Category Archives: Michigan

Posts related to our RV-related travels in Michigan.

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Note:  There are six (6) photos in this post.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

January 2024 — Rearranging furniture, and a night out

A week after we returned from Florida we had a proper snow event, as seen in this view of the rear deck of our house.  (Photo by Linda)

We enjoyed our brief sojourn to Florida, including our short cruise on the MSC Magnifica, but not enough to spend 116 days aboard the ship, in that class of stateroom.  But it was also good to be back home.  We have had a relatively dry winter, but we knew winter was not over.  Winter weather here can linger, if intermittently, until April.  Indeed, some of the worst ice storms we have had in this region occurred in April to early May.

We decided to rearrange the furniture in our basement recreation room to provide better viewing of the TV set, which included moving the TV set and associated furniture and electronics.  As a result, we also had to relocate the LAN Ethernet and OTA TV antenna coaxial cables.  Fortunately, I had left extra cabled coiled up above the suspended ceiling when these cable runs were originally installed.

The TV was previously located by the post next to the ladder at the left of the frame, so the LAN Ethernet and OTA TV antenna coaxial cables had to be relocated to the new location at the right edge of the frame.  I had to move quite a few of the ceiling tiles out of the way in order to affect the relocation, but I had plenty of cable to work with.

The Rec room TV/furniture arrangement as seen looking to the northwest from near the stairs to the main level.

The Rec room TV/furniture arrangement as seen looking northeast from near the bar.

The Rec room TV/furniture arrangement as seen looking east from the northwest corner of the basement.

Kate (L) and Linda (R), at Socotra Coffee House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  This was a new place for us, and looked like a very new establishment.  It features coffees, teas, and desserts of Yemeni origin.  ABIR, we each had a different coffee.  We agreed that they were different from what we are familiar with, but very good.  The desserts were also unusual in the sense of being unfamiliar but, again, very tasty.  The fact that there were open late was a bonus and provided a new option for someplace to go after dinner to enjoy extended conversation over coffee and dessert without the (apparently) inescapable noise of our usual restaurants and bar/grill establishments.

One of the things we look forward too each month is getting together with our friend, and my former colleague, Kate.  On this occasion, we tried a new place for coffee and dessert; Socotra Yemeni Coffee House on Packard west of US-23 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It was a nice way to close out the month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NOTE:  There is one (1) photo in this post taken by Linda with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

MONDAY 15 January 2024 — A test cruise on the MSC Magnifica (4 of 4), Return to Miami and home.

We took many more photos on this brief cruise than I have used in these blog posts, but they were mostly for our own documentation in support of a decision-making process.  During the cruise, we had not yet decided to cancel the World Cruise but were actively discussing the pros and cons of doing the trip on this ship with this cruise line.  It came as something of a surprise to us that we made that decision while sitting in the Miami International Airport waiting to fly home.  After letting Paul and Nancy know our decision, we called our travel agent before we even got on the jet.  But then, once it was clear that we did not want to do this trip on this ship, there was no reason to wait.  If nothing else, we had a significant deposit on file, and the sooner we got it back the better.

Apparently someone at the Miami International Airport has a sense of humor.  This waste basket had two separate holes, one marked “Waste” and the other “Recycle.”  Note, however, that the can contains no divider and has a single bag where everything goes.  (Photo by Linda)

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NOTE:  There are not photos for this post.

 

WEDNESDAY 21 February (T1) — A Family Cruise is just around the corner

Our cruise on the Disney DREAM was set for departure on Friday, 23 February at 3 PM EDT.  We like to be in the vicinity of a cruise port somewhat ahead of time, so Linda booked a flight for mid-morning today.  Delta Airlines again, of course, as Delta has a major hub at Detroit Metropolitan (Wayne County) International Airport (DTW) and can get us non-stop to many places in the USA.

We were up at 6 AM, got dressed, set the thermostats on HOLD at lower than usual temperatures, and loaded out luggage into the F-150.  We were going to take Linda’s Honda HR/V, but she got a recall notice yesterday for a possible fuel pump problem.  We could not afford having the problem occur enroute to the airport, so we took the truck.  We left at 6:45 AM and arrived at the US Park facility, adjacent to the airport property, about an hour later.  The shuttle was coming down our aisle as we parked and picked us up along with several other customers.  We were at the drop-off point in the garage attached to the main (McNamara) terminal by 8:15 AM, well ahead of our 10:20 AM departure.

We normally roll our bags into the terminal, print the luggage tags for the two larger bags, attach them to the bags and then get in the self-tagged luggage drop-off line, which is usually long and understaffed.  Before crossing into the terminal, however, we noticed a DELTA self-tagged luggage drop counter in the garage.  It was staffed, and there was no line, so we figured we would try it.  There were about eight kiosks for printing the luggage tags, so we took care of that in short order.  There was a short line at the drop-off counter by then, so we joined the queue.  It did not take long for it to be our turn, and in no time our bags were checked.  The agent asked if we wanted paper boarding passes, so we said “yes”; it never hurts to have a backup.  A good start to our trip.

The next step in the process was clearing through the TSA checkpoint.  We had “checked in” for the flight online yesterday and had our electronic boarding passes on our phones.  This was the first time we would go through a TSA checkpoint since we qualified for the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) and got our Global Entry (GE) cards from the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  We noticed that the boarding passes said “TSA Pre-check” and also said “Digital ID.”  We knew what the first one meant, but we were not sure about the second.

We went to the TSA Pre-check area, showed our boarding passes, and walked right in.  No line.  We were directed to the left where an agent had us stand in front of a camera lens, and then waved us through; no need to show our passport, license, boarding pass, or any other additional ID.  We were motioned towards a scanner lane with no line, set our small carry-on cases and a few personal effects (glasses, belt for me because of the buckle, phone with holder (metal clips), and keys) into a tub on the conveyor and walked through the scanner.  There were no issues and we were through; all without having to remove our shoes!  This was our easiest airport entry ever; more than worth the time and cost to get the TTP/GE program/card (the cost of which was reimbursed by AMEX/DELTA).  All-in-all a much better and less stressful experience than the last time we were here earlier this year.

And with that, there was nothing else to do except wait to board the aircraft.  We always travel with our iPads, which we use for a wide variety of things, such as:  reading, streaming, games/puzzles, research, maps, checking on weather, or logging in to subscribed services, including checking-in when appropriate.  For travel, however, we usually do the final check-in on our phones so that we have the boarding pass / QR code immediately available.  To make sure it is also immediately accessible, we take a screen shot so we don’t have to (rely on) use the app or website.  Sometimes we also bring actual books, but usually avoid the added weight and bulk in our luggage.

Frankly, commercial air travel is not very comfortable nor is it much fun.  I say that as a licensed private pilot.  Most of the seating is too small (narrow) and too crowded together (front-to-back).  Sure, comfort class (if you can get it) and first class (if you can afford it) provide a bit more room, but we choose to spend our money on things like cruises that are slightly less ephemeral.  The dumbest thing about the passenger aviation industry, however, is the way they load the aircraft.

IMHO, aircraft with a single loading door near the front, should be loaded from the rear to the front.  The first people on are the ones seated in the last row.  No “running the gauntlet” and bumping into other passengers to get to our seat.  If the first-class passengers don’t want to mingle with everyone else, create a separate, enclosed waiting area for them.  EVERYONE is limited to one carry-on item that does not exceed the allowed size so that it will absolutely fit in the overhead pin BY THEIR SEAT.  That way, everyone is guaranteed to have a place for their carry-on bag BY THEIR SEAT.  A second small item that will fit under the seat in front is fine with me.

Now that I’ve had my say, I will regain some perspective and acknowledge that, in the end, the only thing that really matters is that the plane takes off and lands safely without any incidents, such as rude/disorderly passengers, or doors that blow off mid-flight.  As for our flight, all’s well that ends well, which ours’ did.

The rest of the family booked flights for the following day.  Once we deplaned at FTL, we headed to baggage claim, retrieved our two checked roller bags, and then headed outside to find the ride-share area.  We booked an Uber, and in short order we were picked up and on our way to the Hyatt Place hotel near Port Hollywood.  We are still relatively new to using Uber, but so far it has worked well for us.

I don’t recall if our room was ready when we arrived at the hotel, but if not, we did not have to wait very long.  Given the price, the room was nothing special, but it was fine for us.  And it had a mini-fridge, which meant we could get keep some beverages cold and/or store any leftovers from meals we ate out.  Besides, we knew ahead of time that the price had more to do with a location that is convenient to both the airport and the cruise port than with the accommodations themselves.

The first two cruises we ever took (2012 and 2013), on the MSC Poetia, sailed from Port Hollywood, Florida.  I suspect a lot of construction has taken place since then, and there was certainly construction ongoing in the area, but neither of us had any specific recollections of the Port to serve as a comparison.

The hotel was a comfortable/safe walking distance to a major shopping area that included a Publix supermarket and several restaurants.  We wanted to stretch our legs anyway, so we went in search of dinner.  ABIR, we ended up at a Poke’ Bowl place and had tasty meals.  We then stopped at the Publix and bought some beverages and perhaps some snacks, but I’m not sure about the latter.

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Note:  There are 3 photos in this post, all taken by me (Bruce) on a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

 

SUNDAY 03 – SATURDAY 16 December 2023 — Getting back into home life

 

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023 — Getting the house back online.

When we are away from the house for more than a few days, I deactivate or adjust various things:

  1. I deactivate the water softener and chlorinator/filter by unplugging the AC power adapters.  The coin batteries remain in the controllers, but when the signal for a regeneration cycle, the motorized valves cannot respond.  Thus, nothing happens.
  2. I also turn off the UPS units for most of the electronics in the house. The exceptions are the one in the basement that powers the Xfinity gateway/WiFi-router and network switch, and the one by Linda’s desk in the kitchen, which powers the network switch that the whole-house generator communication module is plugged into.
  3. I also shut off the circuit breakers that feed the RV electrical outlets in our driveway.
  4. We might set some mechanical clock timers to control a couple of lights.
  5. We set all of the thermostats down and place them in a HOLD condition. (The thermostat in the workshop of the barn is set to maintain a temperature above freezing in the storeroom above it.)

Thus, one of the first things I have to do upon our return is reverse all of this.  I plug the water softener and chlorinator/filter back in, and will also typically initiate a regeneration cycle on one of them.  Which one depends on their remaining water treatment capacity.  UPS units are turned back on and electronics are powered up.  Thermostats are returned to the automatic/programmed operation, and light timers are put back in the switched position.  The RV outlet by the driveway in front of the house obviously gets turned on.

Apparently I have the (annoying) habit of laundering EVERYTHING upon our return from a trip.  In the case of RV travel, that includes towels and bedding in addition to clothes; sometimes even jackets, if I feel they need it.  This does not happen, however, in one day.  For one, it’s too much stuff that would take too much time and, for another, that much laundry at one go would overload the septic system.  And nobody wants that.  I suspect that I started on this task today, moving everything to the basement, sorting it, and selecting a load or two to start.

 

Monday, December 4th, 2023 — Chores, Chores, and more Chores

Whatever else we did today, I suspect that I spent part of it continuing to do the laundry.  I don’t mind doing the laundry, in fact I somewhat enjoy it.  In any event, it has to be done and Linda handles the kitchen pretty much by herself, so this duty falls to me.  It’s also likely that I powered up my laptop computer, downloaded e-mails, and started copying photos from our various devices to our NAS.

 

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023 — Winterizing the Airstream Flying Cloud travel trailer

I do not recall why I waited, but according to our calendar I winterized the Airstream travel trailer today.  My best guess as to why I waited a few days was that I had too much else to do on Sunday and Monday immediately after returning home, but it’s also possible that the weather today was more amenable.  Whatever the case, absent any other information to the contrary, I will just have to accept that today was the day for this task.  This is not one of my favorite RV maintenance tasks, but it is what it is and it has to be done, as the RV portion of our barn is not climate-controlled.  Actually, they main thing I really don’t like is having to do it in the cold.

 

This is a photo of the internals of the thermostat in the shop portion of the barn.  I don’t recall why I photographed it, but I obviously removed the cover to check something.  As it turned out, it is wired correctly, and it works just fine.

For the rest of this time period, we attended to various things.  I obviously put the Airstream travel trailer back in the barn once it was winterized.  Linda had a routine medical appointment, did some child-care for the two younger grand-daughters, resumed walking with her friend, Diane.  She also did some accounting work for the bakery, and booked shore excursions for the Disney Cruise Line DREAM in late February of next year.  (NOTE:  The two youngest grand-daughters did NOT know about this cruise yet, but I did not upload this post until May 2024.)

We also had two different HVAC service companies at the house; Lakeside Service takes care of our BOSCH hot-water baseboard heating system, and Schutz Heating & Cooling takes care of our Mitsubishi-Trane Heat Pump system, which they installed.  We had dinner with friends (and fellow Prevost converted motorcoach owners), Chuck and Barbara, and with our friend, Kate.  We also opened up our Boondockers Welcome site to accommodate a special request from a couple who had stayed with us before.  They needed a place to camp for a few nights while they took care of some medical issues at the University of Michigan Hospital.  It turns out that we are one of the few good options for this situation, and we have had other RVers stay here for the same reason.

 

Saturday, December 16th, 2023 — Cloning, ham radio, and a concert

Earlier in the week, I took the 1 TB Samsung 870 EVO SSD (solid state drive) out of my ASUS laptop computer and tried to clone it to a 2 TB version of the same drive.  I wasn’t sure I had done it correctly, so I arranged to go over to Mike’s house (W8XH, from SLAARC, the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club).  He did the clone of my original HDD to the 1 TB SSD a few years ago and used his equipment to do this one.  While I was there, I had a chance to look at some amateur (ham) radio gear that was for sale and for which he was acting as custodian.

 

This Kenwood transceiver caught my eye, but I was equally interested in the HP Signal Generator underneath it.  Ultimately, I had to pass on buying anything as I am not currently active enough in the hobby to justify buying more equipment.

In the evening, we attended the Holiday “Pops” (popular music) concert of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (AASO) at Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor main campus.  The orchestra was good, but our main reason for being there was the Ann Arbor Youth Chorus standing behind the orchestra in the photo below.

 

The AASO and AAYC in concert.  Our middle grand-daughter, Mads, is in the last row, 6th from the left.  She was still 10 on this date, but would turn 11 a week later.

 

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Note:  This post contains two (2) photos near the end.  Both were taken by me (Bruce) with a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

 

FRIDAY 01 December 2023 — Another travel day

Our trip last month from home to Luxury RV Resort in Gulf Shores, Alabama in October was around 1,400 miles and took 15 days because of our transit of the Natchez Trace National Parkway (NTNP).  The trip in the other direction was estimated at around 1,050 miles and a little over 14-hours driving time.  A shorter distance, for sure, as it would be more direct and we were not planning our route to include any special sites along the way.  Still, that would be an average daily driving distance of about 265 miles for each of the four travel days we planned for the trip, with a total driving time of 21 hours for an average 5 hours per day.  Our trip yesterday, however, was only 223 miles, so we still had 827 miles to travel over three days, or about 275 miles per day.  That was still within the 150 – 300 miles per day target that seems to work well for us.  In spite of cold temperatures, which would require us to quickly winterize the travel trailer once we got home, we were nonetheless eager to get there.

Our next overnight stop was the Grand Ole RV Resort in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, a place we have stayed several times, including at the beginning of our drive down the NTNP.  We like this RV park, and find it convenient when RVing up and down I-65 through Kentucky and Tennessee.  Our mapping/routing apps indicated a 256-mile drive which we estimated to be about 5 hours driving time at our estimated average speed of 50 MPH.

Check-in at RV parks is generally sometime after noon, but can be as late as 3 PM.  A call to the resort confirmed that we could arrive and check-in sooner than that.  I suspect, but I do not recall, that we broke camp and were on our way between 9 and 9:30 AM and arrived between 2 and 2:30 PM.  As best I recall (ABIR), the weather was nice when we arrived, which gave us plenty of time to leisurely “make camp,” and then go for a walk around the RV park.  We then detached the truck from the travel trailer and went in search of food and fuel.  I do not recall what the weather was like during the evening and over-night hours, but if we had storms (which can be fierce in this area) they must not have been too bad as we were not awakened and our truck/trailer did not have any damage.

 

SATURDAY 02 December 2023 — A minor technical issue, and home at last

As mentioned above, when we left Luxury RV Resort in Gulf Shores, Alabama on 30 November, we intended to take four days to make the trip home, stopping for three nights along the way, and arriving home on Sunday, December 3rd.  Indeed, Linda had made a reservation for each of the three nights.  ABIR these many months later, our last and final stop was booked at the Lebanon / Cincinnati NE KOA northeast of Cincinnati, Ohio and east of I-75, another KOA where we have stopped in the past.  The distance for this leg was approximately 300 miles, with a time estimate a little over 4 hours, which we figured would be closer to 6 hours.  (We use KOAs because when they are convenient to our route as it is easy to book online and easy to cancel with little or no penalty.)

One of the issues for us, when towing the travel trailer, is that the fuel economy of the F-150 / trailer combination usually averages around 12 MPG.  This is about 60% – 50% of the 20 – 24 MPG we can get from the truck during extended highway travel without the trailer.  We have a 36-gallon fuel tank so, hypothetically we can travel 432 miles before running out of gasoline, but we do not like the run the tank below the 1/4 mark if possible.  As a practical cutoff, as we approach the 300-mile mark of a leg we start to incur additional travel time because we have to stop for fuel before reaching our destination.  That also means trying to find a filling station that we can get into, position the rig for good access to a pump, and exit without getting stuck or damaging the trailer.  Yeah, we worry about things like that.  (Our preferred routine is to get to our campsite, set up camp, and then disconnect the truck and go find fuel.)  Fuel economy combines with other factors to determine a realistic ETA such as:  a) the time required to exit an RV park and make our way on surface streets to the highway we plan to travel, and b) the fact that we tend to drive at 62 MPH on highways posted at 65 or 70 MPH.  Basing our ETAs on that average speed has worked remarkably well for us.

Our only technical mishap of the entire trip (with the trailer) happened this morning.  Everything was going according to our usual routine for breaking camp and packing up.  When I tried to unplug the “50A RV” shorepower cord from the socket end of the Hughes Power Watchdog EPO surge/transient protector device, however, the ground pin on the cord broke off and remained lodged in the Power Watchdog.  The ground pin turned out to be potted metal surrounded by brass, and was much weaker by design that I would have expected.  Also, the plug was molded so, given these two facts, there was no chance of being able to do a field repair on this expensive piece of junk.

We did not have a spare “50 A” cord with us, as they are just too bulky and heavy to carry a second one.  (We always had a spare in the converted motorcoach, but we have the space and load capacity for that.)  We also did not want to try and buy a new one as they are expensive, the RV park store was unlikely to have (a good) one much less at a bargain price, and we did not want to take the time to go find one somewhere else.  We did have a “15 A” cord that was sufficient to run the lights (LED) and control circuits for the refrigerator, hot water heater, and furnace, which would allow us to use propane as the heat source, but because we were moving into an area with much colder temperatures, we were not comfortable with that option.

While our planned drive today was 300 miles, we were still almost 600 miles from our house.  That distance represented a 12-hour drive, including one or two fuel stops.  We pondered the situation for a while, but fairly quickly decided to cancel our overnight stop for this evening at the Lebanon / Cincinnati NE KOA, and just go home.  I probably drove faster that 62 MPH, but we still arrived home in the dark just ahead of a looming drop in temperatures.

 

The dining room portion of our open floor plan with the entry vestibule and kitchen.  Rather than try to keep the trailer warm, which would use a lot propane, we unloaded most of the food and other cold-sensitive items from the interior of the trailer.  Some of them are spread out on the table and others are on the floor in the vestibule by the stairs to the lower level.

 

Since we did not have a chance to winterize the travel trailer before getting home, I plugged it in to shorepower (which I had to turn on inside the house), turned on the propane furnace, and set it to about 45 degrees F.  Winterizing the trailer in the next few days would be a high a priority.

 

More of the stuff from the trailer on the counters in the kitchen.  Stuff tends to get loaded into the trailer gradually but unloaded quickly, so the unloading process tends to reveal just how much stuff we have onboard.

 

Much to our delight, and something of a surprise, Cabella (the cat who is not our cat but is basically becoming our cat) quickly appeared and did not hesitate coming into the house.  I worried about her the whole time we were away, even though our neighbor (Mike) was checking on her automatic feeder every week and restocking it as needed.  I was relieved that Cabella had clearly been getting enough to eat and looked well.

 

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Note:  There are 3 photos in the post.  Photos by me (Bruce) were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro or SONY alpha 6400, unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

WEDNESDAY 18 October 2023 —  NTNP 1 of 14 — Departure

The planning was done, the reservations were made, and it was finally time to start our long-anticipated journey down the Natchez Trace National Parkway.

 

A friendly goat at the Benton Family Farm in Walton, KY.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Our first day’s drive took us from our home in Michigan to the Benton Family Farm, a Harvest Hosts location in Walton, Kentucky, a bit south of Cincinnati, Ohio.  This was a familiar drive down US-23 in Michigan and Ohio and then I-75 through Ohio and into Kentucky, but a new Harvest Host location for us.  We pulled out around 9 AM for the 290 mile / 5-hour drive, which got us through Cincinnati before the evening rush hour, and arriving at the Benton Family Farm mid-afternoon.  A phone call brought someone out to greet us and show us were to park.

 

 

 

Harvest Hosts (HH) and Boondockers Welcome (BW) locations are presumed to be “dry camping” sites without any hookups or other amenities/services.  However, many BW, and some HH, sites offer some sort of electrical hookup, usually for a small donation, and that was the case here.  Potable water is also sometimes available, but the ability to dump waste tanks is virtually non-existent.  With that in mind, we arrived with a mostly full fresh water tank, full propane tanks, and empty black and gray waste tanks.  In general, this is how guests are expected to arrive.

 

Goats in the goat pen by the goat barn.  Benton Family Farm, Walton, KY.  (Photo by Linda)

 

We’ve been members of the Harvest Hosts (HH) and Boondockers Welcome (BW) programs for quite a while now, and a host location for BW for as many years, but have made limited use of each program as guests in that time.  They started as separate programs and we were acquainted with the respective owners, both of whom eventually sold.  They are now combined under a single ownership with an integrated website, but the website keeps the two programs separated, which works well for us as a BW host.

 

Bruce poses with the very large “welcome pig” at the Benton Family Farm, Walton, KY.  (Photo by Linda)

 

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NOTE:  This post has eight (8) photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with SONY alpha 6400 (A) and Google Pixel 6 Pro (B).  Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6 (L).

 

WEDNESDAY 04 October to TUESDAY 17 October, 2023 — At home between trips (again), and a birthday

Upon our return home from our outing to Frankenmuth Jellystone Family RV Resort, we spent the first half of October 2023 finalizing our plans for driving the Natchez Trace National Parkway with our Airstream Flying Cloud 27 FBT travel trailer.  This included decisions about where to make overnight reservations, find fuel, and what we might see and do while traveling the full length of the Trace from North to South.  We ended up booking a combination of commercial RV parks, US Army Corps of Engineers and National Forest Service campgrounds, Harvest Host sites, and a Boondockers Welcome site.

In the two (2) weeks available to us before departure, we had to prepare the trailer, F-150 tow vehicle, house, barn, property, and ourselves to be away for about six (6) weeks.  Grand-daughter Sadie’s 5th birthday/party was the highlight of this period.  When possible, we delay leaving for the winter until after her birthday.  Following are a few photos covering these two weeks.  The auto-feeder for the cat was working well, and we arranged again for our neighbor, Mike, to keep an eye on the house and check on the feeder while we were away.

 

Cabela resting on her “princess pillow” on the sofa in the living room.  She might not be our cat, but we have clearly become her caretakers, and we enjoy having her in our lives.  We are trying to figure out how best to make this work long term.  Even if we could get her to be an inside only cat, we doubt that we would be able to acclimate her to RV travel, and we would still be left with how to provide for her care while we are away on a cruise.

 

Cabela is not the only outside cat in our neighborhood, but she is the only one we are prepared to care for.  This beautiful cat showed up one day.  I was only a few feet away when I took this photo, so clearly not a feral cat.

 

Sadie opens one of her gifts at a family gathering on her birthday.  (A friends’ party was held on a more convenient time on the weekend.)

 

Sadie shows off her Love Pop birthday card from Nancy and Paul.

 

It wouldn’t be a birthday party with a birthday cake.  Sadie seems pleased at the sight of this flaming treat.

 

If you can see her face clearly enough, this is the look of a young lady determined to blow out all of the candles on the cake.

 

One of the small improvements I made to our camping situation was to purchase and install a Mopeka tank level sensor system for the two propane tanks on our Airstream travel trailer.  Shown here is the remote indicator that I mounted in the bedroom at the front of the trailer.  (The propane tanks are just on the other side of this front wall.)

 

The day before our departure for our trip down the Natchez Trace National Parkway we finished loading the F-150.  I always photograph the bed of the truck so I can make sure everything fits back in.  And yes, it is actually in the garage!

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NOTE:  This post has 22 photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos were taken by me (Bruce) using a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

WEDNESDAY 27 September to  TUESDAY 03 October, 2023 — Jellystone Family RV Resort, Frankenmuth, MI

Our dear friends, and fellow “bus nuts,” Bill and Karen from Ontario, Canada have been visiting the Jellystone Family RV Resort (JFRVR) in Frankenmuth, Michigan for many years during the mid-September to mid-October timeframe.  There are a number of reasons they do this.  They have other “bus nut” friends in the area (besides us), and they like the town.  The downtown area is quaint, has shopping and dining options, and is a walkable distance from the RV park, if one so desires.

They also like the RV park, in part because of the indoor swimming pool, which the owners maintain at a pleasant temperature.  They both like to swim, and the first half of the morning is reserved for adults.  They have gotten to know the owners quite well over the years, and always book the same site, in the first row right across from the entrance to the indoor pool, before they leave each year.  (I think the owners hold this site for them.)

But this time of year, the Park does something special; a hay-wagon ride and Trick-or-Treating every weekend (on Saturday), starting with the last weekend in September or the first weekend in October, and leading up to Halloween.  The park is well known for this, and these weekends must be reserved well in advance as there won’t be any vacancies.  Bill and Karen enjoy supplying treats for the kids (and some of the adults) and in recent years have taken to giving out juice boxes rather than candy.

Last year (2022), we booked a spot spanning the last weekend in September to early October while Bill and Karen were there.  We took the Airstream travel trailer and had our son bring his daughters up on Friday after school to stay with us for a couple of nights, with us returning them home on Sunday.  They enjoyed the park and the pre-Halloween activities, so before leaving the park we booked a spot again for the same time in 2023, near Bill and Karen’s site.  We drove up on Wednesday 27 September, and the grand-daughters got delivered to us on Friday 29 September after school and work.  They stayed with us in the Airstream travel trailer until we took them home on Sunday afternoon October 1st.  Bill and Karen enjoyed spending time with the girls, but we booked our stay for a Tuesday 03 October departure so we had some additional adult only time before and after the girls were there.

Anyway, that’s the context for the photos which follow:

 

Sadie, who just turned 5 years old, is a very energetic young lady, seen here exiting the bounce house.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Sadie moves across the bounce pad with speed and determination.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Madeline enjoys a conversation with Karen.

 

Sadie decorates a pumpkin.

 

Sadie poses for a photo with Yogi Bear.

 

Madeline and Sadie on the Royal Chair by one of the shops in downtown Frankenmuth, Michigan.

 

The hay wagon ride at Jellystone Family RV Resort.  Linda, Sadie, and Madeline are on the ride with their backs to the camera.  Linda has a yellow ellipse around her.

 

Our Airstream travel trailer at JFRVR.

 

Bill and Karen’s 1960’s GMC TDH-5301 “New Look” (aka “Fishbowl”) bus conversion.  This bus was in service with Toronto Transit Co.  Bill bought it, in open auction, when it was retired from service and converted it into a motorhome.  He drove this exact bus briefly during is 30-year career with TTC.

 

Linda escorts Madeline and Sadie during trick-or-treat at JFRVR.

 

Bill and Karen with their juice boxes set out by their bus for the trick-or-treaters to pick up.

 

Sadie makes a scary (?) Halloween face.

 

Sadie proudly displays her Apa (me) sporting her “Super Sadie” cape.

 

I use Linda’s phone to capture Sadie proudly displaying her Ama (Linda) sporting the “Super Sadie” cape.

 

Bill and Karen’s juice boxes notwithstanding, the girls collected a fair number of sweet treats.  Far less than they could have, however, had been allowed to.  The RV park as approximately 215 RV sites and 16 rental cabins and every one was occupied and every one was giving out treats.

 

Madeline’s trick-or-treat makeup.

 

The earlier photo of their “sweets haul” did not tell the whole story.

 

Madeline models a chef’s Hat on our visit to N’orlins Café in the Frankenmuth River Place Shops complex on the south end of downtown Frankenmuth, Michigan.  A stop here has become a tradition for us.  They are known for their beignets and chicory coffee.  From MS Edge Co-pilot regarding beignets:  These delightful French fritter-style donuts, known as “ben-yays,” are a specialty at N’orlins. They’re made fresh to order, served hot, and generously dusted with powdered sugar (and they are available with several different dipping sauces).

 

Madeline expresses her fondness for N’orlins beignets by mirroring the shape of one of them.

 

Sadie was as fond of her beignet as the rest of us.

 

The munchkins have been returned to the parents and I (Bruce) catch the moon rising over the RV park.  Some of the other campers were still in the park and had not yet taken down their decorations.  The extent to which some families decorated for the weekend was impressive.

 

The girls collected enough sweet treats to get enough Snickers Miniatures to spell it out.  (We did not realize this was even a thing until now.)

20230916-26_At-Home_Btwn-Trips

NOTE:  This post has three (3) photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.

 

SATURDAY 16 September to TUESDAY 26 September, 2023 — At home between trips

Life returned to “normal” for a few weeks following our Alaska—Hawaii cruise.  That meant walks in the park for Linda as well as accounting work for the bakery, and chores around the house for both of us.  One of those chores was getting our Airstream Flying Cloud 27 Front-Bed Twin travel trailer ready for some Fall travel.

We were no sooner home from our Alaska-Hawaii cruise on the NCL SPIRIT, however, when Linda got the idea that it might be nice to get the whole family to take a cruise together.  That sounded good to me and the obvious choice was, of course, Disney Cruise Line.  The obvious time would be university spring break 2024, both for the two university professors (our son and his wife), as well as our son-in-law, who manages a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where things slow down a bit during spring break).  The two youngest grand-daughters would miss a little school, but they are both excellent students and would not miss anything that could not be made up quickly and easily.  Linda’s sister is essentially retired with a fairly flexible schedule, but eldest grand-daughter (Katie) would have to take a few days off of work.  Presuming everyone wanted to go, and could make it, there would be 10 of us!

By September 27, Linda had gotten a commitment from everyone for a 5-night cruise on the Disney DREAM, departing Port Everglades in Hollywood (Fort Lauderdale), Florida on February 23, 2024 and returning there on Wednesday, February 28.  She booked four (4) adjacent staterooms which could be connected in pairs and would allow all four (4) balconies to be opened to make one large gathering space.  Of the ten of us, only myself, Linda, and her sister had cruised before, so this would be a totally new experience for everyone else.  We were very excited about this, but did not reveal it to the two youngest grand-daughters until Christmas Day, at which point they were 5 and 11 years old.

 

Linda tries to walk at least once a week with her friend, Diane.  Weather permitting, they usually walk at Kensington Metro Park as it is located between their respective homes, but otherwise at 12 Oaks Mall in NOVI.  They often see Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife, like the Great Blue Heron shown here.   (Interesting factoid:  the city of NOVI (“know – vie”) was named for the NO VI (number six) stop on the stagecoach trail from Detroit Michigan to Lansing Michigan (the State Capital).

 

Me (Bruce) on the roof of our Airstream travel trailer.  Unlike the bus, I very rarely get up on the trailer roof; there isn’t much room to walk around and I have to be careful to only put pressure on the ribs of the structure.

 

Fall was definitely here by the 25th of the month.  Our Crimson King Norway Maple tree has a lot of leaves, which it generously shares with our rear deck each year starting around this time.

20230827_T1_Air Ice Water Fire Air

Note:  This is the first of 16 posts about our 21-day trip that included a 17-day (16-night) cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship SPIRIT.  Our trip started in Michigan with a flight to Vancouver, British Columbia where we spent a few days exploring the central/downtown area.  We then boarded the cruise ship and headed north along the inside passage to Ketchikan, Alaska.  We toured Glacier Bay and then made port calls in Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka, with interesting shore excursions in each port.  We then crossed the North Pacific Ocean to the Hawaiian Islands, visiting Kauai and Maui before ending in Honolulu, Oahu, again with interesting shore excursion in each port.

This post consists of 5 photos with captions and some narrative.  Photos were taken by me (Bruce) with a SONY alpha 6400 or a Google Pixel 6 Pro, unless otherwise indicated.  Photos by Linda were taken with a Google Pixel 6.

 

SUNDAY 27 August 2023 — (T1) Detroit, MI (USA) to Vancouver, BC (Canada)

The first leg of our Air – Ice – Water – Fire – Air trip was air travel from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to Vancouver International Airport via Seattle-Tacoma (SEATAC) International Airport.  Much like any other “vacation” travel that does not involve one of our RVs, we had the usual preparations for this trip.  There was trip planning, booking the ship, arranging the flights, deciding what to take (and what not to take), figuring out how to pack it, online check-ins, actually getting to/from our home airport and parking our vehicle (we used U.S. Park for the first time, and it worked well), clearing Customs and Border check-ins, physical check-ins for flights and the cruise, and navigating unfamiliar airports, train stations, cities, and a cruise port and.  All of that was work, of course, and although makes for an interesting experience, it doesn’t make for particularly interesting blog fodder.

What might be worth nothing, however, is that we originally planned to do this cruise in June 2024 from Hawai’i to Vancouver via the North Pacific Ocean and coastal Alaska.  This is sometimes referred to as the “Fire & Ice” cruise and we had booked it earlier in 2023.  Sometime during the year, however, we received an e-mail from NCL informing us that the cruise had been cancelled.  Disappointed, but undeterred, Linda found that the same cruise was available on the same ship starting in late August 2023, but sailing in the reverse order.

 

On the street in Vancouver near our hotel.

Well, alrighty then, apparently we were going on our second cruise of 2023!  We were excited about it, of course, starting with embarkation at the Port of Vancouver in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  Vancouver would be a first time visit for us, and a place we had wanted to visit for some time.  Indeed, it was the first time we would be in any Province of Canada west of Ontario.  Although we plan to visit Alaska by RV in the next few years, this would also be our first time in Alaska, and we were aware that much of southeast coastal Alaska is best accessed by ship.

 

I have held a private pilot license since my early 20’s (a long time ago), and I enjoyed flying small planes, but I have no love for modern day airline travel, and Linda shares that feeling.  Flying out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport DELTA Airlines is our primary choice because Detroit Metro is a major hub for the airline and flies almost everywhere from there.  Their “service” seemed to be lacking this time, but we doubt that it’s any different/better with any other carriers.  We particularly dislike the luggage “self-check” system, which still requires us to interact with an agent, of which there never seem to be enough on duty to handle the number of passengers, resulting in long waits in long lines.  We do some of the work and DELTA gets to hire less people.

Adding to this annoyance is that they have special lines and agents for customers with higher loyalty levels, and these lines are often empty but the agents just stand around waiting for the next privileged customer to show up.  Once through the TSA security check-point (more on that in a minute) we object to people being allowed to bring suitcases/bags on a plane that are obviously too large to pass carry-on dimensions, even after being told (by public announcement) that this will not be allowed.  Add to that the small, cramped seats in the “main cabin”, a stupid loading order (front-to-back), and it’s just not much fun.  In fairness, our interactions with agents and cabin crew were pleasant and helpful, as usual, and things tended to work better once we are in the plane and in the air.  Until we have to deplane, which is always a zoo.  But again, to be fair, the other passengers tend to “play nice” and let people out of their seats as the plane empties out.

 

Another street view in our Vancouver hotel district.

The TSA security check-points are always a hassle, especially having to remove shoes, belts, etc. but on this occasion we encountered a new issue.  As we were getting in line (for the ordinary travelers, not those with TSA pre-check or other special security clearance credentials) the area was suddenly closed for a “shift change.”  Apparently the shift change involved a 100% rotation of personnel, necessitating the shut-down of the lanes.  We were directed to go through the check-point in the attached Westin Hotel; a considerable (1/2 mile) walk from where we were.  Once through security, we had an even longer walk (~ 1.0 mile) through the terminal to our gate.  Fortunately, we arrived at the airport plenty early to leave time for this kind of nonsense, but nonsense it was nonetheless.

 

A shot from the hop-on/hop-off bus.  Vancouver has some very interesting skyscrapers and other architecture.

When we have to fly, we typically have two roller cases each, one that just fits within the carry-on size requirements and one that is much smaller and fits easily under the seat in front of us if needed.  The airline rules do permit us to bring this combination on board, but we have taken to checking the larger bags and carrying the smaller ones onto the plane.  If we are going to be away for a long time, we will take one or two larger suitcases that must be checked.  As such, the smaller bags contain the essentials that we cannot afford to lose in transit: cameras, tablets, chargers, spare glasses, medications, personal toiletries, a change of underwear and socks, and our winter (down) jackets if required by the time of year and/or destinations.  If our larger bags on delayed or lost, the bags and contents are replaceable given some time to deal with the situation.  With that in mind, we always try to arrive at least one day ahead of embarkation for a cruise.  For this cruise, we arrived three days ahead of time, giving us two full days to explore a city we had heard so much about, and were excited to finally visit.

 

Another unusual skyscraper as seen from the hop-on/hop-off bus.

A direct flight from Detroit to Vancouver was not available, or at least not at a time that worked for us, and we ended up flying through SEATAC Airport in Washington (State) and changing planes.  Which was fine.  We had a bit of a wait for the second leg of our trip, but that was fine too.  Most importantly, our two checked bags arrived in Vancouver on the same plane that we did.

Once we had gathered our bags from the luggage claim in Vancouver, we made our way to the on-airport train station.  Vancouver has a train that runs from the airport to the train station in the heart of downtown.  The system was “self-serve,” and a bit confusing to us as first-time users, but we figured out quickly enough how to use a credit card to get through the entrance control gate and get on the correct train with our roller-cases.  The train ride was novel and fun, and we got our first ground level view of the Vancouver area.  Soon enough we were exiting the train at the downtown station.  The station was ~0.4 miles from our hotel and ~0.1 miles from the Cruise Port (in the opposite direction), putting our hotel only ~0.5 miles from the Cruise Terminal, which will be important a few blog posts from now.

 

Vancouver’s Chinatown was large and felt very authentic.  Vancouver is known as a cultural and ethnically diverse metropolis, and we saw clear evidence of that as we rode around on the hop-on/hop-off bus.  (Photo by Linda)

Linda had selected the Coast Coal Harbor Vancouver hotel for our three (3) nights in the city; partly for the reasonable cost and partly for its proximity to the train station and cruise terminal.  Rather than hail a cab or call an Uber, we walked to the hotel, rolling our suitcases as we went.  (If we were younger and more physically fit we might have opted for suitcases/bags that work like backpacks, but the wheeled cases were okay).  Once we arrived in what we thought was the correct location, it took us a few minutes to identify the entrance to the hotel, but once inside the check-in process was very smooth and the room, many floors up, was very nice with a view of some of the surrounding buildings.  It was the first time we had stayed in a hotel that required us to swipe our key card to use the elevator to access our floor.  This was true for all of the floors, not just the usual “penthouse” floor(s) at the top.

 

Our first impression of Vancouver was that it was an architecturally interesting, clean, vibrant city.  The hotel concierge gave us some brochures and suggestions about things to see and do during a relatively short stay, including places to eat (given our plant-based preferences).  He also suggested the “hop-on, hop-off” bus, which included a ferry service on False Creek, as the best way to quickly get acquainted with the city.  Vancouver is a large city, but its various districts and neighborhoods were very walkable.  We decided to have a first look at the city on the bus/ferry and then search out someplace to have dinner.

 

20230311-12 – Miami, FL (USA) and home

SATURDAY 11 March – Arrival in Miami and Disembarkation

This post consists of some narrative and 18 photos with captions.  ]

As our cruise was slowly drawing to a close, it would be an understatement to say that we had a great time.  We were grateful that Nancy and Paul invited us along on this adventure, as it was not even on our event horizon.  Had we decided at some point in the future to do this on our own, it would still have been a great trip, but getting to do it with close friends in one of the two “owner’s suites” of the NCL Joy HAVEN, was a unique (and probably once-in-a lifetime) experience for us.  And it was a very special experience, indeed.  Now where’s that lottery ticket?

We were up early to get ready to disembark and watch the ship come into the Port-of-Miami.  The Haven staff had laid out a breakfast buffet in the Haven’s Horizon Lounge, so we made use of that first.  The Lounge was mostly devoid of guests at this early hour, so following are photos of areas of the HAVEN that I have not previously posted.

 

The sign for the HAVEN Library, in the hall just outside the main entrance doors.  (We actually had a “back way” into the library as the emergency exit opened into the hallway right at the entrance door to our suite.)  The Library is on the middle (18th) of the three HAVEN decks.

A partial view of the HAVEN Library from near the main entrance doors, looking forward to port.  Our suite is just on the other side of the wall/bookcase at the left of the photo.

The hallway leading to the HAVEN Horizon Lounge.  The Lounge is all the way forward on the lower (17th) of the three HAVEN decks.  The center portion of the Lounge, however, has its ceiling at the top of deck 18.  All of the staterooms are on decks 17 and 18.  The Horizon Lounge, concierge desk, pool, and bar are on deck 17.  Deck 18 includes the Library and the Restaurant.  Deck 19 is indoor/outdoor lounging space.

The entire NCL Joy is an attractive and well-maintained ship, but even the signage in the HAVEN had a special, understated elegance.  (This photo also contains a selfie image of the photographer.)

The other members of our little “gang” having a bite of breakfast in the HAVEN Horizon Lounge while I roam around taking photographs.

The buffet area of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge.  We were there quite early (this photo was date/time stamped at 7:03 AM.)

The port side of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge.  The front portion of our suite, including the balcony, is above this ceiling but we never heard any noise from below when we were there.

A wider view of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge from mid-ship front looking to port.  The forward port corner of the library is visible in the upper left.  The front portion of our suite, including the balcony, is behind the upper wall with the slanted lighting.  To the right in the photo are the large forward-facing windows in the center of the Lounge which span both decks (17 and 18).

A view of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge and Library looking aft/starboard from slightly to port.  The forward wall of the Library is also all windows, so from there you can see all the way forward through the large center Lounge windows.  The wall with the lighting running at various angles is the other owner’s suite.

The HAVEN swimming pool and hot tub area.  The area is open all the way to the ceiling of deck 19.  The ceiling is retractable, but we never saw it opened during our cruise.  The opening on deck 19 has lounge chairs all the way around.  There is also access to the outside portion of deck 19 that is part of the HAVEN.

 

We arrived at the Port of Miami around 7 AM.  Our departure from Los Angeles was in late afternoon light under heavy mist and rain, so we didn’t really see any of the California coast.  With our approach to Miami, however, it was still dark and the sky was clear.  From our first sighting of lights along the shore, it took several hours to actually get to the cruise ship terminal.  While we might prefer national parks as places to visit and explore, there was no denying that the Miami skyline, lit up in the dark, is an impressive, urban sight.

 

 

Coming into the Port-of-Miami under the cover of darkness.  The cruise ship terminals are straight ahead.  (Click for a higher resolution image on appropriate devices.)

Heading towards the cruise ship terminals with the Miami skyline in the background; container dockyard on the left, superyachts docked on the right.  (Click for a higher resolution image on appropriate devices.)

The Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas at its Miami terminal on the left.  The Harmony of the Seas is even bigger than the NCL Joy.

As we come alongside the RC Harmony of the Seas, the NCL cruise ship terminal comes into view on the left.

The NCL terminal is very modern.  This photo shows one of the two enclosed gang planks.  They are similar to the jetways used at airports.  The whole structure moves parallel to the edge of the dock on rails and the opening for the ship can be adjusted (up and down) to match the boarding deck.

A final selfie of the “fab 4” by the maître de station of the HAVEN Restaurant.

 

As soon as we began disembarkation things got busy and we did not take any more photos until we reached the Orlando area.  The Norwegian Cruise Line terminal is a large, modern facility designed to make embarkation and disembarkation smooth and relatively easy.  We elected to take our own luggage with us and had priority disembarkation as a result.  (We each had an individual carry-on size rolling suitcase and each couple had a larger rolling suitcase that we checked when flying.)  We cleared in through US Customs quickly and found our way to the taxi / ride-share area where we booked a larger Uber to get the four of us and our six suitcases to the car rental area at Miami International Airport where we had reserved a car with Enterprise Car Rental for the next leg of our journey.

The rental car area was a new/large terminal in itself, and picking up our rental car was a relatively smooth, painless process.  We upgraded the size of vehicle at the counter for a small extra charge.  We also verified that we could use the toll roads.  The toll road system uses “toll-by-plate” and the tolls would be billed to Enterprise and passed along to us.  We were on our way by 9 AM and headed north on the Florida’s Turnpike towards Orland.  Our first destination was the boarding facility near Walt Disney World to retrieve Nancy and Paul’s mini-Goldendoodle, Bella, who was boarded there for the duration of the cruise.  (It was an amazingly nice boarding facility with a great staff, so Bella was in good hands while her servants were away on holiday.  She even had her own private “suite” with access to an outside area.  Sometimes “a dog’s life” is a pretty good life.  )

 

 

Nancy and Paul’s lot/pad at Mount Olive Shores North (MOSN) with their American Eagle motorhome.

 

Bella, Paul and Nancy’s mini-Goldendoodle, at the MOSN dog park.

With Bella in hand, we headed southwest on I-4 towards Lakeland, a route with which we were all too familiar.  Traffic on I-4 was as bad as usual, but eventually loosened up.  Soon enough, we were exiting for Polk City.  We arrived at Mount Olive Shores North (MOSN), where Paul and Nancy have a lot with a pad for their Class A American Eagle motorhome, a short time later.

 

 

Even through I wasn’t feeling well, we decided to go to Ford’s Garage in Lakeland for dinner.  Bella was with us, so needed their outside seating as dogs are allowed there.  We abandoned that idea shortly we arrived as the wait was going to be at least an hour.  We considered other dinner options, but ultimately decided to return to MOSN and pickup some pizzas in Polk City on the way.   We had a flight booked for the next morning from Tampa International Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), and spent the night in Paul and Nancy’s motorhome.

 

SUNDAY 12 March – Closing the Loop

We were up early in order to be ready to go and skipped breakfast.  We said our “farewells until next time,” and “thanks yous,” “and left MOSN around 8 AM for the approximately 1-hour drive to Tampa International Airport.  This early on a Sunday morning the traffic wasn’t too bad, and returning the rental care was quick and easy.  Our flight home on DELTA Airlines was schedule to depart at noon, so we found some seats near our gate, got some coffee and bagels/muffins, and doodled on our iPads will we waited.

Our incoming flight was delayed so we waited a bit longer, but it was no big deal for us.  A couple sitting nearby was a bit anxious, however, and we struck up a conversation.  They were headed to Amsterdam (Netherlands) via a connecting flight out of Detroit Metro Airport.  Their window to get off of our flight onto their next one was already uncomfortably small, but I think we made it out of Tampa International Airport in time for them to make the connection in Detroit.

Our daughter was tracking our flight, and drove to DTW to pick us up and take us back to her house, where we left our F-150 while we were gone.  Back at her house, we transferred all of our luggage into our truck, ready to return to our house.  The truck started just fine, but displayed a warning message about the charging system, and the battery light stayed on.  Linda Googled the message and found that it was likely that our battery was not charging and our range might be limited a 20- to 30-minute drive.  Knowing that, we thought we might make it home, and started on our way.  We didn’t get very far, however, before deciding that this was not a good idea, especially later on a Sunday afternoon, whereupon we turned around and returned to our daughter’s house.  She was happy to let us borrow her car to get home and we promised to return it in a day or so.  It was not the conclusion to our epic adventure that we envisioned, and the problem was resolved over the next few days, but that’s another story for another post.

Blog Post for 20221226-20230105 — The Happiest Place on Earth, and more

[ There are no photos for this post. ]

A while back our friends, and travel companions, Nancy and Paul, had invited us to join them over the holidays at one of the Disney Resorts.  Our 10-year-old grand-daughter, “Mads,” joined us for this adventure, but only found out she was returning to Walt Disney World a couple of weeks before we left.  While I plan to do a more in-depth post (or series of posts)about this adventure, here is a very short synopsis of our trip.  I have several posts to upload related to work that too place on the barn project starting in January, but wanted to at least have a short post about our holiday travels in the correct chronological position.

We left for the long drive to Florida on Monday, December 26, picking up our middle grand-daughter on the way.  We stopped for the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee and arrived at our destination in Orlando the evening of the 27th.

On the 28th the three of us visited The Magic Kingdom.

On the 29th, all eight of us spent they day doing a private escorted VIP experience at Universal Studios, Orlando.  This was our first time there, and we were both surprised and impressed with the place.  The Harry Potter area was probably the highlight, but the whole place was amazing.  No doubt being on a private VIP experience enhanced our perception of the place.  Our host, Robbie, kept track of how many rides we went on, and the calculated that we had saved 33 hours of waiting in line.  Wow.

On the 30th and 31st we visited the theme parks on our own while Paul and Nancy spent time with their family members.

On January 1st, all eight of us spent the day on a private, escorted VIP experience of the four Disney World Theme Parks, starting with the Star Wars area at Hollywood Studies.  It was a first-time experience for Mads, and she was suitably impressed.  Indeed, compared to her visits when she was 6 and 7 years old, she had found the courage to try rollercoasters and fell in love the experience.  In the end, it was mostly her, me an Evan (in his 20’s) who did the rollercoasters.

On the 2nd, the three of us spent a bit more time in the theme parks during the day but returned to the resort for dinner.  Around 6 PM we headed to The Magic Kingdom and staked out a viewing spot for the evening show, which is done by projecting amazing animated images onto the castle, using it has a screen.

We started the return drive home on Tuesday, January 3 (2023).  We spent that evening in Macon, Georgia, and the next evening in Covington, Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio.  We arrived home the afternoon of the 5th, after first returning our grand-daughter to her parental units and younger sister.

The barn project was not on our minds (much) during this time away, as we were visiting “the happiest place on earth” with our 10-year grand-daughter while hanging out with our friends and Eastern/Atlantic travel companions, and their family.  No progress was made on the barn project during this time, nor was any expected.  We knew before we left that the roll-up doors had been delayed until the end of the month.

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.

20221010 – Our last travel day; Streetsboro-Cleveland KOA (OH) to Home (MI)

MONDAY 10 October

The forecasted low last night was mid-30s (F), so during the evening we switched the HVAC controller for Zone 2 from heat-pump to furnace and set the desired temperature to 64 (F).  I set the thermostat to 58 (F) before going to bed around midnight.  The furnace ran perfectly all evening and through the night, as it has all summer, until sometime in the early morning.  I was half asleep and heard it short cycle, which is to say, the blower came on, ran for about 15 – 20 seconds, and then shut off.  That was a sure indication that the burner had failed to ignite.  As soon as I heard that, I was wide awake and got out of bed to investigate.

The temperature in zone 2 was 56 (F), confirming that the furnace had failed to run, as the actual temperature never drops 2 degrees (F) below the set point.  I turned up the desired temperature to 62 (F), but the furnace still did not come on.  (ABIR, I think it has a lockout feature that prevents repeated attempts to start after some number of failures.)  I thought that perhaps we had used up a tank of propane (highly unlikely) and that the valve on the other tank was shut, so I turned on one of the burners on the range to check.  It lit right up, so I knew we had propane.  I went outside anyway and opened the valve on the 2nd tank.  I came back in, now slightly chilled as it was 34 (F) outside, and put the water on to boil (electric kettle) to make coffee and wait for the sun to warm up the outside air to the point where we could run the heat-pumps in heating mode.

The most obvious reason the furnace had failed to ignite was that the “sail switch” had failed to detect air flow.  If so, it was not the first time this had happened; the switch is (apparently) delicate, and we have had this switch replaced once already.  I also do not know how to access it and replace it, but was feeling like it was time to learn, and carry one or more spares when we travel.  I would not, however, have undertaken that repair this morning as it was last travel day of our grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England.  By mid-afternoon, we would be parked in our driveway and moving back into our house, thus no longer dependent on the trailer for a creature comfort.  The failed fresh water pump was actually more of an issue, as I could not fully winterize the fresh water system without it.

Last night was our 117th night on the road, and today was our 118th day.  As of this morning, we had put close to 10,000 miles on the truck since we left home on June 15th.  We had estimated the towing miles at just under 6,000 and the touring miles (not towing) at ~3,000, so we were a few hundred miles over that, with the difference probably in the touring miles more than in the towing miles.

We were both up early enough to have a cup of half-caffe coffee and a light breakfast.  Checkout time was noon, but we had no reason to stay at the Streetsboro-Cleveland KOA Holiday until then.  We were not in a rush to leave either, however, as we wanted to let it warm up enough outside to be comfortable when breaking camp.

The information display in the F-150 parked in our driveway showing:  9,987.7 miles; 14.2 mpg average; 273 hours 6 minutes, and 14 seconds (~173.1 hours) engine run time.  That computed out to ~703.3 gallons (~2,662.3  L) of gasoline, or ~2.575 gph.  (Thinking about fuel consumption in terms of gallons per hour is an aviation/nautical thing.)

Our drive home was ~210 miles, almost all of it on Interstate and US highway with speed limits of 65 – 70 mph.  Our estimated travel time was 3-1/2 hours.  That meant it would probably take us closer to 4 hours to make the trip, so we targeted an 11 AM departure time.  Our departure preparations were smooth and unhurried and we pulled out of our site just before 11 AM.

We reversed our route from Saturday, heading east on OH-303 to OH-14 and then north to The Ohio Turnpike (I-80/90) Toll Road.  We got on the Turnpike heading west and set the cruise control at 64 – 68 mph, depending on road and traffic conditions.  We passed through a few short construction zones where we had to slow down to 40 – 55 mph, but then did not cause a significant delay.  At Toledo, Ohio, we exited the Turnpike onto I-75 North and then took I-475 West to US-23 North towards Michigan.  The toll road was in excellent condition, as was US-23 in Ohio.

US-23 in Michigan was a different story.  Although it is a limited access (4-lane divided) all the way to Saginaw / Bay City where it merges into I-75, the section from the Ohio border to Ann Arbor was in the same terrible condition that it has been in for years.  This is what visitors to our state first experience when coming in by this route, and it’s a sad embarrassment.

Our truck and trailer, back in front of our house where our grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England began on the morning of June 15, 2022.  It was hard to believe we were back home, and like we had never left.

We exited US-23 at M-59 (Highland Road), headed west towards our house, and a few minutes later pulled into our driveway.  I had pulled into enough pull-through RV sites over the course of the summer that I had pretty much figure out how get the truck and trailer aligned, essentially for unhitching, with the trailer positioned where I wanted it.  I am glad to say that I got it right on the first try this time.

Linda reminded me to take a photo of the information screen for the odometer reading.  I used the Trip-1 Odometer to record the total mileage for the trip.  When I shut the engine off, it read 9,987.7 miles.  We had averaged 14.2 mpg, and the engine had run for 273 hours 6 minutes, and 14 seconds (~173.1 hours).  That computed out to ~703.3 gallons (~2,662.3  L) or ~2.575 gph.  (I have no idea what we paid for that gasoline, but Linda can figure it out from her entries in Quicken.  Fuel wasn’t cheap but, no fuel, no trip.)

As we walked down the driveway we could make out some of the barn through the dense pine and fir trees just west of our house.  This was our first full view of the building, looking NW at the SE corner.  It looked great, and there was no doubt we had picked the right builder to handle this project.

The very first thing on our list, after unlocking the house, was to move Juniper-the-Cat inside.  Linda let her out of her carrier by her litter tray in basement bathroom, just the make sure she remembered where it was located.  We had remotely set the heat-pump (main floor of house only) up to 65 (F) before leaving this morning, and turned it up to 68 (F) when we got home.  I then turned the water to the house back on, plugged in the water softener and filter/sanitizer, and reset the date/time to the correct values.  We had also turned off the main (hot water baseboard) furnace before we left.  That meant we had no hot water, so I turned the main unit back on.  It was cool in the basement, so sometime later I turned on the basement zone and let it start to warm up.

This is the view looking NE at the SW corner of the barn from the north edge of the road.

Before turning our full attention to unloading the trailer and the truck, we walked down the west end of the pull-through driveway to see the RV-Barn/Workshop-Storeroom for the first time.  Although we had followed its progress via photos, it was exciting to finally see it in person.  Since I had designed it, and we both had a clear sense of the size of the bus and travel trailer, we had a sense of its scale, but architecture is 3-dimensional and has to be experienced in person to really grasp.  That said, it was both impressively large and surprisingly not large at the same time.  It’s had to describe the feeling of designing something and then seeing it as an actual, 3-dimensional, functional object.  It’s a great feeling, really.  I took a few photos, some of which I have included in this post.

This photo shows the inside of the barn from the left bay door opening.  Lots of details are visible in this photo:  the concrete floor;  the 16’ wall posts and headers;  the house wrap on the walls;  the roof trusses;  the tall/narrow wall windows;  the shop (main floor) / storeroom (above) in the NE corner, and;  the stairs leading up to the storeroom (the door openings to both rooms are visible, with the shop door under the landing for the storeroom door).

We like to get our RVs emptied out as soon as possible after an extended time away.  As we moved things from the inside of the trailer and into the house, and unloaded the truck (back seat and bed), we were amazed at just how much stuff we had carried around with us over northeastern North America.  The trailer has more interior storage than it appears, and we made full use of it.  Ditto for the F-150.

A view of the shop from the door opening in the SW corner, looking towards the NE corner.

After we had unloaded as much of the inside of the trailer as we wanted to for now, I checked the furnace again.  It lit right up and made warm air, but I also heard the blower on the Zone-2 heat-pump running.  The way the HVAC controller is designed, the furnace is on Zone-2, so we cannot run the furnace and the Zone-2 heat-pump at the same time.  After looking at the information screen more closely, I noticed that the FAN mode was set to Low.  Normally it’s set to Auto.  I switched it from Low to Med with no change, and then from Med to High, again with no change.  I then switched it to Auto, and after a few seconds the heat-pump blower shut off.  The furnace had continued running this whole time.

We have owned this trailer for almost exactly three years, and this was the first time I had ever observed this behavior.  I also had no idea why the furnace had failed to run this morning but was able/willing to run now.  The only thing I could think of was that the trip home, which had its “bouncy” sections (especially on US -23 in Michigan) had jarred the sail switch (or something else) loose.  (I did find a 1-1/2” pan head wood screw with a white painted head on the floor at the air return opening for the furnace, so who knows.)

The east side of the barn.  The vertical green trim, towards the front of the barn, is where the electric utility meter can will go (at the top) and the power cable riser will be mounted (for an underground service entrance).

While Linda was dealing with the kitchen, putting away containers and appliances, I went to my office to resurrect all of the computing and networking equipment and start a second load of laundry.  I had sorted the clothes, bedding, and linens into at least six baskets, and it would probably take me until Thursday to get it all washed, dried, and put away.

 

 

By this point we were both a bit tired, so dinner was Amy’s Pad Thai and small glasses of the Auslese Riesling we had bought in Hudson, Ohio.  Always tasty.

At 7:30 PM, we Facetimed with our son and his daughters, but mostly with the older daughter, Madeline.  The younger daughter, Sadie, is about to turn 4-years-old, and is at that age where she understands a video call, and sees it as yet another opportunity to be a clown.  Madeline, however, who is almost 10, was able and willing to give an account of her recent activities, in and out of school, and how she feels about them.

After our online visit, Linda got a nice, long, hot shower while I went to basement to get the SONY TV system operating.  As soon as I turned it on, I was presented with a software update, so I initiated the installation, which took quite a while.  When Linda was done, I also got a nice, long, very warm shower.  The shower in our trailer is fine, and we don’t mind using it while traveling, but …

Being Monday night, we watched our usual CBS programs.  When the last one ended at 11 PM, we were off to bed.

July 5, 2022 – Bus Barn/Workshop Site Prep & Foundation

Special Blog Post

While we are traveling, we are having a pole bar built to house the RVs and provide space for a workshop and storeroom.  Permits were pulled just as we were leaving.  On July 1st we got the first official photographs from the builder.  The following show the preparation of the site (barn pad and driveway tie-in), the removed top soil in the low area NE of the barn, and the trenched footings having been dug and the concrete poured.  Captions on the photos explain the rest.

 

Bulldozer with dirt and gravel viewed from across the street at the driveway egress.

Bulldozer and Gravel – 2, Laser level is to the right.  Top soil is in the low spot NE of the barn site.

Bulldozer and Gravel, Dirt and Gravel piles, laser level visible to the right.

Barn pad and poured concrete footings viewed from the NE corner.  The road runs downhill to the right and so does the existing pull-thru driveway coming in from the left.

More to come as work progresses and images arrive.

 

 

 

 

 

2016/4/16-20 (S–W) From Ham to Home (Again)

2016/04/16 (S) A Local Hamfest

I heard Butch and Fonda get in their car a little before 6 AM this morning and leave for the quad-county hamfest at the fairgrounds between Peru and Mexico (in North Central Indiana, not Central America).  I got up quietly at 7:30 AM, got dressed, put my camera in the car, and walked over to Small Town Brew to say “good morning” to proprietor Lisa Paul and fill my coffee thermos before driving to the hamfest.  As I approached the coffee shop I sensed that something was amiss.  The lights were off and something about the appearance looked different.  A closer view revealed that the interior had been redone and the name Small Town Brew was nowhere to be seen.  “The Branded Bean” was written on the window instead, but regardless of the name it clearly was not open for business.  I walked back to my car and drove to the hamfest about 10 miles away, slightly disappointed at not starting my morning with a nice cup of coffee and a cheery chat with Lisa.

There were quite a few cars parked around the venue when I arrived.  I’m not sure why, but hamfests and swap meets always seem to begin at sunrise and end by early afternoon.  Perhaps it’s a certain residual military influence or because it just leaves the rest of the day open to go home and play with new found treasurers.  Whatever the reason, I paid my $5 admission, got my door prize ticket, found Butch to say “good morning,” and then got some coffee.  Fonda was already taking her Amateur Radio Operator General Class license examination and Butch was busy with potential buyers so I walked the aisles in search of ham radio or other treasurers I could not live without, but did not find any.

Hamfests and swap meets are mostly cash only affairs unless there are larger commercial vendors there, in which case they might take credit cards.  I do not carry much cash, which is a good way to make sure I don’t spend much money buying junk I don’t need.  I did find a placemat size laminated grid square map of the United States for $5 and a laminated letter size sheet with the U.S. Amateur Radio frequency allocations for $1 and bought those.  Butch liked them so I went back and got a set for him too.  I also found some relays mounted to substantial heat sinks.  The seller had four of them for $1 each so I bought one without any specific purpose in mind.  The heat sink alone was worth more than $1 and Butch bought two of them later.

I eventually sat down at Butch’s tables and chatted with him (when he wasn’t busy) while we waited for Fonda to emerge from the testing room.  When she did she had a big grin on her face and we knew she had passed the test.  She only missed one question out of 35, which was an excellent performance.  Butch immediately got their W5YI / Gordon West General Class Study Guide and CDs out of a storage tub and put them out for sale.

Although Fonda had not studied for the Amateur Extra Class license exam she decided to take it since there was no additional testing fee beyond the $15 she had already paid to take the General Class test.  I decided to stick around and keep Butch company (not that he needed me to do that) until Fonda finished the Extra exam.  She got 19 items correct out of 50, not enough to pass but not bad for not having prepared, and it gave her a sense of what the test is like.  She wants to get her Amateur Extra license before the end of June as a new question pool goes into effect on July 1, 2016, and is very different from the current item pool.

I spent a few minutes talking to a soldier from the Indiana Army National Guard about the Hum-V they brought to the event and then returned to our rig in Twelve Mile.  I told Linda that Fonda had earned her General Class license (which Linda already has) and that Fonda was determined to get her Amateur Extra Class license by the end of June.  Not that Linda typically responds to a challenge, but this seems to have rekindled her interest in doing the same.

I had not eaten breakfast so we had vegan hot dogs and fresh fruit for lunch around noon.  I worked on blog posts until 1:30 PM when Butch and Fonda returned from the hamfest and I helped them unload their truck.  We all sat around chatting for a while but we were all very tired and Butch/Fonda needed to eat, so we returned to our motorhome to take naps.

Butch and Fonda had not reappeared by 5 PM so Linda checked to see if they were up as we wanted to go see the progress on their “new” house in Metea.  They were up so that is what we did.  We were at the house for over an hour looking at the interior reconstruction and discussing the plans for what was still to be done.  The house will not be ready to occupy this year and their hope/plan is to have it ready in 2017 before they leave again for the winter.

The property was seriously distressed but they got it for a good price.  Besides the house, which they are gutting and rebuilding inside, there is a 40′ W x 48′ L building with a concrete floor and two 12′ W x 16′ H overhead doors.  They could not build a new building like that for what they paid for the entire property.   We know, because we have been trying to figure out how to put up a similar building on our property.  Still, they bought themselves a big project and it is going to take some time and money to make it habitable and useable, or saleable if that is what they choose to do.

Fortunately they are now “retired” and still have the place in Twelve Mile to live as well as the converted bus.  Indeed, they still have an enormous amount of work to do to get the Twelve Mile property ready to sell.  It is an unusual property, having started life as a GM dealership in the 1930’s and only closing in 1981.  It then housed an electrical harness manufacturing operation before Butch and Fonda acquired it more than 20 years ago.  They turned the old showroom area into living quarters, retained the two bay auto service area for that use, as it has a functioning in-ground lift, and repurposed the rest of the space as a parts room, machine shop, wood shop, and warehouse for their business.

All told they have about 12,000 square feet under roof on two acres in the center of town on a state highway within very short walking distance of a bank and Post Office.  All-in-all, it has served their business and personal needs quite well over the last two decades but is now much more building than they need having sold off much of their business inventory in 2014 and closed Service Motors as an active supplier of parts for Crosley automobiles.  It will make an excellent building for someone, but it is going to have to be a buyer with specific and appropriate needs.

By the time we left it was 7:30 PM so we drove to the Mi Camino Real Mexican restaurant in Logansport for dinner.  Linda and I split a taco salad (no meat or dairy) and an order of vegetarian fajitas (no dairy).  We sat a long time after we were done eating just chatting before returning to Twelve Mile.  It was 9:45 PM by the time we got back so we called it a night and went our separate ways.

Back in our rig I checked my e-mail.  I had several from Gary at BCM, one of which had the first draft of the June 2016 issue.  My article on servicing the Webasto DBW2010.75 Diesel Burner is in that issue and needed to be proofread and corrections noted.  I made a first pass at that, replied to a couple of e-mails, and went to bed.  It had been a long but satisfying day and tomorrow was the first morning since this past Tuesday that we did not have to set an alarm and/or get up early.

2016/04/17 (N) Parts Shuffle

Fonda goes to church on Sundays.  She typically leaves around 9 AM and gets home between noon and 1 PM.  Butch is often up very early but not necessarily ready to interact with the world except through his computer so I tend to not bother him first thing in the morning.  We had a leisurely morning sitting around in our sweats (pants and shirts), enjoying our coffee, and eventually having breakfast.

When I finally got dressed and was in the humor to work, I unloaded the old tag axle caliper, old-old brake pads (not the ones I burned up), and the old torque plate, along with the new left-hand caliper rebuild kit, and moved them into Butch’s machine shop.  I also moved the old/broken Shur-Flo 4048 12 VDC water pump to his shop as he wants to see if he can figure out what failed and why.  With all of that stuff out of the car I repacked it to try and evenly distribute the weight of the remaining cargo.

Late morning I texted Jarel Beatty in Logansport to let him know we were here and invite him to come out and see the cabinetry he built for us last year as it was finally installed in the bus.  He had a shooting competition at 1 PM at the gun club/range near Twelve Mile and said he would try to stop by afterwards.

I had finally located the 24VDC regulator yesterday and showed Butch where it was located on our bus at the outside rear corner of the storage bay over the DS drive axle.  It was a very convenient location except that Royale Coach installed the slide out storage tray tight against the cover, making it impossible to remove without first removing the tray, which did not look easy to do.  Butch suggested that I unplug the chassis battery maintenance chargers, connect the batteries, and leave some of the bay lights on to draw off the surface charge so we could get a more accurate reading of the battery voltage later.  He also wanted to draw down the battery voltage a bit so that the alternator would have some work to do after starting the engine.

We were discussing how to deal with the failure of the regulator or alternator on the road and Butch suggested that I could always maintain the chassis battery voltage with a battery charger powered from the onboard genset.  I mentioned that besides the sophisticated, but low current, maintenance chargers that I have installed the coach came with a 24V emergency charger hardwired to the chassis batteries and powered from a 120 VAC outlet in the electrical bay.  The instructions for that charger, however, clearly indicate that it is for short time emergency charging to get the engine started and not for continuous use.  It given its age it is clearly not an “intelligent” multi-stage charger and would boil the electrolyte if left connected for too long.  Butch suggested that I remove the emergency charger and replace it with a modern, high amperage one that could be used to run the batteries and not just top them up for starting.  That seemed like a good idea to me so I added it to my (mental) project list.

Butch has been redoing the solar battery charging system on their bus and had one solar panel still to install.  Since it was loose he had me photograph the mounting rails he devised and attached to the long edges of the panel flanges.  The photos were for a future BCM article.

Jarel showed up sometime after 3 PM.  We showed him how we had installed all of the cabinetry and woodworking he had done for us based on my design drawings.  He had been in the bus several times before to discuss the project, so he had a good idea of what we were trying to accomplish, but visualizing it was one thing and seeing it quite another.  He really enjoyed seeing how the project turned out and took some photos with his phone to show his wife.

Linda started preparing dinner around 4:30 PM.  Jarel stayed and chatted until 5 PM and then went into Butch and Fonda’s house to visit with them and their dogs, Rascal (a Jack Russell Terrier), and Daffy (some kind of wire-haired Terrier mix thing).

While Jarel was visiting I borrowed a set of jumper cables from Butch and some sandpaper.  I used the sandpaper to clean the two terminals in the passenger side engine bay that are used to jump start the engine.  I then attached the jumper cables in such a way that the free ends could not touch, or the positive lead short to the chassis, by clamping the ground lead to a rail in the bay and setting the positive lead on a piece of cardboard on the ground.  I then clamped my VOM leads in the two jumper cable clamps so we would not have to hold them.

After Jarel left we checked the voltage on the battery bank.  It was 24.95 VDC.  A fully charged lead-acid battery bank at rest would be 25.2 VDC, so the voltage was reasonable given that I had the maintenance chargers off and there were some small loads on the system.  Butch had me start the bus motor, let the oil pressure come up, and then shut it off.  He had me start it a second time and then shut it off, and then start it a third time and leave it running, switching it to high idle.  While I was doing all of that he was monitoring the voltage on the VOM.

The voltage was showing just over 28 VDC, which is what we expected from a properly adjusted, correctly operating voltage regulator.  The voltage rose slightly when I switched the engine to low idle, but the batteries were probably fully charged by then and the current draw was probably minimal.  In any event it did not rise above 28.5 VDC, nowhere near the 30 VDC that would trigger a “high battery voltage” warning light on the dashboard.  There was also no indication of the alternator/regulator not producing adequate voltage as the “low battery voltage” warning light (the same light, actually) is triggered by a voltage below +24 VDC.

While the engine was running I made a mental note of the position of the needles on the two analog battery voltage gauges in the dashboard.  The “24V” gauge was higher than the 28V mark by a full needle width, i.e., there was a needle width gap between the 28V position and the left edge of the needle.  The gauge is only marked every 4 volts so it looked to me like it was reading around +29V.  The “12V” gauge was sitting right on the 14V mark.  The “24V” gauge should read 28 VDC and the “12V” gauge should read exactly 1/2 of that if the Vanner equalizers are working correctly.

Our simple test did not preclude intermittent problems with the alternator and/or voltage regulator that might occur after they were warmed up, and/or vibrating with the engine rotation at full RPM, and/or bouncing down the road.  It also did not rule out problems with the Vanner battery monitoring system, which is what controls the warning lights on the dashboard.  We also did not check the voltage at the battery bank center tap to see how closely it matched the gauge on the dashboard or how closely it was tracking 1/2 of the overall voltage as a check on the operation of the two Vanner Battery Equalizers.  Still, it appeared that the alternator and regulator were functioning correctly.

Linda made black beans and rice for our dinner and Fonda made baked squash and pork chops for their meal.  We also had carrots, grapes, strawberries, and pickled vegetables, including okra, to share around the table.  After dinner we got out our lawn chairs and sat outside for a while, pretending we were “camping.”  The air temperature dropped as the sun set and we finally put the chairs away and went inside the house to continue visiting as we had no way to make a campfire in their driveway.

By 10 PM we were all tired.  I asked Butch if I could use his big auto shop air-compressor in the morning to adjust our tires and he said he would turn it on and put the hose out first thing.  We returned to our coach and were fairly quickly off to bed.

2016/04/18 (M) Twelve Mile To Turkeyville

I was awake at 6 AM and finally got up at 6:30.  I put on my sweats, fed the cats, and prepared our morning coffee.  I noticed that Butch had already put the air hose out where I could use it so I checked/adjusted all of the tire pressures while the coffee brewed.  I also turned on the TireTraker TT-400 receiver/monitor and plugged in the repeater in the PS rear closet of the bus.  The outside air temperature was in the low 50’s F and all of the tire pressures were slightly below the cold pressures I like to run so I adjusted them.

After all of the tires were adjusted, and the air hose and tools were put away, I went inside the bus and used the monitor to check all of the tire pressures/temperatures and make a chart showing the actual and indicated values for each tire.  All of the sensors indicated pressures higher than the ones I had just set, using a known good digital tire gauge, by 1.0 to 4.5 PSI.  While this was within the specified “precision” of +/- 4% for the sensors, it was not as accurate as I think it should be.

Linda was up by this time but waited for me to have coffee and cereal (homemade granola) for breakfast at 9 AM.  Today is a travel day for us, and we would not normally have coffee or breakfast on a travel day, but we were not planning on leaving until around noon for the 3-1/2 hour drive to the Camp Turkeyville RV Resort near Marshall, Michigan.  We will also pass the Michigan Welcome Center / Rest Area and stop for fuel at the M-60 exit, so we will have opportunities to use facilities if needed.

After thinking about it overnight I decided that it did not make any sense for us to take the three new/rebuilt brake calipers home to Michigan only to have to haul them back to Indiana in a few weeks to have our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, install them.  I borrowed one of Butch and Fonda’s hand trucks and move them from the car to the machine shop one at a time.  I then repacked the back of the car, which was now 300 to 350 pounds lighter than when we arrived in Twelve Mile.

Sometime between 9 and 10 AM I called Camp Turkeyville to make a reservation for today.  Angela was not in the office but a woman took our name and request.  The park was far from full and the reservation not really necessary, but we wanted to make sure we got a full-hookup pull-through site.  We visited for a while with Butch and Fonda before making our final departure preparations.  By 11:30 AM we were ready for the final steps in the departure process.  Linda moved the car from in front of the bus and battened down the inside of the bus while I got the shorepower disconnected.  I started the motor, let the chassis air up, and pulled it straight across the street into the grain elevator driveway where Linda pulled the car up behind it.  With the car connected and prepared for towing I restarted the bus engine and we did our light check.  Butch and Fonda walked over for one last, quick conversation and then it was time to go.  They never chat with us while we are hooking up as they know it can create a dangerous distraction.

We knew the exact route we planned to follow but entered the destination into the Rand-McNally GPS anyway.  Ever since I did the update at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort the unit has been very sluggish in its response to screen taps but appears to still work.

I looped around through the grain elevator driveway back to IN-16 and headed east out of town.  At US-31 we headed north.  The GPS unit kept trying to get me to head east on county roads but I stayed on US-31 all the way to US-20.  At US-20 we headed east and stayed with that route all the way to I-69 in spite of the GPS unit’s repeated attempts to get me to turn north and head up into Michigan, presumably to pick up US-12.  At I-69 we headed north and soon enough we were back in our home state, the first time since November 27th last year.

About 12 miles into Michigan we stopped at the Welcome Center / Rest Area briefly and then continued or trip.  We exited again at Tekonsha / M-60 (exit 36?) and stopped at the Travel America for fuel.  The pump would not accept our Chase VISA card and we assumed that Chase Bank, ever vigilant with regards to its use as we cross state borders, had rejected it.  It turned out that the truck pumps were only set up to accept corporate/fleet cards so Linda had to go inside anyway and used one of our other cards to pay for the fuel.  All of this caused a bit of a delay but I eventually put 50 gallons in the tank.  I did not fill it because I did not want to put in the additives at this fuel stop.  I wanted to do that at the Mobil Truck Stop near our house and top it up just before getting home.

On our way once again we exited I-69 at N Drive North and a half mile to the west pulled into the entrance to Camp Turkeyville.  It was just before 4 PM and Angela was in the office and expecting us.  The site she planned to put us on had a car parked in it, without the owner around, so she moved us to a different one a few sites down.  It was a difference without a distinction and was an easy in, easy out, relatively level pull-through full-hookup site, which was all we cared about.  I adjusted the level and then shut off the motor.  The only hookup we needed for the rest of the day and evening was electricity so I took care of that and shut off the chassis batteries and air supply for the engine accessories.

Since we would only be here for one night we did not set up the interior the way we would if we were sticking around for even a few days.  We were parked facing south and the afternoon sun was bright and warm so I put out the awnings on the passenger side of the coach.  Gary, a fellow camper from a few sites down, stopped to chat and compliment us on our motorcoach.  After we wrapped up our chat we went inside and had an easy dinner.

One of our routines (traditions, rituals?) is to walk an RV park when we arrive unless the weather is very disagreeable.  The weather was near perfect this afternoon, and it was still plenty light at 7 PM, so we walked over to the Cornwall’s Turkeyville building to see if it was still open.  The building houses a restaurant, ice cream parlor, and general store.  They were open until 8 PM so we meandered through the store but did not buy anything as neither of us brought our wallets.  We strolled back to the campground and walked the outer loop before returning to our coach.

We had access to quite a few OTA TV signals and tuned in one of the CBS affiliates with a strong signal.  We watched our usual Monday evening TV programs and turned in for the night without setting an alarm.

2016/04/19 (T) Home Again

With the overnight low outside air temperature forecast to be in the upper 40’s we left the bathroom roof vent and bedroom windows open as we knew the outside conditions would make for wonderful sleeping conditions inside the coach.  We were tired, and did not have to be up at any particular time, all of which made for good sleeping snuggled under a thin blanket.  I got up at 8 AM, tended to the cats’ needs, and made 7 cups of coffee.  A little after 9 AM we had toast and preserves for breakfast.  We don’t usually have breakfast and coffee on a travel day, but today was the final leg of our winter 2015-16 snowbird season, and the trip from Camp Turkeyville to our home was only 80 miles, with rest stop opportunities along the way if needed.

Checkout time at Camp Turkeyville RV Resort is noon and our target was to pull out between 11:30 AM and noon.  Part of the reason for stopping here for one night before going home was to empty our waste tanks.  Another reason was to give us a short, easy drive at a time of day that avoided the rush hour traffic at the beginning and end of the work day.  This was the third year in a row that we have done this and it works very well.

We started tending to our departure tasks around 10 AM and would have been ready to go by 11 AM except for a very nice, but very talkative, neighbor.  Still, we were on schedule and not in any particular hurry.  We pulled out of our site at 11:30 AM and made the long, slow trip around the outer road of the campground to get back to the exit.  Once we were on I-69 N I set the cruise control at 63 MPH and let the bus roll.  I-69 between I-94 and I-96 is a concrete road made of small, discrete slabs, and you feel every joint between them.  But hey, it’s Michigan; we expect the roads to be in bad shape and we like it that way (not).  Well, apparently the majority of our fellow citizens like it that way, OR at least prefer it to paying taxes and enforcing weight limits and speeds.  If that wasn’t the case, our elected officials would do something about it.

There was rain headed our way but it was not expected until tomorrow or later.  Still, the sky was overcast and we had not traveled very far up I-69 when we started getting a light, intermittent drizzle.  It stayed with us all the way to Lansing where we picked up I-96 E.  By the time we got to exit 122 (M-52), where we stopped at the Mobil Truck Stop for fuel, we had driven out from under the rain.

Since the bus would be sitting for at least a couple of weeks I added Stanadyne Performance and Lubricity Formulas, and Racor Biocide before filling the tank.  It’s always better to have fresh diesel fuel but it is also good to store the bus with a full tank to prevent condensation from moist air in the tank.  My solution has been to use the Biocide and store the bus with a full tank.  If it is going to sit for any length of time I run the Parker Fuel Polishing Module to slowly filter it and remove residual moisture.

From the Mobil Truck Stop it was only 11 miles to exit 133 (M-59), another 10 miles to Hacker Road, and about 2-1/2 miles (on dirt roads) to our house.  This stretch of Hacker is scheduled for paving this year and we knew from the Livingston County Road Commission that work had already begun.  Indeed, the surveyors were working in the fall before we left for Florida.

The initial work this spring was the removal of trees along both sides of the road and as soon as we turned off of M-59 onto Hacker it was immediately obvious that this had occurred.  It was also obvious that the road had been very recently graded and that there had not been any rain since then.  We still took our time, keeping our speed to about 25 MPH, but it was one of the smoothest trips we have ever had in the bus along this stretch of Hacker.  To our delight, the grader had also obviously done our street recently and we noticed that a few of our neighbor’s had apparently trimmed or removed a lot of trees and bushes near the road.  Yeah!

As we got to the first of our three driveway entrances I stopped the coach and lifted the tag axle while Linda got out.  She always spots for clearance to obstructions and guides me into the final parking position.  There were a few larger tree limbs in the driveway so she picked those up before I pulled in.  Once I was positioned on the level parking pad area of the driveway I put the tag axle down.  The coach was close enough to level that I did not bother adjusting the suspension.  After letting it idle for a couple of minutes I shut off the motor and we started our arrival routine with one notable difference; Linda’s first task was to get the cats in their carriers, unlock the house, take them inside, and let them out of their carriers.  Coming home us a big deal for them, too.

I turned off the engine accessories air supply and the chassis batteries and connected the shorepower cord.  The circuit breaker for this electrical service is in the sub-panel in my office.  I turned on the wrong breaker the first time so it took a second trip to the basement of the house to get power to the coach.  We had no intention of unloading everything today but there were a few things we wanted to get into the house right away, such as wallets and keys.  At the top of my list was all of our computer, networking, and photography technology while Linda’s focus was on clothing and food.

Once we had our highest priority items moved into the house I texted the small circle of friends who we have been keeping in touch with about Linda’s illness and our bus problems to let them know we were home safe and sound with no further problems.  I then went to the garage, found our good battery charger, and connected it to the 12V starting battery in the Honda Civic Hybrid.  Brendan had told us a week or so ago that the battery was dead and when I connected the charger it would only accept about 2.5 Amps of current and quickly tapered off to less than one Amp.  That wasn’t much current for a depleted battery but I left it and went back into the house.

I checked a little while later and the charger had given up and displayed an “F01” error code.  I did not even bother looking it up as the car is a 2007 model and this was probably the original battery.  I decided to go ahead and get a new battery from O’Reilly’s in Howell, but first we had to unhook the Honda Element from the bus.  The car was filthy, having been towed at least 1,500 miles since it was last washed, but I stopped and got the new battery first and then went to the car wash just down the street on the same side of Grand River Avenue.  I then went to the Meijer’s supermarket at Grand River Avenue and Latson Road and picked up a few things.

Linda started preparing dinner at 5:30 PM and was just about to put the pizza in the oven when Butch called.  We chatted for about 15 minutes and he updated me on the removal of the radiator blowers and T-drive from their MCI MC-9 NJT bus.  This assembly is above the engine and almost the width of the bus but they were able to get it out using their forklift.  (It really is nice to have the right tools for the job.)  Butch noticed last weekend that a lot of the oil had leaked out of the T-drive and figured it needed new shaft seals, at a minimum, and might need new bearings.  With the assembly out of the bus Butch can conveniently do all of the needed work on a bench and repair/rebuild some other things while he is at it.

Our first dinner course was a nice salad with arugula and Italian kale.  The pizza was one of our favorites, an Amy’s Roasted Vegetables with Caramelized Onions.  By the time we were done eating it was almost time for our Tuesday evening CBS TV shows and I decided to replace the car battery tomorrow morning.  I did, however, move the NAS and my computer to my office and connect them to power and the Netgear switch.  To my great relief, the network interfaces on both devices still worked just fine.  Clearly, the Amped|Wireles SR20000G wired network ports had failed although I still do not know why and probably never will.

The 2015-16 TV season is coming to an end so the season finales are now airing and they are all cliffhangers, of course.  We went to bed at 11 PM, watched a rerun of Two and a Half Men, and a few minutes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert before going to sleep.

2016/04/20 (W) Core Return

We love our bus, love being in the bus, and love the lifestyle the bus affords us.  But we are not true gypsies at heart, and we also love our house and property.  We like the anticipation of travel and the promise of new experiences, but we also like the comfort and stability of finally landing at home after a long voyage.

We slept in this morning and finally got up at 8 AM.  Some things are the same regardless of whether we are at home or in the bus, and morning coffee is one of them.  We were enjoying our morning brew when our son texted Linda to see if we were available to FaceTime.  Of course we were!  A short time later we were “face-to-face” with grand-daughter Madeline (and her parents).

Another constant is Linda’s homemade granola.  She managed to make enough of it, and/or we managed to limit our consumption of it sufficiently over the winter, that we still had some left for breakfast this morning.  We might have one or two more servings beyond today, but she will be shopping for ingredients and making a new batch very soon.  She will also be making sure we have the necessary ingredients on hand to make vegan pancakes and vegan cupcakes as we anticipate an overnight visit with Madeline in the very near future.

After breakfast we got dressed and got to work.  Linda called Alchin’s to restart our weekly trash pickup while I made a service appointment for the Honda Element.  We checked our home phone messages.  Only a handful of the 42 messages contained any actionable information.  I made note of those details and then deleted all of them.  I called Catamaran Home Delivery and ordered refills for two prescriptions.  I then called Keith at Kish Lawn Care to see when he was planning on starting our mowing this season.  Keith’s wife just had major surgery, and the grass has not grown much yet this spring, so the first cutting is probably still a couple of weeks away.

With our calls taken care of we turned our attention to replacing the 12V battery in Linda’s Honda Civic Hybrid.  The nuts on the two threaded hold down rods were badly rusted and did not want to come loose so I sprayed them with WD-40 and let them sit for a while.  I eventually got the nuts broken loose and backed off enough to remove the rods, but bent the retaining brackets in the process.  I put the rods in my bench vise, and finished removing the nuts.  We removed the old battery, transferred the anti-corrosion pads to the new battery, set it in place, and reinstalled the protective plastic 2-piece cover.  We connected the vehicle cables and then connected the good battery charger to it to bring it to full charge before trying to start the car.

Back in the house Linda unloaded containers of water from the house refrigerator and then wiped it out.  She then unloaded a few more things from the bus, including clothes and food.  I texted Jim and Kristine Gullen to let them know we were back and then started researching small tractors and mobile Wi-Fi devices.  Linda was getting ready to order an Instant Pot and a couple of 12VDC power adapters for our Rand-McNally GPS unit through Amazon and I suggested she look for the Burton portable induction cooker that we saw at Butch and Fonda’s place.  The Suntunpen unit we have now works fine but the Burton unit has two advantages over it; a completely flat/smooth top and higher maximum power setting.  She found it, added it to the cart, and placed the order.

Linda heated a can of Amy’s vegetable soup and we split it for lunch.  I checked the battery charger and it said the battery was full so I put the old battery on the back seat floor and had Linda start the car.  It started on the second try and she backed it out of the garage so I could get in.  The hybrid battery was depleted and there was a red battery symbol illuminated on the instrument panel that we had never seen before so we got the Owner’s Manual out and looked it up.  It either meant that the 12V battery was not charging or that the hybrid battery was drained below some threshold, or possibly both.  We could see the charge level coming up on the hybrid battery so we waited and the battery warning light eventually turned off.  Linda also noticed that the in-dash navigation system, having completely lost power, was requesting a security code to reactivity it.  I found the code on a sticker inside the glove box and after Linda entered it the system returned to normal operation.  When the hybrid battery charge indicator was above 50% she backed out of the driveway and we went on our errand run.

I was on Golf Club Road last night when I went to O’Reilly’s to get the new battery so I knew it was in rougher shape than usual.  We took Hacker Road south instead which kept us on pavement.  We headed back west on Grand River Avenue to O’Reilly’s to return the old battery and get the core charge refund.  We then drove back east a short way to the drive-through car wash.  Linda had not used it before and was unclear about its location.  With the car all cleaned off we headed west again to Teeko’s Coffee and Tea to order some fresh roasted coffee beans.  Jeff was there and roasted the beans while waited and enjoyed a cup of Sumatra Manhelding coffee.  We got our usual Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe blend and decided to try a Costa Rican Terrazzu half-caffe blend.

We took the long way home, going back east on Grand River Avenue and then north on Hacker.  The extra driving around gave the hybrid battery plenty of time to recharge and cycle up and down and kept our just-cleaned car mostly on paved roads.

Back at the house I backed my car up to the large garage door and unloaded everything inside in preparation for my 10 AM service appointment tomorrow at Brighton Honda.  While I did that Linda unloaded a few more things from the bus.  We had quite a few rocks on the concrete driveway, as a result of Kerry Fear plowing snow this past winter, so I swept them off with a push broom.  We also had 6″ high ‘curbs’ at our three driveway entrances as a result of recent road grading, so I graded them out using a metal toothed rake.

By the time we finished those tasks we were ready to be done with physical work for the day.  Linda decided to spend an hour or so studying the item pool for the ham radio Amateur Extra class license exam.  I gathered up the laundry, took it to the laundry room, sorted it, and started a load.  I then joined her on the back deck to work on blog posts for a while.  By 4:30 PM it was a little chilly and we went inside.  I took up my usual spot on one of the living room sofas and almost immediately Juniper (our female cat) was in my lap.

For dinner Linda made a nice salad with arugula, Italian kale, strawberries, and slivered almonds.  The main course was pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions and barbecue sauce, served with a side of corn kernels.  Yum.  After dinner Linda wanted to go for a walk so we patrolled our street from one end to the other, which took about an hour.

Wednesday night is usually PBS night for TV but neither of us were in a TV watching mood.  I went to my office for a while, checked in to RVillage, and changed our location.  I then went to the WiFi Ranger website, downloaded some manuals, and opened a support ticket.  Back upstairs I texted Joe Cannarozzi, our mobile mechanic, to arrange a time to call him and discuss brake work.  I then called Mike (W8XH) to catch up on ham radio and SLAARC stuff and check on borrowing his trailer to transport our non-functional Cub Cadet Lawn tractor to Sloan’s for repair.  By the time I wrapped up my conversation with Mike, Linda had gone to bed and was watching a program on PBS about a previous live broadcast from the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary called The Best of Big Blue Live.  Linda fell asleep but I stayed up long enough to watch a rerun of Two and a Half Men and the first half hour of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert while working on this post.  With the stroke of midnight came sleep.

 

2015/11/27 (F) On The Road Again

We slept on the bus last night but did not sleep well, probably due to a combination of factors.  We had too much to eat for dinner, too much to do when we got home from dinner, too much anticipation of our early departure, too much anxiety about the weather, and too much awareness of it and other sounds.  The motorcoach seems, at times, like a living thing.  It makes its own unique set of sounds and motions, even when parked, and it always takes a few days and nights to get reacquainted with it after a period non-use.  It is well enough insulated but we are still in much more intimate contact with the weather when living in the coach than we are in the house.  It rained most of the night; hard at times, and woke us up when it did.  We would normally sleep through the rain if we were not thinking about oversleeping or having to get up and complete out travel preparations in the dim light of a rainy sunrise.

Sunrise was at 7:39 AM.  Normally it would be light enough to work outside 30 minutes before that but densely overcast skies and rain kept the light level very low.  I had been awake at the bottom of each hour from 4:30 on and we finally got up at 6:45 AM.  We did not have breakfast or hot beverages but did have a small glass of orange/grapefruit juice with our vitamins.  We (mostly Linda) straightened up the interior and secured the pantry and refrigerator for travel.  There was a lull in the rain at 7:30 and we used that opportunity to make our final departure preparations.

Linda shut off the circuit breaker for the engine block heater and I shut off the Aqua-Hot burner and engine pre-heat pump.  Linda got her BAHA and calendar from the house and shut off the circuit breaker that feeds power to the RV outlet while I put on my rain pants and coat and took care of the outside stuff.  I disconnected and stored the shore power cord.  I got the car ready to tow, opened the air supply valves for the various air-powered accessories, and switched on the chassis batteries.  When Linda was back on board she arranged towels around the base of her seat for the cats.  I started the main engine, let the oil pressure come up, switched it to high idle, and switched the suspension to drive mode.  After the chassis was fully aired up I did one last walk-around to check the clearance above each tire, got back on board, secured the entry door, and got out of my rain gear.

Juniper used to get behind the old passenger seat and Jasper used to get under the edge of it by the center aisle.  Juniper can still get behind the new seat but it is narrower and Jasper cannot get under it.  With the engine running he was looking for a place to hide so Linda set his carrier on the platform next to the seat, arranged the blanket inside it, and put Jasper in but did not zip it closed.  We weren’t sure he would stay in it but it apparently provided the sense of shelter and security he was seeking and he settled in.  We buckled ourselves in, I raised the rag axle, let the suspension adjust, dropped the idle to low, put the transmission in first gear, released the parking brakes, and pulled forward.  It was 8 AM and raining lightly so our local dirt roads were muddy.  We had almost 400 miles to travel today, but only the first 2.5 miles were on dirt roads.

We worked our way very slowly down the pothole riddled ribbon of dirt that serves as an excuse for the road we live on.  North Hacker Road was in somewhat better shape, but not great.  Traffic was almost nonexistent, being the Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so I kept our speed between 10 and 15 miles per hour and got passed by two cars.  Question:  How long does it take to go 2.5 miles at 10 MPH?  Answer:  One quarter (1/4, 0.25, 25%) of an hour, i.e., 15 minutes!  We did not have any trouble turning right onto eastbound M-59 where, again, there was almost no traffic.  A couple of miles later we got on southbound US-23 and I got the coach up to 65 MPH.  Except for construction zones, 55 MPH urban speed limits, interchanges, and one rest stop, I kept the bus at 65 MPH +/- 3 MPH most of the day.  I think the rest stop was near Piqua, Ohio but we honestly do not recall where we stopped as we did not leave the coach to use the rest stop facilities.

We had persistent light rain as far south as Findlay, Ohio and intermittent light rain until somewhere between Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio.  The drive through Cincinnati and over the bridge into Kentucky is always interesting.  The road twists and turns with frequent entrances and exits and occasional interchanges but I stayed in the center lane and it was fine.  As soon as you cross the Ohio River and enter Kentucky there is a long, steep uphill grade, but I handled it a lot better than I did two years ago.  That was partly because of lighter holiday traffic and not getting stuck behind a maximum weight semi in the right lane.  I stayed in the second lane from the right, dropped the tranny into 4th gear, kept the RPMs and turbo boost up, and did not drop below 50 MPH while keeping the engine temperature from exceeding 200 degrees F.  My technique was definitely better, but perhaps having a clean air filter and having fixed a faulty turbo boost pressure sensor line last December also had something to do with how the bus performed.

The drive through Kentucky was dry with high clouds to mute the sun a bit.  There was a stiff wind of around 15 MPH all day out of the south to southwest so that undoubtedly hurt our fuel mileage a bit.  We took Exit 76 onto KY-21, went west about 0.4 miles, and turned into the Oh Kentucky Campground RV Park at 2:30 PM.

Linda got us checked in and a few minutes later we pulled into our nice 50 Amp full-hookup site.  It was a straight pull into the site and will be an easy left pulling out.  We agreed that it was the same site we were in two years ago when we stopped here on our way to Florida for the first time.  We got the coach leveled and then I connected the shorepower cord, switched off the chassis batteries, and shut off the unneeded air valves.  I started the car, ran it through its gears, shut it off, removed the key, and locked it.  As I was doing all of this I observed that the coach was very dirty.

The temperature was in the lower-mid 60s and we were both feeling the need to do something besides sit.  Linda read the campground rules and they stipulated a $10 charge for washing a rig, payable in advance.  We decided to pay it and take advantage of the near ideal weather conditions:  high overcast, light breezes, temperature in the low 60s.

Linda went to the office and paid the $10 cleaning fee while I got out the cleaning supplies and the hose and nozzle.  We mixed four capfuls of McGuire’s automotive soap with a couple of gallons of water.  Linda handled the hose and I handled the soapy long-handled brush.  We washed the bus and the car, including the tires and wheels, in about 75 minutes.  Either my wax job had held up very well since I applied it in Quartzsite, Arizona last February, the water was extremely good, or the McGuire’s soap was the right thing to use, but whatever the reason some combination of the three cleaned up the bus nicely with no hard water spots.

The site in front of ours had a small 5th wheel on it and a couple about our age (or a bit older) was installing foam insulation skirting around the space under it.  We went over and chatted with them for a while and then retired to our coach for the evening.  The Wi-Fi at the RV Park was a bit flaky so I turned on our Verizon MiFi and got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  Linda connected with some of her online word game opponents and I played some of my solitaire games.  For dinner we had leftovers from yesterday’s fabulous meal.  Afterwards I exchanged text messages with Chuck and then worked on this post.

 

2015/11/13 (F) Road Trip

I set my alarm for 5:30 AM and got up when it went off.  I got dressed quietly, fed the cats, refilled their water fountain, and took my allergy pill and B-12 vitamin.  I used a plastic bag to pack a change of underwear and socks, a basic oral hygiene kit, my iPad, my checkbook, and my phone charger cable.  I loaded my travel bag and walnut pieces into the car and then checked the mousetraps in the pantry.  One of them had two mice in it.  It was still pitch dark outside so I drove to the end of the new driveway, parked with my headlights pointing across the road, took the trap to other side of the road, and released them.  They went scurrying off into the thick undergrowth of the woods and I drove back to the house.  I left the trap on the front porch and went inside to wash my hands.

I finally left on my road trip to Indiana at 6:20 AM.  I needed fuel so I headed south on Hacker Road and stopped at the Shell Station on Grand River Avenue at I-96.  There is a Dunkin Donuts co-located with the station so I got an extra-large coffee and was on my way.  I decided to head east a couple of miles on I-96 and then south on US-23 to Ann Arbor where I picked up I-94 west.  I took I-94 as far as I-69 and then headed south.  Somewhere along this segment I realized I had forgotten the box with the two swivel ring bearings.  That meant I would not be stopping at Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan to return them, which would save me time but necessitate getting them back to Josh another time and/or another way.

The change in plans would loosen up my schedule a bit but I still had four stops to make and was anxious to make time.  I stayed on I-69 south into Indiana and then took the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90) west.  Traveling west there is one travel plaza between I-69 and the SR-19 exit.  I stopped there to use the restroom and get another cup of coffee.  Back in my car I called Josh to let him know I would not be stopping by his shop today in Edwardsburg.  I then called Linda to update her on my whereabouts and change in plans.  She said she would take care of getting the box with the swivel ring bearings ready to mail.

The weather was overcast, drizzly, cool, and windy when I left this morning.  The winds were out of the west so I had a crosswind or a headwind for the entire trip down.  By the time I reached Indiana I had driven out from under the cloud cover.  The temperature remained very cool but the sunshine was refreshing.

My first stop was A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana.  Much to my surprise Terry had used the exact same fabric for the filler cushion that we had her use for all of the other ones, so it was a perfect match!  I got a call from Josh while I was there and called him back as soon as I left, but got his voice mail.

My next stop was at Pat and Vickie Lintners’ house, about three miles from A-1 Upholstery, to pick up a critical accessory piece for the built-in Nutone multi-function kitchen appliance.  We have a functional power base built in to our kitchen counter in the bus but only had the blender attachment.  Vickie gave us a number of other attachments at a rally back in September but many of them required a right angle tower adapter.  She had found the adapter a few weeks after the rally.

From Pat and Vickie’s I backtracked to the main north-south road, went south back over the St. Joseph River, and headed west on Old US-33 (Lincolnway).  I got a call back from Josh and he said to stay on my current road all the way to the Mishawaka bypass and then head south to US-20.  From there I was on familiar road as I headed west to US-31 south.  Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint had called while I was at Pat and Vickie’s and I let it go to voice mail.  I called her back when I was done talking to Josh.  They had both called me with some recent scuttlebutt about a service facility in Elkhart where friends of ours had some major remodeling work done on their vintage bus, but it was also a chance to catch up on things in general and helped pass the time as I drove.

I stopped in Argos for fuel and called Bill Tharpe with an ETA of 12:30 PM.  I then called Jarel to let him know I would be there by 1:30 PM.  Butch had driven me past Bill’s place once some time ago so I had a fairly good understanding of where it was and what it looked like; not that I needed it.  Given the address my Garmin 465T GPS unit took me right to Bill’s place on Mexico Road south of Mexico and north of Peru.  Sounds like I was in Central America.

Bill was outside waiting for me and we unloaded the antique SUN Electric Distributor Tester from my car and into Butch’s truck, which Bill had for the winter.  He was headed to his building in Wabash, where he has a paint booth, to repaint the truck so we did not chat for very long.  Besides, I still had one more stop and it would take at least a couple of hours.

A couple of miles on down Mexico Road I headed west on US-24 towards Logansport and arrived at Jarel Beatty’s cabinet shop at 1 PM.  Jarel was not expecting me until 1:30 so he was in the middle of cutting dados in side panels for a tall cabinet.  When he finished that task he switched to a regular blade in his table saw to work on my pieces.

We selected the most suitable pieces of walnut from among the ones I brought.  He ripped two pieces, one 2″ wide and the other 2-1/16″ wide, and crosscut them to 19-11/16″ long.  He then ran them through his shaper to round off the edges.  He changed the blade on his table saw, reset the depth of cut, and set the fence to cut off the amount of material I had marked with blue painter’s tape on the bump out for the passenger side HVAC duct cover.  With the sawing done he sanded the two new pieces and then sprayed them with a Sherwin-Williams pre-catalyzed lacquer.  He let the first coat dry for 15 minutes and then lightly sanded it with 220 grit paper to knock down tiny bubbles and splatters.  He then applied a second coat.  It was remarkable to see how it changed the appearance of the wood.  Jarel described it as being like “putting water on a rock” and I thought that was an apt description.

After another 15 minutes the pieces were dry enough to be transported without damaging them.  I wrapped things up with Jarel, including finally remembering to get all of my drawings back, and was ready to leave at 3 PM.  The GPS said I would be home by 7 PM, quite a bit earlier than I expected when I left this morning.

I had smooth sailing until I encountered a major traffic jam on I-96 eastbound just east of US-127 on the southeast corner of Lansing, Michigan.  It took 45 minutes to go three miles and I was sitting at about 1/8 tank of fuel.  Ugh.  There turned out to be multi-car accidents in two separate locations about a mile apart plus a car stopped in the right lane that appeared to have run out of fuel.  What a mess.

Once I was clear of the accident area it was clear sailing once again.  I stopped at the Marathon station at the Fowlerville exit (#127) for fuel and checked out the truck pumps.  Although there were lots of semi’s parked there for the night I was disappointed to find that the back lot was in as bad a shape as the Mobil Truck Stop at exit 117.  Still, the round trip from our house would be 20 minutes shorter and it was an alternative place to get fuel.  The closest place to our house where we can fuel the bus is actually the Marathon station on Grand River Avenue at I-96 in Brighton, which has truck pumps around back, but we have some low branches in the southbound lane of Hacker Road just before we get to Grand River Avenue, so we tend to avoid that route and that stretch of Grand River Avenue is often very busy and not someplace I want to be with the bus unless it is later at night.

I checked the mousetrap in the pantry when I got home and we had caught yet another mouse.  I unloaded the car and then took the mouse trap to the end of the new driveway and released it across the road as I had done with the previous four.  As I walked down the driveway it was obvious that Phil had been here with his bulldozer, which Linda confirmed over dinner.

The “parking pad” area is now presumably level but it was definitely not flat as it had deep marks from the bulldozer treads and ridges where the gravel had not been completely smoothed out.  The top inch or so also seemed very loose.  I don’t think Phil is done working on the project as he still needs to spread straw over all of the topsoil that he placed, graded, and seeded the other day.  I suspect that he still needs to compact the gravel one last time with his track loader but I won’t know for sure until I can talk to him.

Dinner was chili and crackers; simple but delicious.  It had been a long day but I had taken care of four things in one trip, three of which were directly related to the bus and two of those of a somewhat critical nature.  We were both off to bed not long after dinner.  Tomorrow was our weekly ham radio breakfast so we would have to be up early to get there on time.

 

2015/10/14 (W) Frankenmuth Friends

The forecast for today was for cloudy conditions in the morning changing to partly sunny in the afternoon with seasonally cool temperatures; a perfect fall day for our afternoon visit with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Catherine at the Jellystone Park Campground Resort in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

After our usual morning routine of feeding the cats, eating breakfast, and drinking our coffee while reading and writing, we showered and dressed for the day.  We were going to work in the bus on the installation of the desk but decided we did not have enough time and did not want to feel rushed.  We want the installation to be just right the first/only time.

I used some of the morning to continue studying the manual for the new Sony a99v DSLT camera and some of it to put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter roster and e-mail it to the other officers and members of the nominating committee.  I also got a text message from Chuck inquiring about local service options for the Cruise-Air air-conditioners we have in our buses.  I replied that ours have only been serviced by Butch Williams who is five hours away in Twelve Mile, Indiana when he and Fonda are not in the desert southwest.

We left at 11:15 for Frankenmuth.  We took Linda’s car so she drove.  We stopped at the new Meijer’s in Birch Run for bottled water, grapes, and pretzels.  M-83 was down to one lane and we had a bit of a wait at the temporary traffic signal.  I called Bill to let him know we were there and he was waiting for us out by the road when we arrived at the park at 12:15 PM.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion.  They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion. They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Karen had found peanut butter pretzels and had a nice platter of fresh fruit that included sliced kiwi, strawberries, orange segments, and grapes.  She made tea for both of us and we settled in to chat.  Bill and I took up stations at the dinette while Linda and Karen sat on the “Chesterfield.”  We chatted away until 2:30 PM, and somewhere in there Karen made cups of hot coffee.  It was a cool day outside but warm and cozy in their rig.  Bill and Karen have a mid-60s GM transit bus that they acquired and converted in the mid-80s.  They have been coming to the Frankenmuth Jellystone Park from their home in Ontario, Canada for as long as they have had the bus.  It is 50 years old this year and Bill figures it has traveled a million miles between its commercial service and life as a motorhome.  Bill did a nice job with the conversion and it has held up very well over the years

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

At 2:30 PM we drove over to the River Place outdoor mall and walked around”.  River Place is one of the newer developments in Frankenmuth but stayed with the “fantasy Bavarian village” theme of the town in a really nice way.  It is compact complex of buildings arranged with narrow, winding pedestrian corridors that occasionally open up into small plazas.  The façades are all faux Bavarian with the appearance of being two or three stories tall, increasing the sense of being “in” the village.

After checking out River Place, and buying a small bag of jalapeño flavored popcorn, we ambled all the way to the other end of the Main Street shopping district and back.  Along the way we stopped in lots of stores and bought a few things at the health food store that we cannot usually find locally.  The light was wonderful and I captured a few images with my old Sony a100.  I did not bring the new Sony a99v as I was not ready to use it.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back.  The cascading waterfall is man-made.  The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back. The cascading waterfall is man-made. The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

We got back to Bill and Karen’s bus at 5:15 PM and sat for a while before going to dinner at 6 PM.  Mike and Catherine joined us for dinner and we walked next door to the Black Forest restaurant.  Our dinner choices were very limited but they had a flatbread pizza on the menu so we tried that with mushrooms and onions, hold the cheese.  The tomato sauce was surprisingly spicy and it made for a decent vegan pizza.  Our side salads were simple but the ingredients were fresh and the whole meal was quite acceptable, made better by the company of friends.

By the time we walked back to Jellystone Park it was 8 PM.  We visited with Bill and Karen until 9 PM and then took our leave.  We probably won’t see them again until the 2016 GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, Indiana.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Birch Run to fill the fuel tank and were still home by 10 PM.  Although I would normally handle night driving I was sleepy so Linda drove us home.

 

 

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

When we entered the house we were not greeted by our two cats.  We called but they did not come.  This is unusual behavior for them and usually means they are up to something, with the odds highly in favor of something having to do with a mouse.  We found Juniper in the basement “guarding” the folded up corner of one of the throw rugs and I spotted a small, motionless mouse partially concealed by the rug.  It was dead, which is why she wasn’t carrying it around in her mouth playing keep-away with me.  Linda got a small plastic zip lock sandwich bag and I used it to pick up the mouse and seal it inside before putting it in the garbage.

Jasper was nowhere to be found.  In looking around the basement a second time Linda noticed that one of the boxes we keep on the window sills behind the sofa in the recreation room had fallen on the couch.  That was a sure sign that Jasper was up in the suspended ceiling.  He has gotten up there before via that window sill and the boxes were there to keep him from gaining access to that space.  Apparently they were not the deterrent we thought/hoped they were.  We called for him and eventually he responded verbally.  He then stuck his head around the edge of the ceiling and looked at us upside down.  He eventually decided it was safe to come down but seemed unsure of how to accomplish that.  I moved the other box on that window sill, stepped up onto the arm if the sofa, and helped him down onto the sill, into my arms, and then onto the sofa.  In some was he is just a big baby.

We had no way of determining whether he stayed up there because he wanted to or because he wasn’t sure how to get down but regardless was rather insistent on getting attention from us.  That desire for contact and comfort followed us into bed until he finally gave himself a bath and then curled up next to me to go to sleep.  I worked on this post for a while and then turned the lights out.

 

2015/10/12 (M) Countertops Plus

I was up later than usual last night so I did not get up this morning until 8 AM.  I fed the cats but did not have breakfast or make coffee.  I put the ham radio antenna back on my car and reinstalled the control head and microphone.  I then reinstalled the GPS and the cellular booster.  I moved the front passenger seat forward, set the back all the way down, and the moved it back until it touched the passenger side rear seat, which I put down last night.  I got two 2x4s from the garage that were about seven feet long and set them on the reclined seats to serve as full length supports for the desk/counter top I was picking up today from Countertops Plus in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Linda got up at 8:30 AM and got a couple of blankets for me to use to protect the desktop and the tabletop once there were loaded in the car.  I made sure I had my checkbook, sunglasses, wallet, phone as well as the address and phone number for Countertops Plus.  It was a beautiful, clear, cool morning as I backed out of the driveway at 8:45 AM.

The GPS predicted I would arrive at 11:30 AM but tried to take me on a different route than the one I actually followed.  I followed my usual route, heading west on I-96 to Lansing and then south on I-69.  I stopped at the Shell station half way between Lansing and Charlotte but their pumps were all out of order.  (We encountered this same situation at our local Shell station on the way home from our ham radio club meeting last night.  We presumed they were out of fuel.)  I went to the BP station across the street and fueled my car.

I got off I-69 again at the Charlotte exit about 15 miles later and stopped at the Biggby’s coffee shop where I got a toasted bagel and a large coffee to go.  My coffee was 40% Biggby’s best (regular), 40% French roast (decaf), and 20% Michigan cherry (regular).  I was glad I did not use any more Michigan cherry than I did as the flavor is very strong and somewhat unpleasantly artificial.  Biggby’s is definitely not my favorite coffee but the location in Charlotte is about an hour into the trip to Indiana and conveniently located relative to the highway.

I stayed on I-69 as far as Coldwater and then headed west on US-12.  At Sturgis the GPS had me turn south on Centreville Road (M-66).  A few minutes later I crossed into Indiana and passed the Howe Military Academy in Howe.  I went west on IN-120 and then took several county roads before arriving at Countertops Plus at noon.

On the drive down I got a call from our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi.  He is tentatively coming to our house on Monday, November 1, to service the chassis and engine.

The office at Countertops Plus was unattended so I walked around the side and found owner Ferman Miller working in his shop.  He had me back up to one of the loading doors and helped me get the desk/counter top into the car and onto the pair of 2x4s.  He set the tabletop, which was much smaller, on one of the blankets on the floor in the rear.  I wrote a check for the balance (cash or check only, no credit cards) and got a receipt.  I set the GPS for home and headed back the way I came.

When I got back to Howe I got on the Indiana Toll Road going east and took it toI-69 where I exited and headed north.  I stopped at M-60 to have lunch and then drove across the street to the Shell station.  All of their pumps were also out of service so I drove back towards the highway entrance ramp and stopped at the BP station.  It appeared that whatever was affecting the Shell stations was widespread.  I got back on I-69 north at 1:30 PM and the GPS said I would be home in approximately 90 minutes.

The beautiful blue skies of the morning were becoming more and more obscured by clouds the farther north I traveled.  It had been breezy all day and that continued but with reduced intensity.  It was almost completely overcast by the time I got home.  I did not stop again and pulled in the driveway around 3 PM.  I backed the car in front of the bus and unloaded my personal affects.  We inspected and measured the desktop and table and were satisfied that they were the correct size and shape.  The plywood base was not exactly as I had specified it but the deviations will not prevent the desk from being assembled correctly or be visible.

While I was away Linda had removed the remaining wallpaper in the cockpit of the bus and made a trip to J. C. Penney’s at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi to look for new privacy curtains for the front of the bus.  I was not in the mood to change into work clothes and needed to work on FMCA Freethinkers chapter roster and financial statements so I went to my office.  After cleaning up my desk and checking e-mail I got down to business.

Linda called me up to dinner at 6 PM.  We had a nice salad, Amy’s Spanish Rice and Bean soup, crackers with peanut butter and strawberry preserves, and watermelon.  We got a few raindrops on the rear deck while we were eating even though the probability of rain was near zero.  The weather is changing this week from mild and dry to cooler and a little wetter, with our first sub-freezing overnight low temperature forecasted for this coming weekend.  Cooler weather means more soup, which is fine by me.  It also means more mornings with the fireplace on while we enjoy our coffee; also fine by me.

I made progress on the Freethinkers chapter records but did not get done.  We watched a few TV shows on the big TV set in the basement; Big Bang Theory, Scorpion, and NCIS Los Angeles.  I did finalize plans for our visit with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Catherine at the Jellystone RV Park in Frankenmuth on Wednesday.  I also managed to get an e-mail off to Lou letting him know that the new camera had arrived.  We went to bed at 11 PM, put on the Create channel from the Detroit PBS affiliate (WTVS), and watched travel and cooking shows while I worked on this post.  Around midnight I thought I heard it raining but did not get up to check.

 

2015/09/20 (N) On To CCO

I woke up at 7:30 AM but lay in bed until almost 8 AM.  It got down to 50 degrees F outside last night and was cool enough in the bus for really good sleeping under several layers of sheets and thin blankets.  Linda was still sound asleep so I slipped into my sweats and walked over to the meeting room for coffee and conversation.  I skipped breakfast as I prefer not to eat before I have to drive the bus for any length of time.  I would normally skip the coffee too but we did not plan to leave until noon, so I figured I had time to process it.

Linda eventually got up, got dressed, and joined the other women in the kitchen for conversation.  Tim Olsen and Karl Crigger had not seen our remodeling project yet so we headed to the bus.  Tim was particularly interested in what we had done in terms of furniture and we had a nice chat.  All around us the other rally participants were in various stages of preparing for departure and both Tim and Karl took their leave to attend to their own departure routines.

Linda managed to get other people to take various pieces of chapter-owned food-related equipment and supplies with them so we did have to take them home, store them, and possibly have to get them to someone later.  She started preparing the inside of our coach for departure while I installed the hitch back into the receiver on the bus.  Most of the rally attendees had left by 11AM or were getting ready to pull out so we decided we would go too.

I fired up the bus engine and then disconnected and stowed the shore power cord while the engine warmed up and the chassis aired up.  The site directly behind us on the other side of the road was empty, and it would be a much easier departure from there than from our site, so I backed the coach up while Linda served as spotter.  Kathy came over so Linda showed her our interior remodeling project while I pulled the car around behind the bus and connected it to the hitch.  Linda caught up with me and helped finish preparing the car for towing while I opened the air valve for the auxiliary brake system on the car.  She checked that all of the bays were closed and locked, said “so long” to several folks, and got on board.

We were ready to pull out when Dan stopped by to say “thanks” for a great rally and then Mike stopped by to wish us safe travels.  There are quite a few people in GLCC that we have never met, but most of the ones we have crossed paths with are genuinely nice people.  Many of us in the GLCC chapter are also members of an independent organization named Converted Coach Owners, AKA “CCO.”  Linda and I joined CCO in August 2014 but have never made it to a rally.  The annual Halloween Rally will be in Centreville, MI the weekend of October 17th.  Our bus should be usable then and we are seriously considering trying to attend.

I pulled the tag axle up and pulled out at 11:30 AM, driving around the back side of the activities building to get to the exit.  This route is open with easy, wide turns.  The more direct route has narrow roads with sharp turns, large trees close to the road, and low branches; not a big rig friendly route.  A lot of large motorhomes and 5th Wheel trailers use Elkhart Campground and I do not understand why the trees along this route are not trimmed up adequately.  We have encountered the same thing, however, at other RV parks.  I get the feeling that many people who own/operate RV parks have never owned/used an RV or at least never driven a large one through their own campground.

We discussed several different route options that might avoid construction delays but ended up taking CR-4 back west to SR-19 north into Michigan and picked up US-12 east.  The road construction between Sturgis and White Pigeon that delayed me for 20 minutes on Tuesday was finished and we rolled right through that stretch.  We stayed on US-12 to Coldwater, got onto I-69 north, and took it to the southeast corner of Lansing where we exited onto I-96 east.  We encountered our only road construction backup approaching the US-127 interchange at the southeast corner of the Lansing area.  We were through that soon enough and on our final stretch home.  We left I-96 at exit 133 and headed east on M-59.  The last few miles were the worst.  Hacker Road is as bad at the moment as we have ever seen it, more pothole than road, with deep, frequent ones at that, but we took it slow and made it home without breaking anything (as far as I know).

Linda made big salads for dinner which we enjoyed with a glass of Moscato.  She relaxed playing online games while I set up my computer and then checked into the SLAARC information net.  We watched the repeat of the last episode of Sherlock from last season and then went to bed.

 

2015/09/19 (S) Rally Wrap Up

Today was the last full day of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) annual Surplus and Salvage Rally.  It started with strong storms overnight but they had dissipated by breakfast time.  The skies eventually cleared on brisk winds with a chilly northerly component and the high was forecasted to be 67 with some clouds.  The clouds turned out to be white, scattered, and fast moving and it turned out to be a lovely late summer day with a hint of fall in the air.

The breakfast provided as part of the rally was pancakes and sausage but Linda and I had our granola and finished up the berries.  We decided to stay around the campground and have an easy day.  Initially, however, we had some post-breakfast excitement.

Juniper caught another mouse.  It was another very small dark gray house mouse, obviously very young but old enough to wander away from a nest in search of food and water.  I got it away from her and into the paper cup that we kept for this purpose and put the paper bowl on top.  Linda took it back to the woods and set it free.

Even after catching two mice in the last 16 hours the cats continued to show great interest in the base of the bathroom sink cabinet.  The front of the toe kick space has one of the many brass colored expanded metal screens for the OTR HVAC ducts and several things were becoming clear to me at this point.  1) We had a nest somewhere in the bus; 2) the nest was likely in the base of this cabinet, or accessible from there, and 3) the baby mice were apparently small enough to get through the expanded metal grate.  I also suspected that something had happened to the mother mouse which is why the babies were leaving the nest.

Some of this was confirmed when I got down on the bathroom floor with a flashlight and was looking through the grate when a small mouse came out of the 4″ flexible duct.  I tapped on the grate and got it to turn around and go back.  I measured the rectangular opening.  Linda cut a piece of cardboard about 1″ larger in width and length and I taped it over the opening.

We were away from the coach visiting with Scott Crosby of http://BusGreaseMonkey.com and others before Scott left for home.  Scott and Tami Bruner came over too, followed by their friends/neighbors Misty and Gary who brought their GM3751 Silversides to the rally.  When we returned to our motorcoach it was immediately obvious that Juniper had caught, or at least cornered, something, probably another mouse.  Her posture and vocalizations are distinctive in the presence of prey.  What was odd was she was by the front of the new built-in sofa rather than in the bathroom.

I shushed her away and she left the area without much protest.  I did not see a mouse and walked to the bathroom to make sure our cardboard cover was still in place.  It was, so if there was another mouse it must have gotten into the living area of the bus through some other opening, perhaps the OTR HVAC air return under the sofa.  When I returned to the living room the mouse was climbing up onto the top edge of my slippers.  I did not see exactly where it came from but it could have been inside one of them to escape the cats.  I got the paper cup and bowl and caught it fairly easily.

I put on my Crocs, which we use as easy on/off camp shoes, walked back to the woods at the southern boundary of the campground, and set the mouse free.  It scampered under some leaves but its odds of survival were probably as small as it was.  The temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 40’s tonight and I heard a Great Horned Owl off in the distance.  Still, its survival odds in the bus were probably worse.  We had live trapped an adult house mouse under the kitchen sink when the bus was still at home, but that was a couple of weeks ago so there is no way it could have been the mother of these current juvenile mice unless it found its way back into the bus.  My assumption was that the mother was not around and the young mice were desperately trying to find food and water.  These circumstances made me a bit sad, but we simply cannot have mice getting into the living area and becoming play toys for our cats.  Ultimately we need to find a way to keep them out of the bus altogether but so far a solution to that problem has proven to be elusive.

The official rally lunch was leftovers after which folks divided up whatever was left.  Linda split the remaining salad lettuce with Vickie and took some bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and bottled water.  I grabbed a mostly full 2 L bottle of diet Coke.

Marty Caverly stopped by to see the bus remodeling and stayed to chat a while.  Marty had spent the better part of a day at the Back-to-the-Bricks Rally last month getting Pat and Vickie’s cruise control to finally work reliably.  He spent most of this morning getting their air leveling system to work reliably.  Marty is an electrician who did a lot of work with electronics in his 40 years with General Motors and is the “go to” guy in our club for most electrical issues.

There was a lull in our social activities and Linda settled in to read while I worked at my computer transferring drafts of blog posts from e-mail to Word.  I edited a week’s worth from the third week of July and got them ready to upload but did not post them.  I will do that when we get home.  I used the MCD day shade while sitting at the desk to cut down the light while still affording me a view.  Linda forgot her iPad and was using mine to read one of the latest novels in Nick Russell’s Big Lake series.  She went for a walk which gave me an opportunity to work on this post as I write them using the Note app on my iPad.

We saw Pat and Vickie walking towards the office and figured they were making arrangements for next year’s Surplus and Salvage Rally.  They stopped at our coach on the way back with the signed contract.  The dates are September 21 to 25, 2016 and the nightly camping rate is $35 plus tax for 50A full hookup sites.  It’s pricey, but the campground is conveniently located in the heart of the Elkhart area with convenient access to many RV surplus businesses.  We also get the exclusive use of a meeting room with a full kitchen, and they always reserve sites for us that are close to the meeting room.  It should be a lovely time of year to have the rally, being the first five days of fall.  Unfortunately we will probably not be attending as we do not plan to be back from New England by then.

Meals for this rally usually include dinner on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Friday also being a business meeting, and breakfast on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  The only lunch is the “must goes” on Saturday.  Saturday dinner is traditionally out at a restaurant and the choice this year was McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk.  The Elkhart River splits as it comes into the city, joins back up with itself and eventually flows into the much larger St. Joseph River at two points.  McCarthy’s features some very interesting Irish fare but the ambiance is slightly upscale restaurant rather than an Irish pub feel.  Our food choices were very limited, of course, but we knew that before signed up to go.

We rode over with Pat and Vickie and sat with them at one end of the table.  I think we had 13 of the 23 attendees at dinner.  Linda had a Guinness and I had a lighter beer that had “cider” in the name.  We each had a house salad with a very nice balsamic vinegar dressing but no cheese and an order of French fries.  The service was OK but not outstanding.  I asked for Tabasco sauce and Vickie had to remind the waitress to get it.  I was over half done with my fries by the time it arrived.  The serving was small but the fries were good and we did not leave hungry.

Most of us went for a walk along the river after dinner.  The sun was already below the downtown skyline, however, and it was chilly.  None of us brought jackets so it was a shorter walk than it might otherwise have been.

Back at the campground Scott and Tami started a campfire in the fire pit by their rig.  Linda and I brought over our chairs, blankets, a bowl of grapes, and our glasses of wine.  Vickie brought her chair, popcorn, and a popcorn skillet designed for popping corn over an open fire.  Dan brought his chair and joined us.  It was a clear, crisp evening but the fire (and blankets) made it comfortable, the popcorn and grapes made it yummy, and company made it worthwhile.

Although relaxing in some ways, rallies are intense in other ways.  We have only been here 3-1/2 days but we arrived tired, ran around taking care of things, and when we finally relaxed the tiredness washed over us.  We gathered up our things and went back to the coach at 10 PM where we watched an episode of Grantchester on the local PBS affiliate, went to bed, and fell asleep.

 

2015/09/18 (F) RBus Anniversary

The predicted thunderstorms came overnight with heavy rain and lots of lightning and thunder.  I was aware of the rain but Linda seemed to be more aware of the lightning.  Based on the radar just before going to bed the strongest storms passed north of us.  Even with furnaces and air-conditioners we are more intimately connected to the weather in our RV than we are in our house, especially during storms, but we like that aspect of the lifestyle.  If we wanted to live in a climate controlled bunker we would build one at the house.

Our bus at the GLCC Surplus Salvage Rally at Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, IN.  We bought it six years ago today.  We are the 4th owners as best we can determine.

Our bus at the GLCC Surplus Salvage Rally at Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, IN. We bought it six years ago today. We are the 4th owners as best we can determine.  The older GM buses behind ours are also members of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter.

We bought our bus six years ago today.  It is an H3-40 VIP motorcoach that was manufactured by Prevost Car Inc. in Quebec, Canada in August 1990.  It is powered by a Detroit Diesel 8V92TA diesel engine manufactured in April 1990.  It went directly to Royale Coach in Elkhart, Indiana in September 1990 and the conversion was finished in October 1991.  Because of the timing it was titled as a 1992.

In Michigan vehicles have to be at least 25 years old to qualify as “historic” so we are still a couple of years away from that benchmark, but she is a grand ole gal none-the-less.  Technically historic license plates, which carry an inexpensive registration fee, are only supposed to be used on vehicles that receive limited use, such as in car shows and parades, but people routinely put them on everyday use vehicles to avoid paying higher registration fees.  We, however, do not intend to do that.  It’s the kind of thing that some bureaucrat in the future can decide to do something about and end up imposing retroactive penalties.  It’s just not worth the risk of having to deal with that hassle.

We spent an hour after breakfast figuring out the required dimensions for the Corian table that will go between the two captain’s chairs in the living room of the bus.  I then called Countertops Plus and left a message for Ferman Miller with the dimensions.  It turned out that the table needs to be 22″ wide and 38″ long and I doubt that he has enough material in his 96″ by 30″ sheet to make both the desktop and the table.  I will follow up with him on Monday if I do not hear back from him before then.

We left late in the morning to visit two of the surplus and salvage businesses on US-12 in Michigan.  Johnson’s is just west of White Pigeon and Bontrager’s is east of White Pigeon but not as far as Sturgis.  I found two switch plates at Johnson’s that might fit two small 12V DC switches I need to mount.  At Bontrager’s I found a 1-1/2″ Bristol blade valve to replace the one on our fresh water tank.  We also bought four packages of small 12V DC LED rope lights.  Each pack is 5 meters (16′) long and has 60 warm white LEDs per meter.  They are rated at 4.8 Watts per meter and are very bright.  My intention is to use them around the inside of cabinet openings in place of the incandescent light fixtures that are original to the coach.  The will give a brighter light and illuminate the entire inside of the cabinet rather than shining light from a single location.

We looked at a powered fresh water hose reel with a 40′ hose and a powered 50A shoreline reel with a 33′ cord.  They wanted $200 for the water reel and $400 for the cord reel.  Linda looked them up online using her phone.  The asking prices were certainly less than retail at Camping World, but not enough less to make me shell out that kind of money for something that might not get installed for a year or more, if I could figure out a way to install them at all.

We stopped at Martin’s on the way back to camp and bought two Amy’s frozen vegan lasagna entries for dinner.  The other rally participants were having regular lasagna and we wanted to fit in.  🙂  Salad was also being served and Vickie was making it without cheese, eggs, etc. so we could have some.

Pat and Vickie had a Nutone Food Center years ago and still had some of the accessories plus a replacement motor.  They brought all of it over to see if it would fit our unit.  It did, but was missing one piece, a right angle drive that was needed for some of the accessories.  Vickie was pretty sure they had it somewhere at home but would have to look for it after the rally.  They also did not have the food processor, which is the accessory that interests Linda the most, but it was nice to get what they had.  Linda can start checking EBay now that we know the other accessories fit our recessed power base.

I helped Pat with the wiring for an LED replacement bulb for a fluorescent light fixture.  They have 12 of these fixtures (with 24 tubes) in their 1987 Prevost XL conversion.  Pat found LED replacements that can be wired directly to the switched 12V DC supply, completely eliminating the use of the electronic ballasts.  It turned out that the pins at each end of the tubes were also electrically active and we had to cut all of the interconnecting wires.

Ed Roelle stopped by to find out what we were doing with all of the food equipment.  Apparently someone thought we were “giving it all away.”  Not true, of course; it belongs to the club and isn’t ours to give.  What we wanted was for different people to take the things that will be the most useful at the rallies they host.  Linda and I do not make it to all of the rallies, and next summer we will miss two of the big ones; Back-to-the-Bricks in August and Surplus & Salvage in September.  We plan to attend the Escapees Escapade Rally at the end of July in Essex Junction, Vermont, and then the FMCA rally in early August in Massachusetts.  We will then head for the Canadian Maritimes and work our way back down through New England over the course of the early fall.

Pat Caverly stopped by to see the bus.  Linda showed her around and then we all sat down to visit for a while.  After they left to help with dinner preparations I finished the posts for yesterday and the day before, e-mailed them to myself, and started working on today’s post.

Dinner was scheduled for 6 PM and most folks were gathered by then.  Rain looked imminent so I closed the three roof vents in our bus, gathered up the bag of chapter T-shirts and flags, and went to the meeting room.  I conferred with Pat, Vickie, Tami, and Linda and decided to hold the brief business meeting before dinner.  It took all of 10 minutes.  Dinner was salad and lasagna.  Vickie prepared the salad by keeping all of the ingredients separate.  That allowed us to build our salads using only things we eat, which we really appreciated.  Linda heated the frozen Amy’s vegan lasagnas that we bought at Martin’s for our main course.

Linda was helping clean up in the kitchen and I was sitting at a large round table swapping bus stories when Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint came in.  She was on her way home, which is not far from the campground, and knew from talking to Josh (at Coach Supply Direct) that we were here for a rally.  She stopped in to see if she could find our coach, which of course she could even in the dark, since she is the one who painted it.  Linda and I excused ourselves and went back to the coach with Michele, retrieving her kids from her car.  We showed her the interior remodeling and had a long chat.

While we were talking Juniper caught a small house mouse.  We knew there was one around because she had been focused on the bathroom most of the day exhibiting stalking behavior.  Something got my attention and when I went back to the bedroom it was immediately obvious, even in the dark, that she had a mouse on the bed and was “playing” with it.  I got a paper cup and went to the bedroom to try and catch it.  It was very small, clearly a very young mouse.  I made Juniper release it and it hunkered down on the floor by the HVAC duct.  When I put the cup down it started to go the other way but Juniper was there and it turned around and ran into the cup.  Although the cup was not big it was big enough, and slick enough, that the mouse could not climb out.  I put a paper bowl over the cup to make sure it did not escape and we continued to chat.

It started raining while Michele, Raven (her daughter), and River (her son) were visiting.  At one point the rain was very heavy and the lightning was intense and frequent so they stayed long enough for the storm to pass.  It was getting late and we were all a bit tired so they prepared to leave.  I took the bowl off of the cup and placed a plastic zip lock bag over the cup and zipped it shut.  Raven carried the cup and Michele said they would release the mouse about a mile down the road near an area of fields.

Linda turned the front TV on and we watched an episode of Gotham, which we will not have to watch again, and American Masters (on PBS).  The American Masters episode was on the photographer Pedro Guerrero.  Although known as perhaps the best photographer of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, he had a far-reaching and distinguished career.  As always, it was a well done program on a fascinating individual who made important cultural contributions.  Linda was dozing at the end, went to bed, and fell asleep.  I tried to write for a while, gave up, and went to sleep.

 

2015/09/17 (R) Counter This

I went to breakfast before Linda as she was still asleep.  I wanted coffee but it wasn’t ready so I toasted a blueberry bagel and ate that.  Eventually the coffee was ready and I had some.  Linda showed up a little while later with our granola and fruit and most of the rally attendees arrived and had breakfast.  I got a call from Josh regarding the Corian desktop.  He indicated that Ferman Miller of Countertops Plus in Shipshewana had a piece of Sandstone Corian big enough to make our desk top and was expecting us to call or visit.

After breakfast we gave Vickie a tour of the bus and visited for a while.  We then drove to Countertops Plus, located east of downtown Shipshewana, and met with Ferman Miller.  He had a piece of 1/2″ Sandstone Corian that was a perfect match to our existing counters.  It was 96″ long by 30″ wide.  He needed a 72-3/4″ by 25-3/4″ piece for the desktop plus a 72-3/4” by 1″ piece and a 25-1/4″ by 1″ piece for the front and left edge returns.  It looked like he might have enough Corian left to make our dining room table so I made a quick sketch but left off the length and width dimensions.  We ordered the desktop and the table.  He figured out the price and we gave him a deposit.  I need to determine the length and width of the table and call him in the morning with those dimensions.

We set the GPS for Jarel Beatty Cabinetry and headed for Logansport.  I called Jarel to let him know we were on our way and verify that it was still OK to come.  We drove through the pleasant Amish/Mennonite countryside on small count roads we had not previously traversed and passed a school where the children were playing softball dressed in their plain, traditional clothing.  It was an odd yet delightful sight.  Once we were on US-20 we were on familiar roads.  We stopped along US-20 for fuel and a break and bought some peanuts and water.  We arrived at Jarel’s place at 2:11 PM.

We brought a 60″ long piece of 1/4″ walnut veneer plywood and had Jarel rip two pieces 4-3/4″ wide.  He actually cut them slightly wider and then trimmed off a small edge to get the long edges clean and square.  We loaded the half sheet (96″ by 24″) of 3/4″ walnut veneered plywood in the car and then loaded the half box cover for the forward passenger side OTR HVAC duct.  There were other pieces of plywood and hardwood left so we loaded all of those as well.  We only realized after we left that we forgot to get the drawings back from Jarel.  I sent him a TXT message and asked him to hang on to them until I could get them from him and he agreed to do that.

We stopped at the Martin’s supermarket about a mile from Elkhart Campground and made salads for dinner at their excellent salad bar.  It was 5:30 PM by the time we got back to the campground.  Dinner was nominally at 6 PM but was ready to eat closer to 6:30.  Linda reheated seitan stroganoff (vegan, of course) for our main course.

After dinner we gave Charles and Connie Martin the tour of our interior remodeling project and chatted for a while.  There were thunderstorms in the overnight forecast so I rolled up the two driver side awnings.  We then joined Scott and Tami Bruner at the fire pit by their bus.  I took a couple of folding chairs over and Linda brought our glasses of Franzia Moscato.  Charles joined us and so did Dan.  Tami had interviewed for a new job this morning, gotten the offer, and accepted the position, so it was a big day for her.  She and Scott have also been successful finding things they need for their bus conversion projects (they own two buses) so it has been a very good week for them.

Tami was tired and headed off to bed and Linda had the same idea a short while later.  There was a fairly high probability of rain starting at 2 AM with but we got occasional drops starting at 10 PM.  By midnight we were all getting tired and the raindrops were becoming frequent enough that they gave us an excuse to call it a night as we needed to put our lawn chairs away so they did not get soaking wet.  I wrote for a while in bed but I was too tired to work efficiently and went to sleep around 1 AM.

 

2015/09/16 (W) CSD to GLCC

I spent the night in the coach at Coach Supply Direct, in the fenced in parking lot, next to the train tracks that run parallel to M-62 through Edwardsburg, Michigan.  I was up late and went to bed tired.  The trains did not bother me (they run at every hour of the day and night) but aching knees and joints in my hands, especially the base of my thumbs, made for a less than sound sleep.  I had also not leveled the coach when I arrived yesterday but it was slightly low to the front passenger side so it did not bother me as me head was higher than my feet, the head of the bed being on the driver’s side of the bedroom.

I had granola for breakfast, checked my e-mail, and was just settling in to start today’s post using my iPad when Josh showed up at 7:30 AM.  He opened the building and retrieved a small desk/cabinet and loaded it into his car to take back to the cabinet maker.  A portion of the back needed to be finished as it will be exposed when installed.  Having just been through the process of designing built-in RV furniture and interacting with a cabinet maker I understood how a detail like this could easily be missed.  We were fortunate in our choice of Jarel Beatty, as recommended by our friend Butch Williams, to build our pieces.  Jarel’s meticulous attention to the details of how something would be constructed, installed, viewed, and used, resulted in our not having any post-construction issues.

After Josh left I checked the status of the house batteries.  They were at 81% SOC (State Of Charge). Not bad after 11 hours of use.  Extrapolating, it appears that given some reasonable energy management we could go 24 hours without recharging before hitting the 50% SOC level.  I did not, for instance, use the microwave oven.  That is much better than before we replaced the refrigerator so it appears that the new one is clearly more energy efficient than the old one.

I also checked the coolant levels in the Aqua-Hot and generator expansion tanks.  The Aqua-Hot tank was still above max cold but the unit was also still a bit warm to the touch.  The level in the generator tank yesterday was very low with the engine fully warmed up and operating under load so I added antifreeze up to the “hot” mark.  If was slightly above that level this morning although I expected it to be lower as the system cooled off and drew the coolant back in.

Tyler showed up at 8:15 AM and knocked on the door.  He had stopped at McDonald’s and bought me a large coffee, half regular half decaf.  He had asked about this before leaving yesterday and remembered it this morning.  I was impressed with both his memory and thoughtfulness.  He got right to work on the cockpit seats, starting with the driver’s seat.  Before installing it, however, I had him repair the swivel plate.

That plate has always wobbled which was an uncomfortable and annoying sensation while driving.  Now that I had a clear view of the top of the plate it was “obvious” that there was once a washer under the retaining nut but it was no longer there.  Tyler removed the retaining nut, found a large washer with the correct hole size, put it on the threaded shaft, replaced the retaining nut, and tightened it.  No more wobble.

I am always trying to deconstruct the details of how this coach was built or serviced.  My best guess is that old seat was removed when CMI installed the tile floor in the cockpit area right after we bought the bus.  The installer probably removed the seat from the swivel plate in order to have better access to the pedestal and the area around it to lay the tile and either did not replace the washer or failed to recognize that it was missing and needed to be replaced.  I will never know for sure, but that’s my best guess.

Tyler bolts the new Flexsteel driver’s seat to the existing pedestal swivel base.  There is not a lot of room to work around the base of this seat.

Tyler bolts the new Flexsteel driver’s seat to the existing pedestal swivel base. There is not a lot of room to work around the base of this seat.

I connected the chassis batteries so Tyler could connect the 12V DC power to the seat and reposition it.  The outside rear mounting bolt was particularly difficult to reach but with the power on he was able to slide the seat forward and swivel the front to the left creating better access to the left rear.  Once it was bolted down he had me sit in it and make sure all of the adjustments worked.  They did!  The seat is comfortable, fits better in the available space, and has a range of adjustment that should allow either of us to position it comfortably.  It is still a little tight on the left side, but not like the old chair, and the only control there is a manual level for adjusting the back tilt that I can reach it without difficulty and generally do not change once I have it adjusted.

When Josh returned at 10 AM with the parts for the living room slider bases he and Tyler got busy prepping them.  Linda texted me around 10:20 for a status update and I suggested that she not leave before 1 PM.  There was more custom work required to get the chairs assembled and mounted than I thought there would be, but as I was able to watch every step of the process, and talk to Josh and Tyler as they worked, I could clearly see what the problems were and what they were doing to solve them.  They were on task and focused on getting it done correctly.

One of the new Flexsteel 529 captain’ chairs with the new swivel/slide pedestal base attached.  Note the handle for the swivel release.

One of the new Flexsteel 529 captain’ chairs with the new swivel/slide pedestal base attached. Note the handle for the swivel release.

The problem this morning was getting the swivel release cables on the cockpit seats to stay in place when the swivel tang was released from the detent in the base.  The reason for the problem is that we are reusing the old swivel bases because they have base plates that match the mounting bolt locations in the floor.  The way the swivel release cable is retained on these bases, however, is different from the attachments on the ends of the new cables.  Tyler was able to figure out a solution but it took a little time.  I don’t mind paying for that kind of experience and problem-solving.

I texted Jarel to give him a status update and indicated that we could come down Thursday, Friday, or Saturday to pick stuff up.  He texted back that any of those days would work.  I checked the Magnum remote and the SOC status had gone back to “Think’n”.  Nuts.  This has happened before with the Battery Monitor Kit and I think it has to do with the 4-pin connector that plugs into the bottom of it.  Whatever the case I need to investigate and fix it if I can.

The two class C captain’s chairs installed on the passenger side of the living room.

The two class C captain’s chairs installed on the passenger side of the living room.

With the driver’s seat installed I sat and tested its various adjustments and found a position that I liked.  Next came the two class C captain’s chairs for the passenger side of the living room.  Tyler and I worked for quite a while using a base with no chair on it to determine the correct location for the bases.  The seats needed to be far enough from the passenger side wall, the desk, and the co-pilot seat to swivel without interference but no farther as we did not want them to encroach into the center isle one inch more than necessary.  We also ran them through their full range of slide and swivel motions to make sure we could pull them up to the table.

We ended up with the edge of the front seat 16″ from the front edge of the main floor and 16″ from the HVAC duct.  We checked it for square and marked the holes.  Tyler drilled pilot holes using nuts to limit the depth.  We set the chair in position and secured it with four lag screws.  We measured 36.5″ to the front edge of the second base and positioned the base 16″ from the HVAC duct.  We made sure it looked right and then Tyler marked the hole locations and we removed the temporary base.  He drilled the pilot holes, we set the chair in place, and lag screwed them into floor.

The new navigator (L) and pilot (R) seats installed in the cockpit.  The navigator seat has a powered footrest.  We reused the old 6-way power bases for both seats.

The new navigator (L) and pilot (R) seats installed in the cockpit. The navigator seat has a powered footrest. We reused the old 6-way power bases for both seats.

With the captain’s chairs installed in the living room Tyler installed the co-pilot seat.  Once that was done the job was finished except for the cleanup and paperwork.  Josh and I chatted some more about the Corian desk top.  He had inquiries out to three suppliers but was having trouble getting replies from them.  We needed a temporary desk surface, so Tyler cleaned off the 4’x8′ piece of 1/2″ plywood that had served as the workbench for integrating the seating components. He marked and cut a 72″ long x 24.5″ deep piece.  I notched the center of the back edge 18″ wide by 3″ deep.  Tyler and I installed it while Josh totaled up the bill.  I wrote him a check for the balance due, prepared the coach for departure, and left a little after 2 PM.

I could have titled this post “Edwardsburg to Elkhart” but I like to keep my titles short.  The trip from Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan to Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana was a short trip of approximately 15 miles that took about 25 minutes.  Upon arrival I parked the coach to the side of the entrance road and went in to the office to register.

We have been to this campground many times before but I managed to miss the turn for the row with our assigned site so I had to go all the way around a second time.  Once I had the bus in the site I leveled it and then shut it down.  I texted Linda our site number and then chatted with other GLCC chapter members who were already there and parked.

While I helped set up tables in the meeting room Linda arrived and got the cats, litter tray, etc. on board our coach.  After settling in for a few minutes I called Terry at A-1 Upholstery.  She was there so we drove over to pick up the sofa cushions, wrote her a check for the balance, and drove back to camp.  We were unloading the cushions when Dan stopped by.  He had retired at the end of July and bought a converted GM4104 a couple of weeks later.  His wife Kathy and son James had made the trip up from Huntsville, Alabama just for this rally.  They planned to join FMCA and GLCC but wanted to check us out first.

Linda had cleared the sofa earlier and put stuff away under the bed.  By the time I came in she had the new sofa cushions in place.  They were a tight fit but they looked nice.  We might make a small adjustment to the depth of the plywood seat but I think they are going to work out OK.

Linda went to the meeting room to help prep dinner and heat our vegan chili.  I took a short nap and joined her at 6 PM to eat.  We went back to the coach and gave Ed Roelle the tour and chatted for a while.  We then went back to the club house, met up with Vickie, and went for a walk.  When we got back to our coach I opened the box of Franzia Moscato and poured two glasses of wine.  We took two lawn chairs over to Scott and Tami’s bus to sit and chat.  Scott Crosby of www.busgreasemonkey.com was also there.  He arrived after I did in his 1948 GM 3751 “Silverside” bus.  It eventually got chilly so we went inside and went to bed where I worked on blog posts for a while on my iPad.

 

2015/09/15 (T) Coach Supply Direct

We were awake at 6 AM and I planned to be on the road in the bus at 7 AM but it did not work out exactly that way.  For starters, I needed to take a shower.  Next, I really needed a haircut, which Linda does for me.  Along the same lines I needed to shave.  Another factor was that it was still darker at 7 AM than I wanted to drive in.  We also had last minute things to assemble and load such as toiletries, technology, shoes, hats, sunglasses, baskets and bags full of essential incidentals, as well as design drawings for the custom woodworking in the coach.  We were close to being ready for me to pull out at 8 AM but I still needed to check the tree limbs that hang out over the road near our house.  Good thing I did; many of them had grown down and were less than 13’6″.  How did we know?  We set the extension handle on the pole saw so that the length from the bottom of the handle to the tip of the saw blade was 13’6″.  Anything that touched the blade got trimmed.

I finally connected the chassis batteries, turned on the engine air accessories valve, and fired up the bus engine at 8:15 AM.  Linda helped me check the exterior lights, all of which were OK.  I pulled out at 8:25 AM and worked my way slowly down our street and was able to maneuver so as not to scratch the sides.  I had not driven north on Hacker in some time.  The road was in very bad condition and I thought the glass tubes in the new light fixtures would not survive the first, short leg of the trip.  Two of the kitchen cabinet drawers came open, which they do not normally do.  Linda had taped the refrigerator doors closed so they stayed that way.  The new pull-out pantry stayed closed and so did all of the drawers on the new desk.

Once I was on M-59 the trip was much smoother but not without some bumpy road sections along the way.  I-69S between Lansing and I-94 in particular is a surprisingly rough road.  I thought about stopping at the rest area on I-96 westbound just before Lansing but was anxious to make up for the late start.  The bus rolled along easily at 68 MPH without the car attached.  The difference between towing and not towing is subtle but I am aware of it.  The bus alone accelerates a little faster and stops a little easier.  It is also 20 feet shorter than the bus/car combination which makes it easier to pass and merge.

I stopped at the rest area on I-69 southbound just north of I-94, as that would be my last convenient opportunity to do so, and called Josh at Coach Supply Direct to update him on my travels.  I continued south on I-69 intending to exit at Coldwater and head west on US-12.  I was paying attention to the truck in front of me and realized a few seconds too late that I had missed the exit.  I drove three more miles to the Fenn Road exit and headed back north towards Coldwater.

Once I was on US-12 westbound, a road I have driven many times, the trip was uneventful until I got west of Sturgis.  MDOT was rebuilding several miles of the highway between Sturgis and White Pigeon and had the road down to one lane.  I was the first vehicle to arrive at the flagger so I figured I was in for a wait.  I did not check the time but the delay was at least 20 minutes.  I called Josh and updated him on my location and ETA.  Bring first in line made the wait easier as I could see what was, and wasn’t, happening.  Eventually it was our turn to go and I got to lead the parade except for a truck hauling dirt who they let go ahead of me.  That was just as well; he was in a big hurry and quickly disappeared from site, traveling at what I considered to be much too high a speed for the conditions.  All traffic was being routed on the eastbound lane and shoulder and I had to drive straddling the rumble strips to keep from knocking my fillings loose.

I finally made it to Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg just after noon.  I had talked to Josh on Sunday about how best to get the bus into his place.  Following his advice I continued past M-62 to Cass Street and turned left.  Cass merged into Elkhart Road and shortly thereafter I turned left into the fenced property where his business is located.  Josh had described where other motorhomes were parked and where he wanted me relative to them so I was able to get the bus situated without assistance, another advantage to not having the car attached to the back of the bus as I could back up as needed.  Josh came out of the building as I was shutting down the engine.

Josh has several guys working with him at the moment; Jim, Tyler, and Tim.  The first task was removing the remaining pleated shades from the side windows and installing the new MCD shades.  Jim is very knowledgeable about MCD shades and was the lead installer.  The shades are very nice and will be more functional than the old ones.  The automatic retract speed was still a little fast on some of them and might need to be adjusted but that is a minor thing.

While the guys worked on the shades Josh and I looked at the new seats and discussed the larger set of tasks that needed to be accomplished.  I was very pleased with our choice of fabric and how the seats turned out.  The only apparent glitch was that the slide rails for the two captain’s chairs for the living room had come without the actuator handles.  Josh made some phone calls and arranged to pick up the needed parts first thing tomorrow morning.  We also measured for the Corian desk top and contacted his supplier regarding that.

I needed something to eat and drink and since the coach was being worked on I walked across the street in search of nutritional sustenance.  I walked past the Taco Bell and had my sights set on the McDonald’s (French fries and a diet Coke) when I spotted the Subway, which was closer and offered better food options for me.  I had a Veggie Delight Chopped Salad, chips, and a diet Coke.  I dined in, refilled my drink, and then walked back.

A view of the cockpit of our bus with the old Villa pilot and co-pilot/navigator seats removed.  This shot is from the living room looking forward.

A view of the cockpit of our bus with the old Villa pilot and co-pilot/navigator seats removed. This shot is from the living room looking forward.

Tyler is an experienced automotive technician and was the main guy responsible for removing the two Villa chairs from the cockpit area.  He unbolted the 6-way power mechanism from the swivel pedestal but left it attached to the seat.  With the seats out of the bus he removed the 6-way power base from each one and installed it on the corresponding new Flexsteel seat.  There was more to this mounting than just tightening a few bolts and he was not quite done by the time he had to quit for the day.  The controls still had to be mounted, the wiring connected, and the seats installed in the bus.

 Josh (R) confers with Tyler (L) as he is working on getting the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator seats ready to install.

Josh (R) confers with Tyler (L) as he is working on getting the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator seats ready to install.

Since all of the seat prep work was being done on a work surface in the building I took advantage of the access I had to the cockpit area.  I borrowed a scraper and scrapped off small fragments of carpet.  I borrowed a spray bottle of Spic-n-Span and cleaned the swivel pedestals.  I discovered a small piece of paper blocking the lower left HVAC nozzle and removed it.  I also discovered that the fresh air damper was not buried deep in the front end of the coach like I thought it was.  The lever by the driver’s left knee, which has been so difficult to operate, actuated a short cable that controls a damper just to the left of the steering column below the dash.  I was able to use two cable ties to secure some wire bundles out of the way of the damper allowing it to open wider and to open/close more easily.  I finished by borrowing a small shop vac and vacuuming up all of the loose material I had created.

The old 6-way power bases being attached to the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator captains seats. The new seats came with new controls that Tyler had to mount and wire.  Both seats also included lumbar support air bladders with their own air pump as part of the seat.

The old 6-way power bases being attached to the new Flexsteel pilot and navigator captains seats. The new seats came with new controls that Tyler had to mount and wire. Both seats also included lumbar support air bladders with their own air pump as part of the seat.

I borrowed a piece of 3/4″ plywood about four feet long and put it across the two pedestals of the desk to make a temporary work surface.  I got the folding chair out from under the bed, along with my computer and iPad, and got the “desk” set up to use my computer.  I tried to get photos with my camera of the different aspects of the project throughout the day.  I also took seven pictures with my smartphone and sent them to Linda’s smartphone so she could see the progress.  Josh’s wife stopped by to check on his schedule and I gave her a tour of the remodeling project.

A view of the bottom of the two new Flexsteel “class C” captain’s chairs for the passenger side of the of the living room with one of the slide/swivel bases and its seatbelt attachment bar.

A view of the bottom of the two new Flexsteel “class C” captain’s chairs for the passenger side of the of the living room with one of the slide/swivel bases and its seatbelt attachment bar.

I got our Verizon Mi-Fi online, connected my iPad to the Wi-Fi Ranger, connected the WFR to the Mi-Fi, and then started my computer and connected it to the WFR.  I checked my e-mail and there was one from RVillage regarding a new group feature, group home page feeds, and asking that group owners post to their group home page feeds and create an announcement for the group that would notify everyone in the group of the new feature.

As long as I was in RVillage I created a new private, non-searchable group called RVIG (for RVillage Investors Group) and invited Curtis, the founder/CEO of RVillage, to join.  He accepted and I private messaged him, which prompted a phone call that resulted in me transferring ownership of the group to him.  He wanted to change “Investors” to “stakeholders,” which I agreed was a better term.  It also turns out that an a priori “friend” connection is needed to invite someone to join a group and Curtis was the only person who would have such a connection with all of the RVillage stakeholders.  I always thought that Curtis should create and manage this group but he has so much on his plate that sometimes it’s easier if someone else initiates something and then hands it off to him.  I was glad to be the catalyst in this case.

It was another long day but I spent a relatively small percentage of it on my hands and knees, or on my back looking under the dashboard, which I have not been physically able to do in until today because of the very confined space in front of the driver’s seat.  I brought one of our folding Zip Dee chairs inside and set it up on the passenger side of the living room so I had someplace comfortable to sit and use my iPad.  I spent several hours finishing yesterday’s post and writing today’s post.  All four of the seats are supposed to be installed tomorrow morning and I should be on my way to Elkhart Campground by noon.  Linda plans to leave between 11AM drive down in the Element with the cats.  She should arrive about 3-1/2 hours after she departs from the house by which time I should have the bus parked and hooked up.

 

2015/08/19 (W) If It’s Wednesday This Must Be Indiana

 

As we did last Wednesday we were up earlier than usual to drive to Indiana.  We wanted to be at Bontrager’s Surplus when they opened at 9 AM to pick up some battery terminal covers for Butch, and possibly ourselves, so we pulled out of our driveway at 6:16 AM.

We took our usual route west on M-59 to I-96W to Lansing Road south.  Rather than get on I-69S we stayed on Lansing Road all the way to Charlotte where we stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee to use the restroom and get coffee and bagels.  From there we then took I-69S to Coldwater and headed west on US-12 since Bontrager’s Surplus is located on US-12 in White Pigeon, Michigan.

We arrived at Bontrager’s Surplus just after 9 AM.  We looked around briefly but did not spot the battery terminal covers so we asked one of the employees where they might be and he took us directly to them.  We bought 36 (18 red and 18 black), 10 of each for Butch and 8 of each for us.  Bontrager’s is probably the best stocked of the surplus and salvage stores in this area and I could have spent hours here, but we had other places to be and a long day ahead of us.

Our shopping done we continued on to Coach Supply Direct in Edwardsburg, Michigan where we found Josh Leach hard at work on some interior remodeling of a Fleetwood Revolution.  He removed the Notion Linen sample from his Lambright Comfort Chairs book and we chatted for a while.

I reflected on fact that one of the nicest Class A motorhomes we ever saw was a Fleetwood Revolution.  The interior was a (faux) cherry wood with satin finish nickel hardware.  It had modern, clean cabinetry and light grey wall treatments and a light tile floor with nickel colored inserts, as best I can recall.  We eventually toured the American Coach factory in Decatur, Indiana where the Revolution was made and after seeing some of the construction methods we were less enamored with it.  Like all of the American Coach products it was out of our price range as a new unit but it was very much to our taste.

Before continuing our Journey Linda pulled up Jarel’s address in our GPS.  I then texted Jarel to give him a revised, and more accurate ETA.  We headed southwest out of Edwardsburg on M-62 which becomes IN-23 through Granger.  We turned onto IN-331 which bypasses most of Mishawaka east of town and delivered us to US-20 where we headed west.  We stopped at the Meijer’s, which has a filling station, fueled the car, and switched drivers.  We exited US-20 just south of South Bend, Indiana and headed south on US-31.  We exited US-31 at Rochester and took IN-25 south to Logansport.  I texted Jarel an updated ETA enroute.

We arrived at Jarel Beatty Cabinetry at 11:45 AM and pulled around back.  I texted Jarel to let him know we were there and he came out of the shop to meet us.  We chatted for a while, loaded up the pantry, the slides, the three pieces for the built-in sofa that we forgot last week, a piece of walnut trim for the pantry face, and a leftover  piece of 1/4″ Baltic birch plywood.  Linda wrote a check for the balance we owed.  The only thing left for Jarel to build is the HVAC/wiring chase cover but he cannot do that until I give him the length, which I cannot do him until the desk is installed in the bus.

We left the cabinet shop at 1 PM and stopped at the Martin’s supermarket in Logansport for lunch.  This particular Martin’s did not have a salad bar but they did have pre-made salads.  We each had one along with a bread roll.  I called Butch to let them know we were on our way, and headed for Twelve Mile, Indiana.

I gave Butch the battery terminal covers.  He and I figured their cost ($1.25 each) covered the cost of the 12 fiberglass pole mast sections ($2.00 each) we took last week and called it even.

I brought the small window frame stop block from our bus to see if Butch could make one.  He had some aluminum bar stock that looked like it would work.  We decided to make it longer than the original to accommodate three machine screws and cut it to size using a band saw.  Butch then marked three points to drill holes using the old block as a template.  Two holes were drilled through and one end hike was blind.  The blind hole will fit over the shaft of the old screw that would not come out in case any of it is still protruding above the surface.  The middle hole will line up with other existing hole and I will have to drill and tap a hole in the frame to match the third hole.  But first I need to get some brown spray paint, put some sacrificial screws in the holes, and paint the piece.

While we were working on the stop block I noticed that Butch had a torque multiplier sitting out.  He commented that it was available to a good home for a good price; hint, hint.  These torque multipliers are used to break the lug nuts loose on bus and truck wheels and I have had one on my mental wish list since I first became aware of them five years ago.  I had not pursued getting one as they tend to be expensive even used on Ebay.  Butch wanted $75 for it so I wrote a check and put it in the car.  It has three different lug nut sockets so I hope one of them first the ones on our bus.  I also hoped they would fit the very large torque wrench I bought from Butch last fall but they are 1″ square drive sockets and the torque wrench has a 3/4″ square stud.  I’m not sure I have a correct socket for the torque wrench so that’s another thing I still need to get.

Butch and Fonda bought a compact stacked clothes washer/dryer for their bus and asked if we would help them get it into their rig.  Of course we said yes.  We got it on a dolly and wheeled it out to the entrance door and then pondered the situation.  We have some recent experience getting things out of and into a bus entrance door and this did not look promising.  Butch handed me a tape measure and I determined that the maximum width that would fit through the step well was 23.5 inches due to the door hinges.  The washer/dryer is 24″ wide and 28″ deep with a recessed back on the washer (lower unit).  It is also tall, being a stacked unit, and we all agreed that the only way it was going in was on its back, through a window, using a forklift.  It was Deja vu all over again; been there, done that, didn’t even get a T-shirt.  That approach required more preparation than Butch cared to tackle today, and more time than we had to spare, so we moved the unit back under the overhang and left it covered with a blanket.

We all went back in the house and visited for a while longer.  Butch had found his 4″ pneumatic body sander and loaned it to me along with three boxes of AA50 sanding discs.  While not quite as aggressive as the #36 ceramic grit belts I have been using on the 4″ portable belt sander, this tool will allow me to get under the cabinet toe kicks where the belt sander won’t reach.

As much as we would have liked to stay and go out to dinner again, we did not want to be getting home at midnight.  We wished them a safe journey, again, but this time it really is unlikely that we will see them again before they leave for Arizona.  We left for home at 4:45 PM with Linda at the wheel.  From SR-16W (CR-700N) we took CR-700 (Meridian) north to its northernmost point and headed west into Fulton on W750S where we picked up IN-25 and headed north.  At Rochester we left IN-25 and took US-31N to US-20W.  We exited US-20 at SR-19 and drove north through Elkhart, finally arriving at the Martin’s supermarket at CR-4 around 6:15 PM.  This Martin’s has an excellent salad bar and a nice dining area with an upstairs, which is where we chose to sit and eat our dinner.

Linda continued to drive after dinner.  There is an entrance to the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90) on SR-19 just south of CR-4 so we got on going east.  The toll road is a few extra miles compared to US-12 through Michigan, but it is posted 70 MPH (max) with no stops, compared to 55 MPH with six towns that have reduced speed limits and stops.

We exited the toll road, paid our $2.90 toll, and headed north on I-69.  A few miles later we were back in Michigan.  We left the Interstate at M-60 (exit 25) to refuel at the Shell station, use the restrooms, and switch drivers.  It was about 8 PM and still light, but it was cloudy to the west and the light was fading.  I find night driving easier than Linda does and I had been able rest while she drove so I was good to go.

I followed our usual route, leaving I-69N and using the Lansing Road cutoff to get to I-96E.  We passed mile marker 100 on the south side of Lansing, which meant we had 33 miles to the M-59 exit.  From there it was 11 miles to Hacker Road and then the final 2.5 miles to our house.

We arrived home at 10 PM, five hours and 15 minutes after we left Twelve Mile and just over 16 hours from when we left home this morning.  The trip odometer indicated 534.8 miles traveled today.  We unloaded the camera, phones, wallets, etc. from the car but decided to wait until tomorrow to unload the cabinetry, tools, and parts.  We headed off to bed and watched part 3 of a PBS program The Mystery of Matter:  The Search for the Elements.  Interesting stuff.  We both find programs that inform and educate to be entertaining.

 

2015/08/14 (F) Back-to-the-Bricks (Again)

I was up late last night and thought I would sleep in this morning but the alarm on Linda’s iPad had other ideas and woke me up at 7:15 AM.  I got dressed and while Linda was getting ready I started downloading an update for Photoshop CC 2015 on my ASUS laptop.  These Adobe downloads are very large and very slow so I left it to run.

We did not have breakfast or coffee at home.  Linda made PB&J sandwiches and packed a bag of pretzel crackers, some fresh fruit, and some water in a cooler bag with some freezer packs.  The forecast was for very warm, very humid conditions so we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning.  We loaded the camera, raincoats, hats, folding camp chairs, an iPad, and some GLCC T-shirts and flags into the car and left around 8 AM for the GLCC/CCO Back-to-the-Bricks rally at the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan.

We took Hacker Road to M-59 east to Old US-23 and stopped at the Kahuna Coffee shop.  We had seen the sign for this place but had never been there.  The owner was there and she was very nice.  She has a smaller version of the JavaMaster hot air coffee bean roaster that Jeff has at Teeko’s.  Her selection of green beans, however, was very different from Teeko’s with lots of flavored beans but none of the ones we usually buy.  Knowing that she gets her beans from the same place as Jeff, however, means we could probably order the ones we like if Teeko’s disappears.  She is friends with Jeff and is well aware of the probable impact of the Panera opening up across the intersection from Teeko’s.  But I digress.

This morning we were interested in coffee and bagels to go.  Kahuna had a better selection of bagels than Teeko’s but we got our usual choices; “everything” for Linda and cinnamon raisin for me, toasted with nothing on them.  They had Swiss Chocolate Almond coffee brewed so we tasted a sample.  It was very smooth, with no bitterness and just a hint of the named flavors, so we got two large ones to go.

We got back on M-59 eastbound and 100 yards later took the entrance ramp to northbound US-23.  US-23 merges with I-75 at the southwest corner of Flint and we continued north on the combined road until we exited at M-57 and headed east through Clio to M-54 and turned south.  A few miles later we turned into the Fireman’s Park on the east side of the highway.  It was 9:15 AM as I parked the car.

When I talked to rally co-host Marty Caverly last week only 14 rigs had RSVP’d for the rally.  There were over 20 rigs there when we arrived and five more showed up during the day.  A guy also brought a Country Coach Prevost XL conversion down from Saginaw for the afternoon.  He is trying to sell it and wanted to let the rally attendees check it out.

We made the rounds and said our “hello”s to everyone.  As has happened at past rallies where we have dropped in for a day many of the ladies took off to check out local garage sales.  Bill and Karen Gerrie were just pulling out but stopped to chat briefly.  Frank and Sandy Griswold’s Featherlite H3-45 conversion has windows that slide open rather than swing out like our awning windows so I asked Frank and several other people about screens for these.  Everyone had the same suggestion; that any local window and door business should be able to make them.  I was trying to get useful information for someone who had e-mailed me as a result of an article in BCM.

The roundtable discussion started at 2 PM and most of the rally attendees were back by then.  Pat Lintner, our GLCC national director, gave a pitch for the FMCAssist program, which is included as part of the annual FMCA membership and more than worth the annual cost of $40.  I announced that we had GLCC T-shirts and a few flags with us if anyone wanted to buy them.  I also announced that the Arcadia Rally website had disappeared but that Bill and Brenda Phelan are working to fix the problem and the rally is still on for December 26-31, 2015 with departure on January 1, 2016.

Ed Roelle had two topics for the roundtable:  1) “towing insurance” for our bus conversions, and;  2) causes and cures for hard water deposit buildup in the fresh water plumbing associated with an Aqua-Hot (Webasto diesel burner) heating and domestic hot water systems.  Most of us use, or have used, Coach-Net for our “emergency roadside assistance” coverage.  The plan includes towing but many of our members have switched to one of the three Good Sam ERS plans.  The top (platinum) plan is ~$140/year.

A couple of years ago Coach-Net decided they would not cover bus conversions more than 40 years old and alienated quite a few folks in the converted coach community.  They eventually reversed that position but the damage was done.  Others who stayed with them have had issues getting service or being charged ridiculous sums of money for simple things.  Coach-Net was officially endorsed by FMCA until recently, and is still endorsed by The Escapees RV Club, but FMCA has found a different provider for this important service.

We stuck around after the roundtable and continued chatting with folks in constantly shifting groupings.  The dinner meal was planned for 6 PM, and by 5:30 preparations were well under way, so we started saying our “goodbyes.”  We finally got our chairs back in the car at 5:50 PM and pulled out at 5:55.  There were very ominous clouds moving towards the rally site from the north as we started for home and a severe weather watch had been posted.

To get home we reversed our route taking M-54 north to M-57 west through Clio to I-75/US-23 south.  We stayed on southbound US-23 at the split with I-75 southwest of Flint and eventually exited onto M-59.  Instead of going west towards home we headed east and pulled into the Hartland Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner and get fresh ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner with Steve and Karen.

The weather we saw approaching Clio from the north was just moving into Hartland as we left the Meijer’s, so it was a rapidly moving system.  The storm clouds were very dramatic but we got back to the house and got the car unloaded before the rain came.  The wind gusted strongly for a while but in the end we did not get as much precipitation as we needed or thought we would.

For dinner we had vegan burgers with all the fixin’s, oven-baked French fries, and fresh strawberries.  It was 9 PM by the time we were done eating.  We were both tired from our long, but very enjoyable, day so we went to bed earlier than usual.

 

2015/08/12 (W) Back to Indiana (Again)

Today was early arrival day for the annual Back-to-the-Bricks converted bus rally in Clio, Michigan.  This joint rally of the Converted Coach Owners (CCO) and the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter has become an annual event that typically draws 20 to 30 rigs.  Most of them are converted highway buses and many of those were converted or re-modeled by the owners.  Many of them are works in progress but such is the nature of the bus conversion hobby and the true bus nut.  But that is not where we were headed today.  Our bus is unusable at the moment as the toilet is disconnected, the bed platform has been removed, and all of the cabinet drawers have been taken out.  But the main reason was that we had multiple commitments in Indiana today.

Our first appointment was with Josh Leach of Coach Supply Direct.  Although CSD is located in Edwardsburg, Michigan we had arranged to meet him in the parking lot of the Martin’s Supermarket at SR-19 (IN) and CR-4 on the north side of Elkhart, Indiana at 9:30 AM to take delivery of 15 yards of upholstery fabric.  We picked that location, rather than his shop in Edwardsburg, for several reasons.  He had to be at the Forest River Owners Group (FROG) rally at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds at 10 AM so that location got him half way to his destination at a good time of day.  For us, Elkhart is a 3-1/2 hour drive.  That meant we had to be up at 5:00 AM and on the road not later than 5:45 AM to be there on time, allowing for coffee, fuel, and bathroom stops.  Had we met him at his shop we would have had to be there by 9 AM requiring us to get up even earlier.  You have to draw a line somewhere.

I took the wheel for the start of the trip.  It was still dark but the faint glow of the impending sunrise was visible as we pulled out onto Hacker Road facing a rising crescent moon.  At M-59 we headed west to I-96.  I reset one of the trip odometers before we left and verified that it was 13 miles from our driveway to the end of the entrance ramp from M-59 onto I-96W.  We skirted the southern edge of Lansing on I-96 and took Lansing Road to I-69 south.

Nineteen miles south of Lansing, and about an hour into our trip, we stopped at the Biggby’s Coffee in Charlotte for coffee and bagels.  Biggby’s is not my favorite coffee but this particular store is in just the right location.  Linda checked the M-DOT website and it appeared that the bridge work on M-60 in Mendon was completed, so we exited I-69S and headed west on M-60.  Unfortunately the bridge was still closed so we had to follow the detour to the south toward Sturgis.  Unlike our previous trip in early July, when we continued on to Sturgis, we followed the complete detour through Nottawa and Centreville and back to M-60 in Three Rivers.  We had never driven through Nottawa or Centreville before so that provided some new scenery for the trip.

As we have done many times before we continued our trip on M-60 as far as Jones where we stopped at the Shell station for fuel.  We then took M-40 south to US-12.  This seven mile stretch of M-40 traverses steeply rolling hills and is both beautiful and fun to drive.  We took US-12, running west just north of the Michigan-Indiana border, and eventually exited onto Old 205 (M-205?) which turns 90 degrees to the left a mile later and drops straight south into Indiana where it becomes SR-19.  A few miles later we arrived at the Martin’s Supermarket at CR-4 just after 9 AM.

Josh was not there yet so we went inside to use the restrooms and get some coffee.  This particular Martin’s has a nice salad bar with a beverage station, a Starbucks Coffee outlet, and a seating area with Wi-Fi.  Josh showed up right on time and parked next to us.  I met him outside and we transferred the roll of upholstery fabric from his car to ours and then went inside to visit for a few minutes before he had to leave for Goshen.

When we left Linda took over the driving.  Our next planned stop was A1-Upholstery in Elkhart to order the cushions for our built-in sofa.  Continuing south on SR-19 we stopped at Factory RV Surplus to look for battery cable end covers but the ones they had were too expensive.  I think they now sell more retail-packaged merchandise than they do true surplus material, and even less salvaged parts.

Lou (mom) and Terry (daughter) own and operate A-1 Upholstery and were recommended to us by Josh.  We discussed the project with Terry, who I had previously spoken to on the phone.  We reviewed my dimensioned scale drawings, which were on one sheet of 11″x17″ 1/4″ grid-square paper, and agreed on how the cushions would be made.  Terry thought she would have them done by the end of the month but noted on the order form that we needed them by September 14th.  We noticed that she had a lot of sample books from which we could have selected a fabric but we like the Lambright Notion Linen, and Terry thought it was a very good fabric that should look good and wear well in our application.  We left the fabric and drawing with her and wrote a check for the deposit.

All of our stops were important today, but our primary reason for the trip was to pick up the pieces of the custom desk and built-in sofa for our bus from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana.  We continued our trip south on SR-19 to US-20, took that west to US-31, and went south, exiting at Rochester onto IN-25 for the final 22 miles to Logansport.  This is a route I have driven many times but Linda had the wheel this time so I provided some occasional guidance.  I called Jarel to let him know we were making better time than we had anticipated and would be there between noon and 12:25 PM.  I then called Butch to give him a status update.

This was the first time Linda and Jarel had met and so it was also the first time Linda had met Mya, Jarel and Georgette’s sweet little dog.  Mya came up to me, sat, stared up at me like we were long lost friends, and waited patiently for me to give her the attention she was seeking.  I was happy to oblige.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.  Panorama taken from the entrance door.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.  Panorama from the center of the shop.  Entrance door is far left.

As I have previously described in this blog, the desk consists of nine pieces (if you count the four drawers as separate parts):  two pedestals with separate bases, a cover that goes between them, and four drawers.  The left pedestal has a fold up work surface with two support wings, and a fold down fake drawer front, so technically those are four more pieces, but they are attached to the pedestal with hinges so I am not counting them as separate parts.  The bottoms of each pedestal have been cut out to provide access to the fan-coil heat exchangers that will be installed in the bases, so those are really two separate pieces now, put I am not counting them as such.  I am also ignoring screws, drawer slides, blocking, and other assembly items in my parts count as they are all “installed components.”  With the drawers installed we only had five major pieces to load plus the two access plates.  Jarel also had the pieces ready for the built-in sofa so we loaded those as well.  I took pictures of his shop and the pull-out pantry, which was mostly assembled but not quite finished.

The installed desk will have more pieces than just described but these are the pieces that Jarel made.  The finished desk will have five grills that we have to cut and install, at least four drawer pulls that we have to install, a plywood top that will span the two pedestals and leg space, and a Sandstone Corian countertop that will go on top of the plywood.  While not actually part of the desk there will also be a large cover for the passenger-side living room HVAC duct and wiring chase and a small hose cover at the desk end both of which align with the left end of the desk and will look like they are part of it.  Jarel will make the chase cover later after the desk is installed and we can get a final, accurate measurement for its length.

As long as we were in the neighborhood we naturally stopped to visit with our friends, Butch and Fonda, in Twelve Mile, Indiana.  While we were at their house we loaded a dozen 4-foot army surplus fiberglass mast sections in the car.  Butch had bought these at a swap for me some time ago.  We will use them for ham radio antenna projects.  Butch gave me his old, non-functioning, Vanner battery equalizer to see if I can figure out how it does what it does.  He also lent me his air-powered brad nailer which can also drive 1/4″ crown staples and gave me a box of 5,000 staples to go with it.  Fonda found a scrap piece of resilient underlayment designed for free-floating wood floors.  Butch though it might work well under the 1/4″ plywood underlayment to fill in the gaps and irregularities so we took it with us.

When we were done loading stuff into our car we went to see their new property on SR-25.  They have already had a new roof put on the barn and new doors put in the house.  They have bought themselves a BIG project, but it will be a much more appropriate and manageable place for them going forward than the building complex in Twelve Mile that has housed their business operations for the last 20 years.  It’s an old GM dealership from the 1940s and they have approximately 11,000 feet under roof including a 2-bay service garage with a functioning in-ground lift.

We drove to Rochester and had dinner at Pizza Hut.  Linda and I split a medium specialty veggie pizza and had the salad bar with it.  We might have had a few more restaurant choices in Logansport, but Rochester was 22 miles closer to home.  With the 19 hours we were gone today, and over 525 miles we had to travel, 22 miles and 30 minutes was significant for us.

We got back on the road at 6:30 PM with Linda at the wheel and headed back up US-31N to US-20 and headed east.  We decided to stay on US-20 all the way to I-69, stopping in Lagrange to use the restroom at the Marathon complex.  We stopped again at the Shell station on M-60 in Michigan for fuel.  It was getting dark and I had been able to rest while Linda drove, so I took over the driving duties.  From this point on we were just reversing our route from this morning.  We got home at 10:30 PM, unloaded everything from the car, and then went straight to bed.

 

2015/07/23 (R) Wrapping Up Mara

Mara’s plan was to make this the last full day of her visit.  Our day started without her as we had cinnamon raisin toast, juice, and coffee for breakfast.  I got a call from Jarel with clarifying questions and ideas about the desk and the pull-out pantry.  After a thorough discussion we had better ways to approach a few things.  He also had a better feeling for the estimated cost of the project and I agreed to send him 50% as a deposit.

I typed up a short letter and printed off the graph that Steve made of the return loss for the M-302N V/U lightning arrestor.  I packed the unit for shipping to Morgan Manufacturing and included the letter and graph.  Linda wrote out the check for Jarel and got it in an envelope to mail.  She then went to the library, Post Office, and Humane Society where she donated cat and dog paraphernalia that we had accumulated over the years.

While Linda was gone I worked in the bus for a while and Mara worked on travel preparations.  I started by removing the old 3/4″ plywood floor from the refrigerator alcove.  The original plywood bus floor appeared to mostly be in good condition but I will put a new secondary floor in the alcove to keep the refrigerator legs above the level of the new tile floor.  There are a LOT of wires running along the floor of the alcove at the back wall and I may fashion a cover for them and seal up the holes at either end.

I removed the AC dimmer for the living room lights and the DPDT momentary contact DC switch from the floor-mounted walnut box where they were installed.  The DC switch controlled the passenger side sofa footrest.  I had to remove the wires from both switches to get them out.  The AC dimmer was easy but the DC switch had four different color wires with spade connectors.  I made careful note of which terminal each color went to and then pulled the spade connectors off.  With the switches out I was able to remove the box and its mounting cleats from the floor and wall.  This area will be tiled and the box will not be reused.

Out of curiosity I tested the switch with an Ohm meter to see how the terminals were connected internally.  I also checked the wires with a DC volt meter to see how they were being used.  Two of the wires were +12VDC and DC ground and the other two went to a connector that was originally plugged into the footrest.  The switch applied 12VDC to the two load wires in one position and reversed the polarity in the other position, making the footrest go out or in respectively.

Last year I had removed two blank outlet covers on the walnut panel next to the co-pilot seat so I knew that these two switches were originally installed there and subsequently moved to the floor-mounted box.  I unscrewed the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood panel from the wall to see what was behind it.  What I found was a LOT of wires and it was not a pretty sight.  I re-installed the two switches in their original locations and re-routed some other wires so they went up over the HVAC chase.

There was still a large bundle of wires running along the floor at the base of the HVAC chase that I needed to re-route but I decided not to mess with those today.  They are connected to four different switches and a doorbell and disconnecting everything was going to require careful attention to detail.  I pondered the refrigerator some more and decided there wasn’t anything else I could do with it for now and that I was done working in the bus for today.

There is too much to do at the moment to just sit around so I decided to install the new garage door opener for the small garage door.  New is relative; it has been sitting in the garage in its original packaging since we moved into the house, supplied by the previous owners.  The old one has not worked correctly since we moved in and the previous owners bought the new one but ran out of time to install it.  It turned out to be rather more complicated than I expected, with very comprehensive assembly and installation instructions.  It also turned out to be a two-person project so Linda worked on it with me.

We were working and Mara had started prepping dinner when a UPS truck showed up with four boxes.  The delivery included:  Mara’s refrigerator vent cover; the Cutco knives and scissors, and; the ZioTek track system for wall-mounting the monitors in the ham shack (2 boxes).  The vent cover was due for delivery today but the knives were not due until tomorrow, so we were really glad to see them as two of them were for Mara.  The monitor mounting system was also due for delivery today but I had temporarily forgotten about it.

The north wall of the ham shack/office.  This is where the ZioTek wall-mounted monitor mounting system will go.

The north wall of the ham shack/office. This is where the ZioTek wall-mounted monitor mounting system will go.

Mara was understandably anxious to see if the vent cover fit her base properly.  It was a VentMate and appeared to be identical to the old one.  She climbed up the ladder on the back of her motorhome and I handed parts and tools up to her.  I then climbed up was well.  She removed the old cover and we set the new one in place.  It was a perfect fit!  We put a small amount of putty under each screw head and then ran them down snug and congratulated ourselves on another job completed and well done.

With Linda’s help we put Mara’s kayak back in its custom carrier which fits in the receiver on the back of her motorhome (she does not tow a car).  The carrier was built by a welding shop in Mesa, Arizona to Mara’s specifications and is made from 2″ square tubular steel and powder-coated black.  The carrier holds the kayak diagonally across the back of the motorhome from lower left (driver’s side) to upper right.  The nose of the kayak sits in a pocket near the driver side rear corner of the motorhome and the midpoint is nestled in a much larger cradle.  A strap runs from the nose pocket up to the midpoint on one side and across the kayak to the other side where it is attached to a ratchet and has a hook on the end.  With the hook engaged in a ring the strap is ratcheted tight and the kayak is secure for travel.  Mara runs an anti-theft cable through an eyelet near the nose and attaches a lock for safe keeping.  The tail sticks up higher than the top of the roof-mounted air-conditioner covers but does not extend beyond the passenger side wall.  The tip of the kayak is 13′ 2″ from the ground.

We made good progress on the garage door opener but had to stop at the point where we needed to attach the motor housing to the ceiling as I needed to get some parts (angle iron and lag screws) that did not come with the unit.  The front of the track was attached to the header above the door opening and we left the motor assembly resting on top of a 6 foot stepladder.

The pieces of the ZioTek monitor mounting system laid out on the floor of the ham shack/office.

The pieces of the ZioTek monitor mounting system laid out on the floor of the ham shack/office.

While Mara and Linda prepared dinner I unboxed all of the monitor mounting components.  I was curious to see the parts and wanted to make sure everything was there and undamaged, which was the case.

Dinner was Thai vegan spring rolls in rice flour wrappers.  The prep work was in the cutting of lots of veggies (carrots, zucchini, onions, red and yellow peppers, Chinese cabbage, and mushrooms).  Mara made two dipping sauces, one with ginger, hot peppers, and other things and one based on fish sauce (so we passed on that).  Linda selected our bottle of Malvasia Bianco wine from the Heart of the Desert winery in Alamogordo, NM.  It was white, which we thought would go well with the delicate spring rolls, but very sweet with a slightly thick mouthfeel, like a late harvest Riesling or a Sauternes.  Perhaps not the best choice, but we finished the whole bottle anyway.

We chatted for a while after dinner but like most of our evening meals dinner was a drawn out affair with lots of conversation.  Everyone was tired and the women turned in for the night.  I went to my office and answered e-mails from Gary at BCM that I had seen earlier in the day.  I then went to bed and tried to catch up on blog posts for the last few days but could not stay awake long enough to finish them.