Today was early arrival day for the annual Back-to-the-Bricks converted bus rally in Clio, Michigan. This joint rally of the Converted Coach Owners (CCO) and the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter has become an annual event that typically draws 20 to 30 rigs. Most of them are converted highway buses and many of those were converted or re-modeled by the owners. Many of them are works in progress but such is the nature of the bus conversion hobby and the true bus nut. But that is not where we were headed today. Our bus is unusable at the moment as the toilet is disconnected, the bed platform has been removed, and all of the cabinet drawers have been taken out. But the main reason was that we had multiple commitments in Indiana today.
Our first appointment was with Josh Leach of Coach Supply Direct. Although CSD is located in Edwardsburg, Michigan we had arranged to meet him in the parking lot of the Martin’s Supermarket at SR-19 (IN) and CR-4 on the north side of Elkhart, Indiana at 9:30 AM to take delivery of 15 yards of upholstery fabric. We picked that location, rather than his shop in Edwardsburg, for several reasons. He had to be at the Forest River Owners Group (FROG) rally at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds at 10 AM so that location got him half way to his destination at a good time of day. For us, Elkhart is a 3-1/2 hour drive. That meant we had to be up at 5:00 AM and on the road not later than 5:45 AM to be there on time, allowing for coffee, fuel, and bathroom stops. Had we met him at his shop we would have had to be there by 9 AM requiring us to get up even earlier. You have to draw a line somewhere.
I took the wheel for the start of the trip. It was still dark but the faint glow of the impending sunrise was visible as we pulled out onto Hacker Road facing a rising crescent moon. At M-59 we headed west to I-96. I reset one of the trip odometers before we left and verified that it was 13 miles from our driveway to the end of the entrance ramp from M-59 onto I-96W. We skirted the southern edge of Lansing on I-96 and took Lansing Road to I-69 south.
Nineteen miles south of Lansing, and about an hour into our trip, we stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee in Charlotte for coffee and bagels. Biggby’s is not my favorite coffee but this particular store is in just the right location. Linda checked the M-DOT website and it appeared that the bridge work on M-60 in Mendon was completed, so we exited I-69S and headed west on M-60. Unfortunately the bridge was still closed so we had to follow the detour to the south toward Sturgis. Unlike our previous trip in early July, when we continued on to Sturgis, we followed the complete detour through Nottawa and Centreville and back to M-60 in Three Rivers. We had never driven through Nottawa or Centreville before so that provided some new scenery for the trip.
As we have done many times before we continued our trip on M-60 as far as Jones where we stopped at the Shell station for fuel. We then took M-40 south to US-12. This seven mile stretch of M-40 traverses steeply rolling hills and is both beautiful and fun to drive. We took US-12, running west just north of the Michigan-Indiana border, and eventually exited onto Old 205 (M-205?) which turns 90 degrees to the left a mile later and drops straight south into Indiana where it becomes SR-19. A few miles later we arrived at the Martin’s Supermarket at CR-4 just after 9 AM.
Josh was not there yet so we went inside to use the restrooms and get some coffee. This particular Martin’s has a nice salad bar with a beverage station, a Starbucks Coffee outlet, and a seating area with Wi-Fi. Josh showed up right on time and parked next to us. I met him outside and we transferred the roll of upholstery fabric from his car to ours and then went inside to visit for a few minutes before he had to leave for Goshen.
When we left Linda took over the driving. Our next planned stop was A1-Upholstery in Elkhart to order the cushions for our built-in sofa. Continuing south on SR-19 we stopped at Factory RV Surplus to look for battery cable end covers but the ones they had were too expensive. I think they now sell more retail-packaged merchandise than they do true surplus material, and even less salvaged parts.
Lou (mom) and Terry (daughter) own and operate A-1 Upholstery and were recommended to us by Josh. We discussed the project with Terry, who I had previously spoken to on the phone. We reviewed my dimensioned scale drawings, which were on one sheet of 11″x17″ 1/4″ grid-square paper, and agreed on how the cushions would be made. Terry thought she would have them done by the end of the month but noted on the order form that we needed them by September 14th. We noticed that she had a lot of sample books from which we could have selected a fabric but we like the Lambright Notion Linen, and Terry thought it was a very good fabric that should look good and wear well in our application. We left the fabric and drawing with her and wrote a check for the deposit.
All of our stops were important today, but our primary reason for the trip was to pick up the pieces of the custom desk and built-in sofa for our bus from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana. We continued our trip south on SR-19 to US-20, took that west to US-31, and went south, exiting at Rochester onto IN-25 for the final 22 miles to Logansport. This is a route I have driven many times but Linda had the wheel this time so I provided some occasional guidance. I called Jarel to let him know we were making better time than we had anticipated and would be there between noon and 12:25 PM. I then called Butch to give him a status update.
This was the first time Linda and Jarel had met and so it was also the first time Linda had met Mya, Jarel and Georgette’s sweet little dog. Mya came up to me, sat, stared up at me like we were long lost friends, and waited patiently for me to give her the attention she was seeking. I was happy to oblige.
As I have previously described in this blog, the desk consists of nine pieces (if you count the four drawers as separate parts): two pedestals with separate bases, a cover that goes between them, and four drawers. The left pedestal has a fold up work surface with two support wings, and a fold down fake drawer front, so technically those are four more pieces, but they are attached to the pedestal with hinges so I am not counting them as separate parts. The bottoms of each pedestal have been cut out to provide access to the fan-coil heat exchangers that will be installed in the bases, so those are really two separate pieces now, put I am not counting them as such. I am also ignoring screws, drawer slides, blocking, and other assembly items in my parts count as they are all “installed components.” With the drawers installed we only had five major pieces to load plus the two access plates. Jarel also had the pieces ready for the built-in sofa so we loaded those as well. I took pictures of his shop and the pull-out pantry, which was mostly assembled but not quite finished.
The installed desk will have more pieces than just described but these are the pieces that Jarel made. The finished desk will have five grills that we have to cut and install, at least four drawer pulls that we have to install, a plywood top that will span the two pedestals and leg space, and a Sandstone Corian countertop that will go on top of the plywood. While not actually part of the desk there will also be a large cover for the passenger-side living room HVAC duct and wiring chase and a small hose cover at the desk end both of which align with the left end of the desk and will look like they are part of it. Jarel will make the chase cover later after the desk is installed and we can get a final, accurate measurement for its length.
As long as we were in the neighborhood we naturally stopped to visit with our friends, Butch and Fonda, in Twelve Mile, Indiana. While we were at their house we loaded a dozen 4-foot army surplus fiberglass mast sections in the car. Butch had bought these at a swap for me some time ago. We will use them for ham radio antenna projects. Butch gave me his old, non-functioning, Vanner battery equalizer to see if I can figure out how it does what it does. He also lent me his air-powered brad nailer which can also drive 1/4″ crown staples and gave me a box of 5,000 staples to go with it. Fonda found a scrap piece of resilient underlayment designed for free-floating wood floors. Butch though it might work well under the 1/4″ plywood underlayment to fill in the gaps and irregularities so we took it with us.
When we were done loading stuff into our car we went to see their new property on SR-25. They have already had a new roof put on the barn and new doors put in the house. They have bought themselves a BIG project, but it will be a much more appropriate and manageable place for them going forward than the building complex in Twelve Mile that has housed their business operations for the last 20 years. It’s an old GM dealership from the 1940s and they have approximately 11,000 feet under roof including a 2-bay service garage with a functioning in-ground lift.
We drove to Rochester and had dinner at Pizza Hut. Linda and I split a medium specialty veggie pizza and had the salad bar with it. We might have had a few more restaurant choices in Logansport, but Rochester was 22 miles closer to home. With the 19 hours we were gone today, and over 525 miles we had to travel, 22 miles and 30 minutes was significant for us.
We got back on the road at 6:30 PM with Linda at the wheel and headed back up US-31N to US-20 and headed east. We decided to stay on US-20 all the way to I-69, stopping in Lagrange to use the restroom at the Marathon complex. We stopped again at the Shell station on M-60 in Michigan for fuel. It was getting dark and I had been able to rest while Linda drove, so I took over the driving duties. From this point on we were just reversing our route from this morning. We got home at 10:30 PM, unloaded everything from the car, and then went straight to bed.