to Jaral Beaty in Logansport, Indiana to build.  We are also going to have to settle on chairs and fabrics and get them on order.  Besides the floor we are going to replace the driver and passenger seats, and the refrigerator, so this is a major remodeling project.  I also have to rebuild the water bay, but that’s a different project for a different day and blog post.

Driver side alcove where the sleeper-sofa was installed.  Note the HVAC chase and flexible ducts used to get air out through the front of the sofa.

Driver side alcove where the sleeper-sofa was installed. Note the HVAC chase and flexible ducts used to get air out through the front of the sofa.

It was a very physical day with a few bumps and scrapes but no serious damage to us or the bus.  I went to the gas station to top up my fuel tank while Linda fixed dinner.  She had some left over white rice and ended up adding it to barley, lentils, split peas, carrots, mushrooms, red onions, garlic, greens, soy sauce, salt and pepper.  Everything except the greens was sautéed.  The greens were cooked separately and added at the end.  It was a delicious and complex combination of flavored and textures.  We watched Season 3 Episode 1 of Sherlock and turned in early as we needed to be up very early tomorrow and on the road to the Dayton Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio.

Passenger side HVAC chase with AC cable passing through 4" flexible duct adapter and then through the floor.  Really?  Really.

Passenger side HVAC chase with AC cable passing through 4″ flexible duct adapter and then through the floor. Really? Really.

2015/05/13 (W) Dental Deconstruction

We were both up at 7:30 AM.  I made tea instead of coffee and we had a light breakfast.  We both had 11 AM appointments with our dental hygienists and left a 9:35 AM to drive to Dearborn.  We had only gone a couple of miles when we realized we did not put the trash can at the curb so we went back and did that.

Traffic was light and we arrived at Gusfa Dental at 10:50 AM.  My hygienist, Michelle, took me in right away.  Linda’s hygienist, Margaret, took her in on time.  We both had good checkups with no new issues found or procedures required.  The tooth that has been bothering me occasionally all winter may be the one on my upper left, second from the back, that had the root canal last fall, followed by a crown.  Dr. Steve did not see any problem on the x-Rays or exam but said that my various complaints could all be associated with a small but persistent infection at the base of the root canal.  I am due for a 6-month follow-up visit with the endodontist anyway, and was putting off scheduling it until I had my regular checkup today.

It was 12:30 PM by the time we left the dental office and we were both hungry.  We wanted something other than fast food but considered going to Neehee’s Indian diner on Ford Road.  We decided not to go there as it was not very good the last time we went and they had changed the menu, eliminating some of our favorite dishes.  It is also several miles west of I-275 and that stretch of Ford Road is always congested and annoying to drive.  We stopped at the Macaroni Grill at 7 Mile Road and Haggerty Road instead.  We have always found the Macaroni Grill restaurants to be acceptable Italian food in a slightly quaint setting.  Today was no different.  Linda had rigatoni with arrabbiata sauce (spicy tomato), garlic, mushrooms, and spinach.  I had capellini with garlic olive oil and the same add-ins.  We had our fill of fresh baked bread to go with the pasta and were very full by the time we finished lunch.  We used to eat like this a lot more often which is part of the reason we both had a weight problem.

We thought about stopping at Brighton Ford to pick up some literature on the F-150 but decide to drive to Lowe’s at I-96 and Latson Road instead to look at refrigerators.  The smallest one they had on display was 14.3 cubic feet which gave us a chance to see the approximate size of the 13.5 cubic foot Fisher & Paykel.  The F&P is narrower and slightly taller than the one’s at the store, but has a bottom freezer drawer and fits our available space much better.  Lowe’s can order the F&P and it will take two weeks to get.  If I decide to do the fridge swap at Butch and Fonda’s place in Indiana we will have to pick up the F&P in Kokomo as that is the nearest Lowe’s.

Driver side sleeper sofa in our H3-40 with motorized drawer removed.

Driver side sleeper sofa in our H3-40 with motorized drawer removed.

When we got home I changed into my work clothes and worked in the bus.  After emptying the drawer under the jack-knife sofa and removing the APC UPS from under the foot rest area I removed the drawer, footrest cover, and front end panel.  I then removed the two HVAC duct transition boxes and then the two drawer slides.  With all of that out of the way I was finally able to remove the four 1/2″ lag screws from the four corners that secured the sofa to the floor.

Driver side sleeper-sofa with forward end panel and HVAC adapter box removed.

Driver side sleeper-sofa with forward end panel and HVAC adapter box removed.

Getting all of the furniture out will be much easier if we remove the front passenger seat so I worked on that next.  I had never looked carefully at how it was installed until now.  The chair has a 12″ wide x 15″ deep base plate that is bolted to the floor.  The bolts stick up from below and the nuts go over them.  I could not see the studs but I could feel the ends and eventually realized that Royale coach had installed the carpet OVER the base plate.  To remove the seat I would have to remove the carpet or at least cut it and fold it back.  The carpet had to come out eventually anyway and be replaced with vinyl tile so I removed it.  It was more work than it sounds, and took quite a while, as there was not a lot of room to work under, behind, or to the left of the seat, but I got that piece of carpet out.

Villa passenger seat in our H3-40 showing inside edge of mounting plate and studs with nus.  (Front of coach to the left).

Villa passenger seat in our H3-40 showing inside edge of mounting plate and studs with nus. (Front of coach to the left).

Removing the seat will now be a simple matter of loosening four nuts and lifting it off the studs, except for the fact that it is heavy.  The studs are presumably the threaded ends of T-bolts with the “heads” in two channels, front and rear, that are installed across the floor.  There is an opening at one end of each channel that allows the T-bolts to be inserted/removed.  My presumption is that all of this is Prevost factory designed and built, not something Royale Coach did, but the driver’s seat does not appear to be installed the same way, so maybe not.

Power base for Villa passenger chair in our H3-40.  This thing is complicated!

Power base for Villa passenger chair in our H3-40. This thing is complicated!

I finished working in the bus around 7 PM, put my tools away, and closed up the coach.  As a consequence of our big lunch we were not hungry and skipped dinner.  I called Butch to discuss the project and get some advice.  I then called Chuck and brought him up-to-date.  We finished the evening by watching Season 2, Episode 3 of Sherlock on DVD.


2015/05/12 (T) Dealing with the County

I finally paid a visit this morning to the Oceola Township offices and talked to the assessor and zoning administrator.  I had a satellite image of our property on which I had drawn the proposed barn and driveway.  All they need in order to issue a land use permit is for me to show the size of the building and the setbacks on the image.  I also visited the Livingston County Building Department.  I talked to one of the counter clerks who had me talk to Rick, who is one of the inspectors.  He had just built a large pole barn and used 6×6 posts set in 26″ diameter holes back filled with concrete.  The bottom of the posts need to be at least 48″ below grade to get below the frost line so I will figure on posts four feet longer than my exterior wall height.

Based on my preliminary online research and visits the land use, building and electrical permits are the only other ones I will need in order to put up a bus barn.  The clerk gave me a check sheet of the documentation I will need to provide.  I would have to file some additional paperwork with the County Health Department, but would not need permits from them or from the Drain or Road Commissions.

I drove to the Township offices on Latson Road by way of Hacker and M-59.  Hacker was so bad the last few days due, in part, to heavy rains that it was more pothole than road and many of them were larger and deeper than normal.  The road grader was repairing the road and it was digging deep.  The grader was still working when I returned home but the road was already much better.  The road needs to be rebuilt with a substantial amount of road gravel and with proper drainage ditches along both sides.  Or paved.  Paved would be good.  Linda read something last fall that indicated Oceola and Hartland Townships had agreed to pave Hacker Road from M-59 south to Golf Club.  We checked when we got home this spring but could not find any reference to such a project.

Back at the house I settled in to create a scale drawing of the floor plan of our bus and then draw in the 16″x16″ floor tiles.  I added up the various areas yesterday and added 25% for waste, but that turned out to be a low estimate.  By drawing the tiles I was able to count how many I would actually need.  I called Lynch Carpet in Howell and talked to Clint to get a rough price estimate for the materials.  The 16×16 Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl Tiles are packed 14 to a box and can only be ordered by the box.  We need 190 tiles for the project so we will have to buy 14 boxes (196 tiles).  That turned out to be 50 square feet more than my original estimate, but would leave us with only six full tiles as spares, assuming I do not ruin any during the installation.  Fortunately, the vinyl adhesive and vinyl grout were less expensive than I expected, so even with a freight charge the bottom line was similar to my first estimate.  Using these tiles it will be approximately a $2,000 project.

My layout has the tiles in a standard pattern with the grout lines lined up in two directions, one running parallel to the long axis of the bus and the other perpendicular to that.  I presumed that this would take less tile and require less cutting but after seeing the layout I am not so sure.  I will probably make a second drawing with the tiles turned 45 degrees and see if it makes more efficient use of the tiles.  We plan to use a grout that is very similar in color to the base color of the tiles so the grout lines will tend to blend in rather than standout as a design feature, and perhaps make the orientation of the tiles less important visually.

Later in the afternoon I called Pat at Apex Roofing to let him know our shingle selection.  I left the information in a voice message and Pat called back later to confirm.  We are going to use the Certainteed Max Def Resawn Shake shingle.  We are still thinking about the skylight tubes.  We talked about putting one or two in the living room and possibly one between the kitchen/dining rooms and one in the hallway.  I realized that the air-conditioner would probably be in the way of the one for the kitchen/dining area, so we will not do that one.

Linda made granola today and made baked/stuffed acorn squash for dinner along with an asparagus, carrot, green bean sauté and fresh sweet Bing cherries.  I took care of some e-mail and then we had slices of the Mother’s Day vegan cake.  I called my sister to check on how our grand-niece was doing.  She called me back later and we had a long chat.  Linda and I then watched season 2, Episode 2 of Sherlock.

After Linda fell asleep I was still up (writing) when a noise started and did not stop.  I suspected it was the water sanitizer recharging, as the water softener had recently recharged, but I got up to make sure that’s what it was and not something else like a sump pump that was stuck in the on position.  It was the sanitizer, so I closed the laundry room door to reduce the noise and went back to bed.  I really need to soundproof the laundry room and reprogram the softener and sanitizer to come on at better times.


2015/05/11 (M) Bus Barns Reconsidered

I took a nap late yesterday afternoon, a rare but sometimes necessary thing.  I went to bed later as a result but still did not sleep well.  We have too many things going on simultaneously with significant dollars attached to them and that has a tendency to disturb our sleep.  I also planned to visit three County agencies today and the anticipation of that no doubt contributed to a less restful night.

I was up at 5 AM and awoke to heavy fog; literally, the air temperature had dropped and it was very foggy outside.  I decided to concentrate on uploading my blog posts for the first 10 days of May but ended up also working on the materials estimate for the new bus floor, checking and responding to e-mails, and making adjustments to the SLAARC website and e-mail forwarding addresses.  Once Linda got up and we had some coffee she spent the first part of the day working on the banking and roster for SLAARC, so it turned out to be a somewhat “slaarcy” day for us.  The fog changed over to rain as the day progressed and intermittent heavy rains moved through the area after lunch accompanied by a tornado watch that continued until dinnertime.  I did, however, get the blog entries for May 1 through 9 edited, tagged, and posted.  I really need to get back to posting each day as it occurs.

Our male cat, Jasper, was having tummy troubles today.  He tends to follow me around the house anyway, but today he stayed very close most of the day.  He climbed up in my lap while I was working at my desk no less than six times and went to sleep for as long as an hour at a stretch.  If not there he was curled up on my desk, on the carpet near my chair, on my lap or next to me on the couch, or alongside me in bed.  He has a loud, resonant purr and I heard (and felt) it a lot today.  It is one of my favorite things.

Linda finally persuaded me over the weekend that, as much as I was trying to contain the cost, the current approach to the bus barn project was just going to be too expensive.  I have not given up on the idea of building a bus barn but I am now rethinking my approach yet again.  Ironically, I am back to the idea of a true pole barn, which eliminates the concrete foundation.  Instead of wood trusses, however, I am looking at an arched steel roof.  That would eliminate the bottom chords of a wood truss which determine the ceiling height.  Downsizing the building would further reduce the cost and not pouring a concrete pad, or perhaps only a partial one, would reduce the cost even more. A 24′ x 48′ building with a 16′ center ceiling may only require 12′ side walls, which would keep the posts and other lumber costs reasonable. The site prep and finish grading cost is there no matter what we do.  The main things we give up with this approach are the 19′ ceiling in the center, which would have allowed me to walk on the roof and work standing up, and an overhead door which would be expensive anyway.  Working on the roof would require moving it outside and the door would have to be a two-piece exterior slider or “barn style” pull open.

Chuck and I have been talking seriously the last couple weeks about trying to agree on a metal arch building design so we can order two buildings and get a quantity and shipping discount.  I called Chuck before dinner to let him know what we had decided we were not going to do that, at least not this year, and explain the reasoning behind the decision.  He is faced with the exact same issues and we had a long bus barn chat, to be continued in the days ahead.

While I was on the phone with Chuck my sister called my cell phone so Linda took the call.  My grand-niece, Lilly, had experienced several more seizures since she returned home from the hospital on Wednesday.  She was at a different hospital where they were going to hook her up to an EEG for 24 hours as none of the one-time EEGs have shown anything abnormal.  Lilly is only 27 months old and this has to be a bit scary for her; it certainly is for the adults around her.

Linda prepared a simple meal of fresh asparagus, white rice with soy sauce, and mock chicken with orange sauce.  We had another piece of the vegan cake for dessert later.  We have also decided that now is the time to replace the refrigerator in the bus so we spent time after dinner continuing to look at units online.

The current fridge, which is a side-by-side Jenn-Air, is a 22.6 cubic foot model.  Newer refrigerators with similar case dimensions tend to be smaller in usable volume but even 17 cubic foot models do not appear to fit in our refrigerator cubby.  The newer ones tend to be more energy efficient, so they may have thicker insulation thus reducing the interior volume.  The problem is that they also tend to be taller as a way to maintain the width and depth dimensions.  The unit that has our attention at the moment is a Fisher & Paykel 13.5 cubic foot model.  That is a lot less refrigerator storage than we have now, and would have to adjust how we shop, but we would be able to take it in and out through the main entrance door of the bus and recover about 11 inches of width for a pantry that would be 67″ tall and 29″ deep.  That is a lot of storage and may be a good trade-off.

We finished the evening watching Season 2, Episode 1 of Sherlock.  I do not generally enjoy watching TV programs a second time, but the BBC Sherlock series holds up very well on repeated viewing.


2015/05/10 (N) Mother’s Day

The dinette in our Prevost H3-40 before removal.

The dinette in our Prevost H3-40 before removal.

Our son invited us to their house in Ann Arbor for Mother’s Day brunch.  We arrived at 10 AM and Madeline was very excited to see us.  Besides Shawna and Madeline, Meghan, Chris, and Katie arrived shortly after us.  After some coffee and initial visiting we started the meal with grapefruit juice and champagne cocktails.  Meghan made three kinds of vegan scones and Brendan and Shawna made granola and fruit salad.  It all made for a very tasty brunch.  Katie had to leave for work but was able to stay long enough to enjoy brunch.  Brendan and I stayed at the house to chat while everyone else went for a walk.  By the time they got back Madeline was ready for her 1 PM nap, right on schedule.

HVAC grills removed from front of J-lounge (L) and dinette (R) in our bus.

HVAC grills removed from front of J-lounge (L) and dinette (R) in our bus.

After Meghan and Chris left Shawna needed to run to a local market to pick up a few things for dinner with friends who were coming over later.  They are going to need another vehicle and we potentially have one to spare.  They have kept Linda’s Honda Civic at their house the last two winters while we traveled, so they are very familiar with that car.  Shawna had never driven a Honda Element, or even ridden in one, so she drove our car and Linda went with her.  When they got back from the market we visited a while longer.

OTR HVAC duct and Aqua-Hot fan-coil unit.  These were under the  dinette in our bus.

OTR HVAC duct and Aqua-Hot fan-coil unit. These were under the dinette in our bus.

We left at 3 PM and stopped at Whole Foods Market for a few items.  We had seen the 2009 Egri Merlot at Whole Foods in the past but the vintage they are now receiving is 2013.  There is no guarantee it will taste anything like the 2009, but it was already on sale and we got an additional 10% discount on six or more bottles so that is how many we bought.  We have lots of other wines in the wine fridge so these bottles may get to age a little before we drink them.

Forward end of passenger side sofa with end panel, footrest, table, and drawer removed.  The footrest, table, and drawer were all motorized.

Forward end of passenger side sofa with end panel, footrest, table, and drawer removed. The footrest, table, and drawer were all motorized.

Back at the house we had a light supper and slices of the 6-inch multi-layer cookies and cream vegan cake we got at Whole Foods as the final Mother’s Day treat.  I had a long, late evening phone chat with Butch about dual-orbital polishers and bus barns before turning in for the night.


2015/05/09 (S) ICAAN, Can You?

Today started with our usual SLAARC breakfast.  Linda has been cleaning up the financial records for our ham radio club and discovered in the process that the status of our EIN application was murky.  She has spent some time this past week trying to track down just what happened so she can figure out what to do to fix it.  She finally determined yesterday that the EIN that was issued by the IRS was indeed valid and approved but it does not appear that the 501(C.)(3.) non-profit status was ever established correctly.

When we got home we loaded the disassembled plastic foundation from our old Select Comfort mattress into the back of my car along with our usual tubs and bags of recyclables and drove to Recycle Livingston.  We had no other errands to run and returned home directly.

Scotty (AC8IL) reminded me at breakfast that Universal Tower in Mt. Clemens, MI (Clinton Township) sells free-standing aluminum towers that are compatible with the used Heights tower we bought last year.  I may be able to get a tower section to replace the iron clamshell and also a base to set in the concrete.  I made a quick check of their website but some of the pages did not load correctly on my iPad.

I checked the ICANN domain name registry for “” and all of the owner/contact information still referenced Gary, who set it up originally in 2009.  I dealt with a change in ownership for “” years ago and it was not a simple, easy process.  Add in the GoDaddy factor, and moving the domain name registration and web-hosting from GoDaddy to is something I am not looking forward to.  I sent an e-mail to Mike and Larry seeking their input and assistance.  I checked and replied to a few other e-mails and then went upstairs.  Our USPS carrier, Michelle, came to the door with a small package that would not fit in our mailbox.  It was my prescription medications that we thought would be delivered on Monday next week.

Linda headed to the grocery store while I changed into my work clothes and started working on getting the dinette in the bus disassembled and removed.  I figured out that the dinette was, indeed, built in two pieces.  The base was screwed to the floor and had a u-channel around the top that was sized to receive a similar upside down u-channel on the bottom of the upper part.  The two channels were locked together by screws inserted horizontally from the inside.  The upper part was the seating and seat backs, most of it with built-in cushioning.  All of the leather furniture in the bus is in less than ideal condition and the foam cushioning is shot.  The furniture was designed so that the only way to replace it would be to remove it, disassemble it, rebuild it, and reinstall it.  We do not like it enough to do that and after owning the bus for over five years we now know how we want to change the furniture and re-purpose the space.

Needless to say, but said anyway, coach converters only care about making the original buyer happy and count on them getting rid of the coach long before any of these design decisions become an expensive maintenance and repair issue.  And that is a shame, really, because luxury motorcoach conversions are elaborate, expensive custom projects and the buses being used for these projects are capable of being driven for 50 years and 2,000,000 miles given the required routine maintenance.  Over that kind of time and miles the house/systems are also going to need maintenance but they do not seem to be designed/built with that in mind.

When Linda returned from her shopping she helped me get the two pieces of the dinette out of the coach and into the garage.  She then got back to work at her desk finishing up the accounting for our ham radio club.  I continued working in the coach figuring out how to disassemble the J-lounge sofa that occupies the rest of the passenger side of the living room and mated to the dinette.  Like the dinette it was a custom designed piece of furniture built specifically for this coach and constructed in the same way.  The differences were its size (longer), and three powered accessories.  From front to rear the accessories were a footrest, center table, and drawer.

The footrest is self-explanatory.  The center table rises up/out of the base in the center of the couch (after removing the loose seat cushion that covers it) and goes back down/in if you need that spot for sitting.  We set it at a comfortable height, level with the tops of the seat cushions, without it intruding into the limited isle space and pretty much left it there.  The drawer would have been just a drawer if not for the large rubber tube used to open and close it at the touch of a button.

The tube, about 1/4″ in diameter, is arranged like a long, skinny race track above the drawer and under the seat.  At the back end, deep in the bowels of the couch, is a motor with a vertical shaft connected to a horizontal drive pulley.  The tube is looped around this drive pulley and the other end is looped around a second horizontal pulley at the front edge of the drawer opening.  That pulley is free to turn.  If that’s all there was to it turning on the motor would cause the tube to just go round and round in one direction or the other.  The top back of the drawer, however, has a little finger sticking up that was clamped to the tube so when the tube moved it pulled the drawer with it.  At least it did before the tube broke.  The big drawer under the sleeper sofa is also powered by a similar mechanism, or was until the tube broke.  Neither of these drawers has worked as a powered drawer in the 5+ years we have owned the coach.  The motors work, but they do not cause the drawers to open or close.

All of these mechanisms are very clever but ultimately completely unnecessary.  Footrests can be actuated manually, drawers can opened and closed by hand, and a table can be built in where it needs to be.  These mechanisms also add weight, require power, wiring and control switches, represent potentially difficult (expensive) maintenance and repair items, and take up space that could be better used to store things.  To paraphrase a popular song of my youth “the things that pass for luxury I can’t understand.”

Because of all of these mechanisms the J-lounge was considerably more work to disassemble as they made it more difficult to access the screws that held the top piece to the base and the base to the floor.  In order to get to everything I had to remove the footrest, the table, the drawer box, and two decorative panels.  The drawer was attached to a pair of substantial double suspension glides by four bolts with Nylok nuts inside the drawer.  The suspension glides did not have release mechanisms so I had to remove the drawer box.  The two rear bolt heads were virtually inaccessible but I eventually figured out where to position the slides so I could push the bolts out from the inside.

Somewhere in the middle of this work Linda came out to bus.  It was good timing on her part as I was at a point where I had to assume awkward positions to reach things and having her hand me tools was very helpful.  The top back edge was wedged under the window trim so once everything was unscrewed we moved the couch out from the wall enough to lift the top off, verifying that it was unscrewed from the floor and the top was completely disconnected from the base.  We did not carry the pieces out of the coach, however, as we need to remove the front passenger seat first and create space in the garage for the pieces.  The couch and dinette are about 16 feet long when installed.

Disassembling the couch was not a problem as we are not going to reuse this furniture nor are we going to try to sell it or even give it away.  The most we might do is see if the metal has any value as scrap.  If not, Linda will call our garbage service to see if they will pick it up on our regular trash day.  I plan, however, to remove and keep the motors, pulleys, and acme screw linear actuators; you never know when you might need something like that.  🙂

I asked Linda if she wanted to go out for a pre Mother’s Day dinner and she said yes.  We went to La Marsa in Brighton and got there before 6 PM which allowed us to find a parking spot and not have to wait for a table.  I had their fresh lemonade, made with juice from fresh squeezed lemons and oranges blended together with ice.  I suspect it also had honey as it was sweet.  It was delicious.  The pita bread and garlic spread were good as usual.  We split the salad, which was god, and an order of zesty almond garlic Ghallaba (vegan).  This is the second time we have had this dish here and it has been a real disappointment both times.  We have come to the unhappy conclusion that the food at this La Marsa is simply not as good as the food at the Farmington Hills location.  Sadly, it is one of the few places in Brighton or Howell where we can get something vegan besides a salad or a no-cheese pizza.

When we got home I made some decaf coffee and we settled in to read, write, and play games on our iPads.  We looked at the website for Polar Power Inc.  They are a competitor to SunFrost and make similar kinds of refrigerators but with some important differences.  They sell to the marine market and have super-insulated units with remote compressors that run directly on 12VDC or 24 VDC.  Unfortunately the only unit they make that will fit in our enclosure is 9.6 cubic feet, and some of that is the freezer compartment.  It would allow us to build a generous vertical slide out pantry, but it is just not enough refrigerator volume.   Replacing the refrigerator is going to be a difficult project but it will be nice when we are done, especially if we can gain a tall, narrow, deep pantry in the bargain.  I plan to call SunFrost and Polar Power to see if they will make a custom sized unit and if so, what the added charge would be, but I expect the answer to be “no.”

I am once again behind on posting blog entries and need to upload all of the posts so far for May.  I did not take any photos in that time so they will be a bit less work.  I did take photos today, however, so now that we are back in project mode I really need to get back in the habit of off-loading images daily, selecting a few for the blog, posting it, and filing all of them for use in future magazine articles.


2015/05/08 (F) Bus Barn Trojans

Today was a hodgepodge of activity.

Chuck called mid-morning and we had a long chat about bus barns.  I think our needs would be met nicely by a SteelMaster S-model steel arch building 32 feet wide by 56 feet long with a 19 foot inside center height.  We have been quoted a price of $20,400 for two of these ($10,200 each) delivered to two separate but nearby addresses.  The price does not include end walls, roof vent adapters, or skylight panels.  The site prep is going to be about $10,000.  A 16 ft. wide by 14 ft. high overhead door will be $5,000.  If I can get the concrete work for $10,000 and frame in the end walls, pull the permits, and run the electrical service for another $5,000 we can get this building erected for $40,000 and not spend all summer building it.  That’s a lot of ifs and it’s a lot of money, but we have looked at this a lot of different ways and that appears to be the bottom end in terms of cost.

Chuck likes the idea of 40 ft. wide by 60 ft. long building with that same 19 ft. interior ceiling height.  His logic is that he could put two buses in there, or a bus and a really big trailer, and still have room for workbenches, cabinets, and tools along the outside walls.  True enough, but we do not plan to own two buses simultaneously nor do we plan to rent space in our barn.  Chuck and are also not discussing going in together on a building as we both want to store our buses at our homes where they are convenient to load, unload, and work on.  Besides, I have been quoted $25,000 for that size building.  Although I think it included steel end walls with framed openings for an overhead door and an entrance door on one end, this project is never going to happen at that price unless we win a lottery, and that is unlikely as we rarely buy tickets.

After lunch I finally emptied out the back of my car and re-installed one of the back seats that was out all winter.  I was going to vacuum the interior but my Shop-Vac had very little suction.  An inspection of the filter revealed that it was completely clogged with drywall dust.  I closed up the car and put the Shop-Vac back in the garage where Linda wrote down the model number.

I got out the 8 foot stepladder and carried the three roofing samples up onto the roof.  I laid them out side-by-side so we could compare them in the same light.  Linda also viewed them from the west end of the house and from the rear of the house.  We agreed that the Certainteed Landmark Pro Max Def ReSawn Shake was the one we liked.  Linda made note of that in the quote packet while I loaded the sample boards into my car.

I drove to ABC Supply Co. in New Hudson and returned the roofing samples.  I stopped at the nearby Lowe’s to buy a replacement filter for the Shop-Vac.  I think the sales associate who helped had somewhere else to be and something else to do as it did not seem really interested in helping me find the right filter.  I usually shop at the Lowe’s in Howell and the service there is generally very friendly.  The model number of our Shop-Vac did not come up in either the Lowe’s system or the Shop-Vac website even though we bought it a Lowe’s just two years ago.  Apparently it is no longer made or sold.  After looking at the current Shop-Vacs and the replacement filters I selected an LG wet/dry filter as my best bet.

I-96 west bound was fine until Kensington Road at which point it was stop and go, but mostly stop , so I excited at there and headed north, eventually heading west on Hyne, across Old US-23 and over to Hacker Road.  I don’t know if it was faster, but at least I was moving most of the time at a good speed.  I really dislike sitting in traffic.

Mike Sharpe was scheduled to come over after breakfast tomorrow to see if we could identify the source/cause of the Trojan notifications I have been getting for a while now from my es|et Smart Security 8 program.  It appears that the notifications are being triggered by the copying of a .tmp file associated with the automatic backup of files from one or more of the four WordPress websites I run.  I was doing online research on the infection and was looking for information on the es|et website when I noticed that they had a live chat technical support feature.  I decide to see if they could help me and ended up spending an hour with Eric.  With his helped I think we found and eliminated the at least one instance of the offending file.

Linda made a nice salad for dinner.  Having had something to eat I pursued the Trojan problem back to the next level; the website from which the infected file was being backed up.  The Small Business WordPress theme (in the “smallbiz” folder) was the source of the problem.  I did not recall installing this theme, however, so I am not sure how it got installed into the website.  I checked the other three websites and discovered that this theme was also installed on our personal website/blog.  That probably explains why I was getting two notifications for what appeared to be the same thing.  It took me a while to find an explanation on of how to delete themes.  It was very easy once I saw it, but like many others I could not find the button on my own.  I eliminated the theme from both websites along with others from all four websites that I did not plan to use.  Only time will tell if that has eliminated the problem.

I then dealt with e-mails that I had neglected for the last several days and took another look at the SLAARC GoDaddy account.  It was almost midnight by the time I got to bed.


2015/05/07 (R) Meshuggah Nuns

We spent part of last night researching a new refrigerator for the bus.  Possibilities included models from 13.5 cubic feet to 17 cubic feet from various manufacturers.  We found one that was a close match to the dimensions of our current unit, but we are thinking about downsizing to create space for a slide out pantry.

One huge disappointment is that all of the SunFrost models, including their 16 cubic foot unit, are 34.5″ wide.  Our refrigerator cubby is only 33-3/4″ wide and there is no easy/practical way to modify it to make it wider.  Although very expensive, the SunFrost units are super insulated and use 1/5th the energy of comparable capacity energy efficient refrigerators.  They are also available with 12 VDC or 24 VDC compressors, thus avoiding the inefficiencies associated with using the inverter when boondocking.

I spent some time measuring the floor and wall surfaces in the bus that are currently tiled or carpeted but did not calculate the area.  I need to do a drawing and put together an Excel spreadsheet as the bus has a lot of odd shaped spaces.

We drove to ABC Supply Co. in New Hudson to pick up samples of Certainteed Landmark Pro shingles.  We had narrowed down the possibilities to three choices but needed to see them next to our brick, siding, and trim.

On the way home we stopped at Lynch Carpet in Howell to return the Armstrong tile samples and determine delivery time, which was 2-3 weeks worst case.  We did not get a quote since I did not have the square footage figured out yet, but Clint made a note of the tile and vinyl grout we like.

We left the house around 4:15 PM and drove across M-59 to Rochester.  The Rochester Mills Beer Company restaurant was in downtown, about five miles east of the Oakland University campus and the theatre.  It was after 5:30 PM when we got to the parking lot.  We did not expect Kate before 6:30 PM so we ordered a hummus appetizer plate and two beers.  The hummus platter featured three different flavored hummus that were very good.  Linda had a chocolate coffee tasting dark brew and I had a Framboise.  Framboise is a raspberry beer that originated in Holland and tastes more like raspberries than beer.  Perfect!

Kate left work at 5 PM.  The drive from that part of town to this part of town is one of the worst in the Detroit area, and that is a terrible time of day to do it, but that is what she did because she did not have a choice.  She stopped for flowers and a card but made it to the Rochester Mills Beer Company in time to enjoy a pizza and some beer.  We had a no cheese veggie pizza with a whole wheat crust that was pretty good.  Linda had a different but still dark beer for her second serving while Kate and I both had the Wit’s Belgian style beer with orange and coriander.  Although much more beer-like than the Framboise, it was agreeable.  Except for some “guest beers” everything at the Rochester Mills Beer Company is brewed by them.  It is very local, very fresh, and very good as far as beer goes.  They also feature Michigan wines, which we always appreciate seeing in a Michigan restaurant, but we were not having wine this evening.

We made it to the theatre with only a few minutes to spare.  Kate got the tickets from will call as they were under her cousin’s name.  We had great seats in row D just left of center.  Meadow Book is not a large theatre and sitting this close to the stage made for a very intimate experience.  The playbill was the musical “Meshuggah Nuns.”  We were not familiar with this musical but it was delightful.  The 5-member cast were all professionals, including Cindy Williams (Shirley from the Laverne and Shirley TV show) and Eddie Mekka (Carmine Ragusa from the same TV program).  They all gave excellent performances but Jeanne Tinker, who played Sister Amnesia, was our favorite.  When dressed in a habit one really has to act with their face and hers was very expressive.  She also had the “comic” part in the cast and was very funny.

The show ended at 10 PM after which we visited briefly with Kate’s cousin, Mikeala, who is part of the theatre crew working with costuming.  We chatted with Kate a while longer in the parking lot and did not get home until close to midnight.


2015/05/06 (W) Old and New

The morning was devoted to Miss Madeline.  She helped Grandma Linda put the toys away before lunch.  Brendan arrived around noon and began packing up her stuff.  They left at 12:30 PM to get her home in time for her nap.

We unwrapped the box spring mattress foundation and discovered several defects.  We bought this at the Sears Outlet Center in Novi and it wasn’t very expensive.  Most of the appliances at the outlet center were visibly dinged, dented, and scratched so perhaps some defects should have been expected.  The plastic bag, however, was intact.  The defects appeared to be the result of improper handling, but that is not to say that XPO was responsible.  The bottom dust cover fabric, which is very thin and flimsy, was torn but Linda was able to stitch it back together, at least enough to dissuade the cats from climbing in.  There was also a small puncture, about the size of my finger, in the top surface, which again was a very thin material.  Since it will have a mattress on it we did bother fixing it.  There were also smudge marks on two corners.  Again, they will not be visible with the mattress and linens in place so we did not worry about them.

We had e-mails from Kate inquiring about our availability to attend the Thursday evening performance of “Meshuggah Nuns” at the Meadow Brook Theatre.  That worked for us so she suggested we meet at the Rochester Mills Beer Company for dinner first.  Linda checked the menu online and it looked like it would work for us, so we agreed to the plan.

We spent much of the evening doing online research for a new refrigerator for the bus.  The old one is still running and maintaining the temperature fairly well, but it is rather old, not particularly energy efficient, and very loud when running.  It has also been repaired twice by our friend Butch and is very difficult to service because of how/where it is installed.  As often seems to happen, there were almost no new units available with the same dimensions as our current unit. One of the things we are considering is getting a smaller, 24″ wide, model and building a tall, narrow, 29″ deep slide-out pantry in the unused space.

The smaller fridge would still be a compressor based residential unit, just smaller than the current one.  Linda will have to decide if that is a fair trade-off although if I stop drinking Ice brand water it would reduce the need for storage volume.  Our current Jenn-Air is a side-by-side and we mostly keep milk jugs full of frozen water in there for thermal mass to help with temperature stability.  With a better fridge we would not need nearly that much freezer space as our frozen foods on the bus are usually one or two pizzas, a couple of Amy’s frozen entrees (for when Linda really does not feel like cooking or going out), and perhaps a container of non-dairy “ice cream.”


2015/05/05 (T) BAF & MEF3 Visit

Today was a family visit day.  We were up a bit earlier than usual and enjoyed a light breakfast and a quiet first half of the morning.  One of the things I’ve had on my to-do list is ordering Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner and Touch of Beeswax Wood Preservative.  I finally got those ordered today directly from the company with free ground shipping.  I checked Amazon but the prices were no better and the products were not eligible for Amazon Prime.  I also found what I think is an exact replacement for my iPad2 flip cover and put it in our Amazon shopping cart.

Our son (Brendan) and grand-daughter (Madeline) arrived around 10 AM.  Madeline knows her way around the main floor of our house at this point and headed directly for the pantry to see what snacks we might have.  We tend to have dried fruit on hand, especially raisins and cranberries, as a tasty but healthy choice.  She is very fond of dried cranberries.  We spent the morning playing and talking and having a drawn out snacky lunch.  Somewhere in there Brendan setup the Pack-n-Play.

Pat Davidson from Apex Roofing showed up around noon to look at our roof and give us a quote.  Apex has done two roofs for us on the previous house and did excellent work at a fair price both times.  The quote was about what I expected and I gave Pat the verbal go ahead to put us in the schedule.  They are scheduling out about six weeks, so mid -June looks like the timeframe.  That potentially runs into the SKP Tri-Chapter Rally or the ARRL Field Day, as well as bus and bus barn projects, so we will have to see exactly where things fall.  We like to be around while this sort of work is going on.  This time, however, I also need to build a dormer on the back side of the roof to provide better access to the attic, generally, and the air-conditioner evaporator/air-handler, specifically.

The quote is for a new roof, with new underpayment and ice shield, so it is a “tear off” where they first remove all of the old roofing and repair any damaged/missing roof decking or boards.  They always look for at least a three day window with a dry weather forecast.  Pat said they would work with me relative to the dormer.  Specifically, they would start the tear off in the area where I want to build the former and then move to a different part of the roof so I can do the carpentry.  Linda and I need to visit ABC Supply Co. in new Hudson to pick out the specific shingle we want, and we plan to do that sooner rather than later.

The dormer is simple in concept but a bit trickier in execution.  I would build two tapered walls on the ground that look like right triangles.  The hypotenuse would attach to the roof with the long leg on top and horizontal and the shirt leg facing out and vertical.  Joists would be installed across the two walls, tying the together.  The front wall would be framed for an access door between the two short legs.  Two rafters would be installed at the end wall.  The ridge board would be set in place and cut to tie into the roof.  Two backer boards would be installed on the roof running at an angle from the ends of the side walls up to the ridge board.  The rest of the rafters would then be installed.  The walls and roof would then get plywood sheeting and decking.  The final carpentry would be fascia boards and siding.  Fortunately we have a pile of Hardy Board left over from when the house was sided.  Hopefully there is enough to side the dormer and it is in good enough shape to use.  I would then install the door, which I might have to build.  Apex would then roof the dormer, including continuous ridge venting.  The final steps would be painting the door and door trim and installing fascia and vented soffit material to match what is already on the house if I can find a supplier.  We would like the dormer to blend in and look like it belongs there.

Brendan got Madeline down for her nap at 1 PM and then spent a little time looking at what we plan to do with the floor in the bus before heading back to Ann Arbor.  I gathered up the Armstrong vinyl floor tile samples and drove to Lynch Carpet in Howell to return them and see what else they might have.  Clint let me keep the one we like for a couple more days and gave me a grout color chart.  I then headed to Best Buy in Brighton to pick up a Sony Blue-Ray/DVD player and a couple of flash drives, all of which were on sale.  I stopped for gas and got back to the house just as Madeline was waking up from her nap.

I was able to spend a little time researching a potential new vehicle.  As much as we are enamored with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited the Consumer Reports data on them is very discouraging, especially the reliability data.  Viable alternatives may be the Nissan Frontier Pickup Truck or the Nissan Xterra SUV, both of which are available in 4×4 configurations.  Even the Ford F-150 might be a possibility as it is available in a 4-door, short-bed, 4×4 version.  They all have much better CR reliability data that the Jeeps.  The problem is, they are not Jeeps.  If we can wait a year, Ford is releasing an F-150 Raptor in fall 2016 that will feature a 10-speed transmission with six selectable driving modes including rock, mud & sand, and Baja (high speed desert racing).  It will probably also feature a ridiculously high price, but then none of these vehicles are inexpensive.

We got a phone call from XPO around 4:20 PM to let us know they would be delivering our box spring mattress foundation around 5 PM.  They showed up right on time and carried it to our bedroom.  Linda signed the delivery slip and they were gone as quick as they arrived.  We will wait until Brendan retrieves Madeline tomorrow to disassemble and reassemble the bed.

I entertained Madeline while Linda prepared dinner, but Madeline was very interested in what her Grandma Linda was doing, so we kept going to the kitchen to check on the work.  Linda served some “mock” chicken tenders, but she also fixed fresh green beans and homemade mashed potatoes, reheated some frozen edamame, and set out fresh black grapes and pineapple chunks.  Madeline is a good eater and we all enjoyed our meal.

Madeline is “potty trained” and very proud of the fact that she is no longer wearing a diaper.  She had a very successful day letting us know she needed to use the toilet.  We have a booster ring for the hall bathroom and put a stool in there for her.  She uses the stool to get up in the toilet seat and then uses it to stand up at the sink and wash her hands.  The hall bathroom sink/counter is lower than normal and turns out to be a great height for Madeline with the use of the stool.

We played after dinner until Madeline was tired.  She has always been comfortable staying with us but at 29 months of age is starting to have some anxiety about being away from her parents.  She wanted her daddy, and was briefly a little bit teary, but it wasn’t anything Grandma Linda couldn’t handle.  Linda followed the usual routine of looking at the rug (wall art) and all of the pictures in the hallway, the small bedroom, and finally the middle bedroom where Madeline’s Pack-n-Play is set up.  She selected the Construction Kitties book (again) for a bedtime story.  It was one of the books we got from the library yesterday and was her favorite choice all day today.  She fell asleep easily as she usually does.  We are active, busy people, but it’s a different kind of busy from having a 2-year old in the house.  We were tired, and turned in about an hour after our grand-daughter, but it was a good kind of tired.

We were so busy today that we failed to notice that it was Cinco de Mayo until it was almost over.


2015/05/04 (M) Moving Things Along

I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish today but did not get most of them completed.  I am trying to make purchasing decisions and get products and materials ordered so I can get some projects done and checked off my list.  It wasn’t a wasted day, as I gathered additional information, but it was frustrating to not get orders placed for things that I thought we settled items.

Based on a recommendation from bus buddy Butch I had decided to order a Cyclo 5 dual head orbital polisher.  I had looked at them before on Amazon but on closer inspection discovered that there is a Cyclo 5-Pro and now a Cyclo 5 Mark II and Cyclo 5-Pro Mark II.  The Mark II models are the current ones but much of what is for sale on Amazon are the previous generation.  Not only that, any one of them comes in three different configurations, two of which appear to duplicate one another.  I finally figured out that the Pro version has a variable speed motor.  The configurations have to do with the style of buffing pads and how they attach to the tool.  It turns out that whatever I get I can order the other parts if needed, so which one to order comes down to which pad attachment method I think best suits my needs.  That means more research before I place an order somewhere.

I have also decided to finally install a cellular booster system at the house and identified the TopSignal 5-band system as the one I probably wanted.  I have always been partial to Wilson Electronics, but the company has changed ownership in the last year and rebranded everything for the consumer market as WeBoost.  The redesigned “consumer” website is less informative than the old one and the company has been slower than other companies to bring products to market.  The model I would want is listed as “available soon.”

I called Cellular Solutions and talked to Paul.  They sell the WeBoost and TopSignal products but he steered me towards the SureCall Fusion5s, which is similarly priced to the TopSignal and more expensive than the WeBoost.  It is also a 5-band/multi-mode (3G/4G/LTE, etc.) transceiver so it will cover almost all cellular carriers including Verizon, without locking us into any specific carrier.  I was also going to call PowerfulSignal, who sells most of the same products, but there was no price difference based on the information I had and Cellular Solutions is a Michigan-based company.

We also need an Over-The-Air TV antenna so I started revisiting the website for  I spent some time looking at their website while we were in Quartzsite, Arizona but never ordered one.  One of the links on their website is to  This website shows the direction and distance to OTA TV towers based on your ZIP code.  It turns out that we have broadcast antennas in all directions but most of them are at ~104 degrees (Detroit) and ~270 degrees, plus or minus (East Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek).  The ground rises to the west from our house so the Detroit metro stations will still be our primary ones.  Even so, the closest tower in any direction is 27 miles away and the farthest is 58, so we will need a serious antenna to pull these in.  (Antenna only display towers up to 60 miles away but that covers everything we would care about.)

I have been trying to catch up and dispatch these kinds of lingering projects so I can work on plans for the bus barn and get started on our bus projects.  At this point I am no longer confident, however, that we will ever build a barn.  No matter what approach we take it is just going to cost more than we want to spend and it looks like dealing with the permitting process may be a hassle.  Added into this mix are several major projects on the bus, the need for a new roof on the house, and the need (desire) for a new car.  Ugh.

One of the bus projects is the remodeling of the seating in the front half of the coach.  As part of that project we want to remove the old carpet from the front and the bedroom and the black ceramic tile from the kitchen and hall, and probably the bathroom.  We did some online research and liked the look and quality of Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl Tiles.  These tiles come in a 16″x16″ and a 12″x12″ size and a few of them come in 8″x8″.  From the website I determined there was a dealer, Lynch Carpet, close to us with an excellent selection of Alterna samples.

We made an errand run, stopping at the Howell Library to return a DVD, do some car research in Consumer Reports, and check out a few children’s books for Madeline’s visit tomorrow.  We stopped at the Howell branch of First Merit Bank to make a SLAARC deposit, and then drove to Lynch Carpet.  Clint worked with us and we took four samples to look at in the bus.  Once we saw them with our cabinetry the one we liked best was the La Plata Crème Fresh.  It has a faux stone, low luster, textured surface that is mostly off-white but has distinct milk chocolate brown veining.  I was thinking we would install the tile diagonally (as diamonds instead of squares) but that would probably result in more cutting of tiles, so more work, more time, more waste, and more cost.  The more I thought about that the more I liked the idea of a simpler layout, but that decision is far from made.

The rest of the day was filled with the usual things; a load of laundry, working at our desks, fixing/eating dinner, reading, games, and online research, the last three typically done on our iPads while curled up on the living room couches.


2015/05/03 (N) Markets and Meetings

We cleaned up the dishes from last night, started the dishwasher, and then had coffee on the deck but did not have breakfast.  At 10 AM we drove down to the Howell Farmers Market for the opening day of the outdoor season.  We walked the market and then bought a bar of soap from Marjorie and a loaf of bread from Great Harvest.  Marjorie is our favorite vendor at the Howell Farmers Market.  She has liberal bumper stickers all over her van, grows her own herbs, raises honey bees, and makes her own soaps and other wonderful products.  She went missing from the Farmers Market last season and as soon as we saw her this year we knew why; she was wearing a “cancer cap.”  She is now cancer free and back at the Market, and it was really good to see her there.

On the way home we stopped at Home Depot to look at vinyl floor tile.  Their selection was different that Lowe’s but no better.  We spent most of our time looking at various wood flooring products and brought home four samples plus a small vinyl tile sample.  When we got home we had toast for lunch using the bread we had just bought.  I started a load of laundry and then settled in to review my Exterior Makeover article.  I made final corrections, uploaded it to the READY folder in my Dropbox, and e-mailed the editor and publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine to let them know it was ready.

We both took breaks from what we were doing to look at the floor samples in the bus.  We did not like any of the woods.  The vinyl tile sample was OK, but not quite right.  At the store most of the lighter shades of faux stone style vinyl tiles had a lot of grey in them.  I did not think grey would look good in our bus but it turns out that the Corian surfaces have grey flecks, the wallpaper has a lot of grey, and the leather furniture may have more grey in it than I realized.  And yet when I visualize the interior of the coach what I “see” is walnut and brass.  We need to look somewhere other than the big box stores for vinyl tiles.

The DVD of Sherlock, season 1, episode 2, would not play correctly on the DVD player in our bedroom last night so I put it in the DVD player in the basement to see if it would play correctly.  Linda did not stay awake to try and watch it last night, which was just as well, so I suggested that she watch it and see if it played OK.  It took a long time for the player to decide to play the disc but once it did it played all the way through.  That told me that there is a problem with the old Sony VHS/DVD player in the bedroom.

While Linda was watching Sherlock I moved the laundry to the dryer and then started compiling my posts for April 26 through 30, 2015 into a single post.  I got that done, uploaded it to our blog, created the tags, and published it.  I made it back upstairs just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.  Much of life is timing, good or bad.  We had leftovers from last night, including salad, veggie-fruit kabobs, and potatoes.

We left a little after 6 PM for the May meeting of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.  We normally meet on the second Sunday of the month but always move that up to the first Sunday in May to avoid Mother’s Day.  We arrived right at 6:30 PM and there was already a good crowd there but the club president was not among them.  At 6:40 PM I was getting ready to convene the meeting when someone pointed out that the start time had been changed to 7 PM two meetings ago.  I guess we should read the minutes, especially of meetings that we miss (like December through April).  Our business meetings are usually short followed by a program.  Tonight, however, we had a presentation from our field day committee followed by a discussion and a motion to approve a budget for the activity which was unanimously approved.

After we got home I brought the DVD player up from the basement and we watched episode 3 of season 1 of Sherlock.  The disc and player worked fine, so I will be looking for a replacement for the old Sony player sometime soon.


2015/04/02 (S) SLAARC and Company

We arrived at the Senate Coney Island before 8 AM for the weekly SLAARC breakfast.  Paul (N8BHT) was already there and we were followed in closely by Steve (N8AR), Mike (W8XH), and Jim (N8HAM, the best call sign ever).  Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (NF8C) came in next followed by Harvey (AC8NO) and Diane, and then Gary (WA8TJA).  Others continued to come in but I lost track after that.  We sit at a long, two-sided table arrangement, so you can only talk easily to the person on either side of you and the three or four people across from you.  Bruce and Linda sat across from us.  The two Lindas like to talk so we try to arrange the seating to make that possible when we can.

Bruce and Linda just closed on a 25 acre property in Florida that includes a very nice house with a ham radio shack and five (5) towers with antennas so that was the main topic of conversation.  Bruce is also thinking about putting up a “barn” with a pad next to it for an RV so we talked about the requirements for the pad and the type/placement of the hookups.  We both had coffee and Linda had her usual dry rye toast.  I decided to change things up and had a dry, toasted bagel instead of my usual dry, toasted English muffin.  Sometimes you just have to live on the edge.

After breakfast we went to First Merit Bank along with Harvey and Diane.  Harvey is the SLAARC President, I am the VP, and Linda is the Treasurer and we are the folks currently on the account.  There was an issue with the bank’s paperwork and they needed to photocopy our driver’s licenses and get our SSNs.  It turned out that they also did not have the club’s EIN even though Linda and Paul, the outgoing treasurer, took care of some of this in late February.  Nancy helped us and was very nice, explaining that the bank had changed its policies and procedures recently and now required more documentation than in the past.  No problem, the bank is open on Saturday mornings and we are almost always in town for breakfast.

With our banking business concluded we headed towards home via Grand River Avenue.  We knew from yesterday that traffic was moving through the I-96/US-23 construction zone just fine, as long as there wasn’t an accident, but we wanted to stop at Brighton Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram which is on GRA just west of US-23.  We walked around the lot looking at the Jeep Wranglers, especially the Unlimiteds, and after a suitable amount of time David Wade came out and introduced himself.  He showed us around, answered our questions, and gave us a nice brochure (book) and features/options guide.  We liked his attitude and demeanor and left feeling comfortable with him and the dealership.

We focused in fairly quickly on the Willy’s Unlimited model as the one that we thought would best fit our needs and budget.  It is similar to the Sport, which is the base trim level for the Jeep, but is available with the hardtop and, most importantly, the Rubicon heavy-duty suspension and off-road (knobby) tires. The Rubicon is the top of the line Wrangler Unlimited (4-door) but it is not just fancier in terms of electronic gizmos; it has an entirely different suspension, transfer case, and other “features” that make it the most off-road capable as delivered by the factory.  We liked the copper/bronze color, as it would go nicely with the paint scheme on our bus, but I am also partial to the canary yellow as it would be the most visible if we were broken down in some remote place.

A new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited would be a big purchase for us but no more expensive than buying a used one as they appear to hold their value better than most vehicles.  With a new one we can order it just the way we want it, leaving off all of the expensive upgrades we do not want/need (in-dash GPS, entertainment system, etc.) and adding only those that we do want/need (hardtop and suspension upgrade).  New also means a 6-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a 3-year, 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.  David also told us that we can purchase a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty for about $3,000.  We will obviously have to do some research on that.

We finally got home around 10:30 AM Home.  Linda added a few more items to her grocery list and went to the supermarket.  I started a load of laundry and then moved a lot of my “stuff” from the dining room to my office.  After rearranging old stuff to make room for the new stuff I settled in at my desk to work on computer/web-based tasks.

Gary was the SLAARC webmaster before me and indicated at breakfast that he was still getting e-mails from the SLAARC reflector and asked that I remove him from the e-mail forwarding on our GoDaddy account.  My focus for the last two years has been getting the WordPress website built and launched so I had never looked at this aspect of our web-hosting account.  I had some familiarity with the concept, however, from the e-mail accounts that are part of our personal domain and sub-domain.  It was fairly easy to figure out how to edit the existing account and add new ones.  Once I was done I e-mailed all of the club members who were affected by the changes and asked them to review them.  I will check for replies tomorrow and then send test messages.

I got an e-mail from Linda at BCM with the SD version of the March 2015 digital issue attached.  I logged in to the website and downloaded the HD version.  This issue is two months late, the latest it has been since Gary took over the magazine in October 2012, due in part to yet another change in editors that did not go smoothly.  The magazine has been at least a month late for a year now and is slipping farther out rather than closing the gap.  The sad reality is that the magazine does not have enough subscriber base or enough advertisers to be sustainable and Gary is not able to pay enough to get an editor who can/will put out a quality magazine once a month.  But he has not shut it down yet so I will continue to work on articles.  I don’t get paid for my writing and photography.  It’s a hobby and I like it that way as I am not obligated to do anything and I can make my own ground rules.

John and Diane Rauch arrived at 5 PM to visit and have dinner.  They are our longest/best Michigan friends and we always enjoy visiting with them.  They also have two children who went to school with our kids and now have children of their own.  Diane is an educator and is retiring at the end of the school year after a long career as a high school English teacher.  Naturally, our conversation had to do with retirement, travels, and family.

Linda used our outdoor grill to roast marinated potatoes and cook veggie-fruit kabobs.  John and Diane brought a nice Riesling from Woodcreek that we enjoyed before dinner.  We opened a bottle of our 2009 Egri Merlot to serve with the meal and had Biscotti cookies and vegan chocolate “ice cream” later for dessert.  Linda and Diane got a new online game configured on Linda’s iPad and got several things straightened out on Diane’s iPad.  They headed for home around 10:30 PM as it’s a half hour to get back to their house which is only a few minutes from our previous home.

We stacked the dishes in the sink and left any further cleanup for tomorrow.  We tried to watch the 2nd episode of the 1st season of Sherlock (PBS) but either the DVD was damaged or there is something wrong with our player.  The disc was obviously scratched so that may have been the cause, but I want to rule out a defective player.  We have another one in the basement that I will use to test the disc.  If the player needs to be replaced new ones are relatively cheap and I will get one that can also play Blu-Ray discs.


2015/05/01 (F) May Day

Wow, another month gone.

We got up after 8 AM this morning, were having coffee, and had not yet had breakfast when I got a call from Diane at SteelMaster Building Systems.  They are certainly prompt in their follow up as I just submitted an RFQ last night via their website.  I had a very informative conversation with her that left me favorably impressed with the company and inclined towards their products should we decide to build our barn this way.  By the time I finished with her and we spent time studying SteelMaster’s website we sat down to have breakfast at 9:45 AM.

I started a load of laundry and puttered at my desk until Linda had chores for me to do.  She vacuumed the main floor and tidied up the kitchen in advance of tomorrow’s dinner visit with John and Diane and wanted to take the storm door insert out of the front entrance frame and put in the screen.  We like fresh air and have an abundance of it out here in the country.

We drove to the Sears Outlet at Fountain Walk in Novi to buy a box spring mattress foundation.  They were already discounted and also on sale.  The shipping was 50% of the sale price but we could not get it home in our car so that was our only choice.  It was still a bargain and we will have it next Tuesday.  We have been using the heavy, elaborate foundation that came with our Sleep Comfort mattress years ago, but it is broken and needed to be replaced.

We stopped at Lowe’s on the drive back to look at vinyl floor tiles and bought some Oxygenics shower spray heads and soap.  We took a drive up Latson to see if we could find a metal arch garage that Phil Jarrell had recently spotted.  We think we caught a glimpse of it on the west side of the road as we headed north towards M-59.  Heading east on M-59 we took a detour up Argentine Road to see if we could find Phil’s place but never saw anything we felt confident was his.  We headed east on Clyde Road and took Old US-23 back to M-59 where we stopped at Kroger for a few things before returning home.  To Linda’s surprise and delight, the Kroger has some of the mock dairy vegan products, like Daiya cheeses, that she occasionally uses and cannot get at Meijer’s.

Linda had an agenda for today and next up was putting the umbrella in the outdoor table.  Once that was taken care of we sat outside enjoying blue skies, bright sunshine, an air temperature of 71 degrees, and a slight breeze, none of which required the umbrella, but the point was to get it off the floor in the library where it was stored all winter.  Next we moved the natural gas grill from the garage to the lower rear deck, reassembled it, and connected it to the gas supply (it has a quick connect and shutoff valve).  I then busied myself removing the three shower heads and replacing them with the removable spray heads we bought at Lowe’s.  If I did not do that right away they would still be sitting around in their boxes months from now.

Linda used the grill to make dinner.  She grilled seasoned Brussels sprouts, tofu hot dogs, and bananas sliced in half the long way.  This will be the first summer in a long time that we have had a grill.  Linda is excited to have it as it expands her cooking options and provides a way to not heat up the kitchen in the warmest weather.  I am looking forward new dimensions in our meals.

I had planned on reviewing an article for BCM but ended up involved in two phone calls after dinner.  One was with Pat Lintner from GLAMA and our GLCC chapter and the other was with Lou Petkus from the SKP Photographers BOF.  That left just enough time to watch Season 1, Episode 1 of Sherlock on DVD before turning in for the night.