Tag Archives: 2009 Egri Merlot

2015/04/02 (S) SLAARC and Company

We arrived at the Senate Coney Island before 8 AM for the weekly SLAARC breakfast.  Paul (N8BHT) was already there and we were followed in closely by Steve (N8AR), Mike (W8XH), and Jim (N8HAM, the best call sign ever).  Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (NF8C) came in next followed by Harvey (AC8NO) and Diane, and then Gary (WA8TJA).  Others continued to come in but I lost track after that.  We sit at a long, two-sided table arrangement, so you can only talk easily to the person on either side of you and the three or four people across from you.  Bruce and Linda sat across from us.  The two Lindas like to talk so we try to arrange the seating to make that possible when we can.

Bruce and Linda just closed on a 25 acre property in Florida that includes a very nice house with a ham radio shack and five (5) towers with antennas so that was the main topic of conversation.  Bruce is also thinking about putting up a “barn” with a pad next to it for an RV so we talked about the requirements for the pad and the type/placement of the hookups.  We both had coffee and Linda had her usual dry rye toast.  I decided to change things up and had a dry, toasted bagel instead of my usual dry, toasted English muffin.  Sometimes you just have to live on the edge.

After breakfast we went to First Merit Bank along with Harvey and Diane.  Harvey is the SLAARC President, I am the VP, and Linda is the Treasurer and we are the folks currently on the account.  There was an issue with the bank’s paperwork and they needed to photocopy our driver’s licenses and get our SSNs.  It turned out that they also did not have the club’s EIN even though Linda and Paul, the outgoing treasurer, took care of some of this in late February.  Nancy helped us and was very nice, explaining that the bank had changed its policies and procedures recently and now required more documentation than in the past.  No problem, the bank is open on Saturday mornings and we are almost always in town for breakfast.

With our banking business concluded we headed towards home via Grand River Avenue.  We knew from yesterday that traffic was moving through the I-96/US-23 construction zone just fine, as long as there wasn’t an accident, but we wanted to stop at Brighton Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram which is on GRA just west of US-23.  We walked around the lot looking at the Jeep Wranglers, especially the Unlimiteds, and after a suitable amount of time David Wade came out and introduced himself.  He showed us around, answered our questions, and gave us a nice brochure (book) and features/options guide.  We liked his attitude and demeanor and left feeling comfortable with him and the dealership.

We focused in fairly quickly on the Willy’s Unlimited model as the one that we thought would best fit our needs and budget.  It is similar to the Sport, which is the base trim level for the Jeep, but is available with the hardtop and, most importantly, the Rubicon heavy-duty suspension and off-road (knobby) tires. The Rubicon is the top of the line Wrangler Unlimited (4-door) but it is not just fancier in terms of electronic gizmos; it has an entirely different suspension, transfer case, and other “features” that make it the most off-road capable as delivered by the factory.  We liked the copper/bronze color, as it would go nicely with the paint scheme on our bus, but I am also partial to the canary yellow as it would be the most visible if we were broken down in some remote place.

A new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited would be a big purchase for us but no more expensive than buying a used one as they appear to hold their value better than most vehicles.  With a new one we can order it just the way we want it, leaving off all of the expensive upgrades we do not want/need (in-dash GPS, entertainment system, etc.) and adding only those that we do want/need (hardtop and suspension upgrade).  New also means a 6-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a 3-year, 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.  David also told us that we can purchase a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty for about $3,000.  We will obviously have to do some research on that.

We finally got home around 10:30 AM Home.  Linda added a few more items to her grocery list and went to the supermarket.  I started a load of laundry and then moved a lot of my “stuff” from the dining room to my office.  After rearranging old stuff to make room for the new stuff I settled in at my desk to work on computer/web-based tasks.

Gary was the SLAARC webmaster before me and indicated at breakfast that he was still getting e-mails from the SLAARC reflector and asked that I remove him from the e-mail forwarding on our GoDaddy account.  My focus for the last two years has been getting the WordPress website built and launched so I had never looked at this aspect of our web-hosting account.  I had some familiarity with the concept, however, from the e-mail accounts that are part of our personal domain and sub-domain.  It was fairly easy to figure out how to edit the existing account and add new ones.  Once I was done I e-mailed all of the club members who were affected by the changes and asked them to review them.  I will check for replies tomorrow and then send test messages.

I got an e-mail from Linda at BCM with the SD version of the March 2015 digital issue attached.  I logged in to the website and downloaded the HD version.  This issue is two months late, the latest it has been since Gary took over the magazine in October 2012, due in part to yet another change in editors that did not go smoothly.  The magazine has been at least a month late for a year now and is slipping farther out rather than closing the gap.  The sad reality is that the magazine does not have enough subscriber base or enough advertisers to be sustainable and Gary is not able to pay enough to get an editor who can/will put out a quality magazine once a month.  But he has not shut it down yet so I will continue to work on articles.  I don’t get paid for my writing and photography.  It’s a hobby and I like it that way as I am not obligated to do anything and I can make my own ground rules.

John and Diane Rauch arrived at 5 PM to visit and have dinner.  They are our longest/best Michigan friends and we always enjoy visiting with them.  They also have two children who went to school with our kids and now have children of their own.  Diane is an educator and is retiring at the end of the school year after a long career as a high school English teacher.  Naturally, our conversation had to do with retirement, travels, and family.

Linda used our outdoor grill to roast marinated potatoes and cook veggie-fruit kabobs.  John and Diane brought a nice Riesling from Woodcreek that we enjoyed before dinner.  We opened a bottle of our 2009 Egri Merlot to serve with the meal and had Biscotti cookies and vegan chocolate “ice cream” later for dessert.  Linda and Diane got a new online game configured on Linda’s iPad and got several things straightened out on Diane’s iPad.  They headed for home around 10:30 PM as it’s a half hour to get back to their house which is only a few minutes from our previous home.

We stacked the dishes in the sink and left any further cleanup for tomorrow.  We tried to watch the 2nd episode of the 1st season of Sherlock (PBS) but either the DVD was damaged or there is something wrong with our player.  The disc was obviously scratched so that may have been the cause, but I want to rule out a defective player.  We have another one in the basement that I will use to test the disc.  If the player needs to be replaced new ones are relatively cheap and I will get one that can also play Blu-Ray discs.


2014/11/03-09 A Week at Home

Note:  There are no photographs for this consolidated post.  Sorry.  🙁

2014/11/03 (M) Getting Ready

Linda was up early and off to the bakery.  I got up an hour later and had some raisin toast for breakfast.  Whenever I have had time since I got home on Friday I have been working on the project list for our bus.  I worked on it some more this morning but eventually had to set it aside while I made some phone calls, tried to deal with an issue with Linda’s Samsung laptop computer, and got documents ready to upload to my Dropbox for a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

I called Bill Jensen, the national service advisor for conversion shells at Prevost Car Inc., but his voice message said he was unavailable indefinitely and gave alternate contact info.  The main contact was Kevin Laughlin so I called him.  I described the shorter ride height linkage and the downward pointing position of the ride height valve lever arm in its neutral position.  He agreed that neither of these seemed right.

I called Prevost and ordered a new ride height valve and two CX-96 (Gates) drive belts for the OTR air-conditioning compressor.  I then called Martin Diesel in Defiance, Ohio and made an appointment to have the diesel generator in our coach serviced on the 20th and 21st if needed.  I also needed to call Webasto technical support but did not get that call made today; maybe on Wednesday (or Thursday).

Linda’s Samsung laptop suddenly decided to turn the screen brightness down and she has not been able to turn it back up.  It’s bright enough to see in somewhat dim conditions, but still uncomfortably dim for general office use.  I did a Google search and found that lots of other folks had encountered the same problem and had advice on how to fix it.  I shared several links with Linda but she could not get it to work.

I put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter’s financial statements, roster, and minutes of last year’s’ meeting.  I uploaded them to Dropbox and e-mailed the chapter members that the materials where there.

Linda got home later than usual from the bakery so we decided to go to La Marsa in Brighton for dinner.  It’s our favorite local restaurant but was more crowded than on a regular Monday due to the buffet they have the first Monday of each month and we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.  We ordered the almond garlic Ghallaba from the menu, one of our two favorite vegan dishes, but it was not as good as usual.  Not bad just somewhat flat, as if they had left out the garlic.  It was 8:30 PM by the time we got home and we turned in for the night fairly quickly.

2014/11/04 (T) Election Day

Linda did not go into the bakery today.  We spent much of the day together and this is what we did:

  • Had raisin toast for breakfast with Orange juice and banana…
  • ..
  • Got passport photos at Rite-Aid in Brighton…
  • Went to Panera for coffee…
  • Drove to Dearborn for dental hygienist appointments…
  • Drove back to Farmington Hills where we went to McDonald’s and had French fries for lunch…
  • Drove a mile to the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi for flu shots…
  • Drove back home where we had a few chips and hummus for an afternoon snack…

I drove to Brighton Honda for a 3:30 PM appointment to have the Element’s recalled air bag serviced.  The appointment took 45 minutes by which time the traffic was really bad.  Because of the combination of rush hour traffic and the ongoing re-paving of Grand River Avenue just west of the dealership a left turn was going to be near impossible.  I needed to get to Latson Road and Grand River Avenue so I made the easy right (and correct) turn out of the dealership and quickly got on I-96 westbound.  I took the relatively new Latson Road exit and stopped at Walmart to stock up on ICE brand water.  I went to Meijer’s for a Mega-Millions lottery ticket and then to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for two more 12VDC duplex power outlets.  It was still raining lightly, as it had been for most of the day, so I returned home by way of Grand River Avenue and Hacker Road which kept me on pavement for most of the trip.

Linda heated up the leftover chili for dinner.  She continued to try different things to get her Samsung laptop to allow her to adjust the screen brightness and return it to normal but nothing worked.  I took a little time to update WordPress websites and tweak the Wordfence login security.  We then filled out and printed our passport renewal applications and got them ready to mail.  We also figured out how to create, share, and synchronize multiple calendars on multiple devices so that we can now see the same information on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  It’s all about Google.

Linda was tired and needed to get up early but something had broken on our bed foundation and needed to be fixed, if only temporarily.  We are still using the plastic foundation that came with our select comfort air mattress years ago and one of the cross members that carry the load to the side rails had come loose from the interlocking top platform and dropped down.  We had to get the mattress off the bed to work on the platform.  We got it put back together for now, but we need to get a box spring or other foundation to replace it.  That probably won’t happen until spring.

2014/11/05 (W) The Day After

Yesterday’s election results were generally as predicted, so nothing to cheer about from our point of view, but the world did not come to an end either.  Elections change very little in the short-term and the daily tasks of living continue regardless of who does or does not get elected.  We were happy, of course, that Gary Peters won the U. S. Senate seat and that Debbie Dingle was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.  We were especially pleased that our friend, Brian Robb, won re-election to the Ypsilanti City Council and that Richard Bernstein was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court, but saddened to learn that Casandra Ulbrich failed in her attempt to get re-elected to the State Board of Education.  And so it goes with American politics.

Linda was back at the bakery today reviewing the period accounting and continuing to answer questions and monitor the use of the new software.  I took care of some e-mails and then headed to the Brighton post office to mail our passport renewals.  I refueled my car at Meijer’s for $2.899/gal and then stopped at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to exchange two Sodastream CO2 cartridges.  BB&B is in the same strip mall as the Panera, so I stopped in for some coffee.

When I got home UPS had already delivered my package from Prevost.  I took the trash can to the street first and then I opened the box and verified the contents.  I installed one of the Sodastream cartridges but the display would not reset.  The unit has an LCD display so I figured it had a battery hidden somewhere.  I released a clip at the top of the display and the whole display module came out with the nickel-sized battery was installed on the back side.  I started to remove it and the display changed, so I figured it needed a new battery.  I did not think we had any of this type of battery in the house but Linda told me later that we did.

I had not backed up all of my photo files from last week so I spent some time in the early afternoon copying files from my camera to my laptop and then from my laptop to both of our NAS units.  I printed off all of the documents I needed for the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter annual meeting and was responding to an e-mail when Tony and Mark from GSI showed up to install the new natural gas fireplace logs and hookup the new natural gas outdoor grill.

Tony and his wife own GSI but he had Mark install the fireplace while he worked on the grill.  He installed the new disconnect but when leak testing discovered that there was a small leak on the output side of the shutoff valve.  I had to shut off the gas supply to that branch circuit, which also supplies gas to the kitchen range and the fireplace, so he could work on it.  Tony removed the new disconnect, installed a new valve, and reinstalled the disconnect.  I turned the gas supply on and he retested for leaks but did not find any.  He suggested that we run it for a while to burn off manufacturing oils and other things that initially produce odors and can affect the taste of foods cooked in the unit.  I got the stainless steel heat diffuser and two cast iron grills and set them in place.  The left burner lit easily using the battery powered piezoelectric igniter and the right grill lit easily from the left one.

Linda got home at 3:30 PM while Tony and Mark were still working and took over interacting with them while I got ready for our 4 PM telephone meeting.  She got instructions on how to light/operate both appliances, paid them, and then joined me for the meeting.  By 4:05 PM we had 14 “F” numbers represented, safely exceeding our quorum requirement of 10, and Bob Pelc called the meeting to order.  The meeting was friendly but efficient.  We conducted all of the necessary annual chapter business and adjourned at 4:42 PM.  I was re-elected to another 2-year term as chapter secretary but did not run for chapter vice-president, the position I have held since the chapter was formed in June 2010.

After the meeting Linda shut off the outdoor grill and we sat in the living room monitoring our fireplace logs and discussing dinner options.  As a result Linda decided to make waffles.  She tried a different recipe and substituted pastry flour instead for regular flour.  Neither of us understand the difference, at a food chemistry level, but she apparently invented/discovered something that will stick to Teflon-coated cookware; really, really tightly. The waffles were crispy and tasted fine, once we got them out of the waffle iron, but they would not have won any prizes for presentation.

We spent a couple more hours after dinner sitting in the living room letting the firelogs operate with the flue opened a bit.  Tony and Mark said it can take up to 20 hours of use for the unit to stop producing odors and suggested that we operate it with the flue slightly open while breaking it in.  The logs are a non-vented design, just like a kitchen range, which means they are designed to operate without being vented to the outside yet not produce harmful combustion by-products such as carbon monoxide.  At 8:50 PM I turned the logs down to their lowest setting.  Linda shut the unit off at 9:15 PM (it has an On/Off/Remote switch but we do not have a remote).  The pilot light does not consume enough air or produce enough heat and combustion by-products to be a safety or economic concern, so I left it on, closed the flue, and went to bed.

2014/11/06 (R) Inductive Thinking

Linda left the house before I awoke and spent a long day at the bakery.  I spent most of the day at the dining room table working at my computer.  I typed up the draft minutes from yesterday’s FMCA Freethinkers annual meeting, generated PDFs of the chapter’s financial reports, uploaded files to the Dropbox folder, and reorganized it.

I took a break at noon and drove into Novi to have a look at Chuck’s latest bus projects and then go to lunch at the local Leo’s Coney Island.  The new wedge cabinet and Corian top look and fit great between the end of the new couch and the kitchen base cabinet.  He did a nice job replacing the outside Jenn Air electric cooktop/grill, which was mounted in a pull-out tray in one of the bays, with two Indufix 2-hob induction cooktops.  The tray has an open bottom and is supported by four heavy duty extension slides, two on each side.  The induction units are from Germany and came with European “208VAC” plugs.  They are strictly 208/240 VAC devices and do not have a neutral connection.  The wire colors are also different with brown and blue for the L1 and L2 (hot, load) and yellow/green for the ground.  Chuck had an addendum sheet explaining the color codes and how to match them up to the U. S. standard.

For lunch I had a small Greek salad without feta cheese and an order of French fries.  Chuck had a more substantial meal with a salad, chicken on skewers, and rice.  I was back home by 3:00 PM and settled back into my computer-based work.

Linda got home around 6:15 PM and made barbecued tofu sandwiches with grilled onions and corn on the cob.  We washed it down with Leelanau Cellars sweet Red Table Wine.  It was labeled semi-sweet but it reminded me of the King of the North wine from Red Trail Vineyards in North Dakota which had a distinctly grape juice taste.  I liked it and Linda said she did too, which surprised me a little, as she tends to like dryer red wines.

After dinner Linda read and played online word games on her iPad to the warm glow of our new natural gas fireplace logs.  These logs are a high-efficiency, unvented design and actually through heat into the living room rather than up the chimney.  I continued reformatting the Freethinkers chapter roster, uploaded it to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the members to let them know it was available and ask them to review their listing and get back to me with corrections.  RVillage had notified me that someone wanted to join both the CCO and GLCC groups so I logged in and approved those.

I discovered the other day that Wordfence will allow me to block individual IP addresses so I would like to find the time to go back through the “User Locked Out” notification e-mails and enter some of the most egregious repeat offenders.  But not tonight.  It’s late, Linda is already asleep, and I’m tired.

2014/11/07 (F) 50% plus

My objectives for today were the following:

  • Finish up yesterday’s blog post and start working on today’s…
  • Read a few of the blogs I follow in Feedly (I am way behind)…
  • Move the spare Aqua-Hot from the garage to the library…
  • Move any other freeze sensitive items from the garage to the library…
  • Finish the drywall compound work in the library…
  • Call Webasto technical support…
  • Measure the inside of the Honda Element…
  • Buy plywood to build the storage divider for the Element…
  • Start building the storage divider for the Honda Element…
  • Use the blower to clear the leaves from the deck and planting beds….
  • Prepare the FMCA Freethinker annual chapter certification paperwork…
  • Select a few photos to go with blog posts going back to early October…
  • Start uploading blog posts to our website…

That was obviously more than I could possibly accomplish in one day, but it helps to write it down.  Here is how I did…

  • Finish up yesterday’s blog post and start working on today’s…check.
  • Read a few of the blogs I follow in Feedly (I am way behind)…check.
  • Move the spare Aqua-Hot from the garage to the library…check.
  • Move any other freeze sensitive items from the garage to the library…some.
  • Finish the drywall compound work in the library…check.
  • Make an unplanned trip to Lowe’s and Sherwin Williams for paint supplies…Yes.
  • Prime the areas in the library where the drywall work was done…Yes!
  • Call Webasto technical support…check.
  • Measure the inside of the Honda Element…check.
  • Buy plywood to build the storage divider for the Element…no.
  • Start building the storage divider for the Honda Element…no.
  • Use the blower to clear the leaves from the deck and planting beds….no.
  • Prepare the FMCA Freethinker annual chapter certification paperwork…no.
  • Select a few photos to go with blog posts going back to early October…no.
  • Start uploading blog posts to our website…no.

That’s 6-1/2 + 2 out of 13 + 2 or 8-1/2 out of 15 which is over 50%; not bad.  I might have gotten one or two other things done, or at least started, but we ended up meeting Chuck at BD’s Mongolian Bar-B-Que in Novi for dinner at 7:00 PM.  Barbara was still attending to out-of-town family business and Chuck appreciated not dining alone.  We were at the restaurant for over two hours and had a nice meal and great conversation in spite the very loud, upbeat youthful vibe of the place.  Next time we will try Sizzling Sticks in Northville; same kind of food but a much more subdued atmosphere according to Chuck.  Overall it was another good day.

2014/11/08 (S) Steve and Karen

We had a good sized crowd at the ham radio breakfast this morning.  We did not have to be anywhere at any particular time, and we were enjoying the conversation, so we stayed a little longer than usual.  Once we got back to the house I changed into work clothes for drywall and painting while Linda gathered up the recyclables and finished her grocery list.  She left to run the errands and I got the painting tools/supplies out.

Linda dropped off the recyclables, stopped at the bank, stopped at Lowe’s to return something that it turned out we had not purchased there, and then did the grocery shopping at Meijer’s.  While she was gone I put a first coat of paint on the areas of the west wall of the library where I had repaired the drywall.  The item she planned to return was a can of Great Stuff Fire Block that broke yesterday when I tried to use it.  It turned out that I had not purchased it at Lowe’s as they do not sell it.  They sell a 3M product for the same application, which I had sitting in the garage but had overlooked.  I used it to try to fill gaps around the gas supply pipe and the condensate drain, which were open clear through to the outside, and the double-walled flue pipe and gas pipe that pass through the furnace closet wall.  I applied the foam from inside the furnace closet and will need another can to finish the job from the outside of the closet.

Linda started putting together supper while I gathered up laundry and started a load.  I spent some quiet time with Jasper, our very sweet 10-year old cat, and then settled in to write and read for a while.

Steve and Karen arrived at 5 PM and we visited while Linda put the finishing touches on dinner.  She made the warm Farro dish with kale, dried cranberries, almonds, garlic, and onions and roasted asparagus as a side.  She has the Farro dish tagged “good for company.”  We still have a few bottles of the 2009 Egri Merlot and the slightly sweet full body of this wine went very nicely with the earthy Farro.  She made a chocolate cake for dessert with raspberry sauce made from fresh raspberries.  I think the cake was her best yet; very moist with just the right texture.  Vegan baking is tricky and Linda is still figuring it out.  Sometimes the cakes are a bit dry and other times they lean towards being brownies but tonight she got it just right.

Steve brought his Raspberry Pi single board computer (SBC) and an SD card with photos of their recent (September) trip out west.  He connected the Pi to our TV/monitor in the basement so we could all comfortably see the photos.  They had excellent weather and some fall colors the days they were in Yellowstone National Park and got some nice images.  But we spent most the evening sitting in the living room enjoying the new natural gas firelogs and catching up on what we had been doing since we last saw each other.  They left around 10:30 PM and we had everything picked up by 11 PM and headed off to bed.

2014/11/09 (N) Wrapping Up

Today was mostly about wrapping up the library drywall/painting project and other minor chores, doing laundry, and getting me packed for a two week return visit to Twelve Mile, Indiana to work on our bus and help Butch and Fonda work on theirs.

Linda made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, which is always a treat.  I made a trip to Lowe’s for a nine inch disposable paint roller cover and another can of 3M Fireblock spray foam.  I used the can of spray foam to finish sealing the gaps in the utility closet wall openings where the black iron gas pipe and the double-wall flu pass into the garage.  I only needed a little more foam to finish the utility closet openings so I used the rest of the can to fill gaps around the rear entrance door in the garage.

I used some scrap packing paper from recent Prevost shipments and some frog tape to mask the opening for the library furnace return air grille.  I then used flat black spray paint to make everything that is visible through the slots in the cover disappear.  Finally, it was time to paint walls.

I used a small brush to cut in the adjacent wall and ceiling with the Sherwin-Williams Extra White satin finish paint.  I removed the cover plates from two outlets and a switch and then rolled on a new/final coat of paint.  I cleaned up my paint supplies and then we brought the outdoor grill (and cover) into the garage to store for the winter.  We also brought the patio table umbrella and base into the library and set the umbrella in the base for the winter rather than let in lie on the floor.

Linda made another batch of granola while I checked stuff on my computer and took care of laundry and packing.  We had leftovers for dinner at 5:15 PM and then headed to South Lyon for the monthly SLAARC (ham radio) meeting where I was re-elected as VP for a second year and Linda was elected Treasurer for the coming year.  The program was a presentation on Software Defined Radios (SDR) by Mike Alexander (N8MSA).  When we got home we finished the chocolate cake and raspberry sauce with a glass of Leelanau Cellars Autumn Red wine and then turned in for the night.


2014/09/29 (M) Full Converted (Not)

Linda was up at 5:45 AM.  Hey, it’s just a number.  I mean, who needs daylight?  She quietly got dressed and slipped out of the house to drive to the bakery.  This is how it’s going to be on days when she has to be physically present at the facility.  Unless I am away working on the bus.  In that case she probably does not worry about being quiet.

I got up around 7 AM and had a nice breakfast of homemade granola, orange/grapefruit juice, and coffee and then spent some time catching up on blogs that I follow.  Keith showed up around 9:30 AM to cut the grass.  Butch had called last night to ask Linda a question and asked that I call him when I had a chance.  Our company did not leave until after 9 PM last night, which was great, but too late to call Butch back so I called him this morning around 10:30 AM.

Butch had used a stop leak additive product to try to plug a leak in his Aqua-Hot main coolant loop but it did not work.  The Aqua-Hot is a Webasto-based diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  Rather than repair the Aqua-Hot, or replace it with another one, he decided to order an Oasis Combi unit from International Thermal Research.  The Combi has a lower BTU rating than the Aqua-Hot but is smaller, simpler, and uses stainless steel for some of the components.  It should be more than adequate for their bus, which is very well insulated, and give them years of trouble free service.

Butch and Fonda’s Aqua-Hot is a very similar model to ours and I will probably buy it from them as a source of spare parts.  His burner is fully functional, which ours is not at the moment, and the short term fix for our unit may be to just swap the burners.  I can then repair the defective burner at my leisure and have it available to swap back should the replacement ever develop a problem.

As a result of our conversation I decided that I will take our bus to their place tomorrow, leaving around noon and arriving between 4:30 and 5:00 PM.  In preparation for that trip I needed to gather up and organize parts, materials, and documentation for my initial set of projects.  I also needed to do laundry and select clothes for the trip.  I may also need to do some grocery shopping this evening unless Linda already has food in the house that I can take.  Tuesday morning I will have to load clothes and toiletries, hook up the car, check and adjust tire pressures, load computers and other last minute items, and get the bus ready for travel.

My main focus for Wed, Thu, and Fri will be the Aqua-Hot (no burn and leaky exhaust).  If we have time I would also like to finish installing the Zena 24 VDC power generating system and get it operational.  I will return on Friday afternoon/evening in the car as Butch and Fonda have plans for the weekend and I still have lots of things to take care of back at the house.

Keith finished up with the lawn a little before noon.  He will be back at least two more times, once in mid-October and again towards the end of the month.  Whether he cuts the grass in November or calls it quits for the season will depend on the weather between now and then.  His basic grass mowing season is April 1 through October 31 and he has his business insured for that range of dates, but he said he would come back in November if needed.  The grass should be dormant by then, but there may be a few leaves that still need to be mulched.  There could also be a foot of snow on the ground, so it will all depend on the conditions prevailing at the time.  During the mowing season he spends the work week living at their trailer/cabin at Haas Lake RV Park, which maybe 20 miles from our house, but by November 1 he is looking to move himself and his equipment back home to Milan for the winter.  Milan is at least 60 miles from our house, maybe a bit farther.

I spent a little time at my desk and decided to re-install WordPress 4.0 on the SLAARC, FMCA Freethinker, and FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches websites.  I re-installed it a couple of days ago on this (our personal) website, but I have not tried creating or editing image galleries since then so I do not know if the broken drag-n-drop feature has magically been repaired or not.  I suspect not, but Linda says I’m a pessimist.

I had a quick bite of lunch and then read a few more blog entries while I waited upstairs for Brandon from Bratcher Electric to show up and convert the whole house generator from propane to natural gas and do the annual maintenance and multi-point inspection.  He arrived at 2:15 PM and was here for about an hour.  I had him show me how to disable the generator as it has to be turned off anytime I want to shut off the power coming into the main distribution panel in the basement.  He did not have the correct length of flexible gas line and will come back on Friday to do the LP to NG conversion.  Besides disconnecting the propane and connecting the natural gas the conversion involves attaching two wires to a pair of corresponding terminals on the gas valve inside the unit and changing a setting in the controller.

While Brandon was working on the generator I started gathering things from the garage that I needed for tomorrow and loading them in the car and the bus.  We already have quite a few things staged to take to the Surplus and Salvage Rally next week, but I will take those things with me when I return to Butch and Fonda’s early next week.

Linda called at 4:35 PM to let me know she was on the way home.  I drained the water out of the fresh water tank on the bus as it had been sitting in there since June.  (Yuck.)  The fresh water hoses needed to be cleaned before I used them so I filled their storage tub half full of softened water and added some bleach.  I coiled them up, hooked the ends together, let them soak for a while, and then wiped them off with clean paper shop towels.  Much better looking, and probably and lot more sanitary.

Linda got home at 5:30 PM, a very quick trip for that time of day.  Butch had called just as she was getting home to let me know that he had spoken to someone who has two RV spots in Quartzite we can rent for a very reasonable price this winter.  Linda and I need to discuss it, and would like a few more details, but that probably makes more sense than trying to boondock our first time out there, especially as we do not yet have solar panel on the roof of our coach.

Linda made a nice green salad and heated up some of the lasagna from yesterday.  Italian bread with garlic “butter” and a glass of the 2009 Egri Merlot completed the meal.  We talked about our respective days, reminiscent of when we both worked outside the home.

After dinner I finished cleaning the fresh water hoses, filled the fresh water tank, and then drained and stored the hoses.  While I did that Linda gathered food items, bedding, and towels and put them aboard the bus.  It will still take me a few hours to get ready to leave tomorrow, but I should not be rushed getting everything done.

Linda heated up some of the apple/pear crisp for dessert after which we sat on the sofa and looked at highway maps on her iPad.  The map app on the iPad said the trip from our house to Quartzite, Arizona was about 2,100 miles and would take “1 day, 9 hours.”  That’s non-stop, of course; i.e., 24 + 9 = 33 driving hours.  That time works out to just under 64 MPH.  I typically drive the bus at 60 to 63 MPH on Interstate highways, but we do all of our trip planning based on 50 MPH.  That usually works out well at taking into account for fuel stops, rest stops, and non-Interstate roads.  This means our travel time will be more like 42 hours.  Our preference is to only travel 200 to 300 miles per day, or 4 to 6 hours a day, so the actual number of travel days will be between 10 and 7.  We like to spend more than one night at each stop, depending on what there is to see and do in the area, so the number of days it will take us to get to Quartzite will 2 to 3 times the number of driving days.  A lot of the details of our trip will be last minute decisions based on weather, but our “plan” is to leave December 1st and arrive in Quartzite by December 21st, more or less.


2014/09/28 (N) Oh Canada

Today was all about company—getting ready for company and having company—and this time our company was from Ontario, Canada.  Okay, they actually drove down from Frankenmuth, Michigan where they are staying at an RV Park, but they are Canadian citizens who reside in Canada when they are not traveling in their motorhomes.  Bill and Karen are fellow converted bus owners and members of both the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter and the Converted Coach Owners group.  Mike and Kathy have a purpose built class C motorhome and often travel with Bill and Karen.  Kathy is Bill’s sister.

Linda spent the morning preparing vegan lasagna and apple/pear crisp for baking later in the day while I worked at my desk on secretarial and financial duties for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.

Company arrived a little after 1 PM.  Linda took the ladies on a tour of the house while I took the guys on a tour of the property and then showed them around the house.  We had guys’ chat and gals’ chat for a while and then we all gathered around the table on the deck for some grapes and pretzels.  Linda put the lasagna in the oven at 3 PM and prepared a salad.  When the lasagna was done she put the apple/pear crisp in the oven to bake while we ate.  We sat down at 4 PM for dinner and had a very nice meal that included Italian bread and olive oil seasoned with pepper.  We opened a bottle of our 2009 Egri Merlot (it may have been our last one) and four of us had a small glass with dinner.

We continued our conversation on the deck after dinner and had our dessert out there. It was an absolutely perfect late September day.  When the sun got low in the sky we moved inside as it cools off quickly and the mosquitos come out.  We sat in the living room and talked until 9 PM.  By then it was dark and they still had a one hour drive back to their RV Park.  Kathy had rinsed off the dinner dishes, so Linda loaded the dishwasher and started it.  Linda packed her computer and gathered up all of the things she needed for tomorrow so she could get an early start for the bakery.  I will be home all day waiting for Bratcher Electric to show up and convert the whole house generator.  They are supposed to be here between 1 and 3 PM.  Karen took a few photos but I did take any, so I do not have any images to post from today.


2014/08/24 (N) The Critical Path

The current “critical path” on the garage/HVAC project is the east wall of the garage which has to be finished before Darryll returns.  Although not as pressing as the drywall work, our first task after breakfast was to (finally) connect the separate ground wire from the garage sub-panel to the house main electrical panel and remove the bonding screw that tied the grounds and neutrals together in the sub-panel.  That took about an hour, but that was because it was work that had to be done carefully as the main panel was energized while I was working on it.

With the ground wire taken care of we sanded drywall compound on the east garage wall.  We wiped the dust off with a slightly damp sponge and I applied the next coat of drywall compound.

We then worked on wiring.  I finally decided on the locations for the two furnace switches, each of which had to be within three feet of their respective units.  I decided to locate the switch for the library HVAC unit on the new wall opposite (20″) and above (16″) the cable entry hole in the side of the furnace.  The switch will be in an outdoor rated surface mount junction box with the supply cable entering from the rear.  I had already run the cable into the middle wall cavity and had to drill a hole through one of the studs to get the cable where I needed it to be.

I decided to locate the on/off switch for the ceiling mounted garage furnace on the ceiling about a foot to the right of the right rear corner, again using an outdoor rated surface mount junction box.  The dedicated 15A cable was already routed to that general area so we just had to move it to the new location.

We also had to install the wiring for the thermostats.  Darryll brought a large reel of 4-conductor, 18 AWG thermostat cable, so we had the material we needed.  I was studying the installation instructions for the thermostats and it appeared that they needed 24 VAC to operate.  I called Darryll and left a message regarding this.  He called back fairly quickly and told me we did not need transformers as they were already in each of the furnaces.  He also left me know he would be back on Wednesday morning.

With the transformer question answered we were able to proceed with the cable installation.  The thermostat for the garage furnace will mount on the outside of the west wall of the new utility closet, so we had to run thermostat wire from that location through the attic to the ceiling mounted switch box.  The thermostat for the library HVAC unit will mount on the wall to the right of the door into the garage and above the return air register/duct, so we also had to run thermostat wire from there through the garage attic and over to the location of the on/off switch in the utility closet.  I worked in the attic while Linda worked in the garage.

We took a break for lunch and then started installing insulation in the utility closet walls.  We got one staple installed and discovered that we were out of staples.  That meant a trip to Lowe’s.  Lowes’s is about six miles driving distance and we prefer not to go for just one small thing, so we made a list.  The Arrow staple gun takes T50 staples.  The surface mount junction boxes have several threaded holes into which you can screw different clamps depending on how the cable is connected.  I planned to use flexible armored cable, sometimes referred to as “greenfield”, to bring 120VAC power to the furnaces.  Lowe’s had 6′ lengths of armored cable with an extra foot of wire on each end.  I needed a little more than 36″ for the library furnace and a little less than 36″ for the garage furnace, so that worked out nicely.  The guy in the electrical department got me set up with the right clamps for the ends called saddle connectors.

When I got home, I discovered that I had bought brads rather than staples, so Linda headed back to Lowe’s to return the brads and buy the staples.  While she was gone I pulled the wires out of the armored cable and cut the armor into two pieces.  I fed the wires back through the shorter piece and connected it between the garage furnace and the switch box.  Linda got back before I could complete the cable for the other furnace, so I set it aside to finish later.

With a good supply of staples we insulated the west wall of the utility closet and the space above the door on the south wall.  We then installed drywall over those same areas.  We had to notch around the flue pipe and the black iron gas pipe, but we measured carefully (and twice) and the panel fit just right.  We applied fiberglass tape to the one vertical seam, and prepared a length of corner bead for the outside corner at the junction of the two walls.  Linda prepared dinner while I applied joint compound to the seam and screw dimples.  I mudded the corner, pressed the corner bead in place, and then mudded over it lightly.  I then did some touch up sanding on the east garage wall and applied what I hoped would be a final coat of drywall compound.

I finished just in time to clean up and have dinner; vegan Pad Thai made from scratch.  A small glass of the 2009 Egri Merlot and some lemon melon later for dessert put a nice cap on a very productive day.


2014/08/23 (S) Square Waves

We have so much to do at home and on the bus that we might have skipped the SLAARC (ham radio club) breakfast in South Lyon this morning, but I had agreed to meet Chuck at his shop (bus garage) at 10 AM in Novi and to bring Mike (W8XH) along with his oscilloscope to look at the tachometer signal, or lack thereof.  We had a nice chat with our ham radio friends, discussed having dinner in a week or so with Bruce and Linda, and then headed to Chuck’s shop.

We had two different opinions as to what signal we might find, if any, at the end of the wires that connect to Chuck’s tachometer.  Matt, from Bob’s Speedometer, told me that the signal to both the VDO tachometer and speedometer were variable frequency square waves at 3 to 5 volts peak and that the electronics in the gauge moved the needle in proportion to the frequency.  Mike (W8XH) had talked to Jim (N8KUE), who works in the research lab at Ford Motor Company, and Jim was of the opinion that the input to these gauges was a pulse width modulated signal.  With pulse-width modulation the frequency and amplitude of the waveform are constant but the width of the “pulse” (the “on time” of non-zero voltage) varies from zero to some maximum percentage of the half cycle, up to 100%.  If it is on for the entire half cycle it becomes a square wave.  The longer the pulse (on time percentage) the more energy is transmitted.  The gauge electronics can convert that to a needle position or run a motor faster or slower, such as might drive an odometer.

So which was it?  Well…neither.  What we saw was an alternating current signal that appeared to simply be an impulse (sudden spike in the voltage), one positive and one negative per cycle, with the frequency responding in direct proportion to the engine RPM.  The impulse had a rapid but noticeable decay time that appeared to me to exponential, but we did not have the wires connected to a load and that may have affected the signal. The voltage we were seeing appeared to be in 300 mV range, a far cry from the 3 – 5 volts we expected.

We loaded the cardboard in my car before going to breakfast, so when we were done at Chuck’s we headed directly to Recycle Livingston.  From there we went to pet Supplies Plus for some cat litter and then to Lowe’s for four more sheets of drywall (Sheetrock) and a large tub of better drywall compound.  After fighting with the back wall of the garage recently and having trouble with using the patching and repair compound yesterday, I wanted a drywall compound that would go on easier and smoother.  It could just be my technique, of course; I wasn’t that good at dry-walling 32 years ago, and feel like I have lost what little technique I once had.

Back home we unloaded everything, changed into our work clothes, and had lunch; grilled “cheese” sandwiches with tomatoes and dark leafy greens and fresh peaches, ripened to perfection.

While Linda sanded the drywall compound I applied yesterday I removed the panel from the library side of the opening for the old window A-C unit.  I insulated the cavity, cut and installed a new piece of drywall, and re-taped the seams.  I helped Linda finish the sanding, wiped off the dust with a wrung out sponge, and then applied another coat of drywall compound.  I then applied a first cost of “mud,” as drywall compound is commonly called, to the filler panel in the library.

In preparation for dry-walling the new utility closet we had to do some carpentry to box around the flue and gas pipe where they pass through the west wall.  We also had to box around the supply air duct where it passes above the utility closet door.  Finally, we added some backer boards along the edge of the platform by the west wall.  The purpose of all of this carpentry was to provide backing along all drywall edges so it will be supported and can be secured.  Our final task for the day was to trim a piece of 2×4 to block off the top of the wall cavity where the return air duct is connected next to the door between the library and the garage.

For dinner we had leftovers from Thursday:  Koshary and pita bread with vegan garlic “butter.”  Linda read somewhere recently that drier white wines are generally considered (by someone) to go better with Middle Eastern food, but we thought our 2009 Egri Merlot went quite well with dinner.  Of course, Koshary is an Egyptian dish, and so perhaps more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern.  All of that reminded me that there really are no rules about these things; drink what you like and enjoy life.


2013/12/27 (F) Arcadia FL

Sandhill cranes at the Turner Agri Civic Center.

Sandhill cranes at the Turner Agri Civic Center.

We slept in this morning and did not get up until sunrise; very late for us.  I made a big pot of coffee and then went for a stroll to take some photographs in the early morning light.  I took photos in the afternoon light too, and I have assembled a gallery of images as a second post for today.  When I got back Linda made vegan blueberry pancakes with real Maple syrup and vegan breakfast sausage patties.  She does not use these fake meat products much anyone, but occasionally we like to have a more “traditional” breakfast.  Starting Sunday the rally provides coffee, juice, bagels, toast, and other breakfast items every morning.

After breakfast we drove into town to find a 10-32 Nylok (stop) nut and other items that had been accumulating on our list.  Our Garmin 465T GPS found the Walmart just 2 miles SE of the rally venue.  We spotted a Tractor Supply Company and a Do It Best Hardware store on the way to Walmart and made note of other local businesses as we passed by.  We found everything on our list at Walmart except for two items, one of which was the stop nut, so we stopped at the hardware store on the way back to the Turner Agri Civic Center.  Stop nut and drain stopper in hand, we started back to base camp and remember another item that we had not written down.  A quick U-turn back to the Sweetbay Market by the hardware store and we found a small (pocketsize) spiral bound notebook.  I needed something I could carry around easily to record various details of the rally for my BCM article.

Back at the coach I replaced the two regular nuts I had used to fix the main patio awning yesterday with a Nylok stop nut.  We let the awning sit for a while longer to make sure it was dry and then rolled it back up.  We are parked with the passenger side of the bus facing north so the awning wasn’t providing any shade but merely blocked our view of most of the rally.

We then decided to give the coach a quick wash.  The temperature was around 70 degrees F and there was a high overcast; plenty of light but not a blazing direct sunlight.  We closed up the roof vents and windows, got out the hoses, sprayer, collapsible bucket, brush, dish soap, and microfiber cloths and went to work.  The coach had picked up a film of road grime over the last 8 days and 1,300 miles and unlike most campgrounds, there was no problem with washing it at our site.  We had planned on doing this at the designated RV/Car Wash station at Williston Crossings when we got back, but now we won’t have to.  It still needs more hand detailing, but that can be done at our long-term site.

The washing done we opened the coach back up as it was getting warm inside.  We had lunch around 1:30 PM; tofu hot dogs with mustard, onions, and relish along with fresh grapes.  Apparently this was a comfort food day, but it was also an easy preparation meal.  While we were eating I got a call from Chuck Spera.  He was on his way from Naples to Ft Meyers and wanted to come to the rally site to visit and check it out.  His ETA was still two hours out, so we went for a walk.  I then took the camera and went out again as quite a few rigs had arrived during the day.

Barbara was back in Detroit for the holidays, so once we knew Chuck was coming we knew we would be going out for dinner and did some online research.  There are plenty of places to eat in Arcadia, but it is not a dining destination.  The Magnolia Seafood Grill appeared to be our best option; rated number one on Trip Advisor.  Chuck arrived at 4:25 PM as estimated.  Linda opened a bottle of our 2009 Egri Merlot and we settled in for a chat.  He had a mobile mechanic (Mustafa, seriously) in Naples replace the water pump, connecting hoses, and thermostat on his Detroit Diesel 8V92TA engine (the same one we have) that morning and had to go to Ft. Meyers to return the old water pump to avoid the $165 core charge.

As the sun set and it started to get dark it also got very cool as there had been a strong breeze from the northeast all day.  We headed for the heart of Arcadia’s historic district and found the restaurant.  Linda and I split a very nice salad and a very mediocre pasta marinara.  Chuck had a blackened Corvina (Cilus gilberti, similar to sea bass) with a baked potato and broccoli all of which he said was excellent.  Our waitress, Jackie, was delightful and attentive.  She even had the cook prepare our garlic bread with olive oil instead of butter.  Chuck had a 90 mile drive back to Pelican Lake in Naples, so concluded our visit around 7:30 PM, made plans to meet again, and went our separate ways.  We rounded out our meal back at the rig with some vegan chocolate cake and settled in to read, process photographs, work a few puzzles, and watch a little TV before going to bed.


2013_09_28-30 (S,N,M) Gone Fish’in

No, I have not given up my WFPB way of eating, but one of the things I did on Sunday was to run a new network cable from our main Internet gateway (in the kitchen) to my office (in the basement).  I had to pull the cable above a suspended ceiling and then “fish” it up through the floor boards into a wall cavity.  There is a special tool called a “fish tape” that is made for this purpose.  It’s a thin but stiff piece of metal that is coiled up inside a housing with a small hook on the free end.  Because it is relatively stiff, you can push through holes and into wall cavities and other such places until it emerges somewhere, hopefully where you need it to emerge.  I have a fish tape (of course) but I can’t find it (naturally) because the garage/workshop will be the last part of our move to get organized.  So I improvised, and after several false starts ended using a scrap piece of 3-conductor sheathed electrical cable that was long enough, small enough, and stiff enough to get the job done.  But I have gotten way ahead of myself.

As usual, Linda and I went to our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) breakfast on Saturday morning.  Well, almost as usual; we took two cars this time as Linda was headed to Ann Arbor to babysit munchkin Madeline after breakfast, and I was headed in the opposite direction to do ham radio stuff.

Madeline’s domestic servants (our son and his wife) wanted to attend a wedding on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin and thought the three days required to drive there, celebrate, and drive back might work out better for all involved if their daughter did not make the trip.  They also figured that Madeline would do better in their absence if she was in her own home.  Madeline approved of these plans and gave them the requested 3-day pass.  Although Madeline’s aunt (our daughter) provides child care one day a week, a 3-day stint, over the weekend, in a house without television would mean no college or professional football, and would have been heroic beyond necessity.  This was clearly a job for GRANDMA, who doesn’t have functioning television in her new house anyway, so she wouldn’t miss it.  Besides, when sitting the baby, there’s no time to watch TV (or do much of anything else).

Mike (W8XH) and I had plans to work on the new SLAARC website, but first he had to help Bruce (W8RA) set up his new LP-PAN and integrate it into his ham radio station.  Working on Bruce’s ham shack is no small undertaking.  I’ve never been in the Space Shuttle simulator, but I’ve seen pictures, and sitting at Bruce’s ham station is a pretty good facsimile.  It took Mike a couple of hours, but he got it all working.  We then headed to his QTH to do the website stuff.

Mike and I are building the new SLAARC website using WordPress with the help of fellow SLAARC member Larry (K8UT), who is a bonafide expert in such matters.  A couple of weeks ago we decided to create the new website as a subdomain of the existing website, which is hosted by GoDaddy, and that was an experience in itself.  This would make it very easy, however, to later change some DNS entries and have the original domain name point to the new website.  Larry did the WordPress installation manually rather than using the automatic WordPress installer that most web-hosting companies have available (including GoDaddy).  As a result it has taken longer to get the new site functional, but Mike and I now have a much better understanding of subdomains and an appreciation for some of the complexity that is “under the hood” when using WordPress.  One more call to Larry resulted in some magic on his end, and we were finally up and running.  We then spent several hours installing, activating, and exploring themes.  We haven’t made any final decisions, but we are starting to figure out what questions to ask.  While Mike and I are anxious to move this along, we are not under any external pressure to have it ready by a certain date and want to take our time on the front end.  While it is relatively easy to change WordPress themes even after a website is populated with content, there is a point beyond which that is still going to involve a lot of work.  I like projects, but I don’t like doing projects over (and over, and over …).

I was still in WordPress mode when I got home, so I did some work on our personal website.  I created a tab (main menu item) for “Ham Radio” and created a sub-menu item for “SLAARC”.  These are just placeholders for now, but will eventually have content.  I have also fleshed out the WFPB tab as I start to build out the main menu structure.

Mike lent me an AmpedWireless dual-band WiFi repeater that he wasn’t using and I spent some time Saturday evening and Sunday morning playing with it.  It is a very cool device.  In WiFi repeater mode it will pick up a 2.4GHz and/or a 5.0GHz WiFi network and rebroadcast it.  What’s really cool, however, is that it will pick up a 2.4GHz WiFi network and rebroadcast it as 5.0GHz WiFi network.  I have been looking for a device that will do this for quite some time.  Our iPads and smartphones are all 5.0GHz capable, so using them with a 5.0GHz WiFi signal offloads that traffic from the 2.4GHz network, leaving it for 2.4GHz only devices.  The 5.0GHz band also has a lot more bandwidth than the 2.4GHz band with very few devices using it, so there is less interference and more reliable network connections.  Unfortunately, the device did not work well at our house as it appeared to be in conflict with our WiFi thermostat.

Wireless repeaters, access points, bridges, etc. are all designed so that they can be setup and configured wirelessly through a web-browser.  In order to accomplish this they map a specific URL to a specific IP address in the 192.168.xxx.yyy range.  In this case,  Unfortunately, I think the WiFi thermostat also uses that IP address.  There may be a way to work around this, but I did not have time to pursue that today.  The AmpedWireless device is actually configurable in five different modes.  WiFi repeater is the default, but it can be a Wireless Access Point or a Wireless Bridge, or two other things.

As a result of playing with this device, I think I finally understand the difference between various networking technologies.  A Network Switch (NS) is a device that allows multiple devices to be connected together using network cables, with one cable going back to the router (where the IP addresses are controlled through DHCP).  A Wireless Repeater (WR) is just that; it picks up a WiFi signal and rebroadcasts it (repeats it), usually on the same frequency and channel, but with a different SSID; no cables required.  (The Amped Wireless WiFi Repeater can rebroadcast it on a different frequency and/or channel, very nice.)  A Wireless Access Point (WAP) generates a WiFi network and is connected to the main router through a network cable.  We have a Linksys WAP running now.  A Wireless Bridge (WB) is the mirror image of a WAP.  It allows multiple devices to be connected to it using cables (sounds like it’s a NS) and then communicates using WiFi with a wireless router or WAP.  This allows lots of equipment to be located remotely from the main Internet gateway/router without running a cable between the two locations.

While Linda continued her marathon munchkin duty on Sunday, I worked around the house trying to check things off my “to-do” list faster than they got added.  I didn’t succeed, but I did get a lot done.  My main focus was my office, which had become the place where stuff was getting piled so we could feel like we had put other parts of the house in reasonably good order.  I either needed to get it organized or close it off for the open house.  Some of our fellow hams are coming to the open house and will want to see the ham shack (which is also my office), so closing it off from public view wasn’t really an option.

Monday was odds-n-ends day.  I continued to try to clean up and organize my office and the basement, installed two new door closers on the front screen/storm door, and installed new hardware (tracks) for the pair of bi-fold doors on the kitchen pantry.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it takes all day.  I snagged some replacement toilet flappers from Lowe’s, a nice shelving unit for the bedroom from Staples, and a large quantity of ICE Sparkling Water from Walmart.  (It’s not my favorite place to shop, but Meijer’s doesn’t carry this product.)

Mid-afternoon there was a knock at the door.  It was a representative from a company that is subcontracting with Consumer’s Energy to possibly run a natural gas main down our street.  I walked our property with the guy and explained the rather complicated situation that has led to us having two propane tanks and what they implications of that were for us switching to natural gas.  I went ahead and signed up after making sure we could back out if we decided this really wasn’t what we wanted to do.  As of now, however, we are definitely interested in switching to natural gas.  Consumer’s Energy estimates the equivalent cost for a gallon of propane, which is currently $2.00 + or – $0.40, at $0.77.  At that ratio, our infrastructure payback would be about 3 years.  There is also the added benefit of having a constant supply of fuel without a truck having to come and fill a tank.  Value?  Priceless.

In the late afternoon I had a nice chat with Joe from EZ*Connector.  EZ*Connector is a small company in California that has designed, and manufactures, a keyed, magnetically retained, sealed electrical connector.  It comes in 7 and 14 pin configurations for non-military use and is an ideal solution to the problem of connecting a tow vehicle (bus) to a towed vehicle (car).  Our current setup requires two separate electrical cables with mechanical or friction latches.  The EZ*Connector will provide a much easier and yet superior connection.  They are just now bringing a new 14 conductor cable to market and suggested I wait until early November to order.

Linda called to say she would be home around 7 PM.  I put water on to boil to make angel hair pasta with red sauce, and she picked up a salad on the way home.  She made the sauce last week, and it was fabulous.  (I am not normally a fan of marinara sauce, but this sauce has me rethinking that position.)  A glass of 2009 Egri Merlot to wash it down, and fresh plums for dessert made a fine conclusion to a long day.


2013_08_27-28 Babysitting And Our First RV Visitors

Linda has signed up to babysit our youngest grand-daughter, Madeline, on Mondays so our son and daughter-in-law can attend to their professorial duties at the University of Michigan.  (Our step-grand-daughter, Katie, is 16 and does not need a sitter.)  However, Linda sat on Saturday the 17th.  This week she sat on Tuesday because of our Monday dental appointments.  Next week she is going to sit on Tuesday because Monday is Labor Day.  Like I said, she is babysitting on Mondays.

We both left the house early, Linda for Ann Arbor in rush hour traffic and me for Dearborn in rush hour traffic.  As retired people we are not supposed to be in rush hour traffic; it tends to spoil that special, relaxed mood that is the hallmark of the happily retired.  Morning rush hour traffic headed south on US-23 into Ann Arbor is always bad.  Morning rush hour traffic headed into the northwest suburbs of Detroit on I-96 is always worse.  I was late for my 9 AM dental appointment, but only about 10 minutes.  I won’t be making any more 9 AM appointments in that part of town.

When I was done at the dentist in west Dearborn I headed for Ann Arbor, looking forward to spending some quality time with my grand-daughter.  As I was nearing Ann Arbor I got a call from W. W. Williams in, where else, east Dearborn, letting me know that my special order part was in.  Life really is all about timing.  I continued my journey to babyland.  When I walked in the front door, Madeline was sitting up in the middle of the living room playing with Grandma Linda.  She turned, looked at me, and started crying.  You can’t take anything an 8-month old does personally, but it wasn’t quite the reception I was hoping for.  She got herself all worked up.  Linda tried feeding her, but she was not to be consoled, so we took her for a walk in her very spiffy stroller.

We peeled back the sunshade so she could turn her head and look up at me, which she did frequently.  She stayed calm for the whole ride, and even babbled for a while, apparently satisfied that I was at least doing something useful.  Or perhaps I am less scary when viewed upside down?  As soon as we got back to the house, however, she got herself all upset again.  Having no other plans for the afternoon, I made my exit and drove back to Dearborn to get the special order part for our bus.  Linda told me later that Madeline settled down as soon as I left and had a nice lunch.  It won’t always be that way, of course, and it’s not a contest to see who wins.  Eight month olds are spontaneous, irrational beings, and you just have to accept that and work with it as best you can.  That’s why she has parents, aunts, and grandmothers.

By the time Phil was done working on the driveway on Monday evening he had mixed 14 tons (yes, that’s 30,800 pounds) of sandy silt into and on top of the 6 inches of 21AA road gravel that forms the top layer of the pull-through driveway.  What we really needed at that point was a good, soaking rain and starting late Tuesday evening and overnight into Wednesday we got our wish.  The rain helps the fine particles work their way down into the gravel and lock it together to form a dense mass that will not spread out when driven on, even by a heavy vehicle.  At least that’s the theory.  I drove on it again with the car Wednesday morning and it seemed to be packed pretty hard.

The first test of the pull-through driveway came when the UPS truck showed up with our Centramatic dynamic wheel balancers for the bus.  He pulled the truck right up on the pull-through driveway and backed it out with no difficulty.  That was a good omen.  The next test came when Ed & Betty arrived around 1:30 PM in their Tiffin Phaeton motorhome.  They unhooked their car just after pulling onto our street as I needed them to be able to maneuver the RV to get it parked.  They were also going to have to back out when they left and you cannot do that with a car attached to the rear end of the rig.  I met them at the end of the street, led them to our house, and got them positioned to turn into the pull-through driveway.  Betty drove their car and parked it in our regular driveway.  Ed gave me one of their walkie-talkies and I guided him in to the pull-through driveway with voice and hand signals.  Their motorhome tires did not even leave visible tracks!  Finally, success.  Their rig has 6 tires and weights about 33,000 pounds, so the weight on each tire that is similar to our bus, except that our front tires carry a couple of extra thousand pounds each.  Once they were parked and settled they came inside and we quartered a small, round watermelon and had that as a light lunch/snack.

We had the pull-through driveway built for our own use as a convenient place to park the coach while we load/unload it.  We installed an electrical outlet so that we could also run the refrigerator and maintain the batteries while it was parked there.  We plan to eventually have a “bus barn” to store it in, but for now the pull-through drive is where it will live when we are home.  That meant that we might also want to run the air conditioners while it was parked, so we installed a full “50A” RV electrical service since that is what our coach is designed for.  We also had in mind, however, that it would be nice to have RV friends be able to come for a visit and have a level place to park with some nice shade and decent electrical service.  We also have water available, but we do not currently have a way for folks to dump their holding tanks.  We eventually hope to be able to dump ours using a macerator pump connected by a garden hose (reserved for that use only) to a fitting on the first septic tank.  We can’t use a normal gravity drain hose because we have to pump the tank contents uphill to the septic tank lid.  If we get this to work, guests could do the same as long as their rig is equipped with a macerator pump.

Some of the RV clubs we belong to allow members to list their home or place of business as available for no-cost overnight stays.  FMCA calls these “Stop’in Spots” and the SKPs include them in a list of free and low-cost camping.  There is also a program called “Boondockers Welcome” that our friends Butch and Fonda joined.  We are members of Harvest Hosts, but can’t be a host site as we are a residence not a business.

Ed and Betty originally planned to stay two nights, but they are on their way to some temporary work at the Middleton Berry Farm, a pick your own (PYO) operation east of Ortonville, Michigan.  They have worked summers there for some years, usually during the strawberry season.  At one time they owned a strawberry farm in upstate New York and were the secretaries of the National Strawberry Growers Association.  Ed has a PhD in plant pathology and has done extensive extension service work as a plant pathologist.  The owners of Middleton Berry Farm needed Ed & Betty’s assistance ASAP as the raspberries have come in very well this year.

We did our usual first time visit thing and gave them a complete tour of the house, yard, and bus.  We got to see their motorhome as well, and spent some time trying to tune in over-the-air TV stations with their roof antenna.  The only station we could get was FOX out of Detroit, so Ed turned the system off and put the antenna back down.

Ed and Betty are pretty avid cyclists and have a pair of very interesting tricycles.  They are Spike models made by Trident Trikes and purchased from Craig and Linda Current of http://www.boomersbentsandbikes.com in Florida.  It’s a two front, one rear wheel design with disc brakes all around.  The two front wheels steer and the central structural member is hinged to allow the rear wheel to fold up between the two front ones for storage.  They got the 24-speed gearing option.  I test drove Ed’s and Linda test drove Betty’s and we both found them very comfortable.  Linda can’t ride a bicycle because of occasional balance problems related to her loss of hearing in her left ear, so a tricycle or quadcycle is her only viable option.  At this point in my life, I would just as soon have the stability of a 3-wheeler as well.  Another alternative for us would be a side-by-side 2-seater, which might be a lot of fun, but would probably preclude either of us going for a solo ride.

We sat and talked like old friends and enjoyed a bottle of Pinot Grigio.  Eventually Linda and Betty set about making dinner.  Betty had prepared a “vegan cheese” out of cashew nuts and served it on Saltine crackers.  It was very good, and it reminded Linda that she had purchased a vegan cheese book on our last Holistic Holiday At Sea cruise, but had not yet used any of the recipes.  Linda prepared a nice green salad.  The main course was quinoa with mushrooms and Swiss chard.  She served it with a side of fresh corn, cut off the cob.  We opened at bottle of the 2009 Egri Merlot to go with dinner.  This wine is a little sweet for red wine aficionados, but it is one of the few red wines I will drink.  It lacks any hint of tannin, and is full-bodied enough to stand up to the earthy grain/mushroom/greens dishes that Linda often prepares.  After dinner we sat on the back deck for a while and continued to enjoy our Merlot.  The mosquitoes appeared about the same time we were ready for dessert so we went back inside and enjoyed the last of vegan chocolate cake Linda had made on Monday served with fresh strawberries.  It was still as moist as when she baked it and you would not know it was vegan.  We washed it down with the end of the Merlot, which also goes very well with chocolate cake and strawberries.

The rest of the evening was a free- and far-ranging conversation about life, travels, kids, health, careers, and interests.  We looked at maps and old copies of Wilson’s Free And Low Cost Camping directories and talked about getting large rigs into National Forest campgrounds, which Ed and Betty have done successfully on numerous occasions.  Being full-timers, they are by necessity knowledgeable and skilled when it comes to finding places to park for the night.