Category Archives: Bus Barn – Workshop

Special Blog Post for 202211(15-30) – Accessory Building Project Update

[ Note:  This post mainly consists of 26 photos with captions.  All of them were taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone and processed using Faststone Image Viewer. ]

 

TUESDAY 15 November – WEDNESDAY 30 November

As previously noted, the electrical service entrance was prepared on Thursday, November 10.  By this time, the weather was changing, becoming cold enough that I could no longer paint.  Any painting that remained to be done, such as the outside of the two interior shop/storeroom walls, and the sides of the staircase, would have to wait until spring 2023.  With my painting activities curtailed for the winter, and with the electrical service entrance work done, I turned my time and attention to designing the electrical plan for the building using QCAD.  Indeed, I started with the building floor plan, turned off details that were not relevant, and added new layers for all of the electrical stuff.  Outlets, switches, a sub-panel for the shop/storeroom, and wiring would be fairly straight forward; it was just a matter of how many devices, where they would be placed, and how/where the wires would be run.  Lighting, on the other hand, lead me down something of a rabbit hole researching lighting requirements and fixtures.

With a 16’ clearance to the bottom of the roof trusses, I need to use “high bay” light fixtures for the RV bays.  These fixtures are much brighter (8,000 to 35,000 lumens) than the typical “shop/utility” tube lights used in many residential garages and workshops (2,000 to 4,500 lumens).  Selecting fixtures that will work the way I need them to, required me to jump back into lighting parameters such as illumination (in lumens), color temperature (in degrees Kelvin), Color Rendition Index (CRI), beam patterns and coverage (as a function of height above the working surface), mounting/wiring methods, suitability for use in unconditioned spaces (the RV bays), and energy efficiency.  The last one was easy, as all of the lighting that I install will be LED, which has a 10:1 energy advantage over tungsten filament bulbs.  (LEDs use ~1/10 the energy of a tungsten light source for the same amount of illumination, or provide 10x the amount of illumination for a given energy consumption.)  LEDs also have a lifespan that is 10 to 50 times that of tungsten bulbs, and come in a variety of color temperatures, specifically 5,000 K (Daylight) which is appropriate for areas where work is being done.  A comparison to fluorescent lighting would probably be more appropriate, but LEDs still come our way ahead on all of these parameters.  I will have more to say on this subject once I have actually selected light sources.

 

The electrical service work (meter box, load center, and one duplex outlet) was inspected and approved on Wednesday, November 16.  This was a critical milestone in the project, as DTE Energy won’t do anything relative to getting power to the building unless/until this work is completed, inspected, and approved.  I e-mailed the DTE planning consultant (John B.) late in the evening to let him know this work was done.  Following this approval, I purchased the 2” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit and couplers from City Electric Supply in Waterford, Michigan.  They did not have the sweeps I needed, or the 22.5-degree elbows.  I found the sweeps at Lowe’s and/or Home Depot, but had to order the 22.5-degree elbows online (Amazon).

 

MONDAY 21 November

In spite of the cold weather, and 4” – 5” of snow on the ground, there was work that had to be done.  On the couple of occasions when it had snowed prior to today, I used a gasoline powered backpack leaf-blower to remove the snow from the electrical cable paths from the existing utility pole to the house (which had been marked by MISS DIG 811) and the area from the pole to the barn where I intended to dig a trench and install the conduit for the electric service entrance cable.

I had a few errands to run today, and when I returned I found two DTE subcontractor trucks parked in the street in front of our house, with one of them blocking the first driveway entrance.  That wasn’t a problem, as the bus is currently parked in front of the house and I had no immediate use for the first entrance.  Still, I was curious why they were there so I walked over and talked to the guy in the lead truck.

They had spent the morning working at our neighbor’s house across the street.  Our neighbors are the third owners of the first house built in this subdivision.  Built in the late 1960’s, the house still had its original 240/120V, 100A electrical service.  They are upgrading it to 200A, and that meant a new main panel, a new meter/box, a new transformer, and new cable from the pole to meter.  Their existing service was overhead wires from the pole to the house, but DTE will not upgrade those wires.  As with new construction (like our barn), they will only run cable underground from the pole/transformer to the meter on the side of building.  They also install a terminal strip on the pole a few feet below the transformer and connect the wires from the house and the transformer together at the terminal strip.  These particular sub-contractors where an “underground” crew and had spent the morning digging a trench from the pole to the meter location, installing direct-burial cable, leaving enough of it coiled up on a hangar on the pole to reach the terminal strip, and then back-filling the trench.  A DTE crew will come out and remove the old overhead cable and transformer, mount the new transformer and terminal strip, route the new cable up the pole, and make all of the connections.

The sub-contractors were on a break, and I asked if the guy would be willing to take a few minutes to look at my situation.  The thing that has been a source of confusion for me was where to end the trench/conduit, and what direction it should be pointed.  My DTE planning consultant had simply indicated “about 10’ from the existing pole.” But that lacked the specificity that I wanted as we were (apparently) also getting a new/taller utility pole that would (probably) be installed “about 5’ to either side of the existing pole.”  It would, of course, be in line with the existing overhead cables (power, broadband, and phone).  I knew that DTE would also install a ground mounted junction box/pedestal and that the wires from the house, barn, and transformer would be joined in this box.  But it was not clear exactly where the pedestal would be placed relative to the existing pole, much less the new pole in an as yet undetermined location.  My confusion/concern was also partly fueled by not having ever dealt with this before and not understanding exactly what was actually going to happen.

The sub-contractor looked at my proposed path and filled in a few critical pieces of missing information.  I learned that the junction box would (likely) be installed about 3’ from the new pole, directly away from the edge of the driveway.  If I located the end of the conduit in-line with a line offset from the existing pole by 3’, and stopped a few feet short of the possible closer junction box location, it would be a perfect setup for a crew (like his) to do what they need to do.  I also learned that they will NOT install additional conduit from my conduit to the junction box; all the cable they use is rated for “direct-burial” and does not actually require conduit.  (Conduit is nice, however, especially in rocky soil or other situations where it might be subject to damage.)  They will simply trench from the end of my conduit to the junction box/pedestal location, as well as from the pedestal location to the new pole location.  Finally, he assured me that I would not have any difficult bending the 2” Schedule 40 conduit along my indicated path.  Based on what I learned, I staked out the actual path for the trench/conduit from the barn to near the existing utility pole, using landscape flags.

 

TUESDAY 22 November

Today was spent digging a trench and installing approximately 90 feet of 2” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit, including a 36” radius sweep (quarter circle) and a 12” long 22.5 deg elbow.  The conduit will house the service entrance cables that the power company will run from the pole to the building.

My friend and fellow converted bus owner, Marty, who is a licensed electrician, agreed to come over and help with this task.  I was glad to have the help.  The work proved to be quite physical, and often required coordinated effort; I doubt that I could have accomplished it by myself.  Linda also helped, off and on throughout the day, taking breaks from her accounting work to take photos, fetch things that we needed from the garage, fixing a light lunch, and taking on the task of cleaning the rented trencher with our power washer once we were done digging.  (We had chosen this day to do the work because the high temperature was going to be well up in to the 40’s.)

But before that happened, I used yellow marker paint (spray can designed to work when inverted) and “painted” the path that I had marked with flags yesterday.  I then unloaded the 36” trencher from the trailer as I wanted to be ready to work as soon as Marty arrived around 9 AM.

 

On Monday evening, November 21, I rented a 36” trencher from the local Home Depot for 24 hours.  This would allow us to use the machine all day and still be able to clean it and return it on time.  (The 24-hour rental was only 22% more than the 4-hour rental.)  This particular machine digs a trench approximately 5-1/2” wide.  This photo is from 8:30 in the morning as I prepare to back the trencher off of the tilt-bed trailer, which was part of the rental.  The machine was chained down to the trailer for transport.  The only issue I had was releasing the tension on the front chain, but I eventually figured out how to loosen it.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

I had never operated a piece of equipment like this, but last night I studied the directions that came with it, and it seemed straight forward enough.  In this photo, I have backed the trencher up enough to cause the trailer bed to tilt down and touch the ground so I could back the trencher off onto the driveway.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

Marty and I decided to dig the trench for the conduit starting at the meter and working towards the utility pole.  In this photo, I am driving the trencher over to the meter box location.  Although not obvious from these photos, the overnight low temperature was in the low 20s (F) and the ground was initial quite firm.  It was not deeply frozen, however, and was easily dug.  By late morning the temperature had risen above freezing and we had a clear sky with a bright sun.  All of the areas of bare dirt (not grass) within a 15-foot radius of the meter box turned to mud, which only got worse as the day went on, with a high temperature in the low 40s (F).   (Photo by Linda.)

 

When digging, the trencher is driven backwards.  The operator stands on the platform at the rear and can see the digging chain when it is raised, but cannot see it when it is lowered.  I’ve just dug a short section of trench coming out from the riser conduit into the meter box, and have lifted the chain out of the ground.  Where the chain meets the body of the trencher (yellow) a horizontal auger is just visible.  When digging, the auger moves all of the dirt off to the left (when facing forward).  Visible on the safety bar above the blade is a piece of white tape.  It was already there when I picked up the machine, but turned out to correspond to an ~27’ trench depth, which is what we were aiming for.  DTE Energy requires the top of the conduit to be at least 24” below grade.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

I did not get a photo of the control panel, but it consisted of a choke and throttle for the engine, a control lever to lower/raise the blade, two drive controls for the left and right drive treads (like a bulldozer), and a lever to engage/disengage the chain.  The engagement lever moved sideways, and had to be pulled over with my right hand and held there while also operating the right drive tread.  It was actually easier than it sounds, and I got the hang of operating this beast fairly quickly.

 

Marty spots me to get the tip of the blade as close as possible to the riser conduit into the meter box, and let me know when the blade was at the correct depth.  (When the blade was lowered and digging, I could not see any of it, including the piece of white tape that served as our depth gauge.)  Because the trencher is driven backwards while digging, I was able to see the yellow stripe (about 2” wide) through the operator platform, which was perforated and ridged for good traction.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

Conduit assembly started at the meter box end.  I held a 36” radius sweep against the riser conduit into the meter box with the other end at the bottom of the trench while Marty marked the point where we needed to cut the riser so we could join it to the sweep.  The upper portion of the riser had a threaded fitting already installed into the meter box.  A nut inside the meter box threaded onto the fitting to secure the riser to the box.  (We set the lower portion of the riser aside after cutting it, and eventually used it as the last piece of conduit at the pole end.)  In this photo, we are adding a 22.5 deg elbow to the end of the sweep.  I held one end of the sweep against the side of the barn so that it was parallel (vertical) while the other end rested on the concrete apron (horizontal) and Marty loosely fit them together and marked them at the position where the elbow was flat on the concrete and bending in the correct direction.  We then lay the pieces down on the apron for assembly.  We could not trench in a direct line from the meter box to the pole because of several trees, but the combination of the sweep and the elbow got the conduit pointed in the direction of the straight portion of the trench.  Part of the trench is visible behind Marty.

 

This is a view of the trench from near the existing utility pole.  (This pole will be replaced with a taller one located within 5 feet either side of the existing one.)  The end of the conduit is propped up above the trench so we can add an additional piece to it.  The first 30’ (approx.) after the sweep/elbow is straight and angled away from the trees.  It then curves around the trees in a broad sweep.  At the pole end, the conduit is running approximately parallel to the edge of the driveway and about 3 feet farther away than the pole.

 

DTE requires a minimum depth of 24” from grade to the top of the conduit.  This photo shows that we are at 27” (the trench depth varied from 27” to 30”).  A single piece of this 2” Schedule 40 PVC conduit does not appear to be at all bendable.  However, the DTE contractor that was here yesterday assured me that a longer run would bend just fine for the curve I had marked out.  We added two 10’ pieces (“sticks”) at a time, and then pulled it around into the trench with no difficulty, keeping the free end out of the trench and resting it on a shovel handle set across the ditch so we could install the next piece(s).

 

This is the utility pole end of the trench/conduit.  The stake marks the end of the conduit.  We used a 125’ steel “fish tape” to pull a 100 foot, 7/16” rope through the conduit from the pole end and into the meter box.  (This rope has a 300 lb. pull strength.)  Marty handled the meter box end while I fed the rope into the conduit.  There was approximately 4 feet of rope at the meter box, which Marty wrapped around the meter socket before putting the cover back on.  I had about 6 feet of rope at the pole end, which is just visible in the lower right corner of the photo.  The white object in the trench is a cotton rag that I stuffed into the end of the conduit to keep dirt out.  The end of the conduit is about 6 feet from the existing utility pole (5’ to the west and 3’ to the north.  Everything after this will be done by DTE or their sub-contractors.

 

WEDNESDAY 23 November to MONDAY 28 November

I was sick with an upper respiratory viral infection during this time (and beyond), and nothing else much was accomplished on the barn.  I did learn on Monday that the ETA for the two large roll-up doors is now December 28 (of this year).  I also emailed our DTE planning consultant to let him know the conduit was installed in the trench and included pictures, as requested.  He indicated that he would (finally) do our plan/quote on Monday, November 28.   On Monday, I also heard from Phil at Precision Grading that he would have the 21aa stone delivered tomorrow and be on site to finish the west pull-through driveway extension to the barn.

 

TUESDAY 29 November

Phil arrived around 10 AM.  He got his front-loader and bulldozer unloaded from his equipment trailer and then unloaded a large roll of road/construction fabric from the box of his dump truck using forks on the front-loader.  I made myself available to help with placing the road/construction fabric, but otherwise spent most of the day cleaning up the dirt along both sides of the conduit trench.  This included gathering up medium-to-large rocks and using them as fill for the somewhat larger hole near the meter and along the first 5’ of the trench.  I took occasional breaks to take photos of the driveway work.  We both finished up around 4:30 PM.  It was a long, hard day, but a lot got accomplished.

 

This is a view looking SW from the SE corner of the bar showing the first pieces of road fabric in place on the “1×3” stone and crushed concrete base layer.  Phil is standing in front of the front loader at the left of the photo.  His dump truck and equipment trailer are in the street.  The bulldozer is barely visible at the far corner of the barn.

 

This is a view looking W from near the existing utility pole at the edge of the existing west pull-through driveway.  The area covered by the road fabric is the new driveway extension/approach for the barn.  This is where most of the new gravel will be placed.  This new area will slope down to the SW, away from the barn and from the yard to the right in this photo.  (Note that the yard to the right will drain to the NW and surface water will flow N along the east side of the barn and then flow W past the rear of the barn.  Phil had previously graded the area around the barn, but will return at some point to add soil and regrade this area to ensure proper drainage.)

 

This is a view looking NE from the SW corner of the existing pull-through driveway.  The curved edge of the new area to the left is to accommodate the left steer tire of the bus when swinging around from the pull-through driveway to pull into the left RV bay.

 

This is a view looking SE from the SW corner of the barn.  The pull-through driveway slopes down from just before the existing utility pole all the way to the street.  The yard on the other side of the new driveway extension slopes towards the camera and to the left.  The new driveway extension slopes away from the barn and away from the yard to the right and down towards the street.

 

This is a view looking SW as the gravel train prepares to back into the driveway and dump the gravel from the rear trailer.  Phil will help the driver get it positioned so that the gravel pile is mostly on the road fabric.

 

The first load of stone has been dumped and the truck is pulling out while lowering the trailer box.  The driver pulled to the far side of the street and then unhooked the rear trailer so he could back in and dump the main truck box.

 

This is the second load of stone and is being dumped from the actual dump truck.  The two piles of gravel visible here contain a lot more gravel that it might appear (approximately 20 cubic yards, or about 60,000 pounds).

 

In this photo, Phil is using the front loader to scoop up the gravel and move it to various locations on the road fabric.

 

Here, Phil is using the front-loader to deposit/spread the 21aa stone.

 

Phil needed more stone to finish the job.  He had some at his shop, which isn’t too far from our property, so he dropped his equipment trailer and took his dump truck to get it.  His stone is darker than what was delivered earlier, due to being a bit wet.

 

Once all of the gravel was placed and spread somewhat evenly, Phil switched to the bulldozer to grade it.

 

Besides getting a relatively flat surface and consistent thickness, Phil used the bulldozer to carefully grade the stone along the edges.  The bulldozer is very heavy, so it also created some compaction of the stone.

 

Buy the end of the day, the new driveway extension was a surface that could be driven on comfortably, but was not as compacted as I wanted it to be.  In the next few days, I would use the F-150 to drive back and worth over the gravel from a variety of directions to pack the surface, but that’s for a future post.

 

WEDNESDAY 30 November

One of the carpenters from Patriot Builders was here today to install the locking door knobs and deadbolts for the entry, shop, and storeroom doors.  The three door knobs and two deadbolts (shop and storeroom) were all keyed alike.

 

Exterior view of the shop door with the locking door knob and deadbolt installed.

 

Exterior view of the storeroom door with the locking door knob and deadbolt installed.

 

Interior side of the entry door with the locking door knob installed.  Besides the window, this door has deeper jams to match the thickness of the wall, protruding 1/2” into the interior to accommodate drywall or plywood, should we wish to add that in the future.

 

The exterior side of the entry door with the locking door knob installed.  This slightly broader view shows the panel detailing on the lower portion of the door and a bit more of the window.

Special Blog Post for 202211(01-14) – Accessory Building Project Update

[ Note:  This post consists of 13 photographs with captions.  All photos were taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone and post-processed with Faststone Image Viewer. ]

 

TUESDAY 01 – MONDAY 14 November

 

A view of the shop looking toward the NE corner from the door in the SW corner.  The ceiling/joists and walls have been primed with Killz-2 using an airless sprayer and then painted with Valspar Pro Storm Coat Exterior semi-gloss acrylic white paint.  The spray nozzle clogged frequently and the whole process was messy and inefficient.  Still, it was probably better than doing the joists and the OSB on the ceiling with a brush and roller.

The stairs to the storeroom.  The risers have been primed and painted white.  The treads have been primed and painted light gray using Valspar Pro Deck, Floor, & Porch anti-skid paint.  The stair walls and the spaces at either end of each step have been trimmed in 1x pine but have not yet been primed/painted.  The doors for the shop and storeroom have been installed.

The extension of the west pull-through driveway to the front of the barn.  Phil (Precision-Grading) was here most of the day on the 5th, initially redistributing the 1×3 crushed concrete based, and then finish grading the dirt on the other three sides of the barn.

The view of the accessory building from the NW after the finish grading.  The grades on the E, N, and S sides were sloped away from the building a bit more and tapered gradually into the existing terrain.  That created some extra dirt in addition to the large and small piles that were already there.  Phil had me designate low areas to fill in, and I selected ones that were both obviously in need of some fill and not too far from the building to make it efficient for him.

The main/permanent entry door for the barn.  The carpenters removed the temporary one and replaced it with this one.  Besides the class window, this door has extra deep jams which will allow it to be properly finished off if I ever decide to install paneling/drywall and trim.

Looking straight up the stairs to the storeroom, the risers and trim have been primed/painted white and the treads have been primed/painted light gray with anti-slip floor paint.  Although not visible, the landing at the top of the stairs and the floor of the storeroom have also been primed and painted with the light gray anti-slip paint.  Everything will have two coats of paint when the job is done, although some of that might not happen until spring 2023.

The carpenters trimmed between the OSB and the stairs, under the trim on the top and front of the walls, and along the floor.  I was able to get all of this primed and painted (one coat) before the weather turned too cold.  The Valspar Pro Storm Coat paint can be applied down to 35 degrees (F), but the weekend after these photos were taken, the lows started dropping into the mid-to-low 20s (F) at night and only rising into the 30s during the day.  That signaled the end of the painting until spring.  As is obvious in these photos, the larger walls that enclose the shop and storeroom have not been primed and painted yet, a big job that will have to wait until next year.

The electrician (Bill) was finally able to fit our barn into his extensive commitments and install the service entrance.  Seen here is the meter can and riser conduit on the SE corner of the building.

The meter can with the cover removed.  The black and red wires are the two ‘hot’ leads (L1 and L2) and the bare aluminum wire is the neutral, all going to the load center on the other side of the wall.  The conduit lower/left is where the wires from DTE will come into the meter can and attach to the lugs at the top of the box.  The meter blades will plug into the four vertical spring-slots and then the cover will go back on and be secured by DTE.

The electricians had to chisel out part of the foundation to allow the riser conduit descend vertically (more or less) below ground level.  I will install the 2” Schedule 40 PVC Conduit that connects to this pipe and runs through the yard to junction box by the utility pole (once it is installed).  I will rent a trencher from The Home Depot in Howell for this work.  The horizontal white device is just a clamp for the ground wire.  The wire coming up from this device goes through the wall and into the bottom of the load center; it does not go through the meter can.  It leaves the clamp through the bottom and then runs to the right where it attaches to two, 8’ long copper ground rods driven into the ground next to the foundation.

The top few inches of both ground rods are visible, as is the bare copper ground wire that connects them to the ground bus (and case) of the load center.

Shown here is the Siemen’s 240/120V – 200A Load Center.  The service entrance cable and ground wire come through the wall and up into the bottom of the load center.  Just visible at the top/right is a yellow 12-2+G Romex cable that feeds a duplex outlet out of sight to the left of the photo.

I put in a request for the Miss Dig 811 service late last week with a work start date of November 10.  I had to create an account and do the whole thing online, but it was otherwise a fairly smooth process.  The only caveat was that I could not draw the work area polygon using the pencil on my iPad Pro and ended up having to do the whole thing on my laptop computer.  The confirmation said the site would be marked not later than 12:57 PM on November 10.  The utility location service showed up around noon on that date, and was done before one o’clock.  The flags and paint for the DTE electric (magenta) and the AT&T phone (orange) cables to the house are marked.  (The AT&T cable is no longer in use.)  We have natural gas and broadband cable on the property as well, but they are on the other end of the house, well away from the work area, and did not need to be marked.

 

Blog Post for 202210(18-31) – Accessory Building Project Update

[ Note:  This post covers updates on the accessory building (barn) project for the 14 days from Tuesday, October 18 through Monday, October 31, 2022.  There are three photos with captions. ]

 

TUESDAY 18 October

The accessory building (barn) is so close to being done that I am getting a bit impatient for it to actually be finished.  Which is to say, to have all of the stuff the builder is taking care taken care of.  Once he is done, there will still be a lot for us to do, but most of it cannot be started until all the permitted details are complete and he has gotten the final inspections.  Top of the list, for me, is all of the electrical work that I still have to do, and the first step is arranging for our electric utility, DTE Energy, to run power to the building.  I put in my service request with them on Wednesday, October 12, and expected to hear back from a planning consultant not later than tomorrow.  I now have to design the electrical plan, which I will do in QCAD (the same software I used to design the building).

In the meantime, the one thing I can do is prime and paint the walls in the shop and storeroom, as well as the risers on the stairs, and then prime and paint the floor in the storeroom and the treads on the stairs.

 

WEDNESDAY 19 October

The HVAC technician (Mike) from Lakeside Services (Lakeside Heating and Cooling) arrived around 1 PM today to service the Bosch hot-water baseboard heating system for the house, and the heating portion of the Bryant HVAC unit for the library.  He was here until about 3:30 PM.

I spent most of the day at my desk working on the final post for our trip and a parallel post for the activities this past week related to the accessory building (barn) project.  I knew that the electrician might be here sometime this week, and by mid-afternoon I had it in the back of my mind that I should   check to see if he was on site.  I went outside around 2:45 PM and saw several vehicles down by the barn, so I walked down to check it out.  I could hear the unmistakable sound of a circular saw, so figured it was probably not the electrician.  I was right.

What I found instead were three vehicles and three carpenters.  The crew chief was Rob, who is Patriot Builders lead finish carpenter.  (Chuck, the owner, is a framing carpenter, and Garrett, who I met last week, does both framing and finish work.)  A bit to my surprise, they were installing OSB on the inside of the studs for the sides of the staircase, and also installing OSB on the interior of the shop and storeroom walls.  I had not realized they were going to finish off the stairs, and had (apparently) forgotten that they were going to finish off the walls.  All of which was great.  I had a brief, but very nice, chat with Rob and then left them to work in peace without any more interference from me.  I texted Chuck to let him know the guys were here and that I met them briefly.

 

THURSDAY 20 October

Sometime around this date the DTE planning consultant assigned to our work order showed up on site (unannounced).  I was in the middle of painting, but obviously stopped to give him whatever time he needed.  We had a very nice chat about what I was trying to accomplish.  By the time he left, it was clear that he wanted to have DTE run power to the barn from the same transformer that powers the house.  It also appeared that he had determined that we needed a larger transformer, but also needed a new utility pole, possibly taller than the current one, located within ~5 feet of the current one.  As best he could tell from the ground, he thought our current transformer was 10KVA and said something about switching it to a 25KVA.  He indicated that wire from the junction box to the barn would be $10/foot (I would need close to 100 feet) and there would be a charge for the new/larger transformer, but probably not more than $1,500.

I pointed out that the house already has a 240V/200A main load center and 240V/100A, secondary load center (not a subpanel), and that the barn would have a 240V/200A load center as well.  I noted that 24KVA is only 100A at 240V (or 200A at 120V), so a 25KVA transformer would still be far below the capacity of my three load centers, and that my total existing loads exceed the load center capacities.  This is actually typical, as load centers never draw their full rating, and probably rarely draw half of their full rating for more than a short period of time.  Still, as long as we are going to the trouble and expense of doing this work, I wanted to make sure the new transformer was adequately sized.  (My research later revealed that the next size up from DTE is 50KVA.)

As I understood the order of events, it would go something like this:  0) Get confirmation that the meter can, load center, and an outlet have been installed in the barn by a licensed electrician and the installation has been inspected and approved by the permitting authority (Livingston County Building Department, in this case).  1)  Deliver new pole to the site.  2) Install the new pole, transformer, and terminal strip.  3) Install a junction box in the ground about 5 feet from the new pole.  4)  Disable the power to the existing transformer.  5)  Move the existing wires to the new pole.  6) Run wires from the new transformer to the terminal strip.  6) Run new/large wires down the pole from the terminal strip to the junction box.  7) Connect the existing wires from the house to the junction box.  8)  Pull the new wires for the barn from the meter box to the junction box.  (I will have the 2” PVC conduit already installed in a trench.)  9)  Install the new meter for the barn.  10)  Energize the new transformer.

He indicated that it would likely be a month before this got done, but to get the process moving along, and provide me with the cost estimate, he needed the LOAD SHEET, asap.  He also ‘suggested’ that I include any/every thing I thought I ‘might’ possible ever want to power.  I got the sense that this LOAD SHEET was part of a justification/approval process for the cost of whatever work has to be done, determining what our share of that initial cost will be, and what payback the utility company can expect.

I already had the LOAD SHEET pdf, and it indicated that most of it has to be filled out and signed by a licensed electrician.  I explained that the meter can and load center were being handled by the builder’s electrician, but that I did not have my own electrician for the job.  I explained that I have an EE background, but am not an electrician, and asked it would suffice for me to fill it out myself?  He didn’t say ‘no,’ which I took to mean ‘yes,’ or at least ‘okay, not great, but I’ll work with that.’  He also made it clear he needed it sooner rather than later.

From this meeting forward, I continued painting during the day when it was warm enough and I had some daylight to work with.  In the evenings, I worked on determining the loads I would need to power and filling in the LOAD SHEET.

 

FRIDAY 21 October

The floor joists for the storeroom floor are exposed on the underside in the shop, and I do not plan to install a flat ceiling onto them.  With that in mind, I thought it might be easier to prime/paint the joists and the underside of the OSB storeroom floor with a paint sprayer.  I don’t own one and have never used one.  Thinking this might be a one-time use, not wanting to spend a fortune, and not having an air-compressor with adequate CFM or an oil/water separator/filter, I got a Wagner Control Pro 130 airless sprayer at the local Lowe’s.  I chose Killz-2 for the latex primer and Valspar Pro Storm Coat semi-gloss acrylic latex for the paint.  Even though I will be using the paint inside, this exterior paint is formulated to deal with outdoor temperatures with cracking.  It can also be applied down to 35 degrees (F), so well suited to what I needed to accomplish given the time of year.

 

FRIDAY 28 October

Towards the end of the afternoon, I finally uploaded the LOAD SHEET to my DTE planning consultant, along with an Excel Spreadsheet I had created to catalog my current and future loads, both for the house and for the barn.

 

MONDAY 31 October

For the balance of this post, I am going to just include a few photos.

The south/interior wall of the shop with a view through the door to the area under the storeroom stairs.  Closed-cell spray-foam insulation is visible between the floor joists for the storeroom above.  The walls have been spray-foamed and then covered with OSB.

The stairs leading up to the storeroom as seen from the large/west bay door opening.  The side paneling and studs have been removed under the high end of the stairs.  The area under the landing has never enclosed as the door the to shop is there.

The storeroom looking SW from the NE corner.  The floor has been masked off at the base of the walls for painting.  Likewise, the Velox sun-tunnel diffuser in the center of the ceiling has been masked off.  The transparent painter’s plastic had the unexpected benefit of spreading the light out more towards the walls.  The step ladder is a 6-foot model.  The ceiling height is ~7 feet.

 

202210(11-17) – Accessory Building Update

[ Note:  This is an update post on the accessory building (barn) we had built while we were traveling in Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England.  It is long, and contains 12 photos with captions. ]

 

TUESDAY 11 October

Our barn builder (Chuck) was due to come by today to meet with his insulation sub-contractor (Mike), and then meet with us.  He texted me mid-morning to let me know that he and Mike would be here at 11:30 AM.  Mike got here first, so I walked down to the barn and introduced myself.  Chuck showed up a few minutes later.  The three of us looked at the insulation part of the job, and discussed a few options.  When it sounded like we were all on the same page, I left them to discuss business.

The view of the SE corner of the barn, on a cloudy fall day, looking towards the NW from the existing driveway near the utility pole.

We were not insulating the entire barn (that would be a big/expensive job), but we were insulating the shop room on the main floor and the storage room above it.  The original plan was to spray foam the walls of both rooms with closed cell foam, and use blown-in insulation above the ceiling of the storeroom.  After talking it through, Chuck and Mike agreed that it made more sense to go ahead and spray foam the top side of the storeroom ceiling, which would have a layer of OSB on the underside anyway.  That would make the entire envelope for the two rooms really tight against air infiltration or leakage, so I was OK with that change.  (Note that the floor of the shop is concrete with 4” of foam insulation underneath.  The floor of the storeroom is plywood, and the joists are exposed and will not be insulated.)

Once Chuck and Mike were done, and Mike took off, Chuck, Linda and I walked the barn.  It was the first time since we left on our trip that we were able to talk to him face-to-face, and in the barn.  We had a few questions, which he answered, and there were a few details to discuss, which we did, and he gave us an approximate timeline to finish the job.

A closer view of the SE corner of the barn looking towards the NW.  The stairs to the storeroom are just visible through the large door for the smaller bay on the right.  The tall, narrow green trim on the side near the front of the building is the location of the electrical service entrance.

There was a modest list of smaller things that needed to be done, including removal of some of the OSB that currently enclosed part of the underside of the stairs to the storeroom (which my plans indicated should be open on both sides).  Most of the tasks should be completed by the end of October, but the job won’t be completely finished until the two large roll-up bay doors are installed sometime in November, the driveway and finish grading are completed, and the final inspections have taken place.  The driveway and grading work will happen as soon as Phil (Precision Grading) is available and the weather allows the work to be done properly.

 

Chuck indicated that the next building inspection might happen as soon as this coming Friday, but the storeroom ceiling had to be installed before the insulation could be installed.  The insulation will likely be installed early next week (if the storeroom ceiling is in), followed not too long after that by the electrician, who has to install the meter can, the 200A distribution panel, and one electrical outlet (per code).  The tunnels and diffusers for the four sun tunnels still have to be installed, along with three insulated entry doors:  The main entrance (between the two big bay doors) and the doors for the shop and storeroom.

 

WEDNESDAY 12 October

This view is of the entrance to the shop (main level) and the staircase going up to the storeroom, as seen from the east side (smaller RV bay).  The OSB enclosing the space under the stairs has been partially removed at my request.

The lead carpenter (Garrett, I think) and his two assistants were here today, so I walked down and introduced myself.  By the time I got to the barn, they had already installed the OSB ceiling in the storeroom, including the sun-tunnel and diffuser, and were working on cutting out the portion of the OSB on the sides below the staircase that I wanted removed.    I spite of having just the door opening (no windows) there was enough light to see clearly.  Artificially lighting will be needed, of course, but I was pleased with the effectiveness of the sun-tunnel/diffuser.  I only stayed a few minutes as they were clearly busy.  I texted Chuck to let him know they were here and that I had met them briefly.

 

THURSDAY 13 October

This view is of the entrance to the shop (main level) and the staircase going up to the storeroom, as seen from the west side (larger RV bay).  The OSB enclosing the space under the stairs has been partially removed at my request.  A small portion of the shop room is just visible through the door opening.

 Yesterday, I finally managed to get on the DTE website and locate the information I needed on the process/procedure for getting electrical power to the barn.  I had printed off the instructions and called one of the indicated numbers, but it was already after hours, so I had to wait until today to pursue this further.

 

After breakfast I made the call to DTE.  Actually, there were two phone numbers, one for commercial and one for residential.  I called the commercial number first, as that’s what the instructions seemed to indicate I needed  to do.  The voice menu made it fairly obvious that this number was for builders and I needed to call the residential number, so I did.

I spent about 15 – 20 minutes with Jennifer, the customer service representative, at the end of which time I had a work order number and a phone number for the service center.  She said to give them four business days to contact me, but to call them if I had not heard from them by then.  She reiterated the information in the website instructions:  I will have an initial phone call with a planning consultant and then do whatever I need to do as a result of that.  There will then be a site visit, after which we will have costs and then make decisions and service commitments.  Getting power to the barn is a big deal, and doing it in the best, but also most economical, way is important to the overall project, both in terms of  capability and cost.  There are really only two main options:  1) Have DTE run a cable to the barn from a transformer, or 2) Pull a cable from the house to the barn.  This second option does not involve DTE directly, unless we would need to upgrade the power to the house, which is likely.

This is a view of the 2nd story storeroom as seen through the door opening from the landing at the top of the stairs.  The two walls that are visible are the exterior walls of the barn.  Not obvious in this photo is that there is space between the wall studs and the exterior wall, eliminating any thermal bridging.  The white material on the walls is house wrap, and it extends around the two interior walls as well.  Besides providing a vapor barrier, the house wrap will prevent the spray foam insulation from contacting and adhering to the exterior siding.  The OSB ceiling has been installed along with the sun-tunnel and diffuser, which are nicely lighting the windowless space.

I think the most straight-forward approach would be to run power directly to the barn from the existing pole that feeds the house.  (This pole is actually closer to the barn connection point, at 88.5 feet, than it is to the house service entrance, at 95.5 feet.)  DTE might be able to piggyback off the existing transformer, install a larger transformer as a replacement for the current one and then piggyback the two feeds, or install a second transformer just for the barn.

Regardless of those options, which would be determined by DTE, we would end with a second meter.  Our neighbor has this exact setup, and the readings from the two meters are combined into a single residential rate bill.  The main disadvantage is that we would not have any backup power to the barn, at least initially, if the grid goes down.  That would be a major issue in terms of a heating system for the shop and storeroom, and more minor issue for the chargers that maintain the batteries in the bus and travel trailer.

The main advantage to pulling power from the house is that we have a 20 KW Kohler whole-house backup generator with grid-monitoring and an automatic-transfer switch.  One of the downsides, however, is that the closest straight-line distance between the house (garage) and barn is ~155 feet, and the required wire run could be 30 to 40 feet longer than that.  That’s a long run, and would require really large size wires in order to properly support the 240V/200A main distribution panel in the barn.  The other downside, which relates to the first, is that we already have a 240V/200A main distribution panel (for the house) and 240V/125A main distribution panel (for the garage and library).  I doubt that the existing service entrance cable from the transformer to the house is adequate for that total (525A) potential load.  Of course, some of the loads will be shifting location as I relocate the shop from the garage to the barn, and the reality is that we never draw anything close to 325A now.  And we never will, but everything has to be sized correctly to work safely as a system.  It’s going to be an interesting process, regardless of the final solution.

 

FRIDAY 14 October

This is the view from the landing at the top of the stairs to the storeroom, looking south toward the inside of the front of the barn.  The entry door is visible between the two larger bay door openings.  (The doors will not be available for installation until sometime in November, 2022).  The wall structure and headers over the large door openings are visible as are some of the roof trusses.  The trusses are set on a 24” spacing, and the bottom members of are 38’ long, spanning the 36’ width of the building with a 1’ overhang/soffit on each side.

Around breakfast time, I got a call back from Sharon in the DTE Northwest Planning office.  She confirmed that the work order for my service request had been created, and verified my information.  She followed that up with an e-mail giving me the name and contact information for the planning consultant (John) who will work with me.  She requested that I send/e-mail him a site plan and that it identify the location of the current electrical service (pole/transformer) and distances to the house (existing) and barn (new).

We were outside working on the trailer when a vehicle pulled in the driveway by the barn.  I suspected from the lettering on the doors that it was the Livingston County building inspector, who Chuck had indicated might be here this week, so I walked down and introduced myself.  He needed the approved plans for the building, which I did not have, but then he spotted the 2’ long piece of 4” plastic pipe with the rubber end caps, and surmised that the plans were probably in there.  I had picked up this tube on Monday when I saw it, but it was very light and I don’t recall opening it to see what was inside.  It was, indeed, the plans for the project, which were required to be on site at all times.

 

This is the view of the space under the stairs after some of the OSB has been removed from both sides.  Opening this up will allow me to keep rolling tool and parts carts here that I can easily move to the bus, trailer, or anything else I might have in the barn to work on.

I was helpful, to the extent I could be, but was careful not to say too much as I was not the builder and the permits were not issued to me.  The inspector was confused initially by a notation about a 12×42 something, until I explained that the building was sitting on 12”W x 42”D trenched concrete footing.  He then had a moments hesitation when he realized the 16’ tall 6×6 engineered posts did not extend below the surface of the concrete. (I think he was expecting this to be a pole barn.)  Again, based on my conversation with Chuck on Tuesday, I was able to explain the anchoring system used to secure the posts.  The only thing he found, and wrote up as a “deficiency,” was the lack of proper handrails on the stairs going up to the storeroom.  Deficiencies do not halt the project, but have to be taken care of before the final inspection.

 

I texted Chuck to let him know the inspector had been there and what he had cited.  Chuck called me back to discuss handrail options and we agreed on a straight wooden handrail with a gripable profile that could be applied to the top of the 2×4 cap that is already in place.

 

SATURDAY 15 October

Here’s another view of the space under the stairs as seen from the smaller/east RV bay near the shop and looking ~WSW.  A small portion of the low end of the staircase is still enclosed down to the floor to provide additional vertical strength (to prevent sagging and bouncing) and prevent any side-to-side motion.  The OSB on the sides is attached to 2×4 studs sitting on base plates that are anchored to the concrete floor.  I have been up and down this staircase several times, and it is very solid under foot.

My existing site plan for the barn project did not include the existing utility pole location, or distances to the house and barn service entrance points, that DTE needed, so I spent part of the day modifying my QCAD drawing to include those features.  Although I had determined the location and this pole, and the approximate distances involved, on more than one occasion, I was unable to immediately put my hands on that information.  It was thus easier, and less time consuming, at that point to get my 100’ tape measure and a stake, and just measure it again.

The distance to the service entrance point near the southeast corner of the barn was ~88’6” and the distance to the house service entrance point (southwest corner of the garage) was ~95’6”.  I had previously told DTE the distance to the barn was less than 100’, so I was relieved that this was actually the case.  Also, as the service entrance points were now both known locations, knowing the distances from each of them to the pole allowed me to draw auxiliary circles centered on each point with the corresponding radii, and thus accurately locate the pole on the drawing.  (I was pleased that the pole ended up adjacent to the north side of the west driveway, where it is actually located.)  While I was at it, I marked the (approximate) location of the other three utility poles on our property, as well as the pole just off our property near the northwest corner, and added notations for some of the other things on the drawing.  (The distribution line was already shown, as was the location of the Consumers Energy gas line.)  Once I was satisfied with the revised drawing, I saved it as a QCAD dwg file, and then again as an 11×17 PDF.  I then e-mailed the PDF to John, the DTE planning consultant.

 

SUNDAY  16 October

Here’s another view of the space under the stairs as seen from the larger/west RV bay and looking ~ESE.  A small portion of the low end of the staircase is still enclosed down to the floor to provide additional vertical strength (to prevent sagging and bouncing) and prevent any side-to-side motion.  The OSB on the sides is attached to 2×4 studs sitting on base plates that are anchored to the concrete floor.  I have been up and down this staircase several times, and it is very solid under foot.  There is still a small space enclosed on both sides where I could store something, but I have no idea at this point in time what it would make sense to keep there.

Today was Sadie’s 4th birthday party for family at her parents’ house in Ann Arbor.  (Her “Buddies party” was last weekend at Domino Farms).  On the drive home in the afternoon (Linda was driving) I texted Phil at Precision Grading, to let him know we were home and to check on the completion of the driveway and finish grading for the barn, as well as the possible timing for redoing our French Drain in the valley behind the house.  Phil has done all of our driveway and septic tank work since we bought the house, and built a French Drain for the west portion of our property that works really well.  But he is also the sub-contractor for the excavating, grading, and driveway work on the accessory building.  Indeed, Phil referred us to Chuck (the builder).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONDAY 17 October

This is a view from the staircase landing by the storeroom door looking down towards the large west bay door opening.  The trailer that is visible through the door opening holds the spray foam insulation equipment and materials.  There is a large air-compressor at the front of the trailer along with an air dryer.  The mixing unit in the center of the trailer draws the two chemicals out of 55-gallon drums (one is visible to right towards the rear) that weigh ~500 pounds when full.  The two chemicals are mixed in the spray nozzle at 1,200 PSI at the end of a heated hose bundle that keeps the materials at 110 degrees (F).  The Westinghouse portable generator sitting on the floor in the barn is rated at 28,000 Peak Watts and was used to run the equipment as we did not yet have power to the barn.  For comparison, our Kohler whole-house natural gas generator is rated at 20,000 Watts (continuous) and the genset in our bus, powered by a Yanmar 4-cylinder/4-stroke turbo-diesel engine rated at 28 HP, can produce 17,500 Watts (continuous).  Mike said the portable generator weighs between 500 – 600 pounds, and burns a bit gasoline when in use.

I had to drop-off the Airstream at the dealership in Grand Rapids today.  When I got home at 3 PM, there were two trucks and a trailer in the driveway by the accessory building (barn).  I suspected it was the insulation sub-contractor, as Chuck (the builder) had said last week that they would probably be here early this week.  I walked down to see, and that was, indeed, the case.  They were in the middle of spraying closed-cell foam in the shop, however, so I did not linger or talk to anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From left to right, the west (interior), north (exterior), and part of the east (exterior) walls of the storeroom after being spray foam insulated on the inside with two inches of closed cell foam.  Mike’s assistant is scraping off any foam that got on the interior face of the wall studs, or other surfaces that would prevent the OSB wall panels from being installed properly.

I went back down later when it appeared they were finished spraying, and got to see the finished result of their work.  I was also able to chat with Mike (the owner) and his assistant for bit while they were cleaning up the site and packing up their equipment.  Per his agreement with Chuck (the builder), Mike had foamed the walls to ~2” thick and the space above the storeroom ceiling to ~3” thick.  He had actually sprayed the exterior walls (two for each room) slightly thicker and the interior walls (two for each room) slightly thinner to maintain an ~2” average use of material.

Although I would have liked a thicker application of the spray foam everywhere, it would have cost more and wasn’t really necessary for the intended use of these spaces.  For much of the winter they will be maintained at 40 – 45 degrees (F) except when I want/need to work out there, and the amount of spray foam that is there will allow me to do that fairly economically.

This is the view looking NE from the shop door opening showing the spray foam insulation on the inside of the north and east exterior walls.

Phil (Precision Grading) called me around dinner time and we had a nice, long chat.  We don’t talk too often, as Phil is a very busy one-man business and works long hours, but we always have a good conversation when we speak.  Phil has done all of our driveway and septic tank work since we bought the house in February 2013.  He recommended Chuck (Patriot Builders) for our accessory building project, and is the sub-contractor for all of the excavating, grading, and driveway construction.  I also have him lined up to replace the failing drain in the valley behind the house with a properly constructed French Drain to get the water away from that part of the yard and out to the wetland at the northeast corner of our property and then into the pond to our east.  That was one of the reasons I had texted him yesterday.

20221011-17 – Post Trip Tasks (It’s Not Over ‘til It’s Over)

[ Note:  This is a long post without any photographs.  There will be a separate update post, with photos and captions, about the accessory building (barn) project. ]

 

TUESDAY 11 October

The driving portion of our grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England ended yesterday, but the trip itself wasn’t really over until all of the post-trip tasks had been completed.  This post covers the seven (7) days following our arrival back home.  A big part of returning home, of course, was the accessory building (barn) we were having built in our absence, but I will cover things related to that in separate, ongoing posts.

Top of the list was emptying out the trailer and moving back into the house, much of which we did as soon as we got home, and some of which I described in the post for October 10.  But there was a great deal more to do than I described there, and today we continued with the “things that must be done.”

Foremost for us was washing and Walbernizing the Airstream, as the weather forecast was for a dry, partly sunny day with an afternoon high temperature in the 70s (F).  But it wasn’t the only thing on the list; high on my list was laundry.  After coffee and bagels for breakfast, I sorted the soiled laundry into the requisite categories (white-hot, white-cold, dark-warm, dark-cold, bedding/linens-warm, and blankets/bedspreads-cold), and put the white-hot load in the washing machine.

Washing the Airstream wasn’t a matter of simply turning on the outside water.  I had to get the tall (8’) step ladder out of the shed, along with the 100’ hose/reel and one of the wheelbarrows (to use for moving stuff between the trailer and the garage).  We have a 2-tank water deionizing system, so I had to get that out of the library.  Other items included:  McGuire’s Automotive soap; the spray nozzle for the hose; the long-handle brush; the bucket for soap; and the medium (6’) step ladder, all of which had to be moved from the garage to the wash area in the driveway in front of the house (where the water faucet is located, and the gravel drains well).  And, I still needed to empty the three outside storage bays in the trailer, and empty out the back of the F-150.  Linda helped with many of these tasks, of course.

On top of all that, our barn builder (Chuck) was due to come by today to meet with his insulation sub-contractor (Mike), and then meet with us.  He texted me mid-morning to let me know that he and Mike would be here at 11:30 AM.   Tuesday was also grass mowing day, so our lawn care guy (Keith) would be showing up sometime around noon.  We have not seen him since the Tuesday just before we left in June, so we knew there would be some catching-up conversation.  Besides maintaining the yard, Keith had sent occasional photos of the progress on the barn.  At a minimum, he had already mowed more times than we prepaid, so we owed him payment for services rendered.

But I digress.  We wrapped up our conversation with Chuck, as described in the separate post on the barn project, and he went on to his next appointment.  By then, it was lunch time, so we had grilled cheese sandwiches.  Very tasty.  I transferred the laundry from the washing machine to the clothes dryer, and then we turned our full attention to washing the trailer.

While not as big as the bus, it was still a lot of work.  I started with the roof (of course), which required me to work from the 8’ ladder.  Even then, it was sometimes an uncomfortable reach to get to some of the areas, and almost impossible to reach others.  For as streamlined as the Airstream trailer is, the roof is littered with stuff that is not very aerodynamic, and is hard to clean.  Too make matters more difficult, walking on the roof is ill-advised, and you have to be very careful where you step.

Linda stayed on the ground (she doesn’t like ladders) and managed the soap bucket, brush, and hose.  The procedure was as follows:  climb the ladder, get the hose from Linda, spray an area, give the hose back to her, get the soapy brush from her, scrub the rinsed area, give the brush back to her, get the hose from her, rinse the area I just washed, and give the hose back to her.  Climb down the ladder, move it to the next location, and repeat; at least a dozen times, probably more.

(Once we have the bus and the trailer in the barn, I will be buying a taller step-ladder, probably 14 feet, and some sort of adjustable platform that can go between two ladders to provide a stable work surface.  Alternatively, I might but some scaffolding with wheels.)

Once the roof and the end caps were done, I could reach the rest of the body from the ground.  Working from the top down, I did the upper half and then the lower half.  (This is not true for the bus, as the upper half still requires a ladder or work platform.)

We were busy enough all day that I wasn’t keeping a close watch on the time.  I think we actually started washing the trailer around 1 PM and finished sometime around 5 PM, but that included an extended time-out to chat with Keith.  It was probably 5:30 PM or later by the time we had cleaned up our equipment and put everything away.  But the trailer was clean and ready for the Walbernize One-Step Cleaner & Sealer.

AMAZON was having their 2-day pre-something-or-other event today and tomorrow, so Linda put some things in our cart.  Among them was a new 2-slice toaster with openings wide enough to toast bagels.  It also had a bagel setting, so it would only toast on one side, essential for proper bagel toasting.  She also ordered a new frying pan, some baking sheets, and a pair of adjustable carbon-fiber walking/trekking poles.  I had been keeping an eye on a propane tank level monitoring kit.  It was still available, and still on sale for the same price I had seen previously, so I investigated a bit further into how it actually worked.  It turned out to use sonar, and was made by a company that makes various products using this technology for industrial applications, so I put it in the cart as well.

As I did not finish the post for this day until a week later, I no longer recall what we had for dinner, but whatever it was, I’m sure it was delicious, as always.  Being Tuesday, after dinner we watched the FBI shows on CBS.

 

WEDNESDAY 12 October

The forecast for today was for intermittent rain with cooler temperatures and overcast skies.  We had planned to treat the exterior aluminum on the trailer today with the Walbernize One-Step RV Cleaner & Sealer, but the weather was not conducive, either to the task or to our mood for doing it.  We were both a bit tired after the last two days, and decided to take it easier today.  Besides, I still had laundry to do, and wanted to work at my desk for a while to wrap up my blog post for Monday (October 10th).

I needed to get the F-150 in for service, specifically to have the brakes checked/repaired, so I called Brighton Ford and made that appointment for Monday 24 October.  We also needed to pick up Linda’s car, and our mail, from our daughter’s house, and drop off some gifts we had picked up in our travels.  Linda contacted her to check on timing and the reply was “any time after noon.”  It’s a nice, 45-minute, drive in the country to get to her house, so we timed our departure to arrive around 12:30 PM.

Before we left, however, I noticed a blue car in the driveway by the barn, so I walked down to see who was there.  There was at least one other vehicle there, and it was the lead carpenter and his two assistants.  I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes and then I left them to their work, which I will describe in separate posts about the barn project.

We visited with our daughter for a bit, but did not overstay our welcome as she was in the middle of a project.  She is redoing floors (wood and tile) and bathrooms (vanities, fixtures, wallpaper, etc.) and has already redone most of the lighting and installed smart switches and dimmers throughout the house.  She also put in remote controlled window shades, and has done a lot of painting.  She’s incredibly handy, has excellent taste and color sense, and is meticulous in her work.

On the way home, I ran some errands while Linda did some grocery shopping.  I topped up the fuel in the F-150 ($4.49 for regular / 87 octane) and then got the truck washed.  I used the same drive-through car wash I have used for a long time, but this time the final overhead brush in the drying area bent my antenna in two places.  That had never happened before, so something had obviously changed with their equipment.  But it won’t happen again, at least not there.  I did not even bring it to their attention (there would have been no point) and instead drove directly to Brighton Ford to see if I needed to add this to my service list for the 24th.  It turned out to be an easy, user-serviceable, job to replace the antenna, so I went to the parts department to get one.  They were on back-order (of course), so I ordered (and paid for) one.  I picked up a pair of replacement windshield wiper blades while I was there, and replaced them as soon as I got home.

Back at my desk, I finally managed to get on the DTE website and located the information I needed on the process/procedure for getting electrical power to the barn.  I printed off the instructions and called one of the indicated numbers, but it was already after hours, so this had to wait until tomorrow.  I will cover the details of this in my accessory building project update post, as all of this has to do with the barn project.

I did contact our friend, and fellow bus owner, Chuck (not-the-builder) to arrange a dinner get-together so we could catch up with him and Barb.  Saturday, 5 PM was agreed upon at the La Marsa in Brighton.  I also contacted our friend, and my former co-worker, Kate about getting together.  Tuesday the 18th was agreed to, with the place TBD.  Part of being gone for so long is that we were eager to reconnect with friends and family in person and (hopefully) they with us.

For dinner, we had breaded chicken cutlets, brown rice, and corn, with turkey gravy.  All vegan, of course, and all very tasty and satisfying.

After dinner, we had a ZOOM call with Paul and Nancy.  They had finally taken delivery of their 2022 Alliance Paradigm 370FB 5th wheel trailer (RV) and had it delivered to the RV park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where they plan to keep it, and will have it moved in/out of storage seasonally for their use.  They had been busy getting the things they needed for it, and getting it set up to live in.  It was great to chat again, and get a real-time video tour of the interior.  It was very nice, of course.

Wednesday is not one of our regular TV nights, but this past Sunday we missed the 3rd/final episode of Van Der Valk (for the season), so we streamed that.  It was followed by an episode of NOVA on Computers and Crime, so we watched that as well, and then went to bed.

 

THURSDAY 13 October

Today was someone’s 4th birthday; Happy birthday, Sadie Rose!  She was in pre-school all day, of course, so a happy birthday Facetime call had to wait until after dinner.

The weather forecast still had a possibility of rain today, so we deferred the Walbernizing of the trailer for another day.  Our main focus instead became finishing the job of completely emptying the inside of the Airstream and then thoroughly cleaning the inside as well as everything that had been stored in it, especially items that had to do with food (storage, preparation, consumption, cleaning, etc.).  That also included laundry, of course, which I continued to work on.  Before that happened, however, I was able to chat with Erich, the Service Manager at Woodland Airstream, about our upcoming appointment and list of issues, most notably the furnace and the transverse hump/bulge/ridge in the kitchen floor.

Breakfast was waffles with some of the Maple Butter we got at Domaine Acer in the Gaspé Peninsula.  It was just as delicious as we remembered, and brought us back briefly to the wonderful discovery of that place and its products.

After breakfast, I called the DTE phone number in the instructions.  Actually, there were two phone numbers, one for commercial and one for residential.  I called the commercial number first.  The voice menu made it fairly obvious that it was for builders, and that I needed to call the residential number, which I did.  I will cover the details of the conversation, and follow-up actions in my accessory building update post, as all of this had to do with the barn project.

As long as we were on a roll, we both logged in to our MyChart app on our iPads and set up our Annual Medicare Wellness Visits with the HFHS Columbus Medical Center Internal Medicine Department in Novi.  Our primary care physician retired in July, so we will both be seeing new, and different, doctors now.  I then used the CVS app on my iPad Pro to schedule both of us for our seasonal flu shots and the newest bi-valent CoVID-19 booster next week.

We also did a partial winterization of the fresh water system and the drain traps in the Airstream, which went something like this:  Drained the fresh water tank;  Opened the hot and cold low point drain valves;  Removed the drain plug from the water heater;  Used an air-compressor to blow out the fresh water lines and water heater as best we could;  Drained the little bit of water in the gray tank (onto the ground);  Filled the two sink traps and the shower trap with enough potable antifreeze to make sure some of it ended up in the gray tank;  Added potable antifreeze to the toilet flushed it into the black tank, and left some on top of the valve to keep the seal moist.  (The reason for the antifreeze in the waste tanks was to keep the knife valves from freezing if there was any residual water left in the tanks.)

Lunch was leftovers (chicken cutlet with gravy, rice, and corn).  Yum.

We were done working on the trailer by 5 PM, and ready to quite for the day.  We continued to be amazed by how much stuff we had brought into the house and garage as a result of emptying out the trailer and truck.  Linda continued to sort and separate stuff, setting aside things she does not intend to put back on board, and ran several loads through the dishwasher.  We wanted everything to be clean before we packed/stored it until the next time we use the tailer.  And at this point, we do not yet know when that will be, exactly or even approximately.

I was still working on this post the following week, and no longer recall what we had for dinner.  Whatever it was, it was undoubtedly good, after which we Facetimed with her Sadie, and sang happy birthday to her.

We didn’t have any Thursday evening TV programs we were watching at this point, so we streamed Masters of the Universe – Dr. Strange: The Multiverse of Madness.

 

FRIDAY 14 October

Around breakfast time, I got a call back from Sharon in the DTE Northwest Planning office, regarding the service request I had initiated yesterday.  More details about this call will be in the separate update post about the accessory building project.

Late morning, we finally got around to putting the Walbernize One-Step RV Cleaner & Sealer on the exterior of the Airstream.  It was cooler than we would have liked, and a bit breezy, which wasn’t great.  But it was also cloudy, which was good, as the product is not supposed to be applied in direct sunlight.  I worked on the upper half of the body, using a ladder, while Linda worked on the lower half from the ground.  It was an easy enough product to use:  wipe on, let dry to a haze (doesn’t take very long), and wipe off, always working with the grain of the aluminum.  The results are always very nice, and the body is slick to the touch afterwards, it’s just a lot of surface area and takes a while.

I was still working this post on Tuesday, the 18th, so I no longer recalled details of what we had to eat today, or other such minor considerations.  I do recall that after dinner we watched an episode of Star Wars: ANDOR and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and then the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show.  Our tastes in TV and movies are, if nothing else, eclectic.

 

SATURDAY 15 October

We were finally getting back into our normal “at-home” routine, starting the morning with coffee and our iPads.  Saturday mornings are also the weekly breakfast gatherings of members of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC).  We did not go today, but I am looking forward to resuming our attendance at these gatherings.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs (Just Egg) with bacon, two slices of toast (expertly toasted in our new toaster), and an orange, split equally between us.  There might have been orange juice involved as well, but I don’t recall at this point.

We had enough recyclables to warrant a trip to Recycle Livingston.  Our membership had expired last month, so Linda made out a check for the renewal before we left.

My existing site plan for the barn project did not include a few pieces of information that DTE needed.  I spent part of the day modifying my QCAD drawing to include those features and e-mailed it to the DTE planning consultant (John).  Further details about this will be in the accessory building project update post.

The final task in cleaning the Airstream was to apply 303 Aerospace Protectant for the window and door seals, and adjust one of the window latches.  It was chilly outside, so this was a less-than-completely-comfortable task, but I got it done.  Except for the seals for the three bay doors; I forgot to do those, and just let it pass for now.  The window seals tend to stick, but the bay seals do not, so it was merely for preventative maintenance and could wait until spring.

We both got showers and left around 4:40PM  to join our friends, Chuck and Barb, for dinner at La Marsa.  It was great to see them again.  We were glad we could all fit in dinner as quickly as we did, as they have an early November departure planned for their winter RV resort in Naples, Florida.  They plan to be back, however, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, so we should have another opportunity to get together with them yet this year.  The meal (food), however, was a disappointment.

We both had Koshary, a dish we have had many times at this, and other La Marsa locations, and it was not as good as normal.  The caramelized onions they put on top had been burnt to a crisp and were not tasty.  The dish has always included some amount of capellini (angel hair or fine pasta) but this time seemed to be made with spaghetti, which was too thick, and there was too much of it.  Linda also thought it had too much tomato paste, so both the taste and texture were “off.”  We didn’t complain, but I doubt that we will order it again any time soon.  They have other things on the menu that we can eat, and like, so we have not given up on the restaurant.  We were reminded, however, of how quickly a restaurant can lose their regular customers if someone is not paying attention to the consistency and quality of the dishes, especially ones (like Koshary) that are both signature items for this chain, and a dish we have never seen on a menu anywhere else.

Back home we watched Father Brown and Midsummer Murders on PBS.  Death in Paradise had been moved ahead of Father Brown and Broadchurch, which we had already seen, was put in the 10 PM time slot.  It was fabulous (another great Nicola Walker role), but we had no desire to see it a second time.  We might have streamed something else instead, but I no longer recall what we did.

 

SUNDAY 16 October

Today was our grand-daughter Sadie’s family birthday party and brunch.  She turned 4-years-old this past Thursday, and it was the first time we were able to see her, and big sister Madeline, (and son, Brendan and daughter-in-law Shawna) in person since we got home.  Our daughter (Meghan) and son-in-law (Chris) were there, along with Shawna’s brother, Rob, and his family (Becky, Jack, and Juniper).  It was nice to see everyone, the food was wonderful, and the kids made sure it was an energy-filled gathering.

On the drive home (Linda was driving) I texted Phil at Precision Grading, to let him know we were home.  Phil has done all of our driveway and septic tank work since we bought the house, and installed a French Drain in the west portion of our property that works really well.  But he is also the sub-contractor for the excavating, grading, and driveway work on the accessory building.  We are on his future project list to replace the drain in the valley behind the house with a proper French Drain, so I needed to check on that as much as anything else.

At home, I went ahead and put the stinger for the Propride 3P Hitch into the receiver of the F-150 and lined it up with the hitch on the Airstream.  Linda then came out and assisted with the actual hitching up process, following the procedure we had now used for almost four months.  With the trailer secured to the truck, we removed and stowed the chocks and the tongue jack stand, and the combo was ready to go in the morning.  I was going to finally need to use the Lot Bar, which we bought at the same time as the hitch in October 2019, so I made sure I had the necessary tools in the truck to install it once I got to the Airstream dealer tomorrow.

For dinner, Linda prepared home-made Raman from scratch (except for the noodles, of course).  It was amazing (naturally), and I suggested it be added to some regular menu rotation for the coming winter months.

Sunday evening is one of our two PBS nights, featuring Masterpiece Theater.  Tonight, was the first episode of the new season of Miss Scarlet and the Duke, followed by the premier of the Magpie Murders and then the US premier of Annika, staring Nicola Walker, whose work we have come to really enjoy and respect.

Tomorrow would be an early/busy day for both of us, so I set an alarm on my phone for 7 AM before turning in for the night.

 

MONDAY 17 October

I took today as the final day of our post trip tasks, as well as the resumption of some of our “at home” routines.  My me that meant taking the travel trailer to Woodland Airstream in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the scheduled appointment to take care of our list of service items before the factory warranty expired on November 8, 2022.  For Linda, that meant the first trip (of probably many) to Ann Arbor to provide child care for one or both of the younger grand-daughters while their parents worked.  Today, that meant watching (playing with) Sadie, as her Montessori pre-school was closed today.  She also had to hang around long enough to also spend time with Madeline after she got home from school while dad took Sadie to her ballet class.

I was scheduled to arrive at Woodland Airstream between 10 and 11 AM, and Erich (the service manager) had me on his calendar for around 10:30 AM to go over the repair list.  I pulled out of the driveway at 8:15 AM for the approximately 1-hour and 45-minute drive to the northeast side of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  There was a light mist as I pulled out, and I drove in and out of rain of varying intensity for the entire trip.  I missed the morning rush hour traffic in and around the Lansing, Michigan area, and the trip went smoothly even with occasional construction zones.

I arrived right around 10 AM to a very light-to-intermittent rain, and parked the truck-trailer combo in a convenient spot that was not blocking traffic or parked vehicles.  I checked in with Joyce, the service writer, and then checked in with Erich to see if they had chocks and blocks I could use to secure the trailer while I unhooked it.  (I did not want to leave my personal chocks or jack stand, if possible.)

It was probably 10:30, or a bit later, by the time I had the truck unhooked and the Lot Bar installed.  The Lot Bar is an accessory for the Propride 3P Hitch that allows the trailer to be moved around (at low speed) by a tow vehicle with a conventional trailer ball, such as on an RV dealer’s parking lot (thus the name of the device).  Woodland Airstream has several of these devices, but they now charge $50 to install and uninstall them.  Which is fair, as it involves some amount of time of their labor to do this if the customer doesn’t take care of it themselves.  I didn’t mind doing it, even in the very light rain, as I have had this accessory since we bought the hitch, and had yet to use it.  I knew exactly how it had to be installed, but had never actually done it.  It was very easy.  We never leave home without.  In the event that we had to have unexpected repairs attended to while traveling, it is highly unlikely that most RV service facilities would have one.

Erich met with me around 10:45 AM and I walked him through a few of the items on our list that I thought would make more sense if I could just have him look at something while I pointed to the problem area.  He was very attentive and, in spite of always being very busy, took the time and gave me his undivided attention.  I then met with Joyce to go over the paperwork, sign it, and give her the keys.  The estimated time to turn the trailer around was 3 to 4 weeks, but I told her we had no plans to use it again until spring, and it was fine with me if they took the time they needed to address everything correctly.  Most of the items were already identified as warranty, but I anticipate there will be things we have to pay for, beyond the winterization.  At a minimum, I want to get a couple of spare “sail switches” for the propane furnace and a spare fresh-water pump to carry as spare parts.

I had hoped to chat with Steve, our salesman, but he was tied up with a customer.  I was standing near the front door, waiting to see if Steve was going to have a break, but perhaps looking a bit lost, when a gentleman standing there asked if he could help me in any way.  Long story short, it was John, the CEO of Woodland Airstream, and the GM of the Grand Rapids location.  We had a really nice chat, but since he asked, I shared my concerns about the bulge in the floor.  He was confident they would be able to take care of it.  I made sure he knew how pleased we were with all of the employees we have interacted with, starting with our very first contact with Steve in August 2019.

Woodland Airstream recently opened a location in Indianapolis, Indiana and John said it was doing very well.  I also learned that they are about to break ground on a location in Clarkston, Michigan (much closer to our house) that will allow them to conveniently serve the whole southeast Michigan market, and possibly take in northwest Ohio.

While I am not completely happy with Airstream at the moment, as I think there are way too many items on our list for a 3-year-old trailer with no more than 10,000 miles on it, Woodland Airstream has been an absolutely top-notch, first-class group of people to deal with.  Woodland Airstream is an Airstream exclusive dealership, as a result of which they have a great relationship with Airstream and their customers ultimately benefit from that.

It was 11:45 AM by the time I was done at the dealership.  I texted Linda that I was about to head for home, but then decided to drive the short distance in the opposite direction on Plainfield Avenue NE to Anna’s House.  So, I texted my change in plans.  Anna’s House is local chain of restaurants that is well known for their breakfast offerings, including vegan ones.  I was in the mood for lunch, however, and ordered their vegan hamburger with French fries.  I should have ordered breakfast, as the burger was very disappointing.  I texted Linda again when I was ready to leave the restaurant, and again when I got home around 3 PM.  It’s been a long-standing practice of ours, ever since we finally had cell phones with text messaging, to let each other know when we are on the road and have reached our destinations.

Back at the house, there were trucks and a trailer down by the barn, so I figured the insulation crew was there, and walked down there to check on things.  There will be more details on that in the separate accessory building project update post.

Phil (Precision Grading) called me around dinner time and we had a nice, long chat.  We don’t talk too often, as Phil is very busy and works long hours, but we always have a great conversation when the opportunity presents itself.

For dinner, Linda made sandwiches of vegan deli slices and cheese with lettuce and vegan mayo on toast.  We had a few Fritos and orange slices on the side.

Monday is one of our two CBS nights, so we watched our usual programs and then went to bed.

20220909 – Barn Project Update – Stairs, Roof, & Doors

FRIDAY 09 September – Special Blog Post

I texted our barn builder, Chuck, today to get an update on the project and requested a photo of the interior stairs that lead up to the storeroom above the shop.  I got back six photos, which was great.  What wasn’t so great was that the stairs were enclosed with plywood from the hand rails all the way to the floor.  My design drawings clearly showed the area under the stairs as open, and the handrails supported by spaced verticals.

I was counting on the open space under the stairs for storage and possibly work surface(s).  I communicated that back and Chuck said they could do that.  He described this as “outdoor deck style” stairs.  He also indicated said the shingles were staged on the roof and ready to install as soon as the sun tunnels came in, which he expected to be very soon.  It will be great to finally have the roof sealed against the weather.

I have not seen photos yet of the interior of the shop or the storeroom, but there isn’t much light in there at the moment.  What I could see, through the opening for the door to the shop, was that it had not been spray foamed yet, but I wasn’t expecting that to be done at this stage.  The front entry door, the shop door, and the storeroom door are not installed yet either.  The building appears to be coming along nicely, but still has a ways to go to be finished.

The only real issue we have at this point is a mix-up on the two large bay doors and the cost associated with getting it straightened out.  It appears that Chuck costed out the project based on “overhead” (folding garage style) doors, even though my drawings clearly show roll-up doors, and we specifically discussed this at the beginning of the project (chain drive initially, but the ability to add motors later when we have electricity in the building).  The cost difference is $6,000 and it appears we have a difference of opinion as to who is going to cover that added cost.  We have just exchanged text messages so far, and have not had a chance to discuss this on the phone yet, but the issue is there and needs to be resolved.

Anyway, here are the photos of the stairs as they existed on the date of this post:

The view into the shop door opening (under the staircase landing) from the large/west RV bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of the shop door opening from the small/east RV bay.  The fully paneled construction of the staircase is evident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view of the area under the staircase.  Dark and essentially inaccessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The staircase up to the storeroom above the shop as seen from the small/east RV bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The staircase up to the storeroom above the shop as seen from the entry door in the front wall.  The entry door is centered on the front wall of the building between the two large bay doors, and the staircase is essentially in line with it.

The staircase up to the storeroom above the shop as seen from the large/west RV bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20220825 – Barn Project Update

THURSDAY 25 August – Special Blog Post

As I mentioned in my regular blog post for this date, I checked my phone before going to bed and had a text message from our builder with four photos of the barn.  The windows were in and the siding was almost done.  It looked good, and should be a nice addition to our property and lives.  Here are the photos with a little additional information in the captions.

 

This is the view looking north at south/front elevation of the building, which faces the street.  The two large openings are for the 12’ wide by 14’ high RV bay roll-up doors.  The small opening in-between them is the entry door.  I tried to adjust the image so some of the interior detail might be visible.  The back, right corner of the building has interior walls from the floor to the bottom of the roof trusses, which are 16’ above the concrete floor.  The ground floor will be a shop, and the floor above it will be a storeroom.  The door into the shop is mostly in line with entry door and the door to storeroom is directly above it.  A staircase will go up the center of the barn to storeroom.  (Photo by Chuck-the-builder.)

 

This is the view looking SE at the NW corner of the building.  The narrow vertical features are fixed pane windows.  The three on the west (right) side and the one on the back will provide light to the full-depth (~46’) RV bay on the west half of the building.  The bottoms of these windows are 6’ above finished grade.  The small opening, lower left, is one of two double-hung windows for the shop.  (Photo by Chuck-the-builder.)

 

This is the view looking SW at the NE corner of the building.  Again, the narrow vertical features are fixed pane windows.  The two on the east (left) side will provide light to the (~30’) RV bay on the east half of the building.  The bottoms of these windows are also 6’ above finished grade.  Both of the double-hung shop windows are visible.  (Photo by Chuck-the-builder.)

 

Just for completeness, this is the view looking south at the north/rear elevation.  The windows are as previously described.  (Photo by Chuck-the-builder.)

20220816 – Bellevue Beach CG to Pippy Park CG, NL

TUESDAY 16 August

A popup camper boondocking on the isthmus as seen from the freshwater lake side in the early morning light and mist.

Well, today turned out differently than originally planned but we are, if nothing else, willing to be flexible with our plans when we need to be.  We were supposed to be at the Bellevue Beach Campground for two nights.  In checking the weather last night, and again first thing this morning, it looked like if we stayed another night, we would be breaking camp, hooking up, driving, unhooking, and making camp in the rain tomorrow morning.  But if we left today, we could do all of those things without the rain.  The weather at Bellevue Beach had also turned cloudy overnight and we actually awoke to fog on the lake and hills, so the idea of driving 5 hours round trip to visit Bonavista and Elliston (Puffins!) seemed even less appealing than it did before.  Getting to our next campground a day early also meant we would have an extra, full day to explore the St. John’s area, where there were lots of things to see and do, even in the rain if necessary.

The Isthmus in the early morning light and mist.

A decision had to be made, but we don’t like to make decisions on an empty stomach, so we had our usual morning coffee and then avocado toast for breakfast.  This decision also required information, namely, could we get into the Pippy Park Campground a day early AND snag the same site we already had booked for the following five nights?  I called the campground and the answer was … yes!  Earliest check-in time was 1 PM, and the Park was only about 1-1/4 hours’ drive time, but we did not have to be there right at 1 PM, so no rush.  We went for a walk around the RV portion of the campground and then along the beach on the ocean side of the isthmus.

A green ground cover plant with hints of red and orange.  A sign that fall is just around the corner here in Bellevue Beach, Newfoundland?

We saw a bird yesterday (a black headed gull of some kind) on the beach that did not try to move when I approached it so I presumed it was injured or ill.  I photographed it but did not include the photo in yesterday’s blog.  The tide was in compared to our walk yesterday, but the bird was still there, just above the water line.  It was dead, lying on its back (it was upright when we saw it yesterday) and something had started to eat the underside.  I couldn’t tell the order of events, but the end had come for this creature.  I felt bad for it, and hoped it hadn’t suffered too much or for too long, but nature is harsh that way.

A fireweed plant against a bright green fir backdrop.  A common sight while walking the Bellevue Beach Campground RV loop.

By the time we finished our walk it was almost 11:30 AM.  Without rushing, we started preparing for our departure.  The process went smoothly (we really like our arrival and departure lists).  We were ready to go by 12:30 PM, but it was closer to 12:45 pm by the time we pulled through the gate and out onto Hwy 201 (Main St.).  On the way out, we let the campground know that we were leaving early to avoid weather and that our site was available.  We did not ask for a refund.

The entire trip, except for short distances at each end, was on the Trans-Canada Highway.  The T-CH in this part of Newfoundland is a really good road and we rolled along at 100 km/hr without interruption and only an occasional slowdown to 70 km/hr at intersections with other secondary highways or developed areas.  As we got closer to St. John’s it became a limited access, 4-lane divided highway, but we also picked up more traffic.

We also saw a lot of this grass plant while walking the Bellevue Beach Campground and isthmus.  It happily joins the fireweed behind in this open patch of the woods.

In spite of the fact that we were headed south and east towards the North Atlantic Ocean, the terrain continued to be quite hilly, with many long grades.  Again, this part of Newfoundland reminded us of the terrain up towards L’Anse-aux-Meadows at the tip of the western peninsula; rocky hills with shorter flora and lots of “ponds.”  (Some of what they call “ponds” here would definitely be called “lakes” back home.)

As we approached St. John’s, we got an alarm beep on our Tireminder TPTMS for the trailer tires with an indication of “leaking.”  That’s not something we ever want to see, but we have the system for a reason.  (A similar system is built-in to the F-150.)  I kept a close eye on the pressures and did not see a leak taking place.  I also checked the temperatures and they seemed normal for the ambient temperature, cloud cover, and road conditions.  The ambient temperature had dropped from the mid-70s to the mid-60’s, which would cause a minor reduction in pressure.  We had also been traversing relatively high elevation terrain and were starting to work our way down in altitude.  Again, this would cause a minor drop in pressure.  The pressure in all four of the tires, as well as the spare, had dropped a little, but not in an unexpected way, and the drops were consistent across all the tires.  The readings were stable, so I suspect it was a false alarm, perhaps triggered by the cold inflation pressures being slightly lower than when we started the trip back in mid-June and set the alarm thresholds.  The pressures are still more than sufficient for proper tire function.

We arrived at the Pippy Park entrance gate / registration booth just before 2 PM.  Linda had us registered and moving to our site (#149) in short order (W3W=”line.toddler.march”), a pull-through, 3-way/50A with Wi-Fi.  At -52.730… W longitude, this is the farthest east we have every driven or camped.  Indeed, St. John’s is the easternmost city in North America, but not the easternmost point of land.

The site had an uphill slope as we pulled in, but I could see that there was a section that looked to be flat and level.  I was able to position the trailer fairly easily so that it was level, side-to-side, less than one inch high, front-to-back, and with the truck aligned so we could put the tongue jack down and easily disconnect the truck from the 3P hitch.  We think this was the first site we have had on this trip that was level, side-to-side, and also the closest to level, front-to-back.  We like it when that happens.

Even without having to level, it took us until 3:30 PM to make camp and finally sit down to a late lunch of southwestern vegetable soup and crackers with crunchy peanut butter.  This was because of some additional tasks that we do not normally do.

One of those was to drain the fresh water tank and refill it (to 50% capacity) along with a very dilute bleach mixture (Camco freshening agent).  Pippy Park is a municipal campground set in a much larger municipal park, and the water here is municipal, so fully treated.  Just what we needed to refresh our on-board water supply.  I like to keep the fresh water tank at 50% capacity (about 20 gallons) to keep some weight low over the trailer axles, but also in case we find ourselves stopped somewhere unexpectedly without hookups.

The tap already had a pressure regulator, so I did not use ours and just moved the hose over to the shore water connection.  I also did not use the filter or softener.  That simplified our usual setup quite a bit, and will shorten our departure routine by 15 – 20 minutes.  The water pressure was the best we have seen on this trip.   I went ahead and connected the drain hose for the waste water tanks while it wasn’t raining.  Last, but not least, I got the VIAIR air-compressor kit out of its storage tub in the bed of the truck in anticipation of checking the trailer & truck tires manually and adjusting them.  I didn’t do that today, as the tires need to be at ambient temperature, but I will before we leave here.

Pippy Park Campground is very nice, which is to say, it’s very much to our taste.  It’s a good-sized place, but only a small part of a much larger urban park.  Most of the sites are on loops through thick woods, and are back-in with water/septic/electric(15/30A), but they also have space for tents .  Each site is surrounded by forest on three sides and affords a lot of privacy.  Our site was in the section of the campground that has full-service pull-through sites with 50A electrical and Wi-Fi.  The sites are out in the open, but well-spaced and the entire section is surrounded by trees.  It’s been described as “like a state park with a really nice RV park.”  We agreed with that description and were happy with our site.

After having had no usable Internet access at Bellevue Beach, even from our smartphones, we were anxious to see how good the Park Wi-Fi was.  We connected our various devices to the system, which is password protected, and it was amazing!!!  Response times and data rates appeared to be on a par with what we get from our xFinity broadband service at home and we were able to update numerous apps on our tablets and smartphones very quickly.  I started my computer, logged in to our WordPress website, and assembled/published the blog post for yesterday in about 15 minutes.

We have put 5,264 miles on the F-150 since we pulled out of our driveway on June 15th, a combination of towing and touring, and the odometer currently reads 31,544 miles.  The service interval for the oil is 10,000 miles, but we’ve been towing in mountains and I would like to get the oil changed while we are in St. John’s.  I searched for Ford dealers in town and Cabot Ford Lincoln came up.  It was also relatively close to our campground, so that was a bonus.  I tried to call them, but just got shuffled around through an automated menu system.  All I wanted to know was if I had to make an appointment, or did they have “quick lane” service for oil changes?  I left a message with the automated receptionist, but did not get a return phone call.  In fact, a listing also came up for a Quick Lane business located at the exact same address, so I wanted to know if that was part of the dealership.  I clicked the website link and got the master website for this franchise.  I gave it my City and Province and it said there were no Quick Lane locations here.  Arrrgh.  I will probably drive to the Ford dealership tomorrow morning and see if I can sort something out in person.

Since St. John’s is an actual city (as opposed to a town or village), Linda checked Happy Cow to see if there were any vegan restaurants here.  Veggie/vegan places often pop up, but pure vegan restaurants are rare.  And when we find one, it’s usually near a college or university, and a bit of funky place.  In this case, one vegan restaurant popped up; Peaceful Loft.  And it was downtown, not near the local university.  The last time we ate at a sit-down restaurant was last month at Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Café in the Cape Breton Highlands of Nova Scotia, and that was actually counter service.

We were both feeling much better, and well enough to go out for dinner, so we headed out around 6 PM with the restaurant address in the F-150 navigation system.  The fastest/shortest route took us past Memorial University and then through an extensive neighborhood of beautiful homes, some of them very large, before yielding to a more urban setting of colorful row house arrayed on streets that ran every which way and intersected in unusual ways.  These are known as the “jelly bean” houses because of the way they are painted.  Those houses, in turn, gave way to a business district, which is where we found the Peaceful Loft among other Chinese restaurants.  The whole trip took 20 minutes and the closer we got to the restaurant the more it reminded us of San Francisco, California.  St. John’s is built on and around large hills, some of which have steep slopes, and roads tend to go directly from here to there.  It was all very cool, and quite a departure from our experiences in Newfoundland thus far.

The Peaceful Loft had a nice vibe.  It was run by an older couple, husband and wife, who were originally from Macau.  He handled the front of the house (customers and phone orders) and she did the cooking.  He was very gracious and kept apologizing for how long things were taking.  He tried to talk us out of the vegan Abalone, telling us it was “too expensive and tastes like seafood.”  We assured him that it was not a problem; we wanted to try new things, and actually appreciated and enjoyed not being rushed through our meal.

L-2-R, our two main dishes, Stir-fried Singapore Rice Noodles, and vegan Abalone with Vegetables and Rice, and our sauces.

The menu was extensive, but before we were allowed to order, we were served hot tea, soup, and three sauces.  All of the sauces were home-made daily, and we sampled them while waiting.  If the tea or sauces got low, they were promptly refilled.  We ordered spring rolls for an appetizer, and two main dishes: Stir-fried Singapore Rice Noodles, and vegan Abalone with Vegetables and Rice.  Oh, my goodness, the food was amazing.  There were only seven other diners while we were there, and we were able to interact with the proprietor quite a bit, which made the meal all the more memorable.  He boxed up the leftovers for us, and we will get another entire meal out of them.  He included two oranges for later.  We told him we would probably be back on Saturday, and he suggested we get there before 5 PM as they get busy after that and wait times increase.  Fair enough.

The F-150 navigation system took us back to Pippy Park pretty much the reverse of how it got us downtown.  We knew there were TV stations in St. John’s, so Linda turned on the TV and scanned for channels.  It found two: the CBC and Canada’s Superstation.  We watched a few minutes of Jeopardy and turned it off.  As much as we watch TV, and stream programs at home, we haven’t really missed it while traveling.

An update photo of the barn project (photo by Keith).

During the evening I received a text message from Keith (the lawn care guy) with a photo of the barn.  The roof is on, the gable overhangs are framed out, and the concrete floor is poured.  Notice the interior wall that is going up on the right-hand side towards the rear.  This is the front wall of the workshop.  There will be a storeroom on top of the workshop.  The envelope around these two rooms will be fully insulated.