Category Archives: Ohio

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.

20221009 – Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

SUNDAY 09 October

(There are 11 photos in this post, distributed throughout the text with captions.  They were all taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)

Brandywine Falls drops about 60 feet on a tributary to the Cuyahoga River.

True to the forecast, it got cold last night and it as chilly in the Airstream, 58 (F) to be exact, when I got up.  Linda was still sleeping, so I only bumped the thermostat up t 62 (F), but it was enough to take the chill out of the air and warm the floor up a bit.  (Some of the hot air from the propane furnace is blown into the belly pan, where the tanks are located, and then finds its way from there up into the living area. As such, it also heats the underside of the floor, at least above the belly pan.)

 

 

 

 

Located at Brandywine Falls is the Brandywine Inn.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

I saw these partially backlit trees while we were hiking the trail on the north side of the Brandywine Falls gorge.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

 

Linda got up a short time later.  I made coffee for both of us, and bumped the thermostat up to 65 (F), and a bit later up to 68 (F).  Linda made scrambled eggs (Just Egg) with chopped up vegan bacon and baby gold potatoes added in.

 

Although it was chilly outside, the forecast for the afternoon was for temperatures in the 60s (F) and sunny skies.  Perfect weather for the last sightseeing day of our grand tour.  And our main objective today was to visit the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

 

 

A selfie taken from the lower observation platform on the south side of the Brandywine Falls gorge.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

 

First established as Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974, it became a National Park in 2000.  It’s 32,575 acres are just a small piece of the much larger Erie & Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area that encompasses the Cuyahoga River Valley from Cleveland to Akron, OH.

 

The NHA was designated by Congress to help preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal that helped Ohio and our nation grow.  The original canal ran 309 miles to the Ohio River. The Ohio & Erie Canalway is an affiliated unit of the National Park Service.  From the following website:

https://www.parkrangerjohn.com/national-parks-in-ohio/

The Buckeye State is home to eight national parks in Ohio managed by the National Parks System. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located between Cleveland and Akron, is the only park designated as a National Park. Ohio has two National Historic Parks, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, and Hopewell Culture National Historic Park.

There are three national historic sites, First Ladies National Historic site, James A. Garfield National Historic Site, and William Howard Taft National Historic Site, along with two national memorials David Berger National Memorial, and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. In addition, there is the North Country National Scenic Trail that goes around Ohio and is part of a seven-state trail system.

The trail on the south side of Brandywine Falls gorge was entirely boardwalk as the cliffs were very steep.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

 

We left around 10:30 AM and headed west on OH-303, through the towns of Hudson and Peninsula, Ohio.  Hudson was unexpected and amazing; clearly an affluent area.  At Riverview Road we went north to the Boston Mill Visitor Center.

The parking lot was full and we did not get to go in ☹.  We drove to Brandywine Falls instead.  It was also crowded, but we got a place to park.  (The park is, apparently, always crowded on nice weekends, and a marathon was being run on the tow path as well.)  We walked and took some photos.  It was nice.  There were steeper trails available, but we passed on those.

Trees are amazing, and will grow anywhere they can get a foothold with their roots.  These trees were near the start of the south rim trail to Brandywine Falls.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

 

From the waterfall, we then headed towards the north end of the park to the Canal Exploration Center.  We spent time in the Information / Museum building, which was a former canal-side inn adjacent to lock #38, learning about the history of the canal system.  The lock was fully intact, including the gates at each end, both of which were open.  The downstream lock and pond had water in them.  The upstream pond was mostly grown in with reeds, but a small tickle of water was flowing into the lock chamber and on towards Lake Erie.

 

 

 

 

The rear side of Canal Exploration Center at Lock 38, towards the north end of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.  It was a functioning inn during the heyday of the canal system, serving both travelers and local residents.

The front view of the Canal Exploration Center.  Lock 38 is just behind me.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

 

Like so many places we visited this summer, there was a great deal more to do than we had time for at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and in the surrounding area.  Hiking and biking for sure, as well as lots of history.  It was a wonderful park, and a bit of surprise, tucked in-between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio as it was.

But we had seen and done enough for a first visit.  Unlike most of the places we visited this summer, CV-NP is only a 3 to 4-hour drive from our house, so easily revisited at some point in the future.

The downstream portion of Lock 38, with the gates open and the lower pond just beyond.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

We headed south back to OH-303 and then east back towards the KOA.  On the way back, we stopped in Hudson at the ACME Fresh Market (for wine, a 2020 von Wilhelm Haus Auslese Riesling) and the Shell station (for fuel).

Back at camp, it was sunny and pleasant, so I got the two camp chairs out and then took a few minutes to put the stinger back in the truck receiver and line it up with the trailer hitch in anticipation of our departure tomorrow morning.

The upstream portion of Lock 38 with the gates open and the pond beyond.  The upstream pond was mostly filled in with reeds.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

Linda prepared a couple of bowls of snacks, and we sat outside and each had a small glass of wine and a few munchies.  (The wine was really good.)  Scattered clouds eventually moved across the sun, bringing a distinct chill to air each time.  As the sun finally dropped below the tops of the trees to the west (duh) of our site, the temperature dropped along with it.  Linda went back and I put the chairs back in the truck bed and then joined her.

 

A view of the entire Lock 38 from the upstream end.  (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.)

I copied the photos I had taken at the CV-NP from my phone to my computer and then finished the blog post for yesterday, assembled it in WordPress, and published it.  I then processed the photos from today and started working on the text for the blog post.

 

We had fish sticks and Daiya Mac & Cheese or dinner (both vegan, of course).  We would normally watch PBS programs on Sunday night, but did not have a usable OTA TV signal, so we streamed another episode of Star War: ANDOR and then an episode of Lord of the Rings:  The Rings of Power.  We had a second glass of the Riesling wine with some Hershey’s Dark Chocolate with Almonds.

 

It was going on 10:30 PM by the time the second program was done and Linda headed off to bed.  Our sleep needs and schedules are slightly different, so I doodled on my iPad for about an hour and then lowered the thermostat setting and climbed into bed.  We return home tomorrow, so this was our last “sleep” of our 117-night grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England.

20221008 – Another Travel Day; PA & OH Turnpikes

SATURDAY 08 October

Our rig in site #110 at Fox Den Acres Campground near New Stanton, Pennsylvania. (W3W=”lifesaving.mixtue.circulation.”)

I was up at 6:45 AM this morning, a bit earlier than the last few weeks.  Juniper-the-Cat was prowling the beds looking to get someone up to feed her, even though she still had some kibble left in her bowl.  She also likes to have her water freshened, even though the bowl is not empty.  We had left the main (larger) heat-pump on last night in heating mode with the thermostat set to 60 (F) as the overnight low was forecast to be 41 (F).  The heat-pump can operate at that temperature, but is close to where it will switch into a “defrost” mode occasionally.  I was already half-awake because of the cat, and heard the heat-pump go into defrost mode, so I figured I would just get up and switch the system to the propane furnace, with is much more effective than the heat-pump below 40 (F).  As long as I was up, and put the kettle on and made a cup of half-caffe coffee.  Linda got up around 8 AM, and made her cup of coffee.

At 8:30 AM. we had a light breakfast of Linda’s homemade granola, which we managed to make the granola last the entire trip.

Today was another travel day, one of the very few times on this trip we have had back-to-back travel days.  Our destination was the Streetsboro / Cleveland KOA Holiday in/near Streetsboro, Ohio.  As with yesterday, our preferred route was almost entirely toll road, I-76 and I-80.  Our EZ-Pass is actually from Ohio, so we will sail through the electronic toll plazas with “ease.”  The Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) becomes the Ohio Turnpike (I-76) and then I-80 becomes the Ohio Turnpike where I-76 and I-80 meet.

Google Maps indicated the driving distance today was 136 miles, and estimated a travel time of 2 hrs. 9 mins.  Check-in time at the KOA was 2 PM.  That might have been a problem except that check-out time at Fox Den Acres was noon.  That allowed us to target an 11:30 AM departure (we almost always miss our target and pull out a bit later).  Also, the overnight low temperature was 41 (F) and was forecast to only be 45 (F) by 11 AM.  Burrr.  But we had the gloves we bought yesterday at Walmart, so we were prepared to deal with handling things in the chilly temperatures.

We  started our departure preparations in earnest around 10 AM.  We had full sun and no wind so, in spite of the mid-40s (F) ambient temperature, we were very comfortable working outside, thanks in part to our newly acquired gloves.

We had studied Google Maps ahead of time, and so I had a clear mental image of how we had to get back on I-76 W.  It was still confusing, and I thought I missed the entrance ramp to the toll road, but the road I was on also went to the entrance ramp, so it was all good.  The only other unexpected thing on or route was near the end.  We exited I-80 W and had our EZ-Pass scanned as we rolled through the toll booth and then immediately found the ramp to southbound OH-14 (the one we needed) closed.  We took OH-14 North instead, because we didn’t have a choice.  Less than mile later there was an exit and a posted detour.  We crossed over OH-14, made the left turn, and got on OH-14 South.  After that, it was just a matter of turning on Market Square Drive to cut over to OH-303 and head west to the KOA.

The registration building and access control gate at the Streetsboro – Cleveland KOA Holiday in Streetsboro, Ohio.  The registration building also had a store and laundry room on the main floor and an arcade/game room in the basement.  The entry gate had a touch screen to enter the access code.

The entrance to the Streetsboro – Cleveland KOA Holiday was easy to spot, thanks to their iconic sign (large, yellow, with red teepee that looks like an X) and was wide enough for an easy turn.  Most of the campground was set far back from the road, so there was a long, winding drive to get to the registration building and access control gate.  It was just after 2 PM when I stopped and Linda went in to register us.

Our rig happily situated in site #507 at the Streetsboro – Cleveland KOA Holiday.  (W3W = “modern.downsizing.forwarded”.)

We were assigned site #507, a full hookup / 50A pull-through site in the far back of the park.  They only have 15 pull-through sites, all in this area, and it appeared that they were used for shorter-stay transient campers, like us.  The campground also had 12 cabins and 16 tent sites, two playgrounds, a swimming pool, and three lakes (two for fishing).  There were also an (uncountably) large number of back-in sites, many of which were clearly in seasonal (permanent) use.

I was able to locate the trailer on the site so that it was level, side-to-side, to within 1/4”, so we did not have to use our leveling devices.  It was about 4” low in the front, so that was easily handled by the trailer tongue jack.  Since it was early in the day, and we had no plans to leave the campground, I did a full exterior camp setup (electric, water filer/softener, and sewer).  They only thing I didn’t do was deploy the awnings, which we have not had out for many weeks now; no need with the lower sun angle and cool temperatures.

We had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Linda searched for OTA TV stations, but was not able to find a PBS affiliate with a usable signal.

The “Holiday” designation identifies the campground as a destination, not just a place to stop.  To that end, the campground, and many of the sites, were decorated for Halloween.  A sign listed all of the activities that were taking place today, including a central gathering, and hay wagon ride, and trick-or-treating from 6 to 7 PM.  It was fun to watch everyone in costume, children and adults, walking through the campground.

For dinner, we had oriental dumplings with soy-ginger sauce and corn kernels on the side.  As the sun set and the outside air temperature dropped we ran the main (zone 2) heat-pump to keep the chill at bay.  The forecasted overnight low temperature was 36 (F), so 34 was not out of the question.  As the outside air temperature approached 40 (F) during the evening, the lower limit for the heat-pump, it finally went into a “defrost” cycle.  Once that cycle completed, I switched the system to the (propane) furnace and set it to 65 (F).

After dinner, we streamed two episodes of Star Wars: ANDOR and one episode of Lord of the Rings:  The Rings of Power.  Linda headed to bed after the programs, and I lowered the thermostat to 62 (F).  I worked for a while on this blog before turning in, and lowered the thermostat again, this time to 58 (F), to keep the furnace from just running continuously all night.  The bedroom end of the trailer is always cooler than the kitchen/dining/living end.  When it is cool/cold outside, the bed is always chilly when I first get in, but I have more than adequate covers, and warm up quickly once I do.

2016/04/11–15 (M–F) Water Pumps on the Road Again

2016/04/11 (M) Parts Run

I was up at 7:30 AM, so I slept over seven hours last night, and felt like I had slept well enough to take on the day I had ahead of me.  I fed the cars, put fresh water in their bowl, and cleaned their litter tray.  I also cleaned part of the shower as one of them has developed loose stools in the last couple of days and has not always made it to the tray in time.  I moved the SunPass transponder, Garmin GPS, and my sunglasses to the car in preparation for my trip today.  By the time I had done all those chores Linda was up and both used our iPads for a while.  I was not going to make coffee this morning since I had a long drive ahead of me sometime today, but Linda wanted some so I made it and had some myself.  We eventually had bagels for breakfast.

I called Action Mobile around 9 AM and talked to Service Manager John Provo.  He expected my three brake calipers to be delivered between 10 AM and noon but that was just a guess on his part.  Rather than make an issue of getting a more accurate ETA I decided I would leave at 10 AM for the two hour drive from Williston to Orlando.  I went out after breakfast and unloaded most of the stuff in the back of the car and stored it on the picnic table.  I then walked to the resort office to let them know we were expecting a package from Amazon today.

Just before 10 AM I wrote out a short grocery list as I planned to stop on my way back from Orlando at The Publix supermarket on US-27 by the Ocala exit (#354) of I-75.  I took my iPad in case I needed to kill some time at Action Mobile, and actually left a little after 10 AM.

The trip down was smooth, with no traffic issues, and it was uneventful except for a text message from my sister asking me to call our broker and transfer funds for our dad.  Based on when I received it the best I could do was pull into one the Florida Turnpike Service Areas closest to Orlando’s northwest corner and call the brokerage.  The person I needed to speak to (Maggie) was on another call and I did not want to deal with a return call while driving so I left a message that I would call again when I got to my destination, which was still 20 minutes away barring any unforeseen traffic problems.

Traffic was thicker and a little slower as I neared Orlando but it moved along well enough and I reached Action Mobile just after noon.  I called Maggie again and got her this time as she is in the Central Time Zone.  Maggie is our broker’s office manager and is also a registered agent.  We have an extremely good relationship with her and our broker, John, so we chatted briefly before I gave her the transaction details.  I then texted my sister back to let her know I had taken care of her request.

I went inside and found John P. (the Service Manager).  The parts were not there yet so he called Rex at Rush Trucking to check on them.  Rex said they should have been there and made a call.  Not too long after that a white can showed up and the driver unloaded three Meritor boxes of the right size, shape, and apparent weight, and took off.

It occurred to me that I should check the parts before paying the balance and taking off myself so I opened all three boxes.  I was expecting one of the castings to have an “L” in the casting number and the other two to have an “R” in the casting number, but all three had “L”s and that caused me some concern.  I also noticed that one of the calipers had both grease fittings broken.  John P. called Rex back and Rex explained the Left and Right calipers used the same (“L”) casting.  The difference was in the helical drive shaft and gear inside, and difference was reflected in the part number on the box label.  The left side caliper part number began with “A 1” while the right side caliper began with “A 2.”   (The shaft for the calipers on the left side of the bus rotate clockwise, as viewed from the end where the slack adjuster attaches, while the calipers for the right side rotate counterclockwise.)

Rather than have Action Mobile remove and replace the damaged grease fittings Rex had a different left caliper sent over as he did not want to risk a small piece of debris falling inside the mechanism.  When the driver dropped it off I checked the label and the grease fittings.  There were OK, so he put the damaged one in his van and left.

While I was waiting I called Butch and gave him the information on how the left and right calipers were labeled.  He is working with someone at ABC Bus in Muncie, Indiana, who is working with someone at Rockwell-Meritor, who says we can still get these parts with a 45 to 60 day lead time.  I’m guessing that these are also rebuilt/remanufactured calipers, not new ones, but at this point in time we don’t really know.  He was quoted a price that was $200 less per caliper than I paid, but I have mine now, not two months from now; if in fact I could get them.

Bill, the mechanic who fixed our left tag axle brake last week, was taking his lunch break so we got to chat a bit.  John D. (the owner) was also around so we also got to chat for a little while.  I was running behind the schedule I had hoped to keep, so I loaded the three boxes into my car and went inside to pay the balance of the bill.  A quick chat with the billing clerk, Lisa, and I was on my way back to Williston.  It was 1:30 PM and I figured I would be back by 4 PM, including my stop at Publix.

I stopped at the Florida’s Turnpike Turkey Lake Service Area for some lunch but just ended up getting a frozen coffee thing at Dunkin Donuts.  Traffic moved along nicely all the way onto northbound I-75.  I had just passed exit 341 and was just 13 miles short of exit 354, when traffic came to a complete standstill.  The backup stretched as far as I could see in front of me and the flurry of emergency response vehicles driving up both shoulders meant there had been a serious accident somewhere up ahead.

It took at least an hour to reach the accident scene, where police had closed all three lanes of the highway.  All of that of traffic, which included two lanes of nose-to-tail tractor-trailers, had to funnel onto the right shoulder to get around the blockage.  The accident looked really bad and appeared to have involved at least a motorcycle, a large Suburban-like vehicle, and a utility trailer.  There may have been other vehicles involved that I did not see as I drove past or that had already been moved, although I doubted that.  There was no sign of the people involved and I presume they had already been transported from the scene by ambulances or helicopters.

Once I was past the accident I had clear sailing the rest of the way, but from the accident scene north the southbound lanes of I-75 were also completely stopped.  There were also emergency vehicles on the southbound side of the highway, but it did not appear that any of the accident was over there.  I exited I-75 at exit 354 (Ocala, Williston), made a left onto US-27, and pulled into the strip mall on the right where the Publix supermarket is located.

I took my short list of grocery items and went in.  In an unusual move for me I found everything on my list except for one item and did not buy anything that wasn’t on my list.  The only thing I could not get was fresh blueberries, which is odd because just today I had seen billboards advertising the Florida Blueberry Festival as running from April 11 – 16 in a town nearby.  Maybe all of the available blueberries were being routed to the festival?

I was back at our rig around 5:10 PM.  After getting the groceries inside, I turned my attention to reloading the car.  My first task was to transfer the new (to me) A1/Left caliper to the box the DS tag axle caliper came in last week as the box the new caliper came in was in very bad condition.  Linda found our roll of bubble wrap under the bed and I used pieces to protect the grease fittings on the top of each of the three new (to me) calipers.  (I say “new (to me)” because I believe the four calipers I have purchased are all rebuilt, and possibly even remanufactured.)

With that taken care of, I moved a couple of low boxes from the picnic table to the car and put them on the floor behind the two calipers that were behind the driver’s seat.  I then moved the tire covers from the front passenger seat and put them on top of the boxes.  The covers are a soft nylon mesh material which I figured would provide additional protection for the grease fittings.

We disassembled the damaged box to get flat cardboard pieces to use as a cushioning layer on top of the two caliper boxes that I had put inside the wooden storage structure.  The reason for all of this was that I had to store other boxes on top of the caliper boxes and, having received one that had damaged grease fittings, wanted to make sure I was not responsible for causing similar damage.  I had already taken the precaution yesterday of moving heavier items to the front bay of the bus, leaving lighter items for the car.

With the car repacked I opened the box from Amazon, which Linda said arrived around 10:30 AM, to verify that it was the correct Shur-Flo 4048 fresh water pump.  It was the correct box so I left it at that and we went for a long, slow walk around the resort.  When we concluded our walk we sat outside for a while and doodled on our iPads.  John and Ali returned around 6:30 PM.  As we suspected, they had gone out to dinner.  We presumed they had gone to The Blue Highway, but they had gone to The Olive Garden in Gainesville instead.

For dinner Linda made sandwiches with vegan deli slices and lots of greens, kind of like a salad on a bun, and sliced up a Honey Crisp apple.  It was a simple, easy meal, but it was all good.  As the hour approached 8 PM and the light faded we went next door to visit with John and Ali.  Earlier in the day John had taken one of his propane tanks over to be refilled but the person responsible for that task had not taken care of it.  When he tried to light the propane firepit it would not ignite.  We could smell the gas, and hear the spark, but if the tank was near empty it probably did not have enough pressure to make it work.  No problem; the conversation, if not the “mood,” was just as good without the fire.

It was a warm, still evening and there were more bugs out than the last few nights.  Everyone was tired by 10 PM and we all retired to our own rigs.  We watched the end of NCIS-LA and the beginning of the news and then went to bed.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickel, and then went to sleep.  Although I had not really done very much it had been another long, and somewhat stressful, day.

2016/04/12 (T) Water Pump Up

I got up at 7:30 AM and quietly took care of the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  I measured out the beans for our morning coffee but waited to grind them until Linda was up.  I updated my spreadsheet for GLCC parking at the upcoming FMCA GLAMARAMA16 rally in June and then continued working on my blog post for yesterday.  When Linda got up at 8 AM I finished making the coffee.  We then spent a couple of hours engaged in our usual morning routine of using our iPads while enjoying our coffee and having granola with fresh strawberries for breakfast.

By 10 AM we were dressed and I got to work replacing the fresh water pump.  The pump is a Shur-Flo 4048-153-E75.  It is a 4 GPM (max), 55 PSI (max), self-priming, 12 VDC pump with thermal overload protection and the ability to run dry without damage (although our friends, Butch and Fonda, discovered that it cannot do this for an extended period of time).  Shurflo also makes this pump in 24 VDC and 120 VAC versions.  I am seriously considering adding a 120 VAC pump to the water system when I redo the utility bay, but I would like something a bit more robust.  I seem to recall that Chuck has a Paragon AC powered pump in their Liberty conversion and it impressed me as a very serious piece of equipment.

Since the new water pump was an exact replacement for the failed one installation was very straightforward.  I shut off the incoming fresh water line as a precaution and had Linda make sure the pump power was switched off.  I then disconnected the two power leads which I had wired using mating insulated spade connectors.  There are two fresh water supply lines, each of which gas a 1/4 turn shutoff valve, so I closed those.  (The conversion had two domestic water pumps plumbed in parallel when we first bought it.  I replaced them with a single 4048 and removed the surge tank at that time as Shur-Flo recommended not using one with the 4048 pump.)  The threaded water line connections to the pump are plastic and only hand tightened, so were dealt with easily.  Before removing them I got a towel to absorb the water that was inevitably going to drain out of the lines.  Once the lines were off I removed the four screws that secured the unit to the floor through the rubber shock mounts.  The unit was now completely disconnected and I was able to remove it.

The new and old water pumps along with tool boxes and other stuff needed to make the repair.

Installing the new unit was basically a matter of reversing the steps just described, more or less.  I  needed to attach the proper insulated spade connectors to the power wires on the new pump.  I found my spade lug kit and even though I had a variety of connectors I did not have the ones I needed.  Fortunately there is a NAPA Auto Parts Store very close to Williston Crossings RV Resort and auto parts stores are an excellent place to find a large variety of spade connectors.  It’s walking distance to the store, but I drove there to save time.  I bought several different packs to make sure I had what I needed.

Back at the bus I prepared the power leads and set the new unit in place.  I connected the water lines first as it was easier with the unit loose.  I connected the power leads and then screwed the unit to the floor.  The new pump came with a strainer and adapter fittings.  I used the new strainer bowl to replace the old one, in which I found little curly queues of plastic.  I opened the two shutoff valves and then had Linda turn on the power to the pump and open the kitchen faucet so that both the hot and cold lines were open.  The unit came to life and water flowed, albeit with a sputter until all of the air was out of the lines.  With that, the water pump problem was fixed and I cleaned up the work area and put my tools away.

Next on my task list was checking tire pressures.  I really did not want to check all 12 tires with the digital gauge so I turned on the TireTraker TT-400 TPMS and waited 20 minutes for the readings to update.  Although the sensors are not “dead on” accurate they are close enough to let me know if a tire has lost enough air to require topping up.  They all appeared to be OK so I did not have to get out the air-compressor and air hose.

Barring any further unforeseen circumstances this was our last planned night in Florida for the 2015-16 winter season.  We wanted to go to Satchel’s in Gainesville for pizza one last time.  We decided to have an early dinner and take care of a couple of errands so we left at 2 PM.  Our first stop was at the Kangaroo filling station for gasoline.  Our next stop was Pet Supplies Plus in the Archer Road mega strip mall shopping complex.  We also stopped at the CVS pharmacy in the same complex and then drove to Satchel’s on the east side of town.

Although it was a lovely afternoon, weather wise, we chose to sit inside.  At Satchel’s we had our usual meal; an excellent salad and a pizza with mushroom, onion, sun-dried tomato, and Daiya non-dairy cheese.  It is, quite simply, one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, and it is vegan!  We got their largest pie and brought most of it home.

When we got back to Williston Crossings John and Ali were not around and we figured they had gone out to dinner again.  Happy hour usually takes place at Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel so we walked down there to visit for a while.  John and Ali eventually returned and as evening fell over the resort we went next door to sit around their propane campfire and visit.  Smitty made a large bowl of popcorn popped in peanut oil and lightly salted with Hawaiian sea salt.  Yum. Note for T 20160412 blog post.  Jim and Janet Rawley came over to John and Ali’s site to visit and John played his guitar and sang for a while.  Jim’s professional name is “Sonny Fox” and he was a big time rock ‘n roll D. J. during the ear when radio stations started playing “album rock.”  Jim quizzed me about my musical background and the first record (45 or LP) that I bought but I had no recollection of that.

We returned to our rig just before 10 PM and were in bed, with the lights out, by 10:30 as we planned to pull out of our site around 7 AM in the morning.  Tomorrow we head north and leave Florida.

2016/04/13 (W) Unbalanced Travel

I set an alarm for 6:20 AM and we got up at 6:30 and got dressed.  Today was a travel day so we did not have coffee or breakfast.  While we prepared the interior of the coach for travel I encountered a problem with the 12 VDC charging plug for the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS unit.  A small threaded plastic insert, which holds the spring-loaded +12V center contact, had broken and could not be repaired on short notice (if at all).  The two lower 12 VDC “cigarette lighter” outlets were dead again and it occurred to me that the failed plug might have been responsible for shorting the outlet and blowing the supply fuse last Wednesday.  Not realizing this at the time, and desperate to get the GPS back into service, I vaguely recall having plugged it into one of the upper outlets and probably shorted it out too.  I replaced all of the blown fuses last Wednesday but did not realize at that time what the root cause was and was rather perplexed by the failure, which reoccurred on the lower pair of outlets.

I removed the R-M GPS from its usual mounting position (on the driver side lower windshield next to the center pillar and resting on the top of the dashboard cover) and set it aside and I installed the Garmin 465T GPS unit in its place.  I took care of the remaining outside tasks of disconnecting/storing the shorepower cord, connecting the chassis batteries, and opening the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  Linda moved the car to another site so it was out of the way as I started the bus motor and aired up the chassis (brakes and suspension).  She then spotted for clearance from obstructions as I slowly and carefully pulled out of our site.

We wanted to be on the road at 7 AM but it was about 10 minutes past the hour when I finally pulled out of the site.  Our friend and neighbor, John (Smitty) Smith, was up and outside to wave goodbye, which was nice.  I proceeded north through the resort on Covered Bridge Road and Linda followed in the car.  We drove through the covered bridge, for which the road is named, and stopped just short of the north bath/laundry building to hook up the car for towing.  There are no park model trailers or RV sites close to this location, so we knew we could hookup here without bothering anyone.  With the car attached we double checked the settings and then did our light check.  Everything was OK so Linda got into the coach and we set our destination in the Garmin GPS unit.

We finished our slow roll through the RV resort, out the back/northwest gate, and pulled out onto FL-121 headed northeast towards Gainesville.  About two miles from I-75 we encountered stop-n-go traffic.  The morning rush hour in Gainesville was underway and was something we had not previously experienced.

Linda kept a close eye on our tire pressures and temperatures, especially the driver side tag axle, as we rolled along.  We stopped at the Pilot station at Exit 460 and took on 60 gallons of diesel fuel.  That was our last stop until we got to the end of our trip for the day.  I would have liked to note here that the trip was uneventful but, alas, that was not the case.

The drive up I-75 through northern Florida and southern Georgia is generally an easy one, without any serious grades to climb or descend, attractive enough scenery, and reasonable traffic volumes except during the April 1st northward snowboard migration.  As we got to the Macon, Georgia area and then on up to Atlanta, traffic was heavier but moved along.  Somewhere along the way the Battery Balance (BAL) light came on, flickering at first but then staying on.  Not good.

The Battery Balance light is controlled by a Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is supposed to indicate that the “12V” center tap on the battery bank is not within +/- 0.75 VDC of 1/2 of the voltage between the “24V” terminal and ground.  The relationship of these voltages is supposed to be regulated by a pair of Vanner Voltmaster Battery Equalizers.  It is normal for this light to come on occasionally, especially when starting the motor, but it is not normal for it to come on and stay on.  Assuming the monitor module is not defective, it means the 12V center tap is out of tolerance with respect to the 24V terminal and implies that the Vanner equalizers are not doing their job.  Ugh.

Having the yellow Battery Balance (caution) light come on immediately added stress to the trip but when the red Hi/Low Battery (warning) light came on the stress level went way up.  This light is also controlled by the Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is (supposed to be) activated if the voltage at the “24V” terminal (relative to ground) is less than 24V or more than 30V.  Voltages outside the 24 – 30 VDC range could indicate a malfunction of the voltage regulator and/or engine-mounted alternator.  Either one would be a problem that could put the bus on the side of the road as the engine is controlled by a computer that is powered by the chassis battery 12 V center tap.

The normal full-charge resting voltage of a “24V” lead-acid battery is 25.2 VDC (12 cells in series at 2.1 volts per cell) and the normal voltage at the 24V terminal with the motor running is around 28 VDC, so the 24 – 30 VDC range is a reasonable one. I also have 24V and 12V analog battery voltage gauges in the dashboard that are connected to the batteries independent of the Vanner Battery Voltage Monitor Module.  While they would also show high or low voltage conditions, and, by comparison, a battery imbalance condition, it is appropriate to have warning lights to get your immediate attention as you might not notice the gauges for a while.  What was odd about this situation was that the 24V gauge was sitting at about the 29V position and the 12V gauge was sitting at about the 14V position.  I knew these gauges worked because they do not always show these readings, but I did not know if the readings were accurate.  They are, however, close to what I normally see, and they do not usually result in caution or warning lights.

We left I-75 (GA) at exit 296, Cassville-White Road, drove 0.2 miles east to the Pilot truck stop, and got in a long to wait for a pump.  When it was finally our turn I added 92 gallons of diesel fuel.  From the truck stop we drove west back towards I-75 and continued 0.5 miles on the other side of the highway before turning left into the Cartersville Castle-White KOA.  Linda was hearing and speaking well enough by now to be able to register us, which is normally her job.  We were escorted to a water/electric pull-through site in the center of the park with less than ideal access but I was able to get in and park the bus.  We leveled as best we could, shut off the engine, batteries, and air and then plugged in the shorepower and turned it on.

Linda made a really good salad for dinner and we each had a piece of leftover pizza, slightly warmed.  Yum.  After dinner I made calls to Joe Cannarozzi, Ed Roelle, and Butch Williams and sent a text to Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Joe was working on a coach in Williamston, Michigan and was looking for a local facility that could service the over-the-road air-conditioning system.  Ed has been around converted buses in Michigan for a long time so I contacted him to see if he had any suggestions for Joe.  We went for a long walk around the campground during which I had a long chat with my sister.  When we got back to our coach I exchanged text messages with Smitty back at Willison Crossings RV Resort.

Our TV options were limited but we were able to get PBS, so we watched whatever was on.  We planned to pullout out of our site at 7 AM, which meant we had to be up around 6:15.  Not that we have that much to do, but we do not like to rush through our morning routine.  We were in bed with the lights out by 11 PM.

2016/04/14 (R) A Relatively Smooth Run

There was a possibility of rain last night so we closed all of the roof vents and narrowed the window openings before we went to bed.  I set the alarm on my phone last night for 6:15 AM this morning, but I was aware of the rain, and woke up around 4 AM when I heard one of the cats making a strange noise.  I wanted to turn on the electric engine block heater anyway so I got up and did that, checked on the cats (they were fine), and went back to bed.  I tried to go back to sleep without complete success.

We finally got up to stay at 6:30 AM and got dressed.  I had an e-mail from Gary at BCM that needed a reply and cc:d Dave Aungier.  I also texted Dave as he was who Gary needed to contact.  I shut down all of the technology and packed up my computer while Linda cleaned off counters and secured windows.  The car was already connected for towing so we just had to go through the towing procedure and double check it.  I disconnected and stowed the shorepower cable, connected the chassis batteries, and opened the air valves in the engine bay.  I started the engine and we did the light check while the chassis aired up.  Since it was 7 AM we tried to avoid idling any longer than necessary before pulling out.

We were in an angled water/electric site in the middle of the campground with fairly tight ingress and egress.  I raised the tag axle so shorten the turning radius and pulled out while Linda kept an eye on the driver side front corner.  I had to get the driver side nose of our coach fairly close the passenger side rear corner of the 5th wheel trailer directly in front of our site in order to get our passenger side rear end and toad to clear a tree on our site and a post near the road on the next site to our passenger side.  I also had to avoid the rear end of the next 5th wheel trailer and the picnic table in-between them.  Fun.

Without being over-confident, I think I have gotten a lot better at maneuvering the bus in tight situations.  That skill has come with some good teaching, some practice, and at the expense of two mistakes that caused some damage, but it certainly paid off this morning.  Once I was cleanly out of our site and into the road I stopped and put the tag axle down.  Linda got on board and we rolled slowly out of the center of the campground and headed for the exit.  We stopped before exiting so Linda could find Juniper.  We knew she was onboard, but we wanted visual confirmation before pulling out.  Linda found her under one of the living room captain’s chairs, and we were on our way.

We recharged the Rand-McNally GPS last night using a 12 V car outlet splitter with USB ports and a compatible USB cable that I borrowed from the Sony a99v DSLT camera.  Linda turned it on and entered the address of today’s destination to verify that the unit was working.  It was, so I set it up on the dashboard by the windshield center pillar so it was ready to go this morning.

Our route took us north on the final 70 miles of I-75 in Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee where we headed northwest on I-24.  I-24 was mostly in Tennessee, but dipped back into Georgia briefly as it swung around the southern side of a mountain.  Unless you head far to the west on I-10 before turning north, there isn’t a practical way to get back to Michigan from Florida without crossing mountains.

As you head north from Florida on I-75 the ground rises steadily.  As you approach Atlanta it starts to get hilly, and that continues north of town all the way to Tennessee.  As soon as you head west on I-24 you are perpendicular to mountain ridges running SW to NE.  The highway winds around these ranges, sticking to valleys as much as possible, but inevitably there comes a point where it simply has to go over the top.  And so it did.  I think the grade was at least five miles long, perhaps seven, with lots of turns but nothing I would call a switchback.  The road surface was excellent with wide lanes and truck lanes.  The grade was just steep enough that I had to climb it in 4th gear doing around 50 MPH at 2000 RPM with 14 to 15 PSI of turbo boost.  With cool outside air the engine coolant temperature never rose above 195 degrees F, which is its normal operating temperature (on the gauge) and I was very pleased with the way the bus ran.  Replacing the turbo boost sensor tube last year was no doubt partly responsible for this performance.

The temperature was in the low 50’s when we left the Cartersville Castle-White KOA around 7:15 AM and we ran through cool temperatures under overcast skies, with intermittent drizzle and fog, all the way over the mountains in southwest Tennessee.  Once we were on the northwest side of the mountains the cloud cover started to break up and reveal patches of blue sky.  Somewhere southeast of Nashville we encountered our last raindrops and by the time we merged onto northbound I-65 we had clear, blue skies.  Traveling “north” from late morning to early afternoon we had the sun at our backs, making for a comfortable cockpit without using the air-conditioning.

I was concerned about the issue we had yesterday with the Battery Balance (BAL) telltale caution light and the Hi/Low Battery (Voltage) telltale warning light and presumed it would reoccur today.  In order to reduce the chance of that happening again today I tried to minimize the power draw from the +12 VDC center tap of the chassis batteries and perhaps cause an imbalance between the upper and lower halves of the battery bank.   To that end I did not use the cockpit HVAC fan and kept the headlights off as much as possible.

We had a pretty smooth run all the way to and through Nashville.  Pat and Vickie had alerted us to “construction on I-65” but were not more specific.  North of Nashville we encountered a major construction project that lasted for at least 20 miles.  Traffic flow, however, was very smooth if a bit slower than normal posted speeds.  As we approached Louisville we saw signs announcing major construction ahead and advising I-283W as an alternate route.  We were less than 15 miles from our destination and needed to take the second exit just after the bridge so we rejected the alternate route suggestion and stayed on I-65.  The construction was, indeed, major—the reconstruction of a bridge over the Ohio River—but we made it through without having to stop.  The campground website had very specific and detailed directions on how to exit I-65 and we followed them instead of the GPS.  We were momentarily confused after exiting, never a good thing when driving a bus in an urban area, but we were in the right place and made the last couple of turns to get to the Clarksville KOA campground without difficulty.

Linda checked in at the office and the woman at the desk lead us to a pull-through site that was very easy to get into but might be challenging to exit in the morning.  We were sitting level without having to adjust anything so I shut off the engine and we went through our usual arrival routines.  Linda then walked over to the office and finished registering us.

We walked the park, which was not large, and scoped out our departure route and any possible problems.  The sites here are closely spaced, the roads are a little narrow, and some campers are parked with their vehicles sticking part way out into the road.  Some of the people camped here appeared to be younger men who were itinerant workers.  As such, we suspected they might be gone in their cars before we pulled out in the morning.  If so, we will probably get out OK without having to unhook the car, but I doubt that we will ever return here.  While the location is convenient to I-65 and Louisville, the park itself is not worth the $50 a night they charge.  If not for the location, it wouldn’t be worth half of that.

We did not plan to unhook the car to explore the area and there did not appear to be anywhere to walk although Vickie had texted us that we were only a half mile from the river and there was, in fact, a nice walk down to there.  Even so, we were tired and perfectly content to retire to our coach, have dinner, and watch our favorite Thursday evening CBS comedy shows.  We went to bed at 11 PM as we planned to be on the road at 7 AM so we could be at Butch and Fonda’s home in Twelve Mile, Indiana before noon.

2016/04/15 (F) Back In Twelve Mile Again

I set the alarm on my smartphone last night for 6:30 AM this morning.  Like last night, I woke up around 4 AM, turned on the engine block heater (electrical), and tried to go back to sleep.  I was awake again before 6:30 and the alarm was just my signal to actually get out of bed and get dressed.  Linda woke up with the alarm and was also up and dressed fairly quickly.

As usual for a travel day, we did not make coffee or have breakfast and instead set about preparing the coach for travel.  I had turned off my computer last night so all I had to do was pack it up.   We also left the car and bus connected together, so all we had do was check the connections and go through the towing procedure.  I turned the block heater and Aqua-Hot electric heating element off, disconnected the shorepower cord and stowed it, opened the auxiliary air supply valves, and started the main engine.  We did a light check while the chassis aired up and then Linda climbed aboard.

I was concerned about getting our rig out of the small, tight site and through the narrow interior gravel roads of the campground, but our neighbor’s to the left moved their truck before they went to bed last night and the guy directly in front of us on the other side of the street left in his car just before 7 AM, presumably to go to work.  That meant I had plenty of space to pull forward and to turn to the left, which is the direction the site was angled.  By 7:25 AM we were exiting the park and on our way to Twelve Mile, Indiana.

Although we had less than 200 miles to travel today, I-65 continued to be one long construction zone with lots of very rough surfaces which made for more difficult and tiring driving.  In-between Clarksville and Twelve Mile was Indianapolis, so that meant major urban traffic.  “Indy” is a major shipping hub with a good, but extensive highway system.  I-465 circles the metro area while I-65, I-69, I-70, and I-74 all tie into it, along with several U.S. highways.  The speed limit is 55 MPH and most drivers seemed to obey it, which made for easier urban driving, but there was still a LOT of traffic.

As we got on the north side of town headed west we were looking to exit onto US-31 north.  The GPS told me to exit at Keystone Avenue and turn right onto the relatively new Keystone Parkway, which bypasses the initial stretch of US-31 before joining it some miles farther north.  Fortunately I spotted a sign before exiting the highway that said vehicles over 19,000 pounds GVW were not allowed on the Parkway.  Also fortunate was that I knew the exit for US-31 was only a couple of more miles ahead and was a perfectly acceptable place for us to get off of I-465.  I had not been this way in a while and discovered, to our pleasant surprise, that it is a completely new, limited-access highway heading northbound.  Sweet.

We handled the situation smoothly and without too much consternation, but it was concerning that our GPS tried to direct us onto a road for which we were too heavy by more than double.  That had us wondering if the RV characteristics parameters were not set correctly, and perhaps got reset when I updated the unit while we were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort, but now was not the time to check all of that.  This is a relatively recently rebuilt roadway, and it was been my experience with both GPS units that the map updates do not include these newer roads.

Another possibility was that the Indiana Highway Department has not updated the state road database as that is where Rand-McNally (and other mapping companies) get the information for their road maps.  I encountered this a while back when traveling US-24 from Peru, Indiana to Defiance, Ohio.  Even though my GPS database was up to date, it had no knowledge of the new construction between Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Defiance.  The same us still true of the new stretch of US-31 running south from US-20 for many miles even though it has been open for quite a while.  The State highway departments are responsible for updating the database that the GPS/mapping companies use.  If they do not update the database there isn’t much the GPS/mapping companies can do.

Indiana has made major improvements to US-31 over the last 3 to 4 years, building whole new limited access sections.  Besides the section coming south from US-20 and the section going north out of Indianapolis, there is one that now bypasses Kokomo.  The older sections are four lane divided but have grade crossings and occasional traffic signals.  They are posted at 60 MPH and traffic is usually light and moves along well.

All-in-all we had an easy final leg from Indy up to State Road 16 and west into Twelve Mile.  At 11 AM, just 3-1/2 hours after we pulled out of the Clarksville KOA we were back in Twelve Mile again.  We pulled into the gravel driveway for the grain elevator, which is not in use this time of year, to unhook the car.  The driveway is exactly opposite where I park the bus when it is here and positions me to basically back across SR-16 into our spot next to Butch and Fonda’s bus.  Linda spotted for me as I backed across SR-16 and into our spot.  I leveled the coach, shut off the engine, and took care of the exterior arrival tasks while Linda took care of the interior ones.

Butch and Fonda did not come out of the house and we were not sure they were home.  We usually have a very poor Verizon signal when the bus is parked in this spot, and today was no exception, but I was able to get our Verizon Mi-Fi online.  About that time Butch and Fonda came out to check on us and we visited for a while.  We had not knocked on the door because we knew there was a possibility they might not be home when we arrived.

Butch needed to be at a local county fairgrounds at 5 PM to help set up a large room for a hamfest tomorrow.  Fonda was reviewing for the General Class license exam, so Linda studied her Amateur Extra Class flash cards with Fonda while Butch and I went to the do the set up.  The hamfest was an annual joint event put on by four county amateur radio clubs.  After the tables were all set I helped Butch carry in all of the stuff from his truck and arrange it on three adjacent tables.  When we were done, and there was nothing else to do, we returned to Twelve Mile.

It was 6:30 PM by the time we got back and we decided to go out for dinner even though the options for us are very limited.  We drove to Rochester hoping to eat at a Mexican restaurant but it was closed (permanently).  We ended up at Tweedle Dee’s instead, mostly because they have a salad bar.  We were the last diners to leave and only then because they needed to run the vacuum cleaner which cut off any chance of Linda hearing any further conversation.  We stopped at Butch and Fonda’s new (to them) house on IN-25 in Metea but Butch did not have the key with him so we did not get to go inside.

By the time we got back to Twelve Mile we were all tired.  Butch and Fonda had to be up very early to go to the hamfest so they signed their tax returns, got them ready to mail, and brought them to our bus for Linda to mail in the morning.  I planned to go to the hamfest too, but not first thing in the morning.  I also wanted to take our car so I could come back to Twelve Mile before the hamfest ended at 1 PM.

Our series of equipment failures seems to be continuing as I was unable to get the Amped|Wireless SR20000G router/network-extender to recognize any hard wired devices.  I tried plugging in both my computer and our NAS to all five of the ports but none of them responded to either device.  It’s unlikely that the wired networking had failed on both the computer and the NAS so the failure of the SR20000G is the more likely cause.  The SR20000G’s wireless networks are still working but the loss of the wired ports means I cannot access the NAS.  Fortunately we will be home in a few days and I can try to sort this out in the comfort of my office.

Being tired, and with no TV reception, we were in bed by 10:30 PM and I was asleep by 11 with no alarm set for the morning.

 

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.

 

2015/05/15 (F) Hamvention

Today was devoted to the Dayton Hamvention which, as the name suggests, is a ham radio “event” that takes place in Dayton, Ohio.  I suppose it could be a gathering of Honey Baked Ham franchisees in some other state, or a convention of people who like to show off, but it’s just dozens of speakers, hundreds of vendors, thousands of flea market sellers, and ~20,000 attendees gathered to buy, sell, learn about, and talk about all things amateur radio.  It is quite an event and it always rains.  This year was no exception.

The Dayton Hamvention is the largest single annual gathering of ham radio operators in the world, and is probably also the largest gathering of ham radio related vendors.  Organized by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the Hamvention currently takes place on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the third weekend in May each year and 2015 was the 60th time the event has been held.  The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) shows up in force and the biggest manufacturers in the industry—Kenwood, Icom, and Yaesu—have extensive booths in the vendor area, along with many other manufacturers, distributors, and specialty product vendors.

Dayton’s Hara Arena is ~227 miles from our house, close enough that we can drive down and back the same day, but it makes for a long day.  We left at 5:35 AM and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels before getting on the Interstate 96 headed east.  A few miles later we headed south on US-23 which took us into Ohio and onto I-475.  We joined up with I-75 south of Toledo, Ohio and stayed on that until we exited in Dayton to head west to the Hamvention venue.  With a bathroom break about half way down we arrived at the arena around 9:15 AM.  There is no general admission parking at the Hara Arena complex but we were able to park at an automotive dealership across the street and over to the left for $10.  (The dealership directly across the street was charging $40/day to park.  Unfortunately some people were actually willing to pay that much.)

The flea market opened at 8 AM and the indoor vendor area opened at 9 AM.  Hams who are looking for bargains in used parts and equipment are always in line when the gates open at 8 AM on the first day.  Although many hams are involved with designing and building new equipment, and/or repairing and restoring vintage radios, we are not.  We had only been to the Hamvention once before and our interest today was to reacquaint ourselves with the inside vendors.  It cost us $25 each for the privilege.

We knew that a dozen of our fellow SLAARC members were here at the event but we only ran into one of them (Bill / W8NN).  We walked past every vendor booth at least once and paid return visits to several.  We did not have a shopping list and ultimately did not buy anything except lunch.  As we were getting ready to leave a thunderstorm opened up and it rained very hard for a while so we lingered and revisited a couple more vendors until it quit and then headed for our car.

We pulled out around 3 PM and headed for home, reversing the route we took to get to the Hamvention.  We stopped for gas and each got something to drink.  I was tired and sleepy from having had too many carbohydrates for lunch so we switched drivers.  We stopped at a rest area somewhere on I-75 in Ohio for a bathroom break but I’m not sure where it was as I was dozing until just before we pulled in.  We got home about 6:45PM.  The event ended at 6 PM today and we expected to be home closer to 10 PM, so getting home sooner was nice.

The cats were glad to see us; at least they both wanted our attention.  Linda cut up some fresh strawberries and pineapple and heated up some canned soup which made for a light, easy dinner.  We relaxed for a while but Linda decided she was too tired to watch an episode of Sherlock and headed off to bed.

I checked out the website of one of the vendors that interested me.  KF7P (KF7P.com) builds custom cable entry boxes with copper ground planes and lightning arresters.  I have been looking for something like that to get transmission lines into our basement ham shack while protecting all of the equipment connected to them.  I will give him a chance to get back to Utah and then give him a call and order one.  The box is going to mount on the east side of the house near the northeast corner.  It will have at least one 3” PVC pipe coming out the back and running through the wall into the basement.  Since I do not know what our long term needs are, and I do not want to have to redo this later, I will have him build something that is larger than we will probably ever need.  That will be cheaper and easier in the end than having to redo something later.

 

2014/09/07 (N) Findlay Hamfest

I set alarms on my phone and iPad last night to make sure I got up at 5:00 AM.  My natural tendency is to stay up a little later each night, something I am now able to do as I do not usually have to get up by any certain time in the morning.  Usually.  Today, however, was the annual Hamfest put on by the Findlay, Ohio Amateur Radio Club and I needed to be at Mike’s (W8XH) QTH in time for a 6 AM departure.  We picked up Steve (N8AR) at the Park-n-Ride lot at Lee Road and US-23 around 6:15 AM and drove non-stop to Findlay, Ohio, arriving at the county fairground at 8:15 AM.  We had a good chat on the way down, which is as much of a reason for going as the bargain hunting once we got there.  I have included a couple of photos in this post.  For more photos, visit:

http://wp36test1.slaarc.com/gallery-2/hamfests/2014-09-findlay/

We each paid our $7 admission fee and got our ticket with a tear-off stub for the hourly and grand prize drawings.  We got parked and set our Kenwood TH-F6 handheld radios to 146.475 MHz (simplex).  We filled out our raffle ticket stubs, dropped them off, and started working our way up and down the rows of outside tables.  The outside sales area was essentially a flea market, sometimes referred to as “trunk sales” because people back their cars up to the road and sell stuff from their trunks.  The spots are cheaper to rent for the day, but you take a chance that the weather will be nice.

Outside vendors (trunk sales) at the Findaly ARC Hamfest in Findlay, OH.

Outside vendors (trunk sales) at the Findaly ARC Hamfest in Findlay, OH.

We worked the flea market first while the temperatures were cool and the sun wasn’t overhead but also because almost everything offered for sale was used equipment at negotiable prices.  These are often one-of-kind items and the bargains tend to disappear quickly.  By mid-morning I had purchased a good sized NEMA enclosure (steel box with weather tight gasketed door) and a Harris 22.2 telephone butt handset (tester).  I plan to use the NEMA box to create a cable entrance box with lightning protection for RF transmission lines, AC power lines, and control lines.  I got the telephone test set because it will allow me to hook up to the phone line the same way the AT&T technicians do, and because it is not the sort of thing most folks have in their home.

Bruce (W8RA) gave a short shopping list to Steve (N8AR) yesterday at breakfast.  Mike (W8XH) spotted a matched three-piece set of vintage Heathkit gear, one piece of which was on Bruce’s list.  Steve looked at it and they got Bruce on the phone.  Apparently it was close enough to what Bruce wanted that Steve bought the whole set for him as the seller was not willing to sell them separately.

We then moved to the inside vendors, most of whom were selling new merchandise at fixed prices.  There was some used equipment, however, and I bought an Icom CI-V interface set.  This device will allow me to interface our Icom IC-7000 and/or IC-706 to, and control them from, a computer using something like Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) software.

I also got to meet and talk to Norm, from Norm’s Fabrication in Adrian, and his wife, who is president of the Adrian Amateur Radio Club.  Norm is a welder, and his side business is fabricating tower parts out of steel and aluminum for fellow hams.  If I cannot get what I need from Heights Tower Systems, Norm may hold the key to getting our used tower erected.

A very classy portable ham radio station (go box).

A very classy portable ham radio station (go box).

A number of other hams from the South Lyon, Novi, Livingston, and SEMDXA radio clubs were there.  I brought my camera and tried to get photos of our club members for the club website.  None of us won anything from the hourly drawings (must be present to win) and we left shortly after noon to meet up at the local Steak-n-Shake for lunch.  I had not eaten breakfast so I enjoyed my garden salad and French fries.  I had a good chat with Dave (K8ESQ), the current president of SEMDXA, and Don (N8CAK) from SLAARC.

We had a good chat on the drive back, stopping briefly at the Michigan Welcome Center on US-23 northbound shortly after entering Michigan from Ohio.  We dropped Steve off at the Lee Road Park-n-Ride and helped him unload the Heathkit equipment.  When we got back to Mike’s I moved my purchases and personal gear to my car and then spent some time examining his Heights tower, especially the fold-over mount.  After studying the parts and the geometry of the design I had a much better understanding of how it works and what we need to get our tower erected and fully operational.

On the way back to my house I got a call from Darryll letting me know he would be out in the morning as long as someone would be home.  Back home I unloaded everything and moved Linda’s car to the side parking pad to make space for Darryll’s truck in the morning.  It was nice to have a day away from our house and property projects.

I spent a little time checking e-mail and websites and off-loading digital photos until Linda called me to dinner.  We had leftover kale salad, quinoa with pineapple and nuts, fresh steamed broccoli, and corn-on-the-cob.  After dinner I recorded the events of the last few days in rough drafts of separate blog posts.  By 10:15 PM the early start and long day finally caught up with me and I turned the lights out and drifted off to sleep.