Here are 45 photos from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club’s participation in the 2015 American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day 24-hour operating event.
Today was a milestone birthday for Linda. We had our usual leisurely early morning with coffee, fresh fruit, and cinnamon raisin toast (from Metropolitan Baking) for breakfast. We talked some more about our long-term ham radio plans and decided we would order one (1) of the new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE dual band mobile radios and a slightly more powerful VHF/UHF base station antenna. Our daughter called around 9 AM to wish her many happy returns of the day. My Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) health insurance shifted her to secondary, with Medicare as primary on June 1st, the first day of the month in which she turned 65.
The temperature was in the low 60’s when we got up at 6:30 AM. The weather forecast for the afternoon had an increasing chance of rain and the possibility of isolated thunderstorms so Linda went for a mid-morning walk. I headed to my office to order the radio and a Diamond X-300NA 2m/70cm antenna. All of the online distributors are selling the radio for the same price. I decided to buy both products plus the RTSystems programming software, from Amateur Electronic Supply (AES). Their UPS Ground shipping is “free” and since they are based in Ohio the shipment will be here in 1-2 days rather than 4-5 days.
I took a break and spread three more bags of brick pieces around the base of the tower and in front of the cable entry box. Back in my office I dealt with some personal e-mail. I sent an e-mail to Scott (KE9FOX) at QTH.com with additional information he needed to transfer the SLAARC website and domain name registration from GoDaddy to QTH.com. I then gathered up a load of laundry and put it in the washer.
By the time that was all done it was getting close to lunch time. Lunch was a big spinach and lettuce salad, baby carrots, a few sourdough pretzel nibblers with roasted red pepper hummus, fresh sweet cherries, and the blueberries/strawberries/raspberries that were left from breakfast.
After lunch I transferred the laundry to the clothes dryer and then got cleaned up. We left around 3 PM for the U.S. Bar and Grill in Wayne and stopped on the way to get a card. Today was John Smallwood’s last day at Wayne RESA and there was a gathering from 3-to-6 PM to see him off. John was the VP of the Wayne County Salaried Staff Federation (WCSSF) and succeeded me as President of the local when I retired. Now it was John’s turn to enjoy a well-earned and well-deserved retirement. This was the second gathering for a colleague in the span of just over a month. Besides wishing John well it was an opportunity to reconnect with other former colleagues.
After a suitable amount of time visiting at John’s party Linda and I drove to the Mongolian Barbecue in Novi for a celebratory birthday dinner. It is a very noisy restaurant but was not as bad on a Tuesday evening as it was the last time we were here on a Saturday. I would have preferred a quieter and more relaxing atmosphere, but the Mongolian Barbecues have a lot of ingredients that we can eat and we find the method of preparation very much to our liking. By the time we had a small bowl of soup, a moderate sized salad, and a good size bowl of ingredients we were full.
I had a brief QSO with Chris (K8VJ) on the drive home. I stopped at the Shell station and topped off the gas tank in my car so we would be ready to go in the morning. We finally got home at 8:30 PM. Linda made some hot tea and we each had a piece of Prickly Pear Cactus Jellied Candy. I restarted the dryer on Touch Up and checked my e-mail. We were tucked in by 10 PM as we needed to be on the road by 7:30 AM tomorrow.
Linda was up at 5:55 AM this morning and left for the bakery at 6:15. Experience has shown that this is usually early enough to get ahead of the morning rush hour traffic inbound to the Detroit metro area from the northwest.
I got up about an hour later, had granola for breakfast, and enjoyed my morning coffee (Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caff blend from Teeko’s) and then made a run to Lowe’s to purchase a couple of copper ground lugs and 5 feet of #10 green ground wire. Back home I tried to use one of the ground lugs to terminate the ground wire from the cable entry box (CEB) to the 36″ ground bar on the wall behind the ham radio desks but it’s shape prevented the wing nut from going onto the stud.
I planned to use the other lug to attach one end of the #10 wire to the ground bar and put a male spade lug on the other end to mate with the connector on the Go Box ground pigtail, but that clearly was not going to work. I dressed the ground wire and (temporary) coax in the ham shack and put the ceiling tile back in place. I then started cleaning up the living room and small bedroom per Linda’s request before she left this morning. Some of our (my) projects have a way of expanding throughout the whole house. I had hoped to also pick up the coax cables spread out in the recreation room, and at least start to straighten up the ham shack/office, putting materials away and moving tools to the garage.
At 10 AM I made a few phone calls. The first was to Rick Short at ISRI USA regarding the 6860 bus driver’s seat and a possible visit tomorrow morning. I got his voice mail (again) and never got a return call (again) so I gave up on getting any assistance from him or from ISRI USA. I called Linda to make sure she did not have any commitments on Wednesday and then called Josh at Coach Supply Direct to set up a visit to his shop for Wednesday late morning. Linda and I plan to finalize our Flexsteel furniture order and give Josh the deposit during that visit. Next I called Scott Adams, AC8IL, at Adams Electronics and ordered a 20 foot length of LMR-400 with an N-male connector on one end and a PL-259 connector on the other end. Scotty and I also chatted briefly about tower bases.
I e-mailed Scott Neader at QST.com regarding the transfer of the SLAARC domain name and website from GoDaddy to QST.com and got a reply back right away with an outline of the steps I needed to follow. First on the list was creating an account for our ham radio club through his billing system. I took care of that and e-mailed him back.
Keith Kish, from Kish Lawn, care showed up around 11 AM to cut the grass. When he was done I headed back to Lowe’s to look for an alternate ground clamp and pulley support for the tower but did not find anything suitable. So as not to have it be a wasted trip I bought three more bags of broken brick pieces to use around the tower base and cable entry box.
I spent some time looking at the Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE on several different ham radio equipment vendor websites. Yaesu is offering a $100 rebate on this 2m/440 mobile radio through tomorrow. All of the distributors are selling it for the same price, $599.95 and the rebate brings it down to $499.95, so if I buy one it will come down to who has them in stock and is offering free shipping.
Linda got home from the bakery around 3 PM, earlier than I expected and nice for her. She went for a walk while I continued to fuss with ham radio and website stuff.
For dinner Linda made a white beans and mustard greens dish. We eat a lot of lettuce, kale, and spinach, both raw and cooked into dishes, but only occasionally have collard greens or mustard greens. Mustard greens have a very strong, bitter flavor and I liked them more than Linda did. I think they are an acquired taste and may be more suitable as an accent ingredient rather than a main one.
After dinner I checked my e-mail and had a reply from Scott at QTH.com. The QTH SLAARC account invoice was ready so I paid it using a personal credit card. I then moved the coax from our Icom IC-7000 to Mike’s Icom IC-2820H and turned it on. Mike was on the South Lyon repeater discussing the Field Day event with Steve (N8AR) and Bruce (W8RA). Paul (N8BHT) was able to join the conversation but I was not successful breaking in so I just listened. It was an indication that my power into the repeater was probably still marginal but a good reminder that ham radio conversations are very public.
When they were done I called for Mike and he came back. We had a good QSO (chat) about the Yaesu FTM-400. Jim (N8KUE) joined in for a while. After Jim dropped off we tested my ability to transmit to, and receive from, both the South Lyon 2m and Novi 70cm repeaters. The added power of the IC-2820H over my IC-7000 (50W vs 35W in the 70cm band) combined with the lower signal loss of the better coax made just enough difference that I could hold the Novi repeater when transmitting although my signal was still on top of a lot of noise coming back out of the repeater.
Linda wanted to watch an episode of Scorpion, followed by NCIS Los Angeles, after which I caught an episode of Two and a Half Men and then turned off the TV. I will have to make a decision about the Yaesu FTM-400 in the morning.
I was up at 7:15 AM and showered. The rain finally cleared out leaving blue skies but with scattered white clouds still blowing across the region on brisk winds out of the NNE. Linda was up by 8 and got the fresh fruit ready for our breakfast cereal while I made the coffee, which we enjoyed in the living room to warmth of the natural gas fireplace. I did not expect to be using the fireplace this time of year but we have the furnace turned off, and are still getting overnight lows in the 50’s, so the fireplace is an effective and charming way to alleviate the slight morning chill in the front of the house.
I finished up the draft of my blog post for yesterday and started on this one while I drank my coffee. By 9:45 AM I was ready to install the #6 green coated ground wire I bought last night. I also decided to switch out the coax from the cable entry box (CEB) to the ham shack. Linda had made a grocery list and left to do the shopping.
Outside I opened the CEB and disconnected the current VHF/UHF coax and let it slide back into the sump pump room (SPR). Inside I removed the suspended ceiling tile in the northeast corner of the ham shack and routed the ground wire over the wall into the SPR. I fed it through an existing cable tie on the bottom of one of the floor joists and through the outer wall into the CEB. I had an unused copper ground lug and used it to connect the ground wire to the lower right mounting stud for the CEB copper backplane.
Back inside I uncoiled a length of 50 ohm coax that I borrowed from Mike (W8XH) and followed the same path as the ground wire. Outside at the CEB I installed an N-male/SO-239(F) adapter onto the PL-259 connector on the end of the coax and attached it to the N-female socket on the lightning arrestor. I was finished working in the CEB, closed the cover, and went back to the basement.
I decided to install the 36″ copper ground bar on the wall behind the ham shack desks just below the 120 VAC outlet strip, which required me to move the desks away from the wall. I attached the end of the ground wire to one of the studs by spreading the strands and placing them under a washer and wing nut. I need to get another copper lug to do this right.
I had a five foot length of braided tinned copper strap and used it to connect the ground terminal on the Go Box to the ground bar. I spread the braid apart to make a small hole near each end, slipped the holes over the studs, and clamped them under washers. This was a temporary arrangement for testing purposes. I need to configure a length of #10 copper wire with a ring terminal on one end and a make spade connector on the other but did want to take the time to do that today.
With everything hooked up I called Mike (W8XH) to see if he was available for a quick radio test. He was still at home and about to leave for the SLAARC Field Day site but gladly delayed his departure long enough to help me test the new configuration. The result was a better send and receive signal on 2m, both direct and through the South Lyon K8VJ repeater, with an S3 received signal strength with the pre-amplifier turned on. The direct signal was also a little better on the 440 MHz band but my received signal from the Novi repeater was still weak and noisy and my transmit signal was still not strong enough carry the repeater.
I had planned to leave around 11AM for the SLAARC Field Day site but wanted some lunch before I left. I had just made a sandwich and was gathering up my equipment when Linda got back from her grocery shopping. By the time I left it was past noon.
I was interested in our ham radio club’s participation in this year’s ARRL Field Day event but neither Linda nor I had had any need or desire to operate radios. I worked all day Friday on the setup of the towers and antennas and helped a bit last night with the emergency teardown of the VHF/GOTA canopy. The 24-hour Field Day operating window closed at 2 PM today but some of the teardown began before that time and I wanted to be there to help.
Some teardown was already underway when I arrived at the SLAARC Field Day site and lunch was also just being served, so everyone took a break to get something to eat except Steve (N8AR). He was sitting in his car making contracts on the six meter (6m) band using the mobile radio in his car. He had connected it to the 6m beam antenna on top of the big tower. The 6m band is known as “the magic band” because it will suddenly “open” and allow very clear communication over great distances and then just as suddenly close. It had apparently opened up this morning from the Mississippi River to the East Coast and south into the Caribbean. One of our members made a contact with someone in the Dominican Republic. While I was watching and listening I heard calls coming in from South Dakota and New Mexico.
This is the fourth year that Marianne Roney, the wife of one of club member Ed Roney (KD8OSM), has taken care of the Field Day meals, which include lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. The meals are $5 per person per meal, which is a bargain for the variety and quantity of things she prepares and provides, except that there is typically very little we can eat. She would make special provisions for us if we asked (she did the first year) but it is extra work for her and we are still left with not being able to eat most of what is available, so we do not purchase meals.
As the operating event was drawing to a close the computer in the 40m tent shut down. The computers are not used to operate the radios, but are connected to them and are used to log the contacts using the N1MM Logger+ program. The program reads key information about frequency and mode from the radio so all the logger has to capture are call sign, operating category, and section. (Club member Larry, K8UT, is a member of the N1MM Logger development team.) Every radio was paired with a laptop computer running this program, and the computers were all linked together via Wi-Fi. As a result, the operators/loggers at each station could see all of the contacts that were being made regardless of which station made the contact and each computer contained a complete list of contacts. The program also flags “dupes” (duplicate contacts). In a contest situation this allows the operator to see that they have already worked that station on a particular band and mode and not spend time working it again on the same band and mode as duplicate contacts do not contribute to the contest score.
Just as it had started 24 hours earlier, at 2 PM it was all over without any fanfare. The radios and computers were shut down and then the AC power generator was shut down. Cords were unplugged, coiled, and staged near the vehicles they would eventually be loaded into. Radios and computers were carefully disconnected, boxed (in some cases) and carried to the vehicles of their respective owners. Tarps were pulled from the tents and folded and then the tents were collapsed and folded. Four of use took down the 40m crossed dipole (inverted V) antenna and then took down the small support tower and disassembled it. A larger crew eventually lowered the bigger tower, which required a winch, until it was resting in a step ladder. This was necessary because of the two beam antennas at the top of the tower. They removed the 6m and then the 20m beam antennas and then lowered the tower to the ground. Part of the crew disassembled and packed the two beam antennas while the rest of them took the tower apart
We were essentially done with the teardown by 4 PM. The teardown is always much faster than the setup and yet it was very relaxed and went very smoothly. In spite of weather challenges all day Saturday and overnight into Sunday, and the disappointment of not having all of our stations on the air due to losing tents to the wind, we had a beautiful last day for the event and teardown. Blue skies, white puffy clouds, cool temperatures, lighter breezes, and low humidity combined with a sufficient number of competent, helping hands, made for easier work for everyone. The group stood around reflecting on the event and everyone was in a good mode, a sure sign that the 2015 ARRL Field Day had been a success for the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.
I was the last one to pull out, right behind Steve who was towing a fully loaded enclosed trailer with a lot of the club’s equipment in it and on it. We chatted via the South Lyon repeater on the drive home, our last radio work for the day. I was home by 5 PM and just relaxed until dinnertime, tired from the sun, fresh air, and work. For dinner Linda made a potato and spinach curry dish that she found in her Indian cookbook. She also steamed some asparagus that she bought at the Howell Farmers Market this morning. We had a quiet evening of reading, writing, and games before turning in at 10 PM.
At 5 AM I was vaguely aware of the sound of rain. The cats were chasing each other through the house so I got up to make sure nothing was amiss, such as another mouse. They were just having a bout of morning friskiness. I added a little food up to their bowls, which drew their attention, and went back to bed.
I finally woke up and got up about 8:15 AM and got dressed in a suitable manner for today’s American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day event. The temperature was in the mid-50s, overcast and raining with blustery winds; not exactly the nice summer day we were all hoping for. Some of the members of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) were gathering for breakfast at the usual place (Senate Coney Island) at the usual time (8 AM) but we obviously did not join them today.
I went to my office to retrieve my Sony DSLR and decided to turn on our Icom IC-7000 ham radio. I had it tuned to the SLAARC (K8VJ) repeater in South Lyon when Keith, KD8YYJ, announced his presence. He was driving from the west side of Howell to Wixom and seeing what repeaters he could hit. We chatted for 10 to 15 minutes and I invited him to stop by the SLAARC Field Day site at the South Lyon Township James F. Atchison Memorial Park.
I worked all day yesterday as part of the SLAARC Field Day setup crew. There was more setup to do starting at 9 AM this morning but the setup mostly involved radios, computers, Wi-Fi networking, and power. I was not in any humor to rush off into the clammy weather conditions, and Linda was up by this point, so we had breakfast. She found some Silk brand ‘yogurt’ at Meijer’s last week so we had that. It was OK. It is a creamy style yogurt, which is not my preference, but it was tasty enough. Bananas, cinnamon raisin bread, and juice rounded out the meal. Linda even made the coffee. I turned on the natural gas fireplace to ward off the chill in the living room where we lingered and enjoyed our morning brew.
I finally left for the Field Day site around 11 AM. The operating event started at 2 PM but the first of four meals was lunch today at noon and I wanted to capture photos of the rest of the setup and the lunch event. It was raining lightly when I arrived and continued to rain until I left at 2:15 PM. In between arrival and departure I took some photos and helped out a little bit, but there were plenty of people there taking care of what needed to be done.
Mike (W8XH) brought his Icom IC-2820H dual band mobile radio and several lengths of 50 ohm coax and we transferred those to my car. He then walked me through the various menus and functions his new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE radio, a dual band (VHF/UHF) 50 Watt rig with digital voice capability and a color touch screen display. A group of SLAARC members recently purchased a Yaesu DR-1X repeater that works with the new Yaesu digital voice and data modes in addition to the traditional FM mode and are testing it as a replacement for the current, and very old, K8VJ repeater.
Mike’s IC-2820H is available for $350 but the FTM-400DR has a $100 rebate through the end of June, bringing the price down to $500. As much as I would like to have a VHF/UHF radio in my car I am looking at one of these radios to install in the cockpit of the bus so we can use it going down the road. The long-term plan is to put the Icom IC-7000 HF/VHF/UHF radio in our towed vehicle and get the Hi-Q 80-6 antenna mounted and operational in addition to the Diamond SG-7900 VHF/UHF antenna that is already on the Honda Element.
For base station use I would like to get an Elecraft K3s or Flex SDR rig. The K3s has become the rig of choice among the members of the SLAARC who are serious about working HF and contesting. Either of those are radios that could be fairly easily moved from the house to the bus when we travel. Antenna options in the bus could include running coax to the Hi-Q on the toad and/or a “flagpole” HF vertical that is mounted using the towbar receiver or a base stand that goes under one of the tires. An antenna switch would allow the use of the VHF/UHF antenna that was already installed for the cockpit radio. All of these “base station” options would obviously be for stationary use only.
[Photo 3 – HC]
I uncoiled the coax cables that Mike lent me to see how long they were. There was a 5 foot piece that was too short for what I needed, and a piece that was approximately 40 feet, which was longer than I needed. The third piece was at least as long as the 40 footer. I “tagged” his coax with small white cable ties so I could identify them later and return them to him.
I did not want to mess around switching coax cables in the rain so I unboxed Mike’s Icom 2820 and got it set up to use with my existing antenna and transmission lines. I spent a little time with the manual and then powered it up. It was already configured from when Mike used it in his ham shack so I did not need to do any setup to use it. I monitored both the South Lyon 2m and Novi 440 MHz repeaters and was able to “hear” both of them, although the South Lyon signal was much better (stronger, quieter, clearer) than the Novi. A couple of SLAARC members were on the South Lyon repeater taking care of Field Day business. I waited a suitable amount of time after they were done and called for Mike (W8XH) and he came back right away.
We repeated the testing we had done last night. The performance with the 2m South Lyon repeater seemed to be much better but the performance on the 70cm Novi repeater was the same or worse with a fading component to the noise. I think we were on the air 15 to 20 minutes. Based on the test results from last night and this afternoon I think I have two separate issues that are probably interacting; the IC-7000 needs to be grounded and the 25 feet of coax from the cable entry box (CEB) to the radio (Go Box) needs to be shorter and much higher quality. I need to install the ground bar on the wall behind the ham radio desks and then purchase a suitable length of ground wire and run it from the CEB to the copper ground bar. I will also need to get a 15 foot length of 50 ohm LMR-400 coax from Scott (AC8IL) with an N-male connector on one end and a PL-259 connector on the other end.
Linda prepared our dinner at 5 PM. She made corn-on-the-cob and “cowgirl steaks,” a new (to us) vegetable protein product she found at Meijer’s. After dinner we drove back to the SLAARC Field Day site to socialize with club members at dinnertime. The weather at our house was still rainy with light-to-moderate winds and occasional stronger gusts. We arrived at the Field Day site to find a flurry of activity and strong, steady winds out of the north with continued sporadic rain.
The small red tent that was originally supposed to be the VHF tent was nowhere to be seen and at least eight people were engaged in trying to control and fold up the large canopy that the club purchased yesterday at Costco to serve as the combined VHF and GOTA tent. We quickly learned that the small tent, which was not being used, had collapsed and the large tent, which was unoccupied but full of radios and computers, had come unstaked and blown over in the wind. Those who were not helping with the equipment canopy were gathered in the food canopy. I pitched in on the equipment canopy rescue and Linda took the camera and joined the folks in the food tent.
After gathering up all of the pieces of the canopy and getting them back in the trailer some of the team added extra ropes and stakes to the windward end of the food canopy and both the 20m and 40m tents. Another part of the team, including me, got Marty’s (KB8JIU) satellite tracking equipment out of the screen room, which had been draped with solid plastic tarps to keep the rain out, and then took the room down, disassembled the legs, folded it up, and stuffed it in the trailer. The red tent was stuffed under a picnic table that was in the screen room so I grabbed that and put it in the trailer. The support pole for one end of our off-center-fed dipoles was bending over to the south more than we liked. Steve, N8AR, tied a rope around the existing rope, which was inline with the antenna and being used to keep it taught. He slid the second rope up the first one as far as he could get it to go and then pulled it out to the northwest (the antenna was oriented east-west with the tension rope running east off of the east end). He pulled it out until the support pole was reasonably vertical and I staked it down.
So the bad news was that some of our Field Day setup had not survived the weather which had not even reached severe conditions. The good news was that our generator was still producing power, all of our towers and antennas were intact and functional, we had our two key stations on the air, and our food canopy was full of people and hot food. Not the Field Day everyone had hoped for, but a great opportunity for teamwork and camaraderie and a learning experience to be sure, even if it was not the kind of lesson we wanted to learn.
We left around 7:30 PM and went to the New Hudson Lowe’s, which was very close to our Field Day site, where I bought 18 feet of AWG 6 stranded copper wire with a green sheath. As soon as the weather improves I plan to run this from the CEB to the ham shack and use it to connect the ground bar in the shack to the copper backplane (ground plane) in the CEB. I will then connect the ground on our Go Box (Icom IC-7000) to the ground bar and see if it helps with my noise issue.
Back at the house Linda wanted to watch an episode of NCIS Los Angeles, which we can now do thanks to our new OTA TV antenna. We then watched an episode of Christina Cooks, Christina Perillo’s vegan cooking show from a decade ago. These are still relevant and useful episodes and we especially enjoy them having seen and met her and her husband Robert on our two Taste of Health Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruises. Linda read and I wrote for a while before lights out and off to sleep.
I was up at 7 AM and ready to leave for breakfast with the other SLAARC members who would be setting up our temporary field site for the ARRL Field Day event. I called the SLAARC repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back and wanted to know if I had the site use permit from the township? No, I did not. Paul, N8BHT, got on the air and said he gave it to Linda so I went back home. Linda was up but had no recollection of receiving it. We looked through the materials she got from Paul but could not find it. I left again for breakfast but after more radio QSO went back a second time to retrieve all of the records and bring them with me to the field day site. (Our best guess is that he gave the permits to the other Linda (NF8C) who is the club secretary.
By this time it was too late to make it to breakfast so I stopped for coffee and fueled my car. Mike (W8XH) also did not go to breakfast with the group in South Lyon so we were the first to arrive at the site. Another 10 guys showed up shortly thereafter. John’s Sanitation then arrived and dropped off our rented porta-potty.
We had 12 people for most of the day and 14 total who were there for at least part of the day. It was a good group and just the right size for the task. We worked steadily from 9 AM until almost 5 PM except for an early afternoon lunch break. By the end of the day we had erected two towers and set up six antennas (20m beam and 6m beam co-located on the taller tower, two off-center fed dipoles from the taller tower, a 40m crossed dipole from the shorter tower, and a 40m 1/4 wave vertical with four elevated counterpoise wires). We also put up three radio tents, a screen room, and the big food tent.
The weather was cloudy and dull and not the best for taking photographs but I took pictures anyway. I had to be deliberate in my shot selections, however, as both of my memory cards were almost full. All of the work that needed to be done today was finished by 4:30 PM and most of us took off. Our Field Day chairman, Paul (KD8SNZ), and a new member, Ron, setup their tents as they would be spending the night and keeping an eye on the site. Steve (N8AR) and Eric (K8ERS) stayed a bit longer to test the antennas using the mobile radio in Steve’s SUV.
Back home I took a nap for an hour before dinner. Linda grilled Portobello mushrooms and corn on the cob and cut up some fresh strawberries and cantaloupe. After dinner I went to my office and transferred all of our recent photographs from the Sony alpha 100 DSLR to my computer and then to our older NAS device which we had with us this past winter. I then started backing up all of the photographs we had taken since December 2014 from the old NAS unit to the new one. This involved a significant number of images, a lot of gigabytes of data, and took a bit of time.
Rather than sit around waiting for file transfers to finish I decided to turn on the Icom IC-7000 ham radio and see if I could figure out why I could not hear the Novi 440 repeater on Wednesday when we tested the antenna and coax installation. I checked the Nifty guide for the Icom IC-7000 and, as Mike had suspected, I did not have the Tone Squelch frequency set correctly for the Novi repeater. I changed the mode on the 440 MHz band from ‘Tone’ to ‘TSQL’ and then caIled Mike (W8XH) on the phone to see if he could help me do a radio check. We spent about an hour going back and forth between the Novi and South Lyon repeaters.
With the correct settings I was able to work both repeaters although I had a lot of background noise (static). I played with the noise reduction (NR) and pre-amplifier functions and both seemed to help. Mike tried various combinations of power and simplex operation and we determined that the basic problem seemed to be a weak signal in both directions. I am still suspicious of the fact that I do not have the Go Box grounded as I vaguely recall from three years ago having noise problems with this setup until I grounded the box, which is tied to the radio ground.
Mike was suspicious of the coax I used to go from the lightning arrestor to the radio but looked up the specifications on my Diamond X-50N antenna and suggested that an antenna with more gain might be in order. We also discussed the location where I placed the antenna on the tower. Although most of the antenna is above the tower it is on the northwest leg. The two repeaters lie to the southeast so the tower may be ‘blocking’ some of the signal although that does not seem likely to me. Of more concern to me is that I mounted the base of the antenna so that two of the three counterpoise (ground plane) rods are even with, and parallel to, two of the three topmost crossbars. If anything is being blocked it is likely those as the crossbars are between the rods and the repeater locations.
Ed (KD8OSM) jumped in briefly to let us know that I also had a ‘hum’ that sounded like the 60 Hz power line frequency only higher pitched. I have a small fan installed in the back of the Go Box so I hummed the same pitch as it was producing into the microphone and both Ed and Mike confirmed that this was the tone they were hearing. The fan is audible, but not that loud, and was two feet behind the microphone so I would be surprised if it was picking up the fan noise. It is possible that the fan is inducing the hum electrically, but I believe it is a DC fan, so that seems unlikely. I do not have an AC line filter installed on the fan, or anywhere in the box, so that may be a next step.
Mike and I wrapped up our QSO and I shut the radio off. I checked my e-mail and saw that the May 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine was available. I logged in to the website and downloaded both the standard and high definition versions of the April and May digital editions. By the time I got to bed it was well after 11PM. I finished up yesterday’s blog post draft and outlined as much of today’s post as I could before I lost the sequence and details of the day’s events.
Brighton Honda called yesterday in the afternoon to get permission to do additional work on my car. Since we plan to keep the car for a while, and then perhaps give it to our son, it was the kind of work that needed to be done regardless of the costs. They called back later to indicate that they would not have it aligned before closing time. That was fine with us as it would have been inconvenient to impossible for us to get there by 6 PM to pick it up. Linda told them to call in the morning when it was ready.
It is amazing how attuned we become to routine sounds and how sensitive we are to non-routine ones, even (especially?) while sleeping. So it was last night that I was suddenly aware that one of our cats was making a repetitive sound that was unusual. I turned on my flashlight, hoping to not disturb Linda, and got out of bed. Both cats were hunched down on the floor on Linda’s side of the bed with Jasper in front. He was the one responsible for the sound and the reason was next to his head and about 3 inches away; a little dark gray mouse.
My first thought when I see one or both of the cats with a mouse next to them rather than in their mouth is that it is dead but that was not the case. This mouse was alive and apparently not injured. I have seen this behavior before in which the mouse basically “plays dead” and the cats leave it alone but watch it carefully. Mice seem to know that cats are triggered by movement and that if they sit very still the cats just sit there and guard them. It was 4:30 AM and I was not fully awake so I do not recall the exact sequence of events, but the mouse somehow ended up in our master bathroom. I do not recall what I did with the cats but I think I went and got a box with high sides and tried to get the mouse to go in it and it made a run for it towards the bathroom. Linda was awake by this point so she got a towel for me. I went in the bathroom and used the towel to block the gap under the door and prevent the little critter from getting back into the bedroom while I tried to get it into the box. I was unsuccessful and it managed to find a place to hide in the hot water baseboard radiator.
Linda got one of the live traps we recently purchased and baited it with the recommended saltine and peanut butter. We set the trap near the radiator, turned out the bathroom light, shut the door, and tried to plug the gap with the towel from the outside, figuring we would deal with the mouse in the morning. Juniper kept pawing at the towel and pulling it back from the door so we put both cats out of the bedroom and shut the door. They found that confusing as they sleep with us and generally have the run of the house. One or both of them pawed at the door meowing to get back in for quite a while. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep we have had and the timing was unfortunate given the hard day of tower work.
Brighton Honda called at 8:01 AM to let us know the car was ready. Hello, I’m awake now! I checked on the mouse and it was now safely tucked away on top of the radiator fins inside the housing where neither the cats nor I could get to it. We decided to leave the live trap in place, sealed the gap under the door, and kept the bedroom door shut to keep the cats out.
I had planned to drive to Isringhausen’s U.S. headquarters in Galesburg, Michigan today but first we had to get my car. As long as we were headed that way we decided to go to the Brighton Panera for coffee, but had toast and juice for breakfast at home before we left.
The 100,000 mile service is extensive and includes changing the spark plugs. Beyond the routine service items the Element needed a new ball joint and tie rod and had a stuck brake caliper pin that had to be repaired. Given the front end work I also had them align it. Butch and I rebuilt the front brakes last year so I was surprised that there was an issue with them, but the car has been towed and driven in some harsh environments since then so that may have been a factor.
The Panera at Grand River Avenue and I-96 is not one of our favorites. More often than not we end up with coffee grounds in our cups and the bathrooms are not maintained as they should be. Today was not the first time we have been to this location that the men’s restroom was out of toilet paper. It is also often freezing cold inside the restaurant and today was no exception. The weather was overcast and a bit gloomy but the outside temperature, while not warm, was much more comfortable than inside. We were also unable to connect to their Wi-Fi signal, which is generally useable. That’s pretty basic stuff to not be able to get right and falls squarely on local management in my opinion.
While we drank our coffee I called Rick Short at ISRI to make sure he would be in but I got his voice mail again. I asked for a call back but never got one so I did not make the trip to Galesburg. Apparently they have better things to do than be of assistance to me. I only want to buy one chair, not a fleet of chairs, so I understand my relative unimportance, but I don’t like it just the same. We decided to spend the day at home completing the work from yesterday, which had made a mess throughout the house.
One of the things we needed to do was register our cellular booster system. Given that it is a five band device I was not clear on whether we had to register it only with Verizon or with all of the carriers. I called the company we bought it from, Cellular Solutions, and talked to Judy who said we only had to register it with the carriers we personally use. For us that is Verizon Wireless. Registration was via the Verizon Website and was simple enough. It did, however, require me to log in to our My Verizon account and navigate through a couple of screens to a page where we could enter the information from the label on the box. The serial number was on two peel off tags, so one of those went on the booster and the other one went in the manual.
With the unit registered I turned the power switch on and watched the ‘Alert’ lights all go solid yellow. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post solid yellow lights are not described anywhere in the manual. I called Cellular Solutions back and said I had a technical support question. The woman on the phone took my name and number and said someone would call me back.
Since I was apparently taking care of phone chores I decided to call Universal Towers and inquire about their B-30 base. The woman who answered the phone never gave her name but was able to answer some questions. She indicated that their base might or might not be compatible with older Heights Tower products, depending on exactly which product I had, and that I would have to talk to the owner, Bill, who wasn’t there at the moment. She did know that the outside-to-outside measurement of the legs on a B-30 base was 30 inches and the base cost $290. She also told me that the larger bases, like the B-30, consisted only of the three rods with the mounting yokes on top; the three rods were not otherwise connected together in any way. She also confirmed that the ‘U’ shaped yokes at the top of the base rods were welded on and not adjustable. The normal installation procedure involved connecting them to the bottom of the legs of the first section of the tower, setting them in the hole as the concrete is poured, and adjusting them by moving them around until the legs of the tower were plumb. That sounded to me like a process where a lot could go wrong and not be repairable.
I pulled a 75 ohm coax out of the ceiling of the basement yesterday. We laid it out in the basement to see how long it was and it looked to be at least 60 feet. Linda suggested we test it before running it through the basement ceiling which was a very sensible idea. I unplugged the power adapter for the TV amplifier power inserter, detached the coax that feeds the TV in the bedroom, attached the downstairs cable, and connected the other end to the basement TV set. Linda set up the TV for Antenna input, did an All Channels scan, and got the same stations we got yesterday, minus a couple.
In spite of what appeared to be acceptable performance I decided I wanted a new coax cable and Linda wanted to return three of the ropes I bought at Lowe’s but never used. She found the receipt and we went to Lowe’s. They had a good quality RG-6 quad-shield coax (75 ohm) in various lengths including 50 feet, which is what I needed. At the register I decided to buy two more 40 pound bags of solar salt. I am not an impulse shopper as a rule but their supply of Morton Solar Salt was very low and stocking up seemed like a good idea.
We stopped at Teeko’s to order coffee. Mary took our order and rang it up; one pound each of the three different half-caff blends that have become our standard. We took note of the fact that the Bennigan’s restaurant building on the northwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Latson Road was gone and a sign said a Panera would be coming soon to that location. We didn’t say anything to Mary, but that cannot be good news for Teeko’s. We will continue to buy our custom roasted beans at Teeko’s as long as they are open but it is going to be difficult for them to compete with a $2.25 cup of bottomless coffee, free Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a bakery, drive through service, and ample parking with great access to I-96.
When we got home I checked the live trap in our master bathroom and we had captured the mouse. We took the trap to the northeast corner of the property, towards our neighbor’s pond, and set it free. It did not want to leave the trap and I had to encourage it to go. Once it hit the ground, however, it scampered away looking for a place to hide.
We then worked on running the new coax from the basement TV to the sump pump room above the suspended ceiling. I disconnected the power inserter for the amplifier and disconnected the old coax we had tested earlier. I notched a ceiling panel at the corner of a boxed support column behind the basement TV to allow the ceiling tile to go back into place around the coax. We then installed one of the wire channels to contain and hide the coax from the ceiling down to the TV set and connected it to the back of the set.
In the sump pump room I attached the coax from the cable entry box (CEB) to the input of the new 1-to-2 signal splitter. I attached the coax for the bedroom TV to one output from the splitter and the coax we just ran to the other output. I mounted the splitter on the wall of the sump pump room and secured the cable coming from the CEB to the ceiling. I then plugged the power supply for the power inserter back in to an AC outlet. Linda scanned for channels and verified that everything was working correctly. We then installed the other wire channel alongside the trim on the bedroom doorwall to route and hide the cable coming up from the basement.
I continued to fuss with the cell phone booster gain settings. We had not gotten the promised return phone call from Cellular Solutions Technical Support so I called them. I got Judy again and explained what I was seeing with the solid yellow lights. She checked with her tech support people and they said the manufacturer (SureCall) told them the solid yellow was the same as the blinking yellow; that the booster was adjusting the gain and it was “normal.” The manual says that normal is when the light is off, so I’m not sure I buy this explanation, but based on that I left the booster turned on.
With all of that done we started cleaning up the tools and materials we had scattered over two floors of the house. I decided that was also a good time to start a load of laundry, although it was actually rather late in day for that. I did three loads by the time I was done and it was sometime after 10:30 PM before the last load was dry. I needed to be up at 7 AM to be at breakfast in South Lyon at 8 AM as our SLAARC group would start setting up for the ARRL Field Day event at 9 AM.
Today was the day to finally climb the tower to remove an old TV antenna, reposition an amateur radio antenna, and install two new antennas, one for OTA TV and the other for a cellular booster system. But there were other things to do before I was ready to climb.
I was up at 7 AM and on my way to Lowe’s in Howell by 7:20 AM in search of a solution to the problem of how to mount the outdoor cellular booster antenna. I ended up buying two 2-1/2 inch U-bolts. Although the tower legs are 1-5/8″ in diameter the angle bracket attached to the bottom of the antenna is 2-1/4 inches wide. Thus I needed the 2-1/2 inch spacing for the threaded ends of the U-bolt to clear the bracket.
Back at the house Linda was up and had the coffee made. We had a quick breakfast of homemade granola. I removed the tire pressure sensors and GPS from my car and headed to Brighton Honda to drop it off for its 100,000 mile service appointment. Linda arrived at the dealership about 10 minutes later. We then headed to Adams Electronics in Wixom. While Adams Electronics primarily serves the public and business communications markets owner Scott Adams, AC8IL, is a long-time ham and a member of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club and Novi Amateur Radio Club. Well known in the local amateur radio community, Scotty is the local go-to guy for certain kinds of equipment. I ordered two coaxial cables from him the other day and we were here to pick them up.
We left to return home at 10 AM so I called Mike (W8XH) to let him know we were running a little behind. So was he, but thought he could be at our house by 11 AM. That gave me time to drill a hole in each of the two U-bolt retaining plates and cut a short piece of 1″ square aluminum tube to use as a spacer. That was the last fabricating I needed to do and we got busy staging all of the materials we were going to need to get the tower work done efficiently.
Linda set out a sheet near the tower but not in the “drop zone.” We spread out materials and tools on the sheet and used it to make sure we could find things quickly and keep them from getting lost in the grass. I also brought all of my tool boxes to the tower area. With everything assembled it was time to climb. I set up our 7 foot step ladder on the east end of our rear deck to provide access to the roof near the tower. Mike helped me into his climbing harness and got it adjusted. Once on the roof I took the harness off temporarily as my first task was to remove the 2m/70cm base station antenna. After clipping the plastic cable ties I lowered it down to Mike while Linda took photographs. (She helped with many aspects of the work today but was the only photographer.)
I put the harness back on and Mike tossed me one of the 100 foot ropes which would eventually be used to haul materials and tools up and down the tower. I secured the haul rope to one of the unused seat clip rings and Mike instructed me on how to secure the harness while climbing. I put the waist strap around the tower and clipped it in. I then put one of the two fall cables, attached to the ring at my upper back, around one of the legs above one of the cross bars above my head and clipped it into the ring at my chest. The tower is adjacent to the east end of the house and is attached to it by two pipe assemblies just below the soffit (the house has hip roofs) so it was easy to step onto it. After that things got tougher.
The horizontal trussing on the tower is two feet apart vertically. That spacing was right at the limit of how high I could lift my right foot and required me to pull myself up part way until I could push with my right leg. Once up on the next rung I attached the other fall cable, moved the first one higher, and slide the waist strap up to position myself for the next step. I repeated this pattern with the two fall cables and the waist strap as I worked my way slowly up the tower, clipping old plastic cable (zip) ties as I went. The tower definitely had some give but I was quickly acclimated to the amount of sway and found it to be acceptable so we decided not to guy the tower with the other three ropes, which would have slowed my ascent even more.
When I finally reached the top of the tower I untied the haul rope, looped it over one of the southeast facing horizontal bars and hauled it up allowing the free end to lower down to the ground. Mike then tied the rope to the standoff pulley I had fabricated and hauled it up to me. I already had cable ties, a diagonal cutter, and a pair of slip pliers with me. I set the threaded rod on the northeast and southeast cross bars, inside and against the two legs that were parallel to the side of the house, and secured it with cable ties. This was a three-handed job that I had to do with two hands but I got it done while only dropping one cable tie. With the pulley rod secured I undid the rope and then undid the knot tying the two loose ends together. I fed one end through the pulley and retied it to the other end. We now had a way to haul materials and tools (in a bucket) up to me at any needed height while keeping it 18 inches away from the tower.
The next task at the top of the tower was to remove the old TV antenna, mast, and rotor. When I finally had a close up view of these old components it became apparent that my best course of action was to try and unclamp the base of the mast from the rotator, lift it off of the rotator, and toss it to the ground.
The mast clamp parts were all very rusty so Linda got the WD-40 and Mike sent it up in the bucket. I sprayed the nuts on the mast mounts and also the rotator leg clamps. I tried undoing the mast clamps with a slip pliers but it was no good, so Mike sent up three open/closed end wrenches. One of them was the right size and to my surprise the rusted nuts broke loose and started backing off. One of them did not want to come off but unscrewed the entire bolt instead. Fine. The bolt had a screwdriver slot in the top and was threaded into the rotor housing and I did not care how it came out as long as it did. I got the mast clamps loose enough that I could work the bottom of the mast free from the top of the rotor. There was a lot of rust there too. After clipping some coax cables, rotor control wires, and plastic cable clamps I repositioned myself up one rung on the tower so I could get enough leverage to the lift the mast clear of the rotator collar and control it well enough to make sure the antenna fell to the ENE away from the house and my helpers down below. And that is exactly what happened.
The first antenna to get mounted was the outdoor antenna for the cellular booster system. Mike sent the antenna up in the bucket along with the various pieces I needed to secure it to the short top/center mast support tube so the entire antenna, which is omnidirectional, was above all parts of the tower. What would have been an awkward assembly on the ground took on added difficulty 40 feet in the air but I got it secured with good access to the N-female connector on the bottom.
We decided to run the coax on the outside of one of the tower legs rather than down the inside of the tower. Mike tied the LMR-400 coax to the rope and hauled it up to me. In addition to the haul rope Mike tied a second control line to the bucket to keep it from swinging all over the place. I connected the coax to the antenna feed point and then wrapped the connection with coax seal tape. I then routed the coax down the east leg of the tower and zip tied it to take the weight off of the antenna connection.
Next up was the 2m/70cm amateur radio base station antenna, often referred to as a 2m/440 dual band antenna. (In this nomenclature the “2m” refers to a range of wavelengths for one of the VHF ham bands and the “440” refers to a range of frequencies for one of the UHF ham radio bands, so it is a mixed units designation.). The antenna is about five feet long with three short counterpoise (ground plane) rods near the base. It had an LMR-400 style cable connected to it but with PL-259 male connectors on each end. The antenna feed point is an N-female connector so I had an adapter installed to make everything compatible. Mike removed the coax and the adapter, zip tied the antenna to the haul cable at three points, put the 10mm wrench in the bucket, and hauled it up to me.
The ham radio antenna was also tricky to get mounted. I installed it at the top of the northwest leg so that most of the antenna was above the tower and two of the three short counterpoise were parallel to the west (N-S) and northeast (NW-SE) crossbars. The antenna by itself is light in weight but it is five feet long and mounts at the bottom nine inches, so most if it was above me with a tendency to wave around in mid-air. With the coax connected, however, it weighed quite a bit more. I temporarily zip tied the coax to take the weight. I then had to hold the antenna with its base against the northwest post at my head level, push a U-bolt through the mounting bracket and past the tower leg, slip the mating clamp over the two ends of the U-bolt, and then get a small lock washer and nut on each threaded bolt end. I then had to repeat this for the second U-bolt. Again, a three-handed job that I had to do with only two hands.
The bonus to this work at the top of the tower was a commanding view of the surrounding countryside, which was mostly trees in every direction. I even saw two towers far to the north and was kept company by a soaring vulture just to the NNE. I was also able to determine that the tops of the large white pine trees behind the east end of our house are about 10 feet higher than the top of our tower, putting their overall height at about 55 feet as their bases are lower than the base of the tower. We plan to put the 70 foot tower at a spot that is surrounded by these trees on three sides (W, S, and E) so the top of the tower, and any antennas mounted there, will be well above the tree tops. That is especially important as we plan to eventually put an HF beam antenna up there on a mast attached to a rotator and it will need to be able to rotate freely for 360 degrees.
The final antenna was the hardest. The Antennas Direct DB8e OTA UHF/digital TV antenna was very large and heavy by comparison to the other two. In this case ‘heavy’ meant a few pounds. It is actually two UHF antennas mounted at the end of a dual support arm structure. The support arm mounts to a vertical pole, such as a tower leg, at its midpoint and there is a combiner box located there as part of the mount. A short length of RG-59 (75 ohm) coax connects each antenna to the combiner box and the main coax connects there as well.
RG-59 is a different kind of coaxial cable from the LMR-400 used for the first two antennas. LMR-400 has a 50 ohm characteristic impedance and is used for receiving and transmitting RF energy with considerable power if needed. RG-59 is much smaller in diameter, more flexible, has a 75 ohm characteristic impedance, and uses F-connectors that are the standard for OTA TV, video, and satellite cables. But I have gotten ahead of myself. I had to come down a few feet on the tower to install the TV antenna but before doing that I had to start securing the transmission lines to the tower legs with cable ties.
Mike rigged up the haul rope in a ‘Y’ to lift the antenna from its center of gravity while actually attaching the rope to its ends. That allowed the haul rope to both support the weight of the antenna and keep it oriented correctly while I positioned and clamped it to the southwest tower leg with the dual support arms pointing in an east-west direction. Because of where I had the pulley mounted, and the length of the ‘Y’ in the support rope, I had to mount the antenna a few feet lower on the tower. Fortunately the slightly lower height was not going to affect its performance.
Like the ham radio antenna, the OTA TV antenna mounted to the tower leg at two points. The upper assembly was a U-bolt with a retaining bracket on the back side. The lower assembly was a pair of straight bolts that went through the combiner box past the tower leg and had a retaining bracket on the back side. The antenna came with wing nuts instead of washers and regular nuts, which helped a little, but I really needed three hands to get the antenna into position and tighten the mounting brackets.
Once I had the antenna sufficiently attached to the tower I was able to position the support arm close to the southeast facing side of the tower. I then pointed the antenna on the east end of the arm ESE towards the Detroit area TV towers and tightened the two nuts on the mounting studs. (The horizontal dual support arms are about 3 feet long so I was able to reach through the tower to get to the mounting studs and nuts.) I left the antenna on the west end of the support beam loose and turned it out of my way so I could complete other tasks.
Mike attached the end of the main RG-59 coax to the haul rope, put the amplifier and a 2-foot length of RG-59 coax in the bucket along with lots of zip ties, and pulled them up to me. The amplifier is about 3″ wide by 2″ high and 1.5″ thick including the concave plastic backplate. The backplate accepts two zip ties for mounting to a pole. I positioned the amplifier about 8 inches below the antenna combiner box and cinched up the two zip ties. I then connected the short coax to the combiner box output and put the combiner back it its protective, weather-gasketed plastic box. I connected the other end of the short coax to the amplifier input and wrapped the connection with coax seal weatherproofing tape.
I attached the main RG-59 coax to the output of the amplifier, which is also the DC power input, and wrapped the connection in coax weather seal tape. I then dressed the cable and secured it to the tower leg. I aimed the antenna on the west end of the support arm WNW towards the East Lansing TV towers and tightened the nuts to lock it in position.
At this point I was finally done working on the antennas but had three coaxial transmission line running down the outside of the tower, one by each leg. As I descended the tower, reversing the protocol I used going up, I secured all three cables every few feet. I finally had my feet back on the roof at 2:20 PM, almost exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes from when I started climbing. Projects usually take me twice as long as I think they will but this was about half as long as I thought it would take, so we were all pleased that the work had gone smoothly and relatively quickly. My main objective was to get the old TV antenna down and the three antennas up but my secondary objective was to only climb and descend the tower once. Mission accomplished, at least for now.
By now we were all hungry and thirsty so Linda made chickpea salad sandwiches and set out fresh sweet peppers, sliced apples, baby carrots, and cold water. After a suitable lunch break we returned to the next phase of the work which was routing the coax cables into the cable entry box (CEB) and making the connections.
We started with the RG-59 coax from the OTA TV antenna. I coiled the extra cable and hung it on the tower (with zip ties, of course), routed it into the CEB and connected it to the power inserter / lightning arrestor. We purchased this cable from a Radio Shack store in Florida two winters ago to hook up our bus to the RV resort cable TV system. Besides the coax it had a separate ground wire. The amplifier and the power inserter both had connections for a separate ground wire so I connected it on both ends.
We had already routed a 75 ohm video cable from our bedroom TV to the sump pump room in the basement. I selected a suitable length of this same type of cable from our existing inventory, connected it to the other side of the power inserter, and routed it through the back of the CEB into the sump pump room where Linda guided it. Conveniently, I had a double-ended F-female barrel connector designed to connect together two cables with F-male connectors. I plugged in the AC power adapter for the power inserter, which was already in the sump pump room, and we went upstairs to see if we were receiving any TV stations.
We set the ‘Source’ on the TV to ‘Antenna’ and did an ‘Auto Scan’ for digital channels only. There are very few analog TV signals still in use and the ones that are reside in the old VHF TV spectrum which our new antenna cannot even receive. The scan found 58 signals, which obviously included the sub-channels. Besides the main Detroit stations and the East Lansing PBS station we got other Lansing area stations and even a station from Flint. The nice thing about digital TV is that if you get a picture at all it is very good.
There is a large TV tower at I-96 and US-127 on the southeast corner of Lansing so we were probably picking it up. There are several TV towers SSW of Lansing about 35 miles that serve Battle Creek and may serve Lansing and Kalamazoo. They are 50+ miles from us and I did not have the west antenna pointed in exactly that direction but it may have been close enough to pick them up. Flint is at least 35 miles away straight north off the sides of both antennas so theoretically we should not have received any stations from that direction. We will have to check the AntennaPoint.com website and confirm by station identifier what stations we are actually receiving.
Feeling good about our success so far we routed the coax for the cellular booster across one of the support arms that brace the tower to the house just under the east soffit. We dropped it down next to the wall and brought it into the bottom of the CEB, replacing the hole plug with a rubber grommet. Routing it this way kept it out of the way of future foot traffic, or lawn and garden work, in the space around/between the tower and the CEB. I connected the cable to the lightning arrestor and coaxed it unto position inside the CEB. LMR-400 is stiff and bending it sharply will damage it.
I connected one end of the 15-foot LMR-400 cable to the other side of the antenna arrestor and routed it into the sump pump room where Linda guided it into position. I secured it to the ceiling, brought it down the opposite wall, put a large 180 degree bend in it, and attached it to the connector on the bottom of the cellular booster. I turned it on and watched the lights blink for a while. All three of us then started checking signal strength throughout both floors of the house. All five of the ‘Alert’ lights went from blinking yellow, which means the unit is adjusting the gain on that band, to solid yellow, which is not described in the manual. Since we had not yet registered the device with Verizon Wireless I turned off the booster.
Back out at the CEB I removed one of the hole plugs directly below the input of the Morgan VHF lightning arrestor. We routed the coax for the 2m/440 ham antenna across the tower brace, down the wall, and around through the bottom of the box where I attached it to the lightning arrestor input. I had an old piece of 50 ohm coax with an N-male connector on one end and a PL-259 (male) connector on the other end. I attached the N-connector to the output of the VHF lightning arrestor and fed the other end through one of the 2″ conduits into the sump pump room where Linda routed it out into the ham shack.
We set our “Go Box” on the desk, plugged the PL-259 into the SO-239 socket on the back of the case, plugged it in to AC power, turned on the power supply, and turned on the radio. The radio, an Icom IC-7000, came up tuned to the South Lyon (K8VJ) repeater. I transmitted and successfully triggered the repeater, which is currently at a secondary site about 20 miles from our tower. Mike went out to his car and used his mobile radio to verify that we could transmit to and receive from the repeater. I had a lot of background static (white noise) so Mike switched modes and transmitted directly to our antenna. The signal was full scale and full quieting. I have a ground lug in the Go Box but did not have it connected. I vaguely recalled that I had to ground the box at the previous house to eliminate a noise issue. (The radio and power supply are grounded to the box.)
I switched the radio to UHF and it was set for the Novi repeater. I listened but did not hear anyone transmitting so I transmitted, giving my call sign and a brief message, and then listened. I did not get a reply even though Mike was also monitoring the Novi repeater so I switched back to the South Lyon repeater. Mike indicated that I had, indeed, triggered the repeater and that a couple of other hams acknowledged hearing me in addition to him. It thus appeared that I did not have something set up correctly on the receive side of the radio for the Novi repeater but the system (radio, cables, arrestor, antenna) was clearly working.
That was enough work for one day so we gathered up all of the tools and unused materials and put them away. We offered to take Mike to dinner as a ‘Thank You’ for his assistance. It was more than helpful to have someone on the ground who was familiar with tower operations. We considered several dining options but opted for Olga’s in Brighton. Linda and I had small salads, sans the Feta cheese, veggie Olga’s that were excellent, and curly fries without Tabasco sauce for the ketchup. Warning: As inconceivable as it may sound, Olga’s does not have any kind of hot sauce in its restaurants. Mike had a dish with chicken in that he said was very good.
Mike headed home from the restaurant as did we. We were tired but very pleased with what we had accomplished in the course of the day. We celebrated our accomplishments by watching several programs on Detroit PBS, something we have not been able to do for more than two years.
As I wrote in yesterday’s post we did not turn off the lights last night until almost 1 AM because we were keeping a close eye on the weather moving across the lower portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Although strong to severe storms were still forecast from 1 AM to 5 AM they either did materialize at our exact location or we slept through them. We had the house closed up and the air-conditioning on, so that cut down the sound level of outside noises.
A cold front had pushed through by sun up and we woke to a cool morning with blue skies and noticeably lower humidity. We did not have any trees, or even big limbs, come down and there was no damage to our brand new roof. The forecast yesterday was threatening enough, however, that in the morning we took the potted plants, and as much of our outside lawn furniture as we could find room for, inside including our sun umbrella and trash cans. I planned to be gone most of the day, and Linda was leaving mid-afternoon to go to dinner and a movie with Diane Rauch, so our first chore was to put all the lawn furniture, plants, and other outdoor stuff back outdoors.
This week is mostly being devoted to ham radio with the ARRL Field Day as the crowning event this weekend. My specific focus for most of the week, however, has been the “communications tower” adjacent to the east wall of our house. As described in previous posts we installed a cable entry box (CEB), mounted the cellular booster in the basement, mounted the inside cellular antenna, and ran coax cables. The antennas will (hopefully) be mounted on the existing 40 foot tower tomorrow, cabled into the CEB, and cables run from there to devices inside the house. With any luck by the end of the day tomorrow we will have decent cellular service inside the whole house, the ability to watch OTA TV programs on two different TV sets, and finally be able to connect one of our radios in the ham shack to an antenna. Today, however, was planned to mostly address other things.
I had an appointment with our dentist at 10:20 this morning and left at 9 AM. I planned to stop at Chuck’s bus garage and check that the key he lent me worked, but I needed gas for my car. I did not have time for both and did not really have a choice; I would have to check the key some other time. I ordered two cables yesterday from Scott (AC8IL) at Adams Electronics. Later in the evening I was unsure if I had specified the connectors correctly so I called and left a message. I called again this morning to make sure the message got through. It did, and my original connector specifications were correct.
I arrived at the dentist’s office about 10 minutes before my appointment time. I called Rick Short at Isringhausen USA to make sure he was going to be in before I drove two hours to Galesburg, Michigan after my dentist appointment. I got his voice mail a left a message. “ISRI” makes very high tech air suspension driver’s seats that are used as original equipment in motorcoaches, semi-tractors, heavy equipment, and locomotives. I would really like one for our bus, but it is not proving easy to get.
Dr. Steve and his assistant, Leslie, made molds of my upper and lower teeth and a bite impression. The molds will be used to make a mouth guard that I can wear while I sleep. Dr. Steve has a strong suspicion that I am clenching my teeth and the mouth guard will reduce or eliminate the irritation it causes. I will have to ask if I can wear it during the day too as I am occasionally aware of clenching my teeth while I awake.
I had not heard back from Rick by the end of my appointment so I called the main number at ISRI and talked to the receptionist. It turned out that Rick was not in today and she transferred me to Jeff Woodworth. Jeff was willing to meet with me but thought it would be a better use of my time to wait until Rick was available. My next opportunity to drive to Galesburg will be Thursday and I will likely go as the ISRI seat is holding up our ordering of Flexsteel seats through Coach Supply Direct.
I stopped for coffee and then re-routed for Chuck’s bus garage in Novi. The key to the garage worked perfectly. I called Linda to let her know about the change in plans and headed for home. There is too much to do at the moment to waste much time so I installed the #4 AWG bare copper ground wire I bought yesterday at Lowe’s. I mounted an offset copper wire lug using the center support stud for the copper back plane in the CEB. I replaced one of the plastic hole plugs with a rubber plug with a small hole in the center. The hole I chose in the bottom of the CEB allowed the ground wire to come straight up into the lug.
Outside the CEB I routed the ground wire around to the existing ground rod and secured it using the new clamp I bought yesterday. There was an old ground wire connected from a clamp on the tower to the ground rod. I removed that wire along with some coax and control wires that I had clipped when we removed the old satellite dish. I then attached the new ground wire to the clamp on the tower. While we were at it Linda trimmed back a small bush that was growing between the tower legs and I pulled leaves, grass and other stuff out from around the Day Lilies that we transplanted last year around the tower base.
With the CEB grounded we looked at how we might get a video cable up to the TV/monitor in our bedroom. The wall where the TV is mounted has a hot water baseboard radiator that comes almost to the trim on the door wall. That end of the radiator has a copper pipe that goes through the floor into the basement and it was easy to locate the pipe in the basement. I determined that there was enough space behind the pipe to safely drill a hole but I had to drill it from the top side at an angle. A 5/8″ wood boring drill bit created a hole just big enough for the molded F-connector on the end of the cable to pass through.
We fed the video coax cable above the suspended ceiling in the ham shack area to the location of the hole. I then fed the cable up from the basement as Linda pulled it up into the bedroom. We adjusted the amount of cable in the bedroom to allow the wall mounted TV set to move through its entire range of motion. The other end of the cable was then routed into the sump pump room.
By the time we finished pulling this cable it was 3:30 PM and time for Linda to leave to pick up Diane. They were headed to Royal Oak for dinner and a movie as the movie they wanted to see was only showing at the Royal Oak Main Theater.
While I was out during the morning Lynch Carpet had called to let us know our Armstrong vinyl tile was available for pickup so after Linda left I closed up the house and went to get it. The 12 boxes of tiles, container of vinyl adhesive, and container of vinyl grout were all neatly arranged on a small pallet and tightly wrapped in shipping plastic. Rather than break this down and load each thing individually they used a fork lift to set the pallet in the back of my Honda Element. The rear suspension settled at least two inches when they transferred the full weight of the pallet to the floor of my car.
When I got back to the house I backed the car up to the garage. I cut the shipping plastic loose and unloaded the tubs and boxes of tiles. I put the pallet on the garage floor and then neatly stacked the boxes of tiles on it to keep them off the floor. Each box contained 14 tiles measuring 16″ by 16″ for a total area of 24.89 square feet. The Armstrong Alterna tiles are a “luxury vinyl” product, and are about 1/8″ thick. Even so, the boxes were heavier than I expected so I decided to weigh one. It tipped the scale at just under 42 pounds. That meant the entire pallet weighed close to 500 pounds, and, ignoring the weight of the cardboard box, that is about 3 pounds per tile.
When I drew out the design I determined that I would need 158 tiles, some of which would be partial. Figuring conservatively at 150 full tiles equivalent, and ignoring the weight of the underlayment, adhesive, and grout, the floor tiles will weigh about 450 pounds. I have no idea what the carpet and ceramic tile that I have removed weighed but the tiles were heavy. I also have no idea what the furniture weighed that we have removed but also have no idea what the new furniture will weigh. The intent was that the new floor and furniture would weigh less than old stuff but we will see.
I traded phone calls with my dad and we finally got to talk for a half hour starting at 4:30 PM. He turned 90 this past Sunday. Mike Fearer from Bid-Rite Concrete called at 6 PM and arrived about 10 minutes later to discuss the foundation for our 70 foot ham radio tower. I had printed off a page from the Universal Tower website showing their tower base. I also downloaded and printed their base and tower installation instructions. I had a set of these to give to Mike so he would have some idea of what the project is about. We looked at the proposed location for the tower and access for his dump cart. We also talked about the base, a rebar cage, a form around the top of the hole to allow the concrete to be slightly above ground, and a jig to make sure the base is level and the tower is plumb.
He said he was interested in the job and would work with me and Phil Jarrell (the excavator) to get it done. Rather than bid the job he would just do it for time and materials. He also said the current price of concrete was about $100 per cubic yard. We will need about six (6) cubic yards to fill the required 5′ x 5′ x 6′ (deep) hole. He thought he might be available the middle of next week but I don’t think I could have everything pulled together that quickly.
After Mike left I went to Lowe’s and picked up five 40 pound bags of topsoil, a 1-in/2-out signal splitter (rated for 5 MHz to 2.4 GHz), and a plastic snap cover channel for hiding the video cable we ran up into the bedroom from the basement for the TV set. I then went to the Meijer’s supermarket just across Grand River Avenue for soy creamer but they did not have what I was looking for. As long as I was there I had a salad for dinner at the in-store Subway.
While I was sitting there I called Mike Sharpe (W8XH) to confirm that he was available tomorrow to help with the antenna installations on our 40 foot tower. I mentioned that the only thing I lacked was a standoff with a pulley at the end of it for hoisting stuff up to me. He suggested that something like that was essential and I agreed, so I headed back to Lowe’s to see what I could figure out. What I ended up with was a three foot long 7/16-14 threaded rod, a pulley that had a closed eyelet on top (and was big enough for the 3/8ths rope I bought), some 7/16ths washers, and some 7/16-14 nuts.
When I got back to the house I unloaded the topsoil near the part of the east yard that needs to be filled in, took the other stuff inside, and then assembled the threaded rod pulley system. I secured the pulley on one end of the rod using two of the nuts, one on either side of the eyelet. I threaded a nut onto the other end, put on two washers, two nuts, two more washers, and another nut. I ran the first two nuts, with two washers between them, part way down the rod. I left the second pair of nuts, with washers between them, near the end of the rod.
I took the assembly out to the tower and adjusted the position and spacing of the two pairs of nuts and washers so they would bracket two of the horizontal tower members. In use I will secure the rod to the tower at each pair of nuts/washers using plastic cable ties. This arrangement will put the pulley at least 18″ from the tower which should be far enough out that we can hoist the DB8e OTA TV antenna to the top of the tower without it banging into the tower or hanging up on something. This antenna is the largest thing we need to hoist up. The old TV antenna is considerably larger and heavier, but it is coming down via gravity.
There was a message on our answering machine from Linda’s sister, Sr. Marilyn, who lives in St. Louis. She was listening to the news earlier today about the storms that went through our part of Michigan and wanted to make sure we were all OK. By the time we finished talking it was dark and I was done working for the day. Linda called shortly thereafter to let me know she was on her way home and I mentioned the call with Marilyn.
I finally opened the box with the vertical omnidirectional outside antenna for the cellular booster system and discovered that I should have opened it sooner. The mounting bracket was designed to be mounted to a vertical surface, such as the side of a house, not a tube, such as a tower leg. I did not want to postpone tomorrow’s tower work so I will have to get up early and figure out a way to adapt the existing bracket so I can mount the antenna to the top of the tower.
My initial thought was that an aluminum U-channel of the correct size might solve the problem very nicely. I could drill two holes in the bottom of the “U” to match the two holes in the bracket. I could then drill three pairs of holes through the sides of the channel. The antenna would be bolted to the bottom of the channel. With the open part of the channel held against a vertical tube I could secure it with three long plastic cable (zip) ties. Conceptually it should work and be easy to fabricate, but will take time which I won’t have a lot of in the morning. We have to get the two coax cables from Scotty (AC8IL), drop off my car at Brighton Honda for its 100,000 mile service, and be back in time to have the mount fabricated and all of the antennas and tools ready to go by 10:30 AM when Mike shows up.
Linda got home at 9:45 PM, earlier than she thought she would when she left. She and Diane ate at Luigi’s and had a very nice meal. They also enjoyed the movie. We had a big day on tap for tomorrow and we asleep by 10:30 PM.
We turned the air-conditioning off last night and enjoyed the fresh air, pleasant temperature, and lower humidity. The overnight low was 58 which made for good sleeping. We awoke to blue skies and what we thought would be a picture perfect Michigan summer day until Linda checked the morning news (iPad). There was a story about a storm that moved through the upper plains yesterday and had a bead on Michigan for later today and this evening. What had been a 10% chance of rain for today had been replaced by a forecast for strong-to-severe thunderstorms with the possibility of strong winds, large hail, and tornadoes. Ahhhh, summer in Michigan.
Not ones to sit around and wait for the apocalypse we did what any sensible couple would do, I made coffee while Linda reheated the last of the Baked French Toast from yesterday’s brunch. We had breakfast and then sat on the deck enjoying our coffee and contemplating the end of the world, or at least the possible destruction of our brand new roof. But it’s insured, so “no worries, maan” as they say in Jamaica. More coffee please.
We have a whole house generator that runs on natural gas so as long as a storm doesn’t damage it we can survive for a very long time without electric utility power. Losing our AT&T Internet connection, however, would be a genuine hardship as that would require us to use our Verizon Mi-Fi (without the benefit of the new Fusion5s cellular booster which I plan to install on Wednesday) or go to Panera, McDonalds, or one of the libraries to get online.
Keith showed up around 10 AM to cut the grass. We were hoping he would make it as we have not had too much rain this past week and the last few days in particular have been dry. I think this is the first time this season he has been able to cut our grass without it being wet. It looked nice when he was done.
I got a call from Phil Jarrell. He had been successful in reaching Mike Fearer of Bid Rite Concrete on Mike’s cell phone. Based on Phil’s description Mike was interested in looking at our tower foundation project and was expecting me to call so I did, using my cell phone, and this time I was able to reach him. It turned out that the information about his business on the Internet is out of date. He is no longer in Whitmore Lake but now operates from near M-59 and Latson Road, not far from us. We agreed that he would stop by tomorrow at the end of the work day to look at our project.
I did not want to do a lot of heavy work today, as I was still a bit tired and sore, but I needed to mount two lightning arrestors in the cable entry box and mount the cellular booster in the sump pump room so I could figure out what coax cable lengths I needed and go get them from Scott Adams (AC8IL) at Adams Electronics in Wixom. But first I called Mike (W8XH) to let him know I was planning on Wednesday for the tower work, assuming he was still available and the tower was still standing.
I determined that I needed two coaxial cables and ordered them from Scott by phone rather than take the time today to drive to his place of business. They will both be LMR-400 with N-connectors on both ends. One will be 50 feet long, for our 2m/70cm Diamond X50-N VHF/UHF base station antenna, and the other will be 15 feet long, to get from the cellular booster lightning arrestor in the cable entry box to the repeater (amplifier) in the sump pump room. I will pick them up early Wednesday morning and install them.
One of the lightning arrestors was for the SureCall Fusion5s cellular booster system. It has N-connectors on both ends, one of which is intended for bulkhead mounting. It came with an angle bracket that fit over the bulkhead end and I used that to mount it. I used the 2′ length of LMR-400 that came with the booster installation kit to position the lightning arrestor so the cable from the repeater could exit one of the 2″ conduits and bend around and connect to it. LMR-400 is a low loss, 50 ohm impedance, coaxial cable that can handle high RF transmit power. The cellular booster only has a 1 Watt transmitter but is operating at frequencies where energy losses in coax cables become significant. To do what it does LMR-400 is just under 1/2″ in diameter. It is fairly stiff and does not make sharp bends so cable runs and connections have to be carefully planned.
The other lightning arrestor was for the Antennas Direct DB8e OTA TV antenna and serves a dual purpose as the power insertion device for the tower mounted amplifier. The coax cable for OTA TV signals is typically 75 ohm impedance RG-6 with F-connectors. It is half the diameter of LMR-400 and much more flexible. It is also typically used to receive low power signals and convey them in one direction; from the antenna to the TV. Because we are 25 miles from the nearest TV tower and some of the towers are 50+ miles away, I ordered a signal amplifier to go with the antenna.
Ideally you want to amplify an OTA TV signal as soon as it comes out of the antenna and this amplifier does just that. It will mount on the same tower leg as the antenna about two feet below the antenna feed point. However, being an active electronic device it needs electrical power to operate. There are two basic ways that could be done.
One way would be to have power wires, such as +5 VDC and DC Ground that are separate from the coaxial cable that carries the radio frequency (RF) energy. The two OTA TV antennas on our bus are set up this way with three wires to supply power and control the enclosed rotor.
The other way is to provide DC power through the coaxial cable itself, which is how this amplifier is set up. The nice thing about this arrangement is that the amplifier only has two connections and they are both coax connectors that can be weather sealed. To get the DC power into the coax cable, however, requires a special device called a power inserter. The power inserter, in turn, requires the coax to be split into two segments so there end up being four connections instead of two. The power inserter for this amplifier very conveniently acts as a lightning arrestor as well, which is why I mounted it to the copper back plane in the cable entrance box.
By boosting what I presume will be weak signals from distant towers the amplified signal should be strong enough to survive the trip through the coax cable to the power inserter, from there to a 1-in/2-out signal splitter, and then through additional lengths of coax to the two TV sets.
After getting the two lightning arrestors mounted in the cable entry box I took a break for lunch and then went to Lowe’s for some supplies. When I got back home I turned my attention to mounting the SureCall Fusion5s cellular booster (repeater amplifier) in the sump pump room. The sump pump is in the northeast corner of the basement, which is also the northeast corner of our ham shack and office. (The ham shack occupies the north wall and my desks occupy the east wall. Most of the rest of the room is storage.)
I gutted and rebuilt this space, with the help of long-time friend John Rauch, before we moved in and created the large closet (small room) around the sump with insulated walls to contain sounds. I installed an electrical sub-panel in this room to provide power to the office and ham shack desks and to an RV outlet by the pull-through driveway. I fed the power for the RV outlet through the bond on the east wall just above the concrete block foundation and ran it underground to the far side of the driveway. It was my intention from the beginning to mount a cable entrance box next to the power feed and have all of the coax cables and control wires for outside devices enter the sump pump room in the same manner as the power.
The ham shack/office walls are finished with T-111 exterior plywood with 4″ groove spacing and I finished the interior of the closet the same way as I knew I would eventually want to mount things to the walls. I mounted the SureCall Fusion5s booster on the west wall of the closet about a foot inside the door and just below my eye level so I could see all of the connectors, switches, and indicator lights on the top and front of the unit. It had four mounting tabs, two top and two bottom, that attached easily to the wall with short wood screws.
There is a duplex AC electrical outlet on that wall and one on the opposite (east) wall. The power supplies for the cellular booster and OTA TV antennas will plug in to these along with the sump pump and the charger/controller for the battery powered backup sump pump. One of the things I bought at Lowe’s were two outlet expanders which I installed in these two duplex outlets. I also bought a switch with a pilot light to replace a single pole Decora switch that will eventually control the light in the closet. I installed the switch but did not complete the wiring as I have to tie it in to the light fixture which requires me to cut the power to that circuit. I would also like to replace the bare bulb fixture while I am at it but have not yet purchased a replacement.
Although it was late afternoon I decided to install the inside antenna for the cellular booster system and run the coaxial cable that connects it to the booster. The antenna is designed to mount to a flat ceiling and provide a hemispherical coverage area below the plane of the ceiling. I had previously figured out that if I mounted this antenna in the main floor hallway near the midpoint of the house I could connect it to the cellular amplifier using a 50 foot length of coax cable that came with the system.
The desired mounting location was opposite the door to the hall closet and the access to the attic is through the ceiling of that closet, so that was very convenient. We emptied the closet, removed the clothes rod, and setup our six foot step ladder. I removed the piece of foam insulation we currently use to seal the attic access opening and climbed up, flashlight in hand to check out what was on the other side of the ceiling.
Our desired location for the antenna was free of problems on the back side so I drilled a 3/4″ hole for the mounting stud and used a piece of rebar to poke a hole through the insulation for the coax cable that came out of the stud. Linda fed the coax and stud through the hole and I put the retaining nut on the stud from the attic side of the ceiling. The antenna is shaped like a coffee filter, is about six inches in diameter at the ceiling, and tapers down to about four inches in diameter about four inches from the ceiling. The housing is white plastic and blends in well with the ceiling paint.
About four feet from where we installed the antenna is a chase that runs from the attic to the furnace room in the basement. It appears that once upon a time something having to do with the furnace ran through this chase, such as the combustion air intake. The combustion air is now drawn through the back wall under the deck and the exhaust goes out through the east wall of the basement via a double wall stainless steel flue pipe. The chase is no longer used for furnace or other utilities although there are electrical cables to switches mounted in the bathroom walls and it still contained a piece of 4″ plastic pipe.
I positioned myself near the chase and guided one end of a 50 foot length of LMR-400 coax down through the pipe and through the hole into the furnace room while Linda held the roll of coax near the top of the ladder and unrolled it. At one point the coax bunched up and Linda had to go to the furnace room and untangle it. At another point the 4″ plastic pipe slipped through the bottom hole into the furnace room which caught me by surprise. Once the cable was mostly fed through I routed it to the location of the antenna, connected it to the pigtail coax from the antenna, wrapped the connection in weather seal tape to keep moisture out, and secured it with a cable tie.
With the antenna installed Linda started preparing dinner while I dealt with the 37 feet of coax in the furnace room. The furnace room does not have a finished ceiling so I had access to the areas above the suspended ceilings in all of the adjacent rooms. In particular I was able to feed the free end of the coax above the ceiling in the office and into the sump pump room. I secured the cable with plastic cable ties at two points in the furnace room to keep it away from the flue and various hot water pipes. I had about 8 extra feet of cable so I made a large coil with two loops such that the free end came off the loop straight down into the connector on top of the booster. I hung the coil on the wall above and to the right of the booster making for a very neat installation.
I took a shower to try and get rid of some of the fiberglass itch while Linda finished the dish she was making for dinner. It was a complex Indian style dish with Basmati rice, garbanzo beans, Swiss chard, onions, and shallots, seasoned with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin seeds, garam masala, fresh lemon (zest and juice), and fresh dill that Linda grew herself. The house was filled with the aromas of all these ingredients for a couple of hours as they were prepared and combined into the final dish. It tasted as good as it smelled with many flavor layers.
Our beautiful blue sky gave way to high, thin clouds through the morning and then to lower, thicker clouds during the early afternoon. By 2 PM the clouds to the west were dark as I drove to Lowe’s in Howell and the first, heavy rains came as I got to the parking lot. I waited a few minutes and they stopped so I got into the store without getting wet. I had the same good fortune on my way back to the car. The sustained rains came later in the evening along with a tornado watch. We went to bed before 10 AM but did not go to sleep. It took me a long time to write this post and we kept a watchful eye on the weather radar. Although thunderstorms were forecast as a certainty from 1 to 5 AM with the possibility that they might be severe, we finally turned the lights out around 12:45 AM and tried to get some sleep.
Today was Father’s Day and also the summer solstice, which is the official start of the summer season. Climatologically and culturally, at least in this part of Michigan, summer is more closely aligned with the period from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The summer solstice is, of course, the day with the most hours of daylight but it is not the day with the earliest sunrise nor the day with latest sunset. Regardless of that detail, one of the things I like about this time of year is that the evening twilight lasts for a long time and fades to the blackness of night very slowly. By contrast, the sun seems to set quickly in the winter and it gets dark very quickly after that.
Linda arranged for our son and daughter, and their families, to come over for brunch today. It was a combination Father’s Day and happy birthday gathering as our daughter was out of town last week on her 34th birthday. Linda spent last evening cooking, which minimized the amount of work required today. I requested pie for Father’s Day and she found an excellent recipe for a vegan apple pie with a crumb topping. She also made a dozen small chocolate birthday cupcakes. The star of the show, however, was a Baked French Toast made with French bread and topped with streusel of ground pecans, cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg with vegan “butter.” It soaked overnight and all she had to do this morning was bake it. She made a large bowl of fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, and black and red raspberries) and sliced up some cantaloupe.
Company was due at 10 AM so I made a full pot of our Cafe Europe half-caff blend coffee. We each had a cup and Linda transferred the rest of it to our insulated dispenser. I was brewing a second pot when Meghan and Chris arrived around 9:45 AM followed by Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline around 10 AM. Birthday and Father’s Day cards were exchanged but Madeline was the center of attention. She pulled out her toy box and built a Lego tower with her aunt Meghan. We walked around outside a bit, looked at the new roof and the cable entrance box, and played hide and seek in the backyard with Madeline doing the seeking, assisted by her mom. I was hiding behind our gas grill, which had a cover on it. Madeline saw my reflection in the rear door walls of the library, walked right past me towards the reflected image, turned away from my location, and was walking back towards Shawna before she spotted me. Reflections are one of those things that we have to learn about.
The French Toast was done baking at 11 AM and we sat down to a fabulous brunch that included Prosecco and orange juice. The Baked French Toast was outstanding and everyone had more than one piece. By 12:30 PM no one was hungry for dessert so Linda packaged up four cupcakes for Meghan and Chris and four cupcakes for Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline along with a quarter of the pie for each group. By 1 PM Madeline was showing signs of being tired, that being her normal nap time, so everyone gathered up their things and made their way to their cars.
After everyone had left we had some pie. It was also outstanding, as good as any non-vegan pie I have ever had and, frankly, better than most. Linda went for a walk while I settled in to finish the draft of yesterday’s blog post and start writing this one. When Linda got back from her walk she read for a little while and then took a well-deserved nap. By 4 PM I could not keep my eyes open and took a nap that lasted until 6 PM. I have never been into “Hallmark Holidays” but I like Father’s Day. 🙂
For dinner Linda made a salad and reheated the last of the angel hair pasta and black beans and rice. We each had one of the vegan cupcakes for dessert.
Today was my dad’s 90th birthday so after dinner I called to wish him a combined happy birthday and Father’s Day. He did not answer, which is not unusual as without his hearing aids he doesn’t hear the phone ring. I left him a voice message.
I have been busy enough with things the last two years that I have not read any of the magazines we receive as part of our various organizational memberships. Tonight I went through the July 2015 issue of QST, the monthly publication of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Although my main focus this summer is the remodeling of the interior of our motorcoach, I am trying to get ham radio antennas up and useable. We are also trying to get a base built for the 70 foot tower we bought last summer, get the tower assembled and erected, and at least get some sort of HF wire antenna attached to it.
Linda was tired by 10 PM and trundled off to bed. As a result of my nap I was not sleepy and stayed up using my iPad until well after midnight.
We had not been to our local ham radio club breakfast the last two Saturdays because of the GLAMARAMA rally and a visit from Linda’s brother, Ron, and his wife, Mary. The club was conducting VE testing today, rather than the usual 4th Saturday of the month, because the ARRL Field Day event is next weekend. When we got to breakfast at 8 AM there were already a lot of people there and seven more came in after us. We did not take a head count but it was somewhere between 25 and 30 people. We also did not have our usual waitress but the substitute very efficiently got everyone’s order taken and delivered.
I checked with Mike (W8XH) and he is available to help us get the antennas mounted on the small tower on Monday or Wednesday, assuming I have the cable entry box (CEB) installed and all of the necessary coaxial cable on hand. Getting the CEB mounted was my main goal for today, but not the first thing I had to do. I called Chuck as we were leaving breakfast at 9:15 AM. He was at home and suggested we stop by there and pick up a key to his shop. He was working on landscaping when we arrived so we did not stay long and we were back home by 10 AM. Linda finalized her shopping list and headed off to gather the things she needed to prepare tomorrow’s brunch. I changed into my work clothes, gathered up the laundry, put a load in the washer, and got to work on the CEB.
The CEB is designed to mount on the outside of the house, allowing wiring to pass between the inside and outside of the house in a way that is weather tight and animal proof. Coaxial RF cables and control lines enter through the bottom, connect to lightning arrestors in the CEB that provide a path to ground if/when needed, and then continue through the wall of the house and thence to various devices. Those devices might include cellular phone signal boosters, Wi-Fi systems, TV sets, satellite receivers, personal weather stations, or amateur radio gear such as radios, remote antenna switches, and antenna rotators.
Superficially the installation looked simple. With the copper back plane removed there were four mounting holes, one near each corner, and two large holes in the back. All we had to do was hold the box against the wall, mark the locations of the four mounting holes and the big cable entry holes, set the box aside, drill the holes, put the box back up and secure it. Right. Sort of, but not exactly. Mounting the box took seven hours to complete.
The first step was to remove the copper back plane with the three lightning arrestors installed on it. I took care of that yesterday. The next issue was that the house has shiplap siding, i.e., the east wall where I needed to mount the CEB was not a flat surface. I decided to use 1″ square aluminum tube, installed vertically along the back of the box at the outside edges, to span multiple siding boards, ensuring that the CEB would be plumb. I also decided to leave the tube long enough to go all the way to the ground and use it to support some the weight, in effect creating legs for the CEB. That was Linda’s idea. She’s a smart girl and a licensed amateur radio operator.
We had some surplus pavers and garden blocks and I found one that was just wide enough to catch the bottom of the legs. I also had some left over paver base material, which meant I did not need to make a trip to the store. The paver base material was from a project long, long ago (in a place far, far away) and I used it to create a base for the foundation paver, which was approximately 18″ x 12″. I leveled the base side-to-side and pitched it away from the house for drainage.
Yesterday I purchased a 3′ long aluminum tube at Lowe’s and a 4′ long tube at The Home Depot. Three feet turned out to be a good length, so I cut a foot off of the 4′ tube. Things then got trickier. The positioning of the CEB was critical as the two large holes in the back were for adapters for 2″ plastic conduit. I was going to have to cut 3″ diameter holes through the bond that would come out above the plate on top of the concrete block foundation. In the chosen mounting location the bottom corner holes in the CEB would be below the siding. The lower right leg would be at least an inch away from the concrete block foundation and the lower left hole would be in front of a basement window opening so neither of these were going to be screwed into anything.
I wanted the CEB anchored at more than two points so I decided to drill two additional holes in the back, one on each side, approximately half way between the existing top and bottom holes. I measured the spacing between the top and bottom holes as carefully as I could. I measured down from the top end of each leg a distance for the top holes that was just sufficient to make sure the door of the CEB was below the 2″ iron gas pipe that runs horizontally along the outside of the house. I measured down from there for the new middle hole and the bottom hole. I then drilled the three holes through each leg by drilling opposing sides. I had to use a powered hand drill for this work as my drill press was stored behind a large pile of RV furniture that we took out of the bus and was inaccessible.
I attached one of the legs to the back of the box using two short bolts through the top and bottom holes. I then used the middle hole in the leg as a guide and drilled through the back of the CEB. I repeated this procedure for the other leg. I drilled the holes in the legs as accurately as I could but they did not quite line up so I had to enlarge them slightly by using the drill bit like a router bit. Not ideal, to be sure, but aluminum is relatively soft and it worked.
I attached each leg to the back of the CEB using 1.5″ 1/4-20 bolts through the bottom corner holes. I snugged these up but left them loose enough that we could move the legs. The top and middle holes were located in positions that would allow lag screws to be screwed into the siding and underlying plywood. We had to tilt the legs to get them under the 2″ iron gas pipe and then straighten them and set them on the foundation paver. We had to do this multiple times but it was easy once we figured out how to do it the first time.
With the CEB in position I marked the location of the holes for four 3″ 1/4-20 lag screws. We removed the CEB so I could drill the holes for the lag screws and then put it back in position and screwed it to the wall. I marked the locations of the two holes for the conduit as best I could and then unscrewed the box and removed it again. I used our 1/2″ Craftsmen corded drill for the 3″ hole saw. I bought this drill in 1978, along with a lot of other Craftsmen tools, when we moved into our house in Farmington Hills. I still have almost all of those tools and they all still work.
With the conduit holes drilled I cut one of the 18″ lengths of conduit in half, inserted the pieces into the adapters, and placed them in the holes. We then put the CEB into position, got the adapters through the holes in the back of the CED, and tried to line up the holes in the legs. The conduit was being forced up as it went through the bond, especially the one on the left, and would not allow the holes in the CEB to line up with the holes in the legs. We took the retaining rings off of the adapters and removed the CEB, again.
I shortened the conduit pieces to approximately 5″ and checked the fit in the holes. We wrapped two bands of adhesive backed foam weather-stripping around each piece of conduit and placed them back in the holes. I then applied a bead of adhesive caulk all the way around each adapter at the wall. We put the CEB in position for the final time, got the conduit adapters through the holes, snugged up the retaining rings, and put the four lag screws in. After tightening the four lag screws I tightened the two bolts in the lower corners. I then tightened the adapter retain rings and put the open end caps on. The conduit ended up getting pulled back out of the wall a bit so I used the thin end of a 10″‘wood shim to try and force the caulk back into the gap around the conduit adapter. It did not go back in very well so I will have to figure out something else to seal around the conduit.
The CEB was finally installed and very solidly anchored. I got the copper base plate and remounted it to the five studs (four corners and one center) using some antioxidant/anti-seize compound on the stud threads. The last step (for today) was to install the snap in covers for the 16 cable entrance holes in the bottom of CEB. I also ordered 16 grommets and will remove the caps and replace them with grommets as I install devices and run their cables and wires into the CEB.
The two pieces of conduit open into the sump pump room (large closet) in the northeast corner of the basement just above the wood plate that sits on top of the concrete block foundation. I plan to install the SureCall Fusion5s 5-band cellular booster (amplifier) in this room to keep it close to the CEB and because there is AC power available there. I bought an installation kit for the Fusion5s that includes a lightning arrestor which will get mounted in the CEB. I also bought an amplifier for the OTA TV antenna that will mount on the tower a few feet below the antenna. The amplifier will get its power through the coax from a power inserter that doubles as a lightning arrestor and will be installed in the CEB with the AC power supply (wall wart) in the sump pump room.
I did not get these two additional lightning arrestors installed today. By the time we got the CEB installed we were tired. The high temperature was OK (near 80?) but the relative humidity was very high. I was also very sore the whole time, especially my left knee, undoubtedly the lingering after effect of using the power chisel earlier in the week to remove thinset and mastic from the floor of the bus. Getting down and up at least 50 times during the afternoon did not improve matters, but we got it done.
Even though she was also tired, once we reached a point where I could finish up alone Linda got busy making several food items for tomorrow. In the midst of all that she heated some Amy’s Lentil Soup and made grilled cheese sandwiches with Diaya cheese or dinner. Diaya makes an excellent non-dairy cheese that works well cold or cooked into dishes.
After dinner I returned a call from Butch to find out more about their new property and buildings, and discuss bus and ham radio projects. One of the things Linda made was an apple pie so we stayed up until it was cool enough to wrap up. That turned out to be 10 PM, by which time we ready to turn in for the night.
The Apex roofers were back again this morning just before 8 AM and we were up and ready for them. I made coffee but we deferred breakfast until after we settled the bill with owner Pat Davidson. By 9 AM he knew what the added costs were over and above the base quote. The major one was the 32 sheets of plywood they used to repair/replace bad areas of the roof deck. He left around 10 AM and took half the crew with him to start another job. The other four guys stayed behind and finished roofing the garage and cleaning up the job site. The job was pretty much wrapped up by noon. Sergio (the foreman) did the final walk-around and cleanup and left around 1 PM. There is very little evidence that they had been here except for an attractive new roof and two skylights in the living room that light up the space in a nice way.
I spent the morning inventorying coaxial cables. We have quite an assortment of 50 and 75 ohm cables in lengths from 1 to 100 feet. I need to have all the necessary cables on hand when I climb the tower next week to remove and install antennas. If we already had appropriate cables I wanted to use those instead of buying new ones.
The custom cable entry box from Chris at KF7P Metalwerks arrived today. I opened it after lunch, which consisted of fresh apples and leftover black beans and rice. We both agreed that the beans and rice dish was even better than when it was fresh. We unpacked all of the parts that were stored inside the cable entry box and checked them off against the spreadsheet I used to order them. Everything was there but I was initially concerned because the box was turned 90 degrees from what I ordered. I specified a 16″ wide by 20″ tall box but got a 20″ wide by 16″ tall instead. I suspect that Chris buys the boxes with the door/hinge already attached but it would have been nice to know that ahead of time.
We took the box outside and held it in place to see if it would be usable. The lower left corner will hang down in front of the basement window in the sump pump room but that will be OK. The horizontal orientation of the box will actually make it easier to get coaxial cables through the access holes in the bottom.
There were two a Morgan Lightning arrestors mounted on the copper back plane for amateur radio use; one for HF and one for VHF/UHF. The UHF arrestor was upside down so I unscrewed it, rotated it 180 degrees, and screwed it back down. The box also had a Morgan M-348 lightning arrestor. I ordered an M-348B, which is the 12-wire version, but the installed arrestor had 12 terminals on top (3 strips of 4 each) plus one on each side. There were no instructions, however, on how to wire it up so I sent Chris an e-mail regarding the anomalies and missing information.
While I was working on that e-mail, and a couple from Josh at Coach Supply Direct, we got a call from Curtis Coleman of RVillage. The development team had launched some new features and he wanted to walk me through them. He had just been to Prevost in Nashville for some repairs on his tag axle brakes and was headed back to Cleveland, Ohio. He thought he might be headed in our general direction after that.
I spent some time thinking about how to mount the cable entry box on the east wall of the house which is sided in a shiplap fashion, i.e., the horizontal siding boards are angled (not plumb) and overlapped. I needed a hole saw and arbor for my 1/2″ drill to drill the holes for the two 2″ conduits that will pass from the box through the bond into the sump pump room in the basement. I probably already have one but I cannot get to most of the stuff in the garage and can’t afford to delay getting this box mounted; there are too many other things that need to get done that require this box to be in place first.
I was suffering from a decided lack of patience which is not the proper frame of mind for working on scale drawings of custom furniture so I went to Lowe’s to get a hole saw. The fitting measured 2-3/4″ OD and I decided to get a 3″ hole saw just to make sure the hole would be big enough. While I was at the store I considered how I might use different materials to mount the box. I ended up buying a 36″ length of 1″ square aluminum tube and some stainless steel lag screws, bolts, washers, and Nylok nuts. My plan was to cut the tube into two 18″ pieces and use them in a vertical orientation between the box and the house. They would span multiple boards, creating a plumb mounting surface, and provide support for the lower left corner which would otherwise be unsupported.
When I got back to the house I took the tube out to see how it would work. The idea was a good one but the 18″ lengths would be too short. I bought the only piece of 1″ tube that Lowe’s had so I knew I would have to find another one somewhere else. Linda suggested that we try the Lowe’s in New Hudson after breakfast tomorrow but I was still feeling impatient about the whole thing.
I had a long chat with Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint. I then relaxed with a small glass of Moscato, a nice pre-meal wine, while Linda prepared a wonderful dish for dinner of roasted red potatoes with onions, garlic, rosemary, and power greens. It was a simple dish but so delicious and hearty.
The meal concluded and the table cleared I went to The Home Depot in Howell where I found a 48″ length of 1″ square aluminum tube. If 24 inches turns out to be long enough to support the box the way I want I will cut the 48″ piece in half and return the 36″ piece to Lowe’s. I called Chuck on the drive home to follow up on a text message I sent him yesterday regarding the delivery of our new refrigerator to his bus garage in Novi.
Feeling like I had finally accomplished something today we relaxed for an hour and then settled in to watch a movie. Linda had borrowed the DVD of Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, from the Howell Library earlier in the week and we reserved this evening as movie night.
My goal for tomorrow is to get the cable entry box installed. That sets the stage for climbing the tower and installing three antennas once I have the proper coax cables and some rope to temporarily guy the tower. But those details will wait until Monday as family is coming to brunch on Sunday for Father’s Day and a belated birthday celebration for our daughter.
The light rain that started late yesterday afternoon continued off-and-on through the overnight hours. We awoke to heavily overcast skies but a forecast that called for dry conditions until the early afternoon. We were up at 7:15 AM and had our usual granola breakfast. I took some more Ibuprofen in advance of working in the bus. We were just getting ready to have our morning coffee when I noticed several cars in the driveway. It was 7:45 AM and the roofers were arriving. Pat Davidson was among them so I went outside to chat briefly with him.
We had our morning coffee and then got to work, Linda at her desk and me in the bus. I spent another two hours using the Makita 11 pound power chisel. By 11 AM I had removed as much material from the floor as I felt was worth the effort. Linda brought the camera out and took a few photographs of me at work after which I packed up the equipment, closed up the bus, and went to Home Depot in Howell to return it to their rental department.
I stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and ordered the new Frigidaire refrigerator for the bus, an FFHT1621QB (16.3 cu. ft., top freezer, black, no ice maker or water). I scheduled delivery for Friday July 3rd to Chuck’s shop in Novi. I will arrange with Chuck to take the bus their sometime after that when he is available to operate his fork lift and I can get Brendan or some friends to give us a hand.
Work continued on the roof through the morning and then the crew tarped off the roof and left in a few of their vehicles for a long lunch. As forecast it started to sprinkle around 2 PM as they returned from their lunch break. It never rained hard and they kept on working but always with the tarps at the ready in case they were suddenly needed. One of the guys finished installing our two Velux Sun Tunnel skylights which required a tall step ladder in our living room. They looked very nice when he was done.
I had a chat with Jarel Beatty in Logansport, Indiana about the custom desk he is going to build for the bus. I sent him a follow-up e-mail describing the pullout pantry we also need him to build. I then spent an hour working on drawings before I had to quit and change clothes.
Kate had secured tickets through her cousin, Michaela, for this evening’s performance of The Bikinis at the Meadow Brooke Theatre at Oakland University in Rochester Hills. Kate suggested O’Conner’s Public House (Irish Pub) in Rochester for dinner. The roofers had been working in the living room installing the Velux Sun Tunnel skylights but were done by 3:45 PM. That allowed us to get cleaned up, dressed for the theatre, and out the door at 4:30 PM even though the roofers were still working up on the roof.
We got to the pub at 6 PM. Kate got there shortly before us and had ordered a soft pretzel appetizer before the happy hour prices expired at 6 PM. Conveniently there were three large sticks so we each got one. Kate got the cheesy dipping sauce and we split the spicy horseradish mustard, which really had a kick to it. Linda and Kate each had a Smithwicks ale and I had a pineapple ale. To paraphrase “the world’s most interesting man”: I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer a fruit beer. Not as mysterious as Dos Equis, or as authentic as Guinness, but it’s what I like. Kate had a regular (beef) burger and we both had black bean burgers on soft pretzel buns with fresh hand-cut French fries. The burgers and fries were both really good and the pretzel buns, which had been toasted on a grill, did not get soggy.
The musical was a lot of fun with a wonderful performance by the cast of four women. All four of them were on stage singing and dancing with a lot of energy for most of the performance. Their singing was excellent, each voice having its own unique quality but blending well, and they carried 4-part harmonies in tune with one another and the small 4-pieces band. Two of them, Bambi Jones and Jeanne Tinker, were also in the Meshuggah Nuns musical we saw a month or so ago at the Meadow Brooke Theatre.
The Bikinis is the last production that Kate’s cousin Michaela will work on at the MBT. The production run ends on Sunday and one week later she leaves for a summer stock gig in New England. Meadow Brooke Theatre is a wonderful venue but not convenient to where we live, even less convenient to where Kate works, and very inconvenient to where she lives. All of which is to say, I doubt that the three of us will be going there very often now that Michaela is moving on. That is too bad in a way as we have all enjoyed the shows we have seen. The fact that Michaela, as a cast/crew member, was able to get us tickets did not hurt.
Michaela met us in the lobby where Kate gave her a nice assortment of flowers. She then gave us a behind the scenes tour of the wardrobe area where she has spent the past year working on costuming. We walked out to our cars and by the time we all drove off it was 11 PM. Even with light traffic it took us almost an hour to get home but we arrived while it was still Thursday, albeit just barely.
Linda was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:15 AM to beat the morning rush hour traffic headed into the northwest corner of the Detroit metroplex. I got up about an hour later, tended to my morning cat chores, made coffee, had some granola for breakfast, gathered up the trash, and took the big trash can to the street.
The Apex roofing crew started showing up just before 8 AM. After everything was squared away with Apex I went to The Home Depot in Howell to rent the small power floor scraper. The scraper took some of the thinset off but was not as effective as I had hoped it would be. The tool is designed for stripping linoleum floors, so I had no reason to complain that it did not do what I needed it to do. I returned it within four hours and paid the 4-hour rental fee rather than the day (24-hour) fee. The guy in the tool rental department suggested I try a different machine which they had not mentioned to me previously. It was a Makita 11 pound power chisel. I rented it with three chisels.
The roofers were at the point where they needed to install the two Velux Sun Tunnel skylights in the roof of the living room. I showed them where I wanted them installed, if possible, and they tarped off the furniture and floor in the living room. Apex is very good about protecting the yard from damage and capturing the mess that is associated with a roof project. That same care and attention carried over to the inside work, which I appreciated.
After a break for lunch I spent most of the afternoon using the power chisel to strip the area of the floor in the bus where the ceramic tile was installed. I was not able to strip it down to the plywood subfloor, but I was able to knock down most of the ridges of thinset and adhesive that remained after I chiseled out the tiles.
I had a brief chat with Chuck around lunchtime regarding the refrigerator. Butch called mid-afternoon to fill me in on why he was not able to answer the phone last night. Linda called around 2:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery. She pulled in the driveway an hour later and came in the bus to see what I was up to and let me know it was starting to rain. I had made good progress but was not done and decided I would keep the power chisel until tomorrow and pay the 1-day (24-hour) rate.
The roofers were aware of the rain, which was very light though increasing steadily, but were in the middle of replacing plywood and installing the skylights. Some of them finished that up as quickly as they could, cleaned up the roof, and spread out the tarps while the others picked up the debris from the yard and got it in the trash trailer. The trailer was full so they took it with them when the left at 4:40 PM.
We had a snack of pretzels, green grapes and a small glass of Moscato wine. My thumbs were both bothering me (arthritis) so I took some Ibuprofen and then went back to work in the bus. I had to close the roof vents because of the rain so it was warmer inside and a bit stuffy as the humidity had come way up. I worked as long as I could and quit for the day at 6 PM.
For dinner Linda made a simple green salad and then cooked some whole wheat capellini and tossed it with the homemade tomato-based Marinara sauce she made the other day. After dinner I worked in my office for a while. I thought I would upload some blog posts but I had an e-mail from Bus Conversion Magazine with the draft of the May 2015 issue. I proofread part 2 of my 4-part article on the Exterior Makeover of our bus by Phoenix Paint. I found one thing that needed to be corrected and e-mailed it to the editor.
Linda got a DVD of Wild from the Howell Library the other day but we were too tired to watch it and just went to bed. I turned my light out at 9:58 PM, the first time since I can’t remember when that I have done that before 10 o’clock in the evening.
Linda was scheduled to go to the bakery this morning but rescheduled to tomorrow due to last night’s weather forecast and the possibility of flooded highways in Detroit. The morning rush hour traffic is bad under the best of conditions and flooded roadways can make it near impossible. She also did not sleep well and woke up tired.
The Apex roofing crew started showing up just before 8 AM and the Wimsatt truck showed up with the shingles a little after 8 AM. They brought a conveyor truck this time and were able to get the shingles off the truck and onto the roof without difficulty. The Apex crew did not waste any time getting to work. It turned out to be a great day for roofing; clear skies, no rain, moderate temperatures, lower humidity, and some breeze. Even so, it is work that is done without the benefit of shade and roofs are hot places to work even on the nicest of days.
Linda continued working on the financials for our amateur radio club while I checked my e-mail. I had a reply from RV Critter Guard telling me what to order and how much it would cost. I placed the order through their website and used PayPal to complete the transaction. I tried calling the concrete contractor that Phil recommended (Bid Rite Concrete LLC in Whitmore Lake) but the phone would disconnect after the first ring and revert to a dial tone. Perhaps the recent storms caused a problem but I e-mailed Phil to see if he had a different number for them. I called the Henry Ford Medical Center in West Bloomfield and made dermatology appointments for myself and Linda.
With all of that taken care of I turned my attention to the bus. The toilet is a Microphor LF-210. It uses pressurized air to operate the waste valve and the water valve and to help push the waste through the drain pipe and into the black tank. To remove the toilet I had to undo three connections—air, water, and waste—and take out the four screws securing it to the floor. If only it was as easy as that makes it sound.
Undoing the air line was easy and undoing the water connection only a little less so. The waste connection was another matter. The 1.5″ black plastic drain pipe was routed from the water bay through the floor and into the HVAC chase that runs along the driver’s side of the coach. The converter, Royale Coach, brought it out through a hole in the wood that covers the chase, making it impossible to take the wood cover off. The pipe then made two right angle bends, the first one towards the floor and the second one towards the back of the toilet. The waste pipe was connected to the toilet discharge pipe with a length of rubber hose and a compression sleeve.
The toilet has a large hole in the back for all of these lines to pass through to the inside where they get hooked up. It should have been a simple matter to slide the toilet away from the wall/chase but the last bend in the drain line was below the top edge of the bottom of the hole, preventing it from coming out. After wiggling the toilet enough to get the rubber hose loose from the drain pipe I was able to lift the drain pipe just enough to slide the toilet out. I took pictures for a possible BCM article on our interior remodeling project and then Linda helped me move the toilet out of the bathroom to the front of the coach.
The more I disassemble this coach the more stupid I think the design and construction of its systems are. I don’t know that coaches from Marathon, Liberty, Vantare, Featherlight, Parliament, Millennium, Custom Coach, or any of a dozen other companies that have come and gone, is any better as I have never tried to disassemble one of them. These are one-of-kind vehicles that are custom built specifically for the original purchaser and the over-riding factor in every case is the interior design. Stuff, like toilets, go where the customer wants it, and systems, which are generally buried and hidden from view, get built wherever and however they can be made to fit. The converter does not expect to have to repair or replace anything during the very short 12 month, 12,000 miles, warranty period and if stuff breaks after that, or someone wants to do a remodel or upgrade sometime later, it will all be time and material. How difficult it is to do, and how many hours it takes, is someone else’s problem at that point.
We had a call from Butch updating us on a possible property purchase. They are waiting for a clear title search before making an offer. The property includes a house and a sizable barn. The barn needs a new roof and the house will have to be gutted and the inside rebuilt, but for the right price it will still be a good deal. They already have a good estimate to replace the barn roof and since they are now retired they have more time to work on the house than they would have a year ago. They also have family and friends who can help. Besides, they still have their home/business building in Twelve Mile, Indiana and their bus, which they lived in all this past winter, so they will not be under any pressure to get the inside rebuilt quickly.
Linda started downloading updates from Adobe Creative Cloud, which take a very long time, and then left at 3:30 PM for Ann Arbor. She agreed to take care of grand-daughter Madeline while Brendan and Shawna attended a reception at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor for newly tenured and promoted faculty. I was on my own for dinner and Linda bought an Amy’s pizza so I would have something easy to prepare.
The roofers finished up for the day around 5 PM. By the time they left most of the trash was in their dumpster trailer and the roof was tarped as a precaution against rain even though the forecast for tonight and tomorrow is for dry weather. Rain returns to the forecast tomorrow night into Thursday but turns dry again on Friday, so we are optimistic that they will get the job finished this week. It’s a big job but Apex has a big crew working on it and they got a lot of work done today. We are very pleased with the look of the Certainteed Landmark Pro Max Def Resawn Shake shingle that we chose. I took pictures of the work throughout the day as I always try to do with major projects.
After the roofers left I worked for a while in the bus. I took the mattress into the house along with the electric heating pad controls. I disconnected the two gas struts that support the plywood bed platform so I could open it far enough to reinstall one of the drawers. I left them disconnected as I plan to remove the platform to provide better access to the sides of the box and floor. I also plan to reposition them when I reinstall the platform to provide better access to the storage area underneath. I then took measurements and made a sketch of the file drawer box for the desk.
I cooked the Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza on the outdoor gas grill, both to avoid heating up the house and to see how it responded to that cooking method. I used the grilling mat and the result was quite acceptable. A glass of Franzia Moscato was a nice accompaniment.
After dinner I worked at the drafting board in my office turning my sketch and measurements into a scale drawing. The two boxes for the desk will be trickier than a standard desk box because of the HVAC chase and because I have to put an Aqua-Hot heat exchanger in the bottom of each one. I worked until about 9 PM and then came back upstairs.
The air-conditioner worked fine yesterday but was once again unable to bring the temperature in the house below 74 degrees F even though the outside air temperature never rose above 80. There is clearly something wrong and I am wondering if one of the cold air ducts is open into the attic and/or one of the return air ducts us drawing hot air from the attic. Either of these conditions would reduce the air flow to the house and overtax the evaporator in the air handling unit. The more likely cause, however, is lack of refrigerant. Whatever the case I shut the system off and opened up the house.
I was relaxing in the living room when Linda called at 9:30 PM to let me know she had left her babysitting gig and was stopping at the Whole Foods Market before heading home. The reception started at 5 PM and lasted until 9 PM. She was home by 10:15 PM and straight away to bed as she has to go into the bakery tomorrow and wants to leave early enough to be ahead of the morning rush hour traffic.
Linda was originally scheduled to go into the bakery today but it got rescheduled to tomorrow so we did not have to be up by any certain time other than to be ready for the delivery of our new roof shingles. Apex Roofing is scheduled to put a new roof on our house this week, weather permitting, and assuming they can finish up jobs they had scheduled for last week when it rained so much.
The truck from Wimsatt Materials in Waterford showed up at 8 AM with our shingles but they were unable to deliver them. They brought them on a boom truck that was too tall to fit under the phone lines across our driveway and there was nowhere else they could position the truck that would allow them to operate the boon. They were on the phone with their dispatcher and I called Pat Davidson at Apex roofing to let him know what was going on. The decision was that they would be back this afternoon with a conveyor truck which would fit under the wires and be able to get the bundles up to the roof. Pat called back to let me know they would be starting in the morning around 7:30 AM.
Later in the day someone showed up in an Apex van with a large enclosed trailer. We moved our cars and he backed it up in front of our single garage door. Wimsatt did not return with shingles so they will presumably deliver them first thing tomorrow morning. They will need to back into the driveway and position the truck in front of our double garage door but that is also where Apex plans to put their debris trailer. The guy in the van also made it sound like there would be at least six cars/trucks here needing someplace to park. It should be an interesting morning, especially given the overnight weather forecast which includes drenching rains and possible severe weather and flooding. The forecast for the daylight hours, however, looks OK.
After the Wimsatt truck left we finished the last batch of granola for breakfast and then got busy with our chores and projects. Linda spent part of the day at her desk working on the financials for our local ham radio club (SLAARC). She also tried to contact PayPal to opt out of their upcoming RoboCall campaign but was not able to get through to a real person.
I settled into my office for the morning, dealing with e-mail but focusing on editing blog posts for the last seven days. Kate got in touch with me to see if we wanted to see The Bikinis musical production at the Meadow Brooke Theatre this week. Wednesday through Sunday is the final run. She also forwarded an invitation to a former colleague’s retirement gathering in a couple of weeks.
We have an RV Critter Guard that seals around our 50 A electrical cord and water hose to keep “critters” from entering the coach via that access hole. We lost our original foam insert when I forgot to remove it from the cable entrance hole in the floor of the bus utility bay and it fell (blew) out while we were driving. I checked the RV Critter Guard website and my exact products were not listed. I measured our existing tongue and groove plate and then contacted the company via their contact form and explained what I needed. I got an e-mail back indicating that my product was custom made and asking me for one additional dimension from the plastic plate. I got that measurement and e-mailed it to them and indicated that I wanted another plastic plate and two spilt foam inserts. I expect to receive an e-mail tomorrow with the price. Once I have that I will call them to place the order.
I have tried several times in the last two years to order products from EZ Connector but they have always had another question for me that required me to go check something and I have never managed to close the loop with them. I’ve been on a roll the last couple of weeks and decided that today was the day to get this done. The company is in California, so I called them during the afternoon (my time). The woman I spoke to on the phone gave me some good information but suggested I e-mail Joe with my requirements. Joe e-mailed me back and answered several questions but had another one for me. I responded to that question and went on to something else while I await the prices. Once I have the pricing I will have to call them and finalize the order.
I exchanged e-mails with Josh from Coach Supply Direct and got a series of revised quotes from him for our new RV furniture and window shades. What I really need are the drawings that show the exact dimensions of each piece including the size of the base and the location of the pivot (swivel) point. Apparently he is having difficulty getting these from Flexsteel. I would also like to have these for the Lambright Comfort Chairs but we took our own measurements at Bradd and Hall. The whole process of getting furniture is getting very frustrating. I need to contact Mike at Suburban Seating regarding the ISRI 6860 and pick a day to drive to ISRI USA in Galesburg to look at fabrics. While I am at it I should probably get a price from Prevost.
I finally got back to work in the bus this afternoon. I shut off the auxiliary air compressor, closed the valve on the air manifold that supplies air to the toilet and other house accessories, and drained the water separator. I then investigated what will be required to remove the toilet.
There is a shut off valve on the water line behind the toilet so I closed that. The water line is attached to the toilet mechanism with a plastic connector with two wings and looked like I could undo it by hand. The air line looked equally easy to disconnect but the drain looked a bit trickier. It goes out the back of the toilet rather than through the floor. There is a metal sleeve with band clamps at each end that connects the discharge pipe to the drain line. Fortunately the band clamp screws are accessible.
The toilet is screwed to the floor with four Philips head screws. The centers of the screw heads are threaded and there are plastic caps with posts that screw down into the mounting screws to conceal them. With the water, air, and waste lines disconnected once I unscrew the base the toilet should slide forward and then we may have to lift it to get clear of the water line. The trick to getting it back in will be to get the four mounting screws back in the exact same holes.
The humidity outside was near 100% and I did not feel like running the bus air conditioners so I did not remove the toilet today. I need to get it out, however, to remove the last few pieces of ceramic tile from the bathroom floor. Once it is out it will have to stay out until the new floor is installed.
I tried pulling on one of the window latch knobs on the fixed window across from the kitchen counter and was surprised by easily it moved the latch. I did not pull it far enough to unlatch it but it appears that getting the window unlatched will be relatively easy. Getting the frame open without damaging the frame seal, and getting it closed again so it is weather tight, may be slightly more challenging.
I used a chisel to try removing the thinset and mastic that was adhered to the plywood subfloor. It came off better than I thought it would but it was a slow process. In addition to being humid in the coach it was very warm as I have had to leave the roof vents closed with the fans off due to the rainy weather. I removed enough thinset, however, to convince me that it is worth renting the power floor scraper from the Home Depot in Howell for a day and see how it works.
Late afternoon Linda worked in the kitchen making another batch of her fabulous granola and a black beans and rice dish for dinner. She soaked two Hatch chilies, two Ancho chilies, and four Pequin chilies and used them in the bean dish. I had a call from Pat Lintner before dinner to let me know that they took their Prevost to McMillers in Nappanee and were very pleased with work and the price.
I thought about driving to the Lowe’s in Howell after dinner to order the new Frigidaire refrigerator for the bus but it got too late to go. We have decided to have it delivered to Chuck Spera’s shop in Novi. We can pull it inside and he has a forklift, so hopefully that works out OK.
We were both tired and headed off to bed at 10 PM. The weather radar showed a band of more intense rain setting up to our southwest and taking aim at us. Linda fell asleep quickly but I was still up writing when the rains started around 11:15 PM. We had the house closed up with the air conditioner running and a small fan for air movement so the sounds of the weather are not as noticeable as when we have the windows and doorwalls open. I checked the radar again on Wundermap and it looked like we might be in for a long stretch of persistent rain unless the line drifted south just enough to miss us. The strongest weather in the region stretched from Ft. Wayne, Indiana WSW to just south of Logansport, Indiana but there were lots of pockets of yellow with some orange on the screen over all of the southern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula and the northern half of Indiana. It looked like it might be another restless night.
We had yet more rain overnight. I heard the rain around 6 AM and checked the Wundermap app on my iPad but did not get up. Linda did not need to go to the Howell Farmers Market today as the refrigerator is quite full and the rainy weather made the prospect less appealing. We finally got up at 9 AM and I made coffee. Linda checked the weather forecast. It called for a 100% chance of rain between noon and 3 PM with thunderstorms and up to 2″ of rain. By 10:15 AM it was raining steadily again.
We deferred by one more day getting back to work on the bus. The monthly meeting of our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) was this evening and we did not want to get involved in physical work today. I wanted to do a load of laundry but deferred that as the high humidity makes it harder to get the clothes dry.
I opened the three boxes that made up the OTA TV antenna shipment from AntennasDirect.com and laid all the parts out on the floor. As I wrote yesterday I need to determine exactly what types/lengths/connectors I need to get everything hooked up and make sure I have it on hand before I climb the 40 foot tower next to the house. After I laid all of the parts out this morning Linda asked how I was going to get all of that stuff up the tower.
My plan is to preassemble as much stuff as possible. I will then take a 100 foot rope with me when I climb the tower, loop it over one of the crossbars, and drop it back down to the ground where Linda can tie it to a bracket, or directly to some part, and pull it up to me. As I describe this it occurs to me that I should probably rig up a pulley. We also figured out that we should run the TV co-ax inside the house before I climb the tower. That will allow Linda to scan for signals and talk to me on our portable ham radios while I am on the tower if the antennas need to be aimed. I called Mike (W8XH) to see if he would bring his climbing harness to our ham radio club meeting this evening and he agreed.
For breakfast I had some of the Pepperidge Farm cinnamon chocolate chip bread Linda bought and we both had fresh grapefruit. After breakfast I got cleaned up and dressed and then partially assembled the OTA TV antenna. I then went to my office and settled in at my desk to upload blog posts. I had not been in my e-mail for a few days so there were some things I had to respond to before working on our blog.
I got my blog posts uploaded for May 29 through June 7 and then decided to update the other three WordPress websites I work on. Much to my dismay I was not able to log in to the FMCA Freethinkers website. I got an error message instead and the contents looked to me like the site might have been hacked. I notified the President of the chapter and indicated that I would contact the ISP technical support folks and see what they can tell me. I have never opened that site up to the members of the chapter because I never quite finished it but I intended to and I have a lot of time and effort invested in its development. Still, if the site is totally corrupted I may just delete it and abandon the whole project.
I wrapped up my work just in time for dinner. Linda reheated the two leftover vegan cheeseburgers and served them with the remaining vegan potato salad and fresh nectarines.
Linda spent a little time during the afternoon getting the treasurer’s report ready for our SLAARC meeting. We left at 6 PM and were at the Witch’s Hat Depot in South Lyon by 6:30 PM. We have changed the meeting format to have social time from 6:30 to 7:00 PM, followed by a business meeting, and then a program. I got the climbing harness from Mike (W8XH) as soon as we arrived and put it in the car. I then had a brief chat with Scotty (AC8IL) regarding Universal Towers in Clinton Township, Michigan and LMR-400 co-ax. Scotty stocks LMR-400 but also stocks RG-213 which he thinks is better for outdoor use. His opinion is based on a Motorola white paper that discusses potential problems with the aluminum foil wrapped copper braid outer conductor in LMR-400 in the presence of moisture.
Tonight’s business meeting was a discussion about preparations for the upcoming ARRL Field Day lead by this year’s club field day chair Paul (KD8SNZ). The program was a presentation by Larry (K8UT) on the N1MM Logger+ contest logging program that we will be using to log contacts on four different networked computers. Larry is a member of the N1MM development team. I asked Larry if I could send him the URL for my broken WordPress website and he said he would look at it. We left at 8:45 PM.
When we got home Juniper was hunched over something in the living room and I could see immediately that she had caught another mouse. It was very small, like the last one, and for all I know it was the same mouse. I got her to drop the last one and it escaped into my office. Linda grabbed one of the antenna boxes and pulled out the shipping paper that was stuffed inside. I managed to get Juniper to drop the mouse in the box, from which it was not going to be able to escape, and then took the box outside and set it free. If it has any sense it won’t come back in the house and it will tell all if its little mouse friends to steer clear of this place. Juniper is a very skilled hunter and will catch anything in that house that moves that is smaller than she is.
Linda prepared some fresh strawberries and served them with some non-dairy ice cream. She logged in to Amazon.com and ordered six live traps and a new cover for my iPad, both eligible for Amazon Prime. We then spent a little more time reading and writing and checking the weather. The 10-day forecast is for continued rain almost every day. We are still expecting the new roof shingles to be delivered tomorrow but we won’t be surprised if they are not. We are also expecting that Apex will have to push the start date of our project back due to all of the recent rain delaying other jobs that are ahead of ours. We turned in for the night at 10:30 PM; late for Linda and early for me. She was asleep fairly quickly but I stayed up writing and played a few games on my iPad as I do most nights.
It has turned out to be a wet June so far and we had more heavy rain last night. In spite of waking up during the night I was up at 7:30 AM and made coffee. Everyone else got up as suited their level of rest and we sat around chatting for a while. Ron put a load of laundry in the washing machine and then we sat down to a light breakfast.
Ron and Mary spent most of the rest of the morning repacking all of their stuff for the drive to northwest Illinois and their week-long bicycle ride. FedEx Home Delivery delivered the Cyclo 5-Pro Mark II Dual Head Orbital Polisher I ordered along with all of the foam pads and detailing chemicals.
Ron retrieved their laundry from the dryer and after they finished packing we had a light lunch. By 1 PM they were ready to load up the car so we helped get their bags out. After a brief “farewell and safe travels” they were on their way. They had a five hour drive but would gain an hour as they entered the Central Time Zone so they would be at their motel by 5 PM local time with plenty of daylight and time to eat dinner.
Linda took a short nap and then went for a walk. I read through the manual for our SureCall Fusion5s cell phone booster and was part way through the manual for the Cyclo 5 when I decided to take a nap. Linda returned from her walk and a little while later a USPS mail carrier delivered the OTA TV antenna I ordered from Antennas Direct. All I am waiting for now is the cable entrance box I ordered from KF7P Metalwerks.
Once the cable entrance box arrives I will have a bit of a project. First I will need to drill two 2″ holes through the east wall of the house and into the sump pump closet in the northeast corner of the basement, mount the box to the wall, and ground it to the outside ground rod by the tower. I may also need to install additional ground rods. I will then need to climb the tower by the house and do the following:
- take down the old OTA TV antenna and rotator;
- mount the new OTA TV antenna and aim it;
- mount the amplifier for the OTA TV antenna;
- attach a short piece of 75 Ohm co-ax from the antenna output to the amplifier input and weatherproof the connections;
- attach a longer piece of 75 Ohm co-ax to the output of the amplifier and weatherproof the connection;
- mount the outside antenna for the cell phone booster system;
- attach one end of a 50′ piece of LMR-400 or RG-213 co-ax to the cell phone antenna and weatherproof it;
- unmount our Diamond SG7900 2m/70cm ham radio base station antenna and remount it at the top of the tower;
- attach a 50-to-60 foot length of LMR-400 or RG-213 co-ax to the ham radio antenna;
- dress and secure all of the coaxial cables with plastic cable ties (zip ties).
Once I am done with tower work I will need to do the following to complete the installation:
- install the lightning arrestors in the cable entrance box for the cell phone booster and OTA TV (?) co-ax cables;
- route each of the co-ax cables into the bottom of the cable entrance box and attach them to appropriate lighting arrestors;
- attach additional co-ax cables to the lightning arrestors and feed them through the 2″ holes into the basement;
- mount the Surecall Fusion5s in the sump pump room and connect the co-ax for the outside antenna and the power supply;
- run a 50′ length of LMR-400 from the sump pump room across the basement ceiling and up through an old vertical furnace exhaust chase to the attic;
- drill a hole in the ceiling of the main floor hallway near the chase;
- mount the inside done antenna for the cell phone booster system to the ceiling with the co-ax dongle in the attic;
- connect the antenna dongle to the co-ax coming up from the basement;
- run additional co-ax from the sump pump room to the ham shack;
- run additional co-ax from the sump pump room to the video distribution point in the laundry room (or directly to the locations of the two TV sets);
- turn on the Fusion5s booster (transceiver), adjust the gain (if needed) and test it with our phones and Mi-Fi;
- test the TV sets (and hopefully not have to go back up the tower to reposition the antenna);
- connect our Icom IC-7000 amateur radio and test the antenna connection.
As I wrote out this list it occurred to me that I need to make a list of all of the co-ax types/lengths/connectors I need and that, at a minimum, I probably need to order a length of LMR-400 orRG-213 co-ax cable and the proper N-connectors to complete the ham radio antenna connections. It also occurred to me that I might be able to do some of the inside wiring while I am waiting for the cable entrance box to arrive. Also, once the TVs are connected Linda can scan for channels and communicate with me with our HT ham radios if I need to change the aim of the antennas on the tower.
All of this reminded me that I need to follow-up with a Bratcher Electric on running a new 100 Amp main feed from the transfer switch to the panel in the furnace room in the garage. I also need to order some new split foam fillers from Critter-Guard and new electrical hardware for connecting the bus to the toad from EZ-Connector in California.
I must have been sleeping lightly and dreamed all of these details because I got up from my nap around 5:30 PM, finished reading the manual for the Cyclo 5, and then took a shower and got dressed for dinner. Barb Spera had called Linda yesterday to see if we were available for dinner this evening. They had really enjoyed our meal at La Marsa in Brighton a couple of weeks ago and wanted to go again so we agreed to meet them there at 7 PM. We did not have to wait for a table and our waiter, Najheem (Naa-gheem), was delightful. Barbara had the Koshary again, and Chuck had the Chicken Shwarma with tabbouleh salad, while we split an order of spicy vegetarian ghallabah with rice and a salad. I had a mango smoothie and we all enjoyed the swarm pocket bread and garlic spread.
It was after 9 PM when we got home and we headed off to bed at 10. We knew Ron and Mary had arrived at their destination because Ron played a Scrabble word. Linda had also checked that our daughter and son-in-law were on their way back from Las Vegas.
I was awake at 6 AM but not fully rested so I stayed in bed. I got up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, cleaned their litter tray, and then settled in at my desk to continue editing blog posts. I had edited four more posts by 9 AM when I heard footsteps and running water, signaling that people were up and about. I wrapped up my work and went upstairs to make coffee.
We sat around drinking coffee and tea and visiting. Both cats have gotten more comfortable with Ron and Mary being here, but especially Juniper, who is seeking their attention and sleeping on the living room sofas while we sit and talk.
Ron and Mary were expecting a package today but found out late yesterday that it had not been sent. As a result they needed to have documents e-mailed to us so they could deal with them and return them before they leave tomorrow for a week-long bicycle ride in northwest Illinois. The e-mails came through and all of the documents were PDFs so they were easy to save and print. I restarted my old Dell Precision Workstation in Windows 2000 Pro mode as that is where the scanner is installed and we would need it later to scan the signature pages, save them as PDFs and e-mail them back to the sender. (I normally use this computer to run Linux.)
I left at noon for a 12:15 PM appointment at the Honda dealer to have the oil changed in my Element. My car has just under 99,000 miles and really needed its 100,000 mile service, but I did not have time for that today so I had them change the oil and scheduled a return visit for Wednesday June 24 at 10 AM. It has a torn driveshaft boot on the driver side front and the mechanic thinks the drive shaft should be replaced as water and dirt have certainly gotten in there and there is probably rust. Ron tended to concur with that opinion.
Linda gave me a short grocery list before I left and I went to the Brighton Meijer’s after my car appointment. By the time I got back Ron and Mary had finished reviewing documents. I was going to scan the signature pages but it turned out that one of the signatures had to be notarized and the documents had to be faxed back in their entirety. Linda researched places to get all of that done and they were headed out to take care of that as I returned home. While I was out UPS dropped off a package from Prevost Parts with the window panel seal I ordered earlier in the week. That’s two UPS deliveries to this week so my confidence is restored.
While Ron and Mary were out Linda made potato salad and I worked in my office. I restarted my Dell Workstation in Linux mode (Ubuntu 14 point something) and installed about 45 updates. While that was happening I edited a few more blog posts and got caught up. Now all I have to do is post them.
Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline drove up after Madeline got up from her afternoon nap. They arrived around 4 PM. I quit working at my desk just before that and came upstairs. Madeline is always excited to visit Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce but having Ron and Mary here was a bonus for everyone.
For dinner Linda served the potato salad, baked beans, and vegan cheese burgers with all the fixin’s. We had a break in the rain and she cooked the burgers outside on the grill. We had fresh strawberries and non-dairy “ice cream” for dessert. Ron and Mary picked up an apple pie from the Grand Traverse Pie Company store in Brighton so everyone else tried some of that as well. Conversation was about family, work, and travel.
By 7 PM Madeline was showing signs of being tired so Brendan and Shawna gathered up their things and headed back to Ann Arbor. We stayed up until 10 PM talking, but did not play Mexican Train, and then turned in for the night.
Ron and Mary had a long drive yesterday, and an exhausting 10 days prior to that, so they went to bed tired. Consequently they did not get up early and I did not make coffee right away. I was up at 7:30 AM and went to my office instead. Chris at KF7P Metalwerks accepted my change to the cable entrance box late last night and sent me a PayPal invoice. I paid that this morning and e-mailed him back to clarify and confirm a couple points about the box. Once everyone was up we had coffee (us) and tea (them) on the back deck and enjoyed a beautiful early summer morning. We eventually went back inside and had the granola for breakfast that Linda made yesterday. So good.
After breakfast we gave them a tour of our partially disassembled motorcoach and explained what we are trying to do. I mentioned that the motorized windshield roller shades were not winding up straight and that the driver side was binding part way up. One of the MCD vendors at the rally last week told me to put a piece of tape on one end (lengthwise) to force the shade to not run (in that direction). Ron, who is a retired mechanical engineer, suggested that I create a tapered roller by putting tape around the roller tube at 5 to 7 places. The tape cannot go all the way around the roller tube because of the shade but it can go most of the way around. Ron’s suggestion was one layer towards the outside, two layers next, then three layers and finally four layers in the center. These tapered rollers are commonly used in industry to keep conveyor belts centered.
We had just exited the bus when a minivan that I did not recognize pulled in our driveway. It was the electric power company meter reader. We chatted briefly, and she was very nice but was obviously on a tight schedule.
Ron and Mary needed a duffle bag and some batteries so we drove to the Dick’s sporting goods store at US-23 and Lee Road. They found a nice duffle bag but not the batteries so we stopped at Meijer’s on the way back to the house and they found what the needed there. We also picked up a card for our daughter, Meghan, whose 34th birthday was today.
Back at the house we called Meghan and wished her a happy birthday via voice message. We got a text message later saying thank you. We also had a voice message on our home phone from Pat Davidson at Apex Roofing indicating that the shingles for our new roof would be delivered on Monday. For lunch we had pretzels and pita chips with hummus and some grapes. I slipped off into the small bedroom and opened the box from Cellular Solutions to make sure everything was there. It was.
Although Ron and Mary slept well last night they were still tired and decided to take naps. That left Linda free to go for a walk and me to work in my office. I transferred rough drafts of blog posts from my e-mail to MS Word and then started editing them but did not have time to upload them to WordPress before we had to leave to go to dinner.
We left around 5:15 PM for La Marsa. They were in the second of two days of their 4th year celebration for the Brighton location and everything was 34% off. They were backed up 90 minutes for carry out orders but we got a table after only a short wait. We had Koshary and they had kabobs. After dinner we went for a walk around the Brighton Mill Pond where we saw two gigantic snapping turtles in the pond. One of them almost caught a muskrat and they eventually bumped into one another and seemed to be fighting. It was quite the show. Snapping turtles are nothing to mess around with and the shells on these two were about 2 feet long, front to back. Gigantic.
When we got back to the house we played 13 rounds of Mexican Train. By the time we finished it was midnight and we all got to bed around 12:15 AM.
Same routine as yesterday; up at 7 AM, open up the house, feed the cats, clean the litter tray, start a load of laundry, make the coffee, and drink the coffee while using our iPads.
Our daughter’s 34th birthday is tomorrow but she is flying to Las Vegas today to meet up with her husband who is there on a company outing. We will celebrate her birthday when they get back, perhaps in conjunction with Father’s Day and Linda’s birthday, which is at the end of the month.
Linda left at 9 AM for Brighton Honda to have the 12 V battery in her car checked. The battery light came on the other day so we thought it might need to be replaced. Around 9:20 AM I heard thunder and a short time later we had a brief, heavy downpour. Linda called at the same time and said the battery tested OK. The problem could be the alternator, of course, but presumably the dealer service people know that and checked for that. If not, we will likely be back there sooner rather than later.
Linda headed on to Meijer’s to do the grocery shopping. Today was trash pickup day so I took the trash can to the street. After meeting with Brad from Chuck It Junk Removal the other day we decided we would rent their trailer for 5 days. For the same price as having them physically handle 1/3 of a truck of junk (5 cu. yd.) we can get rid of a full truck of junk (15 cu. yd.) by loading it ourselves. Deal.
I got a call from Phil Jarrell regarding my request for pricing to dig a foundation hole for a ham radio tower foundation. It was a useful conversation in that I had not previously realized that I will need a concrete contractor in addition to the concrete supplier. The only thing the concrete supplier will do is show up with a cement mixer truck and dump the concrete where they are instructed to. The concrete contractor will actually place rebar, build forms, provide carts or a pumper, and get the concrete from the truck to the hole. Phil recommended Mike Fearer of Bid-Rite Concrete as a good guy who would work with me to get this done.
I talked with Chuck about getting a key to his shop so we could have the new refrigerator delivered there and have the old one picked up without having to trouble him to be there. He agreed and suggested that we contact the guy down the street about removing the old windshield and installing the new one as part of the refrigerator swap.
Rather than dig into our bus interior remodeling project I have used the last couple of days to finalize decisions about various products and order them. One of the things I have wanted/needed for a while is a cable entrance box that will allow me to route transmission lines and control cables into the basement from outside. I talked to Chris Perri, KF7P, at the Dayton Hamvention last month and decided that I liked his custom fabricated cable entry boxes. I got his business card at the Hamvention and exchanged a couple of e-mails with him this week. I decided this morning how I want the box initially configured and e-mailed my specs to Chris. I would like to run the cabling for the cell phone booster through this box so I needed to get it on order. Speaking of which, the cell phone booster system arrived today via UPS so I am feeling more comfortable that all of the stuff I am ordering will actually get delivered to our house.
Wednesday’s and Fridays are when Recycle Livingston is open and the Wednesday hours are 11 AM to 5:30 PM. We had my car loaded up with recyclables and Linda drove over after lunch to drop them off. When she got back she made a batch of her yummy granola and I got a couple more loads of laundry done while continuing to work at my computer.
After doing my alternate tile layout for the bus floor yesterday I decided that I liked the way it looked better than the original ad that it would not involve any more cutting than the row/column layout. I also felt confident that I had an accurate enough tile count to go ahead and order the tiles. I drove to the Shell station to fill my tank and then drove to Lynch Carpet in Howell. I ordered 12 boxes of the 16″ x 16″ Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl Tile in the La Plata Creme Fresh pattern, and a gallon each of the vinyl adhesive and Glacier vinyl grout. There are 14 tiles per box (24.89 sq. ft.) for a total of 168 tiles (just under 300 sq. ft.). The inside floor area of the bus is around 300 sq. ft. before subtracting out walls and cabinets but we will be using some of the tiles on vertical surfaces in the entry stairwell and cockpit and around the box that supports the bed platform. My estimate is that I will have 10 extra tiles. The guy at Lynch Carpet suggested that I use a scrap piece of tile as a spacer when installing the tiles but I may use the little plastic “X” pieces designed for this purpose.
From Lynch Carpet I drove to Lowe’s in Howell to see if they had a different portable air compressor that might be more appropriate than the 6 gallon Porter Cable we just bought. The Porter-Cable air compressor has a maximum regulated pressure of 150 PSI but that is also the maximum tank pressure. I will have to test it on one of the front bus tires to determine if it will get the job done and if not I will return it.
The guy at Lynch Carpet also suggested that I rent a handheld grinder from Abe’s or A-1 Rental, both in Howell. Abe’s did not have any grinders of any kind and A-1 was closed on Wednesdays. The gal at Abe’s suggested the tool rental service at the Howell Home Depot, so I stopped there. They also did not have a handheld grinder but they did have a floor model concrete grinder. It was so heavy that I doubt if we could have gotten it into the bus and it was too big to maneuver in the tight spaces where I need to work. They did have a lighter/smaller floor stripper and I may give that a try before I resort to grinding off the thinset with an angle grinder and diamond impregnated wheel and/or a belt sander with a very aggressive belt.
Pat Davidson called from Apex Roofing while I was out so I called him back. They will be able to start on our roof next week Monday or Tuesday and will deliver the shingles on Friday this week. I confirmed that we wanted two of the 14″ light tunnels for the living room. I also indicated that I had scrapped the idea of building a dormer or installing a roof hatch as I simply did not get this taken care of in time.
Linda had closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning while I was out. It was pulling moisture out of the air but would not bring the air temperature lower than 78 degrees. Not good. This will be our third summer in this house and we have not used the air-conditioning very much. The first summer we were gone for most of June, all of July, and a few days in August. We had the unit serviced last year and thought it was working OK but perhaps did not really use it after that. We did install filters in the return air grills so perhaps they are restricting the airflow too much. It is also possible that it needs refrigerant. I will have to check our records from last year and then call TOMTEK to arrange to have it serviced again.
Linda’s brother, Ron, and his wife, Mary, arrived early this evening. They are on their way to northwest Illinois for a week-long organized bicycle ride. They have to be there on Saturday and will be spending the next three nights at our house. Visits from them are usually not more than once a year but we really enjoy their company when they are here.
For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and then made whole wheat angel hair pasta with onions, garlic, and mushrooms lightly sautéed in olive oil. Ron does not imbibe but Linda, Mary, and I had a glass (or two) of Moscato. We moved to the deck after dinner and had fresh strawberries for dessert. It cooled off as darkness set in and we eventually moved back inside. The other three were in the kitchen and I was sitting on the sofa when Juniper suddenly caught a mouse in the middle of the living room, or at least that is where I noticed that she had it. She took it downstairs and I got her to drop it in the bathroom sink but I was unable to get it into a container to take it outside and it escaped into my office. I closed the doors but I have no doubt it can go wherever it wants in the house from there. When I returned upstairs we chatted until 11 PM and then all turned in for the evening.
I was up at 7 AM, fed the cats, and made coffee, which has become Linda’s wake up alarm. Phil Jarrell showed up at 8 AM. He set up his laser level and checked elevations for a gravel driveway that would connect our concrete driveway around to our third culvert. Some of this driveway may eventually provide access to a barn, but it will also provide a second pad that is level and big enough to support a 45 foot bus conversion.
Phil moved the laser level to a different spot and checked the elevations of various points at the west end of the property relative to the culvert that runs under the road to the little triangle of our yard in the southwest corner. Although it did not appear so to me, all of the property to the west and north is higher than the bottom of the culvert. That means Phil should be able to construct a French drain that will help dry this area out and hopefully save the trees that are there. He will also use the top soil he pulls out of the driveway to fill in the various low spots.
Phil was done and on his way by 9:30 AM. I forgot to mention the hole for the ham radio tower base so I e-mailed him about that additional work. While it will almost certainly be less expensive to have him dig the hole while he is already here working on other things it is a project that requires my involvement, parts that I do not yet have, and coordination with a concrete company who can pump or cart the concrete from the truck to the hole.
We had breakfast after which I sorted the laundry. The warm white load was small so I stripped the bed in the bus and added those sheets to the load. We cleaned off the twin mattress in the small bedroom with most of the stuff going down to my office. The stuff on the double bed in the middle bedroom then went to the small bedroom, allowing us to strip the double bed so I could launder the sheets and pillow cases.
Based on the e-mail I got yesterday from Cory at Rupes/Cyclo I figured out that I wanted the Cyclo 5-Pro Mark II Dual Head Orbital Polisher with the ProGuard backing plates. I also determined which foam pads and chemicals I wanted and placed the order directly with Rupes/Cyclo online. I also updated our PayPal account and used it for this transaction.
I went to my office and spent several hours doing a second floor plan drawing for the bus, this one showing the tiles installed as diamonds rather than squares. Over the course of the afternoon Linda heated up some Amy’s chili for lunch and I got two more loads of laundry done.
Late afternoon brought a call on our landline that turned out to be a recorded message claiming to be from the IRS and stating that this was their final attempt to reach us before filing a lawsuit. Yeah, right. The IRS does not make such calls, of course, nor do they send such e-mails. They like paper trails and contact people by registered mail or show up unannounced at the door. And they don’t sue people, they just seize assets. A Google search quickly revealed that this was an IRS Impersonation Scam that has been around for a while but gets resurrected from time to time.
We were annoyed enough by this particular scam that I filed a complaint with the U. S. Treasury Department and the Federal Trade Commission. While I was on the FTC website I opted us out of receiving “Firm Offers” for insurance and pre-approved credit cards. I also verified that our landline and cell phones (2) are on the Federal Do Not Call list, although it has not eliminated telemarketing calls. The fact that we are on the DNC list, however, allows us to file complaints with the FTC when we get such calls.
For dinner Linda made a nice salad with poppy seed dressing and heated up a couple of teriyaki noodle bowls. It was yummy and a small glass of Moscato was very agreeable as well. After dinner I was revisiting the EZ Connector website when a TXT message came through with a picture of his Chuck’s new VDO 0–15 PSI turbo boost gauge. I was thinking about calling Chuck anyway so I rang him up and we had a long chat.
It rained until well after midnight last night. The rain was not steady but more in the form of heavy downpours associated with thunderstorms. The gutter along the rear of our house was not able to handle the volume of water and it was spilling over onto our deck making a sound that we are not used to. I noted that I should check the gutters for clogs at the downspouts today. My phone chirped, which meant I had an e-mail, and I presumed it was from our whole house generator. When I got up this morning the clocks on the microwave and range were flashing “2:06”, so my first thought was that we must have taken a power hit then, but the messages on my phone indicated that utility power had been lost and restored around 3:45 AM; at least that was the date/time stamp on the e-mails. I got up just before 6 AM and finally figured out that the clocks probably reset to 00:00 when the power blipped (3:45 AM + 2:06 elapsed time = 5:51 AM).
I sat in the living room writing with my iPad and playing games until a little after 7 AM and then made coffee, which got Linda out of bed. We had planned to empty out more of the bus today but the weather was gloomy and we were tired from the rally so we had a long, leisurely morning before busying ourselves with inside chores. Linda worked at her desk and I wasn’t in the humor to work downstairs in my office so I set my computer up on the dining room table. Other than an occasional trip to the bus or the garage I mostly sat in front of my computer and talked on the phone all day.
Linda called Alchin’s, our regular trash collection company, to see if they would pick up the old RV furniture. They do not have a special truck they can send and could not take the steel furniture even if they could get it into their garbage truck. Linda suggested we find a company like “Got Junk” and searched online for one in the area. We decided to call “Chuck It Junk Removal” as they are located relatively close to our house. Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up around 11 AM to cut the grass and Brad, from Chuck It Junk Removal, showed up around 12:45 PM to look at the furniture and flooring we pulled out of the bus and give us a quote on the cost to haul it away. As Keith was finishing mowing the grass dark clouds were rolling in from the west and not long after he left we had more rain, although nothing like last night.
My dentist thinks my current intermittent teeth issues are the result of clenching my teeth at night so I made an appointment to get fitted for a mouth guard to wear while sleeping. I also got hold of Phil Jarrell and he decided that tomorrow morning at 8 AM would be a good time for him to stop by and take some elevation readings for the driveway extension and a French drain for the far west end of the property. Besides the obvious economy of having him do both jobs while he is on site, we need a place to put the topsoil he will dig out for the driveway and we need topsoil to fill in low spots on the west end of the yard.
I managed to finally get some orders placed today. The big one was for a SureCall Fusion5s multi-band cell phone booster (transceiver) system from Cellular Solutions in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. The other was for a window seal from Prevost. This is not the seal that holds the glass in the frame but rather a large rubber part that seals the space between the window frame and the structure of the coach. We may need to unlatch the large fixed window on the passenger side and use it to get the old refrigerator out and the new one in. This window frame has not been opened since we bought the bus and may not have been opened for many years before that, possibly not ever since the bus was built. I want the new seal on hand in case the current one gets damaged trying to open the window frame.
Besides these two purchases I talked to someone at A-1 Upholstery and described our home made sofa plans. She suggested that we would need ~9 yards of 54″ wide material for the sofa seats and back cushions. I sent an e-mail to Josh at Coach Supply Direct reminding him of some things we had discussed at the rally last week and Rick Short at Isringhausen with questions about their 6800 series bus driver seats. I also finally got to talk to Mike at Suburban Seating in New Jersey. As I suspected we cannot buy the seat directly from ISRI, but I may be able to order it through Suburban Seating and pick it up from ISRI USA in Galesburg, Michigan. That would be much nicer than having it shipped to our house on a truck from New Jersey.
I called Rupes/Cyclo to try to get answers to a few questions about the Cyclo 5-Pro Mark II Dual Head Orbital Polisher and its various pads but could not figure out how to talk to a real person. I submitted the online Contact Form with my questions and got a speedy reply from Cory as a result of which I now know what to order. All I have to do is figure out how many of each thing I need. The Cyclo 5 is available on Amazon Prime, by itself, but it did not appear to be the Mark II model. Some of the major distributors claim to give you a set of “free” ProGuard Orbital Backing Plates, but the Rupes/Cyclo website clearly states that the polisher is not sold without one of the three head options. I prefer not to patronize businesses that misrepresent their offerings and will probably order the polisher, pads, and chemicals directly from Cyclo even if I am paying MSRP.
I got a call from Gary Hatt at Bus Conversion Magazine. I had not looked at or replied to e-mails in over a week and he wanted to make sure everything was OK. While we were talking we got a call from Curtis Coleman of RVillage so Linda took that initially until my other call was concluded. I had e-mailed Curtis earlier in the day and he was responding to that communique.
Somewhere in the middle of all that we had chickpea salad on a bed of greens for lunch. Linda then went for a walk, met Chris (K8VJ) at Lowe’s to pick up some SLAARC mail, and roasted vegetables for our dinner when she got home. I sent Chuck Spera a short e-mail inquiring about how to open the latches on our emergency escape window and then called it a night.
Unlike the Escapees Rallies, which always have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, the FMCA rallies always end with the entertainment the evening before departure day. On departure day there is an asynchronous but generally smooth exodus of motorhomes that can start as early as 6 AM. A small group of members from the Ontario Rovers chapter was parked across from our row of GLCC buses and they started firing up their engines at 7 AM and pulled out shortly thereafter. No one objects to, or is disturbed by, this as it is understood and accepted that folks need to get on the road as suits their personal plans and travel styles. We are usually required to vacate the rally venue by noon unless we are part of the debriefing meetings.
One of the things I find most interesting about rallies is the somewhat contradictory feelings many of us seem to have on departure day that the rally is ending too soon but we would have been glad to leave sooner. The sense that it is over too quickly has to do, for me at least, with the fact that we enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow converted bus owners who we only see very occasionally. The sense that it has gone on too long is just the fatigue of an intense multi-day event where every day is packed full of things to do.
John and Paulette pulled out around 9:30 AM followed by Don and Sandra and then Larry and Alma. The Canadian contingent of our chapter (two buses and a Class C motorhome) was headed to a campground in Middlebury, Indiana about 17 miles away. They had planned to leave just before noon on the presumption that they would not be able to check in any sooner than that. Karen called and found out their sites were vacant so they all prepped their coaches, hooked up their cars, and were gone by 10:30 AM. Once we saw they were getting ready to leave we did not have any reason to linger so we prepared our coach for departure and so did Scott and Tami. We both decided to hook up by our sites rather than at the dump stations. We pulled away just after 11 AM with them not far behind us.
We took the outer road along the southern boundary of the Fairgrounds over to the dump stations at the southeast corner. There are at least five parallel lanes that RVs can use to dump their holding tanks. We have never had to wait for one but when we got over there they were all in use and there were five motorhomes waiting to get in. We had to dump before we left, and so did Scott and Tami, so there was nothing to do but wait our turn. Soon enough we were able to pull up, hook up our sewer hose, dump our holding tanks, rinse out the hose, put it away, close up the bay’s, and head for the exit.
The easiest way in/out of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds is NOT through Goshen, Indiana which involves narrower streets, lots of traffic, and railroad grade crossings. From Gate 5 at the far northeast corner of the fairgrounds we turned right on CR-34 (Monroe St.) and headed east. About a mile later, give or take a bit, we turned left and headed north on CR-29. A couple of miles later CR-29 ended at IN-4 which we took east to IN-13. IN-13 starts (ends) at that point and only goes north from there.
We discussed whether to turn east onto US-20 or continue north on IN-13 but finally opted for the US-20 route. IN-13 becomes US-131 in Michigan and we could have taken it up to I-94, passing through Three Rivers, Michigan on the way. But US-20 is a good route that we have traveled many times and is the quickest way home from this part of Indiana, getting us over to I-69 very directly.
Once we got to I-69 the rest of our trip was on Interstate highways except for the last 13 miles. We stopped at the Michigan Welcome Center / Rest Area at mile marker 5 and then continued up to Lansing where we exited onto I-96 east. As we approached the exit for the Mobil Truck Stop at M-52 our fuel level was indicating just below a half tank and I decided not to stop and top it off. We talked about taking the Latson Road exit but M-59 is the most direct route home so I took that exit like we usually do. M-59 only goes east from there and rolls along interrupted by only two stop lights. Approximately 11 miles later I turned south on N. Hacker road and we completed the drive to our house.
We had very light and intermittent rain from the time we left the fairgrounds but it did not affect the drive. The only issue with the bus was that the Battery Balance Light and Vanner Equalizer Light both came on twice. Both times it happened I had just hit a very bumpy section of road so I am wondering if I have some loose cables. I have not checked the batteries in a while and terminal connections are probably due to be cleaned and tightened. The batteries are three or four years old at this point and are standard lead-acid maintenance-free batteries. I keep them on maintenance chargers when the coach is parked, but these batteries typically only last about 5 years so I need to check them and keep an eye on them.
We pulled into our driveway around 2:45 PM and Linda got out to direct me as I parked the rig. We were level without any adjustments so I shut down the main engine, switched off the batteries, closed all of the air valves, and plugged in the shorepower cord. It was not raining so we busied ourselves emptying the bus, including the refrigerator, of items we needed to get into the house sooner rather than later. We did not empty the freezer section as Linda needs to clean out and rearrange our home refrigerator freezer section first, and we left a lot of the clothes on board.
The wind was gusting stronger as the afternoon progressed. It continued to spritz off and on but the heavier rains finally came around 6 PM. They were initially isolated and intermittent but became stronger and more persistent as the evening hours advanced and by 9 PM we had lightning and thunder. Our son called around 9:30 PM just to check in with us, see how our week was, and bring us up to date regarding their activities. Last week was grand-daughter Madeline’s first full week of part-time day care. She will be staying home on Monday’s and Friday’s through the summer and hopefully be able to spend some time with Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.
Today was the last day of the 2015 GLAMARAMA rally. It started at 7 AM with a pancake breakfast that ran until 9 AM. For the third year the rally organizers hired Chris’s Cakes to provide the pancakes. They had three long propane fueled griddles with sliding depositors. The operator stopped the depositors and used a lever to release the batter for six pancakes at a time and then moved it to the next position and did the same thing until the griddle was full. All of the pancakes had to be flipped by hand but the operators (cooks) were fast and generally accurate. They would occasionally flip three of them into the air at once and someone would try to catch them on their plate.
Linda and both had coffee. She had to work registration from 8 – 10 AM and left to go do that. I was hungry so I had three pancakes even though they probably contained eggs and/or milk products. I should have saved the calories; neither the pancakes nor the syrup had any flavor. Zero, zip, nada, nothing; no taste. I cannot remember the last time I had food that was that bland. But Scott, Mark, and I settled into an in-depth bus conversation that lasted until after 9 AM and the coffee was OK.
Linda and I met up back at the coach a little after 10 AM. I got a call from Gaye a Young letting me know we had a meeting with FMCA Executive Director Jerry Yeatts at 2:30 PM. Linda and I went back to the Coach Supply Direct booth and talked to Josh some more about fabrics. He confirmed that the Flexsteel 529 captain’s chair had a skirt around the base and that we could do a 2-tone fabric on the Flexsteel 591 captain’s chairs. We got the set of Lambright fabric samples from him along with the MCD shade material samples, and took them back to our coach to study in situ.
Although we liked the Bonkers Havana fabric we had previously selected, we ultimately selected two different ones. The Lone Wolf Brass was similar to the Bonkers Havana but lighter and much less green. Until we saw them together we did not realize the Bonkers Havana was green at all. The Legacy Borpeaux was a deep maroon, a color that appears in the Lone Wolf Brass and Bonkers Havana weaves. We will use the Lone Wolf Brass as the main fabric for the 591 chairs with the Borpeaux as the inset for the lower back and center aft seat panels. The 529 chairs will be all Borpeaux as the design of the chair does not lend itself to a 2-tone approach and we wanted some variety in the fabrics as long as they coordinated well.
The selection of materials for the MCD night shade was limited to six choices with one of them being black and another one white. Of the other four there was one we liked (B33). It was a bone (bisque, biscuit, etc.) color with a subtle but nice pattern. We wanted this opaque material to be light, but not “white,” so it would reflect artificial interior light when it was pulled down. The day shade is only available as a black fine-mesh screen. It is designed to block sunlight during the day but allow you to see out without anyone outside being able to see in.
With our selections made we went back to see Josh and return his sample materials. We keep feeling like we are close to placing an order but Josh needs to work up his pricing and get us the line drawings of the chairs. For our part we need to determine the dimensions of the cushions for the sofa and talk to A–1 Upholstery and get their estimate of how many yards of material we need so Josh can order all of the fabric at one time.
We went for our first walk around the Fairgrounds for this rally, although Linda has been walking every evening with Vicki Lintner. We were back at Building A at 12:30 PM. Linda had signed up for the Ladies Tea, which started at 1 PM so she headed over to the Home and Arts Building and I went back to our coach.
Frank Griswold drove down and bought a day pass. He and Sandy had planned to come to the rally in their Prevost H3-45 Vantare conversion but were unable to attend due to family issues. Jim and Lydia Marin decided to leave and go visit their children and Tim Olsen decided to depart right behind them and get home before the rain got his newly acquired, and freshly washed, Royale Coach Prevost XL dirty. When you have inside storage for your bus you have the option of being concerned about such things.
I was eating a sandwich for lunch, had Jasper on my lap, and was working on this blog post when Pat Lintner knocked on the door around 2 PM. He had purchased 18″ LED replacement lights for one of the ceiling fixtures in their Prevost bus conversion and wanted help wiring it. I took my voltmeter over to his coach to check the wiring. All we needed to do was identify the +12VDC and DC ground wires and while it seemed obvious how the fixture should be wired I was getting some odd readings on my meter. I did not want to rush and clip any wires until I was confident that I understood how the fixture was wired, and I had a meeting at 2:30 PM, so I told Pat I would be back before diner to finish the job.
I met with Gaye Young (FMCA national education committee chair) and Jerry Yeatts (FMCA executive director) for about 30 minutes to discuss the current status of the national education committee and its work. I then participated in a roundtable discussion with FMCA national secretary Vicki Ferrari and six other chapter secretaries. It was a very informative session that lasted for 90 minutes.
I had a chance to think about the fixture wiring while walking to and from my meetings, so after the chapter secretaries roundtable ended I went back to Pat’s coach, identified the +12VDC and DC ground wires, verified the voltage, clipped the supply wires, and got the LED bulbs installed in the ceiling fixture. I was done in time to walk back to my coach, which was not far from Pat’s, drop off my volt meter and iPad, and walk over to Building A for the Volunteer Dinner where Linda was waiting for me at the front door.
We went in and were greeted by Charlie Adcock, FMCA National President, who addressed Linda as Mrs. Bruce, and then by Jane Roush, who addressed Linda as Fay, all of which she found slightly amusing. I suggested that she had an identity crisis but she assured me she liked it that way. Dinner was green beans in butter with bacon, mashed potatoes (milk and butter), beef tips in gravy, and dinner rolls. There was no salad so we had dinner rolls with margarine for dinner. Mostly we go to these events to sociable and visible but it would be nice if a bit more consideration was given to having food available for people who have gluten issues or do not eat meat, eggs, or dairy for whatever reason. Green beans, properly prepared, are actually very tasty without butter and bacon.
We returned to our coach for a while and finished the leftover seitan stroganoff so we at least had something other than bread for dinner. We walked back to Building A, which we are parked behind one end of, for the evening entertainment. Sarah Ghetto performed at the first GLAMARAMA in September 2013 and was popular with the crowd so they invited her back. She was born blind and with a cleft pallet. The pallet was corrected surgically and she is an attractive and talented 31 year old woman with a college degree in music education and a voice that does justice to the Ann Murray covers and other songs she performs. She owns her own motorhome and travels with her parents from her home base in Norman, Oklahoma about five months of the year. Her dad sets up the lights and sound, MC’s the show, and plays guitar and/or sings on a few numbers, but dad makes it clear that Sarah is the star and keeps the spotlight on her.
FMCA is an International organization with members from Canada and Mexico in addition to the U.S.A. and yet they insist on hiring performers who pay tribute to the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and sing God Bless America and other nationalist songs. The Great Lakes Area (GLAMA) in particular includes all of Ontario and our Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter includes members from the entire area (IN, MI, OH, and Ontario). Our Canadian friends seem to take all of the religious-patriot nonsense in stride, but we find it inconsiderate at best and offensive at worst. Still, we enjoyed Sarah’s concert, most of which was not this kind of stuff. The Marlin’s also did some of this kind of music but most of their show was just great renditions of oldies.
We all walked the short distance back to our coaches after the concert and stood around in conversational groupings. To our surprise Mark Lovegreen had pulled out. He was headed to a relative’s farm outside Topeka, Kansas and wanted to get started with the trip. Linda and Vicki went for a walk, as they have every evening, and returned as the daylight was fading. They took down the American and Canadian Flags for the last time and folded them properly.
As darkness fell so did the temperature and once again it was just Scott and I having a conversation. This time it was mostly about holding tanks. By 10 PM we were getting a bit chilled and finally returned to our respective coaches for the night. I had some fresh fruit for desert and then went to bed and wrote for a little while before turning off the lights. At rallies our days usually start early, are filled with things to do, and run well into the evening. By the end of four or five days of that everyone is tired, but it’s a good kind of tired.
Today was day 3 of the FMCA GLAMARAMA 2015 rally. We were up at 7 AM after a poor night’s sleep in which the trains seemed to be almost continuous and the engineers seemed to leave their horns on for prolonged periods of time rather than just tooting them. We were at breakfast before 7:30 AM and had coffee while conversing at length with our friends from GLCC. Unlike the full breakfast that was included as part of the rally yesterday, today’s breakfast was simply coffee and donuts. The day’s rally activities got started at 9 AM so everyone went their own separate way at that time.
Linda and I went back to our coach for a while. We got word from our daughter that our step grand-daughter, Katie, woke up very ill this morning with a temperature of 103 degree F and unable to keep food down. When Linda headed to the 9:45 AM presentation on the FMCAssist program I stopped in one of the vendor buildings to pick up a receipt from Daryl Lawrence and chat with Josh Leach from Coach Supply Direct about our interior remodeling project. I then returned our GLCC sign to the office and went back to our coach.
The luncheon was at 11:15 AM, which seemed a bit early, but we walked over with our Canadian friends from our GLCC chapter and got in line. As usual we could not eat most of the food (by our choice) but we were able to make tomato and onion sandwiches using hamburger buns. Our daughter contacted Linda during lunch to let us know that Katie’s mom was taking her to the emergency room and we did not need to travel home in the car as Katie would probably not be attending her high school graduation this evening or the family dinner planned for afterwards. Although that greatly simplified our day we were disappointed for Katie and concerned that she get better very soon.
After lunch we went back to talk to Josh some more. Darin Hathaway was still out on Aqua-Hot service calls but things were so slow in the vendor area that Josh was willing to step away from his booth for a little while and bring his Corian samples box to our coach. It turned out that the Sandstone color/pattern was a perfect match to our existing kitchen counter. We do not always have that kind of good fortune when working on our 24 year old bus conversion.
We talked about chairs and Josh suggested that a Flexsteel Class C captain’s chair (model 529) might be a better choice for our dining/work table grouping than the barrel chairs we thought we wanted. The 529 is only 24 inches wide (to the outside of the arms) and can be mounted on a bolt down swivel/slide base with a seatbelt bar. It has a higher back than the barrel chairs but appears to be better proportioned for our space. The higher back would also be more supportive and the back does recline, so it would be adjustable the extent we have room.
We also talked about the Flexsteel 591 captain’s chair, with and without a footrest, for the passenger and driver seats respectively. Josh looked at the motorized bases for both chairs and thought they could be reused. That would be nice if true as it would save us cost and potentially simplify the installation. We still like the Lambright Havana Bonkers cloth fabric but are wondering if it might be too dark to use on all of the furniture. He gave us the name and phone number of A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart and said that they could make our custom sofa cushions and were the best upholsterers he has worked with. We will not have time to call them until Monday.
Last, but not least, Josh took measurements of all of our windows (except the windshields and cockpit windows) for MCD duo-shades. While potentially not as attractive as the Specialty Window Coverings (SWC) pleated day-night shades we currently have they would probably work better mechanically and be more effective in blocking light while affording us a view. We will almost certainly replace the shades in the bedroom as one of them is already broken. Whether we do the others will depend, at least partially, on cost but the quality of the design and manufacturing is very low and many of the metal pieces are actually bowed and have been since the day they were installed. In retrospect we should never have accepted them.
We spent the afternoon in/near our coach reading, writing, and paying attention to our cats. The Chapter Officers and Vendor’s Reception started at 4:15 PM. We walked over with Bill and Karen Gerrie who are officers in the Ontario Overlanders chapter. We had a sampling of items from the fresh fruit and relish trays. Linda had the Franzia Moscato and I had the Franzia Refreshingly Red wine. While waiting in line we finally made the acquaintance of Gaye Young, the chairperson of the national education committee, and her husband Jerry. Gaye is a candidate for FMCA national secretary. The election will be held at the national convention in Madison, Wisconsin at the end of July.
We went back to our motorcoach for a while and then returned to Building A to hear The Marlins. A group of four brothers, The Marlins gave a high energy 90 minute performance of an eclectic mix of popular music from the last 75 years. Back at our coach several of us stood outside talking until it got cool and dark. Vicki and Linda took down the American and Canadian flags and folded them. Linda then went in for the evening while I remained outside talking to Mark Lovegreen, who owns the highly modified MCI MC-8 parked next to us with the Laughing Raven Touring Co. markings. Mark is from Alaska and we continued our conversation for quite a while talking about buses and travel. It finally got chilly enough that we both retired to our respective coaches, although Mark was probably just hitting his comfort zone. I worked for a while on this post and then went to bed.
We had a very full schedule today. Breakfast was provided from 7 to 9 AM by the catering branch of Das Dutchmen Essenhaus restaurant as part of the rally fee. We went over at 8 AM with the Canadian contingent of our GLCC chapter. Breakfast was eggs, potatoes, and ham, so we had potatoes along with coffee and orange juice. The potatoes were OK, improved by ketchup and Tabasco sauce, the orange juice was excellent, and the coffee was acceptable except that they ran out. Yeah, they ran out of coffee at an RV rally breakfast.
We walked over to registration at 9 AM to find out our pavilion assignment for the social this afternoon. They put us in Building 17, about as far from where most of us are parked as possible. Oh well. We walked over and put up our chapter sign and then started spreading the word as this was a different location than we had the last two years. With the help of Vicki Lintner and her bicycle we managed to get the word to everyone, including those chapter members that we knew were at the rally but not parked with the chapter.
The vendor buildings were on our way back to our coach so we walked through those. We stopped at Daryl and Cheri Lawrence’s booth and paid them for the TireTraker repeater Daryl gave us to try when we were in Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter. We were able to use our volunteer “vendor bucks” to pay for half of the repeater. Daryl also confirmed that we should be able to back the dill valve stems out of our inside dual tire extensions slightly (1/4 turn) to get the TireTraker sensors to activate more reliably.
Josh Leach was there from Coach Supply Direct so we chatted with him a bit. He can order the Flexsteel 1341-CH barrel chair with the Lambright fabric we like and can order the Flexsteel captain’s chair for the passenger position in the same fabric. He estimated delivery at five weeks. He can also get Corian countertops made and had a good assortment of sample pieces so we are going to try to get him to the coach with the samples and select something.
We also stopped at the MCD shade vendor and at one of their competitor’s booths. We are thinking about replacing the two shades in the bedroom with the duo-style roller shades. The MCD vendor also gave us a great tip on how to adjust our AutoMotion motorized windshield shades using layers of painter’s tape to get the fabric to roll up onto the spool correctly. The shades from either vendor are custom made and shipped. The MCD guy will ship them for free. The other guy is local to Elkhart so we could pick them up if needed, although there is certainly a real cost to the 300 mile round trip.
Back at the coach I returned a call from Mike at Suburban Seating and called Rick Short at ISRI USA but was not successful in reaching either of them. There was a meeting of GLAMA chapter presidents, national directors, and alternate directors at 1:30 PM with GLAMA President Jane Roush so I went to that. FMCA National President Charlie Adcock and Senior National Vice-President Jon Walker were also there.
While I was at the meeting Linda and Karen (Gerrie) left at 2 PM to pick up the food and sundry items for our GLCC chapter social. My meeting ended at 2:30 PM and I went back to the coach to get our chapter banner. Bill Gerrie agreed to help he put it up. He grabbed two chairs and I grabbed the banner and Scott Bruner, who was on golf cart transportation duty, drove us over. Bill and I got the banner tied up where it was visible and then sat and talked until Linda showed up in our car with the food. She had the air-conditioning on full blast to keep it cool. She’s a clever girl.
By 4 PM almost everyone had shown up so we had a moment of silence to allow folks to practice their individual pre-meal traditions. We were just getting in line to get our food when the photographer showed up and wanted a group picture. We gathered on either side of our banner and she apparently got what she needed although I only saw her take one photo. A few more members showed up and joined the food line. When everyone had their first helping, and a chance to eat some of it, George Myers asked if we could start the meeting and he could have the floor. No problem. I called the meeting to order and gave him the floor.
Besides being a member of our chapter George and Sue run the golf cart transportation service for the rally. George is also the GLAMA VP for Indiana. Since there was only one geographic Indiana chapter (the Hoosier Cruisers) all of the multi-state chapters, like ours, were put under the Indiana VP. Thus George had five chapters that he was responsible for assisting and had to go visit the other four. The main thing he wanted to cover was the FMCAssist program which is included as part of a full or associate membership in FMCA.
The rest of the meeting went smoothly enough. Of equal importance to me was that everyone seemed to enjoy the food. We had pizza the last two years so we were not sure how well our food choices would be received. We had at least 30 people there. Jane Roush, Charlie Adcock, and Jon Walker were supposed to drop in and speak to the group. I gave them a 5-to-6 PM window but they did not make it by the time our social broke up at 6 PM. Several folks helped clean up the pavilion and divide up the leftovers, some of which got loaded into our car.
Most of us are parked together and we ended up with a big circle of chairs back at our rigs. After putting away the leftovers Linda, Karen, and Vicki went to play card bingo while the rest of us talked buses and travel. I tried one of the Shortt’s Soft Parade beers we had in the fridge. To the extent that I like beer at all, which isn’t very much, I prefer fruit beers and lagers and do not care for the bitterness of hops. Based on that our daughter had suggested I try the Shortt’s. It had an orange citrus taste but also tasted too much like beer for me. But you don’t know if you don’t try. Eventually people drifted back to their coaches until the four of us who were left were chased indoors by darkness, bugs, and the chill of the night air.
Linda and I stayed up a while longer but we got word during the social that our older grand-daughter (Katie) had secured two tickets for us to attend her high school graduation ceremony tomorrow night. We were excited that she was able to get two more tickets but it also meant we would have a very long day tomorrow.
Today was the opening day of the 2015 rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Great Lakes Area MotorCoach Association (GLAMA). We were expecting three more arrivals from our Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter but only two of them made it in before the 5 PM parking cutoff. Jim and Lydia Marin, who parked next to us at Elkhart Campground on Sunday, arrived during the morning while Linda and I were out running errands. Larry and Alma Baker arrived mid-afternoon.
Linda and I had our usual breakfast and then left around 8:30 AM. Our first stop was Martin’s supermarket on US-33 northwest of downtown Goshen where Linda ordered the food for our chapter social tomorrow. She and Karen Gerrie will pick up the deli trays, chips, pop, plates, napkins, and eating utensils tomorrow just before the social begins.
When we were done at Martin’s we continued up US-33 towards Elkhart, took CR-20 over to SR-19 and followed that north to W. Franklin Street where we headed west to the Elk Park Industrial Park and Paul’s Seating. We met with Paul who was as helpful as he could be but it was basically a wasted trip. He did not have a showroom, did not have additional information about the products shown on his website, and no longer carried any form of barrel chair. His business appeared to mostly be recovering existing furniture, although later in the day we were looking at Pleasureway motorhomes (made in Elkhart) that featured furniture from Paul’s Seating. It did not impress us as the highest quality RV furniture we have seen.
Paul suggested we look at MasterCraft for barrel chairs. Linda pulled them up on the web browser on her phone. They were in LaGrange, Indiana, which was quite a drive to the east on US-20, and did not have anything illustrated on their website that looked like the kind of chair we wanted/needed. We went back down US-33 to Goshen, stopped along the way for a soft pretzel at Ben’s, and then returned to the fairgrounds.
I made phone calls to Isringhausen, Suburban Seating, Villa International, and Glastop RV Furniture. I chatted with someone at Isri, Carlos at Suburban, Melanie at Villa (in Elkhart), and Peter from Glastop. The calls to ISRI and Suburban were in connection with getting an ISRI 6800/6832/6860 bus driver seat. The calls to Villa and Glastop were for barrel chairs.
We sat outside our coach for a while and chatted with Mike Dickson. He and Kathy are in the Jayco Class C next to us. We eventually got hungry and Linda made faux deli slice sandwiches for lunch. By that point I was ready for a nap and slept for about two hours. We had some of the seitan stroganoff for dinner around 5:30 PM. I put on my nice GLCC shirt and at 6:05 PM we took the GLCC chapter flag over to Building A to line up for the opening ceremonies. I thought I could handle the flag alone but we decided to have Linda help carry it. She was wearing her Desert Bar T-shirt so she went back and changed into her GLCC shirt.
The opening ceremonies started at 6:30 PM. After the presentation of the Canadian and American colors, the singing of both national anthems, the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag, and a very religious invocation, we had the parade of chapter flags. That was followed by the introductions of a long list of FMCA dignitaries and announcements. Fortunately it was all done by 7 PM. There was a short break before the Frustrated Maestros started playing and we took that opportunity to return to our coach as did many of our other chapter members. Several groups of us stood around and chatted until it got chilly and we all went inside. The rest of the evening was spent in our coach using our iPads.
We were up at 7 AM and had cinnamon toast for breakfast but did not have coffee. We checked various routes to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds (EC4HFG) and searched online for information about any possible road construction problem areas but did not find anything that looked problematic. By 8 AM we had started preparing the bus and car for travel. Linda walked over to Curtis’s coach to say “so long for now” but all the shades were down so she sent him a text message that we were on our way. We pulled out of our site at 8:15 AM. I pulled up clear of other RVs and stopped to wipe off the passenger side mirror which was obscured with dew. I am always surprised that I don’t notice things like that before we start to move.
We took CR-4 west to SR-19 and went south, crossing over the Indiana Toll Road, to CR-6. There are times of the day that this intersection would be very busy but traffic was light this morning and I had no trouble getting into the correct turn lane and completing the turn. CR-6 is a 4-lane road and moved along nicely all the way to CR-17 except for a short lane closure for local maintenance. We turned south on CR-17, took it down to US-20, and headed east. As I expected, this stretch of US-20 was still very much under construction with only one lane open in each direction and no wide loads over 11 feet permitted. Traffic was more congested and slower but it moved along. When we got to SR-15 we turned south and ran along nicely until we got to a construction zone that had the road down to one lane with flaggers. We waited patiently and eventually got through the bottleneck. We were routed through a short detour and then finally entered Goshen. We followed the SR-15/US-33 Truck Route and found ourselves in another one lane construction zone with flaggers, and a train thrown in for good measure, but we eventually made it to our turn onto eastbound CR-34 (Monroe Street) and drove the final mile to Gate 5 of the EC4HFG.
We were directed to the staging area where we unhooked our car. We were then led to the area reserved for our Great Lakes Converted Coaches Chapter and backed into our site. The Laughing Raven Touring Co. bus was already parked in our area. We saw this bus at Elkhart Campground while walking but did not realize it was headed to the rally. The owner, Mark Lovegreen, is not a member of our chapter but wanted to park with other buses and we were glad to have him. I reserved 12 parking spaces, the parking crew gave us 13, and I had a least one coach that was not going to show up so we had the space. Also, Pat and Vicki Lintner got parked on hard surface nearby as the ground in our area was very soft when they arrived on Sunday. In addition to being our chapters National Director Pat is the Senior VP of GLAMA would normally be parked elsewhere except that he likes to park with the chapter.
While Linda set up the interior and made coffee I hooked up the electrical power. Our main 50 A circuit breaker did not want to set. I finally pushed the lever hard enough to move it but did not like the way it sounded and did not get power to the coach. I have indicator lights that told me there was power at the coach end of the shorepower cord but I verified that using my VOM. I removed the cover from the disconnect box in our coach and verified that there was voltage present on both the L1and L2 bus but no voltage present on the output lugs of the circuit breaker. Bummer.
Linda turned off the 30A supply circuit breaker and unplugged the cord. I checked with the VOM that there was not voltage present and then unclamped the L1 and L2 load wires, removed them from the circuit breaker, and then removed the breaker from the box. I tested it for continuity and with the lever in the “ON” position and one leg showed a short but the other leg showed an open. That meant I should have had voltage coming through to our Progressive Industries EMS on one leg but I never did. Regardless, we needed a new breaker as at least the one side had clearly failed.
The circuit breaker was a Square D QO style 2-pole 50A model. I knew that Lowe’s carried QO breakers so Linda searched for the nearest store using her phone. There was one on US-33 back towards Elkhart so Linda fixed a “to go” cup of coffee for me and I headed there. They had a good selection of QO breakers including the 50A one that needed. I looked briefly at refrigerators and noted that they had the Frigidaire model we are considering in white, black, and stainless steel. Maybe we will drive up later to look at them.
I took a different route through Goshen to avoid the one lane construction zone. Back at the coach I refilled my coffee and got to work. As bus repairs go this one was pretty straightforward. Getting the two load wires into the circuit breaker clamps was a bit tricky but I got them in. The QO breakers snap onto a mounting rail at the bottom and then the contact fingers snap over two blades at the top. All of that took a bit of pushing but I got it in. I put the cover plate back on, reconnected the shorepower cord, turned on the supply breaker, and turned on the coach breaker. We had power to the coach but it shut off. I reset the breakers (turned them full off and then back on) and everything appeared to be fine and the power did not trip out after that.
With our power problem averted Linda walked over and got us registered and signed up for one of the few remaining time slots to work in the rally office. She had volunteered to work registration but most of the time slots were already filled and the only thing left was Saturday morning. Shortly after she returned to our parking area three more buses showed up: Bill and Karen Gerrie, Mike and Kathy Dickson, and Joe and Mia Temples. Next in were John and Paulette Lingafelter followed by Don and Sandra Moyer. Late in the afternoon Scott and Tami Bruner arrived. That only left a couple of coaches arriving tomorrow.
I borrowed a sledge hammer from Joe Temples and pounded three pieces of rebar into the ground to serve as supports for the clubs three flag holders. A number of RVs around the rally site had the same design and I suspect that there was an article in the magazine, or something online, about how to build these. They are very simple and inexpensive, can be taken apart for transporting, and rotate with changes in wind direction. Our club as a USA flag, a Canadian flag, and a Chapter flag.
We all stood around in small, shifting groups talking about this and that. I laid down around 2 PM and napped for about 90 minutes. We are conveniently located to one of the bathroom/shower facilities so Linda took a shower there so as to not use up the good water in our tank. By 6 PM most of our group had left to go out to dinner. We ate around 6:30 PM, having a nice, light supper of cold chickpea salad on a bed of power greens.
A little before 7 PM we drove back to Lowe’s to look at refrigerators. It turned out that the ones I saw were the 18 cu. ft. models not the 16 cu. ft. one we need/want. The 18 cu. ft. model would fit in our alcove but take up the entire width leaving no space for a pull out pantry. We looked at solar powered spotlights for illuminating the flags at night but at $18 each decided not to buy any as we needed at least three and would ultimately need the approval of the club to buy them. We stopped at the Martin’s market on US-33 and picked up a deli tray brochure and a few grocery items.
Back at the rig there were lots of folks gathered in conversation. Linda and Vicki went for a walk while I chatted with Mark (from Alaska) and Scott. Scott and Tami recently had a new Whirlpool residential refrigerator installed in their bus so I went to see it. It’s a very nice French door fridge with lower freezer drawer but is too tall for our alcove. This is the style refrigerator Linda wanted but we could not find one sized to fit our space. Bill Gerrie helped me get the U.S. and Canadian flags off of the holders. Linda and Vicki returned just in time to help fold them properly. With darkness came much cooler temperatures and everyone retreated to the warmth and comfort of their coaches.
Someone reminded us that Paul’s Seating in Elkhart was a good place to shop for furniture so Linda Googled it and found the website. There were pictures of lots of chairs, including a barrel chair, but no information about dimensions, fabric options, or prices. We will likely go to Martin’s in the morning and place a food order and then drive in to Elkhart and find Paul’s. The critical path for our interior remodeling project goes directly through the selection of furniture and then through the refrigerator replacement so we are starting to feel some pressure about getting decisions made and orders placed.
The temperature dropped into the upper 40’s last night. Although the temperature in the bus only dropped to about 64 degrees F I was cold and did not sleep soundly. The electric heater pad is still on the mattress but was not plugged in so I could not use it. Linda developed a bad sore throat during the night (there are no good ones) and also did not sleep well. We got up around 7 AM and I made coffee while she got dressed and drove to the nearby Martin’s supermarket for Ibuprofen and Chloraseptic throat lozenges. Sore throats are no fun. We both hope this passes without requiring medical intervention.
We are in the newest section of Elkhart Campground which consists of narrow pull-through 50 Amp full hookup sites that are long enough to leave a towed car connected to a 45 foot motorhome. The section is not full but the motorhome on our passenger side had their GLAMARAMA 2015 parking and volunteer placards in the window this morning. We finally opened our registration packet and found that we also have a volunteer placard since Linda is volunteering at the registration table. We also discovered that we could have arrived at the Fairgrounds this morning and stayed for no charge. Oh well, Elkhart Campground is more convenient to Bradd and Hall and other Elkhart area vendors and if we checked into the rally we would immediately be working and socializing instead of shopping. One must be clear about their priorities.
Bradd and Hall is open from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. We got there around 9:45 AM and had just gone inside when I got a call from Curtis Coleman. We was headed east on I-80 from Iowa with his sights set on Cleveland and Columbus Ohio and did not realize we were in Elkhart. He brought me up-to-date on some things having to do with RVillage and we discussed him coming to our house to hang out once he had taken care of some business later this week and we got back home from the rally.
At Bradd and Hall we were assisted by Stephanie. Bradd and Hall had a good selection of Flexsteel Captain’s chairs and Lambright Comfort Chairs but did not have any Flexsteel barrel chairs. That was more than disappointing as we thought the Flexsteel bolt down barrel chair might be just what we need to provide seating, with seat belts, on the passenger side of the coach that can swivel to face anywhere from forward to aft. They had two Flexsteel Captain’s chairs that we found comfortable enough and were not too large. Either one might do nicely to replace the front passenger seat, and possibly to replace the driver’s seat, although I am holding out for an ISRI air-suspension driver’s seat. We took cell phone photos of each of us sitting in various seats, photographed product tags, and got several fabric samples but were no closer to a decision about seating when we left than we were when we arrived.
On the drive back to the campground we stopped at Factory RV Surplus to look for some electrical components but ended up looking at furniture. They had a barrel chair that we liked but no identifying information on it. We did, however, get some free popcorn. We were headed up SR-19 and decided to go on up into Michigan and pay Michelle Henry a visit at Phoenix Paint. There did not appear to be anyone around so we left and went back to our coach and had a bite of lunch. We had planned to also visit Lambright Comfort Chairs in Shipshewana, but we had been there before and figured they would not have anything different from what Bradd and Hall had on display. With both of us being tired and Linda still not feeling well we decided to stick around the bus and continue to do online research.
Sometime during the afternoon I got a call from Jim Marin wanting to know where we were parked. From our windshield I could see their motorcoach parked up by the office waiting to come into the campground. The space to our passenger side was vacant so they registered for that one and pulled on around and in. Jim and Lydia have a 1997 MCI 102DLS-3 Vantare conversion that they bought last September. It’s a nice coach and they got a good deal on the purchase. They got plugged in and set up while we connected our car for towing and then we stood around visiting in the cool temperatures and warm sun.
We were showing them what we have done to the inside of our coach and explaining what we plan to do when there was a knock on the door. It was Curtis Coleman. He had decided that Elkhart was far enough for one day and knew we were here as a result of our conversation this morning so he pulled in for the night and was parked one spot up from Jim and Lydia. We made introductions, finished looking at our coach and then toured Jim and Lydia’s bus. I brought my tape measure and tried to quantify the size of their furniture which appeared to fit very nicely in the available space. All of us then went to Curtis’s coach, which is also a 1997 Vantare conversion of a Prevost XL, and got a sense for his seating. Both coaches have ISRI driver’s seats and both Jim and Curtis really like them.
We had eaten dinner earlier so Marin’s returned to their coach for their evening meal and we left Curtis to tend to Augie Doggie and take care of RVillage business. Curtis came over later to visit and we sat in our coach in three lawn chairs and had a great chat. He returned to his coach at 10:45 PM and we went to bed a short time later. It was forecast to drop into the mid 40’s overnight so I closed the roof vents and turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed.