2015/01/08 (R) Up On The Rooftop
A panorama from the roof of our bus. Left edge is NE, center is S, right edge is NW.
As forecast, we woke up to cloudy skies and milder temperatures. The clouds to the southwest looked like they might produce rain but the winds were blowing gently from the southeast so the rain would not be for us. This was the day we’ve been waiting for, the perfect kind of weather for washing a bus. But not first thing in the morning. Coffee and breakfast come first while we wait for slightly warmer temperatures.
The waste water tank level sensors are not accurate but our fresh water tank sensors are OK. The fresh water level gauge was showing less than 1/3 tank and the grey water tank gauge was showing full so it was probably time to dump and fill. When I checked the fresh water level visually we were at 1/6th tank. I dumped the black water tank and then the grey water tank, both of which were fairly full, and then filled the fresh water tank. I have the city water regulated to ~50 PSI (static) which drops to ~30 PSI when the fill valve is fully opened. At that pressure it takes about 40 minutes to fill the tank.
I last dumped the waste tanks on December 30th and added 25 gallons of (hard) fresh water. On December 31st I added another 30 gallons of (hard) fresh water. On January 2nd I recharged our water softener, drained about 1/6 tank (~20 gallons) of (hard) fresh water and filled the tank with 120 gallons of soft water. I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after that fill and it was 1.5 grains/gallon (25 ppm). I checked it again after today’s fill and it was still 1.5 gpg. Since we are keeping a log of the dumps and fills I plan to check the hardness after each fill so can regenerate the water softener before it gets depleted and we end up with really hard water in our tank and system.
Butch happened to be at the Post Office Annex today checking the P. O. Box at exactly the same moment a postal worker was about to put something in the box and then stopped because of the forwarding tag. The “something” was our package of water hardness test strips from Bristol, Indiana and the worker was kind enough to give it to Butch to give to us. He also learned that they still have P. O. Boxes available so he went to the main post office to find out more about that. He came back with a form to fill out and it had room for all of our names so the six of us are going to share the box and the cost, which is $56 for six months, or just under $20 per couple.
While the fresh water tank was filling I started getting ready to clean the roof by getting out our Little Giant step/extension ladder and various cleaning supplies. The dump and fill was done by 11 AM and it was warm enough by then to start working. Swim trunks, a white T-shirt, and Kean sandals was the uniform of the day. I carried the hose sprayer up the ladder with me and then lowered it down to use as a hook and lift wash water bucket, scrub brush, and other paraphernalia up to the roof.
It turned out to be sunnier than I had hoped but I worked for about four hours, not including a lunch break, and scrubbed the entire roof. I used McGuire’s red automotive soap and rinsed thoroughly. I had already washed the roof once using Dawn dish soap (a big ‘no no’, apparently) and a long-handle soft brush. That washing had removed surface dirt and revealed the full extent of the dark “spotting” that gave the entire roof a mottled appearance. The roof looked a lot better after I scrubbed it but a lot of the spotting remained.
We are anxious to clean the sides of the bus but there is no point doing that until we are done with the roof. We want the roof “like new” clean so dirt doesn’t run off it onto the sides, but we also want it clean because we are seriously considering having Discount Solar (here in Quartzsite) install solar panels and a charge controller and do all the wiring. As long as we had the hose, brushes, and soap out we decided to wash the car. It was even filthier than the bus, if that’s possible, and it was nice to finally have it clean.
After cleaning up our equipment I got cleaned up and then sat and visited with Butch for a while. Linda came over and announced that she wanted me to take her to dinner. Butch and Fonda decided to go too so we went to Crazy Jerry’s, which is not to be confused with Silly Al’s. Silly Al’s is supposedly the #1 eatery in Q, at least for pizza, but they have karaoke every night starting at 7 PM. Thank you, no. Crazy Jerry’s also has pizza and we tried the vegetarian, hold the cheese. Very thin crust (the way we like it) and lots of topping. A couple of side salads and a side order of French fries. FWIW, we did not eat the entire pizza and brought home the leftovers.
Linda split a pair of Scrabble games with her brother, the first one he has won in quite some time. She had an e-mail reply from Mara. She is camped about 70 miles south of Q and is headed here in the near future and is going to camp with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network). I checked e-mail, updated my BCM article spreadsheet with two more story ideas, played a few games, and worked on this post before turning in for the night. We will have been here a month as of Sunday.
The Hi Jolly Daze Parade. Quartzsite, AZ
2015/01/09 (F) The P. O. Box
I left the ladder setup yesterday so I could check the roof again this morning and determine what additional cleaning measures, if any, I might want to take. I also wanted to get back up on the roof and measure the space we have available for solar panels. I was expecting two packages via UPS; one from B&H Photo (Manfrotto nodal panoramic tripod head) and one from Sure Marine Service (Webasto repair parts). I had a nice view of the mountains surrounding Quartzsite from the roof of our bus and wanted to shoot some panoramas with the new head when it arrived.
Butch, Fonda, Jim, Barb, Linda, and I all went to the U. S. Post Office in Quartzsite this morning to sign up for our very own P. O. Box which means we finally have a way to receive USPS mail while we are here. Just in time, too, as Q has really filled up in the past week and there is more to come. I have an FMCA national education committee meeting on Monday and need to write a few items for a member survey and review other materials. Gary (from BCM) is also due to arrive on Monday, and both Curtis (from RVillage) and Mara Culp (HFH build acquaintance) may be headed this way as well. I believe Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia are already in the area. The big RV tent is up and those vendors are arriving and setting up.
Once we were done at the post office I went to Discount Solar to discuss a possible installation on our coach. The Kyocera panels are 26.5″ W x 59.0″ L. They are “12 V panels” but are rated at 140 Watts putting out 7.9 Amps. They cost $350 each. Those numbers compute to an output voltage of 17.5 VDC and $2.50/W. (If a 140 Watt panel was operating at 13.8 Volts it would produce just over 10 Amps.) Because we have a 24V battery system we would need to install the panels in series-connected pairs. The preferred installation for the rectangular panels is to have the long dimension lined up fore-n-aft to either side of the centerline of the roof. Tilt mounts are available ($45/panel) but we would probably not install them due to the difficulty of getting onto our roof to use them.
“12 volt” batteries typically charge at around 13.8 to 14.1 volts. Our “24V” system charges at 27.6 to 28.2 volts and a series-connected pair of panels produces 7.9 A at 35V (full sun) for 276.5 volt-amps, which is essentially “watts.” Two pairs would produce 15.8 A (553 V-A), and three pairs would produce 23.7 A (829.5 V-A). The higher voltage output of the panels is reduced and regulated by a solar charge controller before getting to the batteries. Discount Solar carries Blue Sky and Trimetric maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers and the Blue Sky Solar Boost 50 would handle three series-connected pairs for about $550. The MPPT controllers are DC-to-DC converters so they convert the excess voltage into additional current. With full sun this six panel system could supply up to 30 A of charging current at the proper voltage, which is why we would need an MPPT controller that can handle more than 30 A of charging current. We would also want room for expansion or replacement with higher wattage panels if they were available at some point in the future. One of the nice things about the solar system is that it would always be on and would “play nice” with our other charging systems. Another nice feature is that they are silent when operating. Ahhhh.
Because of the size of our house battery bank (400 A-Hr at 24 VDC) and the fact that we have a residential refrigerator, auxiliary air-compressor, and other AC loads, we would need/want at least six panels. (I have not included the four Group 31 wet cell batteries that are used to start the engine and power the chassis as part of the solar system.) If the batteries were discharged 50% (200A-Hr) it appears that it would take just under seven hours to bring them back to full charge based on the 30A charging current. In actuality it would take longer in a boondocking situation as the sky is not always clear, the sun is rarely directly overhead (perpendicular to the panels), there would be devices using some of the energy, and the amount of current the batteries can accept falls off as they get closer to being fully charged.
Installation is $90/hour plus mounts ($15/panel), wire, connecting blocks, and other parts, and would take 4 – 5 hours to complete. The owner assured me they would have it in and out in one day so we could be back in our parking spot before dark. The last three weeks of January are the busiest time of year for Discount Solar and since we are plugged-in to shorepower we do not need the solar system right away. If we have it installed in early February we would have a month to make sure it works and resolve any problems. The system would cost about $3,300 installed. We have at least a month to think about it.
When I returned to our coach Linda was out walking. When she got back I went up on the roof with a tape measure to see if/how the solar panels might fit. With a four-n-aft orientation we could put two towards the front outside edges, one just aft of the kitchen skylights on the driver side, and one aft of the hall skylight on the passenger side. We could put two more somewhere in the rear. The options for the rear appeared to be inline (almost touching) on the driver side starting just behind the bathroom skylight or putting one there and the other one sideways across the back just ahead of the dropped portion of the roof and aft of the bedroom vent fan. Placing the panels in these locations would leave the center of the roof open so I could climb up on the driver side front and walk all the way to the back.
Barb stopped by to let us know there was a mattress in the house (park model trailer) if we wanted to try it out. It had been in their rig for about two years until they removed it yesterday and replaced it with a thicker one they got from Connie. It is a regular queen size mattress about 6″ thick, so not one of the oversized behemoths that have become the norm. They also had a 1.5″ thick memory foam pad to go on top of it. We took a look at it and decided to give it a try.
We have been using our old Select Comfort adjustable air mattress in the RV since summer 2013. One side (mine) has a slow leak so I have to adjust it every other night. I could live with that indefinitely but what we really dislike about it, and have for a long time, is that we tend to roll into the center or off the edge. It also takes up valuable storage space under the bed for the pump, has wires and hoses to deal with, and has a controller for each side. We were definitely ready to try something else so we stripped the bed, disconnected the two air hoses, and carried the mattress out of the bus. It was surprisingly heavy and bulky for an air mattress and lacking in self-supporting structure, but that also made it easier to bend it around the front passenger seat, down the entry stairs, and out the door. We stored it in the bedroom of the house trailer pending a final decision about the replacement mattress.
We carried the new mattress in, which was definitely easier than getting the old one out, and got it positioned on the plywood bed platform. We put the memory foam pad on top and put our mattress topper over that which added another inch. We put our electric heating pad on and then the sheets and the blanket. We will try it out for a while and if we like it we will see if the Salvation Army wants the old one. If not, it may end up at the Quartzsite dump as we really do not have any way to get it home or a reason to do so. We will leave the pump, hoses, and controllers under the bed until we decide on its final disposition.
The suspension on the bus had settled slightly in the driver side rear since we parked and leveled it almost a month ago. It would not have been enough to require an adjustment except that our bed sits crosswise with the head on that side and I find that sleeping with my head even slightly downhill is not comfortable. Rather than start up the main engine we got the Dewalt portable air-compressor out of the car and connected it into the brake system fill port in the passenger side engine bay. I had to connect the chassis batteries and turn the ignition on (without starting the engine) in order to activate the leveling controls, but that allowed me to raise that corner up and get the coach level side-to-side. At some point we will re-position the bus, but not until I have completed some work on the turbo boost sensor mounting plate and hose and the level low system components for the front end.
We put the air-compressor back in its special storage divider in the car and decided to rearrange a few things so we could put the rear seat down. Starting next week we will need to be able to carry a passenger. We thought about heading down to the market area but remembered that we were expecting UPS deliveries. I started working on two more articles for BCM instead while Linda went for a walk. It was warmer today and so it was warmer in the coach and I ended up taking a nap.
Our UPS and FedEx shipments usually arrive late in the afternoon or early evening but had not shown up by dinner time. I had planned to disassemble the Aqua-Hot burner and replace the bearings, nozzle, and perhaps a few other small parts tomorrow but it now appears that will have to wait until Tuesday, assuming our shipments arrive on Monday. I will likely need to clean the unit as well, given that it has been running so rich, and that may include pulling the combustion chamber.
Linda made two cold salads for dinner; chickpea and wild rice Waldorf. Both are favorites of ours, especially in warmer weather. We had some Barry’s Basic Bread with our meal and another glass of Lamb’s Valley organic sweet white wine was a most agreeable accompaniment.
Yup, that’s a real, live camel in the Hi Jolly Daze Parade. These animals are strongly linked to the 19th century history of Quartzsite, AZ.
2015/01/10 (S) Hi Jolly Daze Parade
Today was the annual Hi Jolly Daze Parade. As first time winter visitors to Quartzsite there was no way we were going to miss this event. I was up at 7 AM to make coffee and we were done with breakfast by 8 AM. We checked the parade route online and figured we would go to the Quartzsite Improvement Association grounds as the parade ended in the parking lot there. It was scheduled to start at 10 AM so we snagged Fonda about 9:40 and headed that way in the car.
When we got to Central Avenue and Main Street the police had Main Street closed so we could not turn left to get to the QIA. I stayed on Central down to Kuehn Street and took it east over to the exit 19 overpass and back to Main Street. On the way we saw Lloyd DeGerald’s motorhome parked along Kuehn with a big banner advertising his Aqua-Hot technician services. I am hopeful that I will be able to repair both of our burners myself but if not Lloyd is the guy I would call, so I was glad to see that he is in town. But back to the parade.
The police had Main Street closed on that end too. We knew the parade started at Plymouth Avenue and Quail Trail so we headed in that direction and parked at the Quartzsite Library. We were surprised that no one else was parked there as it was a short walk from there to the start of the parade route which turned out to be an excellent spot from which to view the parade. What we realized after we got there was that the west side of Plymouth Avenue was lined with cars from the starting point all the way to Main Street. I suspect that Main Street was similarly lined with people, most likely in cars, but we were not able to observe that directly.
We had a few drops of rain leading up to the start of the parade. There were plenty of grey clouds around, but the sun was also shining and the parade did not get rained out. In fact, a full 160 degree rainbow formed behind the parade and lingered until most of the participants had passed us. The highlight of the parade was a live camel.
“Hi Jolly” was the Americanized pronunciation given to Hadji Ali, who came here in 1856 as part of an experiment by the U. S. Army in the use of camels. There are conflicting accounts of his exact place of origin but it seems clear that he came to the U. S. from the Middle East as one of the first, and the lead, camel driver. For a more complete account check the entry in Wikipedia for “Hi Jolly.”
The experiment did not work out as the Army’s horses, mules, and burrows were apparently terrified of the giant animals and would panic in their presence, but Hadji Ali remained in the U. S. and eventually ended up in Quartzsite where he died in 1902 and was buried in the local cemetery. We got the impression that he was something of a living legend in his own time and in the 1930’s the governor of Arizona had a monument erected at Hi Jolly’s gravesite. It is a small pyramid made of local stone with a metal plaque on one side and a metal profile of a camel on top. According to Wikipedia the monument is allegedly the most visited location in Q.
When the parade was over we returned to our coaches. Linda went for a walk and I wrote another article for Bus Conversion Magazine. This was another short one, less than two pages and only 11 photos, on the installation of the new speedometer in our bus. When Linda returned from her walk she made a broccoli-potato mash. In addition to the broccoli and the potato it had soy milk, vegan butter, salt, and pepper. The potatoes were not completely mashed and the dish was both tasty and had a nice mouth feel.
After lunch Linda made a shopping list. We headed to the Kuehn Street market area and stopped at Barry’s Breads but our timing was bad, again. We drove south on Central and found the entrance to the parking lot for “the big tent.” This is where the RV vendors will be in another week or so, but nothing was open yet, so we went over to the Tyson Wells area west of Central Avenue and found some miscellaneous items and a pair of Crocs for me. For all the shoes I brought I did not have something that was easy on, easy off. We are parked on gravel and I needed something I could slip on quickly and easily to step outside the coach.
Most of Linda’s list was groceries so we drove to Blythe, California to do our shopping. To vary our trip and see some new sights we stayed on Kuehn Street heading west past the edge of town where it became West Dome Rock Road. The road parallels I-10 on the south side for a long way through BLM land and eventually ends at an interchange with the Interstate. We saw lots of RVs, and a few tents, spread out on either side of the road, but not nearly as many as we thought we would. There are probably a lot more RVs here than we realize, but the desert is a vast place.
When we got to Blythe we took a few minutes to drive through town and get a feel for the place. It had a more developed, modern, and prosperous business district than Quartzsite and more houses, as opposed to park model trailers and mobile homes. The houses were not fancy but they were in decent condition. Schools and municipal buildings were also nice, and there is nothing in Q to compare to the two supermarkets and name brand stores like Auto Zone, NAPA Auto Parts, and K-Mart. We started at Albertson’s and got most of the items on our list. We then went across the street to Smart and Final Express and picked up a few things there. Once again we were not able to find the Silk brand Soy Coffee Creamer, which has us wondering if we last bought it at Wal-Mart in Parker.
When we got back to camp I unloaded the car and Linda put the food away. I wandered over to say high to Butch and Fonda and play with their dogs, Daffy and Rascal, for a few minutes. I then went over to say high to Jim and Barb’s dog, Roho, which brought them out of their motorhome and got me invited in. Linda eventually wandered over looking for me and the four of us had a nice chat. It was the first time since they got here that I had been inside their rig, a Country Coach Intrigue, and it was very nice. It has one slide on the front half of the driver’s side, and there is no doubt that it really opens up the interior. Before we bought our bus we were looking seriously at Country Coach motorhomes (but not their Prevost bus conversions) and the Tiffin Allegro Bus (which is a purpose-built motorhome, not a true bus). But in the end we were bitten by bus fever and we still have it.
We stopped to visit briefly with Butch and Fonda on the way back to our rig. Butch has always had an interest in metal detecting and has developed an interest in rocks since arriving in Quartzsite. If you had the slightest inclination towards rocks, gems, and minerals then being in Quartzsite during the winter would likely push you over the edge into a full-blown hobbyist. Sometime in the last couple of days Butch bought a used contraption that consists of a table saw, two grinding wheels with a water delivery system, and an electric motor. He and Fonda acquired a bucket of rocks, including a piece of petrified wood, and they are setting up an area outside their bus to work on their new hobby.
For dinner Linda made pan-grilled tofu slices with caramelized onions and bar-b-cue sauce, but with a twist. Instead of hamburger buns or slices of bread she heated 12″ tortillas and made wraps. Of the various ways she has served this simple, but delicious, dish this was definitely my favorite so far. As much as I like a nice, fresh bun the tortilla wrap kept all of the ingredients contained so that I got onion and BBQ sauce with each bite, and they did not end up all over my plate and all over me.
As we do most evenings, we relaxed, played games, worked puzzles, read, and wrote. We are always a bit surprised at how tired we are after dinner, but we are up and about during the day and the fresh air and sunshine just seem to wear us out.
The roof of our bus after cleaning looking SW as viewed from the driver side front corner. Quartzsite, AZ.
2015/01/11 (N) Swimsuit In January
I turned the lights off last night at 11 AM and was up at 7 AM this morning which seems to have become my current routine. Because of the new (to us) mattress I was able to get up without waking Linda up. I turned up the heat in the front of the coach but not the back as Linda does not sleep well in a warm room. I started getting the coffee ready but did not grind the beans because of the noise it makes. I worked at my computer on organizational tasks such as copying files to the NAS, copying blog posts from e-mail to Word, and backing up website and photo files to the NAS.
Linda got up around 8:30 AM and set the microwave convection oven to preheat in convection only mode. When it was ready she heated up the leftover cinnamon raisin rolls she took out of the freezer yesterday and put in the refrigerator. While the rolls were heating I finished making the coffee. Although they are not gigantic, one of these rolls would probably be plenty of calories for breakfast. Two rolls, however, made for a very satisfying meal. Still, they take about four hours to make fresh and about 25 minutes to reheat. She makes a batch of eight, so if we each had one for breakfast her efforts would cover four meals instead of two.
Today was another bus cleaning day, but first Linda went for her morning walk while I continued to organize photo files on our network attached storage device. It was forecast to be a cloudy but mild day and by late morning the clouds had moved in, so when Linda got back we got busy. Even with the cloud cover it was warm enough that I was able to wear my swimsuit and a T-shirt, my preferred outfit for working with water. We bought some CLR Mold & Mildew remover yesterday and I tried using it on the lower rear roof. It did not appear to have any effect so I abandoned any further roof cleaning and we got started on the sides.
The upper sides of our bus are not easy to clean. Even with our Little Giant extension/step ladder set up as a step ladder at its maximum height I cannot quite reach the top curve of the side walls. Knowing that was the case I cleaned all the way around the edge of the roof, where it meets the side walls and the front and rear caps, from the roof. Once I was done with that we took the Little Giant extension/step ladder and converted it from extension configuration to step ladder configuration.
We worked all afternoon until after 5 PM and managed to clean the front and the passenger side. We wanted to get the passenger side done because it faces south and we wanted to do this on a cloudy day. Working a section at a time we used McGuire’s red automotive soap, scrubbed with an automotive microfiber sponge, rinsed thoroughly (with Q’s incredibly hard water), and dried with microfiber clothes. We could not get all of the hard water stains off but it was a lot cleaner, and looked a lot better, than when we started.
The weather forecast for tonight was for heavy rain sometime between 9 and 11 PM with accumulations of up to 1/2″. For a place that typically only gets 4″ of rain a year that would be a lot of rain for one storm. We put our lawn chairs, mats, and other outdoor items in the carport for the night just to be safe. Shortly after 6 PM we had our first sprinkles.
For dinner we had chickpea salad and wild rice vegan Waldorf salad with strawberries and peach slices and some Barry’s Basic Bread with a small glass of Franzia Fruity Red Sangria. I responded to some e-mails after dinner and deferred work on possible survey questions for the FMCA national education committee until tomorrow.
Linda makes her selections at the Quartzsite Farmers Market.
2015/01/12 (M) E-mail Groups
It has stayed warm enough the last few nights that I have not needed the electric heating pad and we have been able to leave windows slightly open. We both sleep better in a cool room with fresh air. The deluge of rain that was forecast for last night did not develop but it was still mostly cloudy when we got up this morning. After breakfast, coffee, morning puzzles, and checking in with the world we got on with our chores.
My major tasks for the day revolved around preparations for, and participation in, a 2 PM FMCA National Education Committee work session. While I worked on that stuff Linda went for her morning walk, made an appointment to get her hair cut tomorrow, and made garlic naan (Indian bread) from scratch. When the phone meeting was over I transferred photographs from my camera to my computer and then joined Linda over at Butch and Fonda’s coach for a late afternoon visit.
Jim L. showed up while we were chatting, read the electric sub-meters, and figured out our bills. Linda had to write four separate checks to cover our site fee, electricity usage, laundry, and the rental for the apartment, which Jim gave to Barb to cover the cleaning before and after Marilyn’s upcoming visit. Butch placed an order with PartDeal.com for a VDO speedometer so I had him order a VDO Cockpit Series 0-30 PSI Boost Gauge for me. The UPS truck also showed up and had the two packages I have been waiting for. All too soon the sun dropped below the western mountains and it turned chilly so we retreated to our coach.
Linda made curried red lentils for dinner and served it along with the garlic naan bread she made earlier in the day. Warmed and energized by this fabulous meal I launched into my second major task of the day; the creation of an e-mail group in Microsoft Outlook for our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter. I got the latest roster from Linda, who is the treasurer, and was able to rearrange it, save it as a CSV file, import it into Outlook, and map it to the standard contact fields. It was then easy to create a Contact Group and select all of my new entries to go in it. Once I got the group set up I wrote an e-mail to the members, my first since being elected President of the chapter back in October. I was up much later than usual, but I got it done.
Escapees RV Club happy hour SE of Q in one of the BLM STVAs.
2015/01/13 (T) Geekiness
Today was a day for Geeks and geekiness. Chris and Jim Guld, AKA The Geeks On Tour, arrived in Quartzsite yesterday and are staying at an RV Park not far from our encampment. Butch knew they were headed this way and after he and I were unable to get EchoLink working on his computer yesterday he contacted Jim to see if he would be willing to stop by and take a look. Jim is a former network administrator and knows a lot more about stuff like networking, protocols, ports, port forwarding, and proxy servers than we do. But before he came over Linda and I had breakfast after which she walked over to the beauty parlor and got her hair cut while I worked on a seminar classification task for the FMCA National Education a Committee.
Jim G. arrived on his bicycle around 10:30 AM and stayed for a couple of hours. He re-checked the things Butch and I had already tried and tried some things we had not, but we could not get Butch’s system to let the EchoLink program connect successfully to the EchoLink servers. For the record, Butch’s system consists of a Windows Vista laptop that connects to the Internet one of two ways: 1) through a Verizon MiFi or, 2) through a WiFiRanger Go2 into a WiFiRanger Mobile into a DSL WiFi gateway of unknown make and model. Jim also tried connecting through the WiFi hotspot on his Android-based smartphone. Same result. Mixed in with work we had a great visit with Jim and hope to meet up with he and Chris at least once while they are in Q.
After Jim left Linda and I were headed in to have a bite of lunch when an unfamiliar car pulled into the lot. Barb was by the road and pointed the driver in our direction. We quickly realized that it was Mara. She had called Linda first but Linda did not hear the phone ring so it was a wonderful surprise when she showed up. We visited for a couple of hours while we snacked on hummus, pretzels, and red grapes.
Mara is camped on BLM land north of town with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) and has been traveling off and on with groups of WINs since we last saw her in Gillette, Wyoming in July 2013. Since that time she has also gotten a different motorhome, a 35′ Fleetwood Bounder, with which she is very pleased. She invited us to join a group of WINs on Sunday to go to The Desert Bar and I think we will. Linda checked it out online and it is a completely solar-powered, off-the-grid, place. You have to take dirt roads or ATVs to get there.
It appears that things are finally going to get busy for us. Gary, from BCM, is supposed to arrive tomorrow and Curtis, from RVillage, is supposed to arrive on Saturday. Forrest and Mary are already here as are Chris and Cherie of Technomadia. The Escapees RV Club has happy hours scheduled tomorrow and Thursday at one of the BLM areas east of town. Blythe, California has a bluegrass festival starting Friday and running through Sunday. We will probably go on Friday as there is also a Balloon Festival in Lake Havasu the same three days which we will probably attend on Saturday. Somewhere in there I need to repair our Aqua-Hot and I am thinking that it will probably be Thursday. The “Big Tent” Sports, Vacation, and RV Show starts on Saturday (17th) and runs through the Sunday the 25th. Marilyn arrives on the Thursday the 22nd and leaves on the Thursday the 29th. The last full week of January really is the peak of the winter season in Q.
After Mara left I used my macro lens to photograph the front and back of both of our amateur radio operator licenses. I post-processed the images to improve the readability and reduce the file size. Once I had the photos ready I downloaded and installed the EchoLink software on my Asus laptop. I went through the initial configuration for my license and tried the server connection test. As with Butch’s installation, two of the four UDP port tests failed. I ignored that for the moment and went ahead with the validation procedure for my ham license.
Anyone can download and install the EchoLink software but only licensed hams can legally use it. That is because it can, and often does, connect a computer to a ham radio repeater that is “on the air” and only licensed hams are allowed to transmit on those frequencies. Validation was a multi-step process. When first starting EchoLink I had to supply my FCC callsign, name, and (base station) location. That information was transmitted to a database on the EchoLink servers but the EchoLink organization needed to validate that I was actually the person to whom that callsign was issued. Through a separate process on the EchoLink.org website I had to upload JPEG image files of the front and back of my wallet license. Once someone examined the images and made sure the call was active in the FCC database they “flipped the switch” on the server side and I was finally able to connect to stations if I wanted to. I repeated the process later for Linda’s license.
While I was waiting to have my license validated I started trying to figure out how to get the EchoLink program to connect successfully to the EchoLink servers. When th