Category Archives: Medical-Dental

20240408-14_Spring-is-finally-here-2

NOTE:  This post is mostly narrative, but there are two (2) photos with captions.  Photos were taken by me (Bruce) with a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

 

MONDAY 08 – SUNDAY 14 April 2024 — The second week of April

 

Monday 08 … A solar eclipse, oh my!

  • I called Lakeside Service Company to set up an appointment for annual service on the air-conditioner portion of the HVAC unit for our library. The temperature has to be above 45 deg. F for them to test the system, so I made an afternoon appointment for the first week of May.
  • We observed the solar eclipse from home. It was not total at our location, so not total darkness and no corona or stars, but it was still interesting to see.  We thought about driving south, perhaps as far as Bowling Green, Ohio but decided against it.  Probably for the best as it turned out, as there were reports of people taking many, many hours to get home from there.  We tried to photograph it with our phones using a neutral density filter, but were not really equipped for this and the photos did not turn out very well.

 

Our new Rec/TV room furniture, minus the cardboard and Styrofoam packaging.  (Photo from 05 April.)

 

Another view of the Rec/TV room furniture and its relationship to the location of the TV/monitor and associated equipment.  (Photo from 05 April.)

 

Tuesday 09 … I took care of a couple of errands and a major task (with Linda’s help).

  • As I headed out to take care of the errands, I performed my first turtle rescue of the season. I spotted a small turtle on our street just east of our house.  It was crossing the road from the small swampy area on the south side to the pond on the north side.  I picked it up and placed in on the north side, well away from the edge of the road.  I know that one has to exercise great care when doing this on any road, especially with heavier and/or faster traffic, but I am always dismayed by the utter disregard that most drivers seem have for these small, vulnerable creatures, who are not evolved to deal with motor vehicles and roadways.
  • My first errand was a visit to our local Tractor Supply Company store. I was looking for a tow behind lawn rake with a pin-hitch that would work with our lawn tractor/mower.  They had the one I wanted online, and I had seen one in the local store many months ago, so I was hoping they still had one in the store.  They did not, so I ordered one for delivery to our house.  Delivery was by freight truck, and would take about two weeks to get here.  Oh well; there was rain in the forecast for the later part of this week, so I would be lucky if the property is even dry enough to use it when it arrives.
  • Errand number two was a visit to our local Rural King store for some work clothes. I put on few pounds during 2023 and early 2024, mostly due to dining on cruise ships, and I needed some work trousers with a slightly larger waist size.  I ended up buying two pairs of bib overalls; built-in suspenders and no belt.  Perfect!
  • Our major task was to disassemble and clean (wash) all of the bird feeders. I handled the disassembly and brushing out (both done outdoors) and Linda handled the cleaning (inside).  When they were dry, I reassembled them and then filled them with the appropriate feed.  We did not fill the hummingbird feeder, as Linda’s research indicated that they had only just made it to southern Ohio.  We decided that the Oriole feeder needed to be replaced so Linda found one on Amazon and ordered it, along with some kitty litter.  Yup, we decided to set up a litter tray for Cabela and see how that goes.
  • Sometime during the day, I received our first Boondockers Welcome (BdW) stay request for the 2024 season; one-night on Friday 26 April. Our site is typically “blocked out” on our hosting calendar from the beginning of fall until the end of winter, plus any time we are traveling, but the exact dates vary each year.  We also block it out if we have projects with workers on site, or have social gatherings.  This year, we kept our guest site blocked out through April 15.

 

Wednesday 10 … early release, vision, streaming.

  • We received notifications that our vision examinations, set for tomorrow, needed to be rescheduled. Linda called the clinic and got us back-to-back appointments with an optometrist the last full week of the month.
  • Today was an “early release” day for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, so Linda was on-tap to drive down and retrieve the grand-daughters from their respective buildings. Because she handles child care when needed, she sees the girls more often than I do, so I decided to go along and get some grand-daughter time.
  • After dinner we were discussing what to watch on TV/streaming and decided to subscribe to Netflix. We watched Netflix a lot during the CoVID-19 pandemic, and have some favorite programs that are only available there.  Our profile was part of a friends’ account, however, and Netflix has since clamped down on that arrangement, so we needed our own account.  We set up two-factor authentication (2-FA) for the account, something we are gradually doing with most of our online accounts, along with setting up Passkeys to use in place of usernames and passwords.

 

Thursday 11 … rain, Rx’s, deliveries, and another BdW stay request.

  • Rain started overnight and continued through the day and evening, so we did not get any outside work done today.
  • My new blood pressure medication prescription arrived, but it was not exactly what I expected. My new doctor told me during my visit last week that he was raising my dosage from 10 mg per day to 20 mg per day.  I watched him type in the new prescription, but I could not see what he was typing.  When I looked at the bottle, it was for a 20 mg tablet, but the instructions said to “take 1/2 pill daily.”  Oh oh.  I checked and, sure enough, the bottle only contained 45 pills and could not be refilled for 90 days.  In other words, I had enough medication to take 10 mg per day (my original dosage) for 90 days, but only enough to take 20 mg per day for 45 days.  This was not what I expected and not what I needed based on what the doctor told me to my face.  I called the number for our mail-order pharmacy (OptumRx) to verify that they had filled the prescription as submitted.  They had, and there was nothing they could do other than suggest I contact my doctor.  Since this was not an emergency, I messaged him about the situation  via UofMH’s version of the EPIC portal.  I had still not received a reply to my earlier message from late last week, and I did not expect one right away to this new one, but it would be an understatement to say that I was a bit miffed at this point about the situation, and the lack of a timely response.  I decided to wait until next week to follow up with a phone call.
  • We had an Amazon delivery of coffee pods, Red Lentils, and other such things. Amazon Prime trucks seem to stop at our house a lot.
  • Sometime during the day, I received our second Boondockers Welcome request for the 2024 season. This one was for one-night on April 16, the first day for which a stay request could be requested.

 

Friday 12 … More rain, and a walk (but not in the rain).

  • The rain continued overnight and into today, so Linda met Diane at the mall to get their steps in. She stopped at the grocery store on the way home to re-provision fresh fruits and vegetables.  Or vegan (whole-food plant-based) diet require more frequent visits to the store for fresh items.
  • I hung out at the house and worked on our blog. An Amazon delivery showed up with our kitty litter and new Oriole feeder.  Amazon Prime trucks are on our street almost every day, sometimes more than once, and we do not have that many houses in our little subdivision.

 

Saturday 13 … Nothing of note.

  • There was nothing of note on our calendar for today. I’m sure we did something, probably many somethings, but whatever we did is lost to the sands of time.

 

Sunday 14 … A partial family get-together.

  • Our son and his family were here for brunch/visit, and to pick up a printout of their 2023 tax returns.

20240401-07_Spring-is-finally-here

NOTE:  There are no photos for this post, but it is quite long.

 

MONDAY 01 – SUNDAY 07 April 2024 — Transitioning into Spring

 

Although the first day of Spring in 2024 was officially March 19th, here in SE lower Michigan, April is the month when winter really transitions into spring.  During the first full week of April, we were still having overnight low temperatures below freezing along with episodes of light snow.  But we also heard the “spring peepers” (frogs) start their evening mating chorus.  Indeed, spring is heralded as much by sights, sounds, and smells as it is by hours of sunlight and seasonal weather.

Notable among the sounds, along with the spring peepers, was the cacophony of gaggles of Canada Geese, the unmistakable calls of the Sandhill Crane, other bird song, and the loud drumming of distant woodpeckers, the latter suggesting that Pileated Woodpeckers were in the area.  Robins had already appeared in late March.  Plants started erupting from the ground, trees/bushes started to flower, and the grass started to grow, all sure signs of spring.  (Our property, however, was still too wet to mow, which is one of the challenges of spring in this part of Michigan.)

While we waited for warmer/drier weather, so we could work outside comfortably, and took care of several important tasks during the first week of the month.  Although a bit mundane, we broke down a large amount of corrugated cardboard packaging and recycled it; all of it accumulated from various things we have purchased over the last many months.

We have now lived “in the country” for over a decade, some 30 miles farther out from the downtown hub of the Detroit metropolitan area than our previous house.  During that time, we have maintained core medical, dental, optical, and veterinary services with the providers we have used for a long time; 48 years in the case of the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) and almost as long for the others.  Those providers are now anywhere from 30 to 50 miles from our house, and getting to those locations has become ever more challenging for us because of traffic, road construction, and weather.  We have talked about finding closer, more convenient, providers for a while now but, absent a compelling reason to change, it’s always been easier to stick with what we have.  The travel distance/time/difficulty has finally become compelling.  The same is true of lawyers, financial advisors, car mechanics, house and property service providers, etc., of course  We purchased our current vehicles locally and have them serviced by those dealerships, about 4 miles from our house and property maintenance providers come to us.  We need to find an attorney in our area who specializes in estates, wills, trusts, and elder law, but have not gotten around to it yet.  Although not local, we are very satisfied with our financial advisors.  We mostly interact with them via e-mail, phone, and ZOOM calls, but make in-person appointments if we are going to be in the St. Louis, Missouri area.

Top of the list was my decision to change my (Bruce’s) primary care provider.  While I wanted a more convenient location I also wanted a more specialized focus.  I turned 72 this year, and although my health is generally good and I feel fine (most of the time), I am also realistic about being in my 8th decade and part way into my 73rd trip around the sun.  It seemed an appropriate time to move my care to a clinic with a specialized focus on the health issues of the elderly.  (I would have liked a setting that was also focused on men’s health and plant-based nutrition, but that proved to be a bridge to far.)

Yes, both of us are now considered “elderly.”  Indeed, we entered that category (broadly speaking) when we turned 65.  I might not be “old” yet (in my mind), but I plan to be someday, and want to be set up in advance with appropriate medical care.  After checking what was available from the HFHS and the University of Michigan Health System (UofMH), I decided to move to the Geriatric clinic at UofMH in Ann Arbor.  As a bonus, UofMH also has clinics for some specialty services in Brighton, the city closest to our home.

Early in the first week of April, I had my first appointment with my new doctor (Dr. N), and it was very interesting.  He is Nigerian, and did his medical training in London, England.  Besides getting acquainted, checking the usual things, ordering comprehensive blood tests, and modifying my blood pressure medication dosage, he examined strength, range of motion, and gait (motion and balance), this being a specific interest of his.

While I was there, the med-tech (MT-V) removed impacted/hardened wax from my left ear using a 50/50 solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide and warm water.  I had already had a “new patient” intake ZOOM call with a social worker (SW-S) the week before, but had a second, in-person, meeting with a social worker (SW-A) as the first part of my new patient office visit.  SW-A confirmed some of the things I had self-reported or told SW-S, but her main purpose in seeing me was to administer the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).  (She did not identify it as such at the time, but Linda found it online afterwards and I confirmed that it was the exact set of questions and tasks administered to me.)  This is one of those assessments where you are not supposed to practice in advance, which might distort the results.  That would not be in my best interest anyway; what I want from such an assessment is an accurate evaluation of cognitive status.

Starting at age 65, a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is supposed to include a cognitive assessment, but this is the first time I have had such an evaluation, and Linda has never had one.  I was slightly apprehensive at first—no one wants to have problems with a cognitive evaluation—but it was interesting and I apparently did okay.  More to the point, however, is that I really appreciated being evaluated to establish a baseline with my new doctor, and look forward to repeating this from time-to-time.  Indeed, the fact that the UofMH-Geriatric center includes social workers as integral team members is a big deal and underscored that I had made a good choice.  Mental decline is often a major health issue as people live through their 70’s, 80’s, and into their 90’s, and this decline can impact their physical, emotional, and social health as well.  Early detection means earlier treatment, including changes in lifestyle and living arrangements, with the possibility of better outcomes.

As long as we were dealing with medical arrangements, we checked out the UofM Kellogg Eye Institute (UM-KEI), a world-class center for eye health, that came highly recommended by a neighbor of ours who is a nurse.  The main Institute is in Ann Arbor, as is the case for all things UofM Medicine, but they have a satellite clinic in the UofMH specialty clinic closest to our house.  The specialty care facility is less than an eight-mile drive with no highways.  We made appointments for both of us to have routine vision/eye examinations in the second week of April and get new prescriptions for glasses.  Linda definitely needs new spectacles, and I probably do too.  The only downside to moving our eye care here is that they do not accept our EyeMed vision insurance.  We can submit bills for services to the insurance plan and get some reimbursement, but we will likely get our glasses at one of the local optical shops that accepts our insurance.  It’s just easier that way, and I think we get slightly better insurance coverage as well.

Linda has her ENT/audiology services through the Michigan Ear Institute, which is affiliated with Ascension/Providence, located in the northwest suburban part of the Detroit metropolitan area.  Although not as convenient, she really likes her doctor and audiologist, who did her Cochlear implant surgery and maintains her Cochlear and ReSound hearing aids, respectively.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had my hearing tested and thought it was probably time to do that.  UofMH also has an audiology clinic in the nearby specialty center, so I called to make an appointment.  Unlike the vision/eye exam, however, audiology requires a referral.  I messaged my new doctor and asked for one, but did not have a reply by the end of the week.

In terms of medical providers, we are still considering what to do about dentistry.  Our dentist’s office is 50 miles from our house and getting there takes over an hour on some combination of highways and surface streets.  It’s road construction season in Michigan.  This year is a dozy, and the next year or so will be just as bad.  All of the reasonable routes into Metro Detroit have major construction projects in process, and are usually chocked with traffic, so getting there is very inconvenient and frustrating.  But we have been treated by this clinic for almost 50 years; initially by our current dentist’s father, and now the son, who is the 3rd generation to have the practice.  It’s a good clinic in every way, and it’s hard to walk away from that, but it’s just not convenient for us anymore.  Unless we have some dental issue, we won’t have to go there again until early September for our bi-annual cleanings, so we have time to figure out what to do.  My guess is we will keep the September appointments and deal with changes next year.

Along the same lines, we have used the same veterinary clinic, near our previous home, for over 40 years.  That location is now 35 miles from where we live, with the same attendant road construction projects and traffic issues.  When we lost our last cat (Juniper) we decided we would not get another pet, which would have made the issue moot.  Cabela (the cat) had different ideas, however, and has effectively adopted us.  She originally belonged to the neighbors across the street before they moved and left her behind.  We know that she had two litters of kittens and was then spayed, and we know what veterinary clinic in our area was used for these services.  We will eventually need to get her examined and inoculated, and will probably use the same local clinic since they (should) have that history in the files.

In terms of non-medical things, we took a large load of corrugated cardboard and Styrofoam to our local recycling center.  It always feels good to get this stuff out of the house without throwing it in the trash.

Other tasks during the first week of the month included:

  • Taking the cover off of the outdoor furniture set and cleaning it (the cover). I also took all of the bird feeders down from their hangars in preparation for cleaning them and putting them back in service.  We have always suspected that the many birds who come to our yard are return visitors if they have survived the winter and the journey back.  One of the challenges this year will be where to put bird feed for the Mourning Doves.  They are ground feeders, which poses a dilemma now that Cabela has claimed our house and yard as her own.  She is a very skilled and determined huntress.
  • Getting the lawn tractor/mower ready to use. We have a lawn tractor (riding lawn mower), so one of my tasks over the first week of the month was putting it back in operational condition.  This specifically involved re-installing the battery.  The tractor lives in the shed during the winter, but the shed does not have electricity (yet).  As such, I bring the battery into the garage, which is heated and stays above freezing, and where I can attach it to a maintenance charger.
  • Linda wrapped up several tax returns and mailed them to the family members and friends who are out-of-state so they could sign them and mail them to the IRS. For family and friends in Michigan, she files most of them electronically, or delivers them in person.
  • Linda also continued to work on period and year-end accounting tasks for the bakery, where she retired as the controller a little over a decade ago. Like all accounting and tax-related work, January through April tend to be the busiest time of the year, but the period accounting work is steady and evenly distributed over the calendar year.  She also works on special projects, as needed.  Those are harder to plan for, but she works closely with the controller of the bakery (who was hired when Linda retired) and lets him know when we will be traveling.  She can do much of the period accounting work remotely, but year-end work is more difficult, and special projects can be a challenge depending on what they are.

Our lawn maintenance guy (Keith) texted me last month to let me know that he was ready to start mowing for the season whenever we were, but the yard soil is still very wet, and we are at least a few weeks away from having him start mowing.  Indeed, we had snow again late in the week; not much, but it was still moisture that ended up in the ground.  The snow seems to be alternating with rain, but no surprise there.  April is typically our rainiest month, but we can have ice storms as late as early May, and we have had years where Keith could not mow the west part of the property until sometime in June.  (That was before Phil installed a French drain in that part of the property, so Keith can now usually get started sometime in May.)

We have used Keith for all but our first year in this house.  He does a great job and does not ask for a contract or pre-paid amount for the season; we just pay him each time he mows.  He doesn’t mind if we occasionally have him skip a week, and will adjust his schedule and/or make an extra visit, if we ask and he is able to do so.  We don’t do that unless we have to, and skipping weeks usually corresponds to either very wet conditions, making the lawn un-mowable, or conditions when the grass is not growing very quickly, such as an extended summer dry spell or late in the season as fall gives way to winter.  The only reason we would ask for an extra mowing is if we had an important weekend gathering, wanted the grass cut on Friday so it looked nice, and I did not have time to do it myself.  Our usual day is Tuesday.

20231217-23_The-run-up-to-Xmas

Note:  This post has three (3) photos, all taken by me (Bruce) taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

 

SUNDAY 17 to SATURDAY 23 December 2023 — Getting ready for the holidays

Things were busy for us, as they are for many people, during the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve and the end-of-year holidays.  Our middle grand-daughter, Madeline, turned 11 years old this week, and we attended a birthday gathering for her on the 17th at her family’s house in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  She is almost as tall as Linda, and is so grown up in many ways.  We also built a gingerbread house early in this week.  It was a kit that our friend, Kate, gave us late last week when we met her for dinner.  Here are three photos of it from the 18th:

 

Gingerbread house, left oblique view.

 

Gingerbread house, front view.

 

Gingerbread house, right oblique view

 

From our calendar for this time period, it appears that Linda made a second trip to the bakery and had an appointment with her audiologist, who takes care of her Cochlear Implant and associated devices.

On the 19th, we had the core group of our neighborhood “gang” over for some pre-holiday festivities.  We really do enjoy the company of these people.  Although we are all retired, we all seem to have active, busy lives.  As a result, we don’t get to spend as much time with them as we would like.

Linda’s older/only sister, Sr. Marilyn, arrived on the 21st, having taken two days to drive here from St. Louis.  She has been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Louis, Missouri all of her adult life, but has spent many Christmas holidays with us over those years.  Linda and I are both part of relatively small families.  I have a sister and Linda has three siblings, and none of our siblings live in Michigan, or even close by.  We appreciate and value that our children, and our two youngest grand-daughters, have had a chance to get to know Marilyn.

2016/04/01-05 (F-T) J-P-Shuffle CCAFS Farewell Celebration

2016/04/01 (F) The J. P. Shuffle

Linda was up before me and got to see one of the cruise ships come in at 6:20 AM.  She said it was all lit up and quite a sight.  I got out of bed at 8:20 AM and made coffee.  Linda prepared toast and jam for breakfast and gave each of us half of an orange.

I finished up my post for yesterday, worked on this one, and then noticed that an iOS 9.3.1 update was available for the Apple iOS 9.3 update that I installed Wednesday evening and Linda installed last night.  It was only 18 MB but still took a long time to download and install.

Today was April Fool’s Day and time for us to once again do “the Jetty Park shuffle.”  I have checked at least once, and often twice, each day to see if an appropriate full hookup site had become available through cancellation for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, but it had not.  Around 10 AM I walked to the office to check one last time.  Scott Ward was the JP staff person on duty and was very helpful but a site was just not available.  He was able, however, to put us on site #357 for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night’s.  I shortened our stay on site #3 to two nights and paid the balance for the one night.

Site #3 is a water only site, no electricity and no sewer connection, and the rules say that NO pets are allowed in that section, which is right along the channel and outside the regular fenced campground.  The staff was aware, however, that we have two cats onboard and let us have the site anyway.  We do not ever want them to escape, but especially here.

Our generator can produce more power than we can get from a “50 Amp” RV electrical connection, so not having electricity is not really a problem.  The only real downsides, other than having to move, are that we can feel, hear, and sometimes smell the generator.  We also had a problem with a circuit breaker for its cooling fan last winter.  I made a temporary fix to it but have never fixed it permanently.  We also do not like to leave the genset running when we are away from the coach, such as will be the case on Saturday morning.

I selected/processed three photos of the manatees we saw on Tuesday at Merritt Island National Wildlife a Refuge and e-mailed them to Pat and Vickie.  I then replied to a couple of e-mails from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine.  By this time it was 11 AM so we prepared the bus, inside and out, to be moved.  With all of the Windows and roof vents closed it warmed up quickly inside even with a lot of the coach in the shade.  When I turned the ignition key the engine turned over but would not catch and my heart just sank.

I really like this bus, but I have grown weary of the uncertainty of whether things will work when needed.  I turned the ignition key off and rechecked the transmission selector and parking brake settings.  I also switched the suspension out of Level Low to drive mode although that should not have mattered.  With the ignition key turned to the ‘ON’ position the 12 V chassis battery seemed a little low and a red light flashed a few times on the transmission selector, so I turned the key off, went to the outside battery disconnect switches, and turned both the 12V and 24V disconnects off and then back on.

Back in the driver’s seat I tried again.  Normally the engine only turns over a few times before it fires.  This time I let it turn for four or five seconds and it finally started.  If I had any sense I would have driven it to the W. W. Williams Detroit Diesel service center in Orlando, but I moved it to site #3 at J. P. instead.

Our coach in Site #3 at Jetty Park & Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL. This is the “water only” camping by the shipping channel. All of these rigs are parked facing north towards the channel. It’s a great spot to watch the ships come and go.

To get from site #358 to site #3 I had to exit the fenced campground and drive around the east end of the park past the beach parking, concession building, and playground and then west along the edge of the shipping channel and around to the back row of the water only sites, all of which face the shipping channel.  As such it was a long drive to get to a site we could see from the one we just vacated.

We left the car at site #358 temporarily and Linda rode along in the bus.  I made the whole trip in 1st gear, to keep the RPMs up, and turned on the OTR A-C, both to cool the interior of the coach and to put more load on the engine and help get it up temperature.  I did not pull the tag axle up as we had walked the park/campground enough to know that I did not need to make any really tight turns.  When I was mostly into position on site #3 Linda got out and spotted the final position of the rear end.  These channel-side sites slope down towards the channel (facing north) and the back row sites get steeper the farther off the back off the site you go.  I wanted to pull forward just enough to get our tow bar clear of the access road behind the site and Linda accomplished that with an inch or two to spare.

I left the engine running and switched it to high idle to run the OTR air-conditioning.  While Linda went back to get our car I got out the step stool and awning pole and deployed all four awnings.  I then started the Genset to make sure it was going to run and produce electricity.  I also thought we might run the residential air-conditioners.  When Linda returned with our car she wanted to open up the coach so I shut off the OTR bus A-C, dropped the engine idle to low, and let it idle for a couple of minutes before shutting off the engine.  I left the genset on for the time being.

Both of our systems had been reacting to what we had eaten the last few days so we passed on lunch and just hung around our new site which was, in fact, very pleasant with a view of the water in the channel and the high ground of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the opposite bank.

Our driver side neighbors stopped to chat on their way to the beach and let us know that they had just spotted dolphins in the channel.  I walked over and caught a glimpse of several arching repeatedly out of the water but by the time Linda got there they had submerged and not resurfaced.  Given where we are parked we should have a good chance to see dolphins and view cruise ships coming and going from the Port.

Linda made a cold garbanzo bean salad for dinner last night.  After dinner I was trying to get us connected to the park Wi-Fi system but could not maintain the connection or get us logged in.  I tried using our Verizon Mi-Fi but could not get the WiFi Ranger to work with it.  I tried to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with the Mi-Fi but there were problems with that as well.  At one point my ASUS notebook computer decided that it could not detect any Wi-Fi networks even thought it had two of them sitting within a couple feet of it.  I got disgusted with the whole situation, shut everything off, and we went for a walk.

Linda waves to the Disney “Magic” cruise ship as it heads out to sea from Port Canaveral, FL. There is always a crowd along the channel to wave the cruise ships in and out.

We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach and Vickie joined us.  We headed to the beach where we enjoyed a very brisk breeze until lightning to the southwest signaled that it was time to return to the safety of our rigs or one of the park buildings.  We headed back past the playground area towards our coach and Vickie split off for the gate in the campground fence that provided the most direct access to her site.

Back at our site we closed up the coach against the humidity and coming storm.  I then started the auxiliary powerplant (genset) and turned on the air conditioners.  Not long after that it started to rain, lightly at first, but it eventually became very heavy for a while before finally moving offshore.

With the A-C’s running I was reminded that I need to change some of the AC circuits in the main panel.  The front and middle air-conditioners are on different legs of the AC power system, front on L1 and middle on L2.  That makes sense as we would normally want to run both of them at the same time to cool the front half of the bus (living, cooking, office space) when we are awake and using the bus.  The 3rd/bedroom A-C has to go on one of the two legs and either one could create load balancing issues.  Unfortunately, the middle A-C unit is not currently producing any cooling.

To make matters worse, the charger section of our Magnum 4024 inverter/charger also draws its power from L1.  Again, it had to go somewhere, but the current configuration tends to put too much load on L1 and not enough on L2.  Even though the genset is oversized for our electrical needs an imbalance between L1 and L2 is still a problem because it is set up as a 240 VAC unit with a 240 VAC voltage regulator.  Although it has an active neutral, allowing it to supply 120 VAC to both L1 and L2 (180 degrees out of phase) the regulator is only concerned with maintaining the 240 VAC between the two legs, not the 120 VAC between each leg to neutral.

If the loads on the two legs are not reasonably balanced, the 240 VAC will “drift” off center from neutral with the voltage on the high load leg dropping and the voltage on the low load leg rising.  That, in turn, can/does cause havoc with some of the devices onboard, especially the microwave oven, APC uninterruptible power supply that powers the Amped|Wireless router, and the APC line voltage stabilizer that powers the laser printer.

We were, however, able to watch TV and found Ken Burns’ JAZZ documentary on channel 24.1.  By 11 PM we needed to get to bed as we had to be up and ready to go by 7:45 AM tomorrow morning.  I turned the genset off around 11:30 PM and let the house electrical system switch to the inverter.  I tried to watch the end of JAZZ on the TV in the bedroom but the TV and antenna controller kept losing power.  That, in turn, caused the TV to shut off and the controller to reset to position 8.  My phone and iPad chargers, both of which were plugged into AC outlets, also kept cutting in and out.

I encountered this same issue when we were boondocking at John Palmer’s place in Mayo, Florida at the end of November 2015.  At that time I turned off the SEARCH WATTS feature thinking that it was causing the problem.  Apparently that was not the problem.  My best guess is that under very low load conditions the inverter is either:  a) not inverting at all, or b) producing a voltage and/or current that is not well regulated.  In either case, it would play havoc with our entertainment and communications electronics.

Rather than screw around with this anymore tonight I gave up , turned off the TV, unplugged the antenna controller, resolved to ignore the device chargers, figuring they would work when the refrigerator or air compressor ran, and tried to fall asleep.  I could have turned on the AC lights in the living room, or our small portable fan, to draw enough AC current to keep the inverter working, but that’s really contrary to the whole notion of minimizing your energy usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary when running on batteries.

2016/04/02 (S) Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Tour

I was awake at 6 AM and we were both up and dressed by 7 AM.  I did not make coffee or have breakfast and Linda just had a piece of bread as making toast would have required me to start the genset.  The batteries were at roughly 24.6 VDC (and showing 72% SOC) with no load being drawn by the inverter so there was no need to recharge them this morning.  We were due at Pat and Vickie’s coach at 8 AM so I gathered up my camera, holster, and extra batteries.  We left at 7:40 and took our time walking over to their site.

Pat and Vickie have seating for four in their Jeep Grand Cherokee and have been providing transportation for our group outings.  We left just after 8 AM for the short drive to the Exploration Tower at the west end of Port Canaveral.  We signed up for a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse that departed from the Tower at 8:30 AM and included admission to the Tower when we returned.

There were only twelve of us on the small tour bus plus a driver (Mike) and two tour guides.  The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  One of the tour guides (Jim) had worked at the Station and was our main guide for information about the Station and the various launch sites we visited; and we visited a number of them.  One of the things we learned was that CCAFS is a Station rather than a Base because no one lives there.  All of the Air Force personnel working at CCAFS are from Patrick Air Force Base, which is located south of Cocoa Beach.  The U. S. Navy also has a presence here with facilities that service ICBM and attack submarines.

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse located within the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The Lighthouse had its own cadre of docents, and was very interesting to see and learn about, but only accounted for a little less than an hour of a 3-1/2 hour tour.  The other tour guide was Ron and he provided most of the information about Port Canaveral.  Just after exiting CCAFS we visited a small museum devoted to the history of the Station.  It was located next to the building that now houses the launch control facility for SpaceX, the commercial spaceflight venture of Elon Musk of PayPal.  There are other private/commercial companies operating at CCAFS besides SpaceX .  One of the largest is United Launch Alliance (ULA), an independent company that was formed by merging the space operations of Boeing (which absorbed McDonnell-Douglass years ago) and Lockheed-Martin.

All that remains of one of the launch pads at CCAFS, FL.

We did not really understand ahead of time what we were going to see and we were surprised by the dilapidated condition of the old launch sites.  All that remains at most of them are concrete and brick works.  Metal superstructures that were subject to rusting were long ago removed and control centers that were once stuffed full of equipment are now “abandoned in place” or used for storage.  It was like visiting an ancient historic site, which in fact it is; the first rocket launched from this site was a German V-2 in 1950 and the Mercury missions occurred in the early 1960’s over 50 years ago.

A continuation of the previous image, this is the command bunker and tunnel. CCAFS, FL.

Back at the Exploration Tower, which is owned and operated by the Canaveral Port Authority (CPA), we got wrist bands good for admission through closing time today.  The weather had been overcast all day and a check of the radar on our smartphones showed heavy rain moving our way.  Even though we were hungry we decided to experience the Tower before the rain moved in.

This is all that is left of what was once a heavily reinforced HVAC building at the launch pad. The superstructure in the distance is in active use by SpaceX and ULA. CCAFS, FL.

The Exploration Tower has seven floors plus additional structure at the top.  We took the elevator to the top floor which features an outdoor observation platform oriented to give a commanding view of Port Canaveral, CCAFS, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center to the north, as well as the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  There are also views to the south of the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.  We took the stairs down to each floor in turn.  Each floor has a theme with related exhibits and we stopped at each one.  The 3rd floor is a small theater that shows a 20 minute film about Port Canaveral and the surrounding area; past, present, and future.  The film starts on the hour and half hour so we caught the 1 PM show.  The second floor is a balcony that affords a view of art hanging above the 1st floor lobby and gift shop.

The Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL. The top floor includes an outdoor observation deck.

Back on the 1st floor I bought two coffees while Linda and Vickie shopped for gifts.  Linda found a stuffed toy of a manatee for our grand-daughter Madeline.  When we finally got back to Jetty Park at 2 PM Linda made sandwiches for lunch and I washed off some grapes.  I checked the house battery bank voltage and it was still OK.  The temperature had cooled off under cloudy skies with a strong southerly breeze, so I did not need to run the air-conditioners.

I took a nap for an hour.  Not long after I got up we noticed activity in the shipping channel so I took the camera and we went out to see what was going on.  We set up two chairs in front of the bus to watch the action.  The blue tug boat was hanging around the entrance to the Trident Turning Basin, which we had not seen it do before.  The Brevard County Sheriff boat came out along with one of the harbor pilot boats.  A U. S. Coast Guard boat, with a large caliper machine gun on the bow that was manned, headed out the channel towards the ocean at high speed.  We thought perhaps we were going to get to see a submarine arrival, which are always unannounced, but the reason for all this activity turned out to be the Carnival Cruise Ship “Valor” coming into port.  It was delayed from its scheduled arrival by almost 12 hours but that worked to my advantage as the cloud cover had thinned and provided nice lighting on the bow of the ship as it traveled west into the channel.

A 180 degree panorama, from west through north to east, from the observation deck of the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL.

A little while later the Norwegian Cruise Line “Spirit” left its dock and headed for the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by the police, Coast Guard, and harbor pilot boats.  About 20 minutes behind the NCL Spirit, the Disney “Fantasy” left its dock and started its slow trip down the channel.  Vickie showed up before it got to our position and had her iPad with her.  As the boat came abreast of our position, Vickie spotted dolphins swimming just in front of the bow.

I got out another chair and we sat in front of the bus and chatted for a while.  Vickie eventually returned to her coach to fix dinner and we went inside.  I transferred today’s photos to my computer and selected two to process and send to Vickie.

A dolphin swims in front of one of the Disney cruise ships as it heads down the channel from Port Canaveral, FL. towards the sea.

For dinner Linda improvised a potato and broccoli dish with onion, garlic, and couscous.  It was light and very tasty.  After we were done eating I texted Vickie.  They were also done with dinner so we met her at the office and went for a walk.  Back at our coach Linda checked online and found a news story about the Carnival Valor.  The Valor was delayed due to a medical situation that required them to return to the Turks and Cacos.  According to CruiseTimeTables.com, passengers were being advised to embark starting at 9 PM and to be onboard by 11 PM, with departure shortly thereafter.

Back at our coach we watched some TV and waited up for the Carnival Valor to leave as the nighttime departures are rather something to see with the ships all lit up.  Linda waited until midnight and then turned in for the night.  I stayed up until 1:30 AM but it was still docked at the west end of the port so I gave up and went to bed.

2016/04/03 (N) Bon Voyage

I was waiting for the Carnival Valor to leave Port Canaveral last night but by 1:30 AM it was still at its terminal.  It was all lit up but going nowhere, so I finally went to bed.    By midnight the skies had begun to clear and the wind, which had been steady all day, became stronger and started shifting around to the northwest and becoming noticeably cooler.

The cruise ships are particularly magical at night and I had hoped to capture some images of them, having set my camera to SCeNe selection mode (SCN) and selected “Night.”  In spite of being up late I did not sleep soundly and was aware of headlights around 5 AM.  Someone had apparently driven over from the campground to watch ships, or perhaps driven into the park, which opens at 5 AM, for this purpose.  I then noticed a ship in the shipping lane heading for the mouth of the channel.  Around 5:30 AM another cruise ship came in.  I got up, put on my robe, and tried to photograph it from the cockpit of the bus.

The nighttime arrival of the Carnival “Victory” cruise ship at Port Canaveral, FL.

I got up to stay a little after 8 AM and started the genset so I could make coffee and heat water.  Linda got up shortly thereafter and prepared our breakfast cereal.  We could see cruise ships docked at the west end of Port Canaveral so Linda checked the CruiseTimeTables.com website, and found that there were four cruise ships scheduled to depart today; three at 4 PM (the Carnival Sunshine and Victory, and the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas) and one at 4:30 PM (the Disney Magic).

The Magnum ME-ARC indicated the house battery bank was at 24.6 VDC and 69% SOC.  I turned on the genset and the charger started in Bulk Charging mode drawing 110A at 24VDC, or just over 2,600 Watts, on L1.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, which is on L2, to balance the load on the genset a bit.  When the battery charger had backed off a bit and switched to Absorption mode I turned on the block heater for the main engine, which is currently on the same leg (L1) as the charger.  Balanced loads lead to balanced voltages, but it is also better for the genset mechanically to run under a somewhat heavier load than a light one.

Around 10 AM I walked over to check site #357.  It was already vacant so I went to the office to confirm that we still had it reserved for tonight through Tuesday night.  We did, so I told the office clerk that I was going to go ahead and move, if I could get the engine started, and would then come in and register.  If I couldn’t get it started I would extend our stay on site #3 until we could get the problem resolved or get it towed.  The clerk was not particularly sympathetic, but then he was the one who would have to deal with an irate customer who could not have their reserved site, and the people who camp here have very particular preferences about their sites.  Fortunately, site #3 was open so we could have stayed there until we needed to dump our holding tanks.  We could minimize water usage by using the campground bathrooms, so we could have stretched our dry camping if needed.

Back at our rig we started preparing to move it.  I moved the car over near the pedestrian gate that is very close to site #357 and walked back to the coach.  Linda had secured the inside enough for the short, slow trip.  I checked the maintenance chargers for the chassis batteries and they indicated 100% charge levels.  I opened the air supply valve for the engine accessories, engaged the 12 and 24 volt chassis battery disconnect switches, pulled the wheel chocks, and put the entry step stool away.  I put the Level Low system in Drive mode, just in case that mattered, and turned the ignition key.  The bus motor cranked quickly and fired right up!  That was a relief.

The Centurion Battalion of the United States Navy Sea Cadet Corps had arrived at the picnic area sometime before 8 AM with a large contingent of cadets and their adult leaders/chaperones.  And they had arrived in a large number of cars that filled the available parking spaces just on the other side of the road that ran behind the back row of RV sites where we were parked.  There was still plenty of room to back out, but Linda positioned herself outside to keep an eye on the back end of the rig.

The motorhome on our passenger side was also ready to leave and backed out before I did.  I don’t think he would have presented an obstacle, but having him gone was one less thing to have to keep an eye on.  I pulled up the tag axle and then pulled forward to the right to position the coach at an angle to the road behind it.  I then backed up and cut the steer tires hard left to swing the nose around to the passenger side and guide the rear end cleanly into the road well clear of any other vehicles.  Linda climbed on board and I turned on the OTR A-C, partly for comfort and partly to put more load on the engine.

We made the 5 MPH trip around the east end of the park and campground back to the campground entrance on the south side where Linda got out to open the gate.  Once I was clear of the gate she got back onboard.  We wound our way through the campground, familiar now with the road system.  When I got to the 2nd to last turn I saw that the last turn was blocked by a pickup truck pulling a 5th wheel trailer out of its site so I continued straight ahead and went clockwise around Red Knot Circle.  By the time I got back to the same intersection the pickup truck and 5th wheel were out of the way and I was able to proceed to site #357.

Linda hopped out to act as spotter.  Using what I learned two years ago from Big Bill while getting parked at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida I moved to the right edge of the road as the back-in site was on that side.  As I pulled past the site and the rear wheels were by the front of the site I cut the steer tires to the left, positioning the coach at an angle to the site, all the while avoiding trees, RVs, cars, and other obstacles.  I backed straight, keeping an eye on Linda in the driver side rear view mirror, and started swinging the nose to the driver side while keeping an eye on the car parked on the other side of the road.

As soon as I was clear of that car I swung the nose hard to the driver side.  We were well clear of the Sea Grape trees on the passenger side so I straightened the steer tires and pulled forward until I had a good view of the concrete pad on one side.  I backed in following Linda’s hand signals until I could see the pad on both sides, got the rig straight and centered, and backed up until Linda gave me the stop signal (arms crossed at the wrist above her head).  We ended up parking with the front tires just off the front edge of the concrete pad as the coach was close to level and we wanted to avoid lower branches at the rear of the site.  As it was, I still had to lower the front slightly, but at least the Level Low system worked this time.  I also had to adjust the rear on one side, which worked a lot better after I lowered the tag axle.

With the coach neatly tucked in to its site and sitting level Linda walked the short distance back to where the car was parked and drove it around to our site.  Once the car was parked I walked to the office and took care of the registration.  When I got back I tried to get our network up and running but encountered all sorts of problems.  I wasted most of the rest of the afternoon trying to resolve them, to no avail.

While we were camped on site #3 I had to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router/range-extender to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi.  That configuration worked OK out there, but was not working here.  The Wi-Fi ranger was seeing a number of campground Wi-Fi signals with adequate to very good signal strength, but was having a very difficult time connecting to them.  When it did, the connection would drop after a very short time.  The Amped|Wireless router/range-extender was having an equally difficult time connecting to the Wi-Fi Ranger and staying connected when it did.  I tried connecting the Wi-Ranger to our Verizon Mi-Fi but that did seem to work either.  I also noticed that the cellular signal was not as strong as usual.  Linda commented that her phone was having trouble connecting.  I finally got disgusted with the whole thing and set it aside.  Sometimes the best solution is to “just walk away.”

There were four cruise ships starting down the shipping channel roughly on time and in the order specified and Vickie joined us for the ship parade.  We were out there waiting for them, camera at the ready, and by the time the last ship was headed out to sea I had shot about 200 images.  Vickie had already eaten, and we were not ready for dinner yet, so we walked the campground and park, including the pier.

It was chilly all day yesterday with a high temperature in the low 70’s and a steady breeze from the north that resulted in a hazardous conditions warning for the beach.  As the light faded it got colder and we returned to our motorhomes.

Dinner was a nice salad and Amy’s enchiladas.  Simple, easy, tasty.  It turned colder after sunset under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, initially, but eventually the coach was a bit too cool so I closed the roof vents and Linda narrowed the window openings to just an inch.  We were a little tired, not particularly captivated by what was on TV, and had to be up earlier than usual in the morning, so we were in bed before 11 PM.

2016/04/04 (M) Farewell For Now

It turned chilly after sunset last night under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, actually, but eventually the coach felt chilly and we closed it up, mostly, and were in bed a bit earlier than usual.

We were up at 7 AM this morning and got dressed right away.  I made coffee, which used up our supply of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans, and we headed over to site #303 at 7:30 to see Pat and Vickie off.  They have been here since mid-February and today was departure day.  The bus motor was already running when we got there and we just watched while they got ready to pull out.  We learned long ago not to “chat” with RVers during their final departure preparations.  They drove around by the office to hook up their car and we walked over to watch.  I took a couple of pictures with my phone and used the “dawn” setting for the first time.  Soon enough they were ready to go, so we said our final “farewells for now,” and, just like that, they drove off and were gone.  Assuming no mechanical or weather issues they will be home in northern Indiana Wednesday evening.

A group of five brown pelicans coming up the channel just above the water. Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, FL.

We always find that leaving an encampment after we have been there for an extended period of time has a strange feeling and we experienced that vicariously as Pat and Vickie drove away.  The strangeness, as best I can describe it, is a combination of a sense of loss—the giving up of a familiar place and the people there—and anticipation of the journey ahead, both positive and negative.  The anticipation is positive in the sense of the possibilities of new experiences that come with the adventure of the road while the negative anticipation stems from the potential for mechanical, weather, traffic, or health problems.

With Pat and Vickie out of sight we returned to our coach and had a light breakfast of toast and jam and finished our coffee.  Linda then worked on a grocery list while I tackled out networking problems.  I gave up in disgust around 10 AM and we drove to Cocoa Beach to do some grocery shopping.  We went to the Publix supermarket first and found most of what we needed there.  A quick stop at Sunseed Food CO-OP filled in our list with blueberries, coffee, and vegan mayonnaise.  I stopped at one of the Shell stations on the way back to J. P. and topped off the fuel in the car so we would not have to deal with that tomorrow morning.

Back at our coach we got the groceries unloaded and put away.  Linda then heated some leftovers for lunch and washed some grapes.  After lunch I put in a call to Chris Yust, our National General Insurance Agent, to ask her about the letter/form we received regarding Coordination of Medical benefits.  She called back a short time later and we discussed it.  She logged into her agent support system but there was no indication of the letter/form.  Normally she can see anything the insurance company has sent to her customers.  She confirmed that we really did need to send the form in with the requested documentation.

Linda had already photographed the fronts and backs of our MPSERS/BCBS cards.  When she tried to print them the printer was “offline”.  We had this same problem at the beginning of our winter travels and it turned out to be NETWORK related.  The fix back then was to use the Advanced IP Scanner to determine what IP address was assigned to the printer and then manually reconfigure the printer to that address.  That was under Windows 8.1.  Under Windows 10 the IP Scanner didn’t work the same way and the manual reconfiguration didn’t work either.  What is particularly puzzling and annoying is that the printer does not appear to be responding correctly when set as a DHCP client.  If it was, we would not be having a problem communicating with it.

I seem to have spent a lot of time this past week dealing with network and wireless communications malfunctions, so I did what I often do and we went for a walk at 2:30 PM.  We went out on the pier and were just starting back when someone spotted a manatee between the pier and the jetty swimming towards the ocean.  The water was clear and we got a good look at it for quite a while.  It was large and presumably a full-size adult.  They really are gentle giants and it was a thrill to see it.

We walked back to the office for coffee before returning to our rig.  As soon as we went in Scott Ward handed Linda a card.  She has not been in the office that much but I have, and have often interacted with Scott while checking on, or registering for, sites.  Still, I was impressed that he remembered my last name and made the connection to the card.  The card was from our younger grand-daughter, Madeline.  It was a ‘thank you’ card for Linda for all of the custom photo postcards she has created using the PhotoPostCard app and had printed and mailed to Madeline by the PhotoPostCard service out of San Diego, California.  Linda took a picture of the card, texted it to our son, and asked him to tell Madeline “thanks” in return.  He texted back a photo of Madeline looking at the most recent postcard, which was a photo of Linda by the channel with one of the Disney cruise ships heading out to sea.

The Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas was due to sail at 3:45 PM followed closely by      the Disney Dream at 4 PM.  We walked over to the shipping channel at 3:40 PM and by the time we got there the Enchantment was starting to move away from its dock.  Something did not look right and then I realized we were looking at the stern of the ship.  The cruise ships usually dock facing the ocean, so it needed to turn around to get out of Port Canaveral.

One of the amazing things about these amazing machines is their ability to maneuver in close quarters.  When in port, they can independently push the bow and stern to either side, which means they can move sideways or turn the ship around its center (or any other point).  In this case they pushed the stern out from the dock on the south side of the channel and into the opening of the middle turning basin on the north side of the channel opposite the dock.  They then backed it up slightly into the turning basin, brought the bow around into the channel, pushed the stern out into the channel, and then started moving forward down the channel towards the ocean.  It was quite a skillful maneuver and the first time we have seen this in the two weeks we have been here.

Not long after the Enchantment cleared the Jetty and turned southeast to stay in the channel, the Disney Dream started moving slowly forward and away from its dock.  The Disney terminal/dock is in an alcove (basin) on the north side of the west end of the Port so it has to turn into the straight portion of the channel.  Of all the cruise ships we have seen come and go the Disney ships appear to be in the best condition, not that any of them look bad.

We returned to our coach and I transferred photos to my computer from the camera and from my cell phone while Linda started preparing dinner.  Dinner consisted of a kale salad followed by a brown rice and kale dish with sautéed carrots, onions, and garlic.  Linda has not had any wine in a couple of weeks because of the medications she’s been taking, but I had a glass of the Arbor Mist Raspberry.  I find “flavored” wines a questionable choice, although I like Sangria and hot mulled or spiced wine.

We went for a walk after dinner that included some time on the beach.  The park and beach were a beehive of activity yesterday but things were quiet all day today and there were only a handful of people on the beach this evening.  Both conditions are nice, in their own way.  There was, however, some activity in the Trident submarine turning basin today.  The big crane was moving and a Coast Guard cutter was in and out of the basin.  An attack helicopter from Patrick AFB also made repeated passes over the area and up/down the beach.  Our friends told us that when things start getting active around the basin it usually means a submarine is coming in but that did not happen while we were watching.

Back at our coach we turned on the TV but all of the CBS programs were repeats because the NCAA Basketball final game was on cable.  I reconfigured the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi and was able to get my computer connected to the Internet and to our NAS, which is critical for backing up photos and documents.  I did not, however, mess around further with the printer.  My plan is to move it back into my office at home and leave it there.  I will find a newer one, with better networking functionality, to put in the bus.

We planned to be on the road in the morning between 8 and 8:30 AM so we went to bed before 11 PM.  Linda fell asleep before NCIS-LA ended but I watched the channel 6 news/weather before turning out the lights.  The Cleveland Indians baseball home opener was postponed because of snow on the field and the TV weatherman reported that the average last date for snow in Cleveland is April 18, and for Detroit, April 22.  In spite of a mild winter and early spring, I knew there was a reason we were not in a hurry to return home.  The low at our house was forecast to be 18 degrees F overnight.

2016/04/05 (M) Celebration

We were up at 7 AM, showered, and got dressed.  We tended to our cats and prepared the motorcoach for them to be comfortable while we were away for part of the day.  We each had a banana, and a little orange juice to wash down our vitamins, but did not have a full breakfast or our usual morning coffee.  We gathered up all of the things Linda needed for her doctor’s appointment and were in the car and on our way at 8:10 AM.

Our destination was the office of Dr. Michael Seidman in Celebration, Florida, a trip of 60 to 65 miles from Jetty Park that would take about as many minutes.  Most of the route was Toll Road (FL-528 and FL-417) and we did not have to slow down for the toll booths because we have a Florida SunPass transponder that we can move between the bus and the car.  We put the address of the clinic, which is attached to Florida Hospital, into the GPS.  It accepted Celebration as the city, but the routing showed the destination as Kissimmee.  I didn’t care what it called the place as long as it got us to the correct location.

We left earlier than needed in order to arrive earlier than required and allow for traffic and navigational contingencies.  Less than a mile from the medical center we spotted a Panera Bread Company store and stopped to have bagels and coffee.  While we were there we made use of the free Wi-Fi to update apps on our iPads and smartphones.  We left at 10:15 and finished the short trip to the Florida Hospital complex.  We found a parking spot, found the clinic building, and found the suite for the Head & Neck Surgery Center of Florida (H&NSCF).  Linda had already completed much of the required new patient paperwork so we were there with time to spare.

Sheila, one of the office assistants, got Linda checked in and wanted to know if we had brought copies of her records from Henry Ford Health System, where Dr. Seidman worked for 30 years and treated Linda for the last 20 of those.  I had e-mailed Sheila the day after she asked me to get those records to let her know that HFHS would not send them to another hospital or clinic at Linda’s request and that the H&NSCF would have to request them.  Sheila said she did not receive that e-mail, even though I replied to one she sent Linda.  Oh well, there was nothing to be done at that point.

It was a great relief to Linda to be able to get in to see Dr. Seidman.  Dr. S and his PA, Katherine, carefully went over the history of Linda’s illness and treatment of the last three weeks.  He indicated that the treatment was what he would have prescribed, which was comforting to know.  His routine ENT examination did not reveal any indication of infection or fluid in her “good” (right) ear, which was also good to know.  He really wanted to compare the recent audiological results with her last tests from HFHS so he made a call to someone at the HFHS ENT clinic and was able to get them to fax the test results.  He chaired the ENT department for much of his time at Henry Ford, and that was apparently still worth something with former colleagues.

Dr. S also inserted a scope through Linda’s right nostril and into her throat to exam the areas that cannot be seen any other way.  The scope is a thin, flexible cable with a camera and LED light source at the tip.  The image is fed to a monitor, where I got to see it in real time, but was also recorded so Linda got to see it afterwards.  Her vocal cords did not close completely and were slightly bowed, which Dr. S thought probably accounted for her weak, slightly horse, voice but there was no sign of infection or other pathology, such as tumors.  He noticed that the Eustachian tube opening was “bubbling” which he thought was a good sign.  He also examined the left nostril and did not see anything unusual there either.

All of that was good news, of course, but we were both a bit let down that there wasn’t any additional treatment he could provide at this time.  Direct injection of steroids into the middle ear was still a possibility but he wanted Linda to wait at least four weeks to see if she improved on her own before going down that path.  Equally frustrating was that her hearing, while marginal, was too good for a cochlear implant.  Not that she is eager to have one of those, of course, what she wants is the hearing in her right ear restored to what it was before she got sick a month ago.

Our friend, Mara, was moving her motorhome today from Clermont to Winter Haven and her friend, Michael, was driving to Orlando International Airport to drop off a rental car and fly back to Phoenix, Arizona.  They had hoped to do all of that by way of Celebration and have lunch, with or without us, at Ari, a Japanese sushi restaurant.  We had indicated that it was very doubtful we would make it to lunch, given the timing of Linda’s appointment, but called Mara when we got back to our car to update her.  It turned out that when she got ready to leave her motorhome slideout would not slide in.  (I think that’s why they are called slide “outs.”)  Michael returned home as planned while Mara arranged for a technician to fix her non-sliding slideout.

We needed to fax a few documents to National General Insurance Company, so we went in search of a Staples with a copy center.  Having taken care of that we wanted to have lunch before heading back to Cape Canaveral so as not to be eating dinner too late in the day.  We found another Panera near FL-417 and Orange Blossom Trail and ate there.  The kale-romaine-couscous-almond salad was excellent and the black bean soup was as good as usual.  Well fed, we got on the FL-417 Toll Road and headed back towards the FL-528 Toll Road, which we took back to Cape Canaveral.

We were back at Jetty Park before 2:30 PM and just relaxed for a while.  Around 4 PM we went outside to take care of a few things in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  I got out the waste drain hoses and connected two of them together to reach from the utility bay connection to the sewer connection, which was inconveniently located directly behind the RV pad.  We drained the waste tanks, rinsed out the hoses, and returned everything to their storage tub.  Using the 3-step stool, I retracted the two awnings on the driver side, which I had previously deployed to shade the Windows from the mid-afternoon sun.

We then emptied out the back of the car so I could add air to the temporary spare, which gave us a low pressure alarm on the drive from Webster to Cape Canaveral.  I had turned on the TireTraker TPMS earlier and most of the readings looked OK, but as long as I had the portable air compressor, hose, air chuck, and pressure gauge out I checked the front right (curb, PS) tire as a check on the TPMS. The tire gauge pressure was several pounds lower than the TPMS indicated pressure and was fairly close to where I wanted it so I left it alone.

Our destination tomorrow was Williston Crossings RV Resort in Williston, Florida, a trip of about 140 miles.  We had about a half tank of fresh water so I did not get out the softener and add any.  Somewhere in the middle of all this work we chatted with several neighbors, but eventually we got the car and bus repacked, including the patio mat and the two bag chairs.  At that point we only had the entry mat, entry stool, and power cord to deal with and the outside would be ready for travel.

Before dinner we went for a walk out by the shipping channel, the pier, and the beach.  There were people out and about but the park did not feel crowded and was quiet and calm, unlike the festive energy of the weekend with its day visitors, picnickers, and family campers with younger children.  It’s as if J. P. has moods, and one has to spend enough time here and experience them to begin to get a sense of the place.  We could understand why Pat and Vickie like to come here every year, even if that is not what we would choose to do.

I could not recall what Linda made for dinner because I am trying to finish this post a week later.  What I do recall is that the Norwegian Breakaway was scheduled to set sail at 9 PM, well after sunset.  It had been a pleasantly cool day with clear skies but turned chilly with the setting of the sun and a noticeable breeze, especially outside the campground by the water.  Linda was tired and a little chilled and chose not to walk out and watch the ship leave.  At 8:45 PM I got my camera, walked over to the channel, and positioned myself by the “Minimum Wake” sign.  I had a good view of the Port to the west and could lean on one of the posts for support if needed.  I put my camera in SCN (scene selection) mode, selected the “Night” setting, and waited.

I had not noticed that the ship was docked with its stern facing the ocean until it started to move.  Its position at the dock meant it would have to do a 180 degree turn before moving down the channel and into the ocean.  And that meant it was going to take longer to exit the port and give me more opportunity to photograph it.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines “Breakaway” doing a 180 degree maneuver in the turning basin. Port Canaveral, FL.

The cruise ships are always brightly illuminated when coming and going in the dark and are quite pretty to see as they glide almost silently by.  They are also challenging to photograph as they are often very high contrast (high dynamic range) subjects, especially at night.  Ideally I would shoot multiple bracket exposures and combine them using HDR software, but I would have to get the camera on a tripod and even then the exposures would be just long enough that the ship would change position slightly between frames.  I did the best I could with single frame, hand-held exposures braced against the sign post.  By the time the Breakaway was in open water I was getting chilled and headed back to the warmth of our bus.  I transferred the images to my computer and took a quick look at them before settling in to watch a few minutes of TV and then go to bed.

 

2016/03/27-28 (N-M) Squirrel-Nuts ENT Markets

2016/03/27 (N) Squirrel Nuts

Jasper started trying to get my attention around 7:15 AM.  He comes up close to my head on either side to get his head “scritched” and goes eyeball-to-eyeball with me from just a few inches away.  I finally got up at 7:30 AM and Linda got up around the same time.  She took her morning medications and returned to her seat bed while I tended to the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  Linda was hungry and wanted breakfast so I cut the grapefruit in half only to find out that she cannot have grapefruit while taking the steroids.  No problem, it needed to be eaten and I can certainly eat an entire small grapefruit all by myself.

I did not feel like getting dressed right away to walk over to the office and get a couple of cups of free, but not very tasty, coffee so I ground up some of our beans and made a pot.  I have not done that since we got to Jetty Park and it was nice to have our own, special coffee again.  Once the coffee was brewed I plugged in the toaster and heated a couple of cinnamon raisin bagels for breakfast.  Linda went back to sleep after breakfast while I lingered on the sofa, enjoying my coffee, working on my blog post drafts, and playing a few games.  I eventually got a shower, got dressed, and took the trash to the dumpster.

The long range forecast was for afternoon high temperatures in the mid-80’s, plus or minus, with high humidity and rain chances.  The TV weather people have been describing the current whether as “summer like” which simply confirms for me that Florida is not someplace I want to be in the summer.  (Overnight low temperatures at home, however, are still dropping below freezing, so we are OK with where we are.)  I am tired of listening to our air-conditioners but this was going to be a mostly stay-at-home day given the weather conditions, the fact that Linda is not up for going anywhere or doing anything, and that today is Easter Sunday and many businesses are closed, even in Cocoa Beach.  At least the air-conditioners are keeping the humidity in the coach at a comfortable level, it’s the evaporator fan noise that is irritating.

A stay-at-home day is usually a good opportunity to upload some more posts to our blog and update the BCM page on our website.  The posts for the last third of December 2015 still needed to be edited before uploading so I started working on them.  I had just finished the ones for the 21st and 22nd when Linda wanted to go for a walk.  We walked over to the dumpsters to throw away our daily bag of trash and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s site where we found them sitting outside in the shade but without any breeze.  They decided to join us on our walk and we headed to the beach.  There was a steady offshore breeze but the sun was hot so we headed back to the campground in search of shade and a breeze.

We found both on the other side of the street from our site.  We got out our four folding chairs and set them up over there along with our little plastic folding table.  Yes, we own an old Prevost, but in many other ways are RVing lives are simple.  Vickie went back to their coach and returned with a beer (Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy) and a bag of pretzels.  At the same time I brought out pretzel nibblers, peanuts, and almonds along with water for Linda and a beer for me (Yuengling Traditional Lager).

The air temperature was in the lower 80’s with somewhat elevated humidity, but we sat in the shade with the cool, pleasant breeze enjoying our snacks and beverages.  The squirrels here are used to people and one approached quite close to us looking for a handout.  For whatever reason I decided to share the remaining peanuts with it, which immediately attracted a couple more squirrels.  When I ran out I went inside and got more and washed off some grapes.  When the squirrels started having a territorial dispute over the peanuts I decided to quit feeding them.  About that same time we were all feeling a bit tired (relaxed?) and decided to go take naps.  Naps are good; I like naps.

At 5 PM we walked over to the shipping channel to see if one of the Disney Cruise Line ships was departing.  We got to watch The Disney Magic come all the way down the channel, led by the harbor pilot boat and followed by the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas.  As the Magic was just rounding the bend from its dock into the straight portion of the channel someone spotted a pair of dolphins swimming up the channel.  We saw their dorsal fins but I was not able to get a photo of them.  After the two cruise ships were clear of the channel we walked to the pier.  Along the way the tugboat American Champion pulled in a barge with Scow 6 stenciled on the side.  A small derrick boat then came in from the ocean and a little while later chugged back out again.

By 6:30 PM Linda was thinking about her next steroid pill, which she had to take after dinner, so we walked back to our coach.  A can of Amy’s Chili with some Soup & Oyster Crackers made for a quick, easy, tasty meal along with some black grapes.  After dinner I was able to tune in one of the PBS affiliates.  We watched a documentary on Harry Gordon Selfridge and Selfridge’s Department Store in London, England.  That was followed by an episode of Grantchester, another of the BBC Masterpiece Mystery series.  We split an apple for a late night snack.  At 10 PM we switched to CBS and watched an episode of Elementary followed by the evening news, during which Linda converted the living room captain’s chairs into her nighttime convalescence bed.

The only part of the news that interested yes was the weather as a significant front was draped from northeast to southwest and pushing east out of the Gulf of Mexico across central and northern Florida with heavy rain and lots of lightening.  The TV weatherman said it would impact Orlando between midnight and 3 AM before finally moving out into the Atlantic Ocean.  I figured that meant any impact on us wouldn’t start until at least 1 AM and peak between 3 and 4.  Once I had a sense of the weather I turned off the lights in the front of the coach and retired to the bedroom for the evening.  I did not feel like writing or playing games so I flipped channels for a while.  I could not tune in either of the PBS affiliates, and nothing else caught my interest, so I turned off the TV and the lights and went to sleep.

2016/03/28 (M) ENT Markets

I was up at 7 AM and discovered that Linda had also just gotten up to take her morning steroids.  I put on my robe, put away the clean dishes from last night, fed the cats, cleaned the litter tray, and made a pot of coffee.  Once the coffee was brewed I toasted the last two cinnamon raisin bagels and we had those for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda played word games and I finished up yesterday’s blog post draft.

After two days of steroids Linda’s voice and hearing were slightly improved, but not much, and she continues to be tired, even listless, and sleep off and on through the day.  Today, however, she got dressed and settled in to work at her computer reconciling our charge receipts and bank balances.

We had decided that we would leave Jetty Park on Friday and were discussing where we might go next.  We knew that Linda needed a follow up appointment with her ENT back home so I called to arrange that.  We were surprised to find out that Linda’s ENT, Dr. Michael Seidman, was no longer at Henry Ford.  I was able to get an appointment with a different ENT for late April, but in the course of doing that I found out that Dr. Seidman had moved his practice to Celebration, Florida.  That’s the home of Disney World and is only about 50 miles from where we are camped!

By searching online we located the practice Dr. Seidman has joined, the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida (HNSCF), which is affiliated with Florida Hospital, a 7th Day Adventist facility.  I called and was informed that Tuesday, April 5 was the first day he would be seeing patients, so apparently his relocation was in-process.  We got an appointment for 11 AM.  The clinic asked me to contact HFHS and request a copy of Linda’s medical records which I decided to take care of later.  For now our immediate concern was figuring out where we were going to be camped between now and then.

At about this time Vickie called to let me know they had decided to leave on Monday, April 4 and that we could have their site starting that day if we wanted.  The trick was that we needed to go to the office together so she could cancel their reservation starting that day and I could immediately pick it up.  That prompted me to meet her and Pat at the office where I signed up for site #303 for Monday and Tuesday evenings with departure on Wednesday, April 6.

We were already set to move to site #358 tomorrow at noon for three nights so I needed a site for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  The only sites that were big enough to accommodate our bus and available for all three nights were in the boondocking area by the shipping channel.  I preferred that to having to move one or two extra times, and trying to squeeze into sites that were marginal in size, so Pat, Vickie, and I walked out to look at the available sites.  I selected site #3 and went back in to complete the registration process.  Vickie thought we would enjoy being parked with a view of the channel and Pat noted that the lack of trees was offset by a constant breeze.  We would also be parked facing north, so we would not have the sun on our windshields.  It came up later that we might have tried Sherwood Forest RV Park near Celebration, but at this point I did not want to move the bus very far prior to Linda’s appointment and risk having a problem which I would then have to deal with.

With all of the reservations taken care of I returned to our coach and explained the arrangements to Linda and then settled in at my computer to edit the blog posts for the last nine days of December 2015.  Around 2 PM I called the Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield ENT clinic to request a copy of Linda’s medical records be faxed to the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida.  I was transferred to the medical records department, where I was informed that they could not send records to a hospital or clinic based on a patient request and that the request would have to come directly from the receiving clinic.  The medical records clerk provided me with a phone number for the clinic to use.  We had exchanged a couple of e-mails with Sylvia at HNSCF so I replied to one of them with the relevant information.

Mid-afternoon Vickie called again to see if we wanted to ride to town with them.  Linda was feeling up to it so we agreed to go.  Our first stop was at the Sunseed Food CO-OP on N. Atlantic Avenue.  We bought a few things that did not need refrigeration and Linda made note of their extensive selections of Amy’s frozen entrees and pizzas as well as the Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream.  Out next stop was the small Coastal Produce market in downtown Cocoa Beach where Linda and Vickie bought some fresh produce.  We stopped at Sunseed Food CO-OP again on the way back to the campground and stocked up on Amy’s frozen entrees, got a couple of pizzas, two pints of non-dairy ice cream, and some nutritional yeast.  Vickie also bought some nutritional yeast as she had seen several recipes that called for it but was not familiar with it.

On the way back to Jetty Park Pat detoured through the western end of Port Canaveral on the south side of the shipping channel to show us the various dining options (restaurants, bars, and grills) located there.  The Disney Cruise Line terminals are a bit farther west and on the other side of the channel but we did not drive over there as we had fresh and frozen food that needed to get into our refrigerators and freezers.

With the food put away I resumed editing my blog posts from late December and managed to finish the one for December 31st just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.  I pushed the wrong button on the convection microwave oven and screwed up the sequence but the pizza still came out OK.  The fact that she felt like fixing dinner at all was one of the first good signs we have had in two weeks regarding her health.  Dinner wasn’t fancy, just a nice salad and vegan pizza, but it was tasty and it was nice to sit at the table and eat it.

After dinner we met up with Vickie and went for a long, slow walk.  Linda got to see site #3 and thought it would be nice for three nights.  We also walked the entire length of the paved sidewalk that meanders through the southern edge of the park property and saw lots of the feral cats that live here.  The cats are fed by official volunteers and we spotted numerous plastic bowls at several locations with cats hanging about nearby.  (My understanding is that feral cats and not “wild” cats; they are domestic cats that have returned to the wild.)  When we eventually made it to the beach the ocean was just an hour past low tide so there was more beach exposed than we had yet seen.  There were dark clouds visible from southwest to northwest moving slowly east so we walked north along the beach and the over the dunes to the concession building.  Linda spotted the sun just setting and it was enormous and orange-red.  We scurried up to the observation deck to get a better look and tried to take a few photos with our smartphones.  They generally capture good images with proper exposure, but the correct exposure for sunsets and sunrises can be very tricky.

With the sun out of sight we walked back along the channel to the campground office where Vickie and I each got a cup of coffee.  We then headed back towards our coach and finally went our separate ways at the fork in the road.  We were back at our coach at 8 PM and turned on the TV to watch our Monday night CBS shows.  Almost all of our TV viewing this winter has been CBS and PBS and we have been fortunate to be able to receive these signals almost everywhere.  Linda decided to try sleeping in bed for the first time in a week.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert but turned the TV off at midnight and went to sleep.

 

2016/03/24-26 (R-S) Cocoa-Beach-Historic-District ENT Dirty-Talk

2016/03/24 (R) Cocoa Beach Historic District

I got up at 8:15 AM, put on my swim trunks that I use as a pair of casual shorts, and walked over to the campground office to get a couple of cups of coffee.  The coffee is not that good, but it’s hot and I don’t have to make it or clean it up.  While I was there I inquired about extending our stay.  Robert assisted me and found two full hookup sites in the same part of the campground where we are now that were available for three nights starting on the 29th and marked them on a campground map.

Linda was asleep when I left and still asleep when I got back so I gently woke her up to have some coffee.  She was feeling a little better.  Her sore throat was almost gone and she had regained a little of her hearing and speaking.  We checked the long-range weather forecast and it looked like next week’s weather should be good with moderate temperatures and low probability of rain.  We discussed the available sites and agreed that #358 looked like a great choice.  It is directly behind the site we are currently on (#352) and is large with good access.  It also faces northeast which is a plus.  We will have to remove the windshield covers in order to move the coach and the northeast orientation means we will not have to put them back on while we are here.

I walked back to the campground office and reserved site #358 for March 29, 30, and 31, with departure on April 1 by noon.  All things being equal (which they never are) we would rather not be driving on April 1st as there is, apparently, a mass exodus of snowbirds from Florida on that date and the northbound highways are bumper-to-bumper and very slow.  I can check with the office each day to see if there have been cancelations that would allow us to stay longer on one site.  We also discussed making a reservation for a few nights back at Williston Crossings and cooling our heels there before heading north.

I texted Vickie to let her know about our modified plan.  She and Pat were headed to the beach for a walk and Linda decided she wanted to go along.  While we waited for them I texted our children to let them know we had extended out stay at Jetty Park and that their mom was doing better.  Oops; apparently no one ever told them Linda was sick and my text message prompted a quick phone call from our daughter.

We walked along the ocean towards Cocoa Beach for 1.5 to 2 miles.  (We had three pedometers between us but each one recorded a different distance.)  Pat and I headed back while Linda and Vickie went a little farther before turning back.  The girls walk faster than we do and wanted to give us a head start.  They caught up with us just as we reached the boardwalk back into Jetty Park.

We were back at our coach at 11:45 AM and agreed to get back together mid-afternoon and drive to Cocoa Beach to see the Historic District.  None of us had eaten breakfast and Linda clearly needed a nap before doing anything else today.  I made a sandwich with mock deli slices, Daiya non-dairy cheese, raw onions, lettuce, and mustard and cut it in half for us to share.  I had a few pretzels with hummus and washed off the rest of the grapes and set them out.

I noticed yesterday that I had a critical update for Windows 10 but when I checked today it was no longer there.  My presumption is that it got downloaded and installed.  Linda had the same update still pending, along with the Visual C++ update that keeps trying to install but apparently does not do so correctly.

There was a magnificent full moon rising last night but we did not notice it until it was well above the horizon.  I tried to take a few pictures from in front of our coach but I spent most of the time messing with the camera’s controls and settings.  I suspected that I failed to capture the beauty of the moment and after I copied them to my computer to examine them my suspicion was confirmed.

Linda takes a minute to pose while watching one of the Disney cruise ships (Magic?) leave Port Canaveral and head out of the channel into the Atlantic Ocean.

We both took naps but by 4 PM had not heard from Pat and Vickie.  I called Vickie but got Pat.  Vickie had a sore neck and they had decided not to venture back out today.  Linda’s sore throat has largely abated, and her voice has improved a little, but her hearing is still very impaired.  This afternoon she got very concerned about it and had me try to contact a local ENT.  The office was closed until Monday morning and the call was routed to an answering service.  The answering service gave me the number for another ENT in Titusville.  I called them and got their answering service.  They took my name, number, and some information and said the office would call me at 8 AM when they opened.

The weather forecast from 5 PM on was for an increasing probability of thunderstorms headed towards 100% by 11 PM.  The weather was moving from southwest to northeast along a front that appeared to be drifting slowly from west to east.  As a result air temperatures were hanging in the 70’s and the humidity was very high.  Rather than sit around the coach we decided to drive down N. Atlantic Ave. (FL-A1A) to/through Cocoa Beach just to have a look.  First, however, we closed up the coach and turned on the air-conditioners.

We had a nice, leisurely drive south through Cape Canaveral and then Cocoa Beach; first through the main business section and then through a more residential part.  In spite of the high-rise residential and resort buildings that dominate the ocean shore along the eastern edge of the Cape, the main avenue still has some of the look and feel of “old” Cocoa Beach, with the Ron Jon Surf Shop as a centerpiece.  Many of the beach houses are charming without being massive and lavish, like the ones we saw on Captiva Island on the Gulf Coast.

By the time I turned around to head back dark storm clouds had moved in and it had started raining intermittently.  We stopped at the CVS Pharmacy to see if they had an OTC medication that might help Linda’s right ear.  The pharmacist said the only thing he had was a pill that would promote drainage which might help remove infection and pressure but was certainly not a substitute for a prescription medication.  We bought a pack as it seemed like a better option than doing nothing.

We got back into the northbound flow of traffic, which was bumper-to-bumper and slow because the right hand lane was closed for construction.  Heavy rain had moved in, with reduced visibility and minor road flooding, which did not improve the traffic situation.  We weren’t in a rush, and it would not have mattered if we were, so we just took our place in the parade until I got to a traffic signal where I turned left and went into the Publix parking lot.  Linda stayed in the car while I went in to buy a few grocery items.  It was raining lightly when I came out of the supermarket.  I loaded the grocery bags in the back of the car and returned the cart to the front of the store.  In that short time torrential rains fell and I had to wait for it to abate before I could return to our car.  (In spite of the forecast we left the coach without our raincoats or umbrellas.)

Back at our coach we got the groceries inside and put away.  Linda felt like fixing dinner so she heated the vegan Italian sausage with sautéed onions and peppers and served it next to an arugula salad.  I cut up some of the strawberries we just bought and served those for dessert.

Our usual Thursday evening CBS TV programs were preempted by the NCAA basketball tournament but I found an interesting series of talks about “American Generations” on PBS.  The three hours covered, in order, Boomers (us), Gen-X (both of our children), and Millennials (both of our grand-daughters).  The basic point of the lectures was an updated and expanded version of the central concept of a presentation by a sociologist that I saw in the late 1970’s titled “What you are is where you were when…”

Our TV viewing was occasionally interrupted by severe weather alerts and a tornado warning, although the warning was not for our specific location.  We spent some time with our iPads trying to understand the implications for us and our rig and decided we were not in any imminent danger.  Lightning activity increased around 11 PM accompanied by some thunder and then rain.  The rain and lightning intensified as midnight approached and the leak around the bedroom vent fan reappeared but did reach severe levels and the winds were not an issue.  At midnight the channel 9.3 radar showed one cluster of storms pushing out to sea by us but another fast moving line sweeping across the Gulf of Mexico and stretching across Florida from north of Jacksonville to north of Tampa and moving our way.  It was all too obvious by this point that we had miscalculated the intensity and duration of the storm when deciding to leave our awnings out.  I finally tried to go to sleep not knowing if they would be OK in the morning.  The ENT office was supposed to call at 8 AM and we wanted to be up, dressed, and ready to go in case they could see Linda right away.

2016/03/25 (F) Orlando ENT Visit

With the thunderstorms last night I did not get a good night’s sleep.  The cats were nervous and wanted my attention but would not settle down and sleep.  When Juniper did finally settle down she curled up on my pillow. The roof vent/fan in the bedroom leaked on the foot of the bed so I had to deal with that.  I was also concerned about the two awnings we left out.  And last, but not least, I was concerned about Linda’s hearing loss.  Nonetheless, I was up at 7:30 AM and got dressed.  Linda was up shortly after me and got dressed.  She also did not sleep well for most of the same reasons.  We each had a quick bite for breakfast in case we had to leave on short notice.

I had not heard from Dr. Patel’s office in Titusville by 8:10 so I called them.  They were the backup for Dr. Widick’s office in Cocoa Beach which was closed until Monday morning.  Dr. Patel was not available today and would not be until Monday.  Some backup.  The receptionist was not able to refer us anywhere else.  Linda’s initial annoyance at not being able to hear had become a serious concern and melted briefly into a panic.  We both got online and started searching for ENTs in the Orlando area.

There were several dozen with no meaningful way to call all of them to find one that was open with an available appointment slot.  We were starting to think about going to a hospital ER when I spotted a listing for ENT services at Florida Hospital in Orlando.  I called the number and the operator wasn’t quite sure what to do with my call but then transferred me to the hospital’s physician referral service where Tim took the call.

Tim gave me the name of Dr. Lehman at Ear, Nose, Throat Plastic Surgery Associates P.A.  http://www.ENTOrlando.com/Portal 407.644.4883.  I called them and they were not going to be able to get Linda in to see Dr. Lehman, or any other ENT, until Tuesday.  I pleaded the desperation of our situation and they finally said we could see a P.A. in their Orlando clinic office at 1 PM.  The receptionist took some basic insurance information over the phone and told us to be there by 12:30 PM to take care of paperwork.  She also gave me the address and phone number of the clinic.

Our mapping apps indicated a 52 mile trip (one-way) that would take about one hour.  We decided to leave at 10:30 AM to allow plenty of time and still arrive early.  It was only 9 AM so rather than sit around I texted Vickie to let her know our plans for the day and that we were headed over to the office to get some coffee and kill a little time.  She and Pat met us there and provided a much needed distraction for Linda.

We knew that another round of thunderstorms was forecast to move through the Cape Canaveral area sometime during the afternoon so at 10:15 we headed back to our coach and retracted the patio awning and large driver side awning.  By the time we gathered up all of our stuff, which included our SunPass transponder, and pulled out of our site it was almost 10:45.  I headed south on N. Atlantic Ave. and stopped at the Shell station to top off the fuel tank.  A half mile later I headed west on Central Blvd. and then turned onto westbound Astronaut Blvd (FL-A1A).

The clinic was located at 44 W. Michigan St. southeast of downtown Orlando, Florida.  Approximately 40 miles of the 52 mile trip were on FL-A1A and FL-528 and somewhere between 30 and 40 of those miles were toll road.  The only traffic congestion we encountered was after exiting FL-528 near Orlando International Airport onto FL-428.  We arrived at the clinic before noon.

While Linda was filling out all of the paperwork I got a call from Butch.  They were on the move traveling north on I-25 in New Mexico and hoping to make it to Amarillo, Texas before dark.  I brought him up to date on Linda’s situation and we then discussed travel plans.  He thought they would be home by the end of next week, which is when we plan to pull out of Jetty Park.  Butch is willing to help me disassemble and rebuild the driver side tag axle caliper, if that’s what is needed, and I really appreciate that.  I am inclined, however, to get Linda and the cats back to the house and then take the bus to Butch and Fonda’s place.  I also need to have him work on the three CruiseAir air-conditioners and I cannot have the cats onboard while that work is taking place.  All of this might also depend on if/when Joe is in Michigan and available/willing to work on the bus.

At 1:15 PM someone came out and called for Linda.  It was the audiologist.  She took us back to a room with an anechoic chamber and tested Linda’s hearing.  We went to an interior waiting room while she complied the test results and were then taken to an examine room by a nurse who went over the information Linda had provided and filled in some details.  A few minutes later the Physician’s Assistant, Bibi Farida Hussain, PA-C came in with a nurse.

We immediately liked her.  She was friendly and upbeat but very professional; exuding a confident competence.  She went over Linda’s history, symptoms, and audiological test results.  Linda’s test results showed that her hearing in her right ear was well below normal and that her eardrum was showing limited movement.  Farida’s examination of Linda’s right ear revealed some wax build up that was obscuring her ability to see anything else, so she cleaned it.  She was then able to clearly see the inflammation and the presence of fluid in the middle ear.  The fluid was preventing the movement of the eardrum and Bibi was fairly certain that was responsible for the greatly diminished hearing.

Farida had Linda pinch her nose and blow gently to force a little air up the eustachian tubes to help displace some of the fluid.  She recommended that Linda do this about 10 times per day.  She also suggested that Linda continue to use the OTC 12 hour nasal decongestant pills as they were helping drain the eustachian tubes and middle ear.  She prescribed a six day course of steroids and sent the prescription electronically to the CVS Pharmacy in Cocoa Beach.  She also recommended OTC Flonase nasal spray and gave us a $5 off coupon for the 120 dose size.  Finally, she gave Linda a copy of the audiological test results and suggested that she follow up with her ENT back home (Dr. Michael Sideman) in two to three weeks.  We paid the estimated co-pay and were on our way by 2:15 PM with Linda feeling relieved and reassured that her hearing should recover substantially within a week with no long-term damage.

We did not have much for breakfast and decided to get some lunch before driving back to the Cape.  A POI search using our Garmin 465T GPS unit revealed that there was a Panera just 0.3 miles east of the clinic on Michigan St.  Perfect!  It was cold inside and pleasant outside so we ate outside.  As we were finishing our lunch around 2:45 PM, very dark and foreboding clouds blew in quickly from the west and we got a few rain drops.  We made it back to the car before the skies opened up, which they did shortly thereafter.

The entire drive back to Cocoa Beach was through a hellacious rain storm with strong winds, very limited visibility, water ponding on the roads, and generally reduced speeds.  We did not have to be anywhere by any particular time so I tried to move along at whatever speeds felt comfortable to me while not going so slow as to get rear-ended.  It was about 4:30 PM by the time we made it to the CVS Pharmacy in Cocoa Beach and picked up Linda’s Rx and OTC medications.

The northbound traffic on FL-A1A (Astronaut Blvd.) was bumper-to-bumper as we drove through Cape Canaveral into Cocoa Beach so I took side streets back to Jetty Park.  I know I’ve been someplace for a while when I can start to find alternate driving routes.  The rain had moved through and out to sea by this time and we had a nice drive through yet another pleasant part of the Cape.  We were back at our coach by 5:15 PM.  I texted Vickie to let her know and we agreed to meet around 6:30 PM to go for a walk around the campground and park.  I then texted Butch and Chuck with status updates while Linda texted both of our children with the same information.  People really do care, and were concerned, and it would be thoughtless to not let them know.

Having had a late, filling lunch we were not hungry so Linda doodled on her iPad while I took a short nap.  We met Pat and Vickie and walked out to a beach access/overlook where we saw the Victory casino ship heading out to sea.  I took a few pictures because, well … I had my camera and that’s what I do.  We then walked along the shipping canal where I took a few more pictures.  We stopped at the office for coffee and then walked to the laundry room closest to our site to check it out.  Linda was tired by this point so we said “good night” and headed back to our coach.

It was 7:45 PM and we both were finally a little hungry so we each had a sandwich.  We turned on the TV and flipped channels.  There wasn’t much on that we wanted to see until Linda noticed that Foyle’s War was on one of the PBS stations.  That was an excellent show that we really enjoyed when it originally aired.  The signal was intermittent but we watched it anyway.  I then tuned in the NCAA basketball tournament for Linda on CBS 6.1 (solid, steady signal) as she made ready to sleep in the captain’s chairs again tonight.  I went to bed, put on the TV, and wrote for a while before going to sleep around 11:30 PM.

2016/03/26 (S) Let’s Talk Dirty

I woke up around 7:15 AM and was out of bed by 7:30.  Linda was still sleeping soundly, so I quietly got something to eat for breakfast and took my vitamins but did not make coffee, which involves using the coffee bean grinder and is fairly noisy.  Linda woke up around 8:30 and started taking her steroids.  After reading the package more carefully she realized she could have taken all six of the first day’s pills last night at one time.  That annoyed/frustrated her as she is anxious to get her hearing back ASAP, but there was no turning back the clock.

I needed to do laundry today and I also needed to mail two envelopes to my sister with various tax returns in them.  I searched online for laundromats in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach and found several, but one in particular caught my attention; a full service laundry on N. Atlantic in Cocoa Beach named Let’s Talk Dirty.

The shower/laundry buildings at Jetty Park Campground only have three washers and dryers each, but their main drawback is that you cannot drive your car and park near the buildings; the only way to get your laundry there is to carry it.  We have seen quite a few people using rolling carts to get their stuff to the beach and I suspect the long-term, regular campers also use them to get their laundry to/from the building.  We do not have such a cart and since I had to drive to the Cape Canaveral Post Office anyway I decided I would treat myself and let someone else wash, dry, and fold our laundry today.  It might cost as much as going out for a moderate dinner, but it’s been a hard week for me as well as Linda and I figured I deserved a break.

I gathered up the laundry, put it in the car, and took off, leaving Linda to rest.  I found the Post Office easily enough and got the two envelopes mailed Priority Mail with tracking.  I then drove another four miles south on FL-A1A (Atlantic Ave.) to the laundry service.  It was in a little strip mall just before Atlantic Ave. splits at the beginning of Downtown Cocoa Beach.  It was around 10:30 when I got there.  I had 29 pounds of laundry at a $1.05 per pound.  I had Jill wash everything “cold” but there was an extra $5 charge for splitting it into two loads, lights and darks.  I had to pay in advance, but that was OK.  Jill said it might not be ready until after 3 PM and let me know she was closing today at 5 PM.  No problem.

I enjoyed my drive back to Jetty Park and stopped at the Dunkin Donuts for a couple of coffees to go.  The place has always been empty when we have stopped there before but it was mobbed this morning!  But then, I guess that’s not really surprising for a Saturday morning on Easter weekend on the Cape.

Vickie texted me around 1 PM to see how Linda was doing and to let us know she was headed out to do some shopping and see if we needed anything.  She did not specify groceries but I presume that what she meant.  Linda was sleeping and we really did not need anything as we/I have been to Publix two or three times since we arrived at Jetty Park.  I was working on this post when Jill called around 1:30 PM to let me know our laundry was ready for pickup.  By this time Linda had a short grocery list from the last couple of days so we brainstormed a few additional items and I took it with me.

Atlantic Ave. was busy and congested near the Merritt Island Causeway. The “cause” of the backup was a large group of protesters at the intersection. As best I could determine their “cause” was saving the Indian River Lagoon, from which I gathered something was going on that the protesters believed threatened said lagoon in some way.  Their signs directed passersby to the group’s Facebook page for more information.  Once I was clear of that intersection the next congested section was by the public park farther south on the east side of the avenue.  It was closed to public use for a special function and there were a half dozen police cars there with their lights flashing.  The police had also placed cones along the lane markings and were directing traffic.  Everyone had to slow way down, of course, and occasionally stop.  Once I was clear of that obstacle it was easy sailing the rest of the way to the laundry.

It only took a few minutes to retrieve our laundry which was folded and bagged as advertised.  There was no way to avoid the traffic congestion at the park but once I was clear of that I kept an eye on my GPS unit for the first available opportunity to get off of Atlantic Avenue and over one street to the east.  That street begins/ends south of the causeway so I used it to bypass the congestion and demonstrators at that intersection.  I have nothing against protests and demonstrations; they are a sign of the health of our democracy, but I was already aware of their cause and not in the humor to sit in traffic.  Although there is an occasional stop sign and a 25 MPH speed limit, the side street is a lightly used, pleasant road that runs through a residential area.  When I was sufficiently far from the causeway intersection I returned to Atlantic Avenue and continued north to the Publix supermarket.

It was sometime between 2:30 and 3 PM by the time I was parked and headed inside the supermarket.  There have always been shoppers (and their cars) here on previous visits, but nothing like today.  The parking lot was 75% full, the aisles were crowded, and some of the shoppers seemed frantic.  Saturdays are busy at most supermarkets and other shopping venues but I could not discern to what extent these shoppers were residents with jobs doing their weekend chores, snowbirds doing their weekly grocery runs, or vacationers just arrived on the Cape and stocking up for the week.  It was also the Saturday before Easter Sunday and I only found out later that Publix would be closed tomorrow.  It was a perfect shopping storm.

I was back in my car with the groceries by 4 PM.  There’s a side street with access to the Publix parking lot that has a traffic signal on N. Atlantic Avenue so I always use it to make the left heading northbound.  Although Atlantic Avenue is four lanes with a center turn lane the speed limit is typically 35 MPH and it is lined with businesses on both sides.  Traffic moves slowly, and is frequently interrupted by vehicles leaving/entering the traffic flow, which causes it to be bumper-to-bumper and makes left turns across lanes especially difficult.

Back at the campground I got the clean laundry and groceries into our coach.  I put the clothes bags on the bed and then unpacked the groceries and put them away.  Linda was hungry and feeling well enough to make a salad with arugula, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing.  Yum.  I heated a can of Amy’s Vegetable Barely Soup, washed off some black grapes, and sliced up part of the baguette that was left over from our lunch yesterday at Panera.  It seemed like it was the first meal we have sat down and eaten at home in a while.

I thought it would be good for Linda to get out of the bus and go for an easy walk.  She was still experiencing some dizziness and nausea but agreed to go.  We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach, which we can see from ours’, and found them at home.  They had just finished dinner and we were all going to go for an easy stroll when I noticed dark clouds moving in from the west.  Pat pulled up the radar on his phone and, sure enough, a storm cell appeared to be headed our way.  Linda was tired anyway so the stroll was called off and we walked back to our rig.

In spite of being surrounded by some 60 TV channels there are only a few that we can receive strongly enough to lock in the digital signal and they do not generally include the two PBS affiliates.  Saturday evening TV programming tends to be a bit of a wasteland anyway and we ended up watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  I eventually tuned it in on the bedroom TV as well just to have something on while I unpacked the clean laundry, put it away, and made the bed.  Linda set up the living room captain’s chairs for sleeping, took her evening medications, and snuggled in for the night.  Sleeping in a sitting position minimizes the amount of coughing during the night, which leads to better rest.  I turned off the lights in the front of the coach and retired to the bedroom for the evening.

 

2015/12/19 (S) A Gypsy Journal Milestone

We were up a bit later than usual last night and did not get out of bed until 8:15 AM this morning.  The temperature outside had dropped to 36 degrees F overnight and it was cool in the coach which was one of the reasons we slept well and lingered under the covers (where I had my heater pad turned on).  I put my sweatpants and sweatshirt under the covers to warm them up before getting up and putting them on.  Linda just braved the chill and put on her sweats without warming them first.  She’s tougher than I am.

We like to keep track of the weather back home and in other places where we have friends, like Quartzsite, AZ, and the weather apps on our iPads and smartphones make that very easy to do.  At 10 AM EST it was 25 at home going up to 28 with an overnight low of 23.  Here in Williston it was 48 going up to 62 with an overnight low of 39.  Arcadia, where we will be in January and February, was presently 58 going up to 73 and dropping to 55 overnight.  Four hours farther south actually matters in Florida, which has four somewhat distinct climate zones.  Quartzsite, 2,000 miles west of us, was 38 (at 8 AM local time) going up to 67 and dropping back to 39 overnight.  All things considered Williston was a pretty nice place to be this time of year.

Once I was up I fed the cats, who always insist that their needs are met first, and then turned on the three thermostats for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, set the temperature controls, and turned on the diesel burner.  I made a pot of coffee and Linda started cooking oatmeal for our breakfast.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

We were done with breakfast by 9:30 and Linda had the dishes cleaned shortly thereafter.  We doodled on our iPads while we enjoyed the rest of our coffee.  Nick Russell sent out the link for the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal yesterday.  I forwarded it on to our iPads last night and we downloaded it to our devices this morning.  It is the 100th issue that Nick has published and the last one he will produce on newsprint.  Starting with the March-April 2016 issue the Journal will only be available in digital form.  That will not be a problem for us as we switched to the digital version only several years ago, but it is sad that smaller specialty publications cannot survive in printed form.  I think it is inevitable that Bus Conversion Magazine will also go digital only, if it survives long enough to make that switch and then survives the transition.

Nick has had a small army of friends take bundles of newspapers and leave them in RV park offices on their travels and has picked up new subscribers that way, but the newspaper is well enough positioned at this point, with a large enough subscriber base, that he should continue to do very well.  Even if the number of subscribers levels off, or even shrinks slightly, his profitability should increase nicely now that he is rid of the printing and mailing costs.

Nick and Terry will also have what we called “found time” at the education agency when some task, meeting, or other commitment on our time evaporated and we suddenly, and unexpectedly, “found” time to work on other things.  As highly mobile full-timers Nick and Terry were always arranging for printers in different parts of the country, picking up the newspapers, folding and stuffing them in envelopes, printing address labels and putting them on the envelopes, and taking them to a post office, as well as carting around the extras and leaving them in campground offices or giving them to friends to distribute.  All of that took a lot of time; time they can now use for other things.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Yesterday Linda was looking at the website for Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia, Florida where we will be in January, February, and early March.  She ended up looking at the AllStays Camp and RV listing for the resort and discovered a photo of OUR bus that I took two years ago in our site here at Williston Crossings RV Resort!  The information attached to the image pointed back to our website as the source and said “…the image may be copyrighted.”  I have looked at ways to add a copyright notice to all of the images on our website/blog but never implemented one.  I guess I really should.

After breakfast we opened the packet of felt chair leg caps and put four of them on the folding card table chair we use at the desk.  It looked like they would do just what we needed them to do so we removed the towel we had been using to protect the floor.  My focus today was working on our blog but first I spent a little time updating my spreadsheet for our spring/summer 2016 water bay project.  I uploaded seven blog posts a few days ago but have been concentrating on selecting and processing photos since then.  This morning I decided to resume working on posts.  My goal was to finish editing the posts for the remainder of August (2015), select the spots to insert the selected photos, clean up the writing, and start uploading them to the server.

We took a lunch break at 12:45 PM and had mock deli slice sandwiches on flatbread and split a fresh apple.  Linda started to work on her counted cross-stitch project for grand-daughter Katie but realized the larger grid base material she bought was too small.  She found something on Amazon that would work and ordered it for delivery on Tuesday.  She then searched online for someplace in the area to buy a Tofurkey vegan mock turkey roll.  It looked like Earth Origins in Gainesville sold them so she decided to drive into town and get one rather than wait until next week and risk not having any available.  I stayed behind and continued working on my blog posts.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular.  Ahhh, December in north central Florida.  This is why people come here in the winter.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular. Ahhh, December in north central Florida. This is why people come here in the winter.

With the outside temperature only rising into the low 60’s we kept the motorcoach closed up today.  By 2 PM the temperature in the front half of the coach was a very pleasant 76 degrees F.  It was cooler in the back as most of the window area is in the front half of the bus, including the large southwest facing windshields.

Linda returned from her trip to Gainesville with more than just a vegan mock turkey roll.  Besides the Tofurkey brand products Earth Origins also had Gardeine brand products.  We have had other Gardeine products that were very good so she decided to try their mock stuffed turkey roll.  As long as she was there she picked up a half dozen other frozen entrees to try.

I had just finished editing the posts for August when Linda suggested we go for a walk.  It was 4 PM and the late afternoon light was nice so I took the camera.  We only made it a couple of sites up the road and stopped to talk to the new arrivals from Alaska.  We had no sooner resumed our walk when Linda got a call from Diane.  John had surgery recently, and will be off work until after the holidays, but is recovering nicely.  We strolled along slowly while they talked and I took a few pictures.  I wore my sweater but the sun was already behind the trees and I was pretty quickly uncomfortably cool in the shade.

We crossed paths with John and Ali and stopped to chat for a while.  We learned last night at the campfire that Jeff and Kathy’s dog Teddy had succumbed to his lymphoma this past Sunday.  Teddy was very sweet and we know how difficult it is when a pet dies.  We also learned that Jeff had been taken to the hospital in Ocala and was scheduled to have a colonoscopy earlier today.  The report back from Kathy was that he might have colitis.

When we got back to our rig Linda made hot hibiscus tea.  I had planned to upload some blog posts today but I had spent enough time in front of my computer for one day and sat on the couch with my iPad for a while instead.  I rarely take naps but I am not opposed to the idea.  I laid down at 5:15 PM and dozed until Linda got me up at 6 for dinner.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort.  That’s one happy girl.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort. That’s one happy girl.

After dinner we both changed into warmer clothes and Linda packed our wine to take to the fire circle.  We got there a little before 7 PM, later than usual, but the only people there were John, Big Mike, Jim (Sonny Fox), and Tom (from Hilton Head, SC).  Another couple, who have the site just east of John and Ali, showed up just after us but that was it for the evening and John did not get his guitar and perform.  Besides the much cooler weather there was a dinner/dance at the clubhouse this evening, so John had anticipated a smaller than usual crowd.  That was nice in a way, both for him and us, as we got to talk more than usual.

The temperature had already dropped into the lower 50’s at 7 PM.  In spite of our best efforts we were not able to get the fire really hot, and did want to build it too large, so by 9 PM it had dropped into the mid-40’s and everyone had left except for me and John.  I spread out the fire and put the implements in the shed and John locked it.  He joined Ali at Jeff at Kathy’s fifth wheel trailer, where Ali was visiting with Kathy, and I walked back to our rig.

Linda was in her sweats with her blanket over her legs reading her latest e-book with a cat on her lap.  I changed into my sweats but did not feel like doing much of anything.  I flipped through TV channels but did not find anything that caught my interest.  PBS was running a Peter, Paul, and Mary 50th anniversary special, which would normally have been very interesting to me, but it was a fund raiser made up of old clips, interviews, and pleas for money and I just was not in the humor.

The temperature in the coach had dropped to 68 but we both felt a little chilled so I turned on the front thermostat and Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  I made a cup of hot decaf chai tea, played a few games on my iPad, and worked on this post before finally going to bed at 11:30 PM and going to sleep.

 

2015/12/11 (F) Naked Grape

We were both up at 7:45 AM but the cats were active long before that.  Besides their usual jumping on and off the bed they were unusually frisky and spent quite some time chasing each other back and forth the full length of the coach, often taking flying leaps onto the bed.  I fed them and Linda cleaned their litter tray after which I made coffee and she made oatmeal for our breakfast.  While we finished our coffee Linda played word games on her iPad and I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s post, e-mailed it to myself, and started working on today’s post.

My sister called at 9:30 AM and we talked for about 30 minutes.  When we were done I got dressed and gathered up the first load of laundry, drove it down to the laundry room, loaded the washing machine, and started it.  I then drove to the NAPA store to get the E-clips for the awning window lever pins.  This time they had them.  I ordered 12 but they came in bags of 20 and were cheaper per piece in that quantity.  There are 16 of these clips securing the lever arms for the eight awning style windows, so I bought the whole bag.  I also bought some J-B Weld that I plan to use to repair the broken weld on one of the passenger side living room window latches.

When I got back to the coach I gathered up the second load of laundry, which included the bed sheets and pillow cases, and drove it down to the laundry room.  The first load was done so I loaded it in the dryer and then put the second load in the washer.  I returned to the coach for 25 minutes and then went back to put the second load in the dryer.  It took several more trips to get all of the laundry in/out of washers and dryers, put in on hangers or fold it, and get it back to the coach.

For lunch we split a mock turkey sandwich with lots of greens, a tangerine, and a pear.  It was like a salad on a bun.  I had a text from my sister asking me to call a social worker at a different medical center and let her know that Patty would call her back later in the afternoon.  After lunch I called Amy and left a message.  Amy called me back and we chatted briefly.  Presumably she also talked to Patty later in the day.

Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and suggested that I select a bottle of wine for this evening and put it in the refrigerator.  None of the wines we had struck my fancy so I drove to the Grocery Depot and bought a 3L box of Naked Grape Moscato.  We received notifications from Amazon that two packages had been delivered so I stopped in the office on the way back and picked them up.  One was the two bath mats for the bathroom and the other one was our 8.5×14 brochure paper for our holiday letter. I put the box of wine in the fridge when I got back to the coach.

I finished the 2-column formatting of Part 1 of my 2-part BCM article titled What To Do With Your Bus:  Building with Habitat For Humanity and e-mailed it off to Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine.  By the time I finished going through e-mails it was 3 PM and had gotten warm in the coach, even with the windows open and the roof vent fans running.  I laid down on the sofa and took a nap for a couple of hours.

When I finally got up from my nap the sun was low in the southwest sky and it had cooled off just a bit so we both sat outside with our iPads for a while.  It was a beautiful day today with clear skies and a warm sun and highs in the mid-70s.  Today is Friday, which means we gather at the fire circle at 7 PM for fellowship and music, so we had dinner at 6 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, as she does most evenings, with walnuts, raisins, and dried cranberries.  She reheated the leftover seitan stroganoff and heated some frozen broccoli.  She rarely uses frozen ingredients, but they are always handy to have around for a quicker, easier to prepare, meal.

Linda opened the box of Naked Grape Moscato wine and filled a small coffee thermos.  She put the thermos and our two plastic wine gasses in our wine tote and we walked down to the firepit.  We took the recyclables with us as the bins are just beyond the firepit.  When we got there at 6:40 PM John already had the fire going but no one else had arrived.  We like to get there early so we can sit near John and Ali.

As was the case two years ago I ended up tending the fire.  Not that I mind; I am actually pretty good at it, but the available firewood at the moment is not good.  It is very heavy for its size and I suspect it is not very dry.  I convinced John that we should leave the natural gas on under the logs.  Normally the gas is only used to start the fire but leaving it on, even on low flame, seemed to help reduce the amount of smoke.  I also used some of the scrap construction lumber which was very dry and burned hot and clean.

We stayed at the fire until 10 PM and enjoyed John’s guitar playing, singing along, and conversation.  Around 9:30 he got a call from a couple who had just arrived at the gate and he had to leave to escort them to their site.  They had been delayed by a traffic jam that resulted from an accident.  Every RVer who has been on the road for more than a few months has experienced this.  As was the case last weekend it was just the two of us with John and Ali at the end.  We would have stayed longer, as I had a small but nice fire burning, but John had to close up the resort buildings and check the gates and Ali was starting to get cold.  I turned off the gas, spread out the logs, and we headed home.

When we got back to our coach we turned on the TV and doodled on our iPads for a while before going to bed.  Linda inadvertently locked Juniper in the bathroom closet but after hearing an unusual thumping sound several times, and not seeing her anywhere, I investigated and found her.  She likes to climb in the closets and get behind things, and was actually reluctant to come out, but she finally did and ended up in bed with us and the other cat, as is the case almost every night.

 

2015/12/06 (N) Multiple Threads

I got out of bed at 8 AM, fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made some hot soapy water for dishes and then measured out and ground our morning coffee beans.  Once I had the coffee brewing I cleaned the grinder, which I had not done in a while.

Linda got up around 8:30 and we both sat with our iPads and enjoyed our first cup of coffee.  I had a reply to the e-mail I sent our son last night and replied back.  I also sent the photo I created on Thursday to him and our daughter.  It is a 3-image panorama looking north out of our passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

At 9:30 Linda started making pancakes, which has become something of a regular treat for our Sunday breakfast.  I got a call from my sister at 10 letting me know she was heading to the hospital where our dad is in the ICU.  We finished our coffee around 10:30 and got dressed.  Linda settled in to work on her counted cross-stitch project and I checked our fresh water tank.  The level was finally below 1/3 on the monitor so I decided to test the park water.  As I expected, based on our previous time here, the hardness was at the maximum on the test strip so I got the water softener out and connected it to the supply valve.  The quick disconnect, while a nice idea, is made of plastic.  It was finally worn to the point where it would not seal so I unthreaded it from the pressure regulator and put it back in the fresh water tub where it joined a dozen other components that I should throw away.  Someday.

I have read in multiple publications and blogs that the RV sewer hose, and especially the bayonet connectors used on RV sewer hoses, is the weakest component on an RV, both by design and manufacture.  While these components may be in contention for that status, I submit that the garden hose fittings that are universally used for the fresh water connections may actually be the worst.  My fresh water connections always leak even when I tighten them (gently) with a wrench.  My sewer connections do not generally leak.

But I have digressed once again.  When I had the softener connected I tested the output and it appeared to be fully charged so I connected it to the inlet of the coach and refilled the fresh water tank.  In Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter I kept track of the details of when I dumped and filled tanks, including the hardness was of the water coming out of the softener before and after each fill.  This data served two purposes.

One purpose was to compensate for our waste tank level monitors, which do not work.  We were trying to determine the rate at which we were filling them so we could calibrate how long we could reasonably boondock before we had to dump them.  That turned out to be about nine days, conservatively, which is how long we went before hooked up here and dumped.

 

Because the water softener can only remove a certain number of grains of hardness before it is exhausted the number of gallons it can soften before it has to be recharged depends on the hardness of the water coming in.  At 25 grains of hardness per gallon, which is what we had in Q and what we have here in Williston, the softener, which has a capacity of about 10,000 grains, can process about 400 gallons.  If the hardness is higher than 25 gpg we will not be able to process that many gallons.  400 gallons is about four refills if I refill it when the level is down to 1/6 (20 gallons).  Our usage data from Q indicated that we used about 9 gallons per person per day on average (18 gallons per day) and that I was filling the tank every 5 to 6 days and recharging it every three weeks.

While setting up the water softener I noticed an active nest of red ants.  I saw John drive by and a few minutes later saw him headed back our way and flagged him down.  He did not have the ant poison on his cart but offered to get it and come back, which he did.  He also brought a rake.  It turned out that he buys this product at his own expense and uses it to treat sites before folks check in, so I will buy a bag for ourselves and one to replenish his stock as part of my trip to Hudson tomorrow.

With the refill underway I resumed working on the photos for the BCM article on the International Thermal Research (ITR) OASIS Combi hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Willams’ 1987 MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The hospital tried to reach me at 12:14 PM but the call went directly to my voice mail.  After a few text messages back and forth with my sister and niece I received a phone number for the doctor and was able to get her on the phone.

Brendan texted me at 1 PM to let me know he was headed to our house.  He called when he got there and I called him back on our house phone.  He spent about half an hour searching through brief cases looking for certain papers and telling me what he was finding.  He found the case I needed and took it back to his house where he can go through it more comfortably and ship it to me if needed.

I had resumed working on the BCM article when John and Ali showed up.  We invited them into the coach to see the remodeling work we have done and they stayed long enough to chat awhile and have a small glass of wine.  I opened the bottle of Viva La Rojo from the Heart Of The Desert winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we all agreed it was very nice.  It is at such moments that I am left to wonder why we did not buy more than one bottle.

After they left I continued working on the article until I was too tired to concentrate.  It was well into the second half of the afternoon so we both put our projects aside and removed the fogged living room awning style window/frame, wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in the car.  I need to leave early in the morning and drive to Suncoast Designers in Hudson to have the window repaired and did not want to be messing around with it at 6 AM in the morning.

Getting the window out required the step ladder and a small screwdriver to remove two C-clips so it was a bit more involved than it sounds.  Linda put the screen back in place, covered it with a piece of the silvered bubble insulation, and taped it around the edges.  The RV resort is very safe so someone getting into our rig was not our concern.  Rather, the low temperature overnight Monday into Tuesday is forecast to be in the 40’s so we really cannot have an uninsulated opening in the side of the coach.  The chance for rain is low to zero, and we have the awning out over most of that window, so we are hopeful we will not have to seal the outside with plastic.  Our other concern was our cats.  The screens do not fit as tight as we would like and if this one fell out the cats could jump to their “freedom” with potentially dire consequences.

Linda made stuffed Poblano peppers for dinner.  The preparation took a while so I laid down on the sofa and watched Martha Bakes and Ask This Old House on the Create channel from the University of Florida, Gainesville PBS station.  What can I say?  I find TV that teaches me things entertaining, even if I can’t eat anything Martha bakes.  At home Linda would normally cook the peppers on our outdoor or indoor grill but tonight she pan-seared them.  The peppers were stuffed with a mixture of rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan cheddar cheese, and vegan sour cream.  The peppers brought just enough heat to the dish and we finished the bottle of Viva La Rojo, which smoothed everything out.  We had a nice salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette as a first course.  We had sliced fresh strawberries for dessert.  It was a really good meal.

We watched President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office, an interesting episode of 60 Minutes (which I have not seen in years), and the Sinatra 100 Grammy tribute.  It was an unusual evening of television for us but very enjoyable and a nice conclusion to a day that was broken up into multiple threads.

 

2015/12/05 (S) Saturday Night Fire Circle

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7:15.  I fed the cats and cleaned their litter tray, both of which are chores but I don’t mind doing them.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and finished yesterday’s blog post draft.  Linda got up at 8 AM having been awake since I got up.  At 8:20 I was going to make coffee but Juniper climbed in my lap so Linda took care of that chore, which is certainly one of our more pleasurable.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked on our Holiday Letter all morning.  I had a finished draft by lunch time and Linda read through it.  I have it set up for 8.5×14 inch legal size paper, but printing it that way will depend on whether we can get high quality glossy color laser paper in that size.

Linda reheated the last of the red beans and rice for lunch after which I washed some grapes.  After lunch Linda continued to work on her project and I turned my attention to another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I had some correspondence with the publisher, Gary, yesterday regarding my article on servicing the Webasto burner bearings and decided to finish my article on Butch Williams’ installation of an International Thermal Research OASIS Combi in their MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The work was done in October and November 2014 and the article was basically written in January 2015 but I had not selected or processed any of the photos.

I read through the article, highlighted several places with missing information, and rewrote some things.  I then selected 36 photos and started processing them.  The processing involved various adjustments such as alignment, lighting, and color followed by resizing and sharpening in two different sizes.  The larger size is typically 1900 x 1272 pixels as that will fill the screen of a 17 inch monitor and I don’t feel a larger size is needed or supported by the level of detail in the images.  The smaller size is typically 300×200 pixels.  I embed the smaller images at the end of the Word document with the image number and a caption.  I used to embed them into the article but the editor and layout person need the ability to fit them into the layout and I ultimately developed enough confidence in them to do that.  This is always subject to change, however, as is everything connected with this magazine.

We had dinner at 5 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, sautéed and lightly glazed some baby carrots, and heated some Amy’s vegan macaroni and cheese.  The reason for the early dinner was the holiday parade down Main Street in Williston at 6 PM.  We left at 5:30 and walked to the corner of NE 5th Street and Main Street.  NE 5th Street is the street that leads back to the front entrance of the resort and is towards the end of the parade route, which comes down Main Street from west to east.  There were already people there, all from the RV Resort as near as we could tell, but we were early enough to get seats on the low brick wall that borders the parking lot for the funeral home.

Main Street is also US-27 but the police closed it down at 5:45 PM.  The parade started at the west end of Main Street by the high school so the lead police motorcycles did not reach us until 6:20 and the front of the main parade did not get to us until 6:30.  There were cars with beauty queens, simple floats with seasonal themes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, politicians, fire trucks, horses, and an elephant with Santa Claus riding on top.  It was a classic small town holiday parade.  It was all over by 7 PM and we walked briskly back to the firepit.

The firepit at WCRVR is about eight feet in diameter, surrounded by a concrete floor ring about six feet wide and covered by an inverted conical roof about 24 feet wide at the lower eaves.  A massive 8 foot diameter inverted conical hood is suspended over the firepit and the 12″ diameter flue pipe runs out the center top of the roof.  The outside perimeter of the floor has large wooden rocking chairs (think Cracker Barrel restaurant), a bench, and a few other chairs and there is a little bit of lighting up in the ceiling.  It’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fire, visit, and listen to people play their guitars and sing.  The flue does not draft correctly so it tends to be smokey, but that is the only downside.  If not for that it would be perfect.

John was there with a couple of other people and had a nice fire going.  Even though it was in the mid-to-upper 60s there was a strong north breeze and the fire felt good.  Lots of other people eventually showed up and filled almost all of the seats so John got his guitar and started playing and singing.  Linda walked back to our rig to fetch our plastic wine glasses and opened a bottle of Egri Merlot.  It’s a good life.

I got a call from my sister and stepped away from the firepit.  She called to let me know that our dad was back in the hospital.  When I returned to the fire circle John was busy playing and singing and some folks had left so I tended the fire.  By 9 PM everyone had left except for John, Ali, and us.  I continued to tend the fire while the four of us talked.  Just before 10 PM I spread out the last embers of the fire and we all returned to our rigs for the night except John, who does the closing rounds on weekends.

Back at our motorcoach Linda put on the Michigan State vs Iowa Big 10 Championship football game.  Though not particularly interested in football I was too tired to work so after sending an e-mail to our son I laid down on the sofa; the first time I have done that since we built it into the coach.  By the time the game was over it was 11:45 PM.  We watched a few minutes of Cook’s Country on Create and went to bed.  I turned the TV on in the bedroom then turned it off.  I turned down the brightness of my iPad display and with only the dim light of the ceiling vista, and whatever light could get in around the window shades, worked on my blog post until 1 AM.

 

2015/12/04 (F) The Chores of Life

The overnight low was forecast to be in the mid-50s so before going to bed I closed the roof vents and we only left the windows open about half an inch.  I was up at 7:12 AM this morning and put on my sweats.  I fed the cats (they insisted), took out my nighttime bite guard, washed it, and put it away.  I then sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and Juniper on my lap while I worked on my iPad.

Linda stayed in bed until 9:15 AM.  She is having trouble shaking the congestion and cough but the nighttime medication seems to control it and allow her to get plenty of much needed sleep.  Once she was up I made a pot of coffee and she fixed bowls of granola for breakfast.

My main focus today was working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter but we had other things to do as well.  At the top of my list was mailing the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter certification paperwork to FMCA HQ.  I also needed to do a load of laundry, our first since we left home a week ago.  Linda planned to work on her counted cross-stitch project but also needed to make a run to the Publix grocery store on the southwest corner of Gainesville.

The word “chore” is often used pejoratively, and that is an appropriate use according to the definition, but the first meaning is “…everyday tasks of running a household or farm.”  The definition goes on to include “…. difficult or unpleasant tasks …” and some chores are certainly more (or less) pleasant than others.  Linda likes to cook and I don’t mind doing the laundry but neither of us particularly enjoy cleaning.  I don’t mind dumping our holding tanks, a chore that many RVers apparently find onerous, but I do not like adjusting the pressure in our tires.

I gathered up the soiled laundry and laundry supplies and loaded them in the car.  The north bathroom/laundry building is in plain sight of our coach, and not that far away, but I had more stuff than I could carry in one trip and it was heavier than I cared to schlep around.  If we had an appropriate wheeled cart I might have used that, but we don’t.  I got two loads started but held off on the third until I had taken a shower.  The bathhouses are in the same building as the laundry.  I added my towel to the third load and started it.

In the middle of doing the laundry I was back at the coach, got the FMCA chapter certification paperwork in an envelope, addressed it, and added stamps.  I was going to walk to the Post Office but in the interest of time I drove to the Resort office instead.  That little task had been nagging me for quite a while so I had a sense of relief, as much as accomplishment, when I put the envelope in the outgoing mailbox.  Linda walked down and used the shower facility.

As soon as I got back to the coach with the clean laundry/supplies and brought them inside I put the 2m/70cm ham radio antenna back on the roof of the car.  Linda then took the car and headed for the Publix supermarket at the southwest corner of Gainesville.  I did not want to unload the car, and had work to do at the coach, so Linda went to Publix by herself so there would be room for the groceries.  I put the laundry away and then settled in to work at my computer.

I realized this morning that I do not have SPSS installed on my ASUS laptop so I will not be able to analyze the data from the FMCA education surveys myself, at least not until I get home.  That is unfortunate as I do not know at this point if HQ has the ability or willingness to do the analysis we need done.  I sent an e-mail to the committee chair and executive director to let them know.  Mea culpa.  I replied to a few e-mails and then resumed working on our Holiday Letter.

I realized last night that some of the images which had already been post-processed had dates in the file names that were different from the dates when they were taken.  As I was trying to arrange them in chronological order I went back and found the originals and corrected the dates.  I then continued placing and captioning the photos.

When Linda returned with the groceries I helped get them into the coach while she put them away.  She finally found the Snyder sourdough pretzel nibblers we like and we finished an open container of hummus and had some fruit for a light lunch.

For dinner Linda made a salad and sautéed mushrooms, onions, and broccoli as a topping for a baked potato, which we split.  I had a little vegan sour cream on my half.  After dinner we changed into warmer clothes and packed a bottle of wine and our two plastic wine glasses and walked to the firepit.

Friday and Saturday nights during the winter folks at the Resort gather at the firepit to enjoy the warmth of the fire, have a glass of wine, talk to one another, and listen to live music provided by volunteer residents.  Our friend, John Smith, is the main entertainer, doing mostly folk/rock/country-crossover.  He is also responsible for the fire since Kevin and Sharon sold their park model and moved to The Villages.  (We are still having a hard time comprehending that move.)  John performed solo in clubs and bars for a living many years ago before he and Ali got married.  Jeff sometimes brings his guitar and performs as well, his specialty being old time country music (such as Merle Haggard).  Other musicians occasionally show up, or at least they did two years ago.

We were the first to arrive (besides John) and chatted with him for quite a while before anyone else showed up.  Other folks drifted in and John eventually fetched his guitar and played.  Ali was visiting with Jeff and Kathy and was one of the last to show up.  Jeff and Kathy’s dog, Teddy, has lymphoma so they stayed at their 5th wheel with him.  We stayed to the end, said “good night” to John and Ali, and walked back to our rig.  We watched an hour of Create TV and went to bed.

 

2015/12/02 (W) Settling In

I was up at 7 AM, fed the cats, and settled in on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back to work on my iPad.  I finished my blog post for yesterday and e-mailed the last three days to myself.  I updated seven apps and then checked out the latest issue of the SKP Photographers BoF newsletter.  Linda finally got up at 9:15 AM.  I made a pot of coffee and we had toast for breakfast.

My first priority after breakfast was responding to a half-dozen e-mails from Gary at BCM, one of which required me to proofread an article he had written about a recent rally.  Next I selected four photos I took with our new Sony a99v DSLT camera and uploaded them to a Dropbox folder for Lou to see.  Somewhere in there I got a call from Joe (our mobile mechanic) about Globus cork flooring products.  As long as he was on the line I asked his opinion about the chassis battery / Vanner equalizer issue.  He reminded me, as he often does, that I already knew how to check if the Vanners were working.  When we concluded the call I went outside and did the checks.

With the Vanners connected to the batteries and working correctly the voltage at the “12V” terminal should be exactly 1/2 the voltage at the “24V” terminal.  Equivalently, the voltage from +24 to +12 should be the same as the voltage from +12 to Ground.  I unplugged the two maintenance chargers to let the surface charge bleed off and used the time to trace the wiring behind the two battery disconnect switches.  As I somewhat expected the two Vanner equalizers, which are wired in parallel, are NOT connected to the batteries when they are disconnected from the coach electrical panels.  (The one Vanner whose label I could see is a Voltmaster 60-50M rated at 50 Amps maximum so I presume the other one is the same model.)

With the battery bank connected the relative voltage measurements were as expected, indicating that the Vanners were probably working correctly while the absolute measurements of +25.6 and +12.8 (to the nearest 0.1 VDC) indicated that the batteries were fully charged.

I put the disconnect switches back in the disconnected position and plugged the maintenance chargers back in.  I checked the voltage on the upper and lower battery strands and they were close to the same but not identical.  That was reasonable given that the chargers were independent (electrically isolated) and the upper and lower strands were bridged by Vanner equalizers just minutes before.  Based on my testing it appeared that everything was OK except that I lacked a plausible explanation for why the engine alternator apparently did not fully charge the batteries yesterday on the drive down from Mayo.  I wrote all this up in an e-mail and sent it to Joe, Butch, and Chuck, all of whom have had conversations with me about this over the last few days.

Linda made a humus and onion on rye sandwich and we split it for lunch along with some grapes.  It rained hard while we were eating but the rain did not last long.  After lunch I completed the certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  It was 4:15 PM by the time I was done.  I will get copies made tomorrow and get it in the mail to the headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I logged in to the Prevost Community website to renew our AITA NAPA discount card but wasn’t sure what to do, so I called Chuck.  He and Barbara were at a wine and cheese gathering and he said he would call me back when he was free.  Linda wanted to go for a walk around the Resort so at 4:30 we headed towards the north end.  This part of the Resort has had a lot of development since we were last here and now has a lot of new park models and large pads for RVs.

We looped around to John and Ali’s 5th wheel but did not see any sign of them so we headed down the main road towards Jeff and Kathy’s site.  Sure enough, John and Ali were there enjoying a glass of wine with Jeff and Kathy.  They offered us some and we accepted and pulled up a couple of open chairs.  We sat and visited until 6:30 PM when we started to get some persistent rain drops.  John drove us back to our coach in his golf cart.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and pan-seared tofu with a balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar glaze with chives.  It was very good and I could easily have eaten twice as much.  After dinner I worked on an article about replacing the bearings in our Aqua-Hot Webasto burner this past winter while we were on Quartzsite.  I got the text finished and inserted/captioned the photos that had been post-processed.  There are more photos to be processed and I plan to finish the article tomorrow and upload it to the Dropbox for proofreading.

I need, and have been looking forward to, a stretch of quiet days with time to work at my computer as I have a lot to do.  I need to update our website and blog, which is almost four months behind, and get back to work on the SLAARC, FMCA Freethinkers, and FMCA GLCC websites.  I also need to finish some articles for BCM that have been “in process” for quite a while, and I need/want to write some new ones.  Along the same lines I need to clean up my BCM folders on my hard drive and in our Dropbox.  That is not all going to happen by the time we leave for Arcadia, but I will do as much as I can.  Once we get to Arcadia we will be spending more time away from the coach exploring southern Florida and visiting with friends.  That means I will be creating lots of new photos and posts but have less time to process them.  Ahhhh, retirement.

 

2015/12/01 (T) Home Again

I got up at 7:45 AM, got dressed, and fed the cats.  The Magnum BMK was showing the house battery pack at 24.2 VDC and 47% SOC with the refrigerator and other significant loads not drawing any power.  I worked on my iPad for a while until I heard muffled voices from the compound around 8 AM and saw Pat (John’s son) working on the roof of one of the trailers.  Linda got up at 8:30 and we had granola for breakfast and had a leisurely morning.

Check-in time at Williston Crossings RV Resort WCRVR) was noon.  We only had 75 miles to travel to get there and did not need to be there right at noon.  Around 10:45 we started getting the inside of the coach ready to travel and by 11:15 we were taking care of the outside stuff.  Paul and Eugenia were already hooking up their car and obviously preparing to leave as well.  We walked around the coach and checked that the bay doors were closed and locked.  On the way around we got the tow bar off the ground and secured it.  I then switched on the chassis batteries, opened the engine accessories air valve, and returned to the cockpit.

The chassis battery gauges read lower than normal for a fully charged condition but had plenty of energy stored in them to crank the engine quickly.  With Linda spotting from outside I did a three point turn to get the bus pointed towards the exit.  John came over in his Kubota utility cart and chatted with Linda while I moved the car behind the bus and we continued to chat with John as we hooked up the car.  We thanked him for his hospitality and assured him that we would be back; both for a solar system and to just hang out for a longer time in the woods by the Suwannee River.  I started the engine and Linda checked the lights.  Everything was good and when she was back on board we started the slow roll back to the county road.

We pulled out of John Palmer’s place around 11:30 AM and slowly made our way back to CR-354.  I stopped there (to check for traffic, of course) and raised the tag axle to shorten the turning radius.  I did not have a sign post at the edge of the road on the left, as I did when turning in, but the ditch on the other side was deeper closer to the road so I did not to get the passenger side steer tire very far off the pavement.  I completed the left turn cleanly and put the tag back down before continuing.

It was closer to 11:45 by the time we passed the east boundary of the property and saw the sign for the River Rendezvous RV Park.  We took CR-354 to US-27 and headed east to US-129.  Just south of Trenton we vectored off onto SE CR-339 and then picked up NE US-27 Alternate which eventually became Main Street in Williston.  The trip took about an hour and 40 minutes and we arrived at the main entrance to Williston Crossings around 1:25 PM.

It’s usually nice to return to a place you have been to before and liked.  We enjoyed our time here during winter 2013/14 and it felt a little bit like being home again in that the place, and some of the people, were familiar to us and pleasant to be around.  One of the most familiar people was John, our next door neighbor of two years ago.  He was doing site escort duty and led us to our site after Linda got us registered.  We pulled up in front of site #233 and disconnected the car while John read the electric meter.  John then helped me back onto the concrete pad.  We were in place and level at 2 PM and visited briefly with John, giving him a quick tour of our interior remodel.  After John left we hooked up the shorepower cord and put power to the coach.

I checked the chassis battery voltage on the dashboard gauges with the engine off and they were 28+ and 14.  We went through our usual arrival routine with the addition of checking the reading on the electric meter.  We pay for our electricity here so checking the meter on arrival is prudent.  I checked the maintenance chargers and they showed the charge level on the upper and lower 12V portions of the chassis batteries as 75% each.  They should have been fully charged after almost two hours of engine operation so something was still not right.  The house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC and showing a 43% SOC.  The battery charger section of the Magnum 4024 went into Bulk charging mode, charging the house batteries at 107 Amps.

We are parked facing approximately WSW so the front of the coach gets the afternoon sun.  It was in the low 80’s, and a bit warmer in the coach, but we turned on the ceiling exhaust fans rather than run the air-conditioning, deployed the window awnings on the driver side, and lowered the day screens on the inside.  We used AntennaPoint.com to locate broadcast TV towers.  The two we cared about, CBS and PBS, were both north of us.  I rotated the front antenna to point in that direction and did a channel scan.  They both came in with solid signals so I repeated the set up with the rear antenna and bedroom TV.

Once we were set up we had vegan hot dogs for lunch and then walked to the CVS Pharmacy just outside the front entrance to the resort.  We crossed paths with John again and this time he had Ali with him so we had a quick reunion.  When we got back to the coach I was tired and with the warm conditions I dozed off.  When I woke up I set up the printer, NAS, and Amped Wireless router.

Meanwhile Linda had started preparing red beans and rice for dinner and discovered that she did not have diced tomatoes.  I drove to the Grocery Depot, which is also just outside the front entrance to the Resort, and bought a couple of cans that included green chilies.  It was 6:30 PM and the Resort gates were already closed so I had to use the code to get back in.  The dish was excellent and would not have been the same without the tomatoes.

After dinner I e-mailed Butch, Chuck, and Lou.  We are parked close to one of the Resort’s Wi-Fi towers with a strong N signal and reasonable speed, leading me to wonder if the Resort has upgraded their system and Internet connection.  Linda made a stovetop apple crisp and finished it just before our Tuesday evening TV programs began at 8 PM.  The crisp was different from an oven baked one but still very tasty.  We watched a few TV programs on PBS and CBS.  Linda has been fighting something and took some OTC Tussin nighttime medicine for her cough, congestion, and itchy throat.  She has coughed enough that it now hurts and is very tired from many nights of poor sleep.

 

2015/11/26 (R) Thanksgiving (T-1 Days)

I got up before 7:30 AM, took some Ibuprofen, and sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back.  Linda got up at 7:45, took a shower, and made tea for us.  She checked the weather forecasts and it looked like it would start to rain around 9 AM, and become steady by 10, so she decided to load the food bags and other things onto the bus that she had ready.  The Ibuprofen and heat were doing their job so I put on some work clothes and helped load things.

We had a lot of stuff on board by 9:30 so we took a break.  Linda cut my hair and beard after which I shaved and took a shower.  I got dressed for Thanksgiving and then gathered up the towels and last few laundry items and loaded them into the washer.  I then selected all of the clothes I wanted and Linda picked out a couple more items.  We moved them to the bus and got them put away in closets and drawers.  We then stored magazines and camera gear under the bed.  Finally we decided what coats to take.  Except for shoes, manuals, music CDs, computing equipment, and a few miscellaneous things we were done loading the bus.  It felt good to be at this point but we vowed to plan better and allow a little more time next time.

The laundry took longer than the initial 42 minutes on the display so we used the time to load the Thanksgiving stuff into the car and check e-mail.  I finally transferred the laundry to the dryer at 11:20 AM and we were on our way to our daughter and son-in-law’s house at 11:28.  We had planned to be there at noon but generally allow an hour to get there.  We pulled up to the house at 12:10 PM, so apparently it’s a 45 minute trip.

Like mother, like daughter; Shawna takes care of some work tasks on her laptop while Madeline shows equal attention to detail on the iPad.

Like mother, like daughter; Shawna takes care of some work tasks on her laptop while Madeline shows equal attention to detail on the iPad.

Our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter showed up around 1 PM and our step-granddaughter showed up around 2 PM.  Our daughter’s house has a wonderful open floor plan with a large central island in the kitchen that allows many people to stand or sit and be part of a conversation while food is being prepared.

We ate at 4:30 PM and it was quite a meal.  Everything was vegan except for a real turkey with gravy (we had Tofurkey) and the dinner rolls, which had an egg wash.  Everything was made from scratch and all of it was good.  We had a nice long visit and everyone left at 7 PM.  We stopped to top of the tank in Linda’s car and got home around 8:15.

Thanksgiving dinner at Chris and Meghan’s house.  L-to-R: Katie, Meghan, Brendan, Chris, Linda, and Madeline in Shawna’s arms.

Thanksgiving dinner at Chris and Meghan’s house. L-to-R: Katie, Meghan, Brendan, Chris, Linda, and Madeline in Shawna’s arms.

When we got home I made sure some of the (important?) files on my laptop were backed up to the old NAS unit.  Rather than take the time to transfer those files to the newer NAS unit I decided to bring the newer one with us.  I then shut down all of the computers in my office and brought the NAS device and my computer upstairs.  We put them onboard along with Linda’s computer, our iPads, and the cameras.  I selected the bus manuals I wanted to take, moved them to the bus, and put them under the bed.  We decided what music CDs we wanted to take and put those on board as well.

Our final preparation tasks were to shut off the well, close the main water valve, unplug the water softener and sanitizer, and remove the batteries.  We added potable antifreeze to all of the waste traps and opened all of the cabinets that had plumbing in them, including the sump pump closet.  I shut off the natural gas to all of the appliances except the furnace and Linda drew all of the vertical blinds and checked the light timers.

When we were finally done loading things on board and buttoning up the house we put the cats in their carriers, put them on the bus, and locked up the house.  It was 10 PM.  I tried to tune in a couple of TV stations, one from Detroit and one from Lansing, but could not hold the digital signals.  Our Wi-Fi Ranger was connected to our AT&T gateway so we used our iPads for a while and I put the finishing touches on this post.  I had to make a few quick trips back inside for last minute things we forgot.

The forecast for overnight is for a low of 51 degrees F with steady rain moving into the area by early tomorrow.  The probability of rain in Berea, Kentucky, however, is only 10%.  We hope to be on the road sometime between first light and sunrise, which is 7:39 AM, and get ahead of the rain.  We also do not expect to see freezing temperatures again this winter.

 

2015/11/25 (W) T Minus 2 Days

We both got up at 7:45 AM.  My back felt OK when I went to sleep last night but it was not good by morning.  I don’t know if that is a result of being immobile and supine or just the Ibuprofen wearing off.  As painful as it is to get up it feels better once I do.  We both got dressed to work.  Linda prepared raisin toast and tea for breakfast while I positioned myself on the heater pad.  Linda was busy by a little after 9 AM and I was up and about by 9:30.

The first thing Linda did was take out the trash.  She called yesterday and stopped our pickups starting next week.  It took me an hour to finish organizing tools and supplies in the garage.  At that point I turned off the garage furnace and opened the overhead doors.  I started my car and turned it around with the back end facing the garage.  We moved all of the things that were going in the bus outside the larger door.  We then loaded a lot of the stuff into the car.  This is not a permanent arrangement but was merely for the convenience of getting packed for traveling.

I helped get the recycling tubs into Linda’s car.  Late morning she took them to the recycling center and stopped at two different banks to make club deposits.  I took care of some computer-based tasks while she was gone.  I finally got a reply from DataViz regarding a sync problem with Passwords Plus and sent the tech support person (Colin) a copy of the sync log from my computer.  I also managed to register the Sony flash and accessories I bought a month ago.  When Linda got back she made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and served them with fresh apple slices.  The cheese was Tomato Cayenne from Field Roast and it made for a tasty sandwich on rye bread from Metropolitan Baking Company.  I had a couple of Ibuprofen for dessert.

We disassembled the temporary work table in the garage and stored the sawhorses out of the way.  We shook out the floor mats (as best we could) and Linda used the ShopVac to vacuum the floor of the larger bay.  We finally had enough room to store her Honda Civic inside for the winter.  That will be the first time it has been stored inside since she bought it in 2007.

[ Photo 1 of 1 – HC – The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter.  This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house. ]

The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter.  This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house.

The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter. This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house.

We rearranged some things in the front of the smaller garage bay to make room for the large trash container, the wheelbarrow, several 10′ lengths of 1-1/4″ plastic conduit, 10 large paver blocks, and the mower deck for the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  With those things stowed inside the concrete driveway was now free of objects that Kerry could have hit with his snowplow.

The tractor and 18 cubic foot trailer will remain in the yard alongside the driveway where we park the bus.  The tractor won’t start and we had no interest in pushing it uphill through snow.  We found our large plastic tarp the other day so we unrolled it, covered the tractor and trailer, folded the edges under, and weighed the edges down with landscape blocks.  Hopefully it will stay put through the winter.

With sunny skies and the temperature hovering around 50 degrees F I opened the house electrical bay on the bus.  We loaded the four toolboxes onto a hand truck, two at a time, and rolled them over to the bay where Linda got them stacked and pushed in.  We then loaded the two drill cases in front of the toolboxes and I closed up the bay.

Next we opened the passenger side engine bay door and replaced the main engine air filter.  It did not look that dirty but the new one was obviously very clean by comparison.  This air filter is a bit pricey at $130 plus tax but it is so critical to good engine performance that it does not make sense to try and save a few cents by not replacing it or trying to clean a used one and reuse it.

With the air filter changed we then pulled out the chassis battery tray.  It holds four Group 31 lead acid batteries and is very heavy.  It has a very heavy duty slide out tray but the tray is worn and lets the leading edge drop a little bit as it comes out.  That means we had to lift it as well as push it to get it back in.

We applied a 14″ strip of black Gorilla Tape to the horizontal frame member at the top of the compartment opening to prevent metal tools from coming in contact with the chassis, which is tied to the battery ground.  I got this idea from Chuck when I saw that he had done this to their coach.  There was some fine rust on top of the batteries but the connections were all tight and did not show signs of corrosion.  I should probably have cleaned them anyway but we had too much else to do.  I did notice, however, that one of the batteries was from 2009 and the other three were from 2010 so they may be due to replaced.

I opened the doors on both sides of the front bus bay and climbed in.  Linda carried stuff over from the driveway and the living room (of the house) and I figured out how to fit them into the space.  We have less stuff in the front bay then the last two winters but more stuff in the car.  The problem for the bay is that we have things in open topped cardboard boxes so I could not stack things the way I have in the past.

We were done with this phase of the loading process by 3 PM.  I had turned on the main engine block heater and the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop at 1 PM.  I started the main engine to air up the suspension, leveled the coach, and then turned on the auxiliary air compressor to maintain it at level.  I was getting ready to pull my car around behind the bus so we could hook it up when I realized I should probably move the bus a little bit first to make sure the brakes were not locked up.  I backed it up a few feet and turn pulled it forward a little farther than where it started.  Linda checked the floor and it was level so I switched the suspension back to Level Low to help minimize leaks and hold the pressure.

I continued to let the bus run on high idle while we hooked up the car.  With all of the connections made I opened the air valve that supplies air to the auxiliary braking system in the car and went to the cockpit to activate the various lights while Linda checked them.  Everything checked out as OK.

With the bus still idling we carried the HP Color LaserJet network printer from my office in the basement upstairs and into the bus.  It was heavy and awkward but we got in into the bus.  I had to remove the center cover from between the desk pedestals and we had to get it into its alcove in the left pedestal from the knee space between the pedestals.  I was pleased, however, that it fit very comfortably in that space as the space was designed to hold this particular printer.

Once the printer was in we found the replacement black toner cartridge and put it on board.  Linda also carried the smaller APC UPS up from the rec room to the bus and I put it on the connector cover shelf.  I think there will also be room on the shelf for one of the NAS units.  The newer one is physically smaller but has more storage capacity and is faster but my plan us to take the larger/older/slower one.

We were done with this phase of the loading process at 4 PM.  Our next task was to replace the screen insert from the front door of the house with the storm door insert.  Linda turned her attention to preparing food for our family gathering tomorrow and I stripped the bed, took all of the laundry to the laundry room, and started a load of whites.

My back was making me aware that I had worked it harder today than it would have liked so I took a few more Ibuprofen and settled in on the sofa with the heater pad.  Juniper found my lap almost immediately and stayed there until just before 6:30 PM when I had to get up for dinner.

Linda heated up a couple of Amy’s curry and rice frozen dinners and served them with the remaining kale/almond/raisin salad.  After dinner Linda started packing non-refrigerated food items in paper grocery bags for moving to the bus.  I brought all of my photography equipment upstairs to repack but left that for later.  I went downstairs and pulled two additional sets of BCM issues plus extra copies of some of the issues in which I have had articles.  I boxed the sets, labeled them, and brought them upstairs.

By the time I replied to a few e-mails it was after 9 PM.  We could have worked until midnight but we had both had enough for the day.  I settled in on the living room sofa with the heater pad on my back.  In spite of wearing a knee brace Linda’s right knee was bothering her all day so she took some Ibuprofen and we both went to bed.  We watched Weather Nation for a while and then went to sleep.

Tomorrow will be a long day but of a different sort.  In the morning we will finish loading the bus and I will check/adjust the pressures in all of the bus and car tires.  We are due at our daughter’s house at noon for Thanksgiving dinner and will probably stay until 7 PM. That evening, after we get home, we will winterize the plumbing in the house and spend the night on the bus in final preparation for our departure for Florida the following morning.

 

2015/11/24 (T) T Minus 3 (days)

My back was feeling much better last night when I went to bed but I still took two 200 mg Ibuprofen at 11 PM.  By morning, however, it was bothering me again.  I finally got up at 6:45 AM, put on my robe, and took three more pills.  I will take two more every four hours throughout the day.  I turned on the natural gas fireplace and settled in on the living room sofa with the electric heating pad on my lower right back.

Linda got up at 7:15 and made tea for us.  We sat in the living room doodling on our iPads and talked about what we needed to get done today and tomorrow.  Jasper sat next to me on the couch and Juniper climbed in to a large cardboard box.  We like having cats as pets.

We had granola for breakfast at 8:30 AM and then got busy.  We both worked all day and got a lot done.  Linda got more things loaded into the house portion of the bus including food and her clothes.  She also made reservations for Friday and Saturday nights and I e-mailed John Palmer to get his address for Sunday night.  I got through all of the stuff in the library and repacked the things that will go in the front bay.  I did not quite finish repacking the tool boxes but I should be able to do that first thing tomorrow.  I also got two loads of laundry done.

I got most of the things in the garage that need to be loaded onto the bus moved near the door.  I moved three trash cans full of long handle garden and yard tools to the other side of the garage (by the small door) and slid the box with the windshields into the space where the trash cans had been.  I measured with my tape and once we get everything loaded in the bus and the Element and take the sawhorses apart there will be plenty of room for the Civic in the large garage bay.

In the process of going through tubs and deciding what to take and what to leave I found the SILVERLEAF Interface.  I need to drill/cut a hole through the lower left console into the compartment with the diagnostic connector, but that will not happen before we leave.

Linda left at 5 PM for a 5:45 PM appointment with Renee at the J. C. Penney’s salon at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi.  It’s a long way to go for a haircut but Linda has been going to her for 24 years and has always liked the outcome.  After her appointment she went to the Whole Foods Market in West Bloomfield to pick up some items that she cannot find at our local Meijer’s, Kroger, or Wal*Mart stores.  For dinner she picked up a kale salad with almonds and dried cranberries and a basmati and wild rice dish which also had dried cranberries.

We watched our Tuesday evening TV shows and then went to bed.  Tomorrow will be a long day but we should have the bus fully loaded by dinner time.  I intend to replace the main engine air filter and check the chassis battery connections.  I will also start the engine, air up the suspension, and turn on the auxiliary air compressor to maintain it at level.  On Thursday morning we will connect the car to the back of the bus and I will check and adjust the pressures in all of the bus and car tires.  That evening, after we get back from Thanksgiving Dinner at our daughter’s house, we will winterize the plumbing in the house and spend the night on the bus.

 

2015/11/23 (M) Elemental Errand Run

I got up a little after 7 AM.  Juniper was prowling around the bed which is her way of letting us know she wants to be fed.  If one of us does not get up and put food in their dishes Juniper starts chewing on the charger cords on our night stands and/or pushing things off onto the floor.  I needed to get up anyway.  The Tylenol PM had worn off and I was having difficulty finding a comfortable position.  To my surprise and consternation, my back was much worse than when I went to bed.  I could not find a comfortable standing position and was barely able to walk.  I managed to get my robe and slippers on and make it to the bathroom to get my bite guard out, clean it, and put it back in its case.  I made my way to the kitchen where I took three Ibuprofen with some orange juice and had a couple of cherry strudel bites (vegan).  I then sat in the living room with the heater pad against my lower right back and set on high.

Linda got up at 8:15 AM.  At 9 we had fresh grapefruit and cherry mini-strudels (vegan) for breakfast with orange juice and the last of the Ethiopian Yiracheffe coffee.  We drank most of the coffee in the living room where I lingered until 10 with the heater pad on my right lower back.

I called Brighton Honda and the service department confirmed that they rotated my tires at my last service visit so they did not need to be rotated today.  I called Discount Tire in Howell and cancelled my 10 appointment.  That took some pressure off of our morning.

A clean bus is a happy bus, or at least makes for a happy bus owner.  Although we have kept it vacuumed as we worked it needed a good interior cleaning.  The insides of the cabinets needed to be vacuumed, the wood work need to be dusted, and the counters and mirrors needed to be cleaned.  Linda did most of that yesterday.  We also wanted to wash the floor but decided to do that after everything was loaded on board.

I did not get all of the tool boxes repacked last night so I continued working on that today as best I could.  I also needed to go through all of the tubs that we keep in the front bay, decide what really needed to travel with us, and repack the tubs.  The situation with my back, however, made for slow and uncomfortable work.

We took a break at 12:30 PM to have lunch.  Linda has been using up frozen food to clear out the refrigerator so she made vegan “hamburgers.”  The packing and loading work was further interrupted by several things we had to do away from the house and bus.

I dropped off my Honda Element at Brighton Honda for a 1:30 PM oil change appointment.  Linda followed me in her car and picked me up.  We went to Staples in Brighton and bought a pack of 9x12x4 inch boxes.  I needed three of them to hold the complete sets of BCM issues (37 magazines each) that will be given away as door prizes at the Arcadia Bus Rally.  I called Teeko’s to see if our coffee order was ready to pick up.  It was.  I called Brighton Ford’s NAPA parts department to see if the air filter had arrived.  It had, but the parts guy wasn’t sure where it was and thought it might take a little while to find.  No problem.

We drove to Teeko’s first to pick up our coffee and visited for a while with Mary.  We then drove to Brighton Ford, which is next door to Brighton Honda, to pick up the air filter.  The Honda dealership called to let me know my car was ready to pick up, so the timing was really good.  Linda dropped me off at the Honda dealer and went on to Meijer’s.  I got my car and headed home.  In total the errand run took about two hours.

There was a USPS Priority Mail package waiting for me on the porch when I got home.    It was a set of the BCM issues I need to make a complete set to use as a door prize at the Arcadia Bus Rally at the end of December.  In my correspondence with Gary (owner/publisher) he agreed to send three sets and to ship them next week to the RV resort in Williston, Florida.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother spending time and effort communicating carefully and in detail.

I continued working in the garage and Linda started cleaning the house.  We worked until 6 PM and called it a day.  We did not accomplish as much today as we wanted to but we got a lot done and felt good about that.  Our original plan was to have the bus loaded by the end of the day tomorrow.  As things stand we plan to finish loading it on Wednesday.  As of now we are still committed to leaving Friday morning and should be able to do that.

Linda picked up a couple of Amy’s frozen enchilada dinners which, along with some fresh black grapes, made for an easy but tasty meal.  After dinner I integrated the magazines I received today with the issues I already had to make one compete set which I boxed up and labeled.  At 8 PM we settled in to watch our Monday night TV shows before taking some more Tylenol PM and going to bed.

 

2015/11/22 (N) Repackaging

My lower back bothered me all night, so I did not sleep well, but we both got up at 8:15 AM, took showers, and got dressed.  My right lower back seemed to have gotten worse overnight.  I pulled a muscle yesterday and they tend to take quite a while to heal.  Not good.

The view of our rear deck from our dining room the morning after our major snowstorm.  It’s pretty if you don’t have to go outside to pack a bus or drive in it.

The view of our rear deck from our dining room the morning after our major snowstorm. It’s pretty if you don’t have to go outside to pack a bus or drive in it.

According to the National Weather Service newsfeed on The Weather Channel iPad app Howell, Michigan got 16.5 inches of snow from yesterday’s winter storm, the highest in Michigan.  The highest accumulation in the country was 18 inches somewhere in South Dakota, so we were very close to that.  The official amount was no doubt recorded at the Livingston County Airport about 11 miles west of us on the west side of Howell, but based on what we see on our deck we got at least a foot of snow here at the house.  It was sunny but only 25 degrees F when we got up.  The high temperature was forecast to only reach 30 and the low tonight is forecast to be 18.

Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  She cooked blueberries into hers but I had mine on the side.  I think the blueberries add additional liquid to the batter and keep the pancakes from cooking properly, but Linda likes the way they turn out.  I made a pot of coffee with the last of our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans.  I took some Ibuprofen along with my usual morning pills.  Linda got the heating pad out and I sat with it against my lower right back on the living room sofa while we drank our coffee.  In spite of having a lot to do between now and Thanksgiving Day, we got a slow start to our day.

Linda cleared our front sidewalk so she could get to the front door of the bus.  She also shoveled a path to my car, which I parked behind the bus yesterday, and cleared the snow off of it.  She checked the snow depth with a ruler at several places on our rear deck.  It was 13 inches.  Not 16.5 inches, but it’s still a lot of snow, and it could certainly have been deeper out in the yard.

Her agenda for the day was to vacuum the inside of all the cabinets in the bus, dust the woodwork, and clean the counters and mirrors.  I exchanged some text messages with Chuck including a couple of photos.  I sent one of our bus buried in snow and he sent one of the palm trees and lush vegetation on the unoccupied lot next to theirs at Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort.  Chuck said it has been too warm to play golf.  I did not know that was even possible but I did not feel too sorry for him.  I sent an e-mail to Butch to let him know I had delivered the antique SUN Electric distributor tester to Bill a week ago Friday.

I resumed working in the garage and spent most of the day repacking my tool boxes.  My objective was to reduce the number of boxes from five to four while maintaining some sort of reasonable logic to how they were organized.  I took short breaks throughout the day to get off my feet and had a few pretzels with hummus for lunch.

Sometime during the afternoon Kerry showed up and plowed as much of the concrete driveway as he could.  Linda must have been vacuuming in the back of the bus and I was working in the garage (with doors closed) so neither of us realized he was there until after he was gone.

I decided that I needed some additional storage boxes for organizing small parts so I drove to Lowe’s hoping to find the Stanley boxes I already have.  They had similar boxes from a different manufacturer but not the exact ones.  I tried The Home Depot but liked the boxes at Lowe’s better so I went back there and bought six, three with 10 deep bins and three with 17 medium bins.  I stopped at Meijer’s for orange juice and picked up a few other things.

When Linda was done cleaning the bus she started loading the things onboard that she had ready.  She got almost everything on board that was staged in the middle bedroom and the kitchen.  She then made three more batches of granola.  That made nine batches since Friday evening, eight of which are in the freezer.  Linda thinks a batch will last at least two weeks if have granola every other day.  If that proves to be true we should have enough granola with us in the bus to get through the end of March.

By 5:30 PM we were both ready to stop for the day.  I changed into my robe and sat on the living room sofa with the heating pad on my lower right back.  We spent 45 minutes considering possible waypoints between here and Williston, Florida.  We did not come a decision but it is very likely we will stop at two of the same places we used two years ago, the Oh Kentucky campground in Berea, Kentucky and the KOA near Cartersville, Georgia.

The Oh Kentucky RV Park in Berea is just west of I-75 at an interchange.  It wasn’t fancy but provided easy in/out access and would allow us to plug in for the night.  Just east of the Interstate at the same exit is a Walmart where our friends, Chuck and Barbara, stayed on their way south a few weeks ago.  The RV park options north of Atlanta, Georgia are surprisingly limited.  The Cartersville Castle-White KOA is convenient to an exit off of I-75 and also provided easy in/out access.  Staying there Saturday night means we can drive around Atlanta on I-285 on Sunday morning, our favorite time to bypass major cities.

Our final waypoint before going into Williston Crossings on Tuesday, December 1st will probably be Mayo, Florida where we can boondocks for two nights at John Palmer’s place.  This itinerary would have us traveling about 400 miles on Friday, 300 miles on Saturday, 340 miles on Sunday, and 75 miles on Tuesday.  Friday would be a longer drive by about 2 hours than we normally plan, but very doable.  Also, this time of year we like to get as far south as quickly as possible.

Linda opened a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Mixed Berry Winter White wine to have before, during, and after dinner.  For dinner Linda cooked a squash and heated up some frozen corn and mock chicken tenders (vegan).  After dinner I tried to check my e-mail but our Internet connection had slowed to an unusably slow speed.  At 8 PM I participated in the SLAARC Information Net and then came back upstairs and went to bed.  We both took some Tylenol PM at 11:30 and then turned out the lights.

 

2015/11/11 (W) Two for One

We had late morning dentist/hygiene appointments today so Linda did not get up early to go to the bakery and we slept in and got up at 8:30 AM.  We showered and dressed and finally had granola for breakfast at 9:15.  She made this batch of granola yesterday and it was very yummy.

Since the mice have recently been defeating our simple live traps I cleaned our more complicated one yesterday and set it up last night with a broken open peanut butter pretzel for bait.  When I checked the trap this morning it had two brown field mice inside.  They were anxious to get out and I was glad to oblige.  I set them free in the southwest part of our property on the other side of the road.  The last I saw of them they were headed south into dense cover and away from the house.

Our appointments were at 11 AM in Dearborn.  Linda left at 9:45 and I followed about five minutes later.  We took separate cars since she had to go to the bakery following her appointment.  Before I left I checked on the state of charge of the house batteries in the bus.  There were at 95% SOC.  I turned the charger off last night to let the battery bank drain down a little.  I turned off the Broan cube heater and the three toe-kick heaters and then shutoff the AC power coming into the coach.  I checked that the inverter was working, which it was, and left for my appointment.

We both had good checkups but Linda will need a crown in the spring.  A tooth with an old filling had weakened and needs to be capped.  The dental assistants/hygienists have started taking blood pressure readings as part of modern dentistry’s role in monitoring and promoting overall health.  I don’t know how accurate the wrist cuff machines are but my blood pressure was 121/59 and Linda’s was 128/67, which are excellent readings if they are even close to being correct.

On the way home I stopped at the new Menard’s on Wixom Road just north of I-96.  I was looking for 1/2×2″ fine thread carriage bolts but all they had were coarse thread in longer lengths.  As long as I was there I picked up a 6-pack of work socks and two more of the good live traps like the one we already have.

Back at the house I called Terry at A-1 Upholstery to confirm that our spacer cushion for the bus sofa was ready and that she would be there Friday morning.  Her response was affirmative on both counts.  I then called Josh to verify that he would be at his shop on Friday morning and he said he would.  I need to stop there on the way to A-1 Upholstery and return two swivel seat ring bearings.

The new gravel driveway extension and RV parking pad.  Phil, on the left side of the driveway by the nearer utility pole, rakes out the topsoil he placed along both sides of the driveway.

The new gravel driveway extension and RV parking pad. Phil, on the left side of the driveway by the nearer utility pole, rakes out the topsoil he placed along both sides of the driveway.

Philip Jarrell from Precision Grading was here working on the driveway extension when I got home.  After my phone calls I changed into my work clothes and went out to chat with him for a few minutes.  Phil had brought another load of screened topsoil and was using his track loader to place it along the sides of the driveway extension and at the west end of the property where the French drain begins.  He rough graded it with the track loader and then raked it out by hand and spread grass seed.  He will bring straw bales with him on a subsequent trip to cover the soil/seed but he wanted to get the seed down before he left as we have rain and wind forecast starting late this evening and through tomorrow into Friday.

I finally got to work in the bus at 2 PM.  My objective was to get the SurePly underlayment installed on the passenger seat platform floor.  I lightly sanded the floor patch compound I spread around last night and vacuumed up the particles.  I then mounted the head of each of the new carriage bolts to a thick plastic washer using 3M Heavy Duty (double-sided) Mounting Tape.  I slid the heads into the two mounting channels with the washers under them so the washers held the bolts up off of the bottom of the channel and forced the square collars up in the open slot of the channel where they could not turn when a nut was tightened on them.  This was a critical step because once the underlayment and tile are down I will not be able to get to the heads of these bolts.

With the bolts in position I got the piece of SurePly from the garage.  I was starting to slip it into position when I remembered that I installed an angle bracket yesterday but had not cut out a small piece of the underlayment to fit around it.  So I took the piece back to the garage, cut out the necessary space, and took it back to the coach.  I am starting to wonder how many hours I would have saved by having a proper shop set up right outside the front door of the bus.

[ Photo 2 of 2 – HR – The SurePly underlayment on the co-pilot/navigator platform floor showing how it fits under the outside wall panel and over the four mounting bolts for the seat. ]

The SurePly underlayment on the co-pilot/navigator platform floor showing how it fits under the outside wall panel and over the four mounting bolts for the seat.

The SurePly underlayment on the co-pilot/navigator platform floor showing how it fits under the outside wall panel and over the four mounting bolts for the seat.

The underlayment slipped under the switch panel by the outside wall and dropped over the four mounting bolts just like I planned it, so taking most of yesterday to carefully cut and drill the piece paid off in the end.  That felt good, especially in comparison to how yesterday felt.

The weather today was lovely, reaching a high of 58 degrees F with sunny skies and I am sure that added to by general sense of well-being.  Our part of Michigan is under a high wind warning starting this evening, however, with maximum gusts of 55 to 60 MPH possible.  It’s a good thing we have a whole house generator because those kinds of winds cause power outages.

I decided to screw the underlayment to the bus floor rather than use staples.  Again, I did not want to get the big air-compressor and staple gun out, but I also wanted to use the screws to pull the underlayment down tight to the bus sub-floor.  I was about 50% done when I saw that Phil was putting his track loader back on the trailer.  I thought he was packing up to leave so I went out to talk to him briefly.  I went back to the bus and got another 25% of the piece screwed down before I ran out of screws.  I was using primarily 1″ #6-SR self-drilling screws with some 1-1/4″ of the same kind.  Once again my work was halted short of completion by the lack of some small part.

Phil was finished and on his way at 4:15 PM and by 4:30 I was headed to Lowe’s.  Linda texted me that she was leaving the bakery and I had a nice QSO with Tom (K8TAF) while running my errand.  Lowe’s only had one pack of the 1″ screws, quantity 100, but I thought that might be enough to get me through tomorrow.  I also bought a pack of 100 1-1/4″ screws.

For dinner Linda cooked a couple of yams, heated up a couple of vegan sausages with sautéed onions and red peppers, and steamed some fresh green beans. Yum, yum, yum.  After dinner we sat in the living room for a while using our iPads.  At 8 PM we watched a few nature and science programs on PBS.  Jarel called to confirm when I was coming down to Logansport, Indiana and said that Friday would work.  Linda is headed back to the bakery in the morning so she went right to sleep after we were done watching TV.

 

2015/10/22 (R) Another Routine Exam

Linda got up at 2:30 AM and started drinking the second half gallon of GoLightly at 3 AM.  She was done with it by 5 AM, as required, and got me up at 5:45 AM.  We were going to leave for the HFHS Columbus Center in Novi at 6:15 but actually left closer to 6:30.

The traffic inbound to the Detroit Metro Area from the northwest at that hour of the morning is heavy and the slowdowns are ridiculous in the sense that there is no apparent reason for them.  And yet, according to Linda, the traffic comes to a complete stop at approximately the same places every day.  Part of the problem seems to be that people do not know how to merge.  This might be a driving specific manifestation of the more general problems in or society of people thinking they should always come first and being unable/unwilling to compromise.  Another problem is that people speed and tailgate, which means they are frequently on their brakes, the implication being that the rest of us should somehow get out of their way.  Brake lights, in turn, seem to cause a chain reaction and far enough back in the chain traffic can come to a complete halt.  Whatever the causes, we do not drive the highways at rush hour if we do not have to.

We got to the Columbus Center with a few minutes to spare, got a nice parking spot, and went inside.  We found the colonoscopy clinic on the second floor and Linda checked in.  She was the first patient on the schedule for her doctor and did not have to wait very long before being taken in.  The Columbus Center has guest Wi-Fi for their customers and a small self-serve cafe so I went there and had some coffee while I researched flash units and lenses for the Sony SLT-a99v camera that I recently acquired.

Linda’s colonoscopy took less than an hour.  She had come out of the anesthesia, gotten the preliminary results (good), and been discharged by 9:15 AM.  She got dressed and we were on our way by 9:30.  She was hungry, of course, so we went to the Panera on Novi Road just south of Grand River Avenue and had coffee and bagels.  On the way home we stopped at the new Menard’s on Wixom Road just north of I-96.  They had the Eaton RV electrical outlet boxes for the same price as Lowe’s but had a better selection of conduit adapters.  I bought three pieces that together would allow me to connect the bottom of the RV outlet box to the conduit I already had.

We got home at 11 AM and it did not take long for Linda to go to bed.  While she slept I installed the RV outlet box on the post by the new driveway extension and level parking pad.  The first step was to cement a 1-1/2″ to 1-1/4″ reducer into a 2″ to 1-1/2″ reducer which I did in the garage.  The weather was on the cool side of perfect but a nice enough day for working outside with appropriate clothing.  The next step was to determine where to cut off the vertical piece of 2″ PVC conduit so the bottom of the outlet box would be 24″ above the ground.  The pair of reducers would take up about two inches so I marked the pipe at 22″.

The conduit was tight to a 4″x 4″ post and secured by two plastic conduit brackets.  I removed the upper bracket but could not use my Rigid tubing cutter to go completely around it so I used a hacksaw.  I could not just cut all the way through the pipe, however, because of the rope that was inside to be used later to pull wires through the conduit.  I cut a large “V” notch on the side opposite the post, like I would when felling a tree, and pulled the free end of the rope out through the opening.  The notch was horizontal on the bottom and came in at about 45 degrees from higher up.  With the rope out of the way, and secured so it could not fall into the pipe, I continued the horizontal cut and finished cutting through the conduit.

I loosened the clamp holding the bottom of the pipe so I could move the top of it far enough from the post to get some PVC cement most of the way around the riser.  I then pushed and twisted the 2-piece adapter assembly over the 2″ conduit.  Using a short level I plumbed the riser pipe while eyeing its relationship to the post.  Holding the upper clamp over the pipe I secured the clamp with two screws but did not tighten the clamp all the way down.

RV electrical outlet box on top of riser post with level on top.

RV electrical outlet box on top of riser post with level on top.

I set the outlet box on top of the adapters and dropped the third piece through the hole from the inside but did not cement it in.  I used the level to plumb the box, checking it visually in relationship to the post and pipe, and then marked the three mounting holes with a marking pen.  I removed the adapter collar and box and then center-punched and drilled holes for three pan head wood screws.  I put the box and collar back on/in the pipe and secured it to the post with three pan head wood screws.  I then installed the removable panel with the outlet mounted in it.  I coiled up the extra rope, closed the cover, and was done except for getting all of the tools and materials back into the garage.

I checked on the thermometers in the bus refrigerator and recorded the readings.  I then decided to add a duplex AC outlet in the cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I found a deep plastic single gang remodeling box, a brown duplex outlet, a brown oversized cover plate, and a 30″ length of 14-2+G cable.  I used the box to outline the opening and then completed the lines with a small square.  I drilled out the four corners of the opening with a 1/2″ drill.  I then cut out the opening using a saber saw, finishing some of the inside corners with a hacksaw.  I made quite a bit of sawdust and wood chips so I vacuumed up the mess before continuing with the installation.

The new AC outlet box (blue) installed in the front of the A/V cabinet behind the driver’s chair.

The new AC outlet box (blue) installed in the front of the A/V cabinet behind the driver’s chair.

I turned off the breaker in the inverter subpanel for the driver side AC outlets circuit and verified that the existing outlet was not energized.  I removed the cover plate, unscrewed the duplex outlet, and pulled it out.  I opened a second access hole on top of the outlet box and then prepared the cable by removing about 4″ of the sheath and stripping about 3/4″ of insulation off of the wires.  I fed the cable through the hole and connected the wires to the appropriate screw terminals.  I turned the outlet over so the round ground pins were at the top rather than the bottom, screwed the outlet back into the box, and put the cover plate back on.  I had hoped to finish the whole job before dinner but dinner was ready so I went inside to eat.

For dinner Linda made a salad and Garbanzo beans with onions and Swiss chard lightly sautéed in olive oil.  It probably had a little garlic and might have had a few hot pepper flakes as Linda often uses these ingredients, but I don’t know for sure as I am wrote this post two days later.

After dinner I finished installing the new outlet.  When I put the oversized cover plate on it appeared to be close enough to the top edge of the cabinet that it would interfere with the Corian top.  No big deal, I would just swap it with the regular size plate on the original outlet.  When I went to take the first cover plate off I noticed that one of the outlets was cracked in half horizontally.  I will have to replace it but did not feel like getting into that this evening with the light and my energy fading.

It had been a long day, and I was admittedly tired and contemplating an earlier than usual bedtime, so I locked up the bus and went into the house for the evening.  We turned in at 9 PM and were asleep by 10.

 

2015/10/07 (W) The Root Cause

We had Linda’s homemade granola for breakfast with fresh blueberries.  Berry season is just about over for the year and they will become more expensive as they have to be transported from farther away.  I made a pot of Sweet Seattle Dreams, the half-caff blend that Jeff makes just for us, and we drank it in the living room.  Linda checked in on the world and pulled up the latest video from NutritionFacts.org while I researched hardwood veneers on Rockler.com.

After breakfast and coffee I called Metro Environmental Services to arrange to have the culvert under the road cleaned out.  They were able to schedule us for this afternoon so I accepted that appointment.  I then called Brighton Honda to check on my car and left a message for Rob, the service advisor who wrote up the repair for the driver side door lock.  I had no sooner left that message than I got a call from Karen at Bratcher Electric.

Mike had worked up the quote to install the 100 Amp disconnect, tie it into the output of the transfer switch, and run a 100 Amp 4-wire service entrance cable to the current sub-panel, making it into a main panel.  They would also disconnect and cap the current sub-panel feed from the basement as part of the work.  At just north of $1,300 it was a good $300 higher than I expected.  My expectation, however, was not based on anything specific other than my own sense of the cost of materials and the amount of labor that might be involved, plus a desire for it to not cost more than $1,000.  🙁

With the phone calls taken care of we worked in the bus for the rest of the morning.  Linda worked on stripping the remnants of wallpaper that remained after we removed the mirrors from the lower outside hallway wall yesterday.  I worked on re-routing the heater hoses for the fan-coil heat exchangers.  She got her job done before I got mine done.  That’s usually the way it is.

To start, I removed one of the old 4″ round plastic grates and used my inspection mirror and a flashlight to examine the inside of the HVAC duct.  What I discovered was that the two heater hoses were secured periodically with plastic cable clamps to the outer wall of the HVAC duct.  I also discovered that the metal part of the duct is just the inner wall and top.  The bottom is the plywood subfloor of the bus and the outer wall is the plywood wall.  As originally built the metal portion of the duct could be removed but when Royale Coach did the conversion they built cabinets around the ducts and put wood wiring chases on top of them in such a way that they can no longer be removed without partially disassembling the coach.

The location of the hoses and wires in the duct was such that I could safely use my 4″ bi-metal hole saw to cut access holes for the hoses.  I determined where the cable clamps were located by measuring inside the duct.  I then marked where the access slots in the bottom back of the bases would be located and determined where I needed the two hoses to emerge from the duct.

The manual sheet metal nibbler used to cut a line between the bottoms of the two holes in the HVAC duct.

The manual sheet metal nibbler used to cut a line between the bottoms of the two holes in the HVAC duct.

There was already a 4″ hole at one of my needed locations so I drilled a second one next to it with an inch in-between.  I used Chuck’s hand powered sheet metal nibbler to connect the holes together to make an opening that looked like the track around a football field.  We vacuumed up the metal chips and I then installed door edge molding all the way around the edge of the opening.  I was able to reach the screws holding the first pair of cable clamps with a #2SR screwdriver and remove them.  This large slot will be behind the left end of the center connecting cover of the desk and the hose for the heat exchanger that goes in the left base will come out of it.

 

Plastic U-channel door edge molding installed around the new heater hose opening.

Plastic U-channel door edge molding installed around the new heater hose opening.

The location of the next pair of cable clamps corresponded, roughly, to where I needed the hose for the right heat exchanger to emerge.  I drilled two 4″ holes, side-by-side, at that location and nibbled out the little bit of metal in-between them to make a second slot.  Again, I installed the door edge molding around the entire edge.  The molding was a tight fit, and I had to use a screwdriver to get it to go on the inner curves, but I got it on.  The U-channel is locked in mechanically and has adhesive in it so it should stay put once it has had a few days in place.  Once the hoses are re-routed I will put screen material, and perhaps some solid plates, over the openings to prevent critters from gaining access to the living area by way of the HVAC PCTS (Prevost Critter Tunnel System).

 

The access holes in the OTR HVAC duct in the area behind where the desk will be installed.

The access holes in the OTR HVAC duct in the area behind where the desk will be installed.

Linda had two medical appointments this afternoon, both routine diagnostic procedures, so she got cleaned up, changed her clothes, and left around 12:30 PM as I was finishing up the second slot.  I went inside and was thinking about making something for lunch when the doorbell rang.  It was our mail carrier, Michelle, with a package that was too big for the mailbox.  A few minutes later the doorbell rang again.  I figured it was Michelle again, but it was one of the guys from Metro Environmental Services.  They were supposed to call first but just showed up.

I put my shoes on and walked them down to the clogged culvert that goes under the road.  I was really hoping they could clean it out from the south side but when we went into the woods we could not see the end of the culvert.  They got a metal detector and located the end of the pipe.  It was almost completely buried and had a massive root running right in front of it from a very large nearby tree.  They got a shovel and dug out around the root, exposing much of it and the end of the pipe.

The tree was probably 30″ in diameter at the base and the root was at least 10″ in diameter.  I got my (new) 18″ chain saw but had trouble getting it started.  It turned out it was out of gasoline.  Once I got it started I tried to cut through the root on either side of the culvert.  I thought I was all the way through on one end (closest to the tree) and most of the way through on the other end, but the root would not budge.  I dulled the teeth on the chain to the point where the saw would no longer cut and did not want to take the time to put a new chain on just to ruin it quickly.  The guys finally agreed to hydrojet the culvert from the north side of the road.

The actual cleaning out of the culvert did not take that long.  The pump produces 2,000 PSI and they used about 300 gallons of water from the onboard tank on their truck.  The head on the end of the hose has one forward facing nozzle and many rear/side facing nozzles.  The forward facing nozzle loosens and cleans out the area directly in front of the head while the other nozzles force the head forward and blast whatever is in the pipe back out towards the entrance.

They started with a small head and ran it in until there was water coming out the other end of the culvert.  They then pulled the hose back and switched to a much larger head and ran that all the way through and back.  When they were done muddy water filled the culvert and the depressions on either end.  On the inlet end the water was only about 3″ deep in the bottom of the culvert but on the outlet end it was near the top.  They billed me for the minimum first hour amount even though I think they were here longer than that.

I called Phil to let him know what we had run into.  He was surprised, to say the least, as he thought he had checked the other end of the culvert.  Obviously not, but that’s water under the road, so to speak.  Besides the problems with the root and the discharge end of the culvert being below the surface, it looked to me like the discharge area was something of a low spot and it was not obvious to me where water would flow from there.  I have learned, however, that I am not very good at judging such things visually.

Cory, our neighbor across the street, had come over to see what was going on.  He offered that the discharge area does, in fact, drain to the south through his property and eventually to Golf Club Road.  Cory has been here for 30 years so I have no reason to doubt the truth of that.  The elevation where Golf Club ends at Hacker and where our street ends at Hacker appears to be about the same.  Our street is fairly level while Golf Club has a little bit of up and down, but it is subtle.  I suggested to Phil that we might have to clear a path into the woods for his small digger and do some trenching to give the water a way out.

While Cory and I were chatting I noticed that the trees along this part of the road were hanging out over the road on both sides and were rather lower than they should be.  This is the very thing I complain about with regards to the way most of our neighbor’s fail to maintain their properties along the road.  I decided I should do something about it so I got our pole saw and spent a couple of hours trimming the low overhanging branches.

Linda went to the Whole Foods Market in West Bloomfield following her medical appointments and got home just as I was finishing up the pruning.  She went for a walk while I called John Palmer of Palmer Energy Systems in Florida.  I bought our Magnum inverter/charger for the bus from John along with various accessories and batteries.  I needed a 4-wire terminal block for our Magnum Battery Monitor Kit (BMK) because I had messed up the one that came with it when I originally installed it.  John confirmed that Magnum Energy had recently been acquired by Sensata, and was in the process of relocating the plant to Minnesota, but that several of the old-timers were still on board.  John needed to talk to Tom anyway and asked me to call him back in a week to see if he was able to get the connector.

I checked with the service department at Brighton Honda again and Rob said he expected to get the new door lock mechanism back from the locksmith tomorrow morning and to have the car ready for me to pick up by the end of the day.  It will be nice to finally have it back.

The cloudy weather finally broke today and we saw some blue sky with brighter light levels than we have had recently.  The day was lovely but a little on the cool side by late afternoon so we both had a cup of hot tea.  Linda took advantage of the light to work on her counted cross-stitch project, a holiday stocking for grand-daughter Madeline, and I went back to the bus to sand off the last traces of the old wallpaper from the outside wall in the hallway.

I used our Porter-Cable 1/4 sheet palm sander with 80, 120, and finally 220 grit sandpaper.  The sander has an integral dust collection bag but it does not capture all of the dust.  I used the vacuum cleaner to pick up as much of the residual dust as I could and then used a tack cloth to wipe down the wall.

For dinner Linda made pan-grilled tofu with caramelized onions in sweet barbecue sauce.  She served it open-faced on rye bread, because that is what we had, and steamed some fresh green beans as a side dish.  Yum.

After dinner I drove to Lowe’s.  I needed something I could use to plug the two heater hoses to keep them from leaking as I pull them back through the HVAC duct and out through the new slots I made for them today.  I ended up buying two 3/4″ barbed plastic plugs.  While I was there I looked to see if they had any bleeder valves but they did not.  They do not sell parts designed specifically for hydronic heating systems and I will have to go to Northwest Plumbing and Supply for such items.

While I was in the plumbing isle I looked to see if I could figure out some combination of parts to make a fill valve for the system but did not see anything that inspired me.  I would love to have one or more high point expansion tanks on this system but I do not have any easily accessible places for them from which I could also run overflow drain lines.  There is a good sized volume of unused space behind the drawers on the passenger side of the bedroom but it would be a very difficult place to install anything.  Perhaps Northwest Plumbing and Supply will have something.

On the way home I stopped at the BP station and topped up the fuel tank in Linda’s car.  I drove home with greater consideration for fuel economy than usual and managed to get the average MPG up to 56.7 before it dropped back to 55.4 as I pulled in the driveway.  It will drop into the upper 40s as soon as Linda starts the engine tomorrow morning but it was fun to get it into the driveway with numbers above 55 MPG.

 

2015/10/01 (R) New Month, Same Project

For various reasons we have not worked on the bus the last two days.  For one, Linda is still recovering from a cold and/or seasonal allergies that may have been triggered by some weeding she did over the weekend.  August and September are the time of year for ragweed in Michigan.  For another, I was tied up most of Tuesday with the bus windshield replacement and yesterday we both had our annual physical exams, mine in the morning and Linda’s in the afternoon.  Throw in an unexpected problem with the driver door lock on my car and a lawn tractor that wouldn’t start and that took care of most of the day.  Since I wasn’t working on the bus I used some of my time to edit drafts of blog posts and started selecting and processing a few photos to go with them.

I got a call from Philip Jarrell around 8 PM last night letting me know that a last minute project came up that required his attention today.  If all goes well he plans to start on our French drain and driveway extension project tomorrow.  Our project is a relatively small job for Phil and I accept that he has to fit it in around larger projects for long-term customers who give him a lot of repeat business.  Still, I think he likes working with us and does his best to fit us in.

I had hoped to get back to work on the bus today, specifically working on priming the walls and hanging the new wallpaper, but Linda had another annual medical appointment this afternoon.  Neither of us likes to get into our work clothes and get involved in physical tasks for just a small portion of the day so after breakfast, and a leisurely morning in the living room enjoying coffee to the glow and warmth of our fireplace, she settled in to work at her desk for a while before going on a walk.

Our whole house generator threw a code 34 on Tuesday afternoon indicating that it required maintenance but would still operate if needed.  I called Bratcher Electric to see what was needed and spoke with Karen.  I think she and Mike own the business, but it’s possible she is Mike’s daughter.  Whichever, I’m certain that she is family.  Our generator was last serviced one year ago on the same date (29th) and the 34 was the total number of hours it has run since being installed in May 2013.  I set up the service appointment for Friday October 9th.

While I had Karen on the phone I asked about the project Mike had come out to look at a year ago.  I need his electricians to run a 4-wire, 100 Amp service entrance cable (SEC) from the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage, through the garage attic, and into the secondary distribution panel in the HVAC closet in the northeast corner of the garage, making it a main panel instead of subpanel.  Karen said she would leave a note for Mike to follow up with me.

It was going on noon when I finally got back to work on the bus.  It is a gorgeous fall day, chilly and breezy but with abundant sunshine, and I just could not let it slip away without getting something done on our interior remodeling project.  I was at least 60% done with rebuilding the landing where the stepwell slide cover used to be and that seemed like the logical thing to get finished.  It was 52 degrees F in the bus so I turned on the front electric toe-kick heater and set up the small Broan portable electric heater in the kitchen blowing forward towards the cockpit.  I also noticed that the refrigerator thermometer indicated 43.5 degrees F.  We do not have any food in the fridge but we do have freezer packs and containers of water for mass.  43.5 is warmer than I want so I checked the freezer reading and it was 28 degrees F.  Yikes!  That was way too warm.

Frame and center support for the new landing platform. Air lines crimped and secured.

Frame and center support for the new landing platform. Air lines crimped and secured.

The 31″ X 27.5″ piece of 3/4″ thick plywood for the landing platform flexed slightly when I stepped in the middle.  I’m not sure anyone would notice it when stepping on it but we do not want the tile that will be on there to crack from the deflection.  My solution was to cut an appropriate length of the 2.5″ wide 3/4″ thick poplar and install it on edge running long ways to support the middle of the plywood.  I had to use an angle bracket at the back edge (by the driver’s seat) and place shins under it at several places to get it to fit just right.

About this time Linda came out to let me know lunch was ready.  We each had a half sandwich of hummus and raw onion on rye bread and some black grapes.  She left for her doctor’s appointment and I made a big cup of Constant Comment decaffeinated tea.  I called Chuck to see if he knew where his powered metal shears (nibbler) were and if I could borrow it.  The answers were ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’  I decided to take his suggestion of cutting two new access openings in the passenger side HVAC duct to allow the two existing heater hoses to come out and go directly to the fan-coil heat exchangers with minimal bending.  It will simplify the installation, eliminate soldered copper parts and connections that would restrict flow and be a potential leakage point.  Since my car is in the shop for the next several days I will have meet up with him when Linda’s car is available.

Back in the bus I checked the refrigerator and the fresh food compartment was at 39 degrees F and the freezer was At 6 degrees F.  Those are the sort of temperatures I expect to see.  I had the freezer set to cycle between about 0 and 10 but occasionally saw it go as high as 17.  I figured it had something to do with an automatic defrost cycle, but anything over 20 is troubling.  Linda had suggested earlier that perhaps we need to replace the batteries in the remote sensors and the base unit.  She may well be right and it won’t hurt to do that anyway.

When I got back to work on the landing I folded over the ends of the two air lines and put cable ties on them to close them off.  The air supply for the solenoid valve that controls these two lines has a shut off valve which I intend to keep closed, but if it gets opened accidentally it could drain the auxiliary air tank through one or the other line if they were not crimped closed.  I may eventually disconnect the supply line at the valve and cap it, but for now this will at least prevent an open line leak.

New landing platform structure with sound/thermal insulation.

New landing platform structure with sound/thermal insulation.

After screwing down and cutting off the shims I plugged the hole where the air lines come through the floor with steel wool and secured the lines to the floor with cable clamps.  I then cut fiberglass insulation to fit the two spaces in the floor.  I used the same John’s Manville Sound & Thermal insulation that we used in my office and ham shack as I had some left.  I put the plywood floor piece in place, evened it up along the front edge, and screwed it down but ran out of screws before I had it completely secured.  Projects are like that.

I was walking towards the garage when I saw a car coming very slowly from west of our house headed east.  The drive pulled past our third drive and stopped but I could not see what the driver was doing.  The car eventually continued on, followed closely by a second vehicle and I thought the flashed me a somewhat dirty look, but they did not stop and were too far away to be sue.  Still, I thought that was odd.  I did not give any further thought to it until I went out to get the mail and noticed a lot of debris in the road and a large, dead tree in the ditch.  It had been windy all morning and at one point I thought I heard the crack of a falling tree but it sounded farther away than where this one lay.  The driver had obviously stopped to move it and was probably a little bit annoyed that they had to do that because I had not taken care of it.  Hey, I didn’t know!

I moved it a little more and then got a metal toothed rake and pulled all of the small debris out of the road.  There were limbs on the other side of the road that were 1″ to 2″ in diameter so the tree had obviously fallen all the way across the road.  The property on the other side of the road is part of our yard but I would have cleaned up the branches regardless since the tree clearly fell from our yard.

Linda stopped for groceries on the way back from her doctor appointment and did not get home until almost 4 PM.  We got a pruning saw and cutter and she helped me cut up some of the upper part of the tree and get the pieces farther from the road.  We noticed another dead tree in the same area that looked like it would eventually fall over across the road.  I can cut it down safely but will need the chain saw to do so.  I was not in the humor to get it out and try to get it started at that exact moment but noted to myself that I needed to do this sooner rather than later.

We were not going to start any messy bus work at that hour so I changed into nicer clothes to go out to dinner.  Before we left I texted Josh at Coach Supply Direct to clarify an earlier e-mail and let him know that two of the MCD shades were not staying attached to one of their clips.  We left at 5 PM for the La Marsa in Brighton and stopped at the bank on the way.  For dinner we split an order of Moussaka and got two salads as our sides along with the warm pocket bread and garlic spread.  The food was good and we had a tasty, filling meal for under $14 plus tip.  It is our best/favorite restaurant option within reasonable driving distance of our house.

After dinner we stopped at The Home Depot in Brighton but they did not have the screws I wanted.  When we came back out I noticed that the tires on Linda’s car were under-inflated and on closer inspection that the side walls were badly checked.  We drove to Discount Tire in Howell but they were closed.  We stopped at Lowe’s and bought the screws I needed, some furnace filter material, and Lithium batteries (AA and AAA) for our TempMinder base/remote thermometers as we keep the two remotes in the bus freezer and fresh food compartment and the base station on the bus kitchen counter.

Back at the house I worked in my office for a while selecting/processing photos to go with blog posts but I did not feel like putting in a long, sustained effort on the task.  I got a call from Phil at Precision Grading.  His other job did not get finished today and he will have to return to that job site tomorrow.  He hopes to start our French drain and driveway work on Monday but that may not happen.  I am anxious for him to get started but I have no control over that.  I appreciate, however, that he keeps me informed as it allows me to plan my own time.

We watched The Woodwright’s Shop, Rick Steves’ Europe, and Travel in the Americas on DPTV (WTVS) and then went to sleep.

 

2015/09/30 (W) Annual Checkups

We were both scheduled for our physical exams today.  Mine was at 9:20 AM, and I needed to leave by 8:20 to be sure I was there on time, so I got up at 7:30, showered, and dressed.  I took my vitamin and allergy meds but did not make coffee or have breakfast, Linda’s appointment was at 1 PM so she slept in.  We both had our blood drawn a week ago and the lab results had already been reviewed by our doctor and made available to us via the Henry Ford Health System MyChart patient information system.

We are both basically in good health with only minor issues, such as arthritis in the base of my thumbs or worn out knee joints in Linda’s case.  Both of our blood analysis results were OK across the board but that does not mean we were completely happy with them.  My blood pressure was a little higher than I would like but the doctor thought it was fine.  Linda’s total cholesterol is higher than she would like so we are still learning what dietary choices and physical activity have to do with controlling that.  We respect our doctor’s judgement but we are also re-calibrating our own understanding of what is desirable for us versus what is “normal” for adults our age living in the USA.

The problem with “normality” is that it is a statistical concept.  In a population that is overwhelmingly unhealthy we do not necessarily want to be normal.  As an example, American medicine considers the normal range for total cholesterol to be 120 to 200 and yet research, as reported by Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org, shows that real health is associated with a number less than 150.  Most Americans have total cholesterol way above that except for one group; active vegans.  As another example it is generally accepted that as people age blood pressures in the 130’s over 80’s are “normal” and yet in rural China and Africa, where people eat mostly whole-food plant-based diets, “normal” is 110 over 70 for their entire lives.  Heart disease and other “western” aliments are also virtually unknown.  We are still works in progress.

I do like my morning coffee even though it is usually half regular and half decaffeinated so I left my physical exam and headed for the Tim Horton’s at Beck and Grand River Avenue.  While I was in line I got a call from Chuck wanting to know if the new windshield cut down any of the wind noise.  He was headed to his shop just down the street so I suggested he stop and chat over a cup of coffee.  I told him what intersection I was at but mistakenly told him I was at Dunkin Donuts so he stopped there first.  We have air/water leaks around the other windshields, side windows, and the entrance door so I could not tell any difference from replacing just one windshield.  I trust, however, that the new one will not leak air or water and it is currently not cracked or dinged, so I am happy with it.

Linda texted me that she was leaving early for her appointment and was going to stroll around the mall.  When I got home and tried to lock the driver side door on my Honda Element the key stuck in the lock and would not turn or come out.  This lock has been failing for a while but the failure mode has been an inability to insert the key.  Fortunately I had a second key in the house and was able to unlock the passenger door and rear lift gate.  Not only was I unable to remove the key, the latch was disconnected from both the outside and inside handles and I could not get the door open.  I called Brighton Honda to make sure they could give a ride back to the house and then removed the ham radio control head and microphone, the GPS, the cellular booster, and the 2m/70cm antenna before driving to the dealership.

Rob checked me in and tried jiggling the key harder than I had.  The key still did not come out but he managed to get the latch to re-engage with the handles so we could get the door open.  He wrote up the work order and I only had to wait a short time for the shuttle to return and drive me home.  Rob called later in the afternoon with the estimate.  They had to order a new latch which should be in on Friday, and then send the latch and one of my keys to a locksmith to have the lock matched to the key.  By the time they got the mechanism back from the locksmith and installed in the door he figured it would be the middle of next week.  That was not ideal for me but it was what it was.  The car was not very usable in its current condition so I did not really have a choice.  I was all too well aware that this was another case where I put off fixing something longer than I should have.  I was lucky, in a sense, that it failed when and where it did as I was not stranded somewhere calling Linda to bring the spare key.

When I got back to the house I attached the battery charger to the battery in the lawn tractor.  Philip Jarrell is supposed to start working on our French drain and pull-through driveway extension tomorrow and the lawn tractor is parked where he will be working.  I added gasoline to the tank but even after bringing the battery to full charge and using the jump start feature on the charger I was unable to get it started.  After repeated attempts I gave up.  When Linda got home we disengaged the transmission and pushed to another part of the yard where it would be out of Phil’s way.

I have mentioned before that this lawn tractor was left here by the previous owners.  The mower deck was pretty messed up and we removed it this past spring.  We have a lawn service, Kish Lawn Care, mow the grass so we really do not have a reason to buy a new lawn tractor/mower.  Still, I thought it would be useful for hauling materials and debris around the property and I put new drive tires on it in 2013 and bought an 18 cubic foot dump trailer this year to pull around behind it.  Whatever the problem is I’m sure it can be fixed, and probably by me, if/when I have time; which I do not at the moment.

I spent much of the rest of the day in my office except for dinner.  I reviewed the final draft of an article I wrote which is running in the October 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  I then logged in to the B&H Photo website and finally ordered the Sony alpha99 (a99v) DSLT body and a few accessories.  The body comes with the vertical grip battery pack for no extra charge, a $378 value, so that was a nice surprise.  The body comes with one battery but the grip, which holds two additional batteries, does not come with any, so I ordered five additional batteries giving me six total for two complete sets.  I also ordered two 64 GB memory cards and a small case for carrying an extra battery on my belt.  B&H is closed until October 7 for SUCCOS.  My order is scheduled to ship on the 8th and arrive on the 9th, no added shipping charge.

I spent the rest of my time editing drafts of blog posts and selecting/processing a few photos to go with some of them.  I hope to have the posts for the first two weeks of August uploaded in the next couple of days.  When I finally came upstairs we watched a show on PBS about the life long work of biologist E. O. Wilson.  It was fascinating.

 

2015/09/24 (R) Blood Work

Linda got confirmation yesterday that our lab orders had been put in by our doctor.  The blood work requires a 12 hour fast (minimum) so we finished dinner last night before 8 PM and did not have breakfast this morning.  We headed out around 8:30 AM for the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi, the nearest HFHS lab to our house.  We would not normally get on I-96 at that time of day due to rush hour traffic but we wanted to get this taken care of early and then get something to eat and drink.  We got to the lab at 9:15 and it only took a few minutes to get our blood drawn.  We then headed to the Panera on Novi Road at Grand River Avenue for bagels and coffee and some down time to sit, relax, read, research, and write.

Linda spent some time last evening researching wallpaper installation but found conflicting information.  I got online and looked at some of the same websites.  Wallpaper is a little out of style at the moment and some of the website information was over 10 years old but still seemed relevant.  The interior walls of our motorcoach are finish grade plywood that is firmly attached to the structure of the bus with spray foam insulation underneath.  The issue is how to prep the plywood before we hang the wallpaper.  Some sources indicate that we need to size it, some say to prime it, and others say to use a liner material and then prime, all before hanging the paper.  Other sites, however, say to just hang the paper directly on the plywood and be done with it.

We left Panera and were headed west on Grand River Avenue.  We noticed that Chuck’s truck was at his shop so Linda made a U-turn and we stopped to see if he was there.  He was, so we visited for a while and got to see their new refrigerator and discuss the installation, which Chuck somehow managed to do all by himself.  Even with the use of his forklift, that was quite an accomplishment.

We got back to the house at 12:45 PM, changed into our work clothes, took care of a few chores, and had a light lunch of fresh apples, pears, and hummus with onion on rye bread.  I then called Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct and left a message asking him to follow up with Ferman Miller at Countertops Plus.  If Ferman does not have any more of the Sandstone Corian I want to make sure Josh gets the 30″x48″ piece from the other supplier before it disappears.

The entrance landing with the floor removed revealing the pneumatic linear actuator that operates the slide out stepwell cover.

The entrance landing with the floor removed revealing the pneumatic linear actuator that operates the slide out stepwell cover.

When we finally got to work on the bus around 2 PM Linda focused on stripping the old wallpaper and I started preparing the entrance for tiling.  She taped off all of the wood trim where she is working, spread painter’s plastic to protect the floor, and wrapped the two living room captain’s chairs.  I removed the existing vinyl tile from the entry platform, removed the plywood cover, and uninstalled the step well cover.  I then removed the tile and treads from the stairs.  I also moved the passenger seat forward and determined that I can probably get to the swivel shaft retaining nut from the back.  Removing the seat by removing this one nut will make it much easier to tile that part of the cockpit.  Ditto for the driver’s seat.

Although we got a late start on the bus today, and worked on it for less than four hours, we were satisfied with what we accomplished.  The old tile came up more easily than I thought it would which bodes well for getting the entry/cockpit tiled with the new Armstrong Alterna Luxury Vinyl tile.

I called Phil Jarrell to verify that he had called Miss Dig and told them to mark the gas main and not just the utilities running to the house.  He said he did and expected that they will be here on Friday.  I will keep an eye open for them and intercede if possible.  Phil expects to start our job on Tuesday.  If he does he will probably be finished by the end of the week or over the weekend.

The entry stairs into the bus with the bottom riser cover plate removed to reveal one of the two air-conditioner compressors installed in the spare tire compartment.  This is how the ports are accessed for service and recharging. The other compressor is accessed through the bay under the driver’s seat.

The entry stairs into the bus with the bottom riser cover plate removed to reveal one of the two air-conditioner compressors installed in the spare tire compartment. This is how the ports are accessed for service and recharging. The other compressor is accessed through the bay under the driver’s seat.

Linda let me know that our lab results were available so we each logged in to our HFHS MyChart accounts to look at them.  Linda’s lipid profile showed a higher total cholesterol than she expected and she was not happy about it.  Dr. Vangel had seen the results and commented that they were OK, but Linda was perturbed about it none-the-less.  My total cholesterol was also higher than I would like but not as high as Linda’s.  Her LDL and HDL numbers and ratio looked good and her HDL, in particular, was much better than mine.  This was no doubt a consequence of her almost daily exercise walking.  We apparently do not fully understand the lipid profile numbers or what we still need to change about how we eat to bring them in line with the guidelines put forward by people like Drs. Neal Barnhard and Caldwell Esselstyne.

Linda made a nice salad to start our dinner, served with a small glass of Moscato.  The entrée was a mock chicken scaloppini that she picked up at Whole Foods.  For a side dish she steamed kale with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  After dinner we sat on the back deck and enjoyed a second small glass of Moscato.

I went to my office and edited the blog posts for July 23 through 31 and hope to upload those posts tomorrow.  I had an e-mail from Molly Pinner with Linda’s invitation to work as an office staff volunteer at the 2016 Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont.  I replied to that and cc:d Linda.  I then e-mailed Lou and Val Petkus to let them know.  I was wrapping up for the evening when I got an e-mail from Ed Roelle with the September CCO Newsletter.  He develops the newsletter in MS Word and I convert it into PDF for him.  I took care of that and sent it to him and then went upstairs to watch a PBS program on scenic train rides of North America.

The program was interesting but PBS was fundraising again, and the fundraising segments were longer than the programming segments.  It seems like this has been going on all summer and we are, quite frankly, tired of it.  After clicking around the other channels I turned the TV off and went to sleep.

 

2015/07/16 (R) RV Work

We were up at 6 AM and by 6:25 Mara had started the engine of her motorhome to pull in the slides.  She disconnected the electrical cord and we helped her back out of the driveway at 6:40.  She was pointed west so she had to drive to the end of our street and use the circle to turn around.  Her destination was Cummins Bridgeway in New Hudson.  When she made the appointment they said the closer to 7 AM she could arrive the better.  They estimated she would be there 3 to 4 hours.

Mara's Fleetwood Bounder parked in our pull-thru driveway.

Mara’s Fleetwood Bounder parked in our pull-thru driveway.  Linda in green jacket, Mara in red.

Linda did not sleep well last night, a common side effect of eating too much too late in the evening, and went back to bed once Mara was safely on her way.  I decided to stay up and clean the coffee maker before making coffee.

I wiped out the upper housing and cleaned the nooks and crannies with Q-tips.  The upper housing is undoubtedly designed the way it is to make it structurally adequate with a minimum of plastic but it was equally obviously not designed with any consideration for being able to clean it.  Like many things, it leaves me wondering if the designers ever use the products they design or what sort of functional specifications they work from and who develops those.  I think the Bauhaus had it right when they declared “form follows function.”  My guess is that commercial equipment, while less “stylish” than consumer goods, has cleanability and serviceability as primary design considerations.

I remembered that we had a one gallon jug of distilled white vinegar in the bus so I got that and ran eight cups of it through the coffee maker.  I added four cups of water to the used vinegar and ran it through again.  I then ran 12 cups of RO water through the coffee maker.  By the time I was done it was approaching 8 AM so I ground up some of the Sumatra Mandheling beans (not decaffeinated) and made seven cups of coffee.  I normally make 8 – 9 cups but this was full-strength stuff.  I’ve been making 11 cups while Mara is here but it turns out that she does not drink much coffee so I will be back to my usual 8 – 9 half-caff servings going forward.

I enjoyed my first cup of coffee while finishing yesterday’s blog post and starting this one.  I enjoyed my second cup while researching hardware for mounting a small table to a wall so that it is essentially cantilevered, which is the table arrangement we need for the bus.  I found a 2-piece aluminum extrusion that might be the solution for attaching the table to the wall.  It is 30″ long and can be cut to length but I do not think it will not be strong enough by itself to support the table.  I found an angle bracket on Rockler that might be the additional piece I need.  It is 12″ x 18″ with a notched corner, made of 1/8″ steel, and powder-coated black.  A pair of them will support 1,000 pounds so one in the center would be more than sufficient.  An alternative would be a wood strut angling back to the wall but we are not willing to have a vertical table leg.  I have not decided whether the table should be removable but I am leaning towards a more permanent installation.

Linda eventually got up but neither of us were hungry so we did not have breakfast.  I went to my office and ordered the ZioTek monitor mounting system from CyberGuys.  I then e-mailed Ewa at AFC Industries and thanked her for the second quote but let her know that the price was way out of my budget.  I finally settled in to work on the custom desk design for the bus and eventually finished it (I think).  Linda left around 12:30 PM for her dermatology appointment.

Now that we have base station antennas cabled to the ham shack I tend to have the new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE dual band (VHF/UHF) radio on whenever I am working in my office.  It provides a pleasant diversion from my other tasks and is actually useful.  Somewhere mixed in with everything else were a couple of QSOs with ham buddies and an attempt to coordinate with Steve (N8AR) and Mike (W8XH) about testing my two Morgan lightning arrestors at Steve’s QTH.

This toad was sitting on a rock by our front porch.

This toad was sitting on a rock by our front porch.

Our bus had settled in the rear and was clearly out of level.  The reason it had settled was that I forgot to switch the suspension system to Level Low and shut off the air to the engine accessories.  It was of no consequence but it bugged me so I started it, let it air up, re-leveled it, shut it down, and switched off the batteries and engine air accessories.

Mara returned from Cummins Bridgeway around 1 PM and I guided her back into her parking spot.  They did the routine service on her motorhome engine and generator but found several things on the genset that needed to be repaired.  She agreed to have the work done so they removed the genset from her rig and will reinstall it next Wednesday.  They also inspected the motorhome and gave her a list of other things that needed to be fixed, some right away and some eventually.  She did not have them do any of that work as she wanted me to look at the list first.  The added service work means Mara will be visiting with us for at least another week, which pleased us greatly.

I went over the list with her and we discussed the relative importance and urgency of each repair.  One of the items involved the caulking on the roof so we both climbed up there to have a look.  I also wanted to scope out how we might install her weBoost Drive 4G-X cellular booster system.  While we were on the roof I was able to rock the rig side-to-side quite a bit just by shifting my weight.  One of the other items on the diagnostic list was shock absorbers and I indicated that I thought that sounded appropriate, especially given that the back ones reportedly had cracked/broken mounts.  They also noted that the transmission fluid was low and that the filter and fluid should be replaced.  I encouraged her to have these taken care before she left as Cummins Bridgeway is a very good service facility.

The other items were things that could wait but the caulking of the roof was something Mara could do herself.  She likes to take care of as much of her rig as possible and she will be here through at least Wednesday, so she has time.

Linda got back from her out-patient surgical appointment with bandages in seven different places.  We visited for a while and then I left the ladies and returned to my office.  I started on the design of the pull-out pantry for the bus and quickly realized that the very expensive Fulterer heavy-duty pull-out pantry slide I ordered from Rockler was too wide for the space we have available.  I came upstairs and groused about it for a while until Linda and Mara urged me to try canceling the order.  I called Rockler and spoke to someone in customer service.  I won’t know until tomorrow at the earliest, and probably not until Monday, if I was successful in intercepting the order before it shipped.  If not I will have to pay to ship it back and may have to pay a restocking fee.  Although I do not have anywhere else I can use it at the moment, between the restocking charge and the cost of shipping I may just keep it and find a use for it.

Linda made a large salad for dinner and we chatted during and after the meal.  It had been an early, long, hard day for all of us.  Mara returned to her rig before it was dark and Linda headed off to bed shortly thereafter with me not far behind.

 

2015/07/09 (R) Graduation Celebration

My main focus this morning was my dentist appointment at 10:30 AM.  I wanted to leave the house at 9 AM so I had plenty of time to get there and actually left at 9:15.  Once I was on I-96 eastbound and clear of the construction at US-23 I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back to my call.  I-96 was very slow as I approached Wixom Road so I exited at Beck Road and dropped down onto Grand River Avenue (GRA).  I got off GRA at M-5 in Farmington Hills and took that to where it ended and rejoined GRA.  I continued to Telegraph Road and headed south.  My QSO with Steve lasted until there by which point there was too much noise and not enough signal for a pleasant conversation.  In spite of the change from my intended route I was still at the dentist’s office by 10:10 AM and they were able to take me in early.

On the way home I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Mike (W8XH) responded to the call.  As a result of differing weekend plans I decided to head to his QTH and pick up his climbing harness.  While I was there I took a few minutes to look at his reconfigured ham shack and his Canon EOS D7 Mark II DSLR.  To say that I am unhappy about Sony’s failure to release the alpha 99 II FF DSLT would be a gross understatement and I am not alone in the sentiment.

Back at the house we had a light lunch of sourdough pretzel nibblers and roasted red pepper hummus.  I then went to my office to continue working on the custom desk design for our bus.  But first I was taking care of e-mails when Williston Crossings RV Resort called back and said they had a spot for us for December.  We had not heard back from Suncoast Designers regarding an appointment to have a fogged window repaired so I called them.  They said they had replied to my e-mail letting us know that we were scheduled for December 7 but the e-mail had not come through, so I need to check the spam filter.

Linda called back and accepted the spot at Williston starting December 1st.  We will have to leave for one to three days to have the window taken care of and we will depart on the 26th for the Arcadia Bus Rally but the monthly rate will still be cheaper than paying for three weeks at the weekly rate.  Besides, they did not have a two or three week opening.

I did get a couple of hours of work done on the desk design and then had to quit.  A month ago our elder grand-daughter, Katie, missed her high school graduation due to a sudden illness.  Meghan and Chris (Katie’s dad) made reservations at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for 5:45 PM today and we gathered to celebrate this milestone in Katie’s life.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline also joined us and we all enjoyed quizzing (and teasing) Katie about her upcoming college experience at Northern Michigan University where she plans to major in Wildlife and Fisheries within the larger biology program.

Linda and I had the black bean burger with fresh, hand-cut fries.  Although it was tasty, and vegan, it did not have any binders and completely fell apart when I tried to assemble it as a sandwich.  We ordered them on sourdough bread as the buns had an egg wash.  Zingerman’s has excellent bread, but it is the rustic style with crusts that are so tough you cannot cut them with a knife (or a chainsaw).  Thus the “burger” was difficult to eat even as an open faced sandwich and was basically a messy pile of “stuff” on my plate.  Linda seemed to enjoy hers but I regretted ordering it even though I ate the whole thing.  I did, however, have a glass of Schramm’s Raspberry Mead made by my friend, and former colleague, Ken Schramm.  It was excellent.  The hand-cut fries were also good and the waitress was delightful, which is always a plus.

Back home I worked for a couple more hours in my office and then worked on this post.  I put my new N.T.I. dental appliance on my lower front teeth just before going to bed.  It obviously felt a little strange but did not keep me from falling asleep.

 

2015/07/02 (R) 100,000 Radios

We were tired and did not get up until almost 8 AM.  Linda prepared a tofu scramble for breakfast, as we were almost out of her homemade granola, and served it with some cinnamon raisin toast and fresh grapefruit.  It’s the closest thing we eat to scrambled eggs and she serves it as an occasional change of pace from our standard granola breakfast.

I had my annual appointment with my dermatologist this morning at 11 AM.  I needed to pick up a cable from Scott (AC8IL) at Adams Electronics, which was on my way to the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) clinic, so I left the house a little after 9:30 AM.  The drive was fine initially and I had a nice QSO (chat) with Steve (N8AR) on the South Lyon 2m repeater.  As I was approaching Wixom Road, however, all lanes of eastbound I-96 were stopped.  I was able to exit at Wixom Road and headed north a short distance to West Road which I took east over to Beck Road where Scotty’s business is located a little north of West Road.  I had a brief chat with Scott about the antennas on my tower before I left.

Two miles north of Scott’s shop I turned east on Maple Road (15 Mile Road).  The HFHS has many clinics around the greater Metro Detroit area and my dermatologist is located at the intersection of Maple and Farmington Roads in West Bloomfield.  That should have been an easy trip but there was construction on Maple Road that had the road down to one lane with flaggers.  There were signs advising motorists to seek other routes but I did not heed the warning.  I patiently worked my way through and arrived for my appointment about seven minutes ahead of time.  Good thing I left as early as I did.

My exam was fairly routine and Dr. Nydorf wrote out a prescription for Doxycycline.  I will try taking it (again) three times a week and see if it helps.  I headed straight for home after my appointment but took a different route.  Once I was back at the house Linda went for a walk.  While she was walking I removed the license plate from her car, took the protective (anti-theft) cover off, and cleaned everything.  When it was dry I put the new registration sticker in the corner, reassembled the cover, and installed the plate back onto the car.  I then started working with the various pieces of the new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE mobile radio.  When she got back from her walk she heated up a couple of tofu hotdogs for lunch.  These are such simple fare but so tasty (with mustard, onions, and relish) and so appropriate for a summertime lunch.  They are also a really easy lunch to get on the table.

After lunch Linda took her car to the Howell library to get some books and children’s DVDs and then stop at the Meijer’s supermarket to pick up a few grocery items for Madeline’s visit this weekend.  While she was running errands I assembled our new Diamond X-300NA antenna.  Once it was assembled it was over 10 feet long so I stored it by mounting it to the side of the tower.  I put it up as high as I could reach from the ground to get the three counterpoise (elevated ground plane) rods above eye level.  Moving it to the top of the tower as a replacement for the Diamond X-50NA will have to wait until next week or later.  The exact timing will depend on the weather, Mike’s (W8XH) availability, and whether I have acquired appropriate standoffs by then for the X-300 antenna and/or the cellular booster omnidirectional antenna.

With the antenna taken care of (for now) I disconnected the coaxial cable for the X-50 from the radio side of the lightning arrestor and positioned it so I could pull it back into the sump pump room.  From there I fed it into the ham shack, disconnected it from the radio, and coiled it up.  I uncoiled the new 20′ LMR-400 cable with the N-male connector end positioned so I could feed it through the corner of the ceiling in the ham shack (by the ground wire) and into the sump pump room.  From there I fed it through one of the 2″ conduits into the cable entry box.  Back outside I shaped the cable (LMR-400 cable is double shielded and stiff) and connected it to the radio side of the Morgan VHF/UHF lightning arrestor and closed the lid on the box.

Back in the ham shack I attached the PL-259 connector to the SO-239 socket on the back of the Icom IC-7000 GoBox.  I could have gotten away with a 16′ cable but the 20′ length gives me more flexibility with respect to equipment placement.  I turned on the IC-7000 but did not hear anyone on either the South Lyon 2m or the Novi 70cm repeaters so I turned it off.

I disconnected Mike’s Icom IC-2820H and set it aside to make space for the new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE dual band mobile transceiver.  I moved the new coax to the new radio, powered it up, spent a few minutes configuring some basic things, and then listened to the South Lyon and Novi repeaters.  I tried calling them but was not triggering them so I knew the PL Tone was not set correctly.  I called Mike for assistance and left him a voice message.

Linda was back by this time so she came down to see the new radio.  We then went out to the bus to make our final decisions about upholstery fabric and window shade materials.  In the end we chose the Lambright Notion Linen fabric for all four chairs and the MCD B50 material for the dark out shades.  We brought all the samples back in the house and I e-mailed our choices to Josh at Coach Supply Direct.

I had an e-mail from Scott Neader (KA9FOX) at QTH.com requesting an admin login for the SLAARC WordPress website so I set that up and e-mailed him back.  I had the new radio on and was listening to a conversation on the Novi repeater.  It had just concluded when Mike returned my call.  He walked me through how to set up the PL Tone and Squelch Tone for both of the repeaters on the FTM-400.  We were then able to verify that the radio was working on both bands.

For dinner Linda made a salad and pan-grilled tofu with caramelized onions and barbecue sauce which she served open-faced on hamburger buns.  We had watermelon for dessert, which we have been doing a lot this summer.  I did not care for watermelon as a child but it has become a favorite summertime treat.  I had dropped a small lock washer while mounting the new antenna to the tower earlier so I went to Lowe’s to get a replacement and some spares.  On the drive there I got a call from XPO Delivery Service letting me know that the new refrigerator for the bus would be delivered to Chuck’s shop in Novi tomorrow between 6 and 8 PM.

At Lowe’s I picked up some 6mm x 1.0 Nylok nuts in addition to the lock washers.  I also got some grass seed patching mix, a few more bags of decorative broken brick pieces, and a hummingbird feeder with a red reservoir so Linda can use sugar water without red food coloring.  When I got home the odometer on my car read 100000 so I took a picture of it with my phone.  I then spread the patching mix over the bare dirt I had used to fill a hole and troughs left by the installation of the natural gas line to our house last September.  The rest of the evening Linda read and I worked on completing drafts of blog posts.

 

 

2015/06/23 (T) Grounded

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.

Another view of the cable entry box on the east end of the house by the 40-foot tower.

Another view of the cable entry box on the east end of the house by the 40-foot tower showing the bare copper ground wire that runs to the ground rod and then to one of the tower legs.

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.

 

2015/06/08 (M) Home for a While

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.

 

2015/05/13 (W) Dental Deconstruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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